Why Live Like Gypsies?



Just one of the views we enjoy daily with our gypsy living.

A little less than a year into our gypsy living experiment, I’m pleased to report that we’re still loving this grand adventure.  Is life perfect?  Nope.  Is life easy?  Ha, yeah right!  Do we have everything we need?  Probably, although it doesn’t always feel that way.  Are there still stresses, problems and worries?  You betcha.  But one of the most important differences is that those “stresses, problems and worries” no longer dominate our lives.  Before, it seemed like those were the only things we could see. These days, our view is much broader.

That thought tickles me a bit with it’s irony.  Here I sit here in the great wilderness of the boundary waters on a public highway that’s so remote that it actually ends just a short distance up the road from us. Canada and more trees guard the other side of the lake.   We’re so far away from civilization that cell service doesn’t even exist here.  And, from our “dorm style” room window, I see nothing but clouds and trees.

So what’s the “broader” view then?  It might be easier to show you.  This was my day today:

Today, I woke up precisely 1 hour before work and before the alarm.  There was just enough time to mill around the room a little after breakfast.  I don’t have to spend a lot of time getting ready for work; We all wear jeans and t-shirts.  I enjoyed my 1/4 mile walk to work which takes me through the forest and past a burbling brook.  On a nice day, I take 5-10 minutes.  When it’s cold and rainy, 3 minutes.  Hubby’s walk is double that, as his workday starts at the lake.  Today’s weather was picture perfect.

I work with great people and we have fun while taking care of the guests.  I get an hour lunch break, during which I walk back through the woods and up the hill to my room.    I have a 4 year college degree, plus half of a master’s degree, professional certifications, and 25 years of professional business experience.  My job at this resort is as a canoe trip outfitter.  It’s wonderful. At the end of the day, I go home feeling like I accomplished something but I don’t worry about work and I don’t take work home with me. My time off is my time to do with as I please.  Right now, that’s mostly hiking, kayaking or exploring the area.

I live in a dorm with wonderful young people that are out trying to figure out life and fit in some adventures themselves.  They don’t seem to mind that we’re old enough to be their parents.  In fact, I think they like having us as part of the mix.  And they’re helping keep us young.

For dinner tonight, one of the fellows broke in his new charcoal grill and invited us to join him.  I wrapped pike fillets from hubby’s catch a couple of days ago in bacon and grilled them. The grilling itself was quite a social event, with at least half a dozen of our dorm neighbors joining us.  Hubby and I then enjoyed a lovely dinner together in our tiny one-room apartment.  We spent the evening talking (as we do nearly every evening).  And tonight, I can hear the wolves howling off in the distance.

We’ll sleep well, with the cool fresh forest air coming in from the open window by the bed.  And tomorrow will be a new day.  When it’s time, we’ll move on to the next adventure.

Gypsy living is about living life on our terms.  For us, that’s meant minimizing life’s stress, traveling, seeing new places, learning new things, having new experiences, and meeting new friends.  It’s not been easy, but it has been worth it.  Perhaps we’ll meet you on the gypsy road someday.

A Secret Weapon Against Poison Ivy

poison-ivy-warningPoison ivy season is upon us.  You and I both know that this hateful weed is out there, waiting to launch a surprise attack on any unsuspecting passers by.  The thought of a brush with poison ivy is enough to make even the most courageous squirm in their socks.  But never fear!  I have a secret weapon for battling poison ivy!

If you’re new to poison ivy, you should first know that it can (and does) grow anywhere.  It grows in the woods, on farms, in the cities, in the suburbs, in parks, and in yards.  Poison ivy, of one sort or another, grows in every state in the United States.

Of course, if you want to avoid the horribly itching and painful blisters that spread like wildfire, the best course of action is to be aware of your surroundings and avoid the plant altogether.  This is easier said than done.  Somehow, poison ivy has an amazing ability to suddenly appear where it didn’t seem to be before.  Usually that’s right after you’ve leaned up against it.


How do you know it’s poison ivy?  Follow the age-old rhyme:  “Leaves of Three, Leave it Be.”  This isn’t always true, but it’s a good guideline.  This site has an excellent guide for identifying poison ivy (look below the map at the top of the screen).

