Ryan Van Duzer – poised to take us on his latest “Remote & Refined” adventure
AN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW:
Last week D had the opportunity to chat with video journalist Ryan Van Duzer about his recent Men’s Journal project, “Remote & Refined”. The assignment? To seek out ‘the most luxurious hideaways in the U.S.’ and report back on his experiences. With Ryan fresh off of the last leg of his trip (spent at Southern Utah’s Amangiri) yours truly jumped at the opportunity not only to get to know Ryan but also to get an insider’s perspective on this exclusive resort.
But before we take off, a little about our guide – Born and raised in Boulder Colorado, Ryan Van Duzer cites an Outward Bound Course taken at the tender age of 16 for his love of the great outdoors and his insatiable desire to challenge himself both mentally and physically. After graduating from college with a degree in Broadcast Journalism, Ryan was off to Honduras where he worked as a Peace Corps volunteer. As if two years of bathing in a bucket wasn’t rugged enough, Ryan decided to make the 4,000 mile journey home via bicycle! Ryan has since gone on to host and produce often adventurous content for the likes of the Travel Channel, National Geographic and most recently Men’s Journal. But now it is time to buckle up, my friends, because you are in for a ride. Final destination – Amangiri!
Ryan, dressed for adventure, just outside the Amangiri resort
How did the “Remote and Refined” project come about?
It was kind of luck actually. I was on a press trip in Sedona, Arizona with a bunch of journalists and I met one of the Men’s Journal guys there… I handed him my card, and six months later I got a call from him saying, “Hey, we have this project; we’d like you to do it with us.” I was jumping for joy! Those kinds of phone calls don’t come very often. I mean… you’re just sitting at home doing nothing and all of a sudden you get this dream job – that’s exactly what it was.
The resort viewed from above – Amangiri in English translates to peaceful mountain
Having worked for the Peace Corps and having traversed the country by bike – it seems you are no stranger to the rough and rugged. What did you think of the accommodations?
That was kind of the funny part of this project… I’m used to being, you know, a dirt-bag traveler, staying at hostels and swinging my hammock up in the jungle. It was nice to have the extra luxury, and the giant comfortable beds, and people that wait on you, and bring you food and tea… I’ve never experienced anything on this level. The[se] ranches and resorts we were at… they were mind blowing; they were the kind of places you would only expect to see in a movie.
How long did you stay at each of the four locations?
That was the really fun part of the whole project – [with] 4-5 days at each location – we got to know them pretty well.
Pool at Amangiri
What struck you first as you arrived at your final destination – the Amangiri?
This place is in the middle of nowhere! You drive in on this winding road and you’re wondering to yourself, “Is there really a luxury resort back here?” And all of a sudden you come out of this valley and you see this beautiful structure that blends into the canyons, and it looks out of this world… it looks like a space station on another planet. The other three places were ranches, they were more wild west rustic luxury. Amangiri was definitely super modern, minimalist architecture… just beautiful in every way. They really tried hard to make it blend into the desert… it’s kind of camouflaged.
Yes! I read in your article that they tested the cement color…
Yeah, seven times they had to pour that to get the perfect color.
The Amangiri’s main heated pool steams in the 15 degree air.
What about the landscaping?
Well, there were lots of water features – unfortunately it was about 15 degrees every day we were there so they were all frozen! I would imagine Amangiri in the summertime is incredible, because around every corner there were waterfalls streaming over walls and little fountains here and there with red lights and blue lights in them, so when you are walking through them at night… you get the shadows and reflections bouncing on the walls. That was definitely one of the big things – all the water features. And the lobby was incredible. It had giant floor to ceiling windows and four or five different fireplaces where you just kind of hang out at night. And then the pool, the pool really is the highlighting feature there… it was absolutely incredible, it’s heated and it spills around this giant [160-million-year-old] stone in the middle… it’s definitely exciting.
Spa entrance, complete with cozy fireplace
Were there any favorite nooks and crannies?
