Yearly Archives: 2018

Thankful at Avalanche Ranch


Thanksgiving Day, I looked out the window from under the covers and watched a Bald Eagle soar down valley over the Crystal River. I would like to interpret it’s appearance as I started my day as some sort of omen or good luck, but that would assume that it’s flight had something to do with me. It’s flight did inspire a positive train of thought appropriate for the holiday. From my bedroom window everyday I look out on the Crystal Valley with the Elk Ridge, Mount Sopris and Elephant Mountain in unison creating the most spectacular vista. This fall has been incredibly busy, to the point of reactionary and frantic, and I am so lucky to have this place, the source of the frantic business, be also the source of calm and sense of place. Avalanche Ranch is situated in a location that easily rivals some of our National Parks in its beauty and wildness. That is likely why it is so busy! and why we (those that vacation here and those that live here) situate ourselves cozily and contentedly without it every getting tiresome.As this is an inspired time to think about all we are thankful for I’d like to list some (just scratching the surface) of the things I am thankful for at Avalanche Ranch.

I am thankful for our staff. They are fun, thoughtful, hardworking people that contribute daily to the operations and success of Avalanche Ranch. No one day is really alike, because this business is made up of many parts and can somehow always configure unique situations and circumstances. The staff at Avalanche Ranch are flexible, understanding and invaluable to us! They are forgiving of my management shortcomings (I think!) and I am grateful! We could not function without their dedication!

I am thankful for family. I have the great fortune of working alongside my parents, my husband and my children. My parents are the heart and soul of Avalanche Ranch and you can feel their influence while here. It feels like a mom & pop business where the patriarchs are kind, genuine, generous, youthful people. My husband is the bedrock of our small ranching operation here (among a million other things). He is the one I lean on to keep the chickens laying, the sheep healthy, the horses shod, and all the hay bought and stacked. He is the one who brought livestock into my life, enriching it with soft neighs, an entourage of scurrying chickens and the donkey’s needy braying. A few days ago I somehow lucked out when my son offered to clean cabins with me (for reasonable pay of course). I am motivated to raise a son who can cook, clean, dance and have good manners. So his concession to clean with me was a big step toward my success at mothering. He was excellent company, made a day’s work pleasurable, and surprised me with his thoroughness. My work here is really a lifestyle and with my family all around me I feel fulfilled.

I am thankful for our guests. We are lucky to find so many hot water loving, mountain loving, and cabin loving people whom are willing to make the trek to Avalanche Ranch. Who would we be without our guests?! I am so lucky to have to travel such a short distance from my home (1 step into the office) to interact with people from all around the United States and beyond. My small world view is expanded without having to leave this incredible place. I appreciate the conversation, the friendliness, the patronage and the loyalty of our wonderful guests!

Weddings at Avalanche Ranch

September is notoriously the best month for weddings in Colorado. With an outdoor wedding, it is a bit of a gamble, for there have been plenty of weekends where the temperatures plummet, wind howls and winter is chomping at the bit. But most of the time it is mild, crisp, colorful and beautiful. At Avalanche Ranch, we often have a wedding every weekend in September. That is a lot of responsibility! For most people, their wedding day is one of the biggest events in their lifetime and they have been visualizing it for a long time. We want to make sure it comes together in the best possible way to meet their expectations and go smoothly. There are some elements we can control and some we cannot. We can help plan, set up, support, and suggest, but we can’t control the weather.

In Colorado, there is a saying, “If you don’t like the weather, wait 5 minutes and it will change”.

That is what we experienced last weekend. The event was kicked off, tables were set, the keg was tapped, outfits were on (which I have to say were great outfits! Inspired by the movie the Big Lebowski) and the wind and rain moved in. Whether you were the mother-of-the-bride or a guest reveler influenced your blood pressure at the time. The caterer showed up at that moment too. This is The Opportunity to Panic… when the weather doesn’t cooperate with the itinerary. I appreciate that sense of urgency, for a lot of planning and time has gone into that 6-hour window. But the reality is that all of those people are so happy to be together, especially when it is 50 of your closest friends and family. They will be fine for 10-45 minutes. They will talk and drink and laugh. They will be forced into a closer space to visit more intimately and possibly visit with someone they haven’t visited with until then. They may not even notice that it wasn’t part of the plan or even care.

