“In order to be successful, you have to be totally focused on what’s going on around you,” Chad Pike says during a drive from the Colorado mountain town of Crested Butte to the nearby banks of the Taylor River.
Although Pike, 43, is talking about his favorite hobby — fly-fishing — his theory could apply to any of his endeavors: heli-skiing in remote pockets of Iceland, say, or helping oversee the $5 billion–plus Tactical Opportunities Fund of private-equity firm Blackstone Group LP, where he serves as senior managing director and vice chairman of Blackstone Europe.
For Pike, who brims with boyish enthusiasm, adventure outings are not uncommon; indeed, Bloomberg Pursuits will report in its Summer 2014 issue, they’ve become a side business. In 2011, he founded Eleven Experience, a travel company that combines luxury lodging with outdoor excursions in remote destinations.
Through the company, Pike rents out a growing collection of fully staffed chalets, lodges and mansions around the world to guests who share his gusto for sports such as snowcat skiing, fly-fishing, mountain biking and rock climbing. A customized itinerary is developed for every stay.
Pike opened the doors to his first property — a 13,000- square-foot (1,200-square-meter) restored Victorian in downtown Crested Butte called Scarp Ridge Lodge, with access to its own private ski resort — in the winter of 2011. The following year, he added a 5,500-square-foot chalet in the French Alps hamlet of Le Miroir, and in 2013, he expanded the Crested Butte property to include a four-bedroom guesthouse with a private saloon.
A frenzy of additional openings is planned over the next two years: this summer, a lodge with a collection of cabins on the Taylor River, near our intended fly-fishing spot; in November, outposts in Amsterdam and the Bahamas; and next year, a farmhouse in northern Iceland and a beach home on New York’s Shelter Island. (Prices range from $8,000 to $17,500 a night for the Crested Butte mansion, depending on the time of year, and 4,000 euros to 14,000 euros [$5,530 to $19,330] for the French chalet.)
“Very similar to how Canyon Ranch is built upon wellness travel, Eleven Experience is built on experiential travel,” says Owen Gaddis, who works at Manhattan-based luxury travel agency Absolute Travel and stayed at Scarp Ridge Lodge last year. “It’s the ultimate playground for somebody who wants to be both active and cared for.”
Although the secluded mountain towns and isolated islands can skew exotic, in some ways they replicate Pike’s childhood in rural Perrysburg, Ohio, where he and his friends built a series of treehouses along a stretch of water called Grassy Creek.
“The only thing you could be tempted by was nature,” Pike says.
The idea for Eleven Experience came after Pike rented out a Scottish estate for a fishing and hunting trip with friends. He was so impressed with the running of the property that he asked the owner the secret to maintaining it.
“He said: ‘You have to invest in it. You have to hire top people. It can’t be sitting there waiting for you the two weeks you come each year,’” Pike recalls.
So in 2008, when the real estate market crashed, Pike decided the time was right to start accumulating properties of his own. His experience in real estate and his wide-ranging travels with his wife, Blake, and their four children convinced him there was a market for the personalized adventure product he had in mind.
So when a 1,000-acre ski resort with snowcat-only access came up for sale in Crested Butte in 2008, Pike snapped it up and decided to found and headquarter Eleven Experience there. Blake’s design firm, Number 12 Interiors, later took charge of the decor, incorporating the local aesthetic — vintage photographs of the American West, midcentury-modern chairs covered in buffalo hide — alongside saunas, saltwater swimming pools, multiple king suites and a giant TV screen that masquerades as a mirror when it’s not in use.
In order to emphasize the great outdoors, Pike includes in the rental price the use of all equipment (climbing harnesses, mountain bikes, skis, snowboards), along with a concierge, a private chef, a guide service and “retail minibars” — closets stocked with outdoor clothing in guests’ sizes and favorite colors to buy and use during their visit.
However, the most impressive of Eleven Experience’s perks is one that’s entirely invisible — and acutely representative of Pike’s low-key, detail-obsessed style: Because Crested Butte is located at an elevation of 8,885 feet (2,710 meters), the oxygen level of the main Scarp Ridge Lodge can be adjusted to simulate a lower altitude (sea level, say, or a less extreme height of 3,000 feet) to help guests avoid altitude sickness.
“A 10 is doing something perfectly, but an 11 is going one beyond that,” says Pike, who, despite his determination to exceed guests’ expectations, insists he has no plans to quit his demanding day job, even as Eleven Experience grows.
Yet the call of the wild may prove difficult to resist. In addition to the new lodges the company is planning to open, Pike says he regularly fields requests from acquaintances and guests hoping to list their own homes with Eleven Experience in places like Bali, Indonesia; Napa, California; and Scotland. And he himself just bought an estancia in Chile.
“I love looking at topographical maps and Google Earth. I love researching and reading about nature,” he says. “It’s what I do at night.”
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