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I clicked into my skinny skis and headed off to Left Field. The name conjured visions of baseball and out-of-the-park homers, but at Devil’s Thumb Ranch Resort and Spa it’s quite a different setting: Instead of players stealing bases, cross-country skiers glide across the well-groomed tracks of the so-called field, with an occasional skate skier speeding by on the path’s wider section.
Designed as flat loop trail in a vast snowy valley backed by the forested mountains along the Continental Divide, the easy-level Left Field trail was a good warm-up loop to test my rusty cross-country ski skills. The trail was popular with skijoring guests and their dogs, too, one of several routes the resort offers for the activity. Although I didn’t have a chance to skijor with a dog, I made sure to pet as many friendly snow pups as possible.
Popular in Colorado, skijoring involves a reined horse or leashed dog pulling or leading a person on skis along a snowy route. Some Nordic centers offer trails for owners who want to track ski with their dogs.
My practice runs set the tone for the day. I thought about taking a group or private ski lesson at the resort’s Nordic center if my comfort level was lacking, but after a few minutes muscle memory kicked in, and with my recovered skills I started to zip across the tracks.
Cross-country skiing takes a lot of energy, but sustained by a quick breakfast of house-made granola and a latte from the Hallowed Grounds Coffee Shop located in the main lodge, my body felt strong and ready to explore the resort’s 75 miles of cross-country ski groomed trails.
To be fair, I may still have been fueled by the previous evening’s meal. It was a special treat to dine at the Ranch House Restaurant and Saloon, as the glow of the fireplace against the wooden walls of the original homestead cabin — built on the ranch in the 1930s — hinted at a bygone era. Guests can appreciate the historic ambiance while enjoying a sumptuous and modern mountain meal.
I made an advance reservation as the restaurant is only open for dinner Wednesday through Sunday evenings and is considered one of the best fine-dining establishments in the county. I was looking forward to sampling the New American Mountain Cuisine, including gourmet preparations of elk, Rocky Mountain trout and lamb and Wagyu beef from the ranch-raised herd. Paired with a glass of malbec from the extensive wine list, every tender bite of my meal — the bacon-wrapped elk loin with Marsala demi-glace accented with pickled blackberries and local organic mushrooms — tasted marvelous.
In total, there are three dining options at Devil’s Thumb Ranch Resort and Spa, which means guests don’t need to leave the property for meals. One restaurant, Heck’s Tavern, is currently exclusive to resort guests per pandemic protocol. Located in the main lodge, Heck’s serves breakfast, lunch and dinner and has a bar.
Outdoor Activities at Devil’s Thumb Ranch Resort and SpaAlthough my plans were to sample all the snow adventures available (snowshoeing, sleigh-rides, the new snowcat ranch tour, ice-skating on the pond and fat-biking), it didn’t happen. Instead, I relished exploring the vast cross-country ski trail network through forests; swooshing next to frozen, gurgling streams; winding up and down mountain paths; and rolling across meadows near the horse stables.
To be outside without a mask, breathing in the fresh pine-scented air, gliding within 6,500 acres of the ranch’s winter wonderland was pure bliss.
To be outside without a mask, breathing in the fresh pine-scented air, gliding within 6,500 acres of the ranch’s winter wonderland was pure bliss. I even made time for a spa treatment, indulging in the Antara Therapeutic Massage, a CBD-infused massage using organic, local CBD and arnica oil. I wondered how the CBD would affect my muscles, aching from a full day of cross-country skiing.
"It’s not what you can feel,” my face-masked therapist said, “it’s what you can’t feel.”
I followed up my treatment with a pre-reserved private hot tub at the spa, where I sat in the heated outdoor water marveling at the snowy view in front of me. (The spa is open to resort guests only.)
A getaway to Devil’s Thumb satisfied my need to travel without compromising the need to social distance during the pandemic. So, it’s no surprise that Chris Bettey, senior marketing manager for Devil’s Thumb, told me that cross-country skiing was especially popular this year. Bettey attributes that partly to the remoteness of the ranch, which is tucked away in a mountain valley about a 10-minute drive from Winter Park Resort and only a 75-mile drive from Denver.
Face masks were required within all the buildings but not on the trails, unless encountering other guests within a 6-foot range.
Inside my guestroom, the view of the trail system and mountains thrilled my inner child, as I could look out and plot which trails I would take for the day. In the evening, alpenglow rimmed the tops of the peaks like a pink halo.
I discovered plenty of nooks and crannies around the resort, as well — cozy seating areas decorated with original artworks and private spaces for guests to relax, play board games or read a book in the main lodge. But I was especially grateful to strap on my skis right outside the lodge and hit the trails with no lifts or lines — just a world of options outside to explore.
The DetailsDevil’s Thumb Ranch Resort and Spawww.devilsthumbranch.com