ASPEN - "We have snow on the road."
That's the reason Besha Deane of the T-Lazy-7 Ranch gave for why the family-owned snowmobiling business has been so successful during this lackluster winter.
While the Natural Resources Conservation Service says that Aspen snow levels are 46 percent of average, the T-Lazy-7 Ranch on Maroon Creek Road is bucking the trend of the neighboring ski resorts. According to owner Rick Deane, the ranch's business has seen a 10 percent increase compared with a year ago.
Besha Deane said the skiers who came looking for snow on the slopes found themselves with a couple of extra days to shop downtown or go looking for other means of having fun.
"They come out and visit us to go snowmobiling," she said. "You get to see the countryside because we've basically had 100 percent coverage on our trails thanks to our great crew."
What was critical in keeping the trails open was packing the snow during the first snowstorm in November. The ranch crew goes out when the snow is falling and wheel-packs the snow to get a few inches as a base.
"That's kind of the trick," Besha Deane said. "It's essential that we do that."
"We just don't take a chance," Rick Deane said. "We do that every year. Every year we may get one storm before Christmastime, and we may not get any more so we try and save every bit."
Along with packing the snow, the crew has employed what it calls "Operation Winter Storm" where it tows trailers filled with snow to certain sections of the trails. Besha Deane said that although they have done more of that than in the past, her family's business is as strong as ever as it enters into its 45th year of offering snowmobiling during the winter . This year marks the ranch's 74th year of operation.
"It's always been on my bucket list to do the snowmobiling at T-Lazy-7," said visitor Liz Cohen, of Denver. "The trails were good, and it was fun."
The good trails are attracting more people to snowmobiling and word has been spreading among the cross-country skiing community that the trail is open.
"It was a very nice, easy, beautiful walk up and back," said cross-country skier Tink Boyer, who traveled from Basalt with her friend Patty Peterson. "It's gradual both ways, and it's a pretty good workout. They maintain the trail pretty well."
While the ranch does not rent out skis for cross-country skiing, the crew takes pride in keeping the trail open for the community. A couple of skiing clubs, including the Aspen High School cross-country team, are extremely thankful for the open trails.
Using their trail-saving tactics along with some help from Mother Nature in the coming months, the ranch operators are in good spirits.
"As long as we can get a few storms here and there to keep the trails looking white, we'll be great," Besha Deane said. "We'll keep working on the trails, too. As long as we have manpower, we'll keep the trails good."