Panoramic view of The Home Ranch
courtesy The Home ranch

The Home Ranch
Clark, Colorado

I love everything there is about the mountains in the winter. The clean, powder-covered vistas; the quietness of a winter “storm” that leaves yet more snow in its wake; watching children squeal as they soar down a hill on a sled; the body-numbing cold outside that makes sitting inside by a warm fireplace so relaxing. Yes, I love it all. All except downhill skiing, that is, a sport I’ve tried to like at least once a season for the past 25 years and just haven’t been able to appreciate as so many others do (including my family).

This is one reason I’m drawn to The Home Ranch in Clark, Colorado. The 1,500-acre Relais & Château property is set 30 minutes from downtown Steamboat Springs, Colorado, a distance that means I won’t have to justify to anyone why I won’t be skiing this trip (but — for those of you who do love to ski, know that The Home Ranch will gladly transport you to the slopes each day).
Enjoy the mountain air while cross-country skiing in the afternoon
courtesy The Home ranch

Turning into the long driveway that leads to the property, I’m struck by just how picture-perfect the ranch is. The snow-covered mountains, the log cabins, the horses, the split-rail fence … this is exactly what winter should look like.

My cabin is a short walk from the main lodge. I’m staying in the Birdhouse, a rustic (in a Ralph Lauren kind of way) cabin with a sleeping loft and a view of the horse pastures. In winter, the horses are mostly for show — come spring and summer they’ll be part of the dude ranch activities. Meals at The Home Ranch are communal, so much as I’d like to lounge in the room, I head back for dinner. I’m glad I did. Not only is it nice to chat with fellow travelers, but chef Clyde Nelson’s “haute mountain cuisine” is superb and hearty.

The next day, after a delectable breakfast of strong coffee, freshly squeezed orange juice, applewood-smoked bacon, and brioche French toast, guide Mike Braal takes a group of us off the property for cross-country skiing in an open area of the Routt National Forest. Mike is a guide at The Home Ranch in the winter season, but come summer he heads to Alaska to captain a fishing charter. A nice life, if you ask me. Though it’s cold out, less than 30 degrees Fahrenheit, by the end of our trek most of us have shed our hats and even gloves, proof that cross-country skiing is indeed a workout, especially on mostly flat ground (which is just fine with me).
Keep the night fires burning at The Columbine Lodge
courtesy The Home ranch

In addition to cross-country skis, the resort’s equipment shed will loan you tubes for the well-groomed tube hill and snowshoes to wander the property. Lunch back at the ranch replenishes me, so in the afternoon I opt for the snowshoes and set off to get up-close and personal with the pine trees and dormant aspens that fill the property. Snowshoeing, I discover, is exhausting, especially on hills. Even heading back downhill requires effort. But I push forward, thinking about hot cocoa and the fireplace in the main lodge that beckons. A little part of me (the part that can’t seem to catch her breath) starts to wonder if maybe downhill skiers have the right idea, and I vow to give skiing another try. Just not this trip.

Rooms start at $475 per night, including meals and activities for two. (970) 879-1780,
— Lori Stacy