Snow Mountain Ranch certainly lives up to its name during the winter months. This YMCA of the Rockies property, located near Winter Park, Colorado, has enough winter sports activities available that guests would need to spend at least a week to do them all.
Snowshoeing Snow Mountain Ranch
We stayed in a Snow Mountain Ranch cabin that was near several good snowshoe areas. After taking the dog for a walk on the snow packed road, we strapped on our snowshoes and headed out. Our old dog is a little too old for slogging through the snow so we left her at the cabin. Continue reading
You’ve heard about it in songs and perhaps you’ve seen it in a movie or commercials, but did you know that you can do it right here in Colorado? Several places around Colorado offer horse and sleigh rides, and earlier this winter we got to experience an outing at Snow Mountain Ranch, a beautiful YMCA of the Rockies property in Grand County, Colorado.
We arrived at Sombrero Stables a little before our scheduled excursion. All the draft horse teams were lined up, waiting to be hitched to their sleighs for multiple afternoon outings, so we walked down the line giving head scratches and taking photos.
I fell in love with draft horses while writing a series of articles about Norwegian Fjords for a Colorado newspaper. Draft horses are called “gentle giants” for a reason; their demeanor is calm and they are unlike any other horse I’ve been around. I love their chill personalities. Continue reading
Last year I finally got the opportunity to attend the International Snow Sculpture Championships in Breckenridge, Colorado. I’d known about the event for years and wondered if it would live up to the hype.
We were booked at the Village at Breckenridge and our room overlooked the parking lot in which the snow sculpting teams were working on their creations.
We were lucky enough to stay for long enough to watch the sculptures as they were carved into their various final compositions.
As we watched the sculptures take shape over several days I was blown away by the size and intricacy of each piece. The photographs I had seen of this event, while amazing, just simply hadn’t done it justice. Seeing this event in person is truly astounding.
This year’s event International Snow Sculpting Championships run Jan. 18 through February 7, 2016. The ideal time to visit, in my opinion, is Jan. 26-30 while the sculptures are being created, especially Jan. 29 when the teams work late into the night to finish their pieces. Watching the sculptures come to life, so to speak, is quite astonishing. Continue reading
Dog sledding in Colorado? Yes, you can. I’ve done it twice now and our experience this past week at Snow Mountain Ranch was like no other.
I was a huge fan of the Iditarod when I was a kid. The race incorporates lots of things I love; dogs, snow and perseverance.
Snow Mountain Ranch is part of the YMCA of the Rockies. It is located between Winter Park and Granby, Colorado and is a snow sports fanatic’s dream destination. In addition to dog sledding guests can participate in everything from cross country skiing to fat biking to ice skating and the best part? Guests never have to leave the property. Continue reading
It’s that time again, time for another installment of HeidiTown on the radio.
Every two weeks I have a show on KRFC 88.9 FM, community public radio. I’ve been doing a lot of traveling this winter, so in this week’s segment I share a little from our trip to Grand Junction and the surrounding area. I will be writing some blog posts about this trip as well, so stay tuned!
Also included, a preview of the Fort Collins St. Patrick’s Day Parade – a very popular and very green event in Northern Colorado.
Without further ado, listen to this week’s segment HERE.
We arrived in Grand Lake on a snowy Friday. The area had received three straight days of heavy snow, which made our first stop at On the Trail Rentals, even more fantastic. I previously wrote about this experience.
We were booked at the Western Riviera Lakeside Lodging & Events, soon to be world famous because on March 25, they will be featured on the Travel Channel’s Hotel Impossible. Much to my delight, because I’m a fan, the crew of Hotel Impossible was filming on the weekend we were in town.
We were staying in The Tree House, a huge two bedroom apartment overlooking the lake and just a short distance from the Western Riveria’s lake front property. It has a full kitchen, a living room and dining area with a fireplace. The master suite features a walk in closet the size of my first apartment, and the bathroom has Jack & Jill sinks.
We thoroughly enjoy the purple and pink sunrises from our big front window each morning, and we had a front row seat to the fireworks show on Saturday night. I was in town covering Grand Lake Winter Carnival, one of the best little winter festivals I’ve attended in Colorado.
