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