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Avalanche Ranch: A Cut of Crystal River Valley Heaven – Part I

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Editor’s note: Mile High Mamas will be featuring a different family-friendly destination each month. If you have any favorite haunts you would like to recommend, please email us!

“Do you see those snow chutes up there?” my husband Jamie queried as we gazed up at an imposing spectacle of snow, clouds, trees and sky. “If I were to build a place called Avalanche Ranch, I would put it right at the base of that mountain.”

Good thing Hunky Hubby is not in the lodging industry because last I checked, building in the path of an avalanche ain’t exactly prime real estate.

As it turned out, Avalanche Ranch was right around the corner. Before long, we pulled into the family-friendly spread nestled discreetly in the Crystal River Valley. Located about 45 miles west of Aspen, it is its neighbor’s antithesis: unassuming and affordable with untouched grandeur.
[photopress:IMG_8457.jpg,full,pp_image] Avalanche Ranch is situated on 36 acres with 13 cabins and a ranch house. Winter boasts ice skating, snowshoeing, tubing, cross-country skiing and sleigh rides. Summer is king with fishing, hiking, biking, canoeing, paddle boating, badminton, volleyball and tetherball.

The children made themselves at home in our rustic cabin and destroyed any semblance of order within minutes. The loft was the highlight for our daughter Hadley. Partially because she felt like a “big girl” in her new habitat, partially because she quickly realized her gas fumes condescended directly to our bed below.

Our first order of business was painting the neighboring town red. In so many resort towns, I have a “been there, seen that” attitude but Redstone is charmingly different. It is quirky, fun and eclectic with a smattering of artistic shops and houses, many of which have window paintings by “the town artist,” Robert Carr.

The sign at Redstone’s entrance boasted a population of 92. Our waitress at the historic Redstone Inn informed us her brother-in-law was The No. 92 – a veritable celebrity. She assured me since that time, Redstone has grown to at least a booming 130.

Upon returning to Avalanche Ranch, Haddie and I went for a walk. It was a chilled night with a swirling wind as the snow fell like confetti around us. We pondered the complexities of why cousins Dora and Diego can never marry and I marveled that my little girl is growing up before my eyes. And how I never imagined I would be discussing the intimacies intricacies of kissing cousins with her.
[photopress:IMG_8479.jpg,full,pp_image] And then we went on to have a night from hell with baby Bode. In his defense, he had been sick the week prior and was not fully recovered. He wailed until about 3:30 a.m. Haddie awoke at 6:20 a.m.

You do the math.

And so I did what any good mother would do: stuck Hadley in the bathroom with a movie and some breakfast while I went back to bed.


In Part II of Avalanche Ranch, join us tomorrow for Haddie’s first adventure on snowshoes and the secret key to family travel. But you will not read about Bode’s explosive diarrhea or when Hadley puked all over me in the car. Some things are better left unsaid.

Amber Johnson
Author: Amber Johnson

Amber is the founder and editor of Mile High Mamas, travel writer and former columnist for The Denver Post. She is a passionate community builder and loves the outdoors. She has two awesome teens and is happily married to a man obsessed with growing The Great Pumpkin.

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  • comment avatar Kari January 21, 2008

    How is it I have never heard of this place? It sounds like Mecca for the kids!

  • comment avatar Kari January 21, 2008

    Well, minus the sleepless night part. 🙂

  • comment avatar Eva January 21, 2008

    Yes, that is what any good mother would do. At least, that is what THIS mother would do. 🙂

    Sounds like a lovely getaway.

  • comment avatar Catherine Dix January 21, 2008

    Truly sorry about your babies’ bodily fluid discharge troubles. On the upside, those are some gorgeous pictures, Amber!

  • comment avatar Guinevere Meadow January 21, 2008

    That looks like such a BEAUTIFUL place!! I’m trying to finagle a ski trip for the Meadow family, but it might be a long time coming. In the meantime, I’ll tuck away this little place somewhere in my brain for future reference!

  • comment avatar Caroline January 21, 2008

    Some days my only sanity when I have been up all night with the kids is plopping the big ones in front of the TV and going back to bed for a half hour!

  • comment avatar Caroline January 21, 2008

    P.S. LAUGHED at the kissing cousins. 🙂

  • comment avatar Shannon January 21, 2008

    Hee hee…Can’t wait to hear about the secret key to family travel…We are in need of this key – our door to travel has been locked since Riley came into the world and we need to unlock it!

    Thanks for posting about this terrific destination.

  • comment avatar Amber Johnson January 21, 2008

    Nice to feel supported on the matter, ladies. 🙂

  • comment avatar Amber Johnson January 21, 2008

    Though I may not receive the same support with tomorrow’s installment!

  • comment avatar imaginary sarah January 24, 2008

    I can’t think of a better way to teach the birds and the bees of kissing cousins than to isolate your family in the woods in beautiful surroundings. Then, they are forced to listen! Genius.

    I was supposed to be in Aspen right now, but plans were canceled. Perhaps this blog will inspire me to travel beyond the land of the rich and fabulous! (Because, I’m neither rich nor fabulous.)