Hinders sell Elk River Guest Ranch

Couple hands over reins after 15 years at North Routt resort

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— After 15 years of ranching, sleigh rides, weddings and weather of all kinds, Bill and Kathy Hinder are handing over the reins to the Elk River Guest Ranch in North Routt County.

The Hinders finalized the $1.4 million sale of the 35-acre ranch resort Dec. 11, to a group led by Peter Fleps, of Chicago. The Hinders are retaining the adjoining 38-acre Seed House Ranch, where they will continue to sell lots. But with their son, Steamboat Springs High School senior Austin Hinder, set to play football for the University of California-Berkeley next fall, Bill and Kathy Hinder said selling the ranch on the Elk River will allow them to make time for trips to California and a different pace of life.

“We’re still in a bit of a pinch-me phase,” Kathy Hinder said about the sale last week. “We still can’t believe it.”

The sale came at a hectic time for the Hinders.

On Dec. 5, they traveled to Aurora to watch the Steamboat Springs High School football team play Valor Christian in a Class 3A championship game that had an unfortunate result, with the Sailors on the losing end after a stellar season. The following Wednesday, Kathy Hinder said, a coach from the University of California came to town for “the couch visit” with Austin and his family. That Friday, the sale of the ranch closed.

“It was an overwhelmingly fabulous week,” Kathy Hinder said. “A lot of emotion.”

The Hinders have no shortage of stories about their time at the ranch on Routt County Road 64, known as Seedhouse Road.

There was winter 1996, when Bill Hinder said a “Biblical” 23 feet of snow fell on the ranch in January. Steamboat Ski Area reported about 216 inches, or 18 feet, at mid-mountain that month.

“Horses were swimming in the snow, it was so deep,” Kathy Hinder said. “You couldn’t shovel fast enough. ... We were really fit.”

“Everybody closed down that January,” Bill Hinder said.

There was the blowdown of October 1997, when a winter storm brought blizzard conditions and high easterly winds that flattened 20,000 acres in the Routt National Forest and Mount Zirkel Wilderness area.

And there was the dry, dry summer of 2002, when the Mount Zirkel Complex, Lost Lake and Big Fish wildfires consumed more than 501,000 acres in Northern Colorado.

“We’ve been through some weather,” Bill Hinder said with a grin.

They’ve led a lot of sleigh rides, too. Bill Hinder said starting sleigh rides “saved the ranch” by providing winter income. The idea would grow to hosting as many as 3,000 guests a winter for sleigh rides and dinner.

“You’d have about 40 people a night,” Kathy Hinder said. “That was a lot of steaks.”

The family bought a house in Steamboat Springs when Austin was in eighth grade, Kathy Hinder said. She and Bill plan to continue living in that house, between the upcoming travels.

“Steamboat is our home,” Kathy Hinder said. “This will be our base camp.”

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