Since it is Colorado, the storm is likely to pass quickly, close to 10 minutes tops. And then the best part comes: the sky brightens, the light is dramatic, a rainbow crosses the peaks and pictures need no filter. Not that our scenery is diminished on a bluebird day, it’s just that there is a charge in the air after a storm and the landscape, atmosphere, and light is somehow intensified.

This last weekend turned out just perfect, in its own way. The caterer set up, the storm cleared, the guests were happy, the food was served and it was delicious. As a resident of Avalanche Ranch, I get to be happy and festive by association. When a group of people is celebrating their most important day it rubs off on those around them. I relish their joy. I enjoy witnessing each individual couples way of celebrating. Each wedding takes on its own personality and the elements play their part.

Summer in the Rocky Mountains

Summer in the Rocky Mountains is breathtaking. Summer is also too short. Every summer I make a vow to get out more, get higher (elevation) and take advantage of this magnificent backyard. From Avalanche Ranch there are at least 8 National Forest trailheads within a 5 to 15 minute drive. Most of which service the high country, traveling up to treeline, mountain passes and drainages that lead to Aspen or Crested Butte.

This past Saturday I ventured out with my parents, my husband and my 12 year old son. We drove 15 minutes up the road to Marble. At 9 AM we left our car at the trailhead and headed into the mountains. No hikes from the Crystal RIver Valley start out gradually, so within the first mile we accomplished a lot of elevation gain. Climbing through timber and along a creek we stretched our calves and acclimatized our lungs. Somehow, while I am huffing and puffing, my son can keep a running dialog about the trees, the moss, the rocks and life in general. We passed an Outward Bound course about an hour into our hike. Young faces completing 15 days in the Snowmass Wilderness, brought together into the Mountains from all different backgrounds.

About 1000 feet up from the trailhead the valley opened up before us and our destination was in view. Dauntingly we could see the hanging valley another couple thousand feet up, off trail. This was my dad’s idea. A day trip to a lake up above treeline and off trail. By 2:30 PM we had scrambled through brush, over talus, grabbing onto trees to our destination. High above treeline the lake was still breaking up from the winter. My dad casted his line in next to the ice and brought in a few beautiful cutthroats. Three dogs were carefully monitoring his line.

There is no place on earth I would rather be than the high country. It is not only the beauty that inspires, but also the quiet. The high mountains are rugged and hard to get to (not that hard, but it does take physical work). Being out there awakens the senses.

A day trip is hard, because you realize that you have made it to this incredible place, and now you have to leave it. Wouldn’t it be better to stay a couple nights, decompress and slow down. But we packed up and headed back, grateful for the day we had. Descending was no easy feat and I prefer going up instead of down. My son made up 3 lengthy stories along the way, keeping us distracted from our aching knees.

We staggered to our car around 6:30 PM and drove directly into Marble to Slow Groovin’ BBQ for dinner and cocktails. Even after a mere 9 hours in the backcountry we were a little culture shocked to be around people. But we gladly joined the throngs to enjoy the ambiance and dive into a well earned, delicious meal!
When can I go again?

Plan a Day Visit to the Hot Springs

When you visit Avalanche Ranch, you are not required to stay overnight. Of course, the overnight experience provides more hours to absorb all the benefits, i.e. the views, the hot springs, Cowboy Steve, the sheep, fresh eggs in the morning, the cute cabins… However, 4 hours are not too few to start with the benefits of the hot springs and whet your palate for the rest of the experience.

As a day visitor, you can choose between the morning, from 9am-1pm, or the afternoon, from 1pm-5pm. Reservations are recommended as there are limited spaces available in each time slot. Reservations for Hot Springs day use is not an industry standard, it does throw people off at first. It is not intended to keep out the locals, or make it exclusive, or to run the office staff frantic. We made a choice in the first year of operation to try and preserve quality over quantity. In order to do so, we quickly realized a reservation system was needed as there was no way to predict if 90 people would descend at 2 pm on any given day to pack the pools shoulder to shoulder.