Scheduled for a guided snowshoe trek in Rocky Mountain National Park, we got up early on Saturday. The Fat Cat had been recommended to us by the bartender at The Lariat. They serve a $12 breakfast buffet on the weekend and the selection included Scotch eggs, a personal favorite. A table heavy laden with desserts caught our eye. It looked like something right off the pages of Bon Appetit Magazine.
My husband, Ryan, is a big fan of desserts. Big. He looked at me, eyes full of excitement and asked, “Do you think that’s part of the buffet?”
It was. The Fat Cat will now always hold a special place in my Ryan’s heart, and mine too. We ended up there twice during our stay. We met and chatted with Sally, the owner, and felt like we’d discovered a home away from home. That’s how I feel about Grand Lake in general – it is genuinely comfortable.
At 9 a.m. we arrived at the Kawuneeche Visitors Center for our ranger led snow shoe outing with Ranger Barb. This was one of the best mornings ever, in part because Barb’s husband cut the trail for us. The scenery was breathtaking and it felt like we were snowshoers in a postcard. Barb is a gifted guide and amusing storyteller. Ranger led hikes at RMNP are free, but you must make reservations by calling 970-586-1223.
After our hike we sped back to Grand Lake to enjoy Winter Carnival activities. During winter carnival the businesses along Grand Avenue sponsor snow sculptures and this year’s theme was Alice in Winterland, resulting in especially whimsical creations.
The bed races are the Carnival’s most famous event. Eager festival goers were already lining the streets when we arrived and I noticed right way that Grand Lake is probably one of the most dog friendly towns in a state full of dog friendly towns.
The bed races lived up to the hype. It was a seriously entertaining event and since Hotel Impossible was in town they entered a team complete with their own camera crew caught here in our video of the races.
After the events were complete we made a quick trip out to Grand Lake Brewing which had moved out of town since our first visit. Their taster trays are huge and the staff is really nice. Back in town, we walked from The Tree House to Pancho & Lefty’s, another one of our favorite places in Grand Lake. It’s a super fun place that I mentioned in previous posts here on HeidiTown.
After a rather impressive fireworks show that we watched from our porch, we dined on delicious handmade pizza at the Grand Lake Bowling Alley.
The next morning, after filling up at The Fat Cat once more, we headed out to the picturesque Grand Lake Nordic Center for a morning of cross country skiing. The club house is beautiful and with 35 kilometers of groomed trails, you could easily spend a day here.
Sadly, we couldn’t. We had to head back home, but we’ll miss Grand Lake, and can’t wait to go back.
Author’s Note: Don’t miss the historic Daven Haven Lodge while you’re in town. It’s been open since the 1930s, and has had just three owners over the years. For a delicious steak, or all you can eat shrimp on Friday nights, make a reservation at the Daven Haven.
See more photos from this trip on Instagram at @TheMayorofHeidiTown.
HOTEL IMPOSSIBLE featuring the Western Riviera airs Monday, March 25 on the Travel Channel.
It’s time for another HeidiTown segment on KRFC 88.9 FM.
This week I cover food and wine events in Fort Collins, a unique festival high, high, high in the Rocky Mountains and much more.
Hear me on KRFC 88.9 FM on Wednesdays prior to the Bikes & Beer Show at 6 p.m. and on Fridays at 5 p.m.
OR, listen HERE!
Throughout childhood I watched the Iditarod with pure excitement. I remember watching the late Susan Butcher dominate the race during the late 80s and early 90s. It was a sport that crossed gender lines and pitted human nature against Mother Nature, and Mother Nature sometimes won.
I was also a fan of the Iditarod because growing up in the Pacific Northwest I had several connections to people who ran the race; not close associations, but close enough to make me feel connected in a small way.
After reading the book “The Cruelest Miles: The Heroic Story of Dogs & Men in a Race Against an Epidemic“ by Gay Salisbury, I developed a renewed interest in this race that had mesmerized me as a child. The book, published in 2005, is a nonfiction account of the 1925 diphtheria epidemic in Nome, Alaska. Unable to reach the town by plane, sled dogs were used to race lifesaving serum to the people of Nome. At the time, this event captivated the nation and inspired the annual Iditarod Dog Sled Race.
