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!

great dude ranches for skiing

Equitrekking- February 2016

Jocelyn from Equitrekking.com put together a round-up of “7 Guest Ranches that offer Top-Notch Skiing” with a nice list of ranches that are open during the winter months.  If you are looking to combine a dude ranch vacation with a ski vacation, take a look at her recommendations.  Read the article….

romantic cross country ski vacation

XCSkiResorts.com – January 2016

According the article titled “Glide your way to Romance with XC Valentine’s Day Getaways” cross country (XC) skiing and snowshoeing are some of the most romantic forms of recreation and Valentine’s Day is coming. So get away with your loved one to a winter wonderland of memories for some outdoor recreation and pampering that you deserve.  The folks at XCSkiResorts.com put together a great list of options for romantic getaways this Valentine’s Day weekend.  Read the article….

tubing on spring break in Colorado

Family Travel Forum- January 2016

The folks at Family Travel Forum put together a long list of great ideas for the very best spring break vacation ideas, and included Vista Verde as one of the recommendations.  As the edge comes off of the winter weather, and the sun shines a bit longer each day, spring feels like the best of both worlds.  The whole world seems to be coming alive, yet there is still snow on the ground to play in and enjoy.  Read the article….

sticky bun recipe from Vista Verde Ranch

Chef’s Corner: Maple Glazed Sticky Buns

The snow falling outside is wonderful to play in, but also makes us want to come inside and curl up in front of the fire with a yummy treat.  Well, here is a great option for that yummy treat, and a ranch favorite!  This recipe makes approximately 2 dozen rolls

 

Ingredients:

Danish dough, one sheet, 17” x 25”

1 pound unsalted butter, whipped

1 Tblsp. Ground cinnamon

8 Tblsp. Granulated sugar

1 cup pecans, chopped

1 cup maple syrup

8 ounces melted butter

 

Method:

  1. If the dough is frozen, allow it to warm slightly, but not too much, if too soft it will be difficult to roll, if too frozen, it will crack!
  2. Whip the butter in a mixer with a paddle attachment until very soft and spreadable. Spread the butter evenly over the entire surface of the dough with a spatula.
  3. Combine the sugar and cinnamon in a bowl and sprinkle over the entire surface of the dough.
  4. Tightly roll the dough evenly into a log. Wrap the dough first in plastic wrap and then in foil. Refrigerate overnight to set up.
  5. The next day, combine the pecans, maple and melted butter in a bowl and spread on the bottom of a baking pan, Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F. Remove the rolls from the refrigerator, remove the foil and plastic, and slice into 24 pieces. and arrange in the baking pan.
  6. Bake the rolls for 12 minutes, rotate the pans and bake another 12 minutes until done. Remove from oven and allow to cool on a rack.
  7. Turn out onto a platter to serve. Enjoy!

 

Steamboat dude ranch round up

The Dude Ranches of Steamboat Springs

Steamboat Springs is a pretty wonderful place and has become a bit of a hub of Colorado dude ranches with three ranches belonging to the Colorado Dude and Guest Ranch Association within a 6 mile radius of each other.  We all enjoy the camaraderie of being neighbors and friendly competitors.  Dude ranching can be an isolating business, as there aren’t many people who can relate to the challenges and rewards.  Reading a hotel industry magazine just doesn’t cut it.  We’re not dealing with ADR’s and REIT’s.  We’re dealing with people, emotions, animals, dirt, and a staff that is like family.  So, we feel pretty privileged to have some other great ranches within a stone’s throw with whom we share the ride.

The Home Ranch is just 6 miles down the road, right off of the Elk River Road.  A Relais and Chateaux property, they have a strong emphasis on their farm to table dining.  With beautiful views of the Zirkel Wilderness area right from the Main Lodge, this ranch is top notch and classy.  They have a similar guest count, great riding and fishing, and a variety of cabins and lodge rooms.  As well, the Home Ranch is also open in the winter for cross country skiing vacations and other fun activities in the snow.  This is the first ranch we refer guests to when we are full, as they are as close as you can get to being similar in the dude ranch world.  As I always tell people, comparing ranches is like comparing apples to oranges, but they both taste good.

