What’s Happening on the Ranch?

There’s always something happening at Vista Verde Ranch. Foals are born, new recipes are created, or the wranglers are playing tricks on each other. Come here to read the latest news!

summer vacation the entire family will love

MSN.com – June 2017

Writers Lauren Smith and Sarah Schreiber put together a list of “22 Vacation Destinations Your Entire Family Will Love” and this article was shared by MSN.com recently. What a great list of summer vacation ideas for families, just at the right time! We were thankful to see Vista Verde included in the list, and always appreciative of people recognizing all we do to make the VVR ranch vacation experience the best family vacation ever! Read the article….

animals and kids at a family dude ranch vacation

Dude Ranch Life: Angels among us

On the very first day of my kids’ summer vacation we discovered that my daughter’s old faithful horse has some really serious health issues. Given that having a horse is an integral part of my summer childcare plan, this put us in a bind. Yes, we have plenty of horses here at the ranch, but they all have a job to do during the summer! So I’ve been madly hunting for a great horse for my kid. In that search, I have been reminded that it is a special creature who weighs 1,000 pounds and gently takes care of our children. It’s never far from my thoughts or those of all our wranglers as they work with our herd, but this situation has put it really high on my radar right now. We truly live among angels with these horses, and even the dogs and cats, here at the ranch who so patiently care for our little people.

No horse is perfect, just like none of us are–ok, maybe some of you have achieved perfection, but I’m far from it! However, as I watch these animals who are so powerful stand patiently while little girls braid their manes, or small children pull on their mouths with no awareness of the discomfort they are causing the animal, or a group of kids lie down and surround a young colt, leaving it with no escape when he is wired to always have an out from prey, I see little angel wings sprouting. So, parents, please remember when your kid complains that her horse eats grass to much, or that when he wants to trot or lope the horse doesn’t do it without a lot of kicking, or whatever other imperfections arise, that these creatures are taking care of your babies and keeping them safe. I’ve been shopping for a replacement horse who is safe and kind, willing and sure-footed, calm and gentle, and they are not abundantly available. So, I am treasuring the ones we do have here at the ranch. Because we are surrounded by angels here, and luckily the kids who come here (and my kids are included in that thankfully) get to spend time riding around on winged horses without even knowing it! Bet you never imagined when you booked your family vacation here at the ranch that you were also booking time with an angel?

dude ranch staff on bikes

Dude Ranch Life: Orientation week

It’s been a whirlwind of excitement and learning this week at the ranch. You know that saying about drinking out of a firehose? That is pretty much how our staff feel at this point. They arrived Monday, and we kicked off our orientation time with a welcome dinner Monday night. First thing Tuesday morning there were introductions and then we jumped right into laying out the ranch mission, touring the new staff around the ranch, and getting paperwork filled out. Then if was off to their individual departments. We’ve been busy from sunrise to sunset and everyone is ready for a well-deserved day off tomorrow! Following a great suggestion by longtime guest Bruce G., I asked a couple of the new staff to share their experiences with our followers on social media. Here’s what they’ve been experiencing so far this week. First up, meet Catherine:

Day 1:
Hi, I’m Catherine,
I’m from Charlotte, North Carolina.
I am so excited to spend my first season at Vista Verde Ranch as a Horse Wrangler.
Follow me on my journey over the next few weeks as I learn all the ends and outs of this beautiful place.

Today, we were completely immersed in the vision and mission behind what we are doing here at the ranch. Whether learning about values like compassion and leadership, or meeting those that are the heartbeat of the ranch; This place has already stolen my heart.

However, the day wasn’t all meetings. The wranglers spent the day exploring the acres of the ranch on horseback and meeting a few of the horses. Here are a few pictures from today’s adventure!

Day 2

Hey Y’all it’s Catherine!
Today was such a blast. It was the most beautiful weather we’ve had all week. Summer is definitely here. We spent the morning practicing all different types of first aid emergency scenarios. From practicing what to do about back injuries, making slings, or walking through head to toe checks, all of our first aid training was reinforced with live scenarios.

This afternoon the wrangler department saddled up and had our first clinic with the head trainer KP. Y’all, KP knows his stuff. He is such a wealth of knowledge on all things horsemanship. I learned so much in one short hour, and I’ve been riding my whole life. Today was full of reminders of how much of a gift this summer will be.
Also, I’ve been taking some spins on the Cruiser Bikes. It’s definitely going to be a favorite aspect of after work activities! So. much. fun.

Day 3

Hey y’all,
Big things are happening here at the ranch. Today was spent with everyone really diving into getting the ranch prepped for guests. Wranglers were mending fences and placing gates, guides were building paddle board trailers, and kids supervisors went on an orientation
horseback ride. It was a busy day, and most people were outside working all around. The energy was high, and it really feels like we’ve gotten into a steady rhythm with our departments. I’ve found that my favorite parts of the day are meals when we all gather together in the staff room and share conversations across tables. I also love department time. We get to bond with our team and focus on what we really love to do at the ranch. For me, it’s horses.

Counting down the days until we get to meet you all!

