The YMCA of the Rockies Snow Mountain Ranch is the perfect winter family getaway- with a range of accommodations, outdoor and indoor activities, and dining, you’ll spend some of the best family time of your lives in the Colorado Rocky Mountains.
There’s just a certain satisfaction of the perfect family vacation. In our case, we were just gone for two nights, but our weekend away in the Rocky Mountains checked all the boxes for what I look for when investing in quality time with my family.
I didn’t have to cook one thing- which meant I was so relaxed. My kids got to try new activities that pushed them physically and mentally- and there wasn’t a screen or device in sight. My husband and I had time to talk and hold hands and relax as a couple. Oh- and did I mention the laughing? We laughed so much.
Creating family travel memories is so important to us, but it can be hard to find an affordable and fun place with activities for everyone. Luckily- the YMCA of the Rockies Snow Mountain Ranch has both covered. In this post, I’ll give you the scoop on our Winter experience at Snow Mountain Ranch.
I’ve included a handy Table of Contents- so feel free to click on the section you are most interested in reading and you can jump straight there.
Table of contents
YMCA of the Rockies Snow Mountain Ranch is located between Winter Park and Granby in Grand County, off of highway 40. The ranch covers more than 5,000 acres in the Colorado high country, with gorgeous mountain views. It’s just about 15 minutes from downtown Granby and about 15 minutes from Winter Park- not far from Granby Ranch or Devil’s Thumb Ranch.
Now- 1-70 winter traffic is absolutely notorious for being awful-, especially in Winter. If you are traveling on a weekend, try to arrive in Winter Park by 4 pm and leave either before noon on a Sunday or wait until after 6 pm to avoid huge traffic jams.
We test drove a Chevy Equinox on this trip, and I can tell you that not only was that car super safe, having wifi in the car was great so we could play all the Songs in Spanish in the world while we were stuck in traffic.
There is another YMCA of the Rockies location, an Estes Park center, which a lot of people call YMCA of Rocky Mountain National Park, but it is an entirely separate facility with separate activities. We did visit last Winter, here is our YMCA Rockies Estes Park Winter Travel Guide.
You have several lodging options at the YMCA- you can do a lodge room, cabin, vacation home. There are yurts and campsites in the summer, but not winter.
We stay in the lodge rooms- they are comfy and cozy and clean. The beds are so soft, there are tons of pillows and blankets, and every room has a microwave and mini-fridge.
What To Bring
What to bring depends on which activities you plan to do, but there are a few items you must have:
- Shampoo/conditioner/lotion- these amenities are not provided
- Sunscreen- the sun is intense even on a cloudy day- don’t get sunburned
- Water bottle- dehydration is real and you need to drink a ton of water at altitude. I also brought packets of Pedialyte for the girls to avoid dehydration.
- A good daypack- I love this Essential Backpack from LeSportSac since it is so lightweight.
- Warm boots- We test drove KeenKids waterproof boots for this trip, and they were amazing. The kids’ feet were warm, even hot, the entire trip, and their feet stayed dry. And they are on sale right now!
- Snacks. the dining hall serves three square meals a day, but the altitude makes everyone hungry. I baked a batch of raisin bran muffins, made some trail mix and then had some fun road trip snacks too.
If you do forget gear, one thing I noticed is that at the Husky Dog cabin and in the Nordic Center, there were boxes of gear for people to borrow if they forgot something. At the pool towels, life jackets, toys, and goggles are available, so really all you need is a suit.
It is so easy to get to Snow Mountain Ranch- you will just take 1-70 up from Denver and get off on US 40 towards Winter Park. Follow the road through Winter Park and keep going through Fraser and Tabernash towards Grand Lake, and you will see a large sign for Snow Mountain Ranch on the left.
Once you enter the property you’ll drive for about 3/4 of a mile until you come to the reception on the left- it’s the first building. Go inside and talk to someone at the desk- they will check you in for your room, cabin, or help you with a day pass to enjoy activities for the day only.
You’ll need a property map too- so make sure to get one while you are there. While you can walk to all of the activities at Snow Mountain Ranch, they are fairly spread out and if you have little kids as we do, we generally drive to most of the activities so the kids can expend their energy playing.
We had visited the Y in the Fall and enjoyed so many activities (like the zip line, horseback riding, and mountain bike trails), but winter is a totally different and fun experience. Activities include:
Indoor Winter Activities
- Roller Skating
- Basketball Court
- Ping Pong
- Climbing Wall**
- Craft Cabin*
Outdoor Winter Activities
- Ice Skating
- Cross Country Skiing*
- Snow Shoeing*
- Fat Biking*
- Sled Dog Mushing**
- Sleigh Rides**
Key: * = Additional fee ** = Additional fee and advance reservation required
Additional daily activities and registration for all types of activities can be found on the Activities and Programs page.
Our Favorite Activities
As far as activities go, we experienced the craft cabin, climbing wall, archery, cross country skiing, and sled dog mushing.
The sled dog mushing (which I had also experienced this year in Rovaniemi, Finland) was the highlight of everyone’s visit. Long rides are on Friday’s, short rides on Saturdays. There is a husky dog presentation (just one of several family programs) next to the library that everyone can enjoy, and then those signed up for rides head out for a 10 minute, 2-mile training run with the dogs. My kids loved this, and so did I! Make sure to bring sunglasses or goggles if it’s snowing as the snow does get in your eyes.
The next favorite activity was cross country skiing. We rented gear, the parks pass was included in our lodge room stay, and we were off! There is over 120 km of trails of all levels. The girls stepped up to a new challenge to learn to ski, and this was one of our favorite family times together the whole weekend.
Related Post- Mushing Husky Dogs in the Colorado Rockies
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The next star of the show is the Craft Cabin. You can purchase almost any type of project you can imagine, and spend chill time in a gorgeous crafting space creating.
We loved the Kiva Center- rock climbing, archery was a riot since we are so bad at it, and the girls roller skated 7 times in 2 days. The pool is super warm, there’s a slide, and a sauna for mom and dad.
Expect to arrive home from the YMCA exhausted and happy- there is no shortage of activities!
You have a few different dining options at Snow Mountain Ranch in the Winter. The easiest, and the option we were provided, is to purchase your meals in the Schlessman Commons Dining Hall.
The meals are buffet style, and there are options for every diet, although the options are limited. Last time we visited, I was super underwhelmed with the food, but this time I thought it was pretty darn good. There were always fresh greens, gorgeous fruit at breakfast, and a nice mix of international cuisine.
What I most loved about the meal plan was that all we had to worry about was showing up, on time, for the meals, and bussing our own tables when we were done eating. It was zero stress on the food prep front- and all the food fit into my diet plan.
Additionally, there is a Buckhorn Cafe with meals for purchase at the admin building, and a Skinny Ski Cafe in the Nordic Center. Many people also dine in one of the nearby mountain towns. Right now there is a special for two free breakfasts for each day you stay in one of the lodge rooms, and kids under 5 eat free.
Multicultural Families Need To Know
What I most love about Snow Mountain Ranch is the job exchange program. There are people from literally all over the world working at the YMCA, and many are here to learn English.
The idea of multilingualism is a normal part of everyday life at the Y, and it is reflected in the employees, food, and values of tolerance and respect for other cultures. Multicultural and multilingual families can spend quality time at the ranch speaking their own language and observing their own cultural customs and be 100% respected and supported.
All you need to do is book your room- you will not regret it! Head over to the Snow Mountain Ranch website, or you can just call the reservation hotline for booking- 1-888-613-9622.
Disclosure- I was provided a complimentary night’s stay for myself and my family, including food and drinks, in exchange for this post. All opinions are my own.