I took 36 pairs of mittens and gloves to the YMCA of the Rockies’ Snow Mountain Ranch. Between all of us, we only have 22 hands. I packed 13 pairs of boots for ten people who can walk and 19 hats for 11 noggins. A giant plastic bin barely closed because of the 12 pairs of snowbibs and snow pants. I suppose I wanted to be prepared?
When I began to research all Snow Mountain Ranch had to offer during its winter season, I pictured packing in a lifetime of winter fun into one blustery frigid weekend. We were going to do it all! Nordic skiing! Snow-shoeing! Swimming, skating (roller and ice), rock climbing, archery, tubing and sledding, sleigh rides, dog sled rides, swimming, crafting, eating, campfires, and quiet moments enjoying the stunning scenery.
Snow Mountain Ranch is located about two hours from Denver, situated in a picturesque valley between Winter Park and Granby. The property is 5200 acres of mountains and rolling hills dotted with cabins, lodges, activity centers, and miles of trails for backcountry exploring. We stayed in the Indian Peaks Lodge, which was comfortable and provided us with plenty of room to spread out and relax at the end of our busy days. The rooms sleep six, with two queen sized beds and a queen-size pull out sofa sleeper. They also have microwaves and mini-fridges, but in keeping with the spirit of encouraging family time, no TVs. We were treated to a fantastic view outside our sliding glass doors.
Because we had such a fabulous time at the YMCA of the Rockies Estes Park Family Camp last summer, we were sure we’d have a great time and find many ways to learn and challenge ourselves. Tommy spent much of Saturday morning taking his first Nordic ski lesson, which he loved. I’m proud he wanted to try and I was even more proud when I heard how he pushed himself to overcome early falls and mishaps on the trail.
While Tommy was out on a trail, the rest of the big kids zoomed down a giant tubing hill. One of my favorite parts of the weekend was watching them work together to configure tubes and sleds together so they could zip down the hill in one screaming mass of children. If only they would work together to do the dishes the way they worked together to give me a heart attack every time they shoved off…
Teddy wanted nothing to do with tubing because it meant wearing his snowpants, which was a terrible idea! No snowpants! Hate snowpants! Ollie simply snoozed, bundled in the stroller. By the time they were done tubing, they had shed hats, coats, and gloves because they were so hot from having to trudge back up the hills pulling tubes and sleds. It was an unseasonably warm day for January in the Colorado mountains, so I wasn’t surprised.
The sun goes down early in the mountains during the winter, but that didn’t mean the fun had to stop. Snow Mountain Ranch has great nighttime and indoor fun activities. We spent many hours in the Kiva Recreation Center. The seven oldest kids all tried rollerskating, most for the first time. Aidan, Ryley, and Beatrix seemed to like it the most. The others shuffled around the rink a few times before pronouncing it enough.
One of the most adorable moments of the weekend, heck, MY LIFE, came when I was holding Archie’s hand as he stepped out in skates for the first time. He was doing a really great job. Laura, one of the wonderful YMCA staff members we’ve come to know and love, was holding his other hand. Archie said, “When I grow up, I’m going to tell my children about this.”
Heart. Exploding. Then he was done. But he tried! And that was one theme of our weekend. We tried new things.
The same kids who roller skating also pulled themselves up the 3-story indoor rock climbing wall. Several got to the top with ease. Others struggled a bit, but they all gave it a whirl. Sam and Beatrix tried archery. The boys ran around a ball court playing hockey. The little boys pedaled really cool tricycles around the skating rink.
Beatrix and I got to learn about dog sledding. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to go on a ride but we got to meet the gorgeous, gentle, and super-smart Alaskan Husky team. We watched the team take off with two lucky boys as passengers. They went faster than I ever imagined a dog sled team could go. I look at my dogs and I think they’d pull a cardboard box three feet if there were dog food luring them, or Teddy’s lunch.
Our whole family did get to go on an animal-pulled ride, however. We were treated to a horse-drawn sleigh ride out to a rustic abandoned homestead. Sombrero Stables offers hot chocolate sleigh rides every day during the winter months, including moonlight rides.
On the way, we spotted a moose resting in a grove of aspens. It abruptly leapt up when it saw the three sleighs in the procession. It was an exciting moment and we thought that was the last we’d see of the moose. A few minutes later, we arrived in a clearing where hot chocolate, fire pits, and marshmallows and roasting sticks waited. Teddy fell asleep, so he missed out on our little sweet feast.
He also missed out on the excitement when the moose reappeared. It was a dark brown, giant bull moose who ran by us about one hundred yards away. Two rambunctious dogs who followed the sleigh teams chased the moose. I admit I was slightly freaked out because I’ve always heard how aggressive moose can be, but maybe he saw all of us brandishing our marshmallows and decided not to mess with our group.
What would a family camp be without a visit to a craft shop? It was well-stocked with all sorts of projects and supplies. All the kids but Ollie made a craft. Even I got into the crafting action. I made a mosaic snowflake as a souvenir of our colorful wintery weekend.
It was sad to say goodbye to such a great weekend in the mountains. We are so blessed to live close to the YMCA of the Rockies amazing facilities. It’s so important to give kids a sense of adventure and freedom, away from the routine of daily life. They need getaways, too! The weekend went by too quickly. We didn’t get to swim, snowshoe, or ice skate, but we still had a blast. Boredom is pretty much impossible with so many family-friendly choices in a stunning setting.
Learn about Snow Mountain Ranch and plan your own vacation or weekend getaway. There is still a lot of winter ahead and with snowy Colorado springs, more outdoor cold-weather fun abounds.
Disclaimer: The YMCA of the Rockies hosted our family for a weekend. The impressions of the facilities and activities are strictly my own opinions and the opinions of my husband, Aidan, Ryley, Sam, Tommy, Joel, Beatrix, Archie, Teddy, and Ollie, who smiled at it all.