Vista Verde Ranch, Luxury Guest Ranch
Vista Verde Ranch, Colorado Luxury Ranch
Vista Verde Ranch, Colorado Luxury Ranch"
Vista Verde Ranch, Colorado Luxury Ranch
John Lyons Horsemanship Clinic at Vista Verde Ranch
Vista Verde Ranch, Colorado Luxury Ranch
Vista Verde Ranch, Colorado Luxury Ranch

John Lyons Horsemanship Clinic at Vista Verde Ranch

Date: March 24th, 2015

By Steph

We are excited to announce a partnership with the renowned John Lyons and Vista Verde Ranch to offer a one-of-a-kind horsemanship clinic.

October 11-15, 2015

Join a small group of riders to ride and learn under the renowned John Lyons.

john_lyonsJohn Lyons is one of the inter-nationally known horse trainers in the field of natural horsemanship. Lyons has been presenting training clinics and horsemanship symposiums since 1980, has written many books on horses and horse training, and is the founder of John Lyons’ Perfect Horse magazine. He lives and works out of Parachute, Colorado.

Lyons’ approach of establishing a partnership between horse and handler is based in part on the principles of operant conditioning and he encourages owners to notice what is going on with their horses and to use consistent cues and reinforcement to encourage positive behavior.  He places a strong emphasis on safety of handler and horse, using gentle techniques, and eschewing dramatic results in favor of setting specific goals, then teaching them by use of clear signals, responsible methods, and consistency.

During the course of the clinic, riders and horses will learn the foundation exercises, lessons and principles of the Lyons Method. Riders will, first and foremost, learn to effectively control their horse. Whether a pleasure and trail rider, or an experienced competitor, all riders have the same common goal: to improve the level of control they have over their horses. The clinic will help you reach that goal and take your horsemanship to the next level.

Participation in this 4 night, 3 day clinic will be limited to a small group of riders and auditors.  Riders may bring a non-rider companion to take advantage of other ranch activities during the clinic dates.

Rates include lodging in one of our luxury cabins or lodge rooms, meals, beer and wine, clinic on our horse or yours, and airport transfers to and from the Steamboat/Hayden airport.


$1,900/non-rider- Guided trail rides, hiking, mountain biking, and fly fishing available for non-riders

$100/auditor/day- For non-guests who just want to come up to the ranch for the day to audit the clinic and enjoy lunch with our guests.

Please note- If you are bringing your own horse, a current health certificate will be required.  Board is $100 for the 4 nights.

Please contact us at 800-526-7433 for more information or to reserve your spot.



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Nearing the finish line

Date: March 20th, 2015

By Steph

The winter season is coming to an end, and just in time as the snow is rapidly melting away.  Tomorrow we officially close the winter resort season, but then Sunday the guests for our Horsemanship Retreat check-in.  We’ll have a group of about 10 ladies here riding with Jason Patrick until Thursday, and then we shut the doors until summertime.  There is a mix of excitement, sadness, anticipation, and celebration going on for many of us right now.  Excitement as it’s always fun to have a change of pace, and many staff are heading off on amazing off-season adventures.  Sadness as some of our great people are moving on to their next venture in life and we’re sad to see them go.  Anticipation as those who are leaving wonder where their next move will take them, and will they miss the ranch or not?  Celebration as we have worked our tails off since December serving others, and now it’s time to take a deep breath and enjoy the quiet of the off-season.

Although there are many staff moving on to new and different adventures in life, I need to recognize one in particular today.  Malori has led the office team this past year and has been the main voice of Vista Verde.  She’s handled the bulk of the reservations and been the point person for all our guests prior to their stay at the ranch.  It’s been such a pleasure having her in the office and watching her grow over the past couple years.  We will miss her tremendously, but are excited for her to go find her “thing” out there in the big world.  I know she’ll do wonderful things and contribute in great ways.  At the same time, Malori’s partner in crime and roommate Kerri will be heading out too.  She’s the other voice of VVR who steps in on Malori’s days off to cover the reservations.  The amazing person has proven that farm girls can be smart and beautiful, and we’ve loved having her as part of our team. With every sad good bye there is always also a warm welcome.

