Plan a Backcountry Sleigh Ride to Dinner in a Historical Cabin

This dinner adventure is so Colorado

BearCat Stables
Aimee Heckel

Unwind, as you snuggle underneath blankets in a shiny red sleigh, pulled by massive, black draught horses.

This sleigh ride isn’t exactly “dashing through the snow.” It’s a leisurely, scenic trot through the Colorado mountains, on the way to an old wooden cabin, where a fine dinner is served to the tune of Johnny Cash.

Welcome to the BearCat Stables, one of Colorado’s most fantastic treasures tucked away in Vail Valley.

BearCat is a must-do for any Colorado travel bucket list, whether you’re just passing through, staying (and skiing) at nearby Beaver Creek (a mere 15 minutes away) or settled at the nearby luxury Lodge and Spa at Cordillera, a gated golf community.

The BearCat property has a solid reputation and is considered one of the top stables in the region. The last owner, Ellis “Bearcat” Bearden (hence the name), sold the ranch to Cordillera in the ‘90s. Today, it has been renovated for function, but it retains a ton of quirky charm. Visitors can tour and take photos in two of the original cabins.

BearCat has a fascinating history that dates back to the turn of the century, and visitors will learn all about it on the guided sleigh rides that run throughout the winter.

Two of the regular workhorses you may find leading the sleigh are Percherons, a friendly and mild breed that’s (believe it or not) bigger and stronger, pound per pound, than a Clydesdale. These horses weigh upwards of 2,300 pounds and, with their thick coats, are happily suited for outdoor winter activities. They also understand voice commands and are extremely intelligent.

The Percherons will calmly pose for photos with visitors of any age and won’t spook at the sight of a flash.

The sleigh winds through the BearCat property, past historical buildings and into the open space and rolling hills of Squaw Creek Valley. Animals, such as elk, deer, and hawks, are plentiful here, even in the winter.

Planning a special occasion? The 15-person sleigh can also be rented out for a private ride.

After the relaxing ride, head back to the cabin for a dinner catered by TimberHearth at Cordillera.

The three-course dinner is served in the original Bearden Homestead, which dates back to the early 20th century, and was completely restored by the Cordillera Preservation Foundation and the stables.

Although the meal itself is casual — buffet style, served on round wooden tables in a small dining area that feels very homey — don’t expect your regular refried beans and BBQ served on paper plates.

The food is among the most delicious in the state. Your favorite comfort food staples, such as short ribs (served with a cabernet sauvignon red wine au jus with roasted chablis onions), vegetable pot pie (packed with peas, celery, carrots and veggie veloute in a pie crust) and soups, are expertly prepared. Prepare to be surprised.

The meal starts with an organic mixed green salad with white balsamic vinaigrette, feta, red onion, tomatoes, and cucumbers. Also look for a herb-roasted Boulder chicken breast with black pepper pan gravy. On the side, enjoy herb-roasted fingerling potatoes and seasonal veggies.

Kids will be pleased by the special kids' menu, which includes kiddie classics, like mac and cheese, chicken fingers and a fruit tray. (OK, adults may gravitate toward this, too.)

Make sure you leave space for dessert: a super-rich bread pudding served with cinnamon brioche and a chocolate ganache glaze.

Warm up with wine, local brew, a hot chocolate or hot toddy; the property has a full bar.     

After the meal, guests are invited to gather ‘round the fire pit and make S’mores, under the starry sky.

BearCat also offers guided horseback rides, carriage rides, a four-day hut trip from Vail to Aspen and various backcountry and camping packages.

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