Vista Verde Ranch is located just 25 miles outside Steamboat Springs, Colorado. While most ranches are open during the warm weather months only, Vista Verde also welcomes guests during the snowy season. This dude ranch boasts resort-like amenities, cabins fit for the discerning cowboy, and endless winter activities.
Holidays can be lonely when it’s not possible to celebrate with family or friends. There are two choices on how to handle the situation: sit at home and feel sorry for yourself or celebrate with new-found friends who become family for a few short days.
My husband and I found ourselves in this exact situation over the Thanksgiving holidays. So we packed our gear and headed for a luxurious glamping holiday at Triple Creek Ranch in Darby, Montana, rated the #1 Hotel in the World by Travel + Leisure readers. You read that right. Glamping has met the big time.
An unusual November cold snap provided a layer of white over the Bitterroot Mountain landscape making arrival at Triple Creek Ranch extra scenic. At the main lodge, a staff member offered a friendly greeting, before introducing one of the activity directors who led us to the luxurious cedar cabin that would be our home for the holiday.
Inside we discovered a comfortable living room with fireplace, bedroom area and a bathroom with his and hers vanity areas. The collection of western art decorating the walls seemed especially apropos for this corner of Montana.
The activity director pointed out special features like the steam shower, the inclusive stocked bar, basket of homemade cookies that’s refreshed daily and the private outdoor hot tub. She also demonstrated how to work the all-important Keurig coffee maker as well as both the flat panel television in the living area and the DVD player in the bedroom.
It was tempting to relax in front of the romantic fireplace for the entire holiday, or soak in the hot tub, but there was so much to do on the ranch. How could we possible stay indoors?
Horseback rides, hiking and archery competed for our attention. And if there had been just a little more snow, the cross country skis and snowshoes located on the lodge’s back deck would have offered some frozen fun on Triple Creek’s trails. If we’d been hardy fishermen, rods were provided for fly-fishing in the ranch’s stocked pond. Guided trips on the region’s world-class rivers are available at an extra cost.
Of course all the fun had to be scheduled around meals. I was not about to miss any of the delectable dishes created by Chef Jacob Leatherman. Although meals can be delivered to your cabin for private dining, it was much more fun to dine in the lodge dining room where servers quickly learned our preferences — and our names. And comparing adventures with other guests over a drink in the Rooftop Lounge was a fun beginning to every evening.
Thanksgiving Day began with breakfast in front of the fire in the dining room and a walk on the property to work up an appetite for the huge meal to come. After lunch, my husband joined the horseback ride that ended in a field for the archery competition. I hitched a ride in one of Triple Creek’s car shuttles and sipped hot chocolate in front of a campfire while waiting for the horseback riders to appear.
The lack of archery expertise didn’t keep me from joining the competition. A staff member offered patient instruction on how to use the bow. Guests joked, teased and cheered each other on. And then it was my turn. After a couple of failed attempts, my arrow hit the target twice to win a prize from the Triple Creek gift shop.
Later, guests relived the day over cocktails at the home of Triple Creek Ranch owners, Craig and Barbara Barrett, who also offered tours of their extensive western art collection. And then it was time to be shuttled back to the lodge for a family style Thanksgiving dinner prepared by Chef Leatherman. At the end of the meal, each guest shared a moment of thankfulness. And by then, we did feel like family.
Thanksgiving isn’t the only holiday celebrated at Triple Creek Ranch. Guests arriving for Christmas enjoy a Christmas tree set up in their cabin. To make it even more personal, ship your favorite tree decorations to the ranch and they’ll be waiting for you — either on the tree or for you to decorate. Like everything else at Triple Creek Ranch, it’s your choice.
I’ve been looking through my selection of digital photos that the ranch emails to each guest. They remind me that you don’t have to be alone for Thanksgiving. Go glamping at Triple Creek Ranch, instead.
Sunlight sparkles on the snow like diamonds as you snowshoe along the trail. Later, you’ll warm frosty toes by the fire and reminisce on a day spent in a winter wonderland. Does the thought of winter glamping make your blood freeze? Think again.
You’ll find standard winter activities like snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, dog sledding and sleigh riding at most winter glamping destinations. But it’s the accommodations and location that make each experience unique. From yurts to luxury log cabins, winter glamping is available for all budgets; and there are plenty of woodstoves and fireplaces to warm you up.
At Blue Sky Ranch in Wanship, Utah, one Norwegian yurt sits at the top of a hill overlooking the Wasatch Mountains and Deer Valley Park. The world-class view includes 3,300 acres of diverse terrain and not another soul except whomever you’ve brought with you. Powered by solar, LED and wood stove, the yurt includes a propane grill – yes, you’ll be cooking – and outdoor fire pit. Most importantly, an enclosed compost toilet is adjacent to the yurt, although you can walk through the snow to the outhouse if you prefer. Winter horseback riding to a mountain tavern for lunch and yoga snowshoeing are two of Blue Sky Ranch’s unique winter adventures.
You’ll be sleeping on a cushy bed of evergreens at Atelier Arboreal on an Ontario Winter Camping trip. Stay in wood-heated teepees or yurts located at the base of the Bruce Peninsula. Warm up in the log sauna after a day of snowshoeing in the Colpoys Range. Rates include meals and Ontario wines. And your luggage arrives via sleds.
In Valais, Switzerland, go glamping in a geodesic dome. At the Whitepod Hotel, your pod is equipped with wood-burning stove, organic luxury bedding, king size bed and full-service bathroom with a small electric heater. Breakfast (both hot and cold buffet) is served at the Pod-house. Dinner is available at Les Cerniers restaurant. Enjoy a day of skiing on Whitepod’s private slopes.
Glamping goes high end at The Resort at Paws Up in Greenough, Montana, where winter accommodations are in luxurious log homes. Fine dining combined with a 37,000-acre playground makes the experience unforgettable. Don’t miss the sleigh ride complete with the jingle jangle of sleigh bells. Have a yen for downhill skiing? Paws Up will arrange it for you at nearby Whitefish.
A winter glamping trip to Log Cabin Wilderness Lodge near Tok, Alaska, provides the chance to view the northern lights so bring your camera. Log cabin accommodations come with full baths and the rate includes breakfast and lunch. After a day of winter adventuring, swap stories with lodge guests in the wood-fired hot tub or sauna.
So what are you waiting for? All of the glamping locations mentioned provide plenty of winter activities plus that all-important cozy fire.