Day 4
Hi friends,
Today was filled with a lot of “first times.” We de wormed the mares and the yearlings, had our first “run out” to the back pasture, and had our first barn dance! There’s nothing quiet as exciting as chasing a heard of galloping horses through a pasture and herding them in the right direction. Also, I learned that head wrangler Ben Yoder-Henley and head trainer KP have some serious dance moves. Everyday the ranch has more and more to offer!

And now it’s Day 5 and Catherine and the rest of the crew are working with the housekeepers to learn the ins and outs of Sunday turnovers. Because, here at the ranch, everyone jumps in on Sundays to help get the cabins cleaned for the next group of guests!

Next we introduce you to Mackenzie:
My name is Mackenzie and I am beyond stoked to be a server at VVR this season! I’m originally from a suburb close to Chicago, and can’t wait for this change of pace in the mountains! Follow my staff orientation over the next 2 weeks to see a glimpse of what goes into prepping to serve our amazing guests! Day 1 consisted of stellar talks about the ranch, it’s mission, and what it means to be a part of the family here. I’m feeling truly honored to have this opportunity. The entire staff has already learned so much, and of course we continued the fun after training with bike rides and staff yoga!

Day 2- The ranch staff spent the entire morning soaking up information about first aid. We then practiced mock first-aid scenarios around the ranch!
In the afternoon, the waitstaff toured and explored the in’s and out’s of the kitchen. We also began to learn a bit about breakfast service and practiced carrying plates (current drop count: 0)! As you can see from the picture, it was a tough view to commute to work today, and an even tougher view to study our server book in our cabins! What a great second day for the waitstaff.

Howdy from day 3! All of the waitstaff just happened to show up in matching outfits today- wow we must ALREADY be stellar as a team! (Ok..maybe we planned it…) Today we had a birthday in our department of one of our wonderful returning staff, Terrence! What better way to celebrate than singing happy birthday to him as he walks in the staff room rubbing his eyes at 7am?!
Today the servers gained a wealth of knowledge from our lead server, Lisa, as well as birthday boy Terrence. We ran through a fake breakfast service- between the four of us “newbies” we probably asked a grand total of 1 million questions to make sure we’re the best we can be! Next, we learned how to set the table for formal dinner service. Lisa surprised us at the end of the day by telling us we will be riding tomorrow as a department! We couldn’t be more excited, bring on day 4!

Stay tuned, as we’ll keep you updated on the adventures of Catherine and Mackenzie as they navigate their way to opening day. We’re in the final countdown!

meeting at a dude ranch

Dude Ranch Life: Gearing up for the summer season

Oh boy. Can I just tell you all how excited I am about this summer? I’ve been doing this a long time (this summer marks 20 years in dude ranching– who’d have ever thought I’d be saying that?!) and there are some years that I am more excited about the start of the season than others. It varies based on so many things, but this year it is definitely different. I am pumped like I haven’t been in a long time. Why? So many reasons!!!

Where to start……in no particular order

Kids, tweens and teens- We’ve always put a lot of energy into our programs for the younger guests, but this year it seems like the stars are aligning. With Addie and Mandy joining the ranch team, there is a level of professionalism, excitement, maturity, and fun that gets me giddy just thinking about it. Both educators, these two gals are pouring into the program to make it the best ever. And it wasn’t a shabby program to start with, so they really are reaching for the stars. The two of them compliment each other so well as far as personality and skill sets and they will be tag-teaming on making this summer the best ever. They have embraced and run with our new concept of not just splitting up the kids into kid and teen groups, but into kid, tween, and teen groups. In doing so, they have crafted a whole new program, and there are so many fun activities packed into one week. On top of that, they made all sorts of tweaks and improvements to the existing programs that are going to make them so much fun. Listen, my two girls join in on the program each summer, so I have an extra personal stake in the game, and I know they are going to love it. Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy, I could go on and on….but let’s move on.

Betterness- Former owner John Munn left a legacy with his term “betterness.” He always encouraged us to work toward that, and never settle for status quo. This spring the ideas have been flowing, following many of us taking trips of our own and experience great service and unique amenities (hint, hint Chris and Laura, maybe we should all get paid to travel in the off-season, haha). In little ways here and there, we are freshening up the special details that make a ranch vacation at VVR stand out to our guests. Sorry, I can’t reveal them all, but it’s exciting to see them coming together!

The leaders- No, not me, Ben and Charlie. We all just sit around and look pretty. I’m talking about the people who make it all happen. We have such a fabulous team this year, and they are so committed to excellence that I just get all mushy inside thinking about it. Monday we had our pre-season manager meeting. What I thought was going to be an hour or so meeting turned into an all-day affair. Yes, keeping a bunch of dude ranchers seated inside for that long is beyond painful, but the discussions and the ideas that came out of it were so incredibly productive, positive, and honest. It was incredible. I was cranky by 5pm after being cooped up all day, but also so full of thankfulness for the team who makes this place rock and roll. In addition to the old faithfuls, there are a number of new players involved in the ranch this past year, and everyone of them seems like they have been here forever. I already mentioned the gals in the kids hut, but there is also Chef Jason who joined us last winter, and one would think he and Chef Chol have been working together for years based on the ease with the dining program has moved forward. Then there is Zach who took over the HR and activity coordinating while Beka moved into the Adventure Center, and we all love having him in the office. Ben Yoder Henley has returned to take the head wrangler role and team up head trainer KP in the horse program. Melissa helped lead us in a new direction with housekeeping last winter, and she’s become a pivotal player in the office where she balances two very important roles. And how can we forget the ranch owners Laura and Chris and their amazing kids–talk about energy and excitement!

