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!

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.

ranch romance

Hero and Leander – January 2017

We discovered the website Hero and Leander when they wrote this nice article about the best USA ranch holidays. What in interesting website! It is designed to be the destination for couples with the concept of “Enjoy life with your partner. Be inspired to experience life together.” Maybe it is because we are in the midst of our adult-only vacation times at the ranch and have couples celebrating birthdays, anniversaries and honeymoons all at the same time, but we fully subscribe to the concept of couples getting away to reconnect. And a ranch vacation is a great way to do just that! Read the article…..

winter dude ranch

Dude Ranch Life: Snow, videos, snow, honeymooners, snow, photos, snow

It’s been a whirlwind of a winter season so far here in the Steamboat Springs area. Between everything we have going on at the ranch and the amazing snowfall we’ve had in 2017 everyone around here has been pretty busy! So, what’s been taking up all our time?

First of all, we’ve had some amazing guests with whom we are having a blast sharing our winter wonderland. Some long time guests have been visiting as well as those new to the winter guest ranch experience. We’ve had a ton of honeymooners–at one point we had 4 couples here at the same time on their honeymoon! This week we have 3 couples celebrating their wedding with a winter honeymoon in the mountains. It is so much fun having those couples here and hearing their stories and helping them relax and have some fun after the big event. And then there are the guests who have been coming for years which make coming to work feel like a family reunion. Good times all around, and that keeps us busy just taking care of these guests and getting them out to play in the snow.

Speaking of snow, you’ve heard, right? If not, here’s the quick recap. In November and December we had 82 inches of snow based on our snow specialist Bill Backer (also a specialist of a lot of other things around the ranch). Then, in early-January he logged 46 inches one week followed by a week with 54 inches. Yep, in two weeks we got as much as we had received in the two months prior! Needless to say, we had some pretty tired ranch hands and everyone was super excited when the sun finally broke out after those storms. Following a brief reprieve which allowed us to catch up on moving snow, shoveling roofs, moving more snow and shoveling more roofs, it is snowing again. We do love the snow, and it makes our winter outings more fun, but those two weeks sure were a lot of heavy lifting, literally!

On top of all that we’ve also had some special events going on at the ranch. A few weeks ago our friend Seth Dahl from Big Cedar Media came in to shoot some winter video footage for us to use for promotional purposes. Seth is a blast to work with, and he shoots amazing video footage. Those were some pretty crazy days of riding around on snowmobiles, lining up models, getting the right angle, and doing that all as the snow kept piling up! Following that, this week we have Gigi Embrechts here at the ranch leading a group of women in a photography workshop. Her photos are amazing (she loves photographing draft horses as you can see in the above photo), and the gals are having a blast taking photos of everything and everyone at the ranch. Somehow today my sneaking in to the barn to take a photo of them photographing Troy turned into them handing me a horse and clicking away. I’ll be a little more careful where I show up next time they are shooting!

So that’s the scoop from here at Vista Verde. If you’ve been considering a romantic getaway, we do still have space available around Valentine’s Day. And, if you’re wondering what to do with your kids for Spring Break vacation, how about bringing them to a winter wonderland where they can ski, tube, ride, and generally wear themselves out in the snow with our amazing staff while you get to relax a bit? Give Devyn or Melissa a call and they can answer any questions about our winter program.

  • christmas cookies

Dude Ranch Life: Christmas Cheer at VVR

We hope you all are enjoying the holidays and sharing great moments with the people you love. Here are the ranch we have been busy little elves as we hosted families from all over the world escaping to our winter wonderland for their family vacation. The snow has been falling, the sleigh bells have been jingling, and the chefs have been cooking up a storm. Christmas at a Colorado ranch is like living in a Norman Rockwell painting.

A few nights ago, Kelli hosted the Family Tree Decorating night. Over a dozen little trees lined the Great Room hallway with one for each family. Kelli laid out a spread of supplies and suggestions for creative ornaments and decorations, and then she turned the families loose on creating their masterpiece.

Yesterday was an epic production from the kitchen. We treated our guests to breakfast in their cabins, with the guides and housekeepers delivering their meals so everyone could stay in their jammies and enjoy some family time on Christmas morning. Then, as they headed out for adventures in the snow a entourage of elves set up the most amazing feast in the Lodge. The chefs have been cooking nearly around the clock to prepare this feast, and there was a flurry of arranging furniture, decorating long tables, and making everything just perfect for the big feast. Mid-day we all met up for mimosas and a Christmas blessing to all, followed by the most gorgeous and tasty meal.

The staff and the guests got cozy in the dining room with probably twice as many folks as we normally fit in there rubbing elbows and celebrating the camaraderie of the day. We all finished the meal with way too many decadent desserts that Melissa and Annie prepared for us. Following all that, most headed off for a nap or to the tubing party, as sleeping by the fire to sliding down a hill was about all anyone was up for at that point.

Today we are back to burning off all those calories while cross-country skiing through fresh snow and enjoying the memories of the white Christmas we were treated to yesterday. Here’s to a wonderful holiday season and we hope you and yours are merry and well!

snowshoeing in Colorado

Dude Ranch Life: Keeping up with the Joneses Part II

On Monday we announced the exciting news of the new owners of Vista Verde. So many of you sent nice words of encouragement to them, but some of you had that concern of, “What if they change the place we love?” So, I thought it might be nice to speak to that from the perspective of someone who has been here for a long time and worked for more than one owner.