With Malori stepping out, Meagan will be stepping into her role.  Many of you who have been here know Meagan as the lively server or the bubbly kid wrangler.  Now she is stepping inside the office and will be taking over the phones, emails, and all that goes on in the front office.  So, expect to hear a new voice when you call in to book your reservation (have you booked for the summer yet?  If not, get on it so Meagan can get to work!).  We’re all looking forward to having her join the fun in the office.

There are many more to say goodbye to, and many more to welcome come summer, but that will be another blog.  I’m hoping that sometime in the coming month I’ll have the new website launched, and then we’ll start updating the staff bios so you can check out who will be working here this summer. Lots to do with the closing of the season, and lots of great news to share in the coming weeks.  Stay tuned!

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Why should you choose a dude ranch for your next vacation

Date: March 5th, 2015

By Steph

How to choose the right dude ranch

So, you’re trying to decide if a dude ranch vacation is right for your family? But if you haven’t been to one before, how do you know if you’ll like it, and how do you know which dude ranch is the right one?

Dude Ranch People

Unfortunately dude ranches are not a great money making business prospect, so most people who get into the business do it out of a labor of love. Therefore, at most dude ranches, you will find hosts who are friendly and engaging and who really do want to share their backyard with you. And, because things trickle down, the staff are usually the same. In fact, one of the things that surprise most first time guests is the staff. Most of them are working at a dude ranch for a season or two during college or just after graduation. They have chosen to come to that dude ranch for the job, and they not just looking for a way to make money but looking for a unique experience, much like you! And most ranches incorporate their staff in a way that makes them less like the “help” and more like friends taking care of friends. Now, we happen to think our staff are particularly special, and spend a lot of time each year picking out the best of the best to join our crew.

The Dude Ranch Experience

In addition to the unique relationships formed with staff at a dude ranch, most guests are surprised to find that they become fast friends with the other guests. Many dude ranch guests keep in touch in ensuing years, and even plan to return to the same dude ranch or a different one next year.

You may be picking up on a theme….relationships. That’s really what a dude ranch is all about. The beautiful backdrop, great activities, and service are all wonderful. But the relationships formed at a dude ranch are what make it really special.

Having said that, you do want to know that the backbone of a great dude ranch vacation is there. Some dude ranches offer just riding, some have various other activities. Some are a great place for families with little kids, and some are better for when the kids are older. Some have specialty times like adult only weeks or women only weeks. Most dude ranch stays are week-long stays during the main season, but some offer shorter stays during other times of the year.

Picking the Right Dude Ranch

It can be a bit overwhelming, trying to find the right dude ranch for your vacation. First, you need to identify what level of quality you desire. Some are very rustic, some more luxurious. And what kind of activities are important to you? Is location important, and how easy is it to get to the ranch? Because the relationships are such an integral part of the experience, we do recommend you get on the phone with the ranches you are considering. You will either feel really good about the person you spoke with, or you will know it’s not for you. That gut feeling is important, as the person answering your questions is usually a good representation of the kind of people you’ll find at that dude ranch. Lastly, look for reviews on places like Tripadvisor as those can be very telling.

Questions to ask

Here are some questions that might help you plan your dude ranch vacation:

1) What is included in the rate? What is extra? Taxes, gratuities? Beverages? Extra charges for optional activities?

2) How are activities organized? Can families participate in activities and meals together?

3) What’s the best way to get to the dude ranch?

4) What is the staff to guest ratio?

5) What are the accommodations like? Do they have pictures?

6) What is the riding program like? How many people per ride? How are rides split up? What is the terrain like?

7) If someone doesn’t want to ride, what else is there to do?

8) Describe a typical breakfast, lunch and dinner.

9) Describe the setting of the dude ranch.

10) What makes that dude ranch special?

Hopefully this helps you pick the right dude ranch. Just as much as you want to make sure we’re the right dude ranch for you, we want to make sure you are going to be happy here. You can read more about Why Vista Verde to get a quick hitter on our dude ranch. The right match is paramount to creating those memories and relationships that will lead to making it the best vacation ever!

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Vista Verde Ranch, Colorado Luxury Ranch

Local’s Ski Day- March 1, 2015

Date: February 19th, 2015

We’re excited to open up the ranch to Steamboat locals for a day of skiing and great food on Sunday, March 1, 2015.  The new snow has freshened everything up and it’s gorgeous right now!

Come enjoy the ranch’s groomed ski trails and treat yourself to an bountiful spread at lunchtime.

