by Jessica Averett – Families who enjoy winter vacation adventures are all too familiar with the price tag that often accompanies them. Between warm clothing, expensive gear, and resort prices, planning a winter vacation may tempt parents to quickly clean out little Johnny’s college account to finance the trip. But, Colorado’s Snow Mountain Ranch is a destination that’s different, a place that will not only leave you with plenty of money in the wallet, but might actually initiate a laid back family vacation.
Snow Mountain Ranch is a YMCA of the Rockies resort (along with another property in Estes Park, CO) that specifically caters to families. Located only 80 miles from Denver, Snow Mountain is also ideally situated for a quick and easy getaway. From buffet-style dining to myriad activities and helpful staff, everything is focused on helping families have a fantastic time.
Kids want to skate for only 45 minutes? No big deal, the family can head for a sledding hill right outside. Getting cold? Walk to a heated pool, or check out the climbing wall. Don’t want to worry about meals or finding a family-friendly restaurant? Use the dining hall. Oh, and did I mention that rooms start at under $100 per night, and include most activities, so parents needn’t fret about pinching pennies at every turn?
Family Activities at Snow Mountain Ranch
Dog Sledding: A rare treat to introduce everyone to the sport of dog mushing. Spend a morning imagining yourself in the Iditarod, without freezing in the middle of nowhere. The resort’s friendly cadre of mushers have been working with dogs for years, and happily teach visitors the mechanics of training, harnessing, and driving a team by placing passengers on a double sled for a thrilling ride.
Trips were relatively short (20-30 minutes), but the perfect length to excite our kids without too many chilled fingers and toes. We finished off with hot cocoa and s’mores by a cozy bonfire, making this a favorite activity with our crew.
Nordic Skiing: With more than 100k of trails, the Nordic Center at Snow Mountain Ranch welcomes all abilities, beginners to Olympic hopefuls. The ski shop is located next to the main trailhead, making gear rentals very simple. In no time, staff had our older kids geared up, the toddler tucked into a Chariot sled, with directions to great trails nearby.
No gear to lug around, no crowds to fight, just helpful people encouraging us to enjoy our adventure as a family.
Horse-Drawn Sleigh Rides: Get in tune with your inner cowboy on a sleigh ride through the snowy fields of the Rockies. Whether choosing an itinerary including dinner, or taking a shorter trip to enjoy the scenery and some cocoa, kids will enjoy the authenticity of this outdoor activity.
Sledding: While sledding hills are abundant in the Rockies, a groomed spot right at your fingertips is convenient, indeed. Nothing says winter quite like grabbing a sled and racing down the slope, a kid again. In no time, my husband had built jumps, and my kids laughed uncontrollably as they crashed over and over into the soft powder.
Alpine Skiing and Snowboarding: For more speed, downhill skiing is just around the corner at either Winter Park or Granby Ranch, both of which can be accessed in under 20 minutes. While separate from Snow Mountain Ranch activities, skiing the Colorado Rockies is amazing experience that should not be missed.
Looking for more? Snow Mountain also features other kid-pleasing activities like swimming, rock climbing, skating, basketball, roller skating, horseback riding, archery, and crafts.
If you go:
Snow Mountain Ranch Cabins start at $149/night, Lodge Rooms at $79/night, yurts $94/night. All lodging includes day activity pass for each member of the party.
Dog Sledding: $25 for guests, $50 for day visitors.
Activity Pass: $20 for adults, $10 ages 6-12, Free 5 and under.
Cafeteria buffet prices range from $8.50-$14 for adults, $5.50-$10 for kids 6-12, and kids 5 and under eat free.
To find Snow Mountain Ranch, drive I-70 West from Denver to exit #232 for US 40. Follow US 40 for 12 miles past Winter Park to the entrance on the left.
Jessica Averett is mother to four young kids and is obsessed with skiing, rafting, and camping. Follow her adventures at Bring the Kids.