Over the past several months we have been getting to know them a little. But this week we got a chance to really dive into learning about this amazing family. Laura and Chris showed up late Wednesday night with 5 of their kids, and just left this afternoon to head back to Chicago to catch up with the rest of their family. The days they were here were action-packed and every moment was well spent. They got out on horseback, tubed with the kids, went into the back country on skis, sat through meetings with Ben, Charlie and yours truly, got trained on the behind the scenes workings, went snowshoeing (photo above is Laura coming down from Hinman Lake), hosted a staff Christmas party, and they visited with all the guests. In addition to that, they got to experience what happens when things don’t work at the ranch. The huge storm that just rolled through this area left much of Northwest Colorado without power for a period of time. As we’re a little further down the line, it took a bit longer to get power back up. Oh boy, it was an adventure. From smoking out the Great room when we lit a fire (note to self…when the power is out the fan won’t work. When the fan doesn’t work the smoke doesn’t go up the chimney), lighting lanterns as the sun went down, and at the same time dealing with the challenge of snow removal with this wet, heavy snow we got, it was a pretty realistic welcome to dude ranching. Despite the amazing facilities, the great infrastructure, and the well-versed staff, the truth is when you have this many buildings, this much extreme weather, a staff of 60, and a herd of over 100 horses, there is always something exciting going on here!

Disclaimer from the PR department: These types of situations are far and few between. This was a crazy day that will go down in history as the epic day that started the Winter 2016-17 season. One for that book about dude ranching that we’ll write someday. 

Anyway, back to the message, which is after spending the past several days with Laura, Chris and their kids we are more than confident about the direction the ranch is headed, and the fun we’ll have with this family as the owners. They are falling in love more and more with the ranch and can’t wait to be a part of everything that we’re doing. We’ll see them off and on this winter while the kids are still in school, but then come summer Laura and the kids are planning on spending most of their time out here. The coming months are going to be full of just getting to know how things work here, why we do what we do, and wrapping their heads around all that goes on behind the scenes. And we’ll be running our programs like we always have so rest assured that the same team you’ve come to know will be here doing what we do, which is to constantly look at ways to make the guest experience better.

To close, just some fun facts about the Jones:

  • They are a big sports family–runners, team sports, you name it.
  • Their youngest kids are 11 and the oldest is in college.
  • Yes, they have a 12 person passenger van they use when they are shuttling the whole crew around.
  • Chris has an unbelievable (we think photographic) memory, but he claims he doesn’t always remember names.
  • Laura mentors a group of young moms once a week.
  • Their kids are incredibly kind, respectful, fun, and game for anything.
  • The family loves to downhill ski, but just discovered backcountry skiing and are kind of addicted.

 

 

Keeping up with the Joneses

We are over-flowing with enthusiasm to introduce to all of you Laura and Chris Jones, and their wonderful family of eight children as the new owners of Vista Verde Ranch.

The Joneses connection to Steamboat began when Laura traveled to Steamboat as a little girl. The visits continued, and now whether it is skiing, riding, hiking, running, rafting, or simply pondering on the beauty of God’s spectacular creation, Steamboat is a second home to the Jones family.

The seeds of the idea of a ranch were planted about 10 years ago on one of the family’s many trips to the mountains. However, it wasn’t the right time and place until about two years ago when the Joneses visits to the Steamboat area became more and more frequent. As the dream of having something “special” continued to grow it took a unique turn with the possibility of being part of Vista Verde. This past year, the idea slowly got moved from the “dream” list to the “reality” list. After a lot of prayer and hard work to put the plan into place, today Laura and Chris officially take over the reins as ranch owners.

Please join us in welcoming Laura, Chris and their kids to the VVR family. All of us at the ranch are so energized by Laura and Chris’s excitement about the ranch that it feels like Santa arrived early this year. They have consistently expressed a commitment to continuing with the mission of the ranch while never losing sight of “betterness.” We are all so thankful for the leadership, vision, and support that we had from Peggy and Jerry Throgmartin, and we look forward to the coming years with this amazing family. So here we go!

Onward and upward, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all of you!

Ben, Steph, Charlie, and the VVR crew

 

“There are so many things that drew us to Vista Verde. There are countless first class features. The horses, the cabins, the food, and the various facilities are all top notch. However, what stood out to us the most were the people. The people are what makes Vista Verde such a special and a truly unique place. We were completely blown away that something like this could be a possibility. We feel so fortunate and thankful to be a part of this incredible and spectacular place.”

chocolate chip cookie recipe

Chef’s Corner: Chocolate Chip Cookies

The other day just for fun I put a photo of our cookie jar on Facebook to recognize National Cookie Day. The response was trememdous, and there were requests for cookie recipes. Since we already have our famous peanut butter cookie recipe posted, I asked the chefs for the next favorite recipe–their special chocolate chip cookies.

Chocolate Chip Cookie (makes approx. 40 cookies)

Ingredients:
1/2 pound butter, soft
1/2 pound shortening
2 cup brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
18 ounces chocolate chips
Procedure:

1. Cream the butter and sugars with a mixer or by hand until smooth
2. add the egg and vanilla extract and scrape down the bowl, mix until incorporated, but do not over mix.
3. add the flour, salt and baking soda. Mix until just combined. Mix in the chocolate chips
4. Small ice cream scoop onto cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees, rotating after 5 minutes for a total of 10 minutes.

 

mares and foals at dude ranch

Dude Ranch Life: We’ve got babies coming!

Last week marked roughly the 60 day pregnancy check for our mares who were bred this past summer. Dr. Courtney Diehl came up with her ultrasound machine and checked each of the mares, and confirmed that they are all still in foal (aka expecting) and everyone is looking good! June, Teletubby, Sugar and Oakley are all well on their way to motherhood. We’re excited to have our first round of foals by our stallion Shaq due next spring. We will even have a foal due in the summer, as Oakley took a little longer to get checked into foal this year!

Now it’s time for the mares to relax, get their nails done, and eat plenty of high quality feed. Not a bad life, eh?