This blog is written by a recent yurt customer in Colorado.
A few years ago I purchased some wilderness land in Northwest Colorado, primarily as an investment. I’m a city boy, having been raised in Chicago and never exposed to camping or rugged outdoor adventures. I was surprised to find how attracted I became to the wilderness.
To sate my appetite for my new found love of being in the woods, (hiking and tracking elk herds and deer, discovering grouse leks and the serenity of dense Aspen groves and majestic stands of Douglas Fir), I bought a wall tent. Then two wall tents, then a cook fly, then camping trailers. Well, you get it, I was hooked.
While we ended up with a very adequate hunting camp, I wanted to upgrade so I could easily live and entertain in complete comfort while still respecting the natural beauty and serenity of the land. The obvious choice to me was a rustic but somewhat plush cabin or even a multi-room house.
Factoring in solar power, water, septic systems, lumber, and so many other things, I couldn’t justify putting that much money into my passion. Then, a wise friend suggested the idea of yurts. As they say, “The rest is history”.
While my ignorance was complete, I started investigating on-line and quickly realized that Colorado Yurt Company was by far my manufacturer of choice. My land is high altitude and gets heavy, consistent snows, so I needed a very strong yurt. The Winter Stout Alpine Yurt completely fit the bill. A visit to Colorado Yurt Company headquarters in Montrose, Colorado confirmed my decision.
By working together with Colorado Yurt Company and my family, our plans evolved to joining two thirty foot Winter Stout Yurts- allowing for large kitchen, bath, mud and laundry, plus a private master bedroom along with a charming bunk area.
Colorado Yurt Company designed the connection between the yurts, helped us pitch them, and they have been helpful throughout the process.
Sure, we ended up with an attractive, economical, fully functional and well-engineered structure, but the real reward is the almost indescribable charm and literal joy of what I call the “Yurt experience”. For my money, Yurts are the perfect way to enjoy living in exotic places.
“Oh, it’s you again.”
When my friend Daniel says this to me, it’s always accompanied by a huge smile. Sometimes he also calls me “Grandma”, Daniel’s idea of a friendly insult. Then, he’ll ask when I’m going to come watch him bowl.
Robbie tells me how he’s going to start playing basketball on the Special Olympics team, if his knee feels better. But first, he is wrestling, and he shows off the vinyl and plastic version of a championship wrestling belt he has over his shoulder.
These guys are my muscles.
When I am unloading boxes of catalogs, I ask “Can I get some muscles?” The boxes are pretty heavy, and I need assistance getting them into the workshop. Daniel and Robbie are right there to lift them out of my car.
The workshop is the Day Program (Silver Mountain Enterprises), a program of Community Options. Over the years, Silver Mountain’s workshop has done work ranging from sorting feathers for a fly fishing company to cutting shapes for a craft company. The program also places people at different businesses in the community, such as restaurants and retailers for competitive employment.
Colorado Yurt Company began working with the developmentally-disabled adults at Silver Mountain Enterprises over 20 years ago.
Our first employee from Community Options was Joann. When the shop was in Ridgway, she rode the Greyhound bus from Montrose every day to work at our company. Then her family moved to Denver. A few years later, she saw Dan and Emma at an event with six big tipis. Joann was so excited, she actually spoke for the first time in years.
These days we send out catalogs and price lists every two weeks or so, and we need them to be collated and put into mailing envelopes. As our demand for catalogs grew beyond what our office staff could handle, we hired Silver Mountain Enterprises to help us out.
For Colorado Yurt Company, it’s been such a great fit. The work is always well done and on time. They deliver the completed envelopes to us, or sometimes they stop by our office for supplies. We appreciate all they do, and we are contributing to their goals.
The muscles are just a bonus.
Over the years, our local customers come back time and again for our quality Colorado-made structures. Whether it’s a campground, resort or ski area- our neighbors have come to rely on their “home state” yurt, tipi and tent company- just like customers all over the world.
