Vista Verde Ranch Luxury Resort Ranch in Steamboat Springs, Colorado Thu, 19 Apr 2018 19:49:36 +0000 en hourly 1 Dude Ranch Life: Off-Season Shenanigans Wed, 18 Apr 2018 17:10:20 +0000 It’s that time of year when the ranch is pretty empty, and much of our crew is off exploring the world, visiting family, and taking some time to recharge. It’s always fun to take a look at where folks have scattered to while we are closed down, waiting for the snow to melt and the mud to dry out.

You know that Johnny Cash song, “I’ve Been Everywhere?” Start humming that song in your head, and here we go:

Ethan is visiting family and checking out colleges in Boston, MA, Chol just got back from Boise, ID where he was a celebrity chef at a field to table fundraising dinner for Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, Shannon, Hailey, and Rachel are backpacking around Slovenia, Italy, and England, Miller is in South and North Carolina visiting family and spending most of his time, guess what? Fishing! Mackenzie and Natalie are hiking and touring through Iceland and Norway, Maritza and Melody took a huge road trip all around the USA on their way back to PA, Morgan and his family are road-tripping and he’ll be seeing Missouri, Iowa, and then a stop in Florida for some time at Disneyworld, Cat is floating around on a houseboat between UT and AZ on Lake Powell, BYH is Salsa dancing and hanging with his grandma and family in Minneapolis, MN, Hannah is on a sailboat on the Chesapeake Bay, and Terence is figuring out what he is going to do with his life in Philadelphia, PA. As for those of us with a little shorter vacation window Charlie is hanging out sipping coffee and reading the paper, and watching the snow melt, Zach has been fitting in as much fishing as possible, Devyn has some long weekends planed for staycations, Ben and Addie are baby-mooning in CA, Mary is meeting her family for some Disney time, and Ben is trying to get his house finished so they can finally move in before summertime. Phew, and that’s just some of our staff!

You all typically give us a hard time about taking vacation when we live in a place where everyone else comes for their vacation. But, there is something pretty special about getting away to see other sights and be around special people, and then we all come back thankful for where we live and ready to take care of others on their vacations!

The Fly: Spring Fly Fishing in Northwest Colorado Thu, 12 Apr 2018 16:12:06 +0000 “Miller! Miller! I need a hand with this one,” I yelled. My rod was doubled over. I knew I had the fish hooked on a size 12 San Juan worm, a good sized hook. Still its funny how a large fish in fast water tends to make you question the strength of your line or how well you tied your knots. Better play this one safe. I started following the brute downstream. I could feel the fish shaking his head to get the fly out. He ran for a submerged bush across the river. I put tension sideways to pull him away. Just then, Miller came busting through the willows. “Whatchya got man?” he asked. “Not sure yet, I think a big rainbow” I replied. All of a sudden all 18” of brilliantly colored red and olive fury went airborne and gave us the middle fin as he spit the hook. I saw him splash down and felt my line go slack. I picked my jaw up off the ground and looked at Miller… whhhaaat? As I reeled my line up, Miller said something along the lines of “Sorry bud, you’ll get the next one”.

I looked out across the lush, green meadow. A cool breeze blew by my face. In the background stood magnificent Hahn’s peak, still tipped in white snow. Birds chirped as they searched the moist ground for insects and worms; the fresh smell of spring filled my lungs as the warm sun brought everything to life. Zach, Miller, and myself had been planning and tying flies for this all week, well, actually; we had been talking about these conditions all winter. When the smaller no name creeks come back to life all the townies mope and drink beer while the bigger rivers are blown out from snow melt. For us however, this is as good as it gets. The murky water hides large, hungry trout ready to eat anything that looks remotely like food. Getting them to eat is one thing, landing them is another story. Despite missing the big one I couldn’t be mad. It’s all part of the experience.

Spring is one of my favorite times to fish in Colorado. Maybe because I’ve spent the entire winter going slowly crazy as the rivers are iced over but I want to believe it’s for other reasons as well. Spring can offer a diversity of fishing experiences. In addition to the unique smaller creek fishing, this time of year can be some of the best stillwater fishing. After the ice melts on the lake, fish move towards the shallows to feed. Typically a roll cast of no more than 15’ is required and the fish are willing to try any type of fly that comes their way. Add in some vibrant post spawning colors and you’d be hard pressed to have a bad time. Spring stillwater lake fishing is a great opportunity for beginning anglers who want to experience some success without the challenges of fishing moving water. Whether you are a total novice who wants to learn the ropes or an advanced angler who has fished all over the globe, spring offers something for everyone.

