Randy George has owned Latigo Ranch for over 30 years. Latigo, which operates as a dude ranch during the summer and a destination Nordic resort in the winter, is located about 16 miles Northwest of Kremmling. For Randy, owning the Ranch is both his hobby and his profession.Perhaps the most unique aspect of Latigo Ranch is that it is a family-owned business, with all George hands on deck. We sat down with Randy to talk about what it’s like running a family-owned business and why a Nordic skiing destination is great for everyone.
How did you get into Nordic skiing?
“I started Nordic skiing about 50 years ago when I was in college. But my real development in this sport began to occur as the Mountain Manager of the Eldora ski resort. We were developing the Nordic center there and I began to ski more and more there. The last 30 years at Latigo Ranch I’ve been able to ski a lot.”
How did Latigo Ranch get started and how has it developed?
“The ranch was started in 1928 as a guest ranch. They had a little bit of a Nordic program in the 80’s but found it difficult to keep the roads open that allowed people to get here. When we bought the Ranch in1987we thought ‘Wow this is a beautiful place to do some Nordic skiing.’ We began grooming trails and opened to the public the following year and it’s been a great time ever since.”
How is your family involved?
“We’ve lived here for 33 winters and our kids grew up here. We homeschooled them and part of their physical education program was to go out and ski. They had certain goals to meet throughout the winter. Now my children are grown. My son Spencer is the head chef here and his wife Amanda is a sommelier and runs the dining room. My daughter Hannah is our lead wrangler during the summer and during the winter helps in the kitchen and is the one that provides guests fabulous breakfasts every morning. My wife answers the phones and my wife as well as mother-in-law do a lot of the cleaning and getting the cabins ready. My father-in-law, Dave, is out right this minute with his compact track loader with a snowblower on it clearing the foot of snow we got last night. We have a multi-generational operation going here and it’s great being able to work with family.”
What about being a family-owned business sets Latigo apart from the more commercial Nordic operations?
“When you talk with us before you come, you’re not talking with someone who is just a seasonal employee. You are talking to the people that are making your food, grooming the trails, and taking care of you from the minute you walk in until the time you leave. There is that sense of us welcoming family into our home. The whole family and operation is geared toward making a great experience.”
Randy even does something he calls “concierge grooming.” When guests ask Randy how often Latigo’s ski trails are groomed, his simple answer is "It depends on who is here.”
“I will ask people at dinner the night before where they want to ski tomorrow. If it needs to be groomed, I will go out in the morning and groom it for them. We find out what our guests want and deliver that to them. With the exception of maybe couples who are celebrating an anniversary and want to sit alone somewhere quiet, it’s family-style dining. We all sit around the table sharing stories about what we did during the week and where we are from and what’s important in our lives. Dinners aren't just to sit down and refuel, they are a time for real social interactions, growth, and development of long-term friendships.”
If a family is looking for a new winter vacation, why should they try Nordic skiing?
“The advantage to Nordic skiing is that you can get started pretty quickly. With other winter sports like Alpine skiing, the learning curve can be pretty steep as far as getting to a level where you can enjoy yourself. And the mountains have a lot of people on them so you really have to be looking out for what’s going on around you. Nordic skiing is an opportunity to be out in the woods in a quiet environment and to get out and enjoy yourself without feeling totally frustrated that you can't get down this steep mountain. We are getting people who were avid Alpine skiers that are now turning to cross country. They like the Nordic experience because of the quiet, because of the beauty, and they still get to get a physical outdoor workout but without risking the same physical injuries.”
Can you share a favorite memory you have owning Latigo Ranch?
“The stories and memories I have are of the people with big grins. They’ve gone out and had a beautiful time and came back to say ‘This was a really special time’ as a family or as a couple. And partly it’s because although we’ve got internet access, you’re not bombarded with all of the commercial aspects of large resorts. And because of that, your whole body just relaxes and your mind gets into a different place. It puts you back in touch with nature and therefore with who you were created to be.”