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.