This long intro illustrates just how much I’ve always wanted to try dog sledding, so when I got the opportunity at Sled Dog Rides of Winter Park this past weekend, I jumped at it. I was in town covering the Grand Park Dog Days of Winter, a sanction sled dog race, so it was the perfect fit.
Dog Sled Rides of Winter Park is located just three minutes outside of Fraser, or 12 minutes from Winter Park Resort. My husband, Ryan, and I arrived on a snowy and blustery Friday afternoon. Ryan’s uncle, Dean, joined us as well.
As we were guided to the area where the dogs are tied, all was quiet, but not for long. When the dogs realized that sleds were being set up the howls began. It was as if they were all saying, “Pick me! Pick me! Pick me!”
Ryan and I were bundled onto one sled, while Dean rode alone. Because our combined weight was significant, our team consisted of 12 excited dogs.
Dog Sled Rides of Winter Park has around 80 dogs, mostly Alaskan huskies. An Alaskan husky is a husky that has been bred with a variety of other breeds, so they all look a little different. Our team had one crazy Siberian husky named Yukon, while the rest were Alaskan huskies. Yukon is the dog in the video below that seems to be bouncing around and looking everywhere except forward.
Snuggled into a large blanket aboard our sled, we watched as our team was hooked up. This is quite a process and I kept thinking of the phrase, “herding snakes.” When the team was ready our musher, Laura, hopped on the back of the sled and we were off. The fast start was somewhat unexpected, and I was startled and tingly with delight all at the same time.
Laura informed us that we were sledding in less than ideal conditions. With fresh snow and wind, the groomed trail was constantly being covered with snow, making the dogs’ job more difficult.
Even with a heavy sled and deep snow in places, our team ran their hearts out. As we flew through Grand County’s beautiful countryside Laura kept us entertained with stories and answered our many questions; her knowledge made this ride not only fun, but educational.
While going through a deep drift our sled slowly turned over and we had to bail. Ryan was especially excited about this little incident because he felt it made a better “dog sled ride story.” However, it’s not nearly as dramatic as it sounds. Once the sled was good and stuck, Laura had us roll off the side so the dogs would be able to pull the sled out of the drift. After that we got back on and were off again.
The ride took about 45 minutes and we covered around 3 miles. Dog sledding is exhilarating, and for dog lovers like me, there’s the added bonus of getting to meet the dogs after the outing.
Dog Sled Rides of Winter Park operates winter and summer. During the summer the dogs pull visitors in modified golf carts or on specialized scooters. You can visit Dog Sled Rides of Winter Park at DogSledRidesofWinterPark.com or check them out on Facebook here.
See more photos of this dog sledding trip here. My husband took the following video or our dog sled adventure at Dog Sled Rides of Winter Park.
(NOTE TO SUBSCRIBERS: You’ll need to go to HeidiTown.com to see video)
Below is one of my favorite Instagram from this dog sledding experience. This was one of our “wheel dogs” (meaning he was directly in front of our sled). I love that face! Follow me on Instagram @TheMayorofHeidiTown.
This trip sponsored in part by the Winter Park & Fraser Chamber.
On a trip to Grand Lake, Colorado, primarily to attend Winter Carnival, we had the opportunity go snowmobiling thanks to On the Trail Rentals. My first and only snowmobiling experience up until this point had been riding behind my husband on an old sled over some less than ideal terrain. The snowmobile didn’t have any shocks and it left a terrible trail of environmental pollution.
Thankfully, On the Trail Rentals is known for buying brand new snowmobiles every season, and I found out that riding a brand new snowmobile rocks.
I was a bit apprehensive about driving my own snowmobile, but after Ryan and I went over the map and safety regulations with owner, Nick, and geared up in a helmet and goggles, I started to feel a little more confident.
I felt even better when I saw my yellow snowmobile. Yellow was the color of my first car, and I’m rather fond it, so I liked my sled immediately and we were soon best friends.