Adventures await- We have a new era starting in the Adventure Center, and that might be different for some. But the door is almost bursting off with enthusiasm from the talented and experienced team up there. Beka, Isaac, Brandon, Ben, and Nate are working diligently to be ready to roll on June 4. They have the newest and greatest gear, ideas for fun ways to experience the backcountry, and are so loaded up with wilderness safety training that you better not stub your toe on a hike or you might find yourself in triage. They are ready to shake things up and give our guests the best outdoor experiences they have ever had at the ranch before. That’s contagious, and I can’t wait to try the new bikes, hear about the fish tales, and watch the log of the many miles our guests and guides put on the trail grow over the summer.

Animals- The mare barn is going to be a little more noisy this summer with the addition of some chickens, chicks, goats and bunnies. Yes! The brainchild that started with some casual conversations between Charlie and Devyn has turned into some real live animals that Mandy rustled up for the ranch. Me thinks I might have to take a few walks down to the mare barn for “quality control.” I mean, it is really important for me to check out the foals and the animals, just to make sure the guests are getting the best experience possible, right?

Ok, I could go on and on, as in every corner of the ranch, in every department, and with everything we do there are amazing things happening this spring. So, with the pace kicking into full steam this week and the staff arriving next week the heat has been turned up. And it’s going to be a good one! If you haven’t already made plans to join us this summer, maybe it’s time to squeeze in a week to the ranch. Don’t miss this summer at VVR–I’m going to soak it all up and hope you can too!

foals at Colorado dude ranch

Dude Ranch Life: Springtime in the Rockies means babies!

The valley is just bursting with life. The grass is spreading out over the meadows and the glacier lilies are popping out all over the place. The rivers are rushing by with tremendous speed. The sand hill cranes are calling out from the ponds and the trees are filled with chirping birds in the morning. And, best of all, there are babies everywhere we turn!

Each day as we pass by our fellow rancher’s homes we see more calves dotting the pastures. Our partners Christy and Matt Belton just held their branding over the weekend and now those little black calves are snoozing out under the sunshine next to their mammas.

Teletubby and Jane have both delivered sweet little foals. Teletubby’s little filly is just as sweet and friendly as they get, and June’s colt is a little pistol full of energy and sass.

Oh, and to top all that, Monday morning we got the call from Chol and Alaya that they welcomed Saoirse into their family. Eamon has a little sister and everyone is doing really well! I asked Eamon if anything fun had happened today as we walked through the Lodge today with his papa, and his big news was that they saw some flowers and wanted to ask Charlie about them. Finally, after some prodding he did remember that they also have a new baby! Hey, we all have our priorities.

Here’s to the start of a season of abundance. Bring it on Spring!

 

Autumn adult only vacation

Colorado Moms – May 2017

Summer camps for adults really is a thing and you should go is the title of the article in Colorado Moms. We love it! Although this is a far cry from summer camp, we do have our adult-only weeks in the fall and they are a blast. Enjoy amazing meals, fine wines, hiking through the aspens, fly fishing on pristine rivers, and rounding up cows in the forest, among other adventures. Check out this fun article and start planning for your adult getaway! Read the article….

packing for your dude ranch vacation

7 tips for packing for your Summer dude ranch vacation

Packing for a dude ranch vacation can be tricky, especially when you’re heading to a ranch like Vista Verde that offers multi-sport opportunities. In preparation for the upcoming summer season, we put together some insider packing tips to complement the packing list we share with our guests.

1) If you’re planning on hiking it is handy to have hiking boots. They aren’t a must, as many of us hike in our running shoes. You just have to be prepared to get them wet (so wear your Darn Tough Socks or Smartwool socks). However, if you haven’t been out hiking in your boots ahead of time, make sure to get half a dozen hikes in them before you get out to the ranch. Nobody wants blisters on their vacation! Even if you can’t go for a hike on the dirt, just walk around your neighborhood for an hour once or twice a week for a few weeks. Go up and down stairs, climb whatever hill you can find. Your feet will thank you.

2) Don’t forget your bathing suit! Because although no one will know if you’re skinny dipping in the dark, those post-ride afternoon soaks in the hot tub might be a little awkward, even if the horses are trying to avoid eye contact.

3) Bring your social security number if you want to fish. Any US resident over the age of 15 will need an SSN in order to get a fishing license, which you’ll need if you want to go out on the river or to a high alpine lake.

4) Pack your longest jeans. Yes, the ones that kind of drag on the ground when you are wearing normal shoes. Jeans hike up when you get in the saddle, and if yours aren’t long, they’ll ride up over your boots, and that’s just annoying! Don’t have jeans you’re willing to get dirty? You can find jeans such as Wranglers at Rod’s Western Palace or Sheplers.

