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Outdoors: Do You Know Where It’s Fun to Stay?


When you stay at the YMCA at Snow Mountain Ranch, you can be whatever you want to be—a Nordic skier, a snowshoer, a sledder, a swimmer, a climber, a cowboy, an ice-skater, roller-skater, an archer or artist. You can worship God or glorify nature. Or just read by the fire. You can be a dreamer, wondering who lived here before you.

You can be all these things when you stay at the YMCA.

The Y’s 5,000 acres rest in the Fraser River Valley with eastern views of Winter Park’s runs, which dribble down like white icing on the side of a green cake. Reminders of the valley’s past remain, undisturbed by newer owners. In 1885, the Just family homesteaded the area next to where the Legett Craft Shop now sits. The smoky scent from the nearby Nordic Center fire breathes even more historic life into the area. There’s also the well-preserved Rowley homestead, on the southwestern edge with its log cabin, cellar and smokehouse.

You can sleep in a cabin—albeit a modern version—with grand views of the valley that reinforce the remoteness. Out the front door of the cabin is the Nine Mile Mt. trailhead and out back, down the hill, is the Old Lynch ski trail. The Y has 52 cabins and three lodges, including Indian Peaks, which has a cozy A-frame lobby, comfy furniture and fireplace.

You can explore 60 miles of undulating, groomed trails through conifer forests on skinny skis or snowshoes—just beware of the moose and elk that may cross your path. If you’re new to classic skis or just need to untie some bad habits, the Nordic Center offers lessons. If you’re a guest, ski and snowshoe rentals are free.

“Act like you’re jogging in place,” my instructor said as we stood on the practice trail. “Good. Now let the skis do the work.” After a few hours scouting out the trails, it was nice to relax on the couch by the fire.

Next to the Nordic Center is the Pavilion with ice rink and tow-roped sledding hill. If you’re ready for something warmer, head over to the Kiva Center with its climbing wall, roller skating, basketball and volleyball. Keep your heart rate down and get your hands dirty at the Legett Craft Shop where you may work with copper, clay or tie-dye. Learn about winter survival and the pine beetle. Swim at the pool. Now pull on your boots, hop up on a horse and let a wrangler guide you around the valley. The Sombrero Ranch also offers wagon and sleigh rides. And if you need an adrenaline fix, there’s always nearby Winter Park and Sol Vista. The Y has a ski rental shop and daily mountain transportation.

Finally, you may just be too tired to do anything. That’s when a trip to the library helps. Pick a book and sit by the fire. And think about what you want to be after the snow melts and your playground transforms into summer—you’ll be back.

+ Marco Polo Didn’t Go There: Stories and Revelations from One Decade as a Post-modern Travel Writer, $10, REI.

+ Weekends can be crowded. Make reservations for the week and you’ll have the place to yourself. Pack boots for snowshoeing and horseback riding as well as trainers for inside sports. Bring your own beverages and groceries. Though the Y offers dining options, you’ll want special meals and goodies. ymcarockies.org

[Getting There] Hwy 70 W to exit 232 (Hwy 40). Go 12 miles past Winter Park, in between Tabernash and Granby.
The entrance is well-marked on the left.

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