Ski all day on our classic and skate trails.  Between 12:30-1:30 come on into the Lodge for a scrumptious lunch.

Ski & Lunch- Includes a glass of wine or beer with lunch.  $45/person, 1/2 price for children 12 & under.

Trail pass only – Come and enjoy the trails and peaceful scenery for a couple hours.  $15/person

Cross country ski or snowshoe rentals- $15/person

Please call or email ahead of time to reserve your spot.  879-3858

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What’s up at Vista Verde?

Date: February 9th, 2015

By Steph

So, I’ll be the first to admit, I’ve been a little slack on blogging this winter.  I could give all sorts of excuses from lacking good ideas to being distracted by having fun outside to being bogged down with other items on my to-do list–you name it.  Nonetheless, I just decided this morning to sit down and write about whatever came to mind.

We’re more than half-way through the winter season at this point, and are in our last week of adult-only vacations.  I can’t tell you how many times we’ve all stated, “We love these guests!” and then turn around 2 days later and say the same thing, and then again 3 days later…..point being we have been so lucky to have some amazingly wonderful people choose Vista Verde for their winter vacation this year.  From the young honeymooners to the group of gals here for a girls getaway to celebrate their 50th birthday to the returning guests who call this their second home…they’ve all been a blast.  It’s fun to come in each day and see what everyone has chosen to do for the day.  It’s been a pretty even spread, except for this afternoon when all but 4 guests are going to doing the wine tasting!  Cholly will have his hands full, and a lot of fun, I suspect.

A week or so ago, we got a call from our friends at the Belton Ranch.  We co-op with them on our cattle round-up in the fall months.  There were some cows that we couldn’t get in last fall, and they were finally spotted out in the snow recently.  So, a few of the wranglers loaded up the trailer with our most hearty horses and plenty of warm clothes and went out to find those strays.   Mission accomplished with only a couple hours of riding.  It was a bit of a challenge, but some good cattle dogs helped, along with roping one of the cows to lead the rest in towards the trailer.

While last winter was the winter of overwhelming snow, this winter has been one of hit or miss snow.  We’ll have a huge dump of snow, and then nothing for a couple weeks, then another huge dump, etc… right now we’re in a weird “spring break” pattern of sunny days and slushy snow.  Go figure, as that is not something we typically see in February!  The word around town is that March and April will be huge snow months.  Regardless of the conditions, we’re finding good stashes of snow for the backcountry ski tours, and the skating and classic track has been amazing for people who are going out to cross country ski around the ranch.  I’ve skated more this year than ever before, and it’s been a blast.  It’s also great conditions for snow biking, and of course horse back riding in the snow or a sleigh ride with the sun shining down on you isn’t a bad way to spend the day.

As we get closer to Valentine’s Day, the chefs are preparing for our annual Aphrodisiac Dinner.  This year will be interesting as Valentine’s Day falls on the same weekend as President’s Day, so we’ll have families here as well as couples enjoying the romantic weekend in the snow.  That kicks off our family times again, and we’ll fire up the kid’s program from now until we finish with our spring break weeks in late-March.

I’ll wrap up with an office update.  Beka and Ben have been pouring over the applicants for the summer and interviewing, interviewing, interviewing.  They are pretty excited about who they have on board, and have some other great prospects to check out still.  We’re also busy working on an updated website.  Trying to keep the aspects of our current site that we love, but also make the site more accessible for mobile users.  Stay tuned for the launch of the site this spring.  In the meantime, keep in touch with us on Facebook, among our other social platforms.  We’ll keep posting photos and videos of what’s going on here at the ranch.  And, I’ll try to stay up on the blogging a bit more!

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Spotlight on- Mary Grefrath

Date: January 30th, 2015

By Steph

It’s been a long time since I’ve done a spotlight on a staff member post.  As soon as I started to think about who to put the spotlight on, Mary jumped into my mind and I knew it had to be her.

Mary -Dude Ranch staff

Mary and Meesh jumping on the feed sleigh to go feed the herd.

Originally from Buffalo, New York, Mary joined us during the winter of 2013-14.  She had recently completed her degree in Art Education at Buffalo State University, and, like many of our staff, had that “What do I do now?” moment.  Not quite ready to jump into becoming an art teacher, and not quite ready to pursue that Masters degree, she made the obvious choice to come work at a dude ranch!

