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!

all inclusive winter ranch vacations

JauntMagazine.com – February 2016

Here is a great round-up of top dude ranches for winter getaways, put together by Jaunt Magazine in cooperation with the Dude Rancher’s Association.  According to Jaunt Magazine writers if you’re looking for the ultimate winter escape, look no further than these all-inclusive dude ranches, each of which offers cold weather retreat in some of the most breathtakingly beautiful parts of the country.  Read the article….

feeding the herd at a winter resort in Colorado

Gigi Embrechts Photography – February 2016

Photographer Gigi Embrechts visited the ranch a few weeks ago, and took some amazing photos while she was here.  Upon returning home, she wrote an article about her experience at the ranch.  We are touched by the kind words she shared about her winter vacation at the ranch.  And we were thrilled to have her send us some of the amazing photos she took while at the ranch!  Read the article….

new horses at vista verde guest ranch

Dude Ranch Life- the snow piles up

Somehow my blogging habit got buried in the snow this past month.  It’s not hard as it has been snowing almost non-stop until this week.  Although most of us love fresh snow and it makes for a lot of fun adventures, after a certain point we all need a little vitamin D therapy when it snows day after day after day….

For those of you who like to keep up on what’s happening at the ranch, I’ll give you a little update.

In the barn, Sam and KP continue their horse shopping spree.  Each year we need to add to our herd to ensure that we have enough solid and sound riding horses.  In the dude ranch world as the horses age, they get upgraded to kids only.  I say upgraded as it’s a pretty cushy life taking short rides out with the little kiddos.  As these horses move out of the adult riding string, we have to replace them with younger mounts.  In the past we tend to attend a number of horse sales in the spring.  But, this always leaves us biting our nails as you don’t know what you’ll find, or if what you see at the sale is really who the horse will be once you get them home.  So, in the effort to always try to do things better, we are shopping a little differently this year.  Sam and KP have been perusing the online horse sale listings, traveling all over the state to try out horses, and bringing them home one by one.  It’s a little more time intensive, but we’re hoping for great results with this new approach to horse buying.  So far they have acquired some great ones.  They’ve found Turtle, Blondie, Bugs,  My favorite is a mother-son pair who look almost identical.  The seller showed Sam and KP the son, named “Bugs”.  After he watched them really like Bugs, he thought about how his wife had been bugging him to get rid of more of his horses, so he ran back to the barn and pulled out “Sadie”, the mom, to add to the mix.  Like mother like son?  Yep, it was a two-fer on that day.

Moving down to the dining room, it’s been a great season of hearty winter food and fabulous pastries.  We’ve committed to the weekly wine-pairing dinner all winter long, and I got to join the fun last week.  Chef JT and Chol had decided to change up the menu so it was fun to see the new food and wine pairings put into play.  My favorite was the chicken liver pate ravioli.  Note that this is a big deal, as I can have a bit of a “ewww” factor when it comes to unusual foods.  But JT made me try it, and despite the fact that I thought I’d hate it, I loved it!  What really impressed me was watching Chol move from table to table as he prepared for each course, touching base with the guests who have dietary restrictions and let them know how he was modifying the dish for each of their needs.  I had such a sense of pride knowing how much work goes into preparing a elaborate 5 course dinner as it is, and then seeing how seamlessly Chol and JT accommodated a variety of dietary restrictions without pause.  Those guys rock.

Across the drive, the duplex remodel is coming along.  This week they installed the sound-proof wall in between the units.  Charlie and Bill had fun testing it out yesterday, trying to yell at each other from either side.  It “sounds” like the wall works pretty well, and should be even better once the units get further along in the process.  We are booking both sides up for the summer already as people are planning their summer vacations right now, and we’re looking forward to our guests enjoying the gorgeous view of the winter horse pasture from their hot tubs on the deck.

Last in the updates is the mad pace of interviews that Beka and Ben are on right now.  Every couple days they head into Steamboat where bandwidth is more of a reality than a dream, and they Skype interview dozens of potential employees.  The summer staff is coming together and Beka has her hands full juggling applicants, reference calls, and fielding lots of questions.  As always, we’re hiring for character and attitude, so if you know of a great young person who might fit the dude ranch culture, send them our way!

And that’s a wrap on this week at the ranch.

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.