Chef’s Corner: Gluten Free Chocolate Crinkle Cookies Thu, 05 Apr 2018 20:46:55 +0000 As the last days of the season wound down, these cookies were particularly tempting. I had stayed away from the cookies most of the season, but there is just something about knowing they won’t be there much longer to tempt that creates a sense of urgency. Nonetheless, when I finally buckled and went to get one, they were all gone. Karma.

1/2 C. Vegetable Oil
2 C. Granulated Sugar
2 tsp. Vanilla
3/4 C. Cocoa Powder – I use a very dark, 22% fat cocoa powder
4 Eggs
2 T. Half and Half (or coconut milk, almond milk, etc.)
2 1/2 C. Superfine Rice Flour
2 tsp. Baking Powder
1/2 tsp. Salt
1/2 tsp. Guar or Xanthan Gum
Powdered Sugar, reserved

*This dough is prepared one day ahead and refrigerated. Don’t skip this step.
When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and either lightly grease a cookie sheet or line with parchment paper.
Combine all of the ingredients, except the eggs and the powdered sugar, and mix with an electric mixer until crumbly.
Add all four eggs and mix until fully incorporated. The dough will be very, very sticky.
After being in the fridge overnight, roll the dough into evenly sized balls and coat in the reserved powdered sugar. Space each ball of cookie dough evenly on the prepared cookie sheet and bake in a preheated oven for 10-12 minutes. Do not over bake.

Dude Ranch Life: Big plans and exciting changes for 2018! Sun, 01 Apr 2018 12:52:25 +0000 The last couple weeks we have spent some time surveying many of our return guests about what direction they would like to see us go with the ranch in the coming years. There were some big ideas, and crazy ideas, and just out-of-the-box ideas that we floated their way to get a sense of whether we are on the right course, or not. Through this process we have learned that although everyone has a different opinion there were definitely some trends that we noticed. Based on those trends there are some new plans that we’re excited to implement starting this summer.

There was a strong consensus to continue investing in keeping up on the quality of the accommodations. Following the many suggestions along those lines, and assessing how we can best accomplish this task we are proud to announce that we will be remodeling all the cabins throughout the coming summer months. As you can imagine, there is a limited window of opportunity given the amount of snow we get each winter, so we have to take advantage of the good summer weather for construction. We are sure that our guests will enjoy the open air feel of their cabins as we replace windows, and we have even devised a plan where Bill will build new furniture right in the cabins so the guests can enjoy watching him in his artistic zone and learn more about the art of woodworking, all while they are getting ready for the day or relaxing with a good book in the afternoon. We are recommending that guests bring slippers with them, as when we are replacing flooring, they might prefer the protection from the nails and splinters. Porta potties will be placed near each cabin for our guests’ convenience during the bathroom remodel phase, and we will allow a one time variance to the “please don’t shower your children by putting them in the hot tub” rule for this summer only. This is an exciting undertaking, and we are looking forward to having all the remodels finished by next winter!

Another strong recommendation we received was that although improved bandwidth is helpful for those who need to work while on vacation, most of our guests really like the lack of connectivity and the resulting connection they find with their family. Since so many people enjoy this, we have decided to collect cell phones, iPads, and laptops at check in. Now, for those who just have to work, with an advance note from their boss, we will release their devices during limited hours. Please do know that these notes need to be notarized and on company letterhead. And, if you would like to post anything on social media, as long as you use the hashtag #vistaverderanch and have a following of at least 1,000 people, Devyn will temporarily allow you access to your device.

Lastly, we have tweaked our kids program based on the feedback we received from our guests. Apparently everyone is frustrated that kids don’t have discipline anymore these days, so we are going to take things into our own hands and help shape the next generation. It may take a village to raise a child, but it takes a ranch to shift their paradigm. Fire engine rides with ice cream and horseback riding to pan for gold will be awarded only to the kids who can show that they can make a proper hospital corner on their beds each morning, polish their silverware prior to breakfast, clean the grease trap in the kitchen, scoop out the cow pen, and massage the guides feet after long hikes. It’s really going to be an amazing program, and Mandy is already lining up the schedule to include a 6am wake-up to feed the chickens and clean the coop.

You can imagine how excited we are to get the ball rolling on moving forward on our plans! Of course, we may have to wait until after April Fool’s Day to do our final review and rubber stamp these ideas…..or not?