The Elk River Guest Ranch is only a mile or so down Seedhouse Road, right next to the Elk River.  This ranch has had a number of owners in the past 10 years, and has gone a few different directions.  But, a little over a year ago it was purchased by a Bex, a former staff member at another Colorado dude ranch who had a dream of owning her own dude ranch.  She and her husband opened the Elk River Guest Ranch for traditional dude ranch vacations last summer, and are busily building up the business.  It’s a smaller, more rustic ranch, but is loaded with charm and great riding access into the Routt National Forest.

And then there’s Vista Verde Ranch.  Our ranch has been functioning as a dude ranch since the 1970’s, and we just keep fine tuning our offering.  Through a couple amitious owners, the facilities have been drastically upgraded over the years, the staff filled with long term, dedicated people, and our committment to “betterness” keeps us moving forward all the time.  We pride ourselves in our diverse offering of activities, hiring phenomenal people, luxurious accommodations and amenities, and a culinary program that walks the line between ranchy and fancy.  Summer, fall, or winter you can find us looking forward to getting to know our guests and sharing this little slice of heaven with folks from all over the world.

We hope you make it to one of these Steamboat dude ranches sometime soon.  We’ll take all the guests we can handle, but as long as you visit one of these ranches it’s a win for the industry.

remodeling new luxury cabin

Dude ranch life: The demolition party

Monday morning the construction crew rolled in ready to start work on a major renovation in our duplex cabin.  After spending all fall getting the plans ready to go, the finishes picked out, and planning the construction schedule, we are happy to see the project officially underway.

The duplex cabin looks out over the Winter pasture, and sitting on the deck in the hot tub in the evenings will be a great spot to watch the horses and even maybe wildlife as they settle in for the night.  The remodel will give each side a master suite with a king bed and a second bedroom with a queen bed.  And the view from the cozy living rooms will be tranquil.  Both units will have a distinct look and feel that Bill has been masterfully creating in his mind, and slowly putting together with each design element he selects.  North Fork will have a more polished and finished feel while South Fork will be a little less refined but still very upscale.  Each side is designed for a variety of users from two singles to a family with one child or a single parent with two children, and even two couples who want to travel together.

North Fork and South Fork are already being booked for the summer of 2016, and we’re excited to reveal the process as we move through the winter and into the spring.

Colorado ranch Christmas holiday

A Colorado ranch Christmas

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the ranch

Nothing was stirring, not even the snow on a branch;

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,

In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;

The guests were nestled all snug in their beds;

While visions of tubing danced in their heads;

And mamma in her woolies, and I in my cap,

Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap,

When out in the pasture there arose such a clatter,

I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter.

Away to the window I flew like a flash,

Untied Bill’s rope curtain ties and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the mile-high snow,

Gave a lustre of midday to the meadow below,

When what to my wondering eyes, but of course,

A cherry red sleigh pulled by a big black horse,

With a handsome driver with the face of a boy,

I knew in a moment he must be Troy.

As he rounded up the herd, through the snow they came

And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name:

“Now, Trigger! now, Roper! now Mellow! and Tucker!

On, Tonto! on, Mosey! on, Cowboy! and Pucker!

To the top of the cabins! to the top of the Lodge!

Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!”

As aspen leaves that before the thunder storm fly,

When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;

So up to the tops of the cabins the horses all flew

With saddlebags full of toys, wrangled by Sam and KP, and others too—

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof

The prancing and stomping of each little hoof.

As I pulled on my bathrobe, and was turning around,

Down the chimney came Charlie with a thump and a bound.

He was dressed all in Carhartt, from his head to his foot,

And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;

A bundle of fresh towels he had flung on his back,

And he looked like a ski guide just opening his pack.

His eyes—how they twinkled! his dimples, how merry!

His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!