The huge benefit to the reservation system is that there is a good chance that on any given day the pools will likely NOT be crowded and sometimes you may be the only one in them. Your best chance for quiet is a weekday morning. (Forgive me George for revealing that secret!) Of course, there are the rare occasions when all the day visitors and lodging guests decide to visit the pools at the same time…. even then it is a far cry from the bustle of the Glenwood Hot Springs when school is out.
If you have family coming into town, need some quiet “me” time, a birthday treat, muscle therapy, special time with a child, a break from the city, or no reason at all give us a call and reserve a place in the springs. Bring some water, snacks and enough time and let yourself absorb all that Avalanche Ranch Hot Springs has to offer even if only for an hour or four. Want to make your day trip even more special? Plan ahead and book a therapeutic massage with your soak. We hope to see you soon!


History of the Ranch : 1940-1970

People often ask about the history of Avalanche Ranch and shamefully, I can’t answer with confidence. After 12 years here I should probably know more about the legacy underfoot. So I am on a mission to compile the history to the best of my ability. To start, on March 9th, I interviewed Wallace Parker about the years his family owned and ran Avalanche Ranch. He wove tales of his time here for nearly 2 hours. Here is a brief recap.

Wallace and his parents, Olyn and Virginia, were from Fort Worth, TX. In the late 1930’s early 1940’s they started vacationing in Colorado at different cabin resorts. He states that “in those days when you went to those cabins in most of Colorado they did not have indoor plumbing. They had an outhouse and they had a pump with water, and you carried your water in. They had either coal or wood burning stoves”. In 1948 the Parker family decided that they would like to move to Colorado and build a cabin resort with indoor facilities. So they corresponded with folks in the Western and Southwestern part of the state until they connected with a realtor out of Durango. The realtor’s son was the manager of JC Penny in Glenwood Springs and he was in the market to sell a second home in the Crystal River Valley. In June of 1948, when Wallace was 19 years old, his parents bought the Gamekeeper’s Lodge, 1 mile South of Redstone. (The Gamekeeper’s Lodge is now one of the off-site units rented by Avalanche Ranch and owned by Jeff & Janette Bier.)

In the March of 1949 my parents came to Colorado and moved into the Gamekeeper’s Lodge and hired 3 carpenters and converted the barn into 3 rental units and built 3 log cabins. Those 3 cabins are over at Avalanche Ranch today. Those people who we purchased from had thought about doing something with that [property] and they were going to call it Swiss Village. And that’s how we got the name Swiss Village and the entire years of the operation of the resort it was called Swiss Village. Even when the cabins were moved to Avalanche Ranch.

In 1949 the former owner of the Glenwood Hot Springs Pool, Frank Kissler, bought the Redstone Inn and a lot of acreage on the West side of the highway. He offered a price to buy the Gamekeeper’s Lodge that the Parker’s couldn’t refuse. So the Parkers sold to Kissler and bought 140 acres 5 miles North at Avalanche Ranch.

In the spring of ‘50, my dad engaged Red Merril, who had an excavation company in Carbondale, to come up and create the roads where the cabins are. Red had a crane and a flatbed trailer and truck and they put cables around the cabins. Put 4 notches in them and put the cables around them and picked them up with the crane and put them on his flatbed truck. Then the truck and crane came down here to places that were already set up and set those cabins down.

The Parker family moved 8 cabins from the Gamekeepers to Avalanche Ranch. At Avalanche Ranch the physical buildings that already existed were the main house (now red), the barn and 4 cabins. They owned and operated the Swiss Village Resort until 1976. They were open May-October and the cabins had indoor facilities and electricity. Most people stayed with them for at least a week at a time. A good portion of their guests were from Texas and many of them came back year after year. “You know I think from the very beginning that our time in the Crystal River Valley is tied irrevocably with the time spent at Avalanche Ranch.” Wallace and his wife Naomi now reside next door in the neighborhood Wallace subdivided from Avalanche Ranch. Wallace retired from the Roaring Fork School district after 30+ years of service. Wallace is going to be 89 in June. He and Naomi have 4 daughters, Triss, Penny, Cari, Janet, 7 grandkids and 10 great-grandkids.

