Colorado is known for its mountains, among a number of other notable standouts. People come from all over to photograph these impressive behemoths and enjoy the outdoor adventures they offer.
Located amid this awe-inducing landscape are numerous dude ranches, where city slickers and expert equestrians can challenge their skills in the rugged terrain.
Latigo Ranch, voted “Best Dude Ranch in Colorado” by Colorado’s Best, offers the classic Western experience. This 400-acre property, two and a half hours from Denver, is located within the majestic Rockies at 9,000 feet in elevation.
When the summer’s over, Latigo doesn’t close its doors like many other ranches. Come wintertime, it becomes an idyllic Nordic ski haven with some of the best cross-country skiing available in Colorado.
Latigo offers nearly 60 kilometers of machine-groomed, marked trail suitable for both classic and skate skiing, with terrain that varies from flat beginning track to challenging advanced level courses. For backcountry or telemark aficionados, the ranch is surrounded by over 200 square miles of deep powder, making it also a prime snowshoeing mecca.
If you’ve never cross-country skied before, there are free lessons available to get you started. Once you understand how to kick back and glide forward, you’ll discover that it’s an easy rhythm to get into, and soon you’ll begin to feel almost Zen-like in your technique.
Cross-country skiing is an excellent cardio activity, and you definitely can work up a sweat in the process. What’s great about the sport though is that you go at your own pace, so you can stop and admire your surroundings. On the higher trails, you’ll have expansive views while lower in the woods, you’ll feel like you’re in the middle of an iconic Currier & Ives winter scene.
For more adrenaline-boosting fun, there’s also a tubing area on site. Afterwards, head to the lodge, where you can take the chill off next to the roaring woodstove, while enjoying cocoa and homemade cookies. Or get nice and toasty with a soak in the hot tub.
The real warmth of the place, however, comes from the hospitality of your hosts, Randy and Lisa George. The couple has owned the historic property for the past 33 years. Running it is a family affair and a labor of love. Their son Spencer is the head chef; his wife Amanda directs the dining room and wine service; and their daughter Hannah is the head wrangler in the summer and breakfast chef in the winter.
Mealtimes are a delight, as both the food and the company are always a treat. It’s fun to exchange stories and share information about trails and conditions, while chowing down on “nouveau ranch cuisine” – wholesome, tasty and fresh fare.
As for accommodations, there are ten cabins; each decorated in the proverbial Western style with original artwork. The three-bedroom cabins have wood-burning stoves in their sitting rooms, while the single units have fireplaces, which makes for a cozy ambiance. Private porches provide the perfect place to kick back and take in your heavenly surroundings.
Debbie Stone is a regular travel column contributor and former Woodinville Weekly feature writer.