Knapp Ranch revives old ways near Vail

Bud and Betsy Knapp built their ranch to last 100 years in the Sawatch Mountain Range of Colorado.

Todd Winslow Pierce

West of Vail in the Sawatch Mountain Range, the snow-melt waters of West Lake Creek flow beneath 12,550-foot-high New York Mountain and No Name Mountain. Here in the West Lake Creek Valley, two highly accomplished, bicoastal publishing professionals, Bud and Betsy Knapp, wrote that they had found a place better than any other place they had lived, one that “reminds us to think of our mortality and respect for nature.”

In an interview with Colorado Life, Bud Knapp, who founded Architectural Digest and Bon Appétit magazines with Betsy, spoke more plainly: “You get cocky in business, but when you come to the mountains, the cockiness disappears. Your monumental ego becomes minute.”

Betsy Knapp died in 2017, a year before the September 2018 release of Living Beneath the Colorado Peaks: The Story of Knapp Ranch, the couple’s self-published coffee-table book on the ranch and valley. The book is dedicated to Betsy’s memory.

The book devotes page upon page of photography and text that catalog what shook up the couple’s pride after they arrived from Los Angeles in 2013: Aspen trunks bearing “arborglyphs,” the claw marks of black bears; cedar waxwings busily gathering material from the dry, south-facing slopes; mountain bluebirds nesting in fence posts; the Clark’s nutcracker giving a raucous call; Great blue heron wading along the once-seasonal and now permanent ranch lake’s shallow shoreline; Red-tailed hawks circling above; and bald and golden eagles taking nature’s stage in the treetops.

For the rest of the story see the September/October 2019 issue of Colorado Life.

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