5) Add to your suitcase some hiking sandals or shoes that you’re ok getting wet so you can use them to cross streams. There are some amazing hikes as well as the option for hiking to fishing spots–but you will be crossing creeks along the way to get views like this. Our favorites are sandals like Teva or Chacos.

6) This one might be more for the ladies, but guys you can still take note. You don’t need to dress up for any of the evenings at the ranch. But, having said that, wouldn’t it be fun to pair a cute dress with your cowgirl boots for the barn dance? When at a ranch, why not cowgirl up and have a little fun?

7) Padded shorts! You might already know that this just makes the world a happier place when you go mountain biking, but did you also know it might help with horseback riding? Just think about it. And, know that we have some available in the Adventure center if you don’t have a chance to buy them ahead of time. Just slip them on under your jeans and you’re smile will be a bit brighter after several days of riding.

We know those suitcases can get a bit full with all these suggestions, so feel free to ship a box out to the ranch prior to your vacation. We’ll store it for you until you arrive, and then can help get it shipped back home after your week at the ranch. Or, we’ll even store it for you until your return for your next visit!

dude ranch discounted week

Discounted dude ranch week

The start of our summer dude ranch season is always an exciting time. The staff show up in the latter part of May for an intense, two week orientation. During that time we pour information into them so they will understand the culture of the ranch, wrap their heads around their roles for the summer, and prepare to give our guests an amazing vacation experience. By the end of the orientation time, they are bursting at the seams with knowledge and are ready for our guests. So ready that they are practically lining up to meet our first guests as they arrive at the ranch for opening week. The enthusiasm of opening week is contagious and is much of what makes that week such a special time for our staff and guests. What makes it even more special is that it is discounted! Did you know that you can save up to $600 per person if you come for our opening week? So, if your kids are out of school by then, or heck, if you don’t have kids and want to save on a summer dude ranch vacation, come visit us June 4-11, 2017!

If you are interested in learning more about our upoming opening week, please give us a call at 800-526-7433 or fill out a reservation request form. We look forward to seeing you when the valley is bursting with wildflowers, the foals still teeny tiny, the meadows dotted with calves, the Elk River roaring, and the mountains still capped with snow.

ranch bikes

Dude Ranch Life: Off-season at Vista Verde

Spring is a busy time for Art, our UPS driver. Each day a slew of boxes of new gear arrives, and lately those boxes have been really, really big as our new bikes arrive. Beka and the guides spent a week building bikes to update our Salsa fleet. This year they are playing around with the newest trend in cycling, which is a fatter tire bike that can function in both summer and winter conditions. These bikes will allow novice bikers to feel more comfortable riding over obstacles on the trail, so we’re excited to get you out on them this summer!

Mandy and Addie have been revamping the kids and teen programs to make room for the new tween program. They’ve come up with some fun new events in addition to the all-time favorites of our past guest kids. Ahhh, to be a kid at VVR is to live the good life.

KP traveled to several horse sales this spring and has a great batch of new riding horses to start working into our string. They are big, beautiful, kind, and willing, so we can’t wait to get some mileage on them so you all can try them out! In addition to that, we’ve tweaked the clinic schedule just a bit to accommodate some new options for our guests. It’s time to get in shape for riding!

A big load of fence rails arrived the other day, just in time for Javin to lead a crew to rebuild and repair fences all over the ranch. With 600+ acres to fence, this is a job that never is finished!

Chef Chol is picking out some new wines for the list while also working with Jason on the summer menus. Bill is busy with his list of cabin fixes and improvements. And that is just the start of it. If you haven’t planned your summer vacation yet, don’t fret. We have cabins here and there throughout the summer still available, so give us a call or fill out a reservation request form so we can find a spot for you to spend a week at the ranch with us!

Colorado dude ranch general manager

Dude Ranch Life: Exciting Changes for this Summer!

Every now and then someone at the ranch moves on and opens up the door for shifting around within our management structure. As Steve and Kelli moved on this spring to their grand adventure (more on this in the last blog post), we saw some opportunities to move people to areas of the ranch where they are better suited.

With that we are so excited to announce the new management structure of the ranch, which we believe will create the best dude ranch vacation experience possible for our guests. Ben (formerly the GM) has stepped into the Executive Chef role to sling burgers and cook up bacon. He is leaning towards a meat only menu, as that is his area of expertise. That shift has allowed Chef Chol to become a full-time hiking guide. With his sleep patterns affected by a newborn baby and years of early morning shifts in the kitchen, we will be offering a whole new option of 4am guided hikes in the Zirkel Wilderness area. Following that change, Charlie has taken over the yoga and Pilates classes, and is looking forward to finding his down dog with our guests out in the aspen trees. Now that Charlie isn’t managing the finances and all the back end logistics of the staff and guests, stepping into that role will be KP, who has been counting the days until he can finally claim an upstairs office and a desk job. Now, we did find it a little tricky to figure out the right replacement for overseeing the horse program, but it became an obvious fit with Devyn when she took a lesson from KP and realized that she, too, can be a horse whisperer. Brandon, who has been eye-balling the Director of Marketing role for years, has finally gotten his wish and will be relieving Steph of her marketing duties. Keep an eye on the social media accounts, as they are about to get exciting. Of course, with him picking up those duties, Steph suggested that it would just make sense that he take on all the rest of her role as we all agreed that she would be the perfect fit for the newly created guest advocate role. Actually, since this position logically would take two people to fill, Steph and Nate have agreed to carry the burden of trying out all the guest activities, staying in guest cabins, and essentially being un-secret shopper guests at the ranch. They have a vital role in making sure folks coming for a ranch vacation are getting the best experience possible. Oh, and we almost forgot to mention that Bill will be taking over the kids program! He has some great craft projects planned with power saws and other sharp tools. Whew, so many great people finally finding their perfect role at the ranch.

