Our family group snoeshowing at Vista Verde Ranch

Our family group snoeshowing at Vista Verde Ranch

By Eileen Ogintz

VISTA VERDE RANCH, CO — The stars are incredibly bright in the night sky. The Winter Circle, one of the most famous star patterns, consists of eight stars and rises in the southeast skies when the winter solstice arrives in late December.

Throughout winter, it slowly moves west until it disappears.

The staff at Vista Verde Ranch, about 25 miles outside the ski town of Steamboat Springs has obligingly left us an Evening Sky Map for this month. Twenty-five miles isn’t far but couldn’t be farther in spirit from the busy ski town that boasts it has sent more young men and women to the Olympics than any other town in North America.

We spent the day in the wonderful tumult of a major ski area known for being among the most family friendly with its kids-free offerings (as long as a parent or grandparents purchases a six day ticket and rentals, kids get lift and rentals free.)

A tip for next season—purchase a season pass. Even if you plan to ski just 10 days or so, a child will get a free season pass and you will get a rash of other discounts on lodging, ski school, spa, etc.

Ski School picnic at Steamboat Springs

Ski School picnic at Steamboat Springs

The Ski Resort on this Tuesday morning just before Spring Break—isn’t even busy but after the tranquility at Vista Verde Ranch it’s an entire other world with skiers and riders of all ages seeing how fast they can make it down the slopes. Fun! Four Points Hut at mid-mountain is crowded at lunchtime with its healthy options (a quinoa salad… soba noodles… homemade soup)

Ski Butlers has made this trip easy too. Rather than dealing with lines at ski shops, they met up with us at the base (had we been staying in town, they would have come to our condo) and fitted the skis right there. At the end of our time in Steamboat, we just tell them where we’ve left them at the base. Nice!

We pass a group of young children with their instructor having a “picnic” outside a teepee mid mountain; teens love the night skiing and riding Thursday-Monday nights.

But at the end of the day, I’m glad to be back at “our” cabin at Vista Verde ranch, soaking in the hot tub in our porch watching the horses in the meadow below.  Steve King, who oversees the winter Nordic program here and the summer adventure program, says he sees growing numbers of families seeking an alternative fun in the snow adventure that the ranch provides.

Last morning at Vista Verde blanketed with new snow

Last morning at Vista Verde blanketed with new snow

“They think the kids will want to go into the downhill mountain every day—and we provide free shuttles—but they just want to play in the snow.” He says they’ll take families out Nordic or back country skiing, build a fire and make s’mores.

“There’s the sense of adventure—where are we going? Where Mother Nature lets us…It seems there is more interest in the natural world and less in the groomed world and they really dig it!   They want to experience nature together.”

There are organized children’s activities and children’s dinners—as well

For families, he continues, it’ s not about gravity here. It’s about experiencing something new together. “The event is the journey.”

Sometimes, he continues, dad my go downhill skiing and the kids and mom stay; Other times the kids and mom opt for downhill. “Everyone has a really good time doing different things and come together at meals. How cool is that!

“We take normal people to extraordinary places—adults and kids.”

And there’s nothing better than that!