Who knew Granby Ranch would fast become our family’s favorite small ski area in Colorado? One of the best aspects of Colorado Ski Country USA’s Fifth Grade Ski Passport is that it helps families venture into parts of Colorado they might not otherwise seek out. In our almost seven years of living in Colorado, I’ve never met anyone who’s skied Granby Ranch, located just 20 miles past Winter Park off highway 40 towards the west side of Rocky Mountain National Park.
The ride up Village Drive has a very country club-like feel with newer condo and home construction on Granby’s 5000-acre resort. We lucked out with a last-minute, ski-in/ski- out condo at Base Camp One through Resort Management Group. Located just steps from the ticket office and the base ski area, our two-bedroom/two-bath, upscale abode offered a full-sized kitchen, cozy living area with a stone fireplace and glass door opening onto a balcony; we felt very at home. You’ll find your dollar goes much further at Granby Ranch than equally upscale larger Colorado ski resorts. Base Camp One features underground parking, heated lockers on the ski lift level and an outdoor heated pool and jacuzzi. The convenience of our ski-in/ski-out condo meant we could zip upstairs for a hot chocolate, restroom break or lunch.
I’ll admit we’d tried to find lodging at a few other spots this past weekend as a decent-sized snowfall was in the forecast. Hotels were booked solid along I-70 near Loveland Ski Area and in Winter Park where the most snow was expected to hit. I figured we’d do a courtesy run or two, maybe a day tops at Granby then head to nearby Winter Park for the rest of our stay. But once in our ultra-posh condo at Granby, we didn’t want to leave the resort. Even during the “morning rush” of the first day on Saturday, there was only one party in front of me in the line to get lift tickets. From our fourth-floor condo, we could walk down in our socks with ski boots in hand to the locker area. We buckled up our boots, walked just a few steps and there we were at the lift, a line of maybe four people.
Unlike some of the larger, upscale resorts, everyone we encountered from the elevator, chair lift passengers to lift operators, they were personable and friendly. Lift operators had clearly been indoctrinated into hospitality training. “Are you all having fun?” or “How was your run?” was how lifties at the base greeted us before each ride up. Many we met in Base Camp One owned second homes there. Visitors we chatted with on the chairlift ranged from accidental tourists from other parts of the world who felt they’d lucked out on an insider’s secret spot to locals who had skied elsewhere but preferred the family-friendly, hassle-free vibe of Granby Ranch. The consensus seemed to be, “Let’s keep this hidden gem on the down low.”
Granby’s base area has two main lifts and a beginner mini lift. There’s a fourth lift that seems mainly geared towards offering more “ski-in/ski- out” convenience to lodging further afield. The ski area’s 406 acres means one family member can take a blue run down, another a green or black and all the trails funnel down, back to the same spot. While the snow reports hadn’t indicated a LOT of snow there to date, what they had was ample and luckily, we got a good 3-5 inches more on our last night there to offer some fun powder for me to hop back on my snowboard to really dive back in. (I’d shadowed my son’s beginning snowboarding class a few weeks ago at Copper but hadn’t really gone back at it on my own.) That floating sensation of gliding through pristine powder on a board brings an ear-to-ear grin to my face that I can’t wipe off. A tumble in powder should you catch an edge is far more forgiving than a packed or icy surface.
I typically avoid terrain parks other than to spectate at a distance. But like the rest of Granby’s unintimidating terrain, my son and I quickly made these our favorite runs. Both my son and I caught some air off the jumps in the park, enough to belt out a “whoo-hoo,” but not end in an agony of defeat yard sale. The kiddie trail with ghost-town themed tunnels, faux General Store façade, and cut outs of moose, bear and deer scattered on either side of the trail was a second favorite run off the Quick Draw Express lift. Over off of the Conquest lift, the trails offered more challenging terrain with more black runs, blues and panoramic, spectacular iconic Granby views.
To do it over, I would have had my son learn to ski here as it’s an ideal cruiser mountain. It’s great for large, multi-generational families, especially those with young beginners or senior skiers. One man we rode the chair lift with boasted that because he was now 70, he could ski for just $15 a day or even less on a weekly pass. On busy weekends when you don’t feel like fighting the long lift lines at larger ski resorts, Granby is your spot. I think we’ll make this our kick off to the ski seasons of the future as it’s also perfect for getting your ski or snowboarding legs back again in an unintimidating setting. It certainly was just the spot for me to brave a snowboard after a lengthy 13-year hiatus.
Our last evening there, we zipped over to the tiny town of Fraser to its historic tubing hill where ’80s rock music pipes out of the speakers. While the snow wasn’t deep on the sledding hill, it was enough to make for some epic runs. Super Bowl Sunday evening made for the perfect time to visit as we had the place to ourselves. We stayed for just the first half of the game which was ample time to return back to our condo to cheer the Eagles to victory.
With more snow in the forecast we’re eager to get back up to the mountains again this weekend. Keep an eye out for our next passport stamp and join us as we discover another hidden gem of Colorado’s finest skiing and boarding.