His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,

And his Stormy Kromer hat was all covered with snow;

A leftover scone he held tight in his teeth,

Chef Melissa is making us all round as a wreath;

A radio call from the front desk and a twist of his head

Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,

Stocked our firewood, cleaned our hot tub, and delivered more wine; then turned with a jerk,

With a mention of the time tomorrow we should be ready to ski,

And a heads up that Ben would be waiting with coffee,

He sprang to his saddle, to his steed gave a whistle,

And away they flew like the down of a thistle.

But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight—

“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”

 

Merry Christmas from all of us at the ranch.  We hope you have a wonderful holiday!

snowcottage

Shape Magazine- December 2015

First Shape Magazine included us in an article about 7 reasons to take a real winter vacation, and just days later we find an article in Shape about romantic getaways that includes the ranch.  They sure are showing us some love these days!  If you’re looking to plan a romantic vacation there are some great ideas in this article, including Vista Verde!  Read the article….

winter ranch cattle round up

A winter cattle round up

So, that’s not something you see very often at Vista Verde.  The ranch covered in a blanket of snow and horseback riders herding a bunch of cows coming up the driveway.  Well, for the second year running this has been our reality.  During our fall round up in September, the goal is to get all the cows in before the snow flies.  But, the past two years, our riders haven’t been able to get them all in as the cows have been pretty “dodgy”, to put it gently.  So, when the snow covers up the grass it makes it a bit easier to lure them in.  The other day some were spotted by the South Fork trail head.  Ben and a couple others met up with the Bobcat and a truck full of hay.  With the hay, they were able to lure about 25 cows over to an enclosed field.  The next day, the wranglers saddled up and headed out to herd them up to the round pen, where it would be easier to load them into a trailer.  The snow was falling and the wind was blowing, so it was a job for the hearty.  Without too much trouble, they got the job done, and the cows are now back down at the Belton’s ranch, where they were supposed to be back at the end of September.

Just another day at the ranch.  You never know what will happen next around here!

Steamboat Magazine- Winter 2015

So, this article isn’t exactly about the ranch, but I couldn’t help but share it as it highlights one of our amazing staff members.  Bridgette wasn’t always a chef, and working in our kitchen has actually been a reprieve from a very impressive international endeavor.  The folks at Steamboat magazine met Bridgette last winter while doing a photo shoot, and were so intrigued by her story that they feature her in this winter’s issue.  Read the article….

best winter dude ranches

USA Today – December 2015

It seems that this is the season for winter vacation articles, as we are getting notices every day of a new article that includes Vista Verde.  We’ll take it!  Most recently USA Today showcases a list of guest ranches to visit in the winter.  There are some great options out there, and we’re flattered to be included in this top 10 list.  Read the article…..

dude ranch comfort food

Chef’s Corner: Butternut Squash – Brown Butter Ravioli

When you’re playing like a dog outside on a cold and blustery day, a recipe like this just warms you up, especially if you’re sitting at a table next to a crackling fire.  Enjoy!

Ingredients:
Pasta:
4 cups “00” flour (Caputo is a good brand you can order on amazon.com)
8 egg yolks
2 eggs
Filling:
1 large butternut squash, halved and seeded
2 Tblsp. olive oil
2 Tblsp. Mascarpone cheese
2 ounces brown butter
Heavy cream to desired consistency
Salt and pepper to taste
The Rest:
1 shallot, sliced into rings and roasted
8 fried sage leaves