So, as you start to think about your summer vacation (if you haven’t already) keep in mind that the winds of change are blowing at the VVR. While we are gearing up to give folks the best family dude ranch vacation they have ever dreamed of, you can sit back and wonder if this is just a big, fat April Fool’s day joke.

 

colorado-vacation-activity-biking

Dude Ranch Life: The season ends and an era ends

This week marks the end of the reign of the Kings. Literally–Steve and Kelli King are moving on from the ranch after almost two decades of leading the Adventure Center at the ranch. Steve joined us back in 1999 as a ski guide, fresh into town and looking to start a new life with his wife Kelli and their infant daughter Madi. Over the years, Steve became the guardian of the ski program in the winter and the biking and hiking programs in the summer. What started out as a job sharing role between Steve and Kelli, so one of them could stay home with baby Madi, turned into both of them working at the ranch full-time. In Madi’s younger years, Kelli ran the kids program with Madi tagging along all summer long, and then guiding when there were not kids at the ranch. Once Madi hit her teen years, Kelli moved out of the kids program and into the guide world full-time. Steve and Kelli have been the momentum behind growing the mountain bike program to what it is today, bringing yoga to the ranch, adding paddle boarding and fat biking, and much more. Their emotional investment in the ranch has been their biggest contribution–from pouring into the guests to contributing to the big picture ideas, advocating for never letting go of the quest for excellence, and preaching the gospel of safety, self-care, work-life balance, and healthy living.

With Madi graduating from high school last year, and moving on in her life, the door opened for Steve and Kelli to move onto their next adventure. Vista Verde was never the destination, but rather a stop on an life long adventure. They are selling their house (anyone want a sweet vacation home in North Routt?), packing up their things, and heading out on the road for a while. None of us know for sure where exactly they will land, but they have their sights on some pretty great options after first taking the time to explore, spend time with family, and visit friends.

But who steps into those big boots? We have a whole team lined up and ready to go. Beka has been waiting to move into this role for a while now, and her time has arrived. She’s about the most fit person I know–come on, anyone who gets up and runs to Steamboat just for fun before work (that’s a marathon, you realize) has the stamina to keep our guests going day after day. Beka is a backcountry and fitness addict, and is so excited to be taking over for Steve and Kelli to head up the Adventure Center. And right in there supporting and teaming up with Beka will be Ben Simms, Isaac Ness and Nate Margason. Bikers, fishermen, skiers, avid outdoors men–these guys all know this area like the back of their hands, have extensive training and experience playing in the outdoors as well as serious emergency and safety training. The team is lined up and ready. What about yoga? Devyn, who currently teaches Pilates at the ranch, is ready to jump into the role of leading Wild Yoga and looks forward to introducing folks to yoga as well as practicing with those who are yogis already. In fact, much to my envy, Devyn is heading to Hawaii this off-season for some additional teacher training to prime the pump with new ideas and flows. And, our gift shops will still be stocked with great items in Kelli’s absence due to the hard work of Laura (she owns the place, if you haven’t met her yet) and Melissa (she adds inches to your waistline with pastries but has also embraced our retail operation in anticipation of Kelli’s departure). So, not to worry, although the Kings leave big boots to fill, we have a lot of people with big feet ready to step into them!

When you work with people for as long as many of us have worked with Steve and Kelli, you become like family. You love each other, drive each other nuts, know each other’s quirks and pet peeves, and share in life’s wins and losses. So, their departure is bittersweet. We all thank them for their years of service and dedication to the ranch, the mission, and our guests. We know their presence will be missed at the ranch, but we are also so excited for their upcoming journey. Please help us send off the Kings with fanfare worthy of, well, kings! If you would like us to share a note of thanks or bon voyage with them, please send it to us and we’ll pass it along.

As we never say goodbye here, we just assume we’ll see each other down the trail. Here’s to many happy trails for Steve, Kelli, and Madi!

springtime at Colorado Dude Ranch

Dude Ranch Life: Hunting for Easter Eggs

Just after the official closing day of our winter guest ranch season, we mark the coming of Spring with the annual Easter Egg Hunt Fundraiser at Vista Verde.

Local vendors have donated all the ingredients for a huge pancake breakfast that the ranch chefs prepare for upwards of 300 locals coming to support the North Routt Pre-School. Following a big breakfast, the kiddos will head outside to hunt for Easter Eggs, and, rumor has it, a helicopter might be flying in to add to the excitement.

It’s a fun day of camaraderie among the local community coming up to dine together, let the kids romp, ski and snowshoe all over the ranch, and just enjoy the beautiful setting while we raise money for the school. We hope you will come join us this year! Here are the details:

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Breakfast- 9am to noon

Egg Hunt- 11am

Skiing and Snowshoeing all day on the ranch trails

Snowman building contest, raffle, and more!

