Family vacations have changed. I don’t mean to date myself, but back in my day (I only said it like that so you could get the full effect), there was no Wi-Fi, NFL Network, Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook or any of those other various networks and gadgets we can’t seem to live without today. Sure we had Gameboys and pocket-sized board games perfectly crafted for the car ride, but that was about it. Well, aside from your actual family of course. Because isn’t that what a family vacation entails?
I recently visited Snow Mountain Ranch (SMR), the YMCA of the Rockies located near the cute little towns of Granby and Winter Park, Colorado, and it reminded me of the old-school family vacations I used to take with my family. It was all very simple back then and it came with a whole lot of family bonding.
Family Stays at Snow Mountain Ranch: The ranch is more of a cabin setting – some large enough to fit 40 people (hello family reunion!) and others as small as two-bedrooms. Think of all the moms, mother-in-laws, daughters, sisters, cousins, nieces and, of course, BFF’s you could bring along for a fun time on the ranch!
The ranch is complete with a craft shop, a basketball court, volleyball court, swimming pool, archery, church worship services, library/game room, rock-climbing wall, Nordic skiing tracks and lessons, hay rides, campfires with s’mores, zip lines, mini golf, tennis courts, a playground, a ball field, a sledding/tubing hill and so much more (activities are pending the season). The best part by far was meeting and hanging out with the future sled dog puppies being groomed for training on the ranch – I have absolutely NO idea how I left the ranch without taking one with me!
Special Note: Military Getaway Package – I absolutely loved running across a flyer offering a discounted stay for active duty or reserves and their families. I know how important family time is to me – I can’t imagine if I had a loved one overseas serving and got limited time to spend with them. Bonus points to SMR for this offering (call 888.613.9622 for more information and reservations).
Creative Getaways in Colorado – As a writer, creativity is key. Seriously, if I can’t form sentences and come up with creative story lines, I can’t pay my bills.
Writer’s block is a real thing in my line of work and sometimes a local coffee shop with the nearby hustle and bustle can’t even break that mode. Getaways like the ones at SMR are indeed needed from time to time. I enjoyed two nights with another creative friend of mine (she’s a graphic artist) as a way for us to reset and just be – no deadlines, no dings, no notifications, no calendar alerts, and no rushing to the TV for our favorite TV shows (thank you DVR inventors!).
It’s downright amazing what a little bit of nature can do for one’s creative soul. I can’t promise it will remedy writer’s block each and every time or help you solve life’s biggest questions, but it’s definitely a much-needed change of pace for pretty much anyone.
Since we visited during what the locals refer to as the “awkward season,” (right after fall, but not quite winter) it limits hiking and isn’t quite snow-ready for skiing, so we found ourselves with a lot of down time, which was quite a pleasure even on vacation.
Being able to wake up and look out the icicle infested cabin window without the urgency to check my social media channels or email started my day off in a way I haven’t experienced in quite some time.
In the mornings we’d grab coffee at the dining hall or at a nearby coffee shop and sit and chat and plan out our day. We went on breathtaking hikes (literally and figuratively), took drives without much of a destination in mind, or went for long walks/runs around the expansive property.
As a runner, taking in the scenery and mountain air was such a treat. Thankfully I had previously stocked up on warm lululemon running apparel so I was ready to go, but I didn’t even put in headphones. Mostly because it was a quiet I don’t often get to experience so I didn’t want to ruin it with Lionel Richie or Kings of Leon.
We found ourselves talking about work projects, but actually talking about them – not pulling up Facebook and showing past examples. We played board games and drank wine (purchased off-site since SMR doesn’t sell alcohol) and went to bed early and woke well rested. I’ve found that sleeping in complete silence is either something you come to love or have to adjust to.
Even with a million activities surrounding you, SMR is definitely one of those vacations where you’ll find yourself with some quiet time. No matter how on-the-go you pride yourself on being, it’s wise for all of us to slow down a little.
Special Note: SMR offers “reunion cabins,” which are awesome and fit UP TO 40 people, so if you’re looking for a huge girls getaway, you should definitely consider this great Colorado spot!
My recommendations for a stay at SMR:
– Rent a car (it’s about a 90-mile drive from Denver International Airport, plus the neighboring towns are cute and you’ll want to visit)
– Bring layers! One thing I’ve learned over the years traveling around Colorado is that the weather is predictably unpredictable and you’ll want to be prepared
– Kick your comfort zone to the curb. Go beyond it. That’s the only way you’ll really tap into your creativity and loosen up.
– Stock up on groceries before arriving. If the weather is frigid and you’re not used to driving in snow or ice, be sure to stop at a local grocery store. The cabins all have full kitchens and even though breakfast, lunch and dinner are included in the dining hall, you may want to make a family meal or just stay in by the cozy fire. This includes grabbing beer or alcohol if you want it, since it’s not offered anywhere on site.
– Bring a journal. You may not be a professional writer like me, but that doesn’t mean you can’t become one with your thoughts and pen and paper (plus you’ll be amazed at what your handwriting looks like – it’s probably been forever since you last saw it!).
– CHECK OUT THE SLED DOG PUPPIES. They are so cute! And bring me back one if you can!
– If you make it out into town (any of them), check out Brickhouse 40 (restaurant) and the Library (sports bar) and chat it up with the locals.
– Invest in a FitBit to track your active minutes and calories burned – it’s a pretty active place if you take advantage of just half the things on site, so it’s cool to see your stats.
Jayme Lamm is a freelance writer and marketing consultant based in Houston focusing on travel writing and is in a full-court press writing her hugely opinionated sports column, The Blonde Side. Be sure to follow Jayme’s travel and sports adventures on Twitter @jaymelamm.