Snow Mountain Ranch is a special place.
A 5,000 acre ranch, high in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, it lies between the town of Granby and Winter Park Ski Resort.
Owned and operated by the YMCA of the Rockies, it’s the kind of place where families come together, everyone feels welcome and everyone can find something they want to do.
So many somethings that you may find yourself doing things you’ve never done before: like snowshoeing or dog sledding or even, indoor archery.
Family Reunions, Celebrations and Time Together
We visited Snow Mountain Ranch last February for my dad’s birthday.
Snow Mountain Ranch was the perfect destination for us to get together. While we stayed in the Indian Peaks Lodge (one of three motel-type lodges), other options include single family cabins, yurts and reunion cabins with up to 16 bedrooms!
Since most guests are in lodges, which don’t have cooking facilities, meals are served in Schlessman Commons, a central dining hall.
Yes, it feels a bit like camp, but it’s also totally relaxing. When it’s time to eat, there’s no discussion or worry over where to go. The dining room is huge and filled with other families having fun.
So Many Fun Things to Do
With sleeping and eating taken care of, the only other thing to contemplate at Snow Mountain Ranch is what to do with your abundant free time.
And lest you are concerned, let me put it plainly: you will never run out of things to do at Snow Mountain Ranch.
No matter your age, your interests or your energy level, the Ranch rocks with options ranging from pottery, leather work and jewelry making in the Craft Shop to roller skating, basketball and ping-pong in the Kiva Center. There’s an indoor pool, with a slide and saunas and a cozy library where you can go read a book.
During winter there is snowshoeing and cross-country skiing, ice skating, tubing and dog sledding. There’s even a climbing wall and indoor archery. And while a few activities do have nominal fees, most are free.
Pick up a Program Bulletin when you check in. You’ll be blown away.
Your kids will be thrilled. And so will their grandparents.
Dog Sledding: A Blast from Our Past
When I was young, my dad had a dog sled team of three Samoyeds. He still has his sled, harnesses and other equipment, but its been many years since he stood on sled with an active team. We thought dog sledding would be a perfect birthday present for him.
It was. But even more so, it was a perfect present for all of us.
Snow Mountain Ranch offers dog sledding on Thursdays and Saturdays throughout the winter, for $25 per on-property guest. Reservations are required and limited, but anyone can attend the morning introduction to dog sledding given by the Ranch’s pastor and resident musher, Steve Peterson.
Steve draws you in with warmth and humor, telling tales of his dog sledding foibles and the times when his four-legged friends got the best of him.
He’s also a trail-tested expert, having competed in multi-day endurance races where sleep is an afterthought and survival may sometimes seem in question.
Dog sledding is a big production. Steve generally runs a team of 10 dogs, but brings 15 or 20 to the Ranch, to rotate them in and out of service. There is just one sled, but it holds two people – the driver stands in the middle and the passenger stands behind the driver, getting the feeling of what it’s like to drive the team.
One guest rides at a time, over a two-mile course that takes about 15 minutes. Friends and family can see them for much of the ride, and it’s surprisingly exciting. When the dogs are waiting to run, they are crazy loud and Steve’s team of human helpers is really busy, checking harnesses, switching dogs, feeding and watering dogs and getting slightly awkward guests in place on the sled.
Then suddenly, the sled releases, the dogs pull and you’re off. It’s a blast.
Snowshoeing, Basketball, Archery, Oh My!
In addition to dog sledding, we filled our three days with lots of other adventures. At first our sons were a bit skeptical and made a fall back plan to ski at Winter Park.
Then they saw the program guide.
All credit to Snow Mountain Ranch, this is what my 17 year-old said the first morning: “I think we’ll just stay here. There’s so much to do. It looks really fun.”
And it was fun. Here’s what we did.
We went tubing. The free sledding hill is open all day and into the night. It’s crazy and chaotic. Watch your kids and make sure they don’t try to walk up a tubing lane!
We snowshoed and cross-country skied. Snow Mountain Ranch is famous for it’s extensive Nordic trail system. The trails for skiing and snowshoeing intersect, but are separate, and both are beautiful, winding near cabins and summer camp facilities and in and out of the woods.
While we didn’t have time for biathlon on this trip, Snow Mountain Ranch has the only biathlon course in Colorado and offers occasional clinics. Next time!
We played basketball and roller skated, napped and read. After a full morning of dog sledding and tubing, followed by pizza at the Buckboard Grill, one of two restaurants on the property, I was ready for a nap. My parents were ready to read their books, while our sons wanted to shoot hoops at the Kiva. We split up and a grand time was had by all.
We shot arrows indoors. With 6 shooting lanes, archery is in high demand and one of the activities requiring reservations and a small fee. It’s worth it. We shot compound bows for an hour.
My boys learned that their grandfather is a dead-eye shot, while their grandmother isn’t too bad with a bow either.
This wouldn’t have happened anywhere but Snow Mountain Ranch.
And that made our weekend a gift to all of us, not just my dad.
When You Go…
Although I tried to list all the things we did do at Snow Mountain Ranch, this post would be ridiculously long if I tried to list all the things we didn’t do, but wanted to if only we’d had more time.
As I said, the Ranch is like a multi-generational camp, with an ever-changing series of programs, special events, themed weekends and activities. For families with diverse ages and interests, it’s a blessing. For families who just want to get away for a weekend by themselves or with friends, it’s a perfect destination.
While we haven’t been there in summer, the Rocky Mountain outdoor and indoor fun continues and recently got even better with Colorado’s only summer tubing hill.
- Winter Park and Mary Jane: Colorado Family Skiing at its Best, November 10, 2011.
- Ski Trip Report: More Than Expected at Winter Park, Colorado, January 18, 2012.
- Take Time Out for Tubing, February 13, 2013.
- Biathlon: The Yin and Yang of Winter Sports, February 14, 2014.
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