Thursday, March 3, 2011

Welcome to the Stanko Ranch

Welcome to the Stanko Ranch.  We are delighted to share our lifestyle and history with you.  

Ranches across the country and the state of Colorado have the same purpose:  to take care of their land and water, their animals and their family while producing food and other by-products for the nation.  Because the climate and topography (natural and man made features) vary from ranch to ranch, how each ranch does things varies also but with the same outcome: healthy land and water and well cared for livestock.
Our ranch’s location has a lot to do with how and why we do things here at the Stanko Ranch.  We are located in Northwest Colorado, about 35 miles from Wyoming, 135 miles from Utah and 5 to 6 miles west of the Steamboat Springs Ski Area. The county we live in is called Routt County and the town where we get our mail is Steamboat Springs.

  Colorado’s western slope is mostly the Colorado Plateau which runs from the Utah-Colorado Border to the foot of the mountain ranges which form the Rocky Mountain.  The Colorado Plateau changes the further east and higher in altitude you travel.  If you travel on US Highway 40 from Utah to Steamboat Springs, the landscape goes from high desert, scrub oak and sagebrush hills, along the Yampa River of the Yampa Valley, until you come to Mt. Werner (called Storm Peak by the old-timers), you follow the same path as the weather which affects our ranch and Steamboat Springs.  Our ranch is at an elevation of 6,700 feet but the elevation at the top of Mt. Werner is about 10,600 feet.  This sudden rise in altitude causes the clouds, as the old timers put it, “to get snagged on Storm Peak and stay there until they drop their snow or rain and get light enough to go over the top”.   This means that we get lots of snow and other forms of moisture.  Records show that snow has fallen at some point in history on just about every day of the year, including the Fourth of July. When ranching in snow means that we have to do things differently than our friends who ranch where there is not as much snow.
 In the winter, snow pretty much dictates how ranchers in this area spend their time.  This year, the Steamboat Ski Area has received more than 400 inches of snow but that is on Mt. Werner where the ski runs are.  The amount of snow will increase because March is one of the snowiest months of the year.  Here at the ranch, we've only gotten about between 250 and 300 inches of snow. This does not mean that if you go out to measure the snow depth you will measure that many inches. The amount of snow is measured by measuring the snow each time it falls and keeping a running total.  The snow is compressed as it sits on the ground by the weight of the snow on top of it. Even with the snow compressed, it is too deep to move through so it must be packed down, shoveled, or plowed out of the way.

This is what my friend's house in town looks like.  Because she has such a small lot, there is no where to put the snow.  The walk way up to her house is only about 18" wide. If we get too much more snow, my friend will have to pay to have someone come with a front end loader and dump truck to hall the snow away.  The tools that my friend uses is a snow blower until the snowbanks get so high that it can't blow the snow over the sides and a shovel. 

This is what it looks like here at the ranch.  When the first snows hit in the fall, we make sure that the snow is plowed way down over the side and far back to allow us places to put the snow as the year goes along.  We have packed and moved snow out of the way and must do the same for the half mile feed trail to our cattle.  If we don't keep them really wide at the start, then we would have to load the snow in trucks and haul it away so that we could get through to the cattle.  We use a tractor with a front end loader but some of our friends have really big snowblowers which attach to the front or back of their tractors. 

This our snow removal equipment besides a shovel.  This is a four wheel drive New Holland Tractor.  The attachment on the front is called a front end loader and that it what we use to pack and scoop the snow.  It's hard to tell how high the snowbanks are but the back wheels are over five feet tall. 
 Mt. Werner is the location of more than just a ski area.  Up on the mountain is the Storm Peak Lab, a research and educational facility for the atmospheric sciences.  Among the things they study and teach about is meteorology (the study of weather).  Every year, the United States Meteorological Society (many of the TV weather people belong to this organization) holds its conference in Steamboat Springs in January so they can visit Storm Peak Lab.  At other times of the year they have special classes for 5th and 6th grade students.  To learn more about Storm Peak Lab go to Storm Peak Lab.