Vacation Idea – March 2018 Fri, 23 Mar 2018 03:13:31 +0000 If you’re looking for an adventure vacation, look no further than this article from Vacation Idea about 25 Perfect Adventure Vacations. Vista Verde was included as their pick for a Western dude ranch vacation. We got a chuckle from the photo used for the ranch–there’s a chance it’s changed since I posted this, but take a look and see if you can figure out what’s funny about the photo (not from VVR). Read the article….

Flightnetwork – March 2018 Tue, 20 Mar 2018 15:53:54 +0000 We’ve seen an uptick in guests coming from Canada for a Colorado vacation the past two years. So, this article in Flightnetwork, the largest Canadian-based online travel company, was pretty timely. Whether you are traveling from Canada or not, this article makes the idea of a Colorado vacation pretty enticing! And, they even include a shout out to stay at a top-quality dude ranch while you’re in Colorado. Oh look, it’s Vista Verde they suggest! Read the article…..

Dude Ranch Life: Safety First Thu, 15 Mar 2018 13:35:18 +0000 This winter has been the winter of safety training. More specifically avalanche safety training. It really is more of opportunities for training arising than anything, but it has led to a lot of interesting conversations around the dinner table (ok, breakfast and lunch too as we do take gathering to eat seriously here). The course opportunities started in January when Devyn took an avalanche safety class from the local community college, which has an outstanding outdoor education component. Following that, Ben (guide) and Michael headed off to Estes Park for a level 1 course with the American Institute of Avalanche Research and Education. Both discovered in that course that they did know a lot more than they gave themselves credit for prior to the course, but the hands on, backcountry classroom experience was the most valuable portion of the course. Just days later, Charlie had the opportunity to join some local park rangers for a Level 1 class for snowmobile riders with Tyler’s Backcountry Awareness.

We have always taken safety as a high priority, as we carry a lot of responsibility every time we take our guests out into the backcountry–whether on foot, horseback, skis, bikes, or snowmobiles. And, winter weather adds a whole new element of safety issues into that equation. It’s really nice to be armed with this knowledge and experience to continue to work towards providing all of you compelling experiences that are also safe experiences! It’s truly a line we walk every single time we take guests out, and we’re thankful to have so many amazing pro-guides to help steer the course of those daily decisions.


So, you fish for flies? Fri, 09 Mar 2018 22:45:14 +0000 We have a new guest blogger! Isaac Ness, who runs our fly fishing program has agreed to pick up the reins of the category of our blog dedicated to anglers. I say dedicated, but it’s been a bit quiet for a while, so we’re excited to start getting some fly fishing content up again. For those of you who have been to the ranch in the past several years, you know Isaac is a bit single minded and has the ability to turn every conversation to revolve around fishing. I guess that means he’s in the correct role here at the ranch. With no further ado, I give you Isaac’s intro to fly fishing….more to come soon with tidbits for the novice angler to those who dream of big trout!

So you think you want to try fly fishing? That’s that thing from “A River Runs Through It” right? Sure, we’ve all seen the movie but what really is fly fishing? What makes it different from fishing with a “normal” (conventional) fishing rod? Honestly, probably not as much as you think. I’ve heard the definition of fishing as a jerk on one end waiting for a jerk on the other. This definitely applies to fly fishing as well as conventional fishing. What really sets it apart is the type of line and the lures or flies used.

When you break it down, line is the biggest difference. With a conventional rod, the lure or bait on the end has weight to it. When it’s casted, that weight pulls the nearly weightless line off the reel. This is a great way to be able to whip your lure nearly half way across the lake. The down side is that we need a lure that has enough weight to pull our line off, meaning that when it lands there’s going to be a splash like a fat kid cannonballing off a diving board. We might not get too many bites after that. It also means we can’t cast anything that’s small or light enough to float on the surface.

With fly fishing, we’re generally trying to imitate the food trout eat. Which often is bugs so small you must squint with your reading glasses on to see them at all. Realistic imitations of these bugs would be hard to throw on a conventional rod because they wouldn’t have enough weight to pull out your line. Fly fishing solves this problem by using a weighted line that pulls your weightless lure or fly out to where the fish are. This system accounts for the different cast you saw brad pit doing in “A River Runs Through It” where the line goes back and forth through the air like he’s Harry Potter trying to cast a spell. While this method doesn’t get our flies or lures out quite as far, it results in a more delicate presentation and more accurate cast (once the technique is mastered). But where does the “fly” part come in?

