There’s No Place Like Home Ranch For the Holidays

A snowy getaway in Clark, Colorado

On any snowy winter morning, before the sun has reached the Elk River Valley, you might see Clyde Nelson slipping out his farmhouse kitchen door, donning a pair of skis and setting out on his work commute down the half-mile trail to the Home Ranch

Nelson, who claims to be averse to cities, has been making this trek for the past 28 years as executive chef for the Home Ranch in Clark, Colorado (18 miles from Steamboat)—a role that he has perfected to such a degree that his food is a top reason for guests’ return visits. This year, Nelson is transitioning into a leadership role at the ranch but will work with the new executive chef and continue to be involved with ranch cuisine. Touted by nearly every major food and travel publication on the planet—Bon Appetit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Travel + Leisure, Conde Nast Traveler, Town & Country, the list goes on—Nelson delights in expanding the ranch’s food offerings year after year.

Located on the east and west ends of the property, over 4,000 acres bordering national forest are open to Home Ranch guests. 


Guests can enjoy Nordic skiing, snowshoeing and skate skiing on the property’s 20-plus miles of cross-country trails—and the ranch provides the equipment.


Between courses, guests are served an amuse-bouche, like these supremes of grapefruit with watercress and goat cheese.


Ann Stranahan, who along with husband Stephen, built the Home Ranch in 1980 as a summer dude ranch and Nordic skiing paradise, refers to Nelson as their “über chef.” Ann explains, “Clyde insisted on putting in our own garden and serving just-picked vegetables before the farm-to-table movement became popular.” The ranch’s culinary offerings, or “haute mountain cuisine,” are one of many reasons it was invited to become a member of Relais & Chateaux, the exclusive association of boutique hospitality properties around the world.

“One thing you can count on is plenty of snow,” says executive chef Clyde Nelson; this snowy winter scene with the property’s iconic barn is picture perfect.  


Holidays are truly magical in the ranch’s postcard-perfect setting. “One thing you can count on,” Nelson says, “we always have plenty of snow at Christmas. Guests love driving down the road to the ranch and seeing it all lit up with holiday lights.” Upon arrival, guests are delighted by the culinary team’s over-the-top bounty: if visions of sugar plums dance in your head, you can probably find them on the Home Ranch’s menu.

Outdoor adventurers look forward to Chef Clyde Nelson’s delectable desserts, such as warm chocolate cake with almonds, after a long day on the trails.


For Christmas Eve, Nelson might prepare a prime rib roast from the ranch’s farm-fed beef, served in a Yorkshire pudding. On Christmas morning, the chef and his staff don elf suits to deliver croissants, bagels, and sticky buns to each cabin.

Later, at Christmas brunch, a carved ham, a leg of lamb and all the trimmings await guests in the lodge. Then the pièce de résistance, Christmas dinner: a roast goose and stuffed turkey, followed by inspired desserts including a Yule log, croquembouche (profiteroles with pastry cream dipped in caramel and stacked to form a “tree”) and Nelson’s modern take on figgy pudding.  

Some of the ranch’s 90-plus horses are ready for a sleigh ride or a winter trail ride.


“Christmas is a most wonderful time,” Stranahan says. “Families get the joy of being together but no one is cross because they are stuck in the kitchen. One of my favorite activities is going out on a sleigh loaded with hay to feed the animals in the snow. All the horses—80 or 90 of them—see you come and follow along as you push the hay off the wagon. There’s an old rhythm to it: We’ve grown this hay; now we’re feeding these animals. It’s elemental.”

Winter horseback riding is one of the unique activities offered at the Home Ranch. Sitting astride a horse and meandering through the trees on a snowy day is a magical experience. 



The Home Ranch’s all-inclusive stay includes all meals, shuttle service to and from Hayden Airport, Nordic ski gear and experienced guides, sleigh rides, ski and snowshoe lessons, and a private hot tub on every cabin porch. Lodge room rates start at $710 per night and cabins at $870 per night for two people for Christmas and New Year’s; seven-night minimum stay required.

Guests explore one of the many Nordic ski trails.


What does all-inclusive mean at the Home Ranch?

At the Home Ranch, the cabin and lodge room rate includes all meals, local transportation to and from the airport, horses, wranglers, horses, backcountry adventures and equipment—you don’t have to pack your own gear. A special ski hut is stocked with top-of-the-line equipment and technicians who will custom fit the entire family—allowing guests to show up without the hassle of hauling gear.

Twenty miles of snowy scenic trails with access to Elk River, the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest and the Mt. Zirkel Wilderness await Home Ranch guests to explore with or without a guide, then return for a good soak in one of the private hot tubs at the end of the day. (Alcohol, bar charges and adventures with outside outfitters are not included in your rate.)

Skate Skiing: A fabulous opportunity to try out skate skiing, the ranch has top-of-the-line Fischer and Salomon Nordic skate skis and Salomon boots.

Guided Snowshoeing Tours: Learning to snowshoe is a walk in the park—or a walk in the wilderness. The ski hut is stocked with the latest snowshoes and snowshoeing gear and ski guides on hand to outfit guests with snowshoes, boots and poles.

Tubing: Become a kid again by soaring down on one of the best tubing hills around. There are plenty of tubes ready to go for the whole family.

Sleigh Rides: Riding on a sleigh through a snowy meadow is a picture-perfect experience for all ages. The ranch has over 90 horses who love to follow the hay wagon each morning.

Winter Horseback Riding: A winter horseback ride on a snowy afternoon is an experience at the top of Home Ranch guests’ favorite activities. The many breathtaking views afforded from the ranch are even more beautiful seen from atop a horse on a snowy winter day. 

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Categories: Mountain Travel