Art at the Pools

The Avalanche Ranch hot springs were designed and built between 2008-2010. In the initial phases, we hosted a charette. We brought together the family (which includes a teacher, photographer, two contractors and resident manager), an engineer, landscape designer, and business planner. We met over a number of days and drafted a master plan. The collaborative design far exceeded what any one of us could do singularly. Bringing different visions and talent together to create a beautiful space set a precedent that we still follow today.

When I take a moment to sit in the springs, I love to look at and reflect on the details.

All of the rocks that are placed around the pool landscape were collected nearby. My husband Tai, and a man we call the “rock-guy” (who I have since forgotten his proper name) worked together to place them. Tai is linear and practical and he drove the excavator. The “rock-guy” was zany, artsy and seemingly drunk most of the time. His mind was anything but linear. Somehow they made the perfect team. Conglomerates were placed together to form a private screen in the top pool. A rock that mimics the shape of Elephant Mountain was placed next to the stream on the patio by the middle pool. The “bird bath” rock was placed perfectly at the base of the stairs, dotted with lichen. The rock under the waterfall and all the rocks in the wall were found here and there on the property. We had walked by them for years. Leaned against them. Now they are flipped upside down, 90 degrees and puzzled together. I like to think that it all looks “natural” even though it was constructed by men.

The bridge to the upper story of the barn was designed to flow through two branches of a Boxelder Tree. The trees rose above the middle pool to form a shifting canopy. On a quiet summer day, a Boxelder tree in the yard of the Ranch House fell without warning and luckily without incident. We started looking around and the potential danger threw every tree into question. The two branches that framed the bridge stemmed from one root we found to be rotten and compromised. Safety first, aesthetics second. When we took them down there was a void. So we commissioned David Powers, a hot glass artist, to create two pieces. David works as an artist and teacher at the Colorado Rocky Mountain School in Carbondale. He formally taught ceramics and was my teacher in High School. I had seen his glass flowers with iron stems and thought it would be great to bring color to the Pool area and have an eternal garden. His pieces now sit balanced on either side of the bridge. Blue, red and yellow bursting out of a former Boxelder tree.

The ironwork around the Hot Springs was designed by my husband, Tai and welded by Diego Garcia. Diego is a soft-spoken man who has been welding for 15 years. Prior to learning to weld he was in the fashion industry in Mexico and designed jeans. If you look closely at the joints in the railings and gates it is hard to believe they were done by hand. Impeccably crafted by a perfectionist. I asked Diego if he thought of his work as structural or artistic and he prefers both.

The most recent addition to the creative scene by the Hot Springs is a marble sculpture by the middle pool. I could not keep a plant alive in the garden by the waterfall. I tried a sage bush and two types of willow. Thinking a riparian plant would work with the riverbank feel. But the steam and extreme contrast of cold and hot seemed determined to kill. So I opted for art. Local artist, Judy Fox-Perry, started working in marble a few years ago. She attends the Marble/marble Symposium in the summers where she works alongside other artists. At the symposium, sculptors of all ages, with various levels of experience and expertise, work on their individual pieces during each intense 8-day workshop session. There are 3 sessions per summer. Judy bought the piece of marble, weighing in at 1000 lbs, from the quarry in Marble (just 13 miles South of us) and began working on it in the company of other artists at the symposium. The inspiration for the piece was drawn from the herd of Bighorn Sheep that reside up Avalanche Creek. Judy studied the pool site as well as various skulls and pictures of Bighorns. When you sit in the middle pool there is an aperture through the horn to view the ridge and peak across the valley. I like to run my hand along the perfectly white smooth surface of the curve. On the east side of the sculpture, there is a fun surprise for all ages.