The spa area was pretty incredible. It was towards the far end of the resort and there were kind of these reflection pools with little step stones through them and these little hot tubs – little pockets here and there that were kind of built up right against the canyon walls – they’re just really cozy. And then the massage rooms are at the very end of the resort – [they have] these giant doors that swing open, where you can get your massage and look straight outside. I can’t think of enough words to describe it; there aren’t enough adjectives to describe Amangiri.
Did you get to do any spa treatments?
I actually did not do any spa stuff. In our first video at Paws Up I got a massage and Land Rover thought it looked ‘too intimate’. Ha ha!
The spa reflection pool – My apologies ladies, no racy shots of Ryan here.
More nooks and crannies…
Oh, and there were other nooks and crannies that I loved. A lot of the suites had these upstairs [outdoor] cubby holes with beds placed in them… it was freezing cold [in January] so we didn’t sleep outside, but they looked so cozy. I imagine in the summertime, under the stars, sleeping on these outdoor beds would be incredible – like sleeping under a planetarium.
One of Ryan’s favorite features – outdoor beds!
And the rest of the room?
Everything in the hotel is built around the views of the desert – one whole wall of the room is windows. You wake up in the morning and BAM, there’s the desert sunrise right in front of your face. The same goes for even when you’re in the bath – there is a giant window right there – you can gaze off into the desert – there’s no danger of somebody walking [by] because it’s in an area where nobody goes.
The Girijaala Suite
I’ve only really heard of celebrities going to the Amangiri… was it a star studded event?
Oh yeah, like the Grammys… Ha ha! No, I didn’t see any celebrities, but I did talk with [the] driver and he mentioned plenty of A-list celebrities that go there pretty regularly. I would image it is a good place to go if you are [one] – it’s so hidden. You can go into your suite and have your own little world.
A production shot of Ryan on the porch of his suite. Just behind him – a spectacular view of the canyons.
For someone planning a trip to the Amangiri, what activities and features would you most recommend?
They have really done a good job of incorporating accessible adventures for everybody. We did the via ferrata [Italian for ‘iron road’] which is essentially rock climbing through the canyons. They have four different routes – they’re [all] just stunning. You’re climbing the canyon walls and it’s really safe; you’re clipped in, nothing’s going to happen, it’s not that physically difficult and within an hour you’re on top of a desert plateau looking off at Lake Powell… the desert is my favorite landscape on the planet and [this] is the best way to see [it].
Ryan climbs the via ferrata with his crew and a required hiking guide.
At the top of the via ferrata (in your video) you were one of the first ones on that new metal suspension bridge? Was it terrifying?
I was the absolute first non-worker on that bridge. I wouldn’t say [it was] terrifying… but it is a little freaky to step out on the thing – you can look down 400 feet, it’s kind of shaky, the wind blows – but you just have to remember you’re clipped in. The slot canyons are incredible [too]. Those are the really narrow canyons that you saw in the video – they look otherworldly – again, they just don’t look like anything else you have probably seen in your life. The sandstone formations are just awe inspiring.
You can do plenty of other things [too] – horseback riding, helicopter tours, Lake Powell boating… there are guides on staff that can take you on nature hikes and show you the [5,000-year-old Native American] petroglyphs… it’s endless.
Ryan jumping for joy once again – this time in one of Amangiri’s slot canyons
So what’s next for Ryan Van Duzer?
I’m always planning new adventures. I’m in production of a TV show right now called Paradise Hunter, where I travel the world and document the planet’s most beautiful locations. So that’s pretty fun. And then I have some personal adventure projects – I want to ride a mountain bike down the Continental Divide this summer, so you know…
Ha ha, normal stuff!
So what constitutes paradise for you?
I would say I live in paradise – Boulder, Colorado. It is soo beautiful here. For me, paradise is beautiful nature and being surrounded by awesome friends and family.
Okay, I have a little ‘words of wisdom’ question for you… What do you wish you could have told your younger self or others just starting out about life and career?
I’d say don’t take things too seriously. Just wake up and smile and have as much fun as possible. I think sometimes we get so uptight about living up to societal standards and all these things we have to do… but really, life is pretty simple when you break it down. I do a lot of motivational speaking to high school students and that’s usually my message… do what you love. Follow your own heart.
Thank you, Ryan for the good advice, fun chat and fantastic inside view on the Amangiri.