Fat-bike.com contributor, Jason Mead, headed to Snow Mountain Ranch in Winter Park Colorado for a race and sent in this report on this super fat-bike destination just a couple of hours from Denver.
Snow Mountain Ranch is the seat of the YMCA in Colorado. It boasts 6,000 acres of pure outdoor Colorado activities and views. Located about two hours west of Denver via I70 and I40 it is quite removed from the hustle and bustle of the booming front range population explosion. It is also a very different Colorado experience than one would find at the more well known ski resorts.
Snow Mountain Ranch has a ton of available lodging and conference rooms. Parking is plentiful and free. The dining facilities are equally expansive and welcoming. The staff can be found everywhere, smiling and helpful. Their positive vibe is contagious and once you look about the Ranch you find yourself smiling as well. The hurry up pace found in every day life is replaced with fun and adventure.
The Ranch offers a whole lot of something for everyone. As long as that everyone is looking for something to do outside! The spacious rooms do not offer television. It is very clear you are here to be outside. With activities ranging from tubing, ice skating, snowshoeing, classic and skate skiing, dog sledding, and now 22km of fat-bike trails there truly is something for everyone.
There are a few things that stand out right away at Snow Mountain Ranch. First and foremost it is very family friendly. The room rates at their three lodges range from $79 to $169. The higher rates being weekends and holidays. Those rates however also include a trail pass for the outdoor activities. The rooms can sleep 6 with varying levels of accommodations from queen beds to sofa sleepers.
Meals are served on the Ranch at three locations. I found that breakfast, served at Schlessman Commons, offered a massive variety. From cold cereal to bacon, eggs, pancakes, fresh fruit, and yogurt. This was not your average continental breakfast, it was designed to fuel your day of adventure. Lunch was had at the Nordic Center’s Skinny Ski Cafe. Here I once again found something to please just about everyone. I watched as a finicky family found more than enough options. Although, I for one could not fathom any other selection than a heaping bowl of hot chili and corn bread. There were both carnivorous and vegetarian options to be found.
Recently Snow Mountain Ranch has been developing their fat-bike trail riding experiences. They have 12km of groomed single track and 10km of dog trails that are open for fat-bike excursions. This separates trail users from any conflict and keeps the flow going for bikers and skiers alike. I noted a fleet of new and well maintained Trek Farley 5’s available for rent. Rates are $60 for a full day, $40 for a half, and $20 per hour.
I went out to try my hand at their Fat Bike Race. This is the second year of the series and, while they say they are still learning, it never showed. The pre-race meeting was concise to the point and very chill. Fat Bikes are supposed to be fun and Bill kept it extremely professional and upbeat. The course was called the Blue Ridge Ascent and was to utilize a portion of the nordic track that offers a good amount of elevation gain. Colorado had not seen much snow leading up to the event, but there was a well established base.
The evening before the race snow started to fall. By morning several inches of fresh snow meant the groomers were up early. Bill sent out a snowmobile to make sure the course was in decent shape. Apparently he decided to save us a ton of hike a bike and modified the course to keep us riding. The first third of the course was amazing. Well packed and twisty with a few rollers. Then came the climb. I am no climber, and my tire pressure and poor lungs aided in propelling me backwards. Truth be told I didn’t care. It was a pleasure to just be out riding, away from all the noise, with just the sound of crunching snow under tire. As the climb pitched further up and we gained in elevation the trail became a little too soft and I was forced to walk. The leaders were able to climb with no issue, so I’d say the trail was properly prepared, while I may not have been. I found myself wishing for a Blackborow and a double ring setup.
Salvation came in the form of a 6k descent down a wide fast section of groomed trail. I was able to keep it upright and not touch the brakes at all. Pure fun! The descent leveled out and pointed us towards the single track and finish. Weaving in and out of trees and summer cabins it was fast and flowy. I had to test the snow depth, so I put a wheel off the groomer and flipped over the bars landing in three and a half feet of fluff. Perfect! Once I reached the finish I was told the number plate was my meal ticket. Walk 50 yards past he finish and grab whatever your heart desires from a well thought out buffet.
Snow Mountain Ranch has something for everyone, and is the perfect place to bring a family and partake of any number of outdoor winter time recreation opportunities. Speaking strictly on the Fat-bike potential, it is now just barely scratching the surface of what it can offer. I would not be surprised to see it host major events in the not too distant future. It is not far from a major airport. Has plenty of lodging, and a diversity of on site places to dine. If that isn’t enough Winter Park is just down the street. With the trail makers already on site and all the land in the world to create a course, it is a blank canvas ripe for the picking.
Resort pix courtesy of Snow Mountain Ranch, trail pix from Jason Mead.
If you have a fat-bike destination experience you’d like to share, let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org! We’d love to get the word out about all the great fat-biking destinations to be visited.