The past few years, one of our best neighbors has been YMCA of the Rockies Snow Mountain Ranch in Granby. Colorado Yurt Company crew makes the yurts for the Y in the spring. Then we load our trucks and trailers, drive over to Granby and a skilled group stays around for a few days to pitch them on site. It’s an assignment that is highly sought after for our crew- a week away from their usual routine in the beautiful springtime weather in the Rockies. If it didn’t involve long days and hard work, some people would call that a vacation.
In 2009, the Y decided to start their yurt village. They developed a master plan to install yurts for guests who wanted a camping type experience, with more comfort than traditional tent camping. Snow Mountain Ranch selected a hilltop site, overlooking the valley, with a view of the Front Range Mountains to the east. Twenty-four yurts are in the master plan- two villages of twelve yurts each. With the addition of the five new yurts we installed this spring, the first village is complete! Snow Mountain’s yurts have been donated by generous families, and completing the second village depends on finding more interested families.
Snow Mountain Ranch has seen a great response to the yurts. Occupancy in the summer is nearly 100%, and they have reservations for months in advance. Guests have left guest book comments about their yurt stays, such as:
- “We liked seeing the stars at night through the skylight! We would definitely stay again!”
- “We enjoyed staying in our yurt as much as we enjoyed saying the word”
- “We were very impressed with the yurt. It was great for the six of us.”
- “Thank you so much for this unique opportunity- I may actually want to put a yurt on my property now! Beautiful!”
Ranch guests aren’t the only ones impressed with Snow Mountain yurts. The press has been intrigued enough to feature them in several articles. The Denver Post featured the yurt village in a 2012 article, and they’ve been mentioned in Outside Magazine and Barrier Free Travels:
It’s been a neighborly relationship for both Colorado Yurt Company and Snow Mountain Ranch. We send some of our potential customers to Snow Mountain to see the yurts via our webpage and personal referral, and some become repeat guests of the yurt village. The Y has been a champion of our company with their site and customer referrals. It’s a relationship built to last. We’ll keep working together toward the completion of the two yurt villages at YMCA Snow Mountain Ranch in future years.
Welcome to our yurt!
“Fish weren’t meant to live in a box kid, it does things to ya.” -Gill, in “Finding Nemo”
A few years ago, I began to sense that I wanted to explore what it would be like to live with my family in the round. After exploring many possibilities, we decided that adapting a yurt to our needs would be the simplest, most expedient, and graceful solution to our situation.
So we approached Dan Kigar of Colorado Yurt Company with some pretty radical ideas: I wanted to put the whole structure on stem walls so we would have enough room for a functioning upstairs; I wanted to insulate it with sheep’s wool insulation, and I wanted to attach a functional ‘mudroom’ entryway.
Dan was incredibly helpful and gracious to work with, supportive of my ideas and helpful with the design and layout of the whole thing. Between the two of us, we designed a fairly elaborate and nicely functioning structure. Palatial, maybe even…
So, welcome to our yurt: it has four foot straw bale stem walls, a poured adobe floor, earthen plasters throughout, a loft with over six feet of head room, sheep’s wool insulation, (it’s warm!) fully functioning glass windows, in-floor heat, a kitchen, a bathroom, and a lamp post to boot.
We’ve been in it a year now, and we all love it deeply, it’s warm, lofty (it has an 18 ft. peak!) and gorgeous to live in. We’re so grateful to both Dan and Emma as well as the whole crew at Colorado Yurt Company for making it a reality!
To read more about the yurt, and see photos of the building process: http://southwestadobeyurt.blogspot.com/
Three years ago, an artist friend built a tipi with her father. After a blissful summer of living in the tipi, Sarah needed a more long term home for it. I had smudged the tipi and did an ad-hoc pipe ceremony, so she knew where to move it. On a warm December night, I suddenly had a tipi in my back yard. I fell in love.
Not a drop of Indian blood runs through my veins, but it runs through my heart. I live in Massachusetts where wigwams were the local tribes’ abode. While a wigwam is very cozy, it just isn’t the same as a tipi.
