By Jennifer Pund
After decades of being closed to the public, the new owners of the recently renovated and renamed Peaceful Valley Resort and Conference Center are excited to open the doors to everyone. Dan and Dianne Brauer together with their daughter, Amanda, and her husband, Ben Archibald, have brought their strengths and talents together to manage and run the popular resort. The family is open to hosting any variety of local events, groups and gatherings, and hope to cater to walk-ins in the near future. See some of the upgrades at their Superbowl Party, Feb. 7, or enjoy a romantic getaway—complete with a five-course gourmet dinner with wine parings—Valentines Day weekend.
“This [property] basically has not been open to the public for many years, we are finding out. It has been really harsh the way it’s been closed off, so we want to change that feeling,” Amanda said. “We are just excited to show people this great place. We really love the community. We want to meet you. Come up, stay, hang out with us.”
Historically, the property was run as an all-inclusive ranch with most of the solicitations coming from outside Colorado. “We are much more interested in bringing in the community and having them be involved with us,” Dianne said.
Located on The Scenic and Historic Peak to Peak Byway, Peaceful Valley is a well-known and highly-regarded guest ranch and conference center complete with several lodging options, indoor pool, horse facilities, wedding chapel, multiple outdoor wedding locations, in-house catering, on-site photography and more. With close proximity to the metro area, Estes Park, Rocky Mountain National Park, Eldora Mountain Resort and the Nederland area, the 236-acre ranch is easy to reach, while being surrounded by the Roosevelt National Forest and Indian Peak Wilderness Area. It offers outstanding hiking, horseback riding and snowshoeing with spectacular views of the Continental Divide.
The family has taken their time adjusting to the day-to-day operations of the business and have spent time cleaning and upgrading the facilities. “This first year we have concentrated on just cleaning and bringing up the quality of stay for our customers,” Dianne explained. “We have really revamped the food and we’ve been working with the county to bring everything up to code. We are doing all these things so our customers will have a clean, well-fed experience.”
Peaceful Valley Ranch was founded by Austrian native Karl Riehle after a career with the Army’s 10th Mountain Division. When he purchased the mountain ranch, Riehle’s post-World War II dream—like other well-known veterans of the elite “mountain and ski-proficient” troop—was to develop a ski resort. He discovered the snowfall was too little to support a ski hill and soon changed his plans to a guest resort featuring the activities of his childhood including mountain climbing, cross-country skiing, horseback riding, square dancing, good food and drink.
By chance, another 10th Mountain Division veteran, also named Karl [Boehm], stumbled upon the property and after working there for a few years, purchased it from Riehle in the early 1950s. Days after taking over the property, a fire burned all of the buildings to ash. Boehm was determined to stay and rebuilt the ranch from the ground up. In the late ’50s and ’60s, an Allenspark local and well-known square dance caller, helped it become known for square dance-specific camps held in the summer.
In 1988 Richard and Karen Ganns purchased the ranch and developed the land into a year-round dude ranch known for hosting conferences, weddings and large groups. “We wanted to give our kids and grandkids a chance to come to the Rocky Mountains and enjoy all the ranch’s activities,” Karen said. “If you’re going to have a businesses, have one your family can enjoy.”
The Brauer’s had the same idea when they became the new owners in early 2015. They were looking for a place to house their many businesses when Dianne came across the sale notice on the internet. “We found Peaceful Valley by accident… and it had everything we needed. We were expecting to build, especially living cabins,” she explained. “I thought, ‘this is too good to be true.’ It had everything, and a business, so we decided we would jump in and explore all these avenues. We have a lot of skills in this area.”
Amanda spent the last 20 years as a photographer and graphic artist, with the last few years traveling several times a month for work. Her husband, Ben Archibald is a Le Cordon Bleu-trained chef, which rounds out the family’s needs on the property.
Everyone lives and works at Peaceful Valley, along with the Archibald’s two young sons. “I have been a photographer for years and to be here, on the land, and be part of the wedding business is a dream come true, but I am open to supporting businesses around here,” Amanda said. “I was a traveling photographer, so I was a jet-setter-single-mom kind of person, and now I am in the middle of nowhere,” she explained. “I am very interested in creating community events, and get to know people.”
The family recently changed the name to Peaceful Valley Resort and Conference Center. “It’s been called a number of different things through the years, but we changed the name to Resort because we feel we have the amenities to qualify as a resort,” Dianne said. They are still focusing on hosting cooperate events, craft groups and, of course, weddings. “We are just a wonderful wedding venue and have a lot of experience to create weddings.”
Peaceful Valley also hosts business conferences, trainings and seminars using the modern, 150-seat conference center. “The cooperate work is very important to us during the week, so that is really successful, too, but we need folks to reserve up to six months ahead of time. Now we are going to deal with what happens when nobody signed up for this week, what do we do? We are working on that now.”
The family is excited to welcome the area residents on the property, including the pool, by hosting local events and groups. They encourage locals to contact them when planning their next reunion, group gathering or birthday party.
Amanda has a lot of ideas and is excited to help with any event, large or small. “If someone wants to have a book club, dinner club, Zumba class, yoga, art show, theater productions, we are open to it. We have great trails for cross-country skiing, snow shoeing,” she said. “We want it all up here. We just need people to do it, so any event people want to throw, we’d love to be the location and excited to help pull it off.”
Responding to feedback, their heated pool is now open for groups and parties. “People say they want swimming lessons and open pool times. We are working on a pass, but the pool is now open for use, and we give you a towel.” Amanda said.
Archibald has received rave reviews for his cooking from attendees of the Mother’s Day Brunch in May. The new owners are working on renovating the kitchen to accommodate drop-in traffic. “Right now we provide three meals a day for our guests because there are no other places to go, we are it. We are moving toward attracting locals and being more ‘hotel’ oriented, where people can call in and get a room that night.” Dianne said. “But we are not quite ready yet because the kitchen has to be totally revamped to accommodate walk-in clientele.”
See the place for yourself by making reservations for upcoming events like their Superbowl Party on Feb. 7. For $25, watch the game on two large screens, enjoy chili, party food and a cash bar. Plan a romantic weekend getaway for Valentine’s Day weekend, Feb. 13-14. You and special someone will enjoy a five-course dinner with wine pairings and champagne with an overnight stay in a room or cabin, some with hot tubs.
Peaceful Valley’s facilities also allow Dan to continue his consulting business as a civil engineer and house a facility to research water management.
“It also just furthered our dreams concerning helping kids,” Dianne said about their Legacy Project Ranch, a non-profit organization they are developing alongside their Legacy Christian Life ministry. “[Legacy Project Ranch] helps anyone, mainly teens and emancipated teens, get started in life,” she explained. “We help anyone that needs help; maybe with more education or just a direction of what to do next. We have a lot of skills in developing businesses and helping people develop their businesses. And, we have a wonderful chapel that came with the property, so we are excited about expanding [Legacy Christian Life].”
Peaceful Valley Resort and Conference Center is located at 475 Peaceful Valley Road. Visit peacefulvalley.com for more information or call 800-955-6343 or e-mail email@example.com to make group reservations or plan an unforgettable event.
Originally published in the January 2016 issue of the MMAC Monthly