Winter wonderland at Snow Mountain Ranch
It seems like winter weekends in Denver get so caught up in ski fever - season passes, lessons, gear, condos and timing the unavoidably clogged drive up or down I-70 - that it's easy to forget the whole reason to get away in the first place. Sometimes we need to escape the hustle-bustle of the ski towns and just be in the mountains.
We took the family up to Snow Mountain Ranch, the YMCA of the Rockies camp in Winter Park. Our motto for the weekend was to try something new.
I think this is the best kept secret in Colorado.
There is a little bit of everything at Snow Mountain Ranch: cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, ice skating, tubing, dog-sledding, horseback riding, sleigh rides, and plenty of places to just romp around in drifts up to your waist.
Snow Mountain Ranch is 5,200 acres of pristine valley land. The Nordic Center has 100 kilometers of groomed trails at all levels, from green to black. They are dog-friendly. You can stay on the tubing hill until 8:00 at night. We did!
They also have an indoor pool with a climbing wall in the pool. And a huge rec center with roller skating, hockey, basketball, foosball, pingpong and a 3 story climbing wall with automatic belay ropes.
My kids got to try out all kinds of activities that they would never have tried if we weren't at Snow Mountain Ranch - they determined that roller skating is much more difficult than ice skating.
You can go dog-sledding. You can go horseback riding, or take a sleigh ride.
And an awesome craft room where you can paint, make pottery, leather.
And when you go back to your room at night, there is no TV. If you're looking for a pampered experience, look elsewhere. And guess what? Your kids won't miss it. They'll pick up a book or a toy, or they'll be so worn out from all the activities, they'll go straight to bed. But you're not totally isolated: there is wi-fi, and our iPads had no trouble picking it up.
Saturday night, after a day of cross-country skiing, ice skating and tubing, we did the sleigh ride dinner at Sombrero Stables. As we arrived at the stables, there were two juvenile male moose hanging out. There is a group of five young moose who live in the valley. You don't want to get too close to them.
They bundled us up under warm wool blankets and loaded us into the sleighs for a peaceful half hour ride, followed by a cowboy dinner cooked by Chef Bob of steak, trout, baked potatoes, baked beans and peach crumble. It was delicious.
And Snow Mountain Ranch is friendly to your wallet. Rooms in the Indian Peaks Lodge, where we stayed, start at $96 a night. (Yes, you read that right.) There are cabins for families, cabins big enough to hold big reunions, there are yurts and there are campgrounds. There is a community cafeteria for all your meals. If you're staying here, most of the activities are free, or nominally priced. You can rent cross country skis for $18, kids $10. My 7 year old picked it up immediately. We had a blast.
Where: Snow Mountain Ranch near Winter Park in the Fraser Valley
When: Year-round! Winter sports, summer camps, Camp Chief Ouray, check out all the activities to do!
Perfect for: Families with kids of all ages