By early spring of this year, Sarah’s tipi was moldy and saggy, and we could no longer have a fire inside. The cover came down, and I looked longingly at the naked poles for a few months. Then I said to my husband, Dave, “We need to get our own tipi”.
In April, we started tagging trees to cut on our 2 acres and on our neighbor’s property. We are in our fifties, and we cut 17 trees together! I’d like to say I helped strip the poles, but my incredible husband did it all. Our poles are trees of northeastern Mass.– green ash, shagbark hickory and two maples. They are not as straight as lodgepole pine, but they are beautiful.
In June, we were ready to order our cover. Ivy at Colorado Yurt was indispensable in helping us make decisions. When the cover arrived in July, it was like a huge present waiting to be opened. I like to wait as long as possible to open presents, savoring the anticipation, so we didn’t take the cover out of its bag for 3 weeks.
On a warm day in August, we opened the big canvas bag and unfolded the tipi cover slowly over our green lawn. The canvas was stunning. Beautifully stitched, everything reinforced, nylon backing, lacing pins, ropes, stakes and of course the door!
Then, it was time to paint! The river was my daughter’s idea, since we live near the Ipswich River. The rolling green hills are representative of our part of the country. My sister designed the red tailed hawks for me, and we spent many happy hours painting them together. The yellow star at the top is for our son who is serving in Afghanistan. The design was ready, so we spread the canvas on the lawn and painted. Mother Nature had other plans……. she rained on the paint!!!
After mopping up wet paint, I emailed Ivy at Colorado Yurt. She said, “Just go with it”- so we did. Now we have a rainy, tied-dyed river on our tipi, and we love it. We moved the canvas inside the garage and painted for two more weeks.
My mother, step-father and daughter all helped pitch the tipi. I am overflowing with the love my family showed making this happen for me.
Thank you Colorado Yurt and Earthworks Tipis.
When people start to think about yurts, they usually go through several stages of yurt-exploration. Starting with “Those are so cool!” and ending up with “Where should I buy my yurt?” For many, they compare yurts based on price, without looking at what they actually get for the money.
First, let’s get it out there, Colorado Yurt Company yurts are not the least expensive yurts available. We pride ourselves on engineering, quality materials, customer satisfaction and our nearly 40 year reputation. We want to make a yurt that goes together perfectly and lasts our customer a really long time. Our prices are competitive, and we strive to make them the best value.
There are two basic distinctions in yurt makers- the engineered yurt and the yurt without engineering. The difference is the ability to meet building codes and give snow and wind load ratings on the yurt. Our yurts are the best engineered yurts you can buy. We give you snowloads up to 150 psf of unbalanced load– no one else even comes close. Our wind ratings are equally as impressive. So, when you go to sleep at night in your Colorado Yurt, you won’t wake up wondering if that snow on the roof is going to end up on your feet.
Beyond engineering, when you look at yurts, the comparison is not really like apples to oranges. It’s more like comparing those tiny apples in the red net bag to the fresh, big, yummy apples straight from the orchard. In other words, we give you a quality yurt – the best quality yurt, in fact.
We throw in lots of extras at no charge. Things like: a single wall height that eliminates the cost of a tall-wall upgrade, three windows standard in every yurt, handicapped accessible doors on every yurt, heavy duty zippers with covers on each window, all window flaps convert to awnings, our standard door includes a window, a rain diverter over every door, our exclusive wall to roof lacing system, smooth sanded rafters to prevent wear and tear on fabric, lattice to floor “L” bracket at every other crown instead of every fifth and many more.
We are experienced with shipping all over the world- and our customer service and customer satisfaction is second to none. Our company’s reputation is everything. We don’t want to be known as the cheapest yurt maker. We strive every day to be known as the best yurt maker.
We recently had a very positive experience with reality television. No, we weren’t featured on Swamp People or Jersey Shore. A little classier programming for us- HGTV’s Design Star, in fact.