Cost- $10/adult, $5/child or $35/family – no advance tickets, pay as you arrive

Colorado dude ranch staff

The Spotlight is on Ben and Addie Simms

Guest blogger: Maggie Aceto

Last August, Vista Verde got a wonderful addition to our adventure guide crew – Ben Simms, a Georgia native who moved here with his wife Addie and his dog Chief. Addie is a special education teacher at the North Routt Community Charter School and has teamed up with Mandy Anzalone to run the kids program when she isn’t teaching. Ben spends his days bringing Vista Verde guests out to hike or mountain bike our beautiful trails in the summer months and snowshoe or ski through the fluffy snow in the winter. Their passion for the outdoors and service to others is one of the many reasons why we’ve loved the addition of the Simms family to the ranch. Earlier this month, I sat down with them for an interview and got to know a little more about their story:

  1. Ben, what was your childhood like?

I grew up in Atlanta, Georgia in a very outdoorsy family with three older sisters. Me and my dad would do something outside like camping or fishing at least once a month in the areas around North and South Carolina.

  1. What brought you to move to Colorado?

When I was in college at the University of Georgia, I spent a summer as a mountain biking and hiking guide at Estes Park. After I graduated, I came out to Colorado for one more summer after college and never went back. I got a job with landscaping for the National Park Service, then moved to Boulder and did some work there, which is where I met Addie.

  1. How did you finally make the transition from landscape architecture to guiding?

Addie won a photography contest and a weekend trip to a ranch (not Vista Verde). While skiing at the ranch, we met Steve and Kellie (who were also there just for the weekend), and within ten minutes had shared our life goals and dreams. I saw two people who were living the life I’d dreamed of, guiding in the mountains, and they were still happy doing it all these years later. That night, Addie and I sat down and she asked me “If you could do anything in the world, what would it be?” and I knew the answer was to be a guide.

  1. What do you love most about being a guide?

The fact that I can do something meaningful with my passion for the outdoors. I think we’re all given passions for a reason, and I love seeing that appreciation for the outdoors blooming in other people when we’re out on trips. Vista Verde is such a special place where people can connect, get inspired and take that inspiration back home to their jobs and lives.

  1. Addie, I heard you’ve traveled a bit?

Yes! I studied abroad and spent a semester at sea.

At sea?

It was on a cruise ship, and we’d have classes on the ship. We visited 12 different countries and got to explore and experience all of the cultures. It was in Africa that I realized I wanted to be a teacher. I met this man and he was telling me about how, depending on what day of the week it was, that was how you would name your child. For instance, if your son was born on Saturday, you would name him Kwámè. I asked the man to write down all of the names, and he kind of hesitated before going over to his brother’s shop. When he came back, everything had been written down. I realized he didn’t know how to read or write. In that moment, it dawned on me how important it is to have an education. Giving someone an education is giving them a key to the world that will open so many different doors. So when I went back to the States, I went back to school and got my degree in education.

  1. So what do you both love about the Vista Verde and Clark area?

At Vista Verde, there’s amazing leadership. Clark is a unique part of the country that hasn’t lost the deep sense of community. Everyone wants to help everyone out, because we’re all friends and neighbors. Addie’s car slid in a ditch once, and a minute later someone had stopped to help her. Another person came along and towed her out, and she was back on the road within 5 or 10 minutes. You just can’t find that kind of genuine help in many places. Our time here has been an absolute blessing.

Dude Ranch Life: Surrounded by romance

Valentine’s Day is long gone, but we still seem to be overflowing with romance here at the ranch. It’s pretty fun to be an “old” married lady as I can really appreciate the sweetness of all this love and tenderness happening on the ranch property. Here’s a little peek into the hearts, flowers, and chocolates that have been floating around in the air at the ranch.

Last month, while every single staff member tried to keep their mouth shut to the surprise (KP wasn’t very good at keeping it quiet ahead of time), Sam came up for a visit from her current home in Fort Collins to visit KP. In jeans, boots, and some arena dirt to add to the charm, KP asked Sam to marry him. Phew, now we could all stop trying to pretend we didn’t know a secret! They are planning a wedding in October and we are so excited for the two of them!

Mixed in here are plenty of honeymooners and anniversary celebrations, so there have been a lot of chocolate covered strawberries and bottles of champagne heading out of the kitchen this winter!

As we near the end of our winter season, we’ve had two wonderful events at the ranch. Quietly and discreetly, there have been some weddings happening in front of the fire in the Great Room. Last week Dinara and Davide said their “I do’s” just before hopping into the one horse sleigh for a ride on a gorgeous sunny afternoon. What a sweet couple, and what an honor to have them chose Vista Verde for their elopement trip. Then, just days ago Kalli and Mick tied the knot in a private ceremony. Mick is a photographer, so I got a kick out of watching him set up the scene and the lighting so the hired photographer could get the best shots. No pressure taking photos of a photographer’s wedding ceremony, right?

