Avalanche Ranch stokes off-road enthusiasts
Reporter living proof that tofu and tread do mix
Motorcyclists, ATVers, jeepers and rock crawlers from around the
Four Corners and even out-of-state are flocking to Avalanche Ranch,
an off-road vehicle park on 832 acres of private land near Tiffany,
in southeast La Plata County.
Opening Day was Saturday.
“It’s all over the Web,”
said Jen Rumore, 32, who owns the ranch with her husband Steve,
33. “People are very excited about this.”
The couple decided to buy land for an ORV
park because of problems associated with holding large events
on public lands, Jen said. Steve owns Avalanche Engineering, a
company that designs and fabricates off-road vehicles. He’s
also a competitive “rock crawler”– which involves
driving high-clearance vehicles over terrain littered with obstacles
such as logs and boulders – and was the sport’s 2000
said events on public lands that draw thousands of people often
become “logistical nightmares,” and that it’s
becoming harder and harder to get permits for such activities.
“That’s why we did our thing,”
And locally, there weren’t many other
options outside Mancos and Aztec.
“It seemed like there needed to be
a bigger place for people to go play,” said Steve.
couple said they had a hectic time getting to opening day. In
December, their first child, Nicholas, was born. This summer,
they were evacuated from their Forest Lakes home during the Missionary
Ridge Fire. Finally, on Aug. 23, they closed on the property that
has become Avalanche Ranch. With the help of numerous friends,
family and community members who helped build the trails, the
ranch opened just a little more than a month later, on Sept. 28.
That day, it seemed their hard work had paid
“It’s awesome – the smiles
and response from the public has been higher than expectations,”
said staff member Troy Brady, who, among other things, guides
four-wheelers at the ranch.
Filling a need
Brady said there is a sizeable community
of ORV enthusiasts in the area, such as Jeepers Creepers, the
club that “dogpiles” giant, souped-up jeeps during
the annual Snowdown parade. Many people also were calling about
the ranch from out-of-state, Jen said.
For some, the water-groomed motocross track
is a draw, since it keeps dust levels down.
“Durango has a lot of riders and has
needed a trail forever,” said motorcyclist Sebastian Hartley,
33, of Durango.
Motocross pro Robert Settles, 21, also attended
the opening. “I have nothing but good things to say about
this place,” he said.
Rock crawlers seemed equally pleased. Billy
Dussaman, of Aztec, rode with his brother James Schindler in a
custom-built “buggy” Saturday. He said it was nice
to ride on terrain that offered challenges different from trail
riding in Aztec.
“This is different for us because everything
there is mostly sandstone,” he said. “This is slickrock
Karen Elmer, of Farmington, who rode shotgun
next to her husband, Scott, summed up their experience at Avalanche
with a simple “Lovin’ it.”
Ranch presents a unique opportunity for different groups of ORV
participants to share a place to ride without getting in each
other’s way, Jen Rumore said. The ranch also offers camping
for tents and eventually, RVs.
Additionally, because the ranch is 10 minutes
from Navajo Lake and less than an hour’s drive to Durango
and Pagosa Springs, families can stay together at the ranch and
pursue different interests during the day, Jen said. The ranch
also offers a driving school for women who wish to “dip
their toes in the water and see that their husbands are enamored
with” as well as others new to the off-roading world.
By mid-October, there also will be a peewee
track, “so kids can do their thing,” Jen said.
Some environmentalists applaud the ranch for providing an alternative
to riding on public lands. In fact, Avalanche Ranch has already
booked several national events for next season, Jen said.
think it’s way better to have this happening on private
land instead of public lands, though I’m still concerned
about the environmental impacts,” said Rose Chilcoat, program
director of Durango’s Great Old Broads for Wilderness. “We
need to care about our public lands enough to protect them and
not turn them into playgrounds for vehicles.”
Luke Hanson, 28, said because the motor-cross
track at the ranch is watered down, he’d rather ride there
than the Hermosa Creek Trail, a popular singletrack north of Durango
in the San Juan Forest.
“This place is great,” he said.
Jen Rumore said that the ranch’s trails
were built with environmental concerns in mind, since many of
the trees on the property are 300-year-old cedars.
“When we designed our trails, we cut
down as few trees as possible,” she said. “Even though
we’re an off-road park, we are very trail and environmentally
conscious, and we want to keep that philosophy going for our patrons.”