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Sleeping Lady awakens to court leisure travelers
By CARY ORDWAY
Visit Leavenworth, Washington's famous Bavarian Village, and you'll likely be caught up in the colorful and unique shops downtown, the beer gardens, the pastry and candy shops and the festive atmosphere that has made this mountain village so popular with travelers for so long. If you're not careful, you might not even take that drive down Icicle Road where, just out of town, the real scenery and outdoor fun begins.
Just a couple miles down Icicle Road is where you'll find the Sleeping Lady—both the mountain that looks like—well, a sleeping lady—and the cluster of accommodations, amenities and meeting facilities that were named after the mountain. This is a part of the forest that has been left pretty much intact, except for the buildings that have been added, because this is sacred ground. It's sacred not in any religious sense, but protected in the way that people sometimes do when they realize that a piece of property would be ruined by changing too much of it. The natural beauty here is why people will spend money to stay a night or two, or headquarter here for an entire vacation.
Harriett Bullitt, a Northwest icon of business and the arts, could see the potential here when she purchased 67 acres from the Catholic Church back in 1991 when the property was known as Camp Field and used for church retreats. Eighteen buildings from the retreat were worked into the new site plan, with new buildings designed to blend in with the existing architecture and environment. Everything was upgraded to current codes and Sleeping Lady opened in 1995 by hosting Icicle Creek Music Center's first annual Icicle Creek Chamber Music Festival. Since that time, the big events have just kept on coming, enriching the lives of Leavenworth residents and people who travel to this North Central Washington town for recreation or business retreats.
Until the national economic downturn in 2008, the Sleeping Lady was all about conferences—they wouldn't even take a getaway reservation for fear they wouldn't be able to offer the whole conference center for a business retreat. But a slowing economy changed all that and soon it wasn't just team-building executives renting these facilities—it was couples and families and people who were looking for a unique recreation-oriented experience out in the woods for their vacation or getaway. Today, about half the guests are coming on their own with no connection to a conference.
"The resort really has changed—for the better," says Lori Vandenbrink, sales and marketing director for Sleeping Lady. She remembers when visitors would be holed up in the conference rooms all day with little activity on the grounds. Nowadays, the laughter of kids at play may be at least part of your vacation soundtrack as they enjoy the cross-country skiing, exploring and hiking that are right on or very close to the grounds. Couples find Sleeping Lady especially appealing because of the gourmet dining at the Kingfisher Restaurant and Wine Bar which is included in many of the packages offered by the resort.
There also is plenty of seclusion at the Sleeping Lady for those who just want a quiet stroll in the woods with mountain vistas in nearly every direction. In fact, we overheard one guest commenting on what a "maze" the resort layout is, with a map and small flashlight standard issue for any arriving guest. We were making our way down the meandering pathways with map in hand when a couple of guests suggested that we be sure and see the Dale Chihuly glasswork near the Kingfisher. When we confessed we were still looking for our room, they just chuckled in a very understanding way.
It's really all by design. Harriett Bullitt wanted people to enjoy the outdoors—especially those conference-goers who she was building this resort for in the first place—and so there are a few things that are a little different about the Sleeping Lady. For example, you wonít be parking next to your lodging —you pull into a loading area and leave your car for a few minutes while you take your things to your accommodations. Then itís back to the car to park it in the lot a little ways away from the lodgings.
If you're in the restaurant and Nature calls, donít panic when you donít immediately find a bathroom— theyíre in a separate building outside of the restaurant. Bathrooms are located outside of the meeting spaces as well so there is a lot of opportunity to stop and mingle with other guests or conference-goers, presumably after youíve gone to the bathroom. When you settle into your room, youíll find everything you need including a desk, lounge chair, vanity area, a bathroom that you don't have to go outside to use, and mattresses that obviously are exclusive resort quality. What you wonít find is a television. The idea is that you come to Sleeping Lady to get away from such things and, besides, if you absolutely have to be connected to the outside world there is free wi-fi which, by the way, is very fast. Okay, we admit it—we DID hook up the wi-fi.
A new spa facility is being built at Sleeping Lady but, in the meantime, spa treatments are available, as are Yoga classes, cross-country skiing and sleigh rides Ė at least while the snow remains. Hiking and mountain biking take over when the weather turns warmer and donít forget, you could always do less healthy things like enjoy the beer and bratwurst at the local beer gardens or even take a day trip to the many wineries in North Central Washington.