Cross-county skiing terrifies me. I have classic skied. Three times. Each time, faster than you can say “ouch” I was off my feet and landing hard on my coccyx. The last time I had skinny skis attached to my feet was seven years ago. Crumpled in a mess of skis, poles, and outerwear and rubbing my tailbone in a parking lot by Flagg Ranch, I swore never again to attempt this death sport.
But then I heard about Turpin Meadows Ranch, at the winter end of Buffalo Valley Road. True, it was the ranch’s food I was hearing about, but I couldn’t drive the hour-plus out to Turpin Meadows just to eat. I’d have to check out its cross-country skiing trails. And since I’d be skiing and eating and would have a wonderfully cuddly date in tow (and his almost-as-cute human owner), I might as well check out the fully remodeled historic cabins and stay the night.
Yes, our valley finally has its first destination Nordic skiing spot. And it welcomes other user groups, too. When conditions permit, fat bikes are allowed. For snowmobilers, the Continental Divide Trail goes right through the ranch. And ranch owners Hans and Nancy Johnstone aren’t just former Olympians, they’re also dog lovers.
And yes, Turpin Meadows is fabulous. It’s worth the drive even if you don’t spend the night. Non-overnight guests can buy day passes and stay for lunch. Dinner too, if you made a reservation.
On Jan. 1 the Johnstones reopened Turpin Meadows Ranch, 10 miles down Buffalo Valley Road off Highway 26/89/191 north of Moran. The Johnstones — both of whom competed in the Olympics in the biathlon — spent two years remodeling. They also had to winterize the ranch’s facilities.
Turpin Meadows Ranch is historic, but it was never used in the winter. It opened in 1932 as a gas station and rest stop at the base of the western side of the first road over Togwotee Pass.
“I guess the road back then was pretty hairy, and people would stop here after they had made it down safely to recover their strength,” Nancy Johnstone said.
The road over Togwotee Pass has long since been replaced, but this original one does still exist. In the winter, though, it is not plowed east of Turpin Meadows Ranch.
“Right now, we’re literally the end of the road,” Johnstone said.
The redone cabins, which were built in the 1930s, are just as cute as the rooms at the Johnstones’ other property, the Alpine House, an inn tucked away on Glenwood Street in downtown Jackson.
Logs have been peeled so they’re cheery and bright. Linens are colorful. The painted walls in our cabin are the color of lemon merengue. Heat comes from a gas stove. There are wool Pendleton blankets and down comforters.
I decided to try skate skiing instead of classic skiing. I thought my chances would be better with this type of cross-country skiing. My thinking? I figure skated for much of my childhood.
Also, on regular alpine skis, which I spend a fair amount of time on, you often have to skate a bit to get around on cat tracks.
Less than an hour later, Derek, Rio and I were on the far side of the ranch’s 3-kilometer Summer Homes Loop. We picked that one because Sara, the ranch’s new manager (but not a cross-country skier), had described it as flat.
My coccyx survived the entire loop unmolested. I didn’t fall once. “Graceful” might not be the word used to describe my technique. But however my skate skiing would be described, I was mostly smiling and sometimes even laughing.
Whether you Nordic ski or snowmobile, Turpin Meadows serves lunch and dinner to the public. Guests staying overnight also get breakfast. If you’re not staying at the ranch, dinner reservations are required.
All nightly rates include dinner, breakfast and use of the ranch’s Nordic Center. Rates are $185 a night per person, double occupancy, and $150 a night per person for triple and quadruple occupancy. Lunch, served noon until 2 p.m. Thursday through Sunday, is not included in overnight rates. It ranges from $6 to $12.
A day pass at the Nordic center costs $10 per adult. Rental skate gear costs $30 and classic gear $20. The ranch does not rent fat bikes. When conditions permit, though, it does allow use of the bikes on its trails. The ranch also offers full-day guided snowmobile trips for $295.
Visit TurpinMeadowRanch.com or call 307-543-9147.