Procedure:
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. In a kitchen aid mixer with paddle attachment, combine the flour and the eggs until well combined. You want the dough to be stiff so that it doesn’t stick when rolling out. You do want it to come together as a smooth ball of dough though. Add more egg if you need to get it to this stage, but the dough should not be wet. Err on the side of too dry.
2. Wrap the dough well and let it rest at least 30 minutes before rolling out.
3. Meanwhile, place the butternut squash halves on a sheet pan and drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and roast in the oven until the flesh is soft. Allow to cool slightly and peel while warm. Reserve some roasted squash for dicing and finishing the dish.
4. In the hopper of a blender or food processor, add the roasted squash, mascarpone cheese and brown butter and blend. The mixture will be dry and tough to move in the blender, add enough cream to get the mixture to move and puree until the right consistency is reached, similar to freshly whipped cream, but more dense. Season the puree with salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate the puree until cool.
5. Set up your pasta machine (or you can roll by hand for a more rustic version) and begin rolling the pasta on setting 10. Continue to move down in settings while rolling the dough through until you reach setting 2.
6. Measure 13 inch pieces and cut, dust with flour to prevent sticking to each other and layer in a container until ready to use the pasta.
7. Lay the “top half” of the pasta over the ravioli mold and create the space for the ravioli filling. Fill the space you have just created with the pasta filling, spritz the dough with water so that the pasta will seal and fold the other half of dough up and over. Roll over the ravioli mold to cut out the individual ravioli and layer on a bed of semolina flour or cornmeal to keep from sticking.
8. When ready to cook the pasta, have a pot of salted water boiling on the stove, add the pasta for about a minute until cooked. Fresh pasta does not take as long to cook as dry pasta.
9. To finish the dish, warm the remaining ounce of brown butter in a sauté pan, toss with the remaining squash and the shallot. drain the ravioli into the sauté pan while adding a splash of the pasta water, the starch in the water will help to thicken the pan sauce. Toss all until coated with pan sauce, divide between 4 plates and garnish with fried sage. (Fried sage may seem unnecessary for the dish, but it does add a layer of texture, fragrance and taste to the dish).

Makes 24 ravioli

Dude ranch Christmas vacation article

Equitrekking – December 2015

With the Christmas season right upon us, this article titled “Ranches to Visit for the Holiday Season” was very timely.  Christmas is such a festive time at the ranch with all the holiday traditions such as the Family tree decorations night, the caroling, and the big Christmas day feast.  And of course we ring in the New Year with a boot stomping dance right in the Great Room.  It wouldn’t be right without a little do-si-do on New Year’s Eve!  Read the article…..

winter vacation in Colorado article

Dallas Morning News – November 2015

We weren’t expecting this article, but our friend and writer Dan Leeth surprised me the other day with a link to the Dallas Morning News and a great article he wrote about his visit in the winter to the ranch.  It’s a really nice article, and I’m in love with the main photo he took from his cabin deck.  The timing is perfect as we are just about ready to open for the winter season, and are gearing up for guests to arrive for a winter vacation in Colorado!  Read more….

dude ranch life

Dude Ranch Life: Off-season comes to an end

With our winter staff rolling into the ranch this week, and orientation kicking off into high speed, the off-season has officially come to an end.  The ranch doesn’t open it’s doors for guests for a little while still, but the pace and activity level is at full throttle again.

During the last few weeks of off-season, those of us at the ranch have been busy getting the finishing touches on our many projects.  One of the exciting ones we have on the front burner right now is gearing up for a full remodel of our duplex to make it guest ready for next summer.  The other day Bill, Ben, and I spent the whole day at the interior decorator’s shop picking out tile, carpet, counter tops, fireplace stone, and more.  Now, you have to understand that none of us relish in this, especially Ben.  But, we gutted it out under the amazing guidance of Yvonne, and came up with some great picks.  The North Fork and South Fork units are going to be gorgeous and have a serene views of the Winter horse pasture.

In other exciting off-season news, Bill has been moving into his new house.  It’s been on his radar for years to move off the ranch and buy a home of his own, and he took the plunge this fall.  After over 20 years of living on the ranch, he’s finding all sorts of treasures as he packs up!

During a moment of weakness, Ben got talked into joining the board of the Colorado Dude and Guest Ranch Association.  He’ll be heading to meetings throughout the year to help the board oversee the marketing, policies, and direction of the association, which is made up of about 30 ranches in Colorado.  It’s a great organization that encourages industry cooperation, and we’re proud to have Ben serving on the board.

Beka is a blur today as she gets ready for all our staff to arrive.  Grace put the finishing touches on the staff housing in anticipation of the staff coming in today.  The chefs are prepping dinner for our Welcome Dinner, and we’re having our first manager meeting of the season to regroup and get everyone back together again.