If you fear that you’ve brushed up against poison ivy, try to not rub your hands on any other parts of your body (especially your face).  Poison ivy’s oil is what causes the blisters.  If you have it on your hands, for example, and you swat a mosquito on your arm, you now have spread the oil to your arm.  If you wipe the sweat off your forehead, it’s now there too and is at risk of spreading to your eyes.  (Note: if you do get blisters anywhere near your eyes, get medical help as soon as possible.)

You’ll want to change clothes as soon as possible (remember, your clothes can be spreading the oil too).  Put the clothes in a garbage bag by themselves (not with your other clothes).  You don’t have to discard the clothes, but I usually wash them a couple of times before wearing them again (and wash my hands with the soap noted below after touching the contaminated clothing).

Then wash your body, and wash well. Then wash again.


Our secret weapon against poison ivy?  Fels-Naptha Laundry Soap.  I always keep several bars in my first aid kit.  Fels-Naptha soap is an old-fashioned laundry soap that was used by our grandparents and great grandparents to remove grease and stains from clothing.  It’s been around since 1893, and thankfully is still on the market today.

We lather up the areas that were exposed with the soap.  Since the laundry soap is made for taking oil stains out of clothing, we’ve found it effective at breaking down the oil from poison ivy too.  Keep in mind that it’s a pretty strong soap, so you may not want to use it on delicate areas.

Also, it’s much better to be preventative than to “wait and see.”  If you think you’ve had a run in with poison ivy, wash with Fels-Naptha soap, as soon as you can.  (Don’t wait for the blisters to form.)  Trust me, it’s well worth being cautious.  Try googling “poison ivy rash images” and you’ll see what I mean.

Foraging Fun – Dandelions

One of the most common and most nutritious wild edibles is right under our feet!

IMG_1788 - Copy

You’ve, no doubt, heard about dandelion wine.  But have you heard about all the other ways that you can use dandelions? Or about how amazingly nutritious they are?

Believe it or not, the very same weed that plagues your lawn was grown as a food (and medicinal) crop for centuries in Europe and Asia.  It was so important to the early colonists that they brought dandelions (on purpose!) with them to North America. As a result, dandelions became a staple food for many pioneers.  Later, they were a survival food during the Great Depression when food was scarce and expensive.

Now that food is so abundant, we think of them only as weeds.  But dandelions are actually are a tremendous blessing in disguise.

For starters, dandelions are a perfect plant for beginning foragers since the plants are so common and there are no poisonous look-alikes.  For any foraging that you do, please use at least one field-guide to make sure you’re identifying your plants properly.  Better yet, use two!  You’ll also want to avoid picking dandelions on treated lawns (to avoid eating the herbicides and pesticides).

While foraging is a popular trend these days, it’s always something I’ve been interested in.  And, even more so now that hubby and I have embarked on our new nomadic lifestyle.  We love the idea of being able to supplement our diets with locally provided truly natural foods!

Dandelion Nutrition Information & Uses:

Dandelion Leaves:

  • has more iron and calcium than spinach, and more beta carotene than carrots.
  • contain vitamins A, B1, B2, B5, B6, B12, C, D, E, K, biotin, potassium, zinc,  phosphorus, copper, manganese and inositol.

Harvest dandelion leaves for use in salads or as cooked greens (like you would spinach).  They’re tastiest when picked in either early spring (before the outside temperature gets hot) or late fall (after the first hard frost).  You’ll want to harvest leaves from plants that have not yet flowered or they’ll be tough and bitter.  Tea can be made from the leaves at any time in the season.

Dandelion Root is reportedly one of the safest and most popular home remedies.  The root decoction is a tonic that has a reputation for strengthening your whole body system.  It’s also known for cleansing and reducing swelling in the liver and helping to get rid of gallstones.  It helps with jaundice and indigestion.

Tea made of the root and leaves act as a gentle diuretic, helping your kidneys cleanse your blood and recycle nutrients (without removing the potassium from your system).

