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When you think ranch, you probably think dry open plains and spectacular sunny landscapes where cowboys lope alongside their cattle under the endless blue sky. You'd be right – sunny, summer dude ranch vacations can look a lot like this – but what about the winter? It may surprise you to discover that many of the Top50 Ranches, from Montana to Pennsylvania, are open through the winter, offering different and unique experiences for ranch vacation lovers.

Video: Experience the joy of winter at C Lazy U Ranch, Colorado, USA

Skiing at a dude ranch

Ranch at Rock Creek, downhill skiing Photo: Downhill skiing at the Ranch at Rock Creek, Montana, USA

Think ski resort and, alongside the rush of adrenaline, you might also be envisioning the peak-time chaos of the slopes and the all-night partying that leaves you craving some peace and quiet. Dude ranches can offer ski and snowboarding enthusiasts a unique experience with all-inclusive ski holiday packages. Some ranches offer accommodation near popular slopes, so you can retreat to a tranquil cabin or homestead for a home-cooked meal and rejuvinating night's sleep so you are ready to attack the slopes in the morning and leave the heavy ravers eating your powder. Or, if you like a more personal experience, some even offer skiing on-site, giving you the opportunity to experience an untouched landscape with just your closest friends and family, and an experienced guide, of course.

Lone Mountain Ranch, cross country skiing Photo: Cross-country skiing at Lone Mountain Guest Ranch, Montana, USA

For adventurers, who expect more from their skiing experience than a hundred rides on the same ski lift, a winter ranch vacation can offer cross-country skiing giving you the opportunity to appreciate the natural, snow-covered beauty of the winter landscape.

Other, less intense, snow sports are available for those who are less than comfortable on a pair of skis. Why not try family friendly donutting or sledding? And if it decends into an epic snowball fight, so be it!

Trying something new on a winter ranch vacation

If sliding around in the snow is not your idea of fun, then a winter ranch vacation could still be the ideal holiday for you. One major benefit of being based at a ranch is the huge range of activities all in the same place. If your partner and children love to ski, wave them off as they head to the slopes and choose an activity that is more your style. Some ranches offer horseback riding – even in the snow – or enchanting sleigh rides, which are the perfect way to enjoy the frosty landscapes without the requirement of a lift pass.

Percherons at the Ranch at Rock Creek Photo: A sleigh ride at the Ranch at Rock Creek, Montana, USA

Why not take the opportunity to try a specialist winter activity, such as ice fishing, snowshoeing or even dog sledding with a beautiful mountain backdrop? Strap on some ice skates at a ranch with their own private ice rink – they'll be no-one to see you fall over! There really is no better way to make the most of a winter vacation.

Indulge your curiosity indoors

Indoor activities, such as wine tasting, cookery courses and a variety of spa treatments, are offered at most ranches all year round. With the beautiful winter scenery around you, you can indulge your passions in front of a roaring fire.

The food at ranches is as varied as the guests who visit, from hearty, homecooked meals around large, social tables to custom-made individual fine-dining tailored to your tastes, you'll find the right option to complement your winter ranch vacation.

Ranches are ideal for winter relaxation

A ranch vacation is as action-packed as you want to make it and sometimes all you want is some downtime. Tune out the chaos of the modern world (and the busy ski slopes of the day) by taking some time just for you. Finally curl up with that book you've been waiting to read, join a yoga class or just take some time to do absolutely nothing in stunning surroundings.

Choosing a Top50 Ranches winter vacation can give you an experience that you will never forget. Find the perfect winter ranch vacation for you on the searchable Top50 Ranches website.

- Soraya Abdel-Hadi

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