Banish those thoughts of cross-country skiing as simply a pastime for Swedes hopped up on akvavit or geeks in pom-pom hats. Just shy of the Continental Divide and 10 minutes from Winter Park, the self-proclaimed “rustic upscale” resort of Devil’s Thumb Ranch marries luxury (think heated floors and fine wines) with rugged mountain air and lots and lots of snow. If the views don’t take your breath away, a morning skiing the cross-country trails at elevation might. The resort’s commitment to the environment is also impressive, including land conservation efforts, use of geothermal heat in its buildings and a focus on organic and sustainable foods at its restaurants.
It’s hard to exhaust the terrain, though the terrain may exhaust you. One hundred kilometers of groomed cross-country trails beg for long days on long Nordic skis (or fast-moving skate skis). If you’re drawn to the poetry of the winter landscape—the shimmer of snow-crusted pine needles, deciphering animal tracks—strap on snowshoes for a tromp through the woods. No gear? No experience? No problem. Zach’s Mercantile and Rental Shop will set you up with perfectly waxed skis and a strapping young instructor. When you’re ready to call it quits, soak in the views at the heated indoor/outdoor pool and hot tub or book a treatment or two at the Ranch Creek Spa.
It’s no secret that Devil’s Thumb has some of the best dining in the area. Fuel up in the morning with a croissant and a mug of strong brew at Hallowed Grounds Coffee House then stop in at the new Heck’s Tavern for lunch. Evenings, you’ll find the Ranch House Restaurant packed with fellow skiers and people who drive up to the ranch just for dinner, so make reservations in advance. The restaurant emphasizes sustainable New Mountain American Cuisine (e.g. buffalo steak, grilled seasonal vegetables, crème brûlée) and has an impressive list of more than 400 wines.
Once you’ve skied, soaked and dined, are you really going to want to brave the SUV traffic back down I-70? Kick back at Devil’s Thumb’s new 52-room main lodge or splurge on one of their 16 luxury cabins (rates start at $215/night for the lodge, $315/night for the cabins). Built partially with wood salvaged from the area, the secluded cabins are decorated with antiques in themes such as fly fishing, Native American culture and Nordic skiing. And the beds are really comfortable.
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For reservations and more information, go to devilsthumbranch.com.