Why visit a Colorado dude ranch in winter? There are no cows to punch and even horseback riding is iffy. Still, some ranches remain open. And for a few, the season brings unmatched tranquillity and snow-draped beauty. At these five there's lots to do, and as a bonus, some rates are in the deep freeze.
Perhaps the most luxurious is the Home Ranch outside Steamboat Springs. In winter, snow gets deep and the ranch becomes a top-notch nordic ski center, with 18 miles of groomed trails, from easy meadow loops to longer, more challenging treks (the prettiest route is 1.4-mile Aspen Arches loop). Athletic skiers love the skating lanes laid down when snow conditions are right.
Sleigh rides are offered twice a week, and there's a hoot-and-holler of a tubing run with big banked turns. Off-ranch activities include downhill skiing at Steamboat Springs Ski Resort, guided backcountry ski tours in the adjacent Routt National Forest, and snowmobile trips.
At day's end, you'll appreciate the Home Ranch's impeccable service and facilities (six rooms in the main house and eight cozy cabins). Snuggle under a downy duvet, relax by the woodstove with a bottomless cookie jar by your side, or soak in the private hot tub on your cabin's secluded porch. Meals are prepared with culinary refinement beyond what you'd expect from typical dude-ranch fare. After dinner, guests gather around the fireplace as the Ranch Hand Band plays cowboy classics. From $500 all-inclusive. (970) 879-1780.
MORE WINTER RANCHES
Try C Lazy U Ranch (from $290; 970/887-3344) in Granby, Latigo Ranch in Kremmling (from $270; 970/724-9008), Peaceful Valley Ranch in Lyons (from $145; 303/747-2881), or Vista Verde Guest & Ski Ranch in Clark (from $460; 970/879-3858 or 800/526-7433). For more, call the Colorado Dude & Guest Ranch Association at (970) 887-3128.