We drove west past Denver, gaining elevation, and winding our way through the shadows and the contours of the foothills. Thankfully, the little one was napping, and we could actually start decompressing a little bit for the first time in a while. I love when the sun hits the hills in that perfect spot where the valleys are dramatically darkened while the hilltops almost seem to glow.
We drove through lots of the small mountain towns, entered Arapahoe National Forest, tuned north, and as soon as we came around the pass, there was snow. We watched the temperature gauge drop 20 degrees, then 30. And then, we drove head-first into a cloud. Frosted pines lined the road. For a Texas born-and-raised girl like me, I don’t take these things for granted!
|headed north into a cloud|
Then my husband said, “Do you realize that if we were playing by the rules, we’d be in gym class right now?” Does anyone else have conversations in movie quotes? We do. Whole conversations sometimes. (In case you’re wondering, that’s a reference to Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.) And, this was pretty similar to the look I gave him. But… we get each other.
We passed through Winter Park ski resort and admired all of the skiers on the slopes. Just a few miles later, we turned left into the YMCA of the Rockies’ Snow Mountain Ranch. The place is huge. It’s sprawling, and the views are beautiful.
|entrance to Snow Mountain Ranch|
We were invited to attend a Colorado mom blogger family weekend, and we were instructed to check in at the administration building. As we walked past the campfire out front, my husband said, “The smell of a campfire. I need more of that in life.” Mountains and campfires are basically his happy place. So he was good.
|in the room|
Our room in the Indian Peaks Lodge was huge! We had an equally large sliding glass door which overlooks a private porch and fabulous mountain views. Our daughter was literally overjoyed first by having her own queen-sized bed, but second, by having a really nice playground right down the hill from our room. It is worth noting that the playground had this fun “spinning thing” that is reminiscent of the teacup ride. It was a big hit with us!
|huge stone fireplace|
Snow Mountain Ranch gave all of us these beautiful hand-thrown coffee mugs, which I especially appreciate because my grandfather and my dad are both potters. These are thick, mountain mugs with large handles. I have had many a cup of coffee in a hand-thrown mug. Respect the mug. You can get your very own in the gift shop!
On our first night, the little one was a little cranky after the drive, so we opted to skip the roller skating and swimming and rock climbing so she could rest up for Saturday. We grabbed a quick dinner at Schlessman Commons and headed over for a s’more at the campfire. We spent several minutes talking with the nicest guy who works there. He was just one of those people who instantly makes you feel like you’re at home. Shout-out to Jerry!
|sign at night|
The little one asked me to lie down next to her, and so I did, watching her eyelids slowly close. And she slept peacefully…
|Good morning Snow Mountain Ranch!|
After breakfast on Saturday, we suited up for some fun snow activities!
|on a mission|
We headed over to the Nordic Center and Pavilion area where you can find nordic skiing, sledding, tubing, snowshoeing, and ice skating.
|dragging the tubes to the sledding hill|
First, we hit up the tubing hill which was tons of fun. They have snow tubes available for your use. Confession: we have never been sledding. Being from central Texas, A) there is not much snow to speak of, and B) the topography is what you’d refer to as flatland. So, I was stoked. My husband hopped in one of the tubes, and I expected my daughter to sit with one of us, but she declared that she would prefer to sit in her own, and off they went. I was honestly pretty surprised that she was so adventurous, but it was such a good thing! The next part entailed my husband carrying her back up the hill and dragging the two tubes behind him. The air is thin. Needless to say, I took a turn next while he caught his breath. It was SO much fun!
|daddy-daughter snow tubing|
In order to lure her away from the exhausting sledding hill, we told the little one that we’d go ice skating next! She thought the ice skates were lots of fun to wear and the rink was a really nice idea, but she wasn’t sure what to think about the slickness of the ice…
|these LL Bean ice skates are super fun|
|great views from the ice rink|
We spotted some of the other families taking their Nordic ski lesson, and then we headed up to the Skinny Ski cafe for some hot chocolate. Greg set us up with a “Rocky Mountain High” which was basically the most delicious hot chocolate imaginable. It uses Bakers chocolate and then it is topped off with a healthy serving of whipped cream and chocolate sauce. Now, we don’t give our daughter much sugar, so she was in heaven! I mixed some in with my hot coffee which was delicious! Several people told us that the soup, cornbread, and bread pudding are worth the trip, so I’m putting that on our to-do list for our next visit!
|the halfway point|
You might have noticed this, but the daughter and I are both crafty girls–so we had to check out the craft shop on location! You can’t imagine how many craft projects are available, and the kids love it! Our little one picked two $1 painting projects, and she sat and painted contentedly for nearly an hour! You can also make mosaics and tie-dye shirts and a million other things. It’s a great indoor activity, and there’s something for everyone!
|at the craft shop|
After lunch, all of the families headed over to Sombrero Stables for a horse-drawn sleigh ride. The kids loved feeding apples to the horses. The sleighs were outfitted with super warm cozy blankets, and off we went over the hills and through the woods. This was probably my favorite part of the whole weekend.
We stopped off at a campfire for roasted marshmallows and hot chocolate. Did I mention that we saw a bull moose? Definitely a highlight of the weekend! I’ve seen a couple of moose in Rocky Mountain National Park before, but never this close! It was truly amazing.
That night, after the little one went to bed, my husband told me to go sit on the back porch for a few minutes and just enjoy the quiet. So I bundled up, and I did. Underneath the full moon, hearing the gentle dripping of the icicles, I just listened to the stillness around me as it snowed. I felt my shoulders completely relax as I gazed off at the snow-covered peaks dimly lit in the distance. It was so peaceful. Take me back!
Sunday morning, my husband took our daughter over to breakfast while I worked on packing. I watched the Nordic skiers in the valley as the wind blew the freshly fallen snow on a beautiful sunny morning in the mountains. The pine trees were casting shadows across the snow. The blue sky was peeking out of the clouds. And there was a silver lining.
|view from our room|
Driving out, we passed Winter Park…
…and for miles, we enjoyed the views of towering pines dusted with snow. Despite the X Games underway in Aspen, traffic was not a problem.
|pines along the pass|
After passing a beautiful frozen waterfall, we found ourselves back in the warm and sunny foothills. The little one was asleep again, exhausted from an exhilarating weekend, so I just sat and soaked in the sun.
A fun-filled family getaway in a breathtaking setting, Snow Mountain Ranch is an ideal weekend getaway–just a couple of hours away–and we can’t wait to go back for an extended visit!
More about Snow Mountain Ranch at YMCA of the Rockies:
- more than 5,000 acres
- over 100 km of Nordic ski trails
- accommodations include lodges, cabins, vacation homes, yurts, and campsites
- great location for retreats, family vacations, and reunions
- on-site dining
- Nordic skiing
- sledding and tubing hill
- ice skating
- horseback riding and sleigh rides
- dog sledding
- easy access to Winter Park downhill skiing
- horseback riding
- miniature golf
- easy access to nearby boating, fishing, and rafting
- massage therapy
- craft shop
- roller skating
- rock climbing wall
The YMCA of the Rockies is all about bringing family and friends together, and I would highly recommend it for affordability, relaxation, and recreation in a beautiful setting!
Disclosure: My family was hosted for a weekend at Snow Mountain Ranch, including lodging, meals, and activities for purposes of this review. All opinions are my own.