In the spring, we were approached by the producers of Design Star. They wanted to use yurts as the challenge format for their final three interior designers. We were intrigued- and thought it was a great opportunity to show a significant number of people our yurts.
Originally, the production company was going to buy the yurts. However, as we’ve seen in the past, the structures are often warehoused or discarded after the shoot is over. We thought that was a terrible waste of yurts. So, we arranged to “rent” the yurts to them. After the shoot, we brought them back to our shop and sold them at a discount (remember the “gently used yurt sale”?). This way- we were able to guarantee the yurts would be enjoyed for years to come.
Clint, Jon, Anna and Ricardo spent a couple of dreary rainy days in L.A. setting up the three yurts for the show. (Yes, we heard it never rains in Southern California- not true apparently). The skies cleared for the actual filming with the designers, and they did a pretty awesome job with the challenge- which was to create a luxury bedroom in a yurt.
We were excited to hear one designer say our company name on camera- and the film crew got a great close up of our logo. That night, after the episode first aired, our website lit up! A ton of people were intrigued by the yurts, and visited our site to learn more. We saw increased activity on the facebook page, and our phone has been ringing too.
So, we don’t think we’re ready to start appearing on Big Brother or Survivor- but we are really pleased with our brief foray into reality TV. Design Star did an exceptional job showcasing our yurts, we saw some creative solutions to the challenge and we had a blast with the whole experience.
Did you watch the show? You can watch it again this Saturday, July 24 at 8:00pm Eastern time. Or- here’s a link to the HGTV website- where you can see the episode online: http://www.hgtv.com/hgtv-design-star/show/index.html
Colorado Yurt Company definitely qualifies as a small business. We have one location in Montrose, Colorado. We are family owned by Dan and Emma Kigar, who founded the company in 1976. Colorado Yurt Company employs about 30 people in four different departments: office, wood shop, tipis/tents and yurt fabric shop. We each have our job to do, and we all take pride in our work. We have employees who have been with the company for over 20 years, and have couples where both husband and wife work for us (and sometimes their kids too).
In a world where so many things are made in far away places and shipped across the world to a big box store, we are proud to make everything right here in western Colorado. In a world where you are much more likely to get a recording asking you to “press 1 for sales”, we are proud to answer each call with a real, live, friendly person and exceptional service.
We hand craft and inspect every yurt, tipi and tent in our shop. Each structure is custom made to your specifications. We place the windows, choose the fabric, paint the canvas, locate the stove pipe outlet… all according to what the customer wants. Our skilled craftspeople take pride in each stitch, wood joint, phone call and shipping crate. Our sales people get to know many of our customers’ stories and take a personal interest.
Despite our diminutive size, we work on large scale projects. We’ve delivered large yurt orders for state parks, resorts and campgrounds around the world. We recently shipped a substantial order of uniquely-designed yurts to a new project in Greece, produced 100 tipis and 200 tents within a five week period for the Coachella Music Festival in California, and we are currently working on several other major jobs.
We’ve achieved what we feel is the perfect balance. By utilizing some cutting edge production management techniques, while staying small and flexible, we are able to meet the needs of each customer. Whether it’s a resort that needs 30 yurts or a family that wants a small tipi for the kids, we will deliver just what the customer orders. We do it on time, professionally and with the best product quality and customer service in the industry.
Are you close to retirement? Is your house taking too much time and money? Maybe you should consider retiring in a yurt! Retirement yurts are a growing part of our business, and many customers tell us they love retirement living in their yurt.
Families are living with several generations under one roof for economic reasons or to keep a closer eye on a parent who needs more help. Perhaps a yurt is the way to make it work. Andrew Birden put a yurt in his yard for his mother-in-law. The local paper was intrigued enough to do a story about it.
How about the teenagers? Their music is too loud, they stay up too late and they think they need privacy. A customer in New Zealand had the perfect solution- a teenager yurt!
Dreaming of a mountain cabin? Joe Holmes, a designer and photographer in Denver, has a yurt at 11,800 feet elevation that he used a lot this past winter. He says, “I am looking forward to summer and many more years at ‘High Yurtitude’ with friends and family watching and photographing wildlife and exploring the forest around my yurt.”