It truly is an honor to have people chose Vista Verde for their romantic getaways and elopements. We recognize how precious vacation time is, and how important it is for a couple to have a special place to celebrate their partnership. We love helping people start their lives together, celebrate their years together, and rekindle the romance in a beautiful setting without all the distractions of everyday life. Thanks to all of those who have made the ranch their special place to celebrate their love!

 

tween program colorado family vacation

Creating a better family vacation

What makes a great family vacation? Well, in our mind it is when everyone in the family has fun and amazing memories are created together. At Vista Verde, we believe that part of the magic of the best family vacation is to have options for families to enjoy adventures together, but also to split up and pursue their own interests. With that in mind, we have always poured our energy into our kids programs. Over the years, the kids program turned into a kids program and a teen program. Now, starting in 2017 we will be adding a tween program.

We’ve recognized the desire of our guest kids for a little more personalized experience while they are at the ranch. Maybe you remember your middle school dance, where some of the young folks want to slow dance, others want to talk, and some want to go outside and play games. It is no different here at the ranch – kids all develop and grow in different ways and at different rates. Our newly added tween program will mean the kids, tweens, and teens will each have their own activities and adventures. The breakdown of the groups is based on a typical US school set up with the kids program geared for kids entering 1st-5th grades (6-10 years), the tweens will represent kids entering middle school grades (11-13 years), and the teen program will be for kids entering high school grades (14-18 years). Knowing that not all kids enter the same grade at the same age, we will adjust as needed each week based on the overall makeup of the kids here.

The kids and teen programs will stay mostly the same, as there are so many tried and true favorites, but with some new twists and turns just to spice things up. The tween program will take the best of both programs so we retain some childlike fun while still bringing in many of the cool adventures that the teens enjoy.

Also, we are excited to introduce Mandy Anzalone and Addie Simms as the new heads of the kids programs. Mandy worked at the ranch in the late-nineties as a wrangler, and is returning after spending the past 15 years in education and starting a family. She is excited to be back at the ranch and putting her background in education into play by helping oversee the kids programs. Addie is another educator who spends the school year working at the North Routt Charter School. Addie is an avid outdoorswoman which makes sense as she is married to one of our ace guides Ben S. These two are working diligently on updating the programs, fine tuning the details, and preparing for a wonderful summer season. We are excited about all they are bringing to the ranch with their professionalism, knowledge, and enthusiasm.

So grab your kids and pack your bags (ok, maybe just book your reservation) for an amazing family vacation at Vista Verde Ranch this summer.

dude ranch horses

Equine Elementary School

Every year we have a new “kindergarten” class come through the ranch. These kids are the young colts who were born and raised here who are ready to take the next step and start learning the ropes of being a riding horse. Here is a quick update on some of these little guys in the VVR Elementary School, and how they are doing. If you’ve been to the ranch in the past 5 or so years, you might remember some of these names from when they were cuddly little foals.

Typically with the colts during their 2-year-old year we start doing some work on the ground, put a saddle on them, and maybe sit on them just a bit. Then, when they are in their 3-year-old we year get to take it to the next level and ride them and get them to master the basics. A few trail rides for exposure that summer, but still just light riding while they are growing physically and emotionally. During their 4 year old year we hand them over to wranglers to start exposing them to more terrain and different riders and get them to gain confidence out in the big, bad world. Finally, by the time they are 5 we start handing them over to guests.

Chisolm-5- He’s gone through the training program, he’s been tested out on the trails, and is ready to start taking guests on rides!
Junior– 5- Part puppy dog and part horse, Junior is little and athletic. He’s graduated the training program and is ready for smaller guests to start riding him.
Malia– 4- This gorgeous filly has about 50 rides so far and she’s coming along nicely. As with most of the 4-year-olds, she will probably have a wrangler riding her on easy trail rides this summer so she can get used to the trails and get stronger before we ride her harder in the coming years.
Magnum– 4- He’s a late bloomer and still looks young. With just 10 rides so far we’re going to give him some time and wait for him to grow a bit more before he’s ridden harder. KP will ride him in clinics this summer given his immaturity and slower progress.
Stormy– 4- This great horse has more rides than we can count, so she’s ready to hit the trails and will be a wrangler horse this summer to gain more experience and build strength.
Rocketman– 4- This is one we are having a lot of fun with and have put a lot of rides on so far. He will get a chance being ridden by advanced guests this summer who don’t want to ride really hard.
CJ– 3- She’s willing and curious, and with about 30 rides CJ is progressing very well. KP is hoping to have her on trails a little here and there with a wrangler this summer.
Charm-3- A little slower to come along, this gal has had just 1 ride. It was a little chaotic, but she has a kind heart and KP will be riding her this summer in clinics to keep working with her
Sage– 3- She was started on the ground, and then an eye injury put her training on hold. She’s healing up, so we’re hoping to get to ride her this spring.
Sonja– 3- She’s big, beautiful, and a just a little bratty. With about 15 rides Sonja is coming along nicely despite being a tad stubborn at times. She’ll probably be on trails with a wrangler this summer.
Baretta– 3- With so many foals in the 2015 foal crop, it’s taking a while to get all of them started under saddle. Baretta is hanging out for now getting a little bigger, and KP is looking forward to getting started with this one soon.
Coming 2 year olds- Wesson, Scout, Remy, Red – KP got a saddle on Remy and Red and did a bunch of ground work with Wesson, but otherwise they are just hanging out and growing for another year before they get serious about learning. Consider that kindergarten with lots of snack breaks and recess.

