Photo: Doug Knuth
The distinguishing feature of the boot bindings used for cross country skiing is that they allow for freedom of movement and lift of the heel. Likewise, enthusiasts of this classic winter sport thrive on the invigorating lift the full-body workout provides, coupled with the exhilarating freedom of making fast tracks through majestic, snow-covered, natural settings.
Devil’s Thumb Ranch Resort and Spa
Devil’s Thumb Ranch provides an upscale, “rustically elegant” western theme resort on 6,000 acres, surrounded on all sides by awe-inspiring views. It’s located in Tabernash, west of Denver and just minutes from Winter Park.Here you’ll find over 100 kilometers of groomed trails for classic or skate cross country skiing, snowshoeing, and even skijoring! Private and group lessons are offered for beginners with advanced clinics available to the more experienced. Have you always wondered if your dog is musher material? Here’s your chance to find out. A skijoring instructor will equip and train you and your four-legged pal to glide over the trails in tandem. If the rig and harness intimidate your canine, dogs on leashes are welcome on many of the trails. Accommodations at Devil’s Thumb are plentiful and beautifully appointed. The Main Lodge and High Lonesome Lodge offer 87 rooms in total, most with views. There are 15 very private, mostly dog-friendly cabins. The Bunkhouse offers cost conscious visitors an affordable place to sleep in a more communal setting.
Dining and drinking options include dinners featuring the “New American Mountain Cuisine” at the intimate Ranch House, with breakfast, lunch, dinner, happy hour, and live music served up at the casual Heck’s. Also on property are a saloon, coffee shop, and wine cellar.
Snow Mountain Ranch
The YMCA of the Rockies’ Nordic Center at Snow Mountain Ranch located in Granby also welcomes canine companions and cross-country skiers of all levels. The 100+ kilometers of groomed trails over 5,200 acres include easy, short loops around the Center with steeper climbs provided for the more advanced.Snow Mountain Ranch’s Nordic Center offers snowshoeing, ice skating, sledding, tubing, and sleigh rides. There is a full-service ski shop for rentals, lessons, and retail gear and apparel purchases. Lodging options include dog-friendly, hillside cabins; vacations home rentals; lodge rooms; and yurts. Three daily meals can be enjoyed cafeteria-style in the Schlessman Dining Commons. Find pizza and burgers on the grill at the Buckboard or grab a quick soup and sandwich at the Skinny Ski Café.
Located just 90 minutes from Denver and 15 minutes from Winter Park, Granby Ranch provides miles of networked Nordic trails on the East Mountain for cross country skiing and snowshoeing. A special mention goes to Granby Ranch for their fully lit slopes and terrain parks, making them Grand County’s only night skiing and snowboarding facility.
Refreshments are found at Base Lodge in the Granby Ranch Grill, the Dining Hall, and a Barista Station. The overnight accommodations at Granby Ranch are unique in that guests arrange their rentals directly with the private owners of nearby condos, townhomes, cabins, and luxury homes.
Grand Lake Nordic Center
The Grand Lake Nordic Center was featured as a “hidden gem” in the November 2010 issue of Cross Country Skier Magazine and voted 2013’s “Best Nordic Center in Grand County” by readers of the Sky-Hi News. This is a very popular destination for local families and their canines that delight in their own dedicated dog loop.The Center is part of the Grand Lake Metropolitan Recreation District, a taxpayer based organization. Offering 20 miles of well-maintained and intersecting trails for skate and classic cross country, circuits and loops are plentiful. Spectacular views of Rocky Mountain National Park are easy to find from many trails. Some routes cut right through the center of the pine and aspen forests while a newer trail sends skiers over a bridge that crosses the Colorado River. Snowshoers have a dedicated trail but are also welcome to use the ski trails. Kids love the free tubing hill next to the ski shop. The Center provides tubes for public use but you can also BYOT. The ski shop contains a cozy and comfortable lodge with a roaring fire, spectacular views, a bar, and light fare that includes house-made soups and chili. There is no on-property lodging at the Nordic Center but the Grand Lake Chamber of Commerce offers a very thorough Lodging page that can help you find the perfect bed in “The Soul of the Rockies” in which to rest your well-worked body and refreshed spirit.
After you’re finished on the ski trails and before you head in for the night, stop by Hot Sulphur Springs, for a much deserved soak.