C Lazy U celebrates centennial with look back on legacy
Even when C Lazy U Ranch was first founded by Gertrude McQueary and Aubrey Fenton “Jack” Smilie, it wasn’t a typical ranch. Now, 100 years later, the ranch is celebrating its unique experience and reaffirming its principles in honor of its centennial anniversary.
Founded in 1919 with a goal of giving guests an authentic ranch experience, C Lazy U plans to celebrate that legacy by unveiling around $10 million in renovations, offering guests special packages and periodic firework displays.
“It feels like an awesome responsibility,” said David Craig, general manager of the ranch. “To get it where it is today has taken many hundreds of exceptionally passionate people that had a heart and a vision, so I feel an enormous responsibility to honor that and continue it forward.”
The renovations include a new meeting and wine room in the Main Lodge and upgrades to all of the guest rooms and the Hay Barn. Craig said the ranch wanted to modernize its spaces without losing the western authenticity, so some of the construction uses materials from the ranch property.
Over the course of the ranch’s history, it has been owned by six families, all of which were dedicated to ethical stewardship of the land and to making C Lazy U family friendly. Some of the original construction can still be seen on the ranch at the main barn, which was built by Smilie in 1922, and the main lodge, built in 1946.
C Lazy U also wanted to highlight its heritage in the centennial packages. The Year-Round Toast package offers guests specialty cocktails using the Denver-based Leopold Bros. distillery throughout their stay and access to a limited-edition Leopold Bros bourbon. A $50 portion of the cost of the specialty cocktails goes to humane horse treatment charities.
“C Lazy U is really leading the industry in ethical treatment of horses after their life at the ranch,” Craig said.
The train package includes roundtrip train tickets from Denver to Granby and the specialty cocktails for a cause. Lastly, the land package includes a one-of-a-kind brand, a tree planted in memoriam, and a beetle-tree souvenir as part of a partnership with the Forest Service to help rehabilitate the surrounding environment.
“This is one that’s kind of cool because it does celebrate the actual land itself and the legacy of the ranch and its working with the national Forest Service to protect the land,” he said.
Aside from its commitment to its principles, Craig said one of the reasons the ranch has remained successful is because the ranch staff really try to build relationships with the guests, get to know them and give them a unique, tailored experience.
“I think that the difference between our kind of five-star and what you might see at a Four Seasons or a Ritz Carlton, is that our five star is very sincere and compassionate and it’s custom,” he said.
For example, the C Lazy U program focuses heavily on horsemanship and partners guests with a horse at the beginning of their stay that they ride throughout their time on the ranch. The ranch also offers an expansive children’s program to make the stay as family-friendly as possible.
Both the horsemanship and children’s programs were pioneered by Marion “Mare” Palmer in 1949, after she came to the resort as a guest and stayed to develop the renowned experiences.
And no matter the season, the ranch also offers a wide variety of activities on its 8,500 acres, including fishing, skiing, snowmobiling, biking, hunting, a ropes course and hockey.
“We try to make sure we offer experiences that are authentic and genuine,” Craig said. “We try very diligently to become experts at the things we do offer.”
The ranch has been honored for the quality of service and experience with several prestigious awards this year, including being named the top ranch in Colorado by the Conde Nast Traveler Reader’s Choice Awards and the second best destination resort by USA Today.
He said the ranch’s goal is to make every stay worthwhile for guests and to make them feel a part of the ranch’s family. Ultimately, Craig said what he looks forward to the most are the guest interactions and introducing more people to C Lazy U.
“Ironically the ones I remember the most are the ones where something has gone wrong,” he chuckled. “I think that when you get something wrong it’s a test of how much you care and your level of interest in turning things around.”
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