Our head ski guide, Mike Braal, caught the skiing bug early in life. He started schussing at about 5 years old up in Western New York state with his father and his older brother. At a young age he somehow knew he would one day live in Colorado. He moved to Clark in 1970 and never looked back. He calls himself a Lucky Guy for that decision. He absolutely loves Clark and the surrounding wilderness with its exceptional powder skiing, camping, wildlife, river rafting, and great community of friends.
When he is not leading Nordic ski tours around the ranch, or in the Routt National Forest, Mike can be found in Alaska, the Captain at the helm of his own whale watching charter boat. He says that "during a 1980 trip to Hawaii he swam with a mother and calf Humpback whale and the love affair with whales began." So in 1984 he went off to Southeast Alaska to paddle kayaks with the Humpbacks and lead other wilderness adventures. Since then he has guided river and hiking trips in the Brooks Range and the ANWR, spent time in the commercial fishing business and now owns his own nature charter boat and business. So when you are finished skiing, and are thinking of chartering a nature and whale watching tour in Alaska, check out his website and book a summer trip with Mike: www.whalebaycharters.com
The Lucky Guy Summers in Alaska and winters in Clark. This is his 12th season ski guiding at the Home Ranch and each year has been great. He says he "could not ask for more! It's a really fun bunch to work with, and interesting guests make it a pleasure to get out and explore the Colorado winter.
Mark is a native Coloradan, though he learned to ski in Switzerland. Mark, and his wife and ski partner Leslie, live in a straw bale house just North of the Home Ranch in Columbine. Mark skis the Courier Des Bois race each spring, and though Mark excels at all forms of cross-country skiing—classic, skate, and telemark, he prefers to ski the backcountry and enjoy the quiet.
Kelly grew up here, in the Elk River Valley- just across the road from the Home Ranch and has worked for his dad, Doug, at the Sand Mountain Cattle Company all his life. Kelly will be finishing his degree this spring from Regis University.
In addition to working with horses all his life Kelly has also skied. When he was younger he raced Nordic combined, and now frequently takes guests out skiing when he is not pulling the team or taking out a ride. Kelly has a gentle hand, a kind spirit, and is a wonderful asset to our ski program as well as our barn.
Leslie has been skiing since the age of 11, when she lived in Europe with her family. She has lived and taught skiing in Switzerland and Steamboat Springs, starting in 1973. Leslie is the director of the Friends of the Routt Backcountry, which has worked locally since 1998 to create and preserve quality, non-motorized use of prime winter areas on public lands.
Leslie has also been the massage therapist at the Home Ranch since 1991 and is enjoying the opportunity as ski guide to get to know the Home Ranch visitors in a different environment.