The Dude Ranch for Backcountry Skiers

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Bob Winsett / Getty Images

A working horse ranch isn’t much further down the list of potential powder stashes than a than an active volcano, but Colorado’s 95-year-old C Lazy U Guest Ranch is perpetually blanketed in the soft stuff. Every morning during the winter season – the ranch’s slow season – a snowcat hauls a handful of skiers up the 1,000-acre mountain conveniently located on the property before trudging back down to meet the now breathless crew at the bottom.

The west-facing front side of the curiously nameless mountain is thick with aspens and spruce, while the backside opens up into a bowl that offers massive views of the ragged Indian Peaks just over the Front Range. After a few warm-up runs, the cat drivers – including former U.S. freestyle ski team member Brady Johnson – scout for fresher, harder, and deeper lines. There are twenty option and they’re not easily exhausted.

The last plunge of the day often departs via Chimney Rock, a steep, treeless bed of white ash ideal for hour-glass turns, that sits above the ranch’s 13 hillside cabins, which look like a Western interpretation of a quaint New England town. A larger residence nearby sleeps 11.

C Lazy U’s mountain isn’t massive enough for too much crevasse jumping craziness, but the avalanche danger is nil, the runs-to-skier ratio is unbeatable, and the ski-out convenience is just short of ridiculous. There are also the perks of a guest ranch stay: inclusive meals, genuine hospitality, wide open spaces, and the sort of unpretentious vibe that makes for a great ski weekend.

More Information: A la carte cabin rates begin at $249/night based on double occupancy. Cat-skiing for a half-day is an extra $75 per person ($35 for the kids) and departs at 9:30 a.m. every morning.

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