Dandelions are also supposed to be good for your bladder, spleen, pancreas, stomach and intestines.

The leaf’s white milky sap has a reputation for removing warts, moles, pimples, calluses and sores.  It’s also supposed to soothe bee stings and blisters.


Dandelion roots can be harvested at any time, but are best when the plant is dormant (fall to spring).  Dandelions often grow in very close proximity to other plants, so just make sure that the root you take home is from the dandelion plant you identified. Use the roots in soups, teas, steamed,roasted or sautéed.

Dandelion flowers contain antioxidants.  They are the most tender when used early in their bloom cycle (when the petals are still yellow).  The flowers and blooms can be cooked in stir fries, pickled, battered and fried, an ingredient in bakery, to make a sunny tasting sweet syrup, or to make wine. If using the flowers, only use the yellow part of the flower (the green part is bitter).

Dandelion Recipes

I’m just getting started with dandelions, so we’ll have to take this adventure in recipes together.  So far, I’ve taken the easy route by mostly just using the greens in tossed salads.  I’ve also been enjoying a nice hot tea simply by steeping chopped dandelion leaves in hot water.

Most recently, I tried a simple Summer Cucumber Dandelion Salad.  It was very easy and tasty.  Just slice a cucumber into thin discs.  Place them in a bowl along with thinly sliced sweet onion (like Vidalia) and julienned dandelion leaves.   Stir in just enough sour cream or plain yogurt to make a dressing.  Salt and Pepper to taste. (See photo below.)


cucumber dandelion salad

Cucumber Dandelion Summer Salad Recipe


Here are a few other dandelion recipes that you might have fun with:

**If you have favorite recipes, please don’t be bashful!  Share them so that we can all enjoy them too!

Car Won’t Start? This Easy Roadside Fix Might Work

Bypass the Solenoid, if Your Car Won’t Start

With our gypsy living lifestyle, we’re often traveling (or staying) in remote places where the nearest auto mechanic is far, far away.  As you might imagine, the need to learn about fixing our vehicles is an important part of our new life.  (We are aspiring to be as independent as possible, after all!)

Thanks to a recent necessity, we learned all about our van’s starter solenoid. It was a good lesson, and one worth sharing in case it helps you.  The solenoid is an inexpensive part (around $10 or so for a replacement part from an automotive parts store) that you can easily replace yourself.  The solenoid acts as a bridge that transfers electricity from the battery to the starter. (The car only uses it when you’re trying to start the vehicle.)  So, if you try to start your car but it won’t turn over, it might be that the solenoid’s gone bad.

As it was explained to us, there’s a sort of logical trail you follow to see where the trouble is.

First, make sure that your battery isn’t the trouble. You’ll know this by trying to jump start the car.  If the jump start doesn’t work, then it might be the solenoid that’s bad.  If you have a battery gauge, you can check to see what amount of charge your battery has instead of jump starting it.  The battery should have at least 12.5 volts, for the battery to start the car.  If your battery is below that, try jump starting the car.

If that’s not it, time to try something else.

If the car doesn’t make any noise at all when you turn the key (no clicking, etc.) there’s a good chance that the solenoid has gone bad.  (If you hear clicking, it’s probably either the starter or alternator that’s the problem, at least as it was told to us.)

The hardest part in this whole process for us was finding the solenoid.  It wasn’t where the vehicle’s repair manual said it should be.  It wasn’t where the nice fellow at the automotive parts store said it could be.  It wasn’t where the references online for our vehicle said it should be.

How to Find the Solenoid:

Instead, we recommend saving yourself time and frustration by finding the solenoid this way:

  1. Locate the vehicle’s battery

    3 find cables

    Find the battery and follow the cables coming out from it to the solenoid

  2. Locate the red and black wires leading out from the battery
  3. Follow the wires, they will lead you directly to the solenoid (although, sometimes it’s on the other side of the vehicle).

How to Bypass Your Car’s Solenoid:

Note: To bypass the solenoid, you’ll need a flat-head screwdriver.

Step 1:  Place your key in the ignition and turn to the “on” position

Step 2:  Locate the solenoid (do not touch it, as there’s electric current now live from the battery).

