“What makes a place? It’s not a red X on a map. It’s not a trailhead marker or a roadside sign. It’s memory and emotion, embedded in us all long after we leave. It’s stories told around tables. It’s happiness; it’s longing. But most of all, place is te history we make together.” These words of wisdom, found in a Southwest Airlines in-flight magazine are an accurate representation of why Snow Mountain Ranch Nordic Director Bill Pierce does what he does.
The YMCA of the Rockies- Snow Mountain Ranch is home to 5,100 acres of recreation opportunities for all. There’s been a lot happening this summer, but the most noteworthy project is the complete overhaul of the Waterfall Trail. This two and a half mile trail is heavily traveled year-round, and is now even more accessible thanks to Pierce and his trail crew.
If you’ve been on the trail within the last three years, you may have noticed construction, detours and trail crews at work. The trail overhaul involved a great deal of trail restoration and resurfacing, the building of ten bridges, five benches, a picnic area, two viewing platforms and the installation of bathrooms. The trail and its bridges are a minimum of four feet wide, and all steps on the trail were removed, therefore making it handicap accessible.
The intention behind the trail improvements was to have the trail better relate to the YMCA of the Rockies’ mission of building a healthy mind, body and spirit for all. When the trail became an interpretive trail with 12 informative stations and way markers every ¼ mile, it became more effective in delivering the mission, according to Pierce. Through the rebuild, the trail gained purpose as an impactful educational and physical journey, fitting the healthy mind and body facets of our mission. All of the wood used on the trail was recycled pine beetle kill from Snow Mountain Ranch property.
The work was completed over three summer seasons by one trail director, three crew leaders, 18 seasonal staff members and five seasonal volunteers, all of whom have been impacted in some way by the mission of the YMCA of the Rockies.
If you’re looking for a great place to leaf peep before the snow flies, the first half mile of the trail is surrounded by aspens with yellow and orange leaves. Day passes or a YMCA of the Rockies membership is required on Snow Mountain Ranch property, but with either you’re able to access mountain biking and hiking trails, participate in family programs and activities, themed weekends like fall festivals, and so much more. During the winter, Nordic ski, fat bike or snowshoe on 120 kilometers of groomed trails, and enjoy breathtaking views of the Continental Divide and plenty of wildlife.