February is always a risky time of year to make partially-non-refundable reservations for anywhere in the Colorado Rockies. Weather can change in an instant, closing mountain passes and rendering travel downright dangerous. But our anniversary is in February, so we made the reservation and crossed our fingers and ended up getting pretty lucky.
At the suggestion of a coworker, we booked a 1-night stay at Snow Mountain Ranch in Granby, Colorado. This is one of three YMCA of the Rockies locations in Colorado and boasts numerous recreation opportunities. Our stay included complementary access to the pool and other recreation facilities for the entire weekend, free breakfast, free day passes to the on-site Nordic center, and a rustic lodge room with amazing views from the balcony!
We left Denver bright and early to beat the worst of the ski traffic – and made the mistake of trusting my GPS when it said there was a slightly longer but faster route around the worst of the delays. Longer? Yes. Faster? Not at all.
Even with the detour we arrived at about 9:00am, and though our room wasn’t ready yet we were able to begin using all the facilities. So we headed to the Nordic Center for some snowshoeing. Maintained snowshoe-only trails lead to an old homestead, gold mine, and views of a reservoir and the Indian Peaks. Most visitors were there to cross country ski, so we had the trails mostly to ourselves. It was a beautiful, calm, sunny day, and even though it was only 35-40°F we found ourselves plenty warm in just t-shirts… which then led to some unfortunate sunburns. In February. One of these days, maybe I will stop underestimating the intensity of the high-elevation sunlight here in Colorado.
Anyway, the homestead was built by Fred Rowley in the late 1800s for himself and his family. There were quite a few buildings and some informational signs. Fred lacked any type of architectural knowledge and, between that and the sheer amount of work required to establish a homestead, it took him many months to construct each building. The cracks between the logs were sealed with chink, a compound made of mud, ash, hay, water, and horse manure. It may have been an effective sealant, but I have to assume it was also a rather smelly solution.
We opted not to visit the gold mine as we had recently seen another, so we continued on to the Columbine Point overlook which was well worth the climb.
We didn’t see any wildlife – probably due to the number of people on the ski trails – but it’s clear that many live in the area because we saw dozens of tracks. I need to learn to identify them… if anyone knows what these are, I’d love to learn!
We were able to check into our room around lunch time so we got settled in and enjoyed an afternoon beer on the balcony.
On Sunday morning we had signed up for an archery lesson, which was something I was very excited to try out. It took a little bit, but by the end I’d gotten the hang of it and, though my aim still needs some work, I was at least able hit some portion of the target almost every time.
The day itself was full of cloudy skies and chilly winds, which significantly dampened our enthusiasm for returning to the Nordic Center that afternoon for some skiing before heading home. If we were going to pay to rent skis we wanted it to be worth it, and in that weather it just wasn’t going to be. It was probably for the best, because it allowed us to head home before the worst of the snowstorm descended. And it inspired us to rent some cross-country skis the following weekend instead! But more on that in my next post.
We very much enjoyed our stay at Snow Mountain Ranch and this is definitely a place we will return to. Someday once we own cross country gear we may even purchase an annual pass so we can regularly visit the Nordic Center. In the meantime, if anyone is looking for a beautiful Colorado winter recreation destination, this is a place I highly recommend!
The Important Stuff
- Getting there: Snow Mountain Ranch is located off Highway 40 in Granby, Colorado
- Fees and passes: day passes are $25/person; if you’re a member or you’re staying overnight, day passes are free
- What to do: go swimming, visit the rec center for some basketball, ping pong, volleyball, or rollerskating, pay for an archery or rock climbing class, or visit the nordic center for skiing, snowshoeing, or ice skating
- Where to stay: there are 3 lodges that are open year-round and can be reserved (highly recommended, they were completely full the weekend we were there). In the summer there are also cabins and campsites available
- Other: it’s a YMCA so there will be lots of children and it’s Colorado so there will be lots of dogs. If you’re looking for a quiet getaway without too many other people around, this might not be the best choice. That being said, once the people in the room beneath us made their dogs stop barking we had a pretty relaxing stay.