Winter Fun

Colorado’s Rockies are home to our favorite winter getaway – Snow Mountain Ranch. Owned and operated by the YMCA of the Rockies, the retreat welcomes members and nonmembers alike. Among the too-numerous-to-list activities are snowshoe hikes, dog sled tours, and horse-drawn sleigh rides, but our 75 main reasons to visit are as many miles of fabulous Nordic ski trails that are carved into the snow during most “normal” winters, owing to the property’s elevation of 8,750 feet, or higher.

To enlarge a photo, click on it. To read its caption, hover cursor over it.

Its 2,800 acres have been set aside from development thanks to a conservation easement, and provide a home to many non-human denizens. We regularly see birds, and sporadically squirrels, foxes, or even weasels. In an almost-total transformation, the latter replace their brown summer with a snow-colored winter coat, to blend in nearly seamlessly into the background, were it not for their black tail tips. Unfortunately, I have never been able to capture one on “film.” On occasion, we happen across big, boisterous ungulates. During a trip earlier this month, while huffing up the final hill to the Nordic Center, I notice three tall, dark shapes out of the corner of my eye. I dash to the car to grab my camera, but soon realize that my worry is superfluous, as the three male moose, recognizable by their antlers, are in no hurry. They are sparring – clanging their shovel-like head projections against one another – in what appears a playful manner, as it is not mating season, and there is no need to edge out competitors.

Often described as ungainly, I find moose handsome. Their physique is adapted to surviving in winter, as they have long, slender legs, and heavy, and heavily insulated, bodies. Once our trio’s scuffling ends, we watch those legs in action as they stalk through knee-deep snow. The animals’ destination is a cluster of willows, where they browse with their impressive muzzles. In summer their diet consists of willow buds and leaves, in addition to aquatic vegetation, but in winter they have to fill their tummies with woody twigs and conifer needles – a frugal, little nutritious fare that annually results in weight loss. The pendulous appendage dangling from the chin is known as bell, or dewlap, whose purpose remains unknown. Antlers, unlike the permanent horns of other animals, are temporary bony growths that sprout from the moose’s skulls in spring and summer, before they are shed during the winter. At least one of the bulls has already lost one antler, and the ones that remain are naked, their fuzzy covering, known as velvet, having long been sloughed off.

Three sparring male moose

Meanwhile, a crowd has gathered in front of the Nordic Center, and everybody is clicking away with camera or cell phone. As it is late in the afternoon, and a cloud cover compounds the short winter day, we watch the three companions work their way toward a stand of trees, where they might bed down for the night, which will be cold, long, and foodless. My husband and I pack up our gear and drive to our lodge, where we will find warmth, light, and plenty of food to fill our tummies.

62 thoughts on “Winter Fun

  1. Was für eine traumhafte Landschaft und welch tolle Fotos. Von solchen Bildern, kann ich bei unserem täglichen Schmuddelwetter, das wir seit Woche in NRW haben nur träumen.
    So genieße ich deine Fotos. LG Werner

    Liked by 2 people

  2. What a treat to meet these majestic animals, by us also known as “the king of the forest”! 🙂 We see them now and then in the woods near our cabin up north, especially in late spring or early summer when yearlings, driven away by their mothers, lost and confused are wandering around beside or on the forest roads. Exciting encounters, but they can also be dangerous ones to both the animals and ourselves, if we happen to collied with each other. I hope I’ll never have neither a moose, nor a calf, landing on my knee. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • It is always special to catch a glimpse of these “Kings of the Forest,” Meggie. When we lived in Alaska, they came to our yard regularly, and once we were chased by a mother, when we happened to get between her and her calf along a ski trail! Luckily, she left us alone once she was reunited with her little one. It is best to admire them from a distance!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Dankeschön, liebe Andrea. Leider verdeckten an dem Elchnachmittag Wolken den blauen Himmel, was den Fotos anzusehen ist, doch wir waren froh, sie überhaupt zu Gesicht bekommen zu haben. Das ist nicht immer gewährleistet.
      Herzliche Grüße,
      Tanja

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much. No reindeer here, unless they are tamed for Santa’s use. But seeing moose is always a special treat, as they only occur in some parts of Colorado.
      I did get to see reindeer in Scandinavia, but that was (too) many years ago.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I have yet to see moose out in the open in the wild like that. (I saw the glimpse of a cow’s head in the woods off a roadside. No photo.) I can imagine how invigorating that encounter must have been!!

    Nice to be at just the right place at just the right time, isn’t it? Lovely collection all, Tanja.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Tanja – What an amazing experience. I find moose to be amazing creatures. The moose is my sister’s favorite animal. She was delighted to read your post as much as I was. (I am still months behind and trying to catch up. But I don’t want to miss any of your beautiful posts.) -Jill

    Liked by 1 person

    • I REALLY appreciate you taking the time to read my older posts, Jill. Thank you!
      It makes me happy that you and your sister enjoyed the moose. They only occur in some parts of Colorado, sot an encounter is always a cherished experience.
      I hope you are well and are enjoying spring.
      Best,
      Tanja

      Liked by 1 person

      • You are most welcome, Tanja. I so enjoy reading about your adventures and encounters in nature. The area that I have moved to is near the natural habitat of a wide range of animals. I have seen a moose near the town of Whitefish which is just eleven miles away. I am looking forward to getting out and having adventures myself this summer. -Jill

        Liked by 1 person

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