Issue link: http://digital.slmag.net/i/793509
Top-tier nightly lodging closest to the Steamboat Ski Resort is the seven-story Steamboat Grand (steamboatgrand.com), which offers 328 guestroom accommodations, ranging from studios, parlors, double queen and king hotel rooms to one-, two- and three-bedroom condominiums and eight luxurious penthouses, all decorated with a refined take on the rugged mountain spirit of the American West. e Grand is home to award-winning dining, a full-service spa and fitness center, an outdoor heated pool and two large whirlpool spas, and 17,000 square-feet of indoor/ outdoor convention space. The skiing season runs until April 16; night skiing under the lights is available through March 27. Other special spring events include the torchlight parade and fireworks on March 17; Springalicious from April 1-16; the 37th Cardboard Classic on April 15; and, the 9th Splashdown Pond Skim on April 16. For more information visit steamboat.com. After fully acclimating our warm-blooded selves to the altitude and the snow, we were chauffeured on the 45-minute drive from the Steamboat Grand to Vista Verde Ranch by Miller Anderson, a passionate fly fisherman who was in the midst of his first winter working in Colorado. Clad in contemporary cowboy attire, he looked every bit the part of a young ranch hand, complete with a substantial cowboy hat and healthy beard to belie his baby face. Our lengthy conversation en route proved to be a fitting introduction to the tight-knit Vista Verde family. roughout my travels, I've found that it is rare to encounter a crew so genuinely and unanimously enamored with their place of work; the collective sentiment undoubtedly enhances the guest experience on numerable levels. Vista Verde Guest Ranch is comprised of 540-acres in the middle of Colorado's Routt National Forest. On the day of our arrival the sparkly snow was picturesquely piled atop buildings and small landforms like stiff peaks of whipping cream. A herd of 100+ horses with full winter coats ambled with languid movements in a vast pasture near the main lodge. Cleared paths with columns of snow measuring five feet or more on each side led to guest cabins, barns and activity buildings. A one-horse sleigh passing by with a couple snuggled under a blanket lent a very Currier and Ives feeling to the already idyllic setting. Open from June through September and again from December to March, Vista Verde offers nine private log cabins as well as three rooms in the main lodge. A 1:1 staff-to-guest ratio is just one reason that there is a 50% return rate among first-time guests and a large number of regulars who take advantage of the "10th stay free" incentive. After settling into our two-story, two-bedroom "Big Agnes" cabin (named after a local mountain peak), comfortably outfitted with a wood burning iron stove; a large spa-like bathroom with two-person shower and locally-made toiletries; a kitchenette stocked with snacks, drinks, beer and wine; and, a mix of antique and rustic furnishings (some of which were built from ranch wood by the ranch's director of maintenance), we headed back to the lodge to plot out our schedule for the week with the affable Activities Coordinator. During the winter season, available activities include cross- country skiing (track, backcountry, skate), snowshoeing, horseback riding and horsemanship clinics, sleigh rides, sledding, photography workshop, yoga and Pilates classes, cooking classes, wine and beer tastings, and fat tire biking. Snowmobiling in the National Forest, dog sledding, ice fishing and downhill skiing excursions in Steamboat Springs are available for an additional fee. In warmer months hiking, mountain biking, fly fishing, rock climbing, paddle boarding and rafting are also offered in addition to horse-related pursuits. 50 slmag.net e Steamboat Grand Hotel. Photo by Larry Pierce/Steamboat Ski Resort.