By Beth Buehler
Colorado is extremely fortunate to have numerous guest and working ranches. Sometimes they are both or simply a venue with a storied past. Ranches symbolize the West with large open spaces, cowboys, horses, barns and other iconic gathering spaces, and a whole saddle bag full of activities, even ones you wouldn’t expect like cross-country skiing in the winter.
Here are a few reasons why gathering at a Colorado dude or guest ranch will defy the expectations of planners and attendees of all ages.
Laid-back Western vibe – There is nothing stuffy about ranches as they are typically about as authentic as you can get. Of course, you should throw some Western in the itinerary like a night where everyone gets a chance to wear boots, hats, colorful bandanas, favorite jeans, big belt buckles and the like. Hire a caller for square dancing or have a quick lesson in line dancing. Gather around a bonfire for s’mores, a night cap or good old-fashioned ghost stories. Plus, there are all sorts of team-building options that can be built into an itinerary.
Great for family events – I grew up going to a ranch near Loveland for family picnics hosted by the bank my dad worked for in Greeley. Years later, I still fondly remember going to this ranch by the river and having a day of fun. There is something about Colorado ranches that speak to all ages. Maybe it’s digging into mouthwatering barbecues on the lawn or in a pasture, learning to ride a horse for the first time, trying your hand at horseshoes or roping, or listening to a talented fiddle player and tapping your toes.
Various price points and amenities – Colorado ranches run the gamut of more rustic to very high-end, and some have lodging on-site while others require booking a nearby hotel and visiting for a day or simply for a dinner event. While scenic vistas are a given, the amenities offered at each ranch differ. One might offer morning cowboy coffee by the campfire served in speckled enamelware cups and dips in a hot springs pool surrounded by mountain peaks, while another has a sophisticated wine room for intimate dinners and tents by the creek for massages.
One-of-a-kind experiences – Cooking and foraging classes, cattle drives, fly fishing, trail rides, wagon rides that involve feeding the herds, hunting, mountain biking, skiing, snowshoeing, ice skating and tubing are just a sampling of the many experiences available on Colorado ranches. Match the interests, style and budget of your group with a property. For higher end options, The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs and Gateway Canyons Resort in Gateway south of Grand Junction have added ranch experiences to their mix with The Ranch at Emerald Valley and Palisade Ranch.
Guest ranches are a great option for incentive trips, as little planning is involved. The venue, meals, activities and atmosphere are all right there. For any kind of gathering that will be remembered and talked about for months and maybe years to come, consider booking a ranch on the plains or in the mountains and treating attendees to a classic Colorado experience.
Beth Buehler is editor of Colorado Meetings + Events and Mountain Meetings magazines, has planned numerous meetings and events and enjoys exploring Colorado in all seasons.