Step 3:  Touch the tip of the screwdriver to the bottom bolt sticking out of the solenoid.


touch bottom bold_LI

Touch the tip of the screwdriver on the lower bolt.  Keep your hands clear, as there’s live electrical current there.


Step 4:  Keeping the tip of the screwdriver against the bottom bolt, lean the screwdriver so that the metal shaft also touches the top bolt at the same time.  (This creates the bridge for the electricity to flow through).

lean to touch top bolt too_LI

Lean the screwdriver against both bolts at the same time.  This should start the car.

If the problem is the solenoid, your vehicle will start itself as soon as you bridge both bolts.  (I’m always startled at the noise of the car trying to turn over, and have to try a couple of times before the car starts.)  You can now drive on down the road.  But you may need to use this process to start the car again once you park somewhere.

(We’ll have another post soon about how to replace the solenoid yourself.)

If bypassing the solenoid doesn’t work, it’s probably time to call the tow truck.

Foraging Fun: Wintergreen

Foraging for the healthful abundance of natural foods that God & nature have provided for us has been an idea that’s fascinated me in recent years.  I have many books that I’ve read till the covers have worn thin.  I have a gazillion websites that I watch about it.

I’m reminded that one of the purposes of this simple living approach to life is to have more time for the things that we choose to do.  So, I think it’s high time that I stop reading about it, and get to it!

First, lets start with some basic rules for foraging:

  1. Always, always, always make sure you have a positive identification of a plant before trying to eat it.  Use a couple of different field identification guides to make sure you’ve properly identified the plant.  This is very important.  Some wild edibles have very poisonous “look alikes” that are not to be trifled with.  (I tend to stick to only plants that are easy to identify without any scary look alikes.)
  2. Be respectful and only harvest in areas that are legally allowed.  If it’s private property, ask permission first. Most property owners consider these plants weeds and are more than happy to have you harvest them.  Plus it gives them something funny to talk about with their friends!
  3. Avoid areas that have been treated with herbicides, chemicals, or that are right on a roadside.  You don’t want to consume plants that have been contaminated.
  4. Be respectful of nature.  Don’t destroy the patch or area around it to get what you want.  Don’t take more than you can realistically use.  Don’t take more than  20% of the patch (this allows nature to keep the patch going for future use).  And don’t take more than 1 leaf from any one plant (to let the plant continue to live and grow).

We’re in northern Minnesota for the summer, so for now, the wild edibles will be what I can find up here.  And they’ll be ones that I can easily identify.  I’ll share my experiences with them, and the recipes (if they turn out well).  Some of these edibles will be things that you’ll find in other part of North America also.

Wintergreen is a good place to start, primarily because it’s what I found on my hike the other day.


Wintergreen, with a few other wild plants growing in close proximity.

Wintergreen has thick, shiny, leathery leaves that are slightly toothed.  The leaves are 1 to 2 inches long, and are clustered together at the top of a short but woody stem.  Younger leaves are yellowish-green.  Older leaves are dark green.  The entire plant is perhaps 6″ tall.  (The western states have a different variety of wintergreen called western wintergreen that grows as a tall shrub.)  Here’s a map showing the general area that creeping wintergreen grows in:  USDA Wintergreen Habitat Map

The red ripened berries hang under the leaves, and have a cross on the bottom.  Berries ripen in the fall, but winterover and are often still on the plants in the spring.

Wintergreen goes by many different names including checkerberry or tea leaf.  It’s an evergreen shrub that spreads by a complex root system (the plants in one area tend to be from the same root system).  Wintergreen loves poor and acidic soil.  It prefers clearings.  It is a cousin to blueberries and cranberries which also prefer the same soil and climate.

Please note that there are other plants that produce red berries that can grow in the same areas, so make sure you have a positive identification before eating them.  The best way to know for sure, is this:  pick a berry or leaf and crush it.  If it smells like wintergreen, it is.  If it doesn’t, toss it aside.