Mary stepped into her interim career with ease.  She learned the ins and outs of housekeeping, and performed her job with a non-stop smile on her face.  She jumped into the community, quickly becoming part of the family, and immersed herself in the Vista Verde lifestyle.  Now in her 3rd season with the ranch, Mary has been a key player in many areas.  She’s our go-to when we need a crafty design for something, she helps with the kids program here and there, and she is an invaluable part of our housekeeping team.  This coming summer, Mary will transition over to being a full-time Kid Wrangler, so know that your little ones will be in good hands if you’re heading this way for a dude ranch vacation this summer.

Not to miss an opportunity, Mary has made the most of her time in Colorado.  She loves trying out all the activities here, and loves learning new things.  Mary has traveled over most of the hiking trails around here (and there are a lot!), learned to skate ski, and has spent hours on horseback.  She told me that what has made her time working at the ranch so special is the relationships with the staff, the camaraderie among the team, and being around other people who are here because they want to be here, not just to clock in and collect a paycheck.

I also learned that Mary really enjoys the night she and the housekeeping team host Game Night during the winter season.  It gives them all a chance to hang out with the guests, have some fun with them, and most importantly, get to see their competitive side.  And you thought corn hole was a casual back yard game?  Not at Vista Verde!

So, what does someone like Mary do when she’s not taking care of guests, ironing, or folding laundry?  She’s currently reading “How to be a bad-ass”, although her preferred type of book is a mystery with a really huge twist at the end.  This coming spring 0ff-season she is planning on heading to Thailand to spend a couple weeks volunteering at an elephant sanctuary.  Last fall she took a road trip with Meesh and Heidi to the Grand Canyon before heading home to spend some time with her family.  And, when she’s here at the ranch, she typically has a handful of craft projects going from knitting a hat for Erin to helping Beka make a quilt.  Her friends tease her about her endless trail of projects, but remember, she is an art teacher after all!

We’re lucky to have Mary as part of our team, and look forward to hearing her infectious giggle and seeing her huge smile each day!

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Chef’s Corner: Butternut Squash Soup

Date: January 28th, 2015

With the snow falling outside, and the fire in the fireplace, it’s perfect weather for soup.  Here’s one of those classic winter soup’s that we look forward to this time of year.

Butternut Squash Soup


2 large butternut squash

1 large yellow onion

3 ribs of celery

2 cloves of garlic

4 quarts of water

Salt to taste


1. Preheat oven to 375.

2. Cut the butternut squash in half and scoop out seeds.

3. Rub the squash with olive oil and season with salt.

4. Place in oven for 45 minutes or until lightly caramelized and tender when pierced with a knife.

5. Let cool and peel skin off then dice and reserve.

6. Roughly chop onion and celery and crush garlic but leave whole.

7. Place all vegetables except butternut in an 8 qt pot with a light film of olive oil and sweat gently until translucent.

8. Add water and butternut and bring to a simmer.

9. Continue to simmer gently until all vegetables are tender.

10. When ready strain vegetables out and reserve cooking liquid.

11. Add vegetables to blender with enough cooking liquid to obtain desired consistency. Only fill half of the blender at a time and start on slow speed and move to fast so the soup will not explode out of the blender. Continue until all soup is blended and season with salt to taste.

Optional garnish-

Toasted pumpkin seeds, brown butter, sage, roasted mushrooms, croutons, or maple whipped cream.

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Snowshoe Magazine – January 2015

Date: January 14th, 2015

By Roger Lohr

Planning a Girls’ Getaway on Snowshoes

Among some women, the girls’ getaway weekend or program has become an annual tradition where small or extended groups of women, ladies, girls, mothers, daughters or friends organize a get together unaccompanied by (one might even say unburdened by) or exclusive of men, boys, brothers and fathers. The motivation (and/or common denominator) is about connecting.  Read more….

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Cowboys & Indians Magazine – January 2015

Date: January 6th, 2015

By Ramona Flume

Vista Verde Ranch, an all-inclusive dude ranch 45 minutes north of Steamboat Springs, boasts privileged access into Routt National Forest, a virtually uninhabited slice of northwest Colorado wilderness connected to the Medicine Bow National Forest, which extends hundreds of miles into central Wyoming. The ranch itself covers 580 acres, with 10 log cabins and various barns and riding complexes set amid a snow-kissed valley dotted with herds of horses, which roam the aspen-lined edges of the national forest.  Read more…..

