Unlimited Private Snowcat Skiing at Three Forks Ranch
The Three Forks Lodge
Photo: Courtesy of Three Forks Ranch
With all due respect to Mr. Disney, the happiest place on Earth isn’t in Orlando or Anaheim. It’s deep in the Sierra Madre on the Colorado-Wyoming border where the North, South and Middle Fork Rivers meet to give this 200,000-acre working cattle ranch and four-season playground its name. Forty miles north of Steamboat Springs, the property stretches far beyond what’s visible from the main guest lodge, a 35,000-square-foot stone and timber structure that, even at that massive footprint, blends seamlessly into its surroundings.
Upon purchasing the land in 1998, owner David Pratt set to work on the largest and most expensive privately funded river restoration project in the country’s history. More than a century of ranching and farming had so degraded the headwaters of the Little Snake River, it was not only unfishable, it was an environmental disaster. Today, the 16 restored miles of river are teeming with brown, cutthroat and rainbow trout, making it an anglers dream. But it’s far more than a remote fishing hole. The lodge, which was completed in 2006, is a guest base for hiking, hunting, horseback riding, mountain biking and sport clay shooting on the roughly 50,000 acres of land on the Colorado side of the property. But enough about the summers. We had a chance to visit last week, as a slow-moving winter storm settled over the valley and dumped several fresh inches of snow on Three Forks Mountain, which, for the first season, is hosting private, guided cat skiing. Here’s how a winter week at Three Forks goes down.