Australian, Astrid McCormick bought a 16′ yurt to stay in while building her organic garlic farm. Now, they visit the yurt 3-4 days a week and love it. She says, “Living in the round, we feel safe and sound.”
Colorado Yurts are used as a restaurant and overnight rentals at Tennessee Pass Cookhouse and Sleep Yurts near Leadville, CO. One review on Yelp raves, “Tennessee Pass Cookhouse is legit, people. We had the absolute best time here. I mean, it’s a yurt. On top of a mountain. How many times will you have THAT experience in your lifetime?”
We’ve seen customers use Colorado Yurts as yoga studios for many years. Krista Zember has BE Yoga Yurt in Virginia, where she teaches yoga to special needs kids and other groups. Her clients love the yurt!
We use a 20′ yurt as an office here at Colorado Yurt Company. Nearby in Durango, Bill Graham of Ska Brewing Company has his home office in a Colorado Yurt. Bill says, “We couldn’t be more pleased with the decision to add a yurt to our house, rather than building on. It was inexpensive, works great, looks cool and we love it.” We like having a friend in the beer business- especially because Ska Beer is excellent!
Yurts are versatile, low-impact, affordable solutions to many needs. How will you use your yurt?
Ahhhh, the romance and beauty of the perfect indigenous structure… a tipi. You can imagine staying overnight, camping for a week and maybe doing a meditation workshop in a tipi. But, can you actually live in a tipi?
This question is the essence of our company– our genesis in fact.
Earthworks Tipis started in 1976, when Dan and Emma Kigar decided to live in a tipi of their own creation. Something about their simple lifestyle resonated—soon their friends and mountain neighbors were asking Dan and Emma to make them a tipi of their own. The Kigars lived in their lodge for four years in Colorado and a couple of years in a cozy spot near Ann Arbor, Michigan while finishing college. They learned to make their lodge a comfortable and cozy home. At times, they used an open fire to heat and cook; other times they used a wood stove. They learned how to adjust the smoke flaps to let in the breeze and keep out the rain and snow. In time, they even brought a baby boy into the world.
So, what is the reality of living in a tipi? First, you should not expect it to be like living in a house. The elements are right on the other side of a canvas wall. The wonderful parts of that are the sounds, smells and feel of nature every day.
In the summer, you can roll up the side walls to catch a breeze for cooling. You will burn wood or have some other type of heat source in the winter. Whether you have a firepit, a woodstove, or gas heat you’ll want a liner. Not only does it create a draft for the smoke to travel up and out the top, but it creates insulation and privacy and finishes the interior. With a liner, you can also have an ozan or extended ozan… which brings us to rain.
The sound of rain on the canvas is a soothing, calming way to relax inside your tipi. But, there’s the hole up at the top (where the poles cross and the canvas wraps around). Yes. Rain can come in that hole. Usually, the water will travel down the poles and out behind the liner. Or, it will drip into the center of the lodge. To protect the bedding area from rain, we recommend the ozan or extended ozan. It’s a fabric canopy that hangs in the tipi- diverting rain off of the living area to behind the liner. It also helps hold in heat.
We have customers who are living in tipis. A family in Idaho lost their home a few years ago. Since they had some land, they decided to shelter themselves with a 26’ Earthworks tipi. They say, “We got it up within 2 hours of that winter’s first blizzard and moved in on January 3 almost two years ago. Thank you for making us a strong and beautiful tipi that has withstood all weather and has kept our little family protected.”
In Maine, another family has a home- but chooses to sleep every night in their tipis. They enjoy the sounds of the woods around them, the feel of the breeze through the tipi and snuggling under the blankets to stay warm in the winter (-25 degrees one night). Their commitment to tipi sleeping is something they feel very strongly about. They recommend it highly, saying, “Ever feel stress? You need a tepee. That’s what’s missing in your life.”