To many people, holidays are not voyages of discovery, but a ritual of reassurance.
– Phillip Adams
As we slide into November, we find the mood has changed along with the weather. The World Series is over and football is king. The year’s biggest holidays are near, when the kids will be out of school and families gather close again.
As snow dusts the mountaintops, wouldn’t it be wonderful to experience the seasons’ change with the family all around, enjoying the great outdoors? To enjoy those ‘rituals of reassurance’.
Of course, that’s not easy at home, with all the parties, visits by friends and neighbors, and all distractions of the wired world. How can you get young people to unplug and spend time with the family? Well, a quick escape to a dude/guest ranch might be one solution. Worried that you’ll miss the bargains at the mall? Well, if you haven’t started shopping by now, it’s probably too late anyway. (As of Thanksgiving Day, there are only 28 shopping days left before Christmas.) Solution: just get the family one BIG gift this year: time together on a ranch for Thanksgiving or Christmas. We have some suggestions. First, decide whether you want snow or sun, then make a list and check it twice.
Looking for some bragging rights at the office water cooler? Just tell them about your adventure vacation in Argentina (we suggest one below). Or consider a guest ranch set in the frosty beauty of snow country. Ranchweb members include dozens of ranches in snow country. Okay, so some folks would rather come back from their winter holidays with a tan instead of ski goggle marks on their cheeks, and for them the many ranches of Arizona, New Mexico, and southern climes beckon.
We offer some to start your ‘White Christmas’ or your “Sunny Holiday’ list with.
At some ranches, the season is nearing its end, at others, winter brings a renewal of spirit and a whole fresh list of activities, from horse-drawn sleigh rides to snowshoeing and skiing. If you’ve visited your favorite guest ranch only in summer, seeing it under a fresh mantle of snow is like seeing your high school sweetheart all dressed up for the prom—breathtaking.
Whether you seek snow or sun, we urge you to seek out Ranchweb.com for the widest choices of ranches open in November and December. Click on the Availability button to find out who has rooms available for your preferred week or weekend. We can’t possibly tell you here on the blog about all the ranches that are open each month, but the powerful search tools on Ranchweb.com can speed your search for the perfect ranch.
This month, we also chatted with Meris Esterly, of the Geronimo Trail Guest Ranch in New Mexico, about what it’s like being new to the ownership of a guest ranch (the Esterly Family just celebrated the sixth year as owners of the Geronimo Trail Guest Ranch). For her, seeing the Land of Enchantment through the eyes of her guests is like seeing the state for the first time all over again. It’s both a voyage of discovery and a ritual of reassurance.
Find the snow
Home Ranch sits in the Elk River Valley, just beyond Steamboat Springs, Colorado, with the crest of Hahn’s Peak rising majestically in the distance. You’ll find it’s not unlike going back in time to a more idyllic landscape. No condos. No streetlights. Just Colorado as you hoped it would be, and as it once was. Or, as Home Ranch puts it “Big ranches. Blue skies. Real cowboys.”
You’ll find a host of winter fun here when the snow is generally at it’s deepest. Ski or snowshoe (guides and lessons available) on 30 kilometers of groomed trail around the ranch, enjoy backcountry guided trips. At day’s end, relax in a hot tub edged by snow, enjoy sledding or sleigh riding, sit beside a roaring fire, or dine on their famed Rockies cuisine in their renowned dining room.
Details: The Home Ranch (open December through March).offers five-day Christmas ski vacation packages every year, with gourmet holiday dinners and entertainment to match the holiday season. Vacations are all-inclusive. For more, please click here or call Johnny or Selina at 800.688.2982.
Also close to Steamboat Springs, and the Steamboat Ski Resort, is Vista Verde Guest Ranch. A winter stay here layers all the benefits of a Colorado winter resort vacation over the relaxed and intimate atmosphere of a ranch vacation. Your first decision: head for the ski resort for fabulous downhill skiing in their champagne powder snow, or stay on site for a full program of activities (included in your stay): cross country skiing, sledding, sleigh rides, snowshoeing, horseback riding.
At Vista Verde, you’ll find there’s plenty of top notch gear available to make your winter activities all the more enjoyable, plus guides and instructors to tailor each experience to your interest and ability.
Staff members come around at mealtimes and you simply tell them what activities you feel like trying next. All you have to do is choose!
Details: Winter Carnival Package- Stay at the ranch during Steamboat’s Winter Carnival (Feb 5-8) and enjoy the ranch’s winter wonderland. Then they’ll then transport you into Steamboat and set you up with a discounted hotel room for Saturday night so you can watch the street events on Saturday, the night show that evening and then more festivities on Sunday morning in charming Steamboat Springs. Winter Carnival admission button included.
Valentine’s Day Romance Package-Start your Valentine’s Day off with breakfast in bed, followed by a day of as much outside activity as you desire. In the afternoon, they’ll treat you to a private sleigh ride complete with hot toddies to keep you toasty warm. Following that, the chefs will delight your taste buds with their Valentine’s Day aphrodisiac dinner. If evening finds you in the bubbling hot tub under the stars, that’s your call.
“Discover some Montana magic with your family this holiday season,” invites the Lone Mountain Ranch website. The allure is obvious: some 85 kilometers of meticulously groomed Nordic trails and 30km of snowshoe trails; ski and snowshoe rentals; Yoga programs; access to hot tub; entertainment in the ranch saloon and evening programs. Also available: a sleigh ride dinner; on-the-snow gourmet trail lunch (Jan-March); wine and cheese social. Draft beer and house wine is available by the glass. And there’s a Children’s program offered during the holidays.
Lodging is in one of 23 cozy log cabins or a room in Ridgetop Lodge. Western artifacts, log furnishings, vintage cowboy prints and patchwork quilts give each cabin a warmth and charm. Meals and snacks are included in most packages-just call to inquire.
Details: Their Downhill Package includes package includes subsidized downhill passes to The Mountain (Big Sky and Moonlight are now one resort), three incredible meals daily, lodging in a log cabin or a room in Ridgetop Lodge, an old fashioned sleigh ride dinner, entertainment in our saloon and evening programs. Call for full details. Can’t stay for a full week? Lone Mountain Ranch offers shorter stays throughout the winter. Transfers to and from the Bozeman, Montana airport, are available.
…or seek winter sun
If you can book quickly, you can enjoy one of the best deals around: Stagecoach Trails is offering a 50 percent discount for stays in November. Set within easy access of gateways like Las Vegas, Phoenix, and the Grand Canyon, Stagecoach Trails Guest Ranch is Arizona’s newest guest ranch.
As owners Dan and Carrie Rynders note, “We have worked hard to create a special, friendly atmosphere where you can get a glimpse into the old west while enjoying the beautiful northwest Arizona desert and all the peace and quiet one could hope for. We invite you to stay with us and be part of our ranch family, even if it is only for a little while.” Sounds like a perfect, stress-free Thanksgiving holiday to us! Details: Open year round except for June 1- July 15. Winter rates start at $120 per night.
Another small ranch (maximum capacity is 16) in the southwest is Geronimo Trail Guest Ranch. This neat ranch is located on the Geronimo Trail, one of New Mexico’s Scenic Byways. Reachable by good roads, the ranch is four hours from either Albuquerque or El Paso airports, via a journey that will take you through high desert, rolling plains, and cool pine forests.
The Esterly family bought the ranch six years ago this month, and we recently talked with Meris Esterly to tell us what she loves most about being in the industry. “Being part of a guest ranch been great,” she says over our morning cups of coffee. “One of the best parts is meeting people from all over America and the world and showing them our beautiful New Mexico. Seeing it through their eyes, I get a fresh perspective on the ranch life,” she notes.
“Fall on the ranch is a really nice time to visit. It’s great riding weather!” The ranch is open March through Nov.27, this year, and you can snap up end of season deals. “We offer a ten percent discount on the week of Nov 21-27 but we only have one cabin left for that week,” Meris says, “but we have some cabins available for earlier in the month.” But you have to act fast.
Even next year is starting to book up. “We already have quite a few reservations, so reserve as soon as possible since we’re so small.”
“Our cabins are nestled in the pines; they’re are large but cozy with fireplaces, queen sized beds (and bunk beds), and covered porches,” says Meris. They also boast full bath/shower, sitting area with table and chairs, magazines and books, coffee maker, snacks and a cookie jar filled with homemade goodies. “They are comfortably furnished in a Native American style or a Cowboy motif, and you will have a cabin to yourself – we don’t mix groups.”
Wildlife abounds here in November. You might catch sight of bald eagles or waterfowl that overwinter here, and several bird species migrating south through ranchlands and nearby forests. They’re near the Gila National Forest , and wildlife includes mule and whitetail deer, black bear, Mexican grey wolf, porcupines, bobcats, ringtails, and coatis.
Details: open March through November, so they’re nearing the end of their season this month. Rates: adults $274/night for 3 or 4 night stay, 5-7 nights: $255/night, Children 4-11: $222/night, Non-Riders: $209/night, 7 or more guests: Call, click or email for special group pricing discounts.
Way down South America way, this intimate, 10-guest ranch offers all the best in adventure rides, good horses, and good organic home-cooked meals.
The main building is a Spanish style school house from 1870, now converted into a guest house. Owners say that “Our horses are friendly and responsive, and our tack is good quality. Rides vary; we sometimes ride into town for drinks, or visit a Serrano family or have a picnic next to a mountain stream. Or you may prefer hiking to observe local fauna and flora, or simply rest, read, sunbathe and enjoy life!”
Details: Open from July to April, this vacation is a plan-ahead experience, so start your research now.