 

 

dude ranch receipes

Chef’s Corner: Mushroom Risotto

Mushroom Risotto (makes 2 servings)

Ingredients:

4 ounces butter
½ yellow onion, minced
2 cups carnaroli rice
1 cup dry white wine
1 quart vegetable stock, simmering
½ pound mushrooms
2 ounces soy sauce
1 cup crème fraiche (or sour cream, or heavy cream)
4 ounces Parmesan cheese
Salt to taste

Method:

1. Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed pan on medium high heat. Add onions and sauté until the onions are translucent.
2. Add the rice and cook while stirring until a nutty smell develops. Deglaze the pan with white wine. Reduce the heat to low.
3. Cook the wine down until nearly dry while slowly stirring the rice.
4. Slowly add the vegetable stock ½ cup at a time, while stirring the rice, waiting each time for the stock to nearly evaporate.
5. Meanwhile, in a separate sauté pan, sauté the mushrooms on high heat to sear slightly. Deglaze with soy sauce and immediately remove from the heat.
6. Check the rice for tenderness, season with salt and parmesan cheese, and finish by folding in the mushrooms and crème fraiche just before serving.
7. Risotto should be a bit loose and flow on the plate.

Winter Photography Tips

Our ranch photographer Carla Jones offers a photography workshop each week to our guests. In the winter she gives our guests some really helpful tips about taking photos in the wintertime. For those of you who can’t get here for your own ranch vacation, here are Carla’s tips and tricks for you to use at home.

Also, if you are in Steamboat and want to work one-on-one with Carla, she does offer classes through the Steamboat Ski Resort.

Winter Photography Tips

KEEPING YOURSELF AND THE CAMERA WARM

Cold and frostbitten fingers may result from camera operation during severe winter weather. Avoid touching metal and exposure to wind with bare hands. Fisherman gloves with poly pro liners are great. Wear warm boots and a hat to keep you warm. Keep your camera and a spare battery near your body to keep them warm.

Do not let moisture into your camera body and avoid sudden radical changes of temperature. Keep lens and viewfinder free of ice fog and spray. Avoid breathing on camera, because the steam may condense on your lens and freeze will leave an icy coating. Use a protective filter like the Sky1A, which will also give the picture a bit of a warming cast.

EXPOSURE

Obtaining a proper exposure on snow scenes is often a tricky matter. Your light meter wants to make every scene a medium-gray tone and this can make the snow look gray. You want the snow to look white, not dull gray. Depending on how much of the scene is white, over-exposing will help in making the snow look white. Most cameras have a +/- button. This button is great for over-exposing. Check the histogram to make sure you haven’t gone too far over-exposing a created clipping. Remember, how much to over-expose depends on how much the scene is white with snow. Sunsets and alpenglow you will need to under exposure, going any where from – 1 to –2.

TIPS FOR GENERAL PHOTOGRAPHY

Seeing is most important. Don’t get bogged down with the technical side of the camera. Watch the weather and shoot on the edge of darkness (Morning or Dusk) The quality of light and seeing it is very important.

1. Side lighting will snap out shadows on sunny days and give a 3/D appearance. Enhance a winter scene by including a bit of color from a person’s clothing or a building. Red or yellow are great colors to use.
2. Back lighting of frosty trees and weeds brings out the sparkle of the snowflakes. Morning light is best before the sun melts the frost.
3. Diffused light—–Overcast snowy conditions can set a great mood. Softer light is great for photographing people. You won’t have harsh shadows on the persons face.
4. Magic light-The wow light. Late afternoon when a storm is clearing, the sun breaks through with dark sky behind your subject. Late afternoon can create a warmer tone to the pictures. It is also best for capturing the pink alpenglow on Mt Werner or the Zirkels.
Night scenes are special in the wintertime. Cabins with the lights on can be shot at dusk and where there is still a little light in the sky. Use a tripod to keep the camera steady.

PHOTOGRAPHY TELLS A STORY

When you find a scene you like take several shots. Work it with different angles (high and low), different lenses (wide angle and telephoto). Try different apertures F22 vs. F2.8 for depth of field or different sharpness. Look at where the light is hitting the subject. Adjust the White Balance if shooting indoors or outside. If a scene or subject catches your eye take the time to explore the composition. Be sensitive to the distracting foregrounds or backgrounds. Moving a foot one way or the other can make a difference. Keep it simple! The subject is very important. Make sure it is a good subject.

Composition
Rule of Thirds —–Divide the picture into thirds. Put subject in the intercepting lines
Leading Lines— fences-roads-streams and rivers
Patterns —-A color interrupts color patterns
Frames —-–window-trees

Landscapes (Long shots, medium, and close-ups) First shoot without the tripod to find the spot you like than set the camera on the tripod.
People (try to get a series of photos of someone doing something)
Special events (Ask what is going to happen, when and where. The more you know the better the chance you will get in a good position to get the best shots.)
Do research on area visiting. Look at online photos- get maps and study them.