The town of Fairplay, Colorado, population 817, is not anything like a resort town. It does, however, host the world championship of burro racing, Colorado’s state sport. Other than that, it’s a quiet, rural chunk of the Colorado high country with spectacular views of the Sangre de Cristo mountains, the Collegiate Peaks, and the South Platte River. Breckenridge is 20 miles away, though it may as well be on the moon, so different is the vibe here in sleepy Fairplay. But then, in the winter, the skiing beckons.
It beckoned the owner of this cabin, or cabins, actually, a Colombian painter who skis nearby. She bought the land and commissioned a structure that blended in, offering a sense of being part of the landscape, and that would preserve an old, favored pine tree in the middle of the lot. The Renée del Gaudio Architecture firm designed the two cabins to evoke a feeling of toeing the edge of the cliff it’s perched on, thousands of feet above the valley below.
There’s the main cabin and a smaller sleeping cabin, connected by an iron deck, grated to allow snow to fall through. The cabins are built on a platform to minimize any excavation that a typical structure would require and to allow melted snow and rain to run into natural drainages. The preserved old pine grows through a hole in the decking. More pines—bristlecone and ponderosa—surround the cabins.
Little energy is consumed when the cabin is occupied. A wood stove heats the main cabin and lots of ventilation cools it down. Plywood walls keep things bright and simple on the inside, while the roofline and overall shape of the cabins were influenced by traditional barns viewable from the highway closest to Fairplay.
One corner of the main cabin is the master bathroom, with a bathtub and shower positioned right in the elbow, framed by large windows, for the very best views. At that elevation, an outdoor shower wouldn’t get a lot of use, and never would in the winter. But that glassed-in shower, peering out at the mountains and river below is awfully close.
Photos: Renée del Gaudio Architecture