Wintergreen berries are very high in vitamin C.  Wintergreen is reported as being helpful for those suffering from arthritis.  Wintergreen was used by the American Indians for pain and fever.

For a refreshing trail nibble, nibble on a few.  Chewing on the berries or leaves will freshen your breath.  Supposedly it will also bring relief to irritated gums and canker sores.  You can successfully freeze the berries and leaves.

Don’t dry or dehydrate the leaves or berries – it changes the oil, and leaves them tasting very bland.  Steeping them in hot water for tea doesn’t work well either.

Also, unless you’re a trained professional, it’s best not to try to extract oil from wintergreen.  The extracted oil is extremely powerful and lethal even in small doses.  Don’t ever use wintergreen oil internally.  Avoid altogether if pregnant.

What can you do with wintergreen (besides freshen your breath or nibble a couple of berries)?

  • Make a fermented wintergreen tea that’s tasty and restorative.  Simply fill a glass jar with freshly picked and washed wintergreen leaves.  Cover with filtered water.  Cover the jar with a paper towel or other breathable fabric, and secure with a rubber band (keeps bugs and dust and such out).  Let it sit on the counter for 3 days.  As long as you didn’t use chlorinated tap water, you should see bubbles forming from the fermentation.  You can now strain out the leaves, and drink the tea (cold or warm).  If warming it, just barely warm it (do not boil), or you’ll ruin it.  It’s a very refreshing drink for a hot summer day.  Drink it warmed, and it’ll warm you up from the inside!
  • Make an extract (similar to vanilla extract that you buy at the store for baking, but that’s wintergreen flavored).  Use it for making cookies or candies, or flavoring drinks.  how to make a wintergreen extract
  • I haven’t tried this one, but here’s a recipe from another blog that used wintergreen berries to flavor muffins.
  • And a recipe of my own creation:  Cranberry Wintergreen Breakfast Cake (Gluten-Free)

Please share if you have other favorite recipes or uses for Wintergreen!  Happy foraging!

Cranberry Wintergreen Breakfast Cake (gluten free)

This gluten-free wintergreen recipe was a homemade experiment, but I like how it turned out. (It did also get good reviews from hubby and my co-workers at the seasonal resort we’re at this summer.)


Cranberry Wintergreen Breakfast Cake Recipe (Gluten-Free)

Although, a bit crumbly, it’s a decadent breakfast cake using frozen wintergreen berries harvested in the wild.  Perfect for today’s overcast and chilly morning.

Mix in a large bowl:
–  2 1/2 cups almond flour
– 1/2 cup sugar (or sweetener of choice in proportion)
– 1 tbsp. baking powder
– 1/2 tsp salt

Add 6 tbsp. of cold butter, cut into thin slices.  Toss in the flour mixture, and using a pastry blender (or two butter knives side by side), cut in the butter until the largest pieces are the size of peas.

Add 1/2 cup cranberries (halved), and 2 tbsp. wintergreen berries (halved) and stir in until evenly mixed through.

In a separate container mix 1/2 cup whole milk with 2 large eggs until blended.  Add all at once to the dry mix, and stir until batter is thoroughly mixed.  The batter will be very moist, but should be able to hold it’s form somewhat.  If not, add more flour as needed.
Place on an ungreased baking sheet and form into a rectangle.

Sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar.

Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 30 -40 minutes, or until the top is firm to the touch.

Note:  This makes for a very mild and subtle wintergreen flavor. I intentionally wanted it as a subtle flavor, so that the bakery wouldn’t taste like toothpaste.  If you’d like it a bit stronger, add more wintergreen berries.

Also, I used wintergreen berries that were harvested in the spring (hold-overs from fall in the wild).  I don’t know if freshly ripe berries harvested in the fall would have a stronger flavor, so you may want to experiment a little.