The other part to this story, and one of the hallmarks of fly fishing, is the use of artificial lures called flies. The name comes from traditional anglers imitating an insect called a mayfly that lives in and around streams. Today flies can be any artificial imitation of a fish’s diet that is tied with thread onto a hook. Most of them are imitations of various bugs that trout eat, but they could represent anything. I’ve even seen a fly tied like a cigarette butt. The fish that take that bait obviously haven’t read the surgeon general’s warnings! Some people have even tied flies that don’t end up looking like anything besides a hunk of fur on a hook despite their best efforts (we all have a few flies that match that description). One key feature to all flies is that they’re light enough to be cast by our weighted line. Because flies are so light they can be presented very delicately and quietly to fish. The down side to a lighter fly however, is a heck of a time trying to get them to go down deep in the water. Ever try diving with a lifejacket on? Parallels could be drawn. These Factors make fly fishing very effective for targeting shallow water fish.

Ultimately fly fishing is just another way to present your lure to a fish. Lots of people have gotten caught up in this purist mentality that they’re somehow better than the guy throwing a night crawler under a bobber. Everyone must decide for themselves how they want to fish. If you’re trying to catch bottom feeding fish in 200 feet of water, fly fishing may not be for you. If you want to catch a skittish trout in a crystal-clear mountain stream, fly fishing is probably your best chance. But just remember, however we choose to fish, we’re all just a jerk on one end waiting for a jerk on the other.

Dude Ranch Life: Drunk Ponies Tue, 06 Mar 2018 20:11:30 +0000 They were drunk. Or something was going on. Why else would there be horses scattered around the arena with their heads hanging low while they swayed back and forth as if on a boat? Rounding the corner, the mystery was solved. It was dental day at Vista Verde! Dr. Courtney and Dr. Sarah had their power drills going and the horses were sleepy from sedation. What does dental care mean for horses? Typically we try to annually have our horses teeth examined, and floated as needed. What’s that? Here is a little info on what that all means, and why it’s important for equine health care. Our horses are important to us, as just like our staff if we take care of them then they will take good care of you while you’re here on vacation!

It was a assembly line of horses in the indoor arena. Sedation first, then as they got sleepy they were brought into the stalls where the vets were set up. Examine the horse’s mouth, assess their status, float the teeth as needed, turn out into the arena to slowly wake up, get the next horse. Oh, and then there was Zen Ben waiting with gloved hands for the boy horses to have their annual sheath cleaning. Because why not take care of that dirty business while they are a bit knocked out? We’ll leave those details for you to explore on your own. Not the most fun part of horse ownership, but someone’s gotta do it!

Mystery solved. Nope, the horses hadn’t gone on a bender in the wine room. But, I bet they are enjoying their hay a little more today than the day before. It’s a great think when your chompers work like they should!

Dude Ranch Life: As the Snowflakes Fall Mon, 26 Feb 2018 21:32:02 +0000 There has been a long running joke at Vista Verde over the years of making up names about the ranch that sound like soap opera titles. As the Aspens Turn, As the Snowflakes Fall, All My Horses, Rides of our Lives, you get the idea. It’s not that life at the ranch is really that dramatic, but on the days when we’re all going a dozen different directions trying to keep all the different plates spinning, it is a good way to chuckle. So, with the funky winter we’ve had this year–late to start, then snow, then no snow and warm weather, oh yeah finally snow again, oh gosh now it’s blowing away, phew another storm–you get the idea–this title felt somewhat appropriate.

So, what has been going on at the ranch? Behind the scenes of taking out guests on skis and snowshoes, tubing, dancing, dining and hot tubbing there is a lot of hitching up the sleigh for feeding time, baking breads and simmering stocks while at the same time preparing meals for 10 different dietary restrictions, cleaning stalls, early morning grooming and snow blowing, ironing sheets and polishing mirrors, answering back to back phone calls about reservations for vacations this winter, next summer, the fall, and even next winter, and lots and lots of Skype interviews with potential staff. The ranch reminds me of a beehive sometimes. Nice, quiet, and peaceful from the outside, but a buzzing factory once you dive into it.

Deep in that buzzing beehive there are some exciting things happening! Ben and KP returned from a horse sale late Saturday night with 5 new geldings who all seem pretty amazing. After giving them a day to settle into their new home in private stalls in the Indoor Arena, Monday was a play day with a number of staff hopping on them to see how they go. So far, we’re really happy with what we see. You never know what you’re going to get when you buy a horse, and often times you find out things about them once they are back at the ranch that didn’t show up at the sale.

So, as the beehive keeps buzzing and the snowflakes hopefully keep falling, we’ll continue to try keeping all those plates spinning.