New owners breathe new life into Elk River Guest Ranch
Steamboat Springs — Bex Damman got her first taste of the dude ranching lifestyle at the age of 8 during a family trip from Tennessee to a ranch outside Gunnison.
From there, she begged her parents for more dude ranching trips, and by the age of 17, she was spending her summers as a dude ranch wrangler at a couple different ranches in Colorado.
In the off-season, Damman earned a degree in religious studies from Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee, and went on to earn a master’s degree in coaching and athletic administration. She spent two years as an assistant women’s basketball coach, but all along, the dude ranching lifestyle was calling her back to Colorado.
Damman and her husband, Scott, are the new owners of Elk River Guest Ranch, a four-cabin lodging ranch on Seedhouse Road in North Routt.
The ranch had seen lots of turnover since longtime owners Bill and Kathy Hinder sold the property in late 2009. Lodging operations weren’t taking place, and the ranch was limited to dinner time sleigh rides by 2013, when it was put on the market again.
The property was sold in July of that year to Josh and Susan Boles, who initially pursued a bed and breakfast vision before putting the property back on the market last year.
At 27, Bex Damman touts herself as the youngest owner of a dude ranch in the country’s history.
The couple purchased the property last October, and after a full summer season this year, they feel clear on a vision for the ranch’s use.
“Our main goal is to take this property back to its roots,” Bex Damman said. “To offer guests a truly Western experience where they relax, rejuvenate and get to enjoy the natural beauty and ranching history that the North Routt area has to offer from on top of a horse.”
The Dammans offer all-inclusive dude ranching stays during the summer season — early June to mid-September — which include lodging, meals and activities, including private fishing, Western dancing, cookouts, campfires and trips into Steamboat for the Pro Rodeo series.
Outside the dude ranching season, the ranch will offer lodging with special rates for hunters. Horseback riding will continue into the fall each year, and snowshoeing is an option during the winter.
After a little more than a year of owning the ranch, Bex Damman said the best part of the experience is getting to know the ranch’s guests.
“One of the greatest things about dude ranching is that guests come as strangers on Sunday and very quickly become our friends,” she said.
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