I Forced My Family Onto Skinny Skis…And This is How It Went

Family Cross Country Ski—and Stay, and Dine, and Spa—at Devil’s Thumb Ranch

The wind rips through the snowy meadow and the thermometer reads 22˚, but I’m determined to get my family of four out on the sublime cross country trails of Devil’s Thumb Ranch. 

But as my 8-year-old son, Ben, fusses with his classic cross-country boot, and my 11-year-old son Sam runs back to our room for a beanie, my husband and I shoot each other looks that say, “This could go well, or very, very badly.”

We’d checked into on of Devil’s Thumb Ranch’s uniquely appointed rooms in the Main Lodge the night before, cozying up with a view of the snow-covered Continental Divide glowing pink in the dusk light. I’d met senior marketing manager Chris Bettey in front of the massive stone fireplace in the lodge’s Heck’s Tavern. Bettey told me how the stones were reclaimed from local landslides, and the wood of the interior are beetle-kill—just two of Ranch owners Bob and Suzanne Fanch’s dedication to sustainability that have earned the property an impressive number of accolades.

Two lodges, 15 cabins, horse stables, the Ranch House Restaurant & Saloon, and Ranch Creek Spa buildings make up the luxuriously rustic-chic enclave in a tranquil meadow.

Our instructor, John, handles my kids with patience and grace while instructing us to step into groomed classic tracks. The kick-and-glide motion feels somewhat like walking, though my 8-year-old would beg to differ. 

With the four of us slip-sliding on cross-country skis in our private lesson for four this morning, we’re counterbalancing tranquil with adventure. Our instructor, John, handles my kids with patience and grace while instructing us to step into groomed classic tracks. The kick-and-glide motion feels somewhat like walking, though my 8-year-old would beg to differ. 

We manage, schussing our way across the flat tracks on an open snowfield, surrounded by white hillsides peppered with green trees and willows. We end with a little family race, which lights my youngest son’s face right up—he even beats his older brother (who had fallen in his efforts) and stops complaining about the cold. 

Afterward, the boys and their dad head for the Ranch’s game room, which is stocked with air hockey, bowling lanes, shuffleboard and more. I beeline for the spa.

Ranch Creek Spa

A visit to the property’s spa is icing on the cake whether you’re having a relaxing or adventurous escape. Since I’m having both, I opt for a “Peak Performance Massage,” and am enveloped in bliss as I step into Birkenstock spa shoes, lay on the hydraulic table that rises to meet the hands of my massuer, and unwind in the eucalyptus steam room and dry sauna. All skincare (and cleaning) products are organic, and the spa’s electricity is powered by solar panels on-property.  

Food and Water

To fuel our ski efforts, we’d had steel-cut oatmeal, waffles and the like at Heck’s Tavern in the morning, and in the evening dine at the upscale Ranch House Restaurant. Quick bites and joe from Hollowed Grounds Coffee Shop balance out culinary offerings. 

Before heading for home, the boys and I soak and swim in the geothermally heated indoor-outdoor pool. I exhale deeply, gazing across the 6500 acres of snowy meadows and at the surrounding mountains, with nothing but “Marco!” followed by, “Polo!” echoing around me. Steam lifts from the hot tub, and I start planning our return. 

(At time of print, activities, dining, and spa are open solely to guests.)

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