To top it all off, we got another 3 inches of snow last night, and there is more coming tonight.  It’s beginning to look a lot like Winter around here!

solo-escape-winter-vista-verde-ranch

LiveOutdoors.com – December 2015

The folks at Live Outdoors got us excited about the start of our winter season in this article about the ranch and Steamboat winter vacations.  Vicki Cinebell writes about all the fun there is to have at the ranch in the winter, and also spends some time encouraging the idea of heading into the Steamboat Ski Resort for downhill skiing or snowboarding during your winter holiday at the ranch.  Read more……

back country ski touring vacation

What is Backcountry Skiing, and can I do it?

Many people know what cross country (XC) skiing looks like, but many of our new guests ask us “What is backcountry skiing?”  Backcountry skiing is the most popular kind of skiing at the ranch and one of our hallmark winter activities.

First off, it’s important to understand that backcountry skiing is a broad term that means different things to different people.  For some, this is an extreme sport that you might see in an epic ski movie.  That is not what we’re doing here!  Our version is probably better described as backcountry touring.

Imagine taking a hike through a pristine meadow covered with a blanket of untouched snow.  You cross the meadow and head into the trees.  The hush of the forest is disturbed only by the plop of snow puffs falling out of the trees.  You see fox tracks and keep an eye out for a moose or elk sighting in the distance.  Once out of the forest, you find yourself gliding across a lake that is covered in a thick layer of ice and frosted with fresh powder.  As you head back home, your stomach starts to grumble for lunch.  The hearty breakfast has worn off as you’ve been burning calories out in the woods, and it’s time to warm up by the fire.  That is backcountry touring.

From a technical perspective, what this looks like is a heavy duty pair of cross-country boots and skis.  Your heel is free, so the boot connects only at the toe.  This allows the kick and glide motion that propels you through the snow.  The skis are wider and heavier than a traditional cross-country ski, so you will float in the snow, which means less work for you to get through the powder.  Some backcountry touring skis have metal edges, which makes it easier to grip the snow on a side-hill, or make a turn if you are playing around with going down hills in the backcountry.

At Vista Verde, our guides first teach our guests the basics of backcountry touring.  We show our guests how to move forward as efficiently as possible, and teach how to get up and down small hills.  Most importantly, we teach how to get up when you fall down.  The great part of being out in fresh powder is it doesn’t hurt if you fall!  But you need to know how to get back up in the fluffy stuff, as it can feel pretty bottomless after a big snow storm.  Then, we head out to one of the areas where we like to ski.  With millions of acres in the Routt National Forest, our terrain options are extensive.  Most of the time our guided tours last 1 ½- 2 hours, but there are a few days a week that we pack up a lunch for the more adventurous skiers and head out all day.  Those are double dessert days!

We’d love to introduce you to backcountry skiing, so come play with us this winter!

funny visitors for a ranch vacation

Dude Ranch Life: A different kind of guest

We normally roll out the red carpet for our guests, and look forward to introducing new folks to the ranch.  This week, there was a surprising new group who showed up unexpectedly for a little ranch vacation.  Sheep!

The sheep were spotted off and on for a couple days earlier in the week just down the road.  Then, mid-week, they decided to make their presence official as they headed up the driveway.  Troy saddled up Caddy and rounded them up the other morning.  We’ve had to do some searching to try to figure out who they belong to: lots of phone calls, asking around at the Clark Store, and networking with other ranchers.  Finally, the owner was located and he’s coming to pick them up in the next couple days.  In the meantime, they are fun little pets to have hanging around and are providing a real shock for our horses.  They can’t quite figure out what these weird smelling animals are doing in their round pen!

It just goes to show that every day is a new adventure here at Vista Verde, and we love a good adventure.

barn loft for winter resort

Dude Ranch Life: Off-season projects

‘Tis the season.  For us, that means it’s time to get busy working on projects around the ranch.  It’s hard to tear the place up too much when there are guests here, so when the ranch is closed down, our work ramps up.  And there is always a lot to do!

Right now Bill is busy in the cabins, fixing all the little bumps and bruises that occur over the course of the season.  Banged up baseboard heaters, holes poked in screens, dings on the walls, and nicks on the furniture.  Later today I’ll do a walk-through to make a list of all the window coverings that need to be replaced or fixed.  The non-washable items are all at the dry cleaners, and new towels have been ordered.

