A Night Under the Stars at Snow Mountain Ranch YMCA

“Mom, can you believe these stars?!” My son Bode raves as he peers through our friend Bryan’s telescope while standing on his back. Riding low in the summer sky is the constellation Sagittarius, looking like a teapot and containing some of the finest deep sky objects in our 360-degree panorama.

yurtvillage2Plunk a city kid into Snow Mountain Ranch YMCA’s new yurt village near Granby, Colo. and an entirely new universe is unfolded to him. Literally. The Milky Way’s eruption of stars shooting out of the Rocky Mountains isn’t the first time we are awestruck that weekend.

Bode and I are numbered among the first lucky visitors to stay in the Schlessman Family Yurt Village, a smattering of 12 canvas yurts that include such amenities as Wi-Fi, electric outlets, interior lighting, windows with screens, ceiling fan, retractable skylight, lockable doors and outside decks. Each yurt sleeps up to six people with one queen bed and two bunk beds, a microwave, mini-fridge and prep tables. This is “glamping” at its finest.

I have had only one previous yurt experience–a backcountry structure near Sun Valley, ID that came equipped with stellar views of the Sawtooth Range, along with derelict conditions and plenty of mice turds. I haven’t been in a hurry for a repeat experience but quickly learn not all yurts are created equally. Though we’re still in a campground setting, our Colorado Yurt Company structure feels more like a weather-tight cozy cabin.
When we arrive, Bode transports our suitcases and sleeping bags in the luggage carts to our yurt about 200 feet away.  The exposed framing and heavy-duty canvas shell provide a soft blend with the natural surroundings as we settle into our home away from home. Nearby is a shade shelter with with two gas grills and fire pit–the perfect gathering place for friends in the evening.

We spend the weekend conquering a sliver of what 5,100-acre Snow Mountain Ranch has offer.  We enjoy a new program, Lollygagging with the Llamas, where we learn how to pack and hike with the llamas. We careen down the Summer Tubing hill made of Snowflex®the first ever in Colorado.

We race across the Forest Zip Line, channel our inner Merida in Archery, conquer the aqua climbing wall at the indoor pool, come in way over par at miniature golf, fish at Gaylord Reservoir and explore the myriad of trails around the property.



We top off our day with Sombrero Stables’ hay ride.  As our draft horses leisurely lope along, the sweeping views of the Continental Divide reflexively cause a deep, whistling intake of breath. Our descent into the postcard-perfect Rowley Homstead is effortless, the mountains growing larger until we are swallowed by their shadows as we stop to enjoy a campfire, s’mores and cowboy humor.

What started as a stunningly sunny day turns into a crisp, clear evening. As we settle into our comfy yurt later that evening, we fall asleep gazing through the domed skylight at the stars, marveling at the vast nocturnal paradise that almost seems close enough to touch.

I’m sure even Galileo would have approved.

 Know Before You Go

  • Yurts are $99/night are are available year-round.
  • yurtvillage1The exterior of each yurt includes a fire ring, a charcoal grill, a picnic table and a 2-person tent pad.
  • The structures are not heated. Linens and a light blanket are provided in the summer but bring a warm sleeping bag.
  • Pets are allowed with a minimal pet fee of $15/per night per pet.
  • The Mac and Shirley Burgher Yurt Village is adjacent to the new Schlessman Family Yurt Village and offers an additional 12 yurts that opened in 2010. Each yurt village has one handicap-accessible yurt with a ramp and each village has a central bathhouse with private restrooms, showers and sinks for drinking water and washing dishes, including a handicap accessible restroom/shower.
  •  Most of the activities at Snow Mountain Ranch are free or require a nominal fee, making this an affordable family vacation. Thank you to the YMCA of the Rockies for hosting.

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