Our Review of Seasonal Employment at Snow Mountain Ranch, YMCA of the Rockies

Here it is! Everything You Wanted to Know about Seasonal Employment at Snow Mountain Ranch YMCA of the Rockies in Granby, CO


Sunrise Over Our Seasonal Employee Dorm @ Snow Mountain Ranch

First off, let’s just start of by admitting that there’s just something beyond words about being able to wake up every day in a place so strikingly beautiful that it puts your senses on overload the moment you step outside.  In my mind, that’s truly why someone would want to work seasonally at Snow Mountain Ranch in Granby, CO.  There are other benefits also, of course.  But that’s the one that ultimately makes it all worthwhile.  The spectacular 360 degree views of the mountains all around will take your breath away.  So will the altitude! (The resort is at 8,600 feet above sea level!)

That being said, there are some things that we wish we’d known about before going to work there (and some we’d known about but that we wished we’d paid more attention to).  We’re hoping that this entry will help you in making your decision.  Snow Mountain Ranch can be a magical and wonderful place, if you’re prepared and honest about your expectations.

Here’s what we’ll tell you about, based on our experience there as seasonal employees from August through February of last year:

  • the resort and seasonal employee perks
  • the meals (provided as part of your compensation)
  • the housing (provided as part of your compensation)
  • the pay
  • rules, culture, etc. at the resort
  • the area around the resort
smr view

Autumn View At Snow Mountain Ranch, Granby CO

The Resort & Seasonal Employee Perks

Snow Mountain Ranch is a year-round family oriented resort property that sits on 5,200 acres that are surrounded by National Forest.   The resort sleeps around 2,000 people guests at any given time, in a combination of vacation homes, cabins, yurts, campsites, family reunion cabins, or hotel style lodges.  The goal of the organization (YMCA of the Rockies) is to provide an affordable, wholesome, out-of-doors vacation experience for families.    They do a pretty good job of that by including so many complimentary activities as part of their guest’s stay.


Seeing Red Fox at the Resort Was A Frequent Occurrence!

Wildlife is abundant in that general area, including:  moose, mule deer, red fox, coyotes, elk, pronghorn (antelope), beaver, bear, big horn sheep, mountain lion and more.

Snow Mountain Ranch itself offers a host of perks in terms of complimentary (or at the very least, cheap) activities for staff.  As with most places, guests get first priority in activities, of course.

horseback ride

Our Free Employee Ride Ended Up Being a Private Ride!

Spring, Summer and Fall activities for employees include:  hiking (the property adjoins the national forest), canoeing, fishing, mini-golf, Frisbee-golf, archery ($5), climbing wall ($5), summer tubing hill, mountain bike rental (discounted rate on rental), nature programs, crafts (pay per, but very affordable), swimming pool and sauna, horseback riding, library, roller skating rink, pool table, ping pong, basketball courts (indoor and outdoor), tennis courts.


Hubby Roller Skating With Friends Who Visited Us @ SMR

In the winter, the outdoor activities are replaced with free cross country skiing and snow shoeing (including free rentals).  If guests are signed up for ski lessons, staff are allowed to tag along for free. The ice rink and ice skate use is free, as are the snow tubes for the snow tubing hill.  You can also rent fat bikes at a discounted rental rate to ride on trails in the snow.


Me… learning to cross country ski @ Snow Mountain Ranch!

Additional perks for seasonal employees include free sodas, coffee and tea, discounts at the non-buffet dining at the resort, discounts at the gift shop, shuttles to town for grocery shopping (space available, sign-up required).

Snow Mountain Ranch also provides free day-trips for seasonal workers.  Staff trips include destinations such as the Rocky Mountain National Park, the Denver Zoo and museums, Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs, the X-Games up in Aspen, Strawberry Hot Springs in Steamboat Springs.  Staff are also encouraged to submit specific requests for places to go on staff trips.  This is a great benefit, but also has a few challenges.  First, there’s a minimum requirement (3 people) for the trip to go.  If you can’t find 2 other people with the day off and interest in going, your trip doesn’t go.  On the flip side, there’s a limited amount of space in the vans. If it’s a popular trip and the van’s full, you don’t get to go either.

Complimentary Guest Lodge Rooms:  As a thank you for working there, Snow Mountain Ranch awards you complimentary lodge room nights for every month that you work there.  There are black out dates that can make using them a little challenging.  The complimentary nights can be used at either YMCA of the Rockies properties (Snow Mountain Ranch, or Estes Park Center).

