The Lodge at Blue Sky owners Michael and Barbara Phillips are ready to release “Unbridled,” a 270-page fine-art photography book about the 3,500-acre ranch, resort and retreat in Wanship.
To celebrate the book’s launch, the Phillips will hold a book signing at 6 pm on Thursday, June 23, in the Three Sisters Garden at Gracies Farm, 95 W. 2100 South. The event will also feature hors d’oeuvres and craft botanical cocktails and a silent auction.
“Unbridled” features photos by Patrick Brooks Brandenburg and Jessica Menda that were designed to showcase the essence of the lodge throughout the seasons, said Michael Phillips.
“The project is a culmination of a large team of people at the ranch that took two years to put together,” he said. “The collaboration was born out of getting what we call, ‘The Bible’ of Blue Sky and explaining to people how we feel about the lodge and the land.
“One of the great things about being a guest at Blue Sky, especially if you’re coming from an urban arena, is you don’t get a chance to experience what we have in your every-day life,” Michael said. “So we thought this would be a good way to explain to a wider group of people who may not necessarily be guests what we do. It is also a way for our guests to take home memories.”
The Phillips have worked with Brandenburg for a few years after they asked him to photograph their horses for another project and felt his eye would be perfect for composing photos.
“Patrick did such a great job that we asked to do some other photography, so when Mike got the idea of the book, we asked Patrick to help,” Barbara said. “Patrick would camp out on the property to try to capture the images that people don’t see every day.”
Menda, who took photographs of the artisan meals, was hired by the book’s art designer, Linda Stabins of Stabins Design.
“Patrick doesn’t do food photos, but we thought the food is one of the beautiful offerings we have at Blue Sky,” Barbara said. “And Jessica specializes in food photography.”
Coming up with the book’s design, which includes a spineless bind and textured cover, was a collaborative effort, Michael said,
“Linda would present different ideas and we would go back and forth,” he said. “She was the one who wanted to introduce the narrative at the beginning of the book to explain what the lodge’s vision is.”
“Unbridled” also includes stories and poetry written by Michael Phillips as well as interviews of various guests and friends. The text was edited by Meghan Godin, who is the area experience curator of the Auberge Resorts Collection.
“Auberge Resort Collection is the management team we have who run the lodge on a day-to-day basis,” Michael said. “They have 24 hotels around the world.”
Godin took on the book project as a labor of love, he said.
“Meghan is a talented person, and it was great to have her,” Michael said. “With her on board, we could focus on the elements of the lodge that people could enjoy in the book.”
All profits of the book sales will benefit Saving Gracie Equine Healing Foundation, a local nonprofit founded by Barbara Phillips in 2014 that helps rescue neglected, abused and abandoned horses.
Saving Gracie has the support of the Lodge at Blue Sky, and it works with her to support the horses.
“I have my own property close to the ranch that we purchased in 2015 to bring some of the rescues to,” she said.
The 17-acre farm is a permanent home to 15 horses that include thoroughbreds who have come just off the racing track, according to Michael.
“We also have something akin to a hospice for the older horses, and Barb also has some rescue chickens, too,” he said. “She helps on a case-by-case basis.”
In addition, the farm includes an organic farm where people can learn about regenerative agriculture.
“We value the land and environment, as well as the importance of being kind animals,” Barb said. “We are able to show people what we’re doing, and they can come down and experience it.
It’s all about the environment, nature and how we are trying to do the right thing.”
Doing the right thing with the land and environment is a balancing act, Michael said.
“We do have development on the land, but we try to do it in a responsible way so we can preserve as much open space as we can,” he said. “Barb and I have been here for more than 20 years, and we worked hard the past 18 years to get Blue Sky to where it can help Summit County, particularly Eastern Summit County find balance with development and growth.”