The Home Ranch in Clark, Colorado pairs luxurious comfort with authentic Western charm | VailDaily.com

The Home Ranch in Clark, Colorado pairs luxurious comfort with authentic Western charm

Kim Fuller
Special to the Daily

Winter Whiskey Weekend at The Home Ranch includesnightly tastings of the four expressions of Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey, including the limited edition annual release called Snowflake.
Kim Fuller

It’s always a warm greeting at The Home Ranch. We arrived to the stunning property on a snowy Friday evening in January, welcomed by twinkle lights and a painted sign hanging above the entrance path to the main lodge. It was a weekend getaway for myself and my fiance, Bobby. Clark is 18 miles north of Steamboat Springs and just a two and a half hour drive from our home in Vail.

We checked in and walked through the living room of the lodge as guests looked up from their fireside chats and puzzle-making to welcome us in from the cold. Western details authentically adorn the space — from regional art to braided rugs, Pendleton blankets and rustic furniture — a genuine theme also present in our cozy guest room.

Six rooms are located in the main lodge, ideal for a single or a couple, and eight cabin accommodations work well for four to six guests. I was charmed by the complimentary trail mix and house-made chocolate chip cookies waiting for us in the room. We quickly freshened up to go join the other guests for pre-dinner drinks and hors d’oeuvres.

Heritage of Home

As we sat by the fire and shared kind conversations with soon-to-be friends, I was immediately drawn to learn more about the history of this place. The Home Ranch, I discovered, was founded in 1978 by Ann and Steve Stranahan — the same Stranahan name behind the revered Colorado whiskey — along with Ken and Sharon Jones. Once an old homestead of irrigated hay meadows, the ranch that was originally 570 acres has grown to 4,000 acres, touching national forest lands on the east and west. More cabins and lodge rooms have been added over the years, all still surrounded by beautiful aspen and evergreen forests.

This weekend had a special theme at The Home Ranch — the annual Winter Whiskey Weekend. Bobby and I were delighted to have our first dinner beside Rob Dietrich, head distiller for Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey. Beyond the memorable times we spent with Dietrich over the weekend on a snowy horse trail and watching the eclipse, he offered guests nightly tastings of the company’s four expressions, including the limited edition annual release called Snowflake.

Evenings were spent this way, from apres ski storytelling and live music by Michael and Dawn Moon to a delicious meal of alpine inspired cuisine prepared by chef Jonathon Gillespie, then onto a night cap of whiskey by the fire.

The heritage of The Home Ranch is tangible and shared from the heart of the staff — those like Michael Moon, the director of ranch operations, who are as much a part of the experience of this special place as all the fun daily activities offered. Even just a weekend here made us feel like a part of the family.

Place to play

Distinct from the ranch’s summer activities such as fly-fishing, hiking and mountain biking, winter and early spring at The Home Ranch means cross-country skiing, and it’s a very special place for it. With 20 miles of land ready for Nordic exploration, guests can embark on their own or get a guide. Bobby and I ventured off on skate skis and also took some Voile skis out to trek around on and take a few downhill turns. All the equipment, including snowshoe and tubing gear, is available to borrow from the quaint trailhead cabin called the Ski Hut.

Horseback rides are also offered in the winter, and what a joy our Saturday afternoon ride was through the wintry creekside path. The trail was lined by deep walls of snow on each side, and I found it pleasant how I could simply relax and enjoy the view as my horse had no choice but to follow the leader and stay on course.

The Home Ranch and its neighboring large ranch owners have worked together to place over 8,000 acres of the Upper Elk River Valley in permanent conservation easement. The land is truly special and it’s a relief for me to know it will stay that way.

The hour-long horseback adventure was just right as my glove-covered hands did begin to get quite cold right as we were arriving back at the barn. A little time to relax was followed by a lovely, low-lit yoga class, then hors d’oeuvres and dinner again, and of course, a finale of whiskey by the fire.

Sunday was another full day of great meals, cross-country fun and relaxing with a book. Our last breakfast on Monday morning felt a bit heavy hearted as we said our goodbyes to newfound friends and a perfect weekend that was now a memory.

As we loaded up the car and began to pull away, the entrance sign caught my attention once again.

“Welcome Home” it says.

We’ll be back, I heard my heart reply.

With spring break in the air, kids stay free at The Home Ranch through March 26. For further information or reservations, visit http://www.HomeRanch.com or call 970-879-1780.