There are many different jobs available (including some year round benefited positions), in a host of different departments, including:  Front Desk, IT, Housekeeping, Food Service, Maintenance, Human Resources, and Programs (swimming pool, arts and crafts center, outdoor recreation, etc.).

Seasonal staff generally work 40 hours a week.  There are also volunteers who work 3 days a week, and receive the same housing, food and entertainment benefits as the other staff (but do not get paid).  Many retirees take this option, as a way to enjoy the area.  The minimum commitment for a volunteer is 3 weeks, but can extend indefinitely.

The Meals

As a very significant part of your compensation, Snow Mountain Ranch provides an all you can eat buffet for all 3 meals per day.  A typical breakfast includes: fresh fruit, granola, cereal choices, yogurt, biscuits and gravy, oatmeal or grits, toast, meat of some kind (usually sausage), eggs of some kind, breakfast potatoes, juices, cereals and pastries.  A typical lunch would include salad bar, 3 different entree’s, a make your own sandwich area with a single meat choice, and a couple of desert options.  Dinner, about the same as lunch, but with heavier entree’s. By most people’s standards, the meals are reasonably tasty.  In fact, other seasonal employees have commented that it’s much better quality than what you typically find with other seasonal employers.  And of course, the bonus is that you don’t have to prepare or cleanup the meals (unless you’re working in food service, that is).  You do have to go across property for your meals, even on your lunch breaks.

Important Note: Contrary to what the resort’s website says, they don’t have much in the way of gluten free options.  If this is a concern for you, you need to know that you won’t be satisfied with the meals there. 

The flip side though, is that for those who enjoy cooking for themselves, the food is highly processed and largely (but not entirely) pre-prepared elsewhere.  The high sodium content was something that concerned us, as high blood pressure can be a factor at high elevations.  Plus, cooking a homemade meal has been an important part of our routine for many years.  Not having this available to us was hard for us, but a good lesson to learn about what we need for our comfort.

There is a shared kitchen that can be used by seasonal employees.  The younger staff generally leave it a mess though.  And you have to purchase groceries to prepare there (your pay is based on your dining at the dining hall, whether you eat there or not).


Snow Mountain Ranch has three different buildings for accommodating staff.   Blue Ridge is the dorm style building that houses the “trekkers” (18+ year olds) and staff that are in their twenties.   The Bays are the rooms beneath the “Kiva” (recreation center).  These are generally used for staff that are in their 30’s.  The downside:  the rooms are under the basketball court, and the rooms have no windows.  There is one bathroom shared for the whole single-sex hallway.  The upside:  the staff often get their own room.

Pinewood is the building attached to the main lobby/admin building, and is where the volunteers and any staff 40ish or above live. We stayed in Pinewood.  It was convenient for me, as I worked Front Desk.  I didn’t even have to leave the building to go to work.  The room was small, but they provided a queen sized bed, two chest of drawers, two night stands, a closet area, and we had our own bathroom.  Not much room for storage, if you have your life on your back.  So, our room was always packed full, as were the rooms of other gypsies like us.  But for those that had just a little bit of stuff for the season, the room was a bit more workable.  The bathroom even had a bath tub!  And we also had a large set of windows that looked out at the mountains.

smr view from room

View From The Window in Our Room

I loved that I could take as long of a hot shower as I wanted.  We didn’t enjoy being able to hear our neighbors all the time.  Being on the bottom floor, we also got to hear the neighbors up above us.  There was a lounge area in the building for staff that had a full sized fridge, microwave, toaster oven, and sofa with tv.

In the Spring/Summer/Fall, there is an employee campground that’s open on the resort property as well.  If you have an RV, this is an excellent option, as you have a bit more privacy and quiet than if living in the dorm housing.

All the housing options have wifi.  Most (except the campground) have a phone provided (no long distance, but you can use a calling card or accept incoming calls).  So, in addition to not having to pay for internet or phone, the resort also covered trash removal, water, heat.