It turns out that snowmobiles are super easy to operate. I was a little worried about this, but the machines are fully automatic and they operate like a jet ski – just squeeze and go. After taking a few spins around the field at On the Trail Rentals, we ventured out onto the 33 miles of groomed trail (that’s not counting the play areas along the route).
We were riding through six inches of fresh snow – in fact, it had been snowing bucket loads for three days straight before we arrived in Grand Lake.
“Perfect for snowmobilers,” said Nick at On the Trail.
And it was. We were in pure snowmobile bliss.
If you read my article about Ski School, you’ll know I’m not a braggart and I am always honest with you about my abilities or lack thereof when it comes to any type of sport. It just so happens that I was born to ride a snowmobile. My natural skills even impressed my husband, and that’s hard to do because he’s naturally good at just about everything, and I am not.
Driving a snowmobile is exhilarating and the 33 mile loop was scenic and diverse. We first traveled through miles of open area that looks over the snowy landscape of beautiful and rugged Grand County. We took our sleds for a quick spin in the first play area, where we practiced turns and took great photographs.
Back out on the main trail it started to snow as we climbed. There weren’t a lot of other snowmobilers on the trail, so despite the noise of our machines, it felt like we were really out in back country. We climbed and climbed and the road grew a bit narrower as we found ourselves surrounded by a forested area heavy with snow.
I enjoyed being able to drive through different types of scenery and terrain. It was good practice for a newbie and I could work on things like turning and navigating deep snow. I’ll admit, in one of the play areas I got stuck and Ryan had to spend 20 minutes dragging out my sled – a good reason to bring a strong guy or gal along when you go snowmobiling.
Other than getting stuck once, I’d give myself an A for the day and On the Trail Rentals gets an A+ for their phenomenal snowmobiles.
After this experience, my number one recommendation to my female readers out there: Don’t ride behind your man, ladies. Get your own sled! You won’t regret it. If I can drive one of these machines, anyone can!
Here is a fun video my husband took on our snowmobile adventure at On the Trail Rentals.
One of my favorite memories is waking up to six inches of fresh snow on my birthday, October 10, 2007. We were staying in Leadville, Colorado the highest town in the United States at 10,000 feet above sea level.
This small town provides a uniquely Colorado experience for several reasons. First, there’s no place like Leadville and when I say it’s one-of-a-kind, I mean it. Colorful characters, both past and present and colorful stories, both historical and modern day, plus lots of snow – that’s Leadville in a nutshell.
Leadville Ski Joring Weekend is March 2-3, 2012. Ski joring is the Scandinavian word for ski driving, and in Scandinavia individuals would ski behind reindeer as a method of transportation. More than a half century ago, two men from Leadville witnesses ski joring in Steamboat Springs and brought it back to Leadville where, in 1948, it became a serious competition.
Today, the Leadville Ski Joring completion is considered the preeminent event in the sport and has a $1,000 purse. If you’ve never watched skijoring, you in for a treat – watch the video from PLUM TV at the bottom of this post to get a taste of what it involves.
The event poster gives all the details on the ski joring events taking place in downtown Leadville. Click image to enlarge.
For families that choose to make a weekend out of the event, Leadville has much to offer in the way of wintertime fun. There’s the groomed, free Dutch Henri Sledding Hill where families can either bring their own sleds (no metal allowed) or rent tubes for $7 on Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The hill is open every day from dawn to dusk.
There is also the 30,000 square foot outdoor Leiter Ice Skating Rink, an affordable way to spend the afternoon. Skate rentals plus skate time is just $3.25 for children and $4.25 for adults. Ice rink is open 3:30 to 9:30 p.m. on Saturdays and Sunday and includes a warming hut, snack bar and sound system.
The Mineral Belt Trail is free, and is 12 miles of groomed trail for cross country skiing and snowshoeing. In fact, Leadville has a total of 50 miles of cross country skiing trails, including 12 kilometers of groomed trails on the golf course.
The National Mining Hall of Fame and Museum is open 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day. This is the only federally chartered non-profit museum and if mining sounds boring to you, it did to me too. However, this museum is really impressive. My husband wanted to go and I tagged along, and I was so glad that I did. Find them online at MiningHallofFame.org.
Leadville Ski Joring Weekend
March 2-3, 2013