Moving down to the Lodge, we tore out all the dining room carpet in anticipation of the arrival of our new carpet.  It was just time, as the old carpet wasn’t going to make it another season.  And, when I say “we” tore out the carpet, I should clarify.  Meagan and Devyn took office breaks last week and got their hands dirty ripping up the old carpet and pad.  Those two can do a lot more than just have a nice voice on the phones, you know!

Up in the barn, Nate has been working hard on the improved barn loft.  He has had help from “little” Ben, Tim, and Troy, as he encloses, insulates, and winterizes the barn loft this fall.  We’re excited to finally have a space to hold barn dances in the winter, as well as be able to spread out a bit for yoga classes in the colder months and when the weather doesn’t allow for outdoor yoga.  An official name for the new and improved Barn Loft is still undecided, but we can work on that as the snow piles up.

When Nate isn’t up in the loft, he’s multi-tasking by working on our new fitness room.  Now, we know that most of our guests never even touch the fitness center, and why would they when there are miles of trails to explore with amazing scenery and natural intervals?  But, for those who want to hit the elliptical or treadmill, we are moving the equipment to an air-conditioned spot near the Machine Shed.  This will allow us to move forward with adding a new unit for our guests.  Named North Fork and South Fork, these two duplex units will be ready for Summer 2016, and will be ready to accommodate smaller families by Summer 2016.

Lastly, Charlie and Ben took on the project of getting the ranch hands an official headquarters, where they can check in on any office work as well as hang their wet and dirty gear to dry in between shifts.  It’s not glamorous, but it gives them a home base to meet up and plan out their days.

So many projects, and so little time.  The beautiful weather made it a lot easier to work on these projects, but the snow rolling in now will scoot us along a little quicker to get them finished!  Because ’tis the season for snow to start piling up too.

dude ranch dining room remodel dude ranch staff off season project fitness room remodel at Colorado resort remodel at luxury resort

dude ranch chefs

Dude Ranch life: Off-season shenanigans

Chefs John (JT) and Cholly came back all excited from a “field trip” to Yampa Valley Farms.  Armed with photos and talking my ear off about the experience, he agreed to share their story with all of you.

As chefs, today was a very special day. We were able to find a totally unique product that is not only amazingly delicious and beautiful, but also local! Minimizing our carbon footprint is something we continuously strive to do by sourcing as local as possible from producers who share similar values.

We had the good fortune to meet with Josh Kilbane of Yampa Valley Farms. Josh is raising the most beautiful pork product we have ever seen. It was a breath of fresh air to see a farm of free-ranged pigs not confined to a concrete slab. The pigs are fed fresh prep scrap from local restaurants, as well as beets and turnips grown on the farm to encourage routing and self-feeding. Also, with two ponds on the lot we had a chance to see the pigs swim and wallow. Josh has made a special cross breed of Berkshire pig and Mangilitaz “Wooly Pig” to create what he calls the Colorado Mountain Pig. This cross allows the pig to be durable enough for the harsh environment of Northern Colorado. All the pork from Yampa Valley Farms is hormone and antibiotic free, as well as sustainably farmed and produced. The Berkshire pork, prized for juiciness, flavor and tenderness, is pink-hued and heavily marbled. Its high fat content makes it suitable for long cooking and high-temperature cooking. The Mangalitsa pork is exceptionally juicy, tender, and marbled, but with a darker red meat and larger more even fat cap making it perfect for charcuterie. Be on the lookout for the “Waygu of Pork” featured on our menus in the seasons to come.

Another exciting off-season project we started today is to “research” some beers for the new Colorado beer tasting being offered once a week this winter for a low impact, high flavor afternoon activity. It’s a tough job to go and explore breweries, sample beers, and come up with the perfect selections, but we’re willing to put in the hard work!  Just another day in the off-season shenanigans of a dude ranch chef.

 
yampa valley farms yampa valley farmsdude ranch animalsbaby dude ranch pigs