Note:  Road Conditions at the resort, especially in the winter, were worse than terrible.  If you don’t have a vehicle that’s good in snow and ice, you’re going to have a very difficult time getting around at the resort in the winter.


Keep in mind that, the resort is paying for your all you can eat buffet (3 times a day), your lodging, your utilities, and the employee perks, as mentioned above.  Beyond that, the seasonal rate of pay for most jobs was $4.50* and hour.  It doesn’t sound like much, and it isn’t.  But when you think about everything else that’s taken care of, it’s not so terribly bad.  (As long as you’re able to live on it, after considering any other financial obligations that you have.)  It should be noted that housekeeping and food service jobs there sometimes paid much more, depending on the season.  Additionally, for every quarter that you work there (as long as you haven’t broken your contract with them), you get a share of the “employee appreciation fund” which is basically the tip pool.

*It looks like some of the wages have gone up since we left.  You may want to check the jobs board:

Seasonal Employment Open Jobs List – Snow Mountain Ranch

Rules, Culture, Etc.

There are rules for all volunteers and staff at the YMCA of the Rockies, which includes Snow Mountain Ranch seasonal staff.  Being a YMCA property, alcohol is strictly taboo.  Even though you’re a legal age adult, if you’re caught with alcohol on property, you’ll be immediately asked to pack your bags and leave.  Yes, you can drink off property, but you can’t drink on the resort property nor are you permitted to be intoxicated within view of the guests.  And yes, Colorado is one of the states that has legalized marijuana.  Regardless, the YMCA of the Rockies has a zero tolerance policy for drug use of any kind.  If you’re caught with drugs of any kind, you’ll be immediately asked to leave.  Also, if they even just suspect you of drug use, you’ll be given the option of either taking a drug test or packing up your things.  If you end up with a Workman’s Comp Claim, they’ll also require you to take a drug test.  Also, the resort does employ “Resident Advisors” to keep an eye on the employee housing areas.  Do some people still drink and do drugs there?  Yes. But it’s risky business, especially when this is not only your employer but your temporary home. If these things are important to you, it’s best that you find another place to go.  (Winter Park Resort and Devil’s Thumb Ranch are in the nearby area and do offer some seasonal employment with housing.)

smr outdoor chapel

Outdoor Chapel At Snow Mountain Ranch

As to culture there, the YMCA is a Christian organization.  You will see evidence of this on the resort property, which is their right and privilege.  There is an outdoor chapel.  There is an indoor chapel.  There are faith-oriented slogans, and Bible studies, and such around.  However, they welcome people of other faiths.  Many of the staff I worked with were from all over the world and of different world religions (including Buddhism and Islam) and they felt perfectly safe and comfortable there.

There’s another component to the culture there, and that’s the culture among employees.  I found the staff to be largely welcoming and friendly.  There were a few cliques of groups that had a long history of going there, but they were still friendly.  We made many wonderful new friends from every age-group there.  Real friendships. People I will stay in touch with for a long time to come.

It is a place though, where everyone knows every detail about everyone else.  It was very difficult to have any sense of privacy or boundary between work and “home.”

The Surrounding Area

Granby, CO is the nearest town to Snow Mountain Ranch.  The grocery store there is about a 15 minute drive from the resort.  Granby also has a small downtown area with coffee shops, a fabric store, thrift store, hardware store, gas stations, restaurants, and a few other odds and ends things.  There’s also Granby Ranch there, which is a large subdivision that has a ski area, golf courses, etc.  (Granby Ranch will often offer Snow Mountain Ranch staff a season’s ski pass at a greatly discounted rate.)  The tiny town of Hot Sulphur Springs is about 10 minutes drive on the other side of Granby.  In the other direction, Winter Park is about 20 or so minutes drive away.  Winter Park has a Safeway grocery store, a couple of thrift stores, and a selection of tourist oriented stores and restaurants. Denver is about a 2 hour drive from Snow Mountain Ranch.  Steamboat Springs is a little over 2 hours in the other direction.  In the summer and fall, you can drive over Trail Ridge Road (through the Rocky Mountain National Park) to get to Estes Park.

You might also be interested in some other posts from our time in Colorado: