Ski Granby Ranch: A Perfect Family Or Group Getaway
By Regan Dickinson, Examiner.com
Back in the day, the salad days if you will, my wife and I were always intrigued by a place called Silver Creek. Our first child was a toddler at the time and it seemed the perfect spot for all of us to ski. Lo and behold, many moons pass and it’s now called Ski Granby Ranch (formerly SolVista Basin) and we have two children, ages 10 and 14.
The stars finally aligned for us, and we made it up there this past week. We stayed with my cousin and his family at Snow Mountain Ranch, a few miles south of Granby Ranch and its winter ski and play area, Ski Granby Ranch. There are plenty of places to stay closer to the ski area, as well as the nearest town, Granby, but we had the invitation and took it.
So we picked up my cousin, Jim, sardined him into the Saturn wagon, Old Blue, and drove up to Ski Granby Ranch. For some reason, his wife and children decided to cross-country ski at Snow Mountain Ranch. I don’t get it, but different strokes and all that, I suppose.
We got there right before the lifts opened and were able to park quite close to the base area. There was no Bataan Death March confronting us as we slogged in our boots the few steps to the ticket window. Those were the first stars awarded to Ski Granby Ranch in the 23-star system I’ve devised based on innumerable late-night calculations that take into account every aspect of a ski experience.
Skiing Granby Ranch
After procuring the very reasonable lift tickets, which are almost half the price of most Colorado resorts, we marched our way to the high-speed quad that accesses only blues, greens and terrain parks. I saw that High Roller was designated as a powder run, meaning it wouldn’t be groomed after a snow. And, since it had snowed the night before I figured I better get to it right away.
Before I get into how Granby Ranch skied, I should give you a lay of the land real quick…
There are only three lifts: The aforementioned high-speed quad (Quick Draw Express) that goes to the hill on the left as you’re looking at the area from the base area, a short lift for ski school/beginners in the middle (Milestone) and a three-person lift to the right (Conquest) that accesses only blues and blacks. Okay, there’s also a fourth lift, but it’s really just a lift of convenience for some ski-in, ski-out condos that allows people there to ski off the lift and down to the quad. There’s also a surface lift for ski school, so though I wrote “three lifts” there are officially five.
All three primary lifts funnel down to the same area, so it’s almost impossible to get lost or lose someone, a big plus if you’ve got kids or you’re with some kind of group, like a church youth group. And that’s really the focus of Ski Granby Ranch. Given that, Ski Granby’s about as good as it gets for a worry-free day. It has a very intimate feel to it, which can be a nice break from the big mountains (which I dearly love, without getting too mushy about it).
Still, though the area is small, the runs are relatively long. Our first run down High Roller was as advertised, un-groomed with plenty of opportunities to dodge in and out of the trees, if you so desired. However, we decided to try it again later since it was dust on crust.
That’s one of the dangers, so to speak, of a lower elevation resort like Ski Granby Ranch in the spring. It can get rather warm during the day, ice up at night and a couple of inches of new snow are not enough to hide said ice. Plus, there will usually be less snow there than at its higher-elevation neighbor, Winter Park.
I should be fair here, though, because I also know that the other mountains had the same problem leading up to that day. It had been warm state-wide so I wasn’t likely to find better conditions elsewhere, except for Aspen, Vail and a smattering of other areas that got more than six inches that night.
I should also follow my springtime rule of thumb, which is to stick to the groomers in the morning (unless more than six inches falls the night before) and wait for the sun to warm up the south-facing slopes. Ski Granby’s two hills face generally north and south, so we got back on the groomers, which were quite nice and smooth for lots of speed and carving, and waited for the sun to bake the south-facing hill.
By mid-morning we figured the other side was sufficiently baked, so we headed over there. Moving from one hill to the other was no problem; there was no need to skate or pole over to the other lift. More stars.
It should be noted here that we didn’t try any of the green runs, nor any of the terrain parks off of the high-speed quad. Not our style, if that’s okay, but it appeared that the others who did ski them were enjoying their time on those runs.
We tried all the blues off of Conquest first since the snow on the blacks wasn’t quite slushy enough for our taste. The blues were groomed and surprisingly lengthy. There’s one run called Jackpot that makes a wide traverse around that hill, so it’s narrower and more like a cross-country trail than a downhill trail. It was nice to cruise it for a different experience, but we only did it once, preferring the more “traditional” blues on the other side of the hill, Speculator and Sky Diver.
There are some fairly steep, short mogul runs and plenty of trees for more expert skiers on that side of Ski Granby. If you’re looking for a Mary Jane experience here, you won’t find it, but if you’d like a taste of it, you will.
We tended to stick to the main black run underneath the lift called Desperado, where you could also access one called Cornfield and the bottom of another called Rimfire. Desperado was wide open and you could find both steeper and milder pitches off of it, with smaller and larger moguls, depending on how you felt that particular run. This is a great area for someone who’s looking to break out from being strictly intermediate to advanced. More stars.
If you’ve got a group with beginners, first-time skiers, a smattering of intermediate skiers and even an advanced one or two, this is the perfect place to spend a few days progressing to a higher level. For instance, my 10-year-old daughter was a lot less tentative at Granby than she is at the big mountains. I’m not sure why, exactly, but my hunch is that it’s far less intimidating, which boosts her confidence. Just for that, I’m glad we made the trip.
Also, and though it was Spring Break and the Duggar family was being filmed for their reality show 19 Kids & Counting that day, there was nary a crowded slope nor lift line to be had. Maybe the weekends are more crowded, but the lack of clamoring masses added more stars.
We had lunch in the “formal” dining area at Granby Ranch. Though the resort has a more typical dining hall for skiers, we opted for a restaurant-like meal. The food was great and very reasonable. We all had a gyro plate for about 10 bucks apiece.
We also had dinner there, and once again the food was both fantastic and reasonable. I’d also recommend the beer I had with dinner, Colorado Native. It’s a Coors craft beer, but I hadn’t run into it until my trip to Ski Granby (maybe I don’t get out much beyond skiing?).
Everything is quite convenient, all centrally located at the base lodge. Did I mention the lack of death marches? And crowds? But that may change as Granby Ranch sells more real estate, people begin to discover it and they develop more skiing over the ridges of the current hills (rumor only, so don’t quote me on that, even though I just wrote and published it). So I’m glad we checked it out when we did.
As I mentioned earlier, Ski Granby is quite different from the big mountains, and its location in what is essentially a large valley between Berthoud Pass and the gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park at the base of Trail Ridge Road makes the scenery very much “Colorado,” but different than you’ll find elsewhere. It was just a nice change of pace; quite beautiful, but a different kind of beauty than you find at the higher elevations.
Moreover, Granby Ranch is a four-seasons resort with a championship golf course, world-class biking and access to some of the best Colorado has to offer, located between Winter Park and Rocky Mountain National Park.
For instance, mountain biking is a big deal at Granby Ranch in the summer, capped by the annual Triple DHip over Memorial Day weekend. It’s a downhill mountain bike stage race over three days with a combined purse of more than $50,000.
I must admit to already having a bias toward this area because we traverse it quite a bit during the summer. And, if you stay in the area, you can easily ski Granby Ranch one day, then head to Winter Park/Mary Jane the next. Or, in the summer, bike both resorts or head to the lake or up Trail Ridge Road and into Rocky Mountain National Park.
Plus, we found that Snow Mountain Ranch provides a whole menu of diversions. We tubed and then played Ping-Pong, basketball and roller-skated at Snow Mountain’s rec center the next day. The cabin we stayed in was spacious and reasonably priced, given the amount of space. There’s simply a lot to do and a lot of options in the area.
Tags: Ski Granby Ranch, SolVista, Winter Park