By Meghan McCloskey, Taking the Kids Correspondent
Snowy Adventures Off the Slopes at YMCA Snow Mountain Ranch in Colorado’s Rockies
As much as these rambunctious dogs like to be pet by guests, they are anxious pull you through the snowy track on the alpine terrain.
The team is made up of Alaskan Huskies, a crossbreed not recognized by the AKC, but bred to be the best for racing. The dogs eat 6,000 calories a day but are still so lean and fit and smaller than I’d expected. The head musher (dog sledder), Steve, is also the Snow Mountain Ranch chaplain and is full of tales of worst-case scenarios, dog sledding techniques and lore. Steve leads a presentation before our ride so we know how to stay safe.
We head out to the morning campfire at the start of the dog sled trail where we keep warm and make s’mores while awaiting our turn. The anticipation rises as we watch three rounds of dog sledders disappear behind the snowy shrubs and then reappear later around the bend in full force, dogs barking in excitement. When our turn comes around, I jump into the sled and cover up with the thick blanket while my husband, Jonathan, stands on the sled behind our musher. We’re off!
Our fifteen minute ride may be a is a little short of the famous 1,150 mile Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, but the ride is full of thrills. The seven dogs guide us over bumps and curves while our musher yells out commands like “ha”, or turn left. The dogs slow down as we go up hill but then zoom down the hill to the finish line. I think we are ready to compete!
Snow sports like dog sledding, cross country skiing, snowshoeing, ice-skating and tubing available at Snow Mountain Ranch allow families to enjoy the majestic Rockies without an expensive lift pass at a ski resort. Anyone can visit the Nordic Center, but guests of Snow Mountain Ranch have many perks like free ice-skating and tubing and a complementary day pass for the Nordic Center.
We grab snowshoes at the Nordic Center and head out to explore the extensive snowshoe trails that cover over 100 kilometers of terrain including a lodge pole and ponderosa pine forest, mountain meadows and short loops for beginners. We opt for a challenging route and head up a hill and are rewarded by the stunning view at Columbine Point.
Famished after the snowshoeing trek, we grab some chicken wings and onion rings at the Buckboard Grill and sit on our balcony to watch the sunset over the Berthoud Pass. The sky is painted in vibrant yellow, cotton candy pink and lilac purple and the colors frame the mountains of the Continental Divide.
Of course, spending a lot of time outdoors in winter requires good clothing that fends off the cold, such as Divas Outerwear. And when you come inside, it’s always nice to warm up with a cup of hot chocolate. There are plenty of indoor activities at Snow Mountain Ranch to take a break from the frigid temperatures. Anyone with a creative urge will enjoy the craft studio where guests of all ages can pick out a necklace to string or a mosaic to design – all materials provided. Or, families can head for a swim at the indoor pool and sauna or try out archery or rock climbing, all indoors.
The buffet style, all you can eat meals at Schlessman Commons provide the much needed energy for all the winter activities. Breakfast is even included! Adults will enjoy an evening at the nearby Tabernash Tavern, which has a small ski town vibe, and serves delightfully imaginative dishes and classics like burgers. I ordered the beet salad, which came with elderflower vinaigrette and an assortment of red toppings like apple, grapefruit and bacon.
Little princesses and knights will take over Snow Mountain Ranch for Fairy Tale Weekend January 23rd – 25th. Families will get to experience activities like a carnival, magic show, juggling lessons and crafts, like family crest making. Open to the guests of Snow Mountain Ranch, all of the activities are complimentary.
We take advantage of the close proximity of Snow Mountain Ranch to Winter Park Resort and enjoy a day of downhill skiing. For out of town families, renting downhill skis at Snow Mountain ranch’s shop is a deal at a fraction of the cost of rentals at Winter Park.
Snow Mountain Ranch is a great value for families, with so many activities, meals and events built into the low lodging cost. Winter sports don’t need to be cost prohibitive for families on a budget. Bring on the snow!