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Vista Verde Ranch, Colorado Luxury Ranch

New York Family Magazine- December 2014

Date: January 6th, 2015

By Marjorie Ingall

So when we arrived at Vista Verde, a luxury dude ranch near Steamboat Springs, CO, we felt as though we’d arrived on an alien planet. “Shhh,” I said to Maxine, 9, and Josie, 12, as we stood outside the central lodge on our first evening. “You have never been anywhere this quiet in your lives.”  Read more…..

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Celebrating the holidays in Colorado

Date: January 1st, 2015

By Steph

As we roll into 2015 with a crazy cold morning, it gives me some time to hunker down inside and reflect back on the past couple weeks.  It’s been a whirlwind, to be sure!

Our opening week was filled with a varied and fun group of guests.  The highlight was not only watching them all connect, but also celebrating the engagement of guests Alyssa and Jeff, followed days later by the engagement of Cori and Dan, former staff who stopped by the ranch for a quick proposal.  The week was pretty quiet, which allowed us to all settle into the season, work out any kinks, and get into the routine of being open again.

All set up to make natural decorations for the Christmas trees outside the Lodge.

All set up to make natural decorations for the Christmas trees outside the Lodge.

Christmas week was so memorable.  Some of the guests were worried we wouldn’t have enough snow leading up to the holiday.  Well, Mother Nature delivered with the clouds opening up on the day the guests all arrived, and barely stopping the entire week.  Yes, it was indeed a white Christmas.  One of the unique events of the week was the decoration making party we had one night after dinner.  Hosted by the amazingly creative Kelli (yes, she rocks it out at yoga, skiing, mountain biking, and yet she is also the most crafty gal I know) the guests and staff put together unique and colorful natural decorations to deck the trees in the yard.  Although the decorations were intended to be safe for the birds to nibble on, we soon discovered that the ranch dogs thought they were perfectly yummy.  Mental note- hang them higher next year.


Chef Cholly relaxing after the big wine pairing dinner for New Year's Eve.

Chef Cholly relaxing after the big wine pairing dinner for New Year’s Eve.

New Year’s week at the ranch has been an amazing one.  Everyone is so happy to be closing out 2014 in Colorado.  An adventurous group of guests and phenomenal powder have ruled the week, even in sub-zero temps.  It’s been crazy cold, but it’s not stopping anyone from having fun.  We rang in the New Year with a noisy and fun barn dance last night right in the Great Room.  As we caught our breath sometime around midnight (it was midnight somewhere in the world) Charlie dazzled us with the one and only Boot Drop followed by the ranch hand’s show of fireworks.  We’re still not sure who had more fun….the spectators watching from the warm Great Room or the ranch hands dancing around with their flares.

Life at the ranch will settle into a routine starting next week.  The New Year’s crew departs on Saturday and then we take a few days to clean up, regroup, and give the crew some much deserved time off before kicking off our adult only vacation times at the ranch.

We hope you all finished off 2014 in style, and are off to a new and grand 2015.


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A white Christmas in Colorado

Date: December 26th, 2014

By Steph, inspired by Hill

As the day comes to an end, the sun has broken out from behind the ever-producing snow clouds.  We woke up this morning to 5 inches or so of fresh, fluffy powder, and the snow kept lightly falling for much of the day.  It was a truly white Christmas!

Neil and "Santa" Matthew prepare to take guests up tubing on Christmas day.

Neil and “Santa” Matthew prepare to take guests up tubing on Christmas day.

When Christmas morning dawned on Vista Verde this year, a quiet hush fell over the valley.  Snow falling out of the sky muffled the noises around the ranch, the hum of the Bombardier as it glided over the meadows laying fresh corduroy for skiers, the snow plow and the tractor working efficiently to clear out the new layer of snow for all of us to make our way from cabin to cabin.  The chefs came in long before dark, gave their Christmas greetings before all jumping into their lists and working without words to prepare the annual feast.  A lone horse back rider heads down the driveway, ready to gather up the herd and run them into the corral.  The horses, sensing that rider coming, begin to whinny at each other and stir.  Their footsteps make crunching sounds in the snow, and as they gather up and gallop out of the pasture, snow is flying in all directions.  The VVR staff roll into the dining room to prepare and deliver breakfast to the guests in their cabins, like a bunch of Santa’s elves.  Although all are a bit groggy, the sense of teaming up together to create a special Christmas day for our guests prevails and the teams come together to collaborate and deliver.

The snow falls all day as we prepare for the big noon day meal.  Giggles from the tubing hill float down to the Lodge, and laughter from skiers and horseback riders drift across the meadows.  Once again, I am inspired and amazed as I watch the staff team up to set up the Great Room, get the cabins cleaned in record time, and prepare for a special noon event.  As Zach rings the dinner bell with zest, Ben prepares to give thanks and bring everyone together for the meal.  The Great room is buzzing with energy and good cheer.  Christmas sweaters abound, and kids excitedly find their own boot that was left by the fireplace and magically filled with goodies overnight.

We dine like kings, and all get a chance to celebrate the day together.  If everyone were so lucky.

Colorado Christmas DayAs the guests roll out of the Lodge and off to their adventures for the afternoon (some opt to skip their plans of active outings and relax in their cabin with a good book, or take a nap following a dip in their hot tub), the crew teams up to clean up the mess we have made.  Laughter and camaraderie take over to ease the hard work, and the Great room and dining room are put back into shape in no time at all.  I step out to head to the barn with my family for a Christmas day trail ride.  As the girls chat with their horses, and feed them the special carrots Santa delivered for them, Todd and I revel in the bond between a child and a horse.  The ride is beautiful, the temperature just perfect, the snow is still falling, and as we head back to the barn, the sleigh passes us with jingling bells.

It isn’t until late in the afternoon that the sun breaks out.  The light is angelic, as if someone planned on making a statement with it.  The day comes to an end with families relaxing together, staff making their calls home to give holiday greetings, and the horses munching on their extra Christmas hay.  We are so lucky to be able to share this amazing spot called Vista Verde  (which is actually Vista Blanco now) with the world.  We, as a crew feel blessed to be here, even when it’s hard to be away from family for the holidays.  The guests know that not everyone gets to celebrate the holidays like this, and revel in the winter wonderland.  I still hear the sleigh bells in my mind, and I almost wonder if they are coming out of the sky?  Is it in my head, or is it real?  Well, with that, I must say, “Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night”!

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Budgeting for an all-inclusive vacation

Date: December 18th, 2014

By Stephall inclusive tips

I ran across this great little gratuity guide recently, and found it quite handy.  Gratuity is an area where I feel like I stumble frequently.  How much is enough, when is it expected, when is it not expected?  In the effort of not wanting to cheat anyone out of a tip, but also wanting to not go over budget all the time, I feel like I can’t go right.  In looking over this gratuity guide, my professional wheels started turning.  How much would a guest have to spend if they followed this gratuity guide at Vista Verde?  Now, keep in mind one important piece of this inner dialogue–at Vista Verde we do not add any sort of service charge or gratuity, and gratuities are not expected at all.  Point being, we assume everyone will pay the rate we are charging for their stay and be done.  Nothing extra expected.  Now, some folks do like to leave a gratuity at the end of their stay to be split up amongst the staff.  That’s fine, and we’ll take it if they want to do so.  But, I want to drive home the point that there is no expectation of any gratuity.  So this question I pondered was a hypothetical one.

After crunching the math and adding it up, I came to the amount of roughly $800 for a couple staying for a week.  That was based on tipping at each meal, every activity, each night, etc….  Then it hit me.  Most all-inclusive resorts expect their guests to tip their staff.  Which got me thinking about the fact that people typically budget for their vacations, and how often are budgets blown over at all-inclusive resorts?  So, here are a few tips to keep in mind the next time you’re booking an all-inclusive vacation.  Ask these questions to help you determine if this fits your budget:

1) What is the policy on gratuity/tipping.

2) What activities are and aren’t included?

3) What extra charges might be incurred?  Airport shuttles?  Beer, wine, or liquor?

4) Is there any sort of resort fee?  Parking or internet?

Hopefully this helps you figure out if the vacation fits within your budget.  And, it’s also what keeps us committed to making a vacation at Vista Verde as all-inclusive as possible.  It’s just easier for all of you, and it feels better for us to deliver a product with no surprises.  Well, maybe some unexpected wonderful surprises……

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Vista Verde Ranch, Colorado Luxury Ranch – December 2014

Date: December 15th, 2014

Among some women