Kudos

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.


Staying in a Cabin

Cab·in
ˈkabən/

Noun
1. A private room or compartment on a ship.
2. A small shelter or house, made of wood and situated in a wild or remote area.
Synonyms:
Cottage, Log Cabin, Shack, Chantey, Hut

Verb
1. confine in a small place.

 

When I think of the history of the Western United States I often visualize caravan wagons, homesteaders building log cabins and a landscape full of wildlife. I am a connoisseur of Western literature and also devour Western movies, so my images are aided by fiction and Hollywood. But the reality is the West was discovered and developed by people traveling in caravans and building log cabins. And the West was full of wildlife and still is.

When I analyze the traffic to our Avalanche Ranch website we rank our key-words, the words people enter into the search engines that will pull our site up. “Log Cabin”, “Colorado Cabins”, “Cabins and Hot Springs” rank high on the list. That means people that find us are looking specifically for a cabin. I assume that they know the general meaning of what kind of accommodation a “cabin” is.

What if our prospective guests search us strictly for “Hot Springs” and they see our reviews, the beautiful pictures and then, they book… but, they have no experience with the “cabin” genre of lodging accommodations.

It is a genre. In the lodging industry, there are different types of lodging. More familiar to people is the difference between a Motel and a Hotel. Or between the Holiday Inn Express and the Ritz Carlton. Most hotels have daily service and expected conveniences (like a gym or breakfast included). If a person that has frequented many hotels, but never a “cabin”, what will they expect when they come?

I have frequented many cabins. And we have lots of guests who have done the same. The guests who are familiar with “cabins” usually call and ask the following questions: Do you provide linens and towels? Do you provide wood for the wood-burning stoves? Is there heat? When I field these questions I know they will be pleasantly surprised when they arrive. Because like me they have been to cabins that when you open the door you feel like you should have spurs on your boots, dirt in your nostrils and no expectation of a shower.
The cabins that are just a shelter and an access point to the great outdoors. Our cabins, within the context of “cabins”, are well appointed and clean. But they are not at the top of the ladder. We pride ourselves on providing a top-notch cabin experience at an affordable level. Our cabins are “cabiny” on the inside and outside, the decor and themes picked out by myself and my mom, with love.

Recently, we have experienced more people finding us and staying with us who are not equipped for “cabin” life. If you don’t know how cabins differ from a typical hotel I imagine there is no way to properly form a mental image. We want to find a way to better inform our guests.

We have posted the definition of a cabin on the splash page of our website to start. But a definition may not be enough. Because the definition truly starts when the cabin was built. Our cabins were built between 1889 and 1950. Building codes didn’t exist. They are not built on foundations. Other elements influence the definition as well. Where it is located. We are in the mountains, on a ranch and near trees. So part of the cabin experience includes the residents of the mountains, forest, and ranch. We have deer, bear, mice, squirrels, bugs, and birds. The sheep, llama, and chickens reside nearby. Our goal is to keep all wildlife out of the cabins. But you may see them on the property and must be prepared.

Maybe… the best way to preface a stay in a cabin is to suggest it as a sampling of Western history. The homesteaders who built Cabin #13 and the barn started a legacy. Fortunately, we have upgraded the cabins and they now have plumbing, electricity, heat and modern comfort. But they still retain the authentic rough-hewn wood, tin roofs, mountain views and access to the outdoors. There are dramatic differences between present day and 1889 (there are motorized vehicles on the road!). However, the astounding beauty is the same, still attracting people to this area today as it did in 1889. No need to remember your spurs, but please remember we are a cabin resort!



Aspen Daily News Online

I’ve always wanted to go to one of our local hot springs. I’d heard of the Penny Hot Springs and the ones at Conundrum, and knew there were several others in the area, but had never been to any of them. I asked a friend what he knew about them.

He told me about Avalanche Ranch, a place I’d never heard of, between Carbondale and Redstone. He said they had hot springs, and cabins you could rent to stay the night. That sounded like a great idea, because we could have some drinks in the hot springs and not have to worry about driving back to Aspen.

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Elevation Outdoors

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A trip to the Avalanche Ranch Cabins and Hotsprings is akin to a boyhood dream come true, at least for me personally. It’s the land where the waters are warm, the fish are plentiful, the views astounding, and recreational opportunities abound. And this, directly out the doorstep of your personal ranch cabin, surrounded by meandering trails, friendly farm animals and relics from days gone by.

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Vagabond3

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About 30 minutes from Aspen, hugged deep in the mountains with gorgeous views of Mt. Sopris in the background, Avalanche Ranch Hot Springs lures visitors in with sturdy wood cabins, adorable antiques and a hopeful spirited owner who is all smiles. With such a friendly atmosphere, it’s easy to see why people love the hot springs so much and why spending the weekend in one of these cabins surrounded by the dense woods would be so relaxing all year around.

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The Denver Post

My two children — ages 9 and 11 — are accustomed to adrenaline-charged adventures when we gallivant around the state: riding the Giant Swing at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park, snow tubing at Keystone’s Adventure Point, freefalling on the Skycoaster at Royal Gorge.

So when I suggested a more mellow activity for a Sunday afternoon — soaking in the hot springs pools at Redstone’s Avalanche Ranch — their responses were:

“Is there a water slide?”

“What else are we going to do?”

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Thought & Sight

barn

The view from pretty much anywhere on the grounds was gorgeous, and while it was rainy for a good portion of our stay, I was lucky enough to wake up to fluffy snowflakes on our last morning. I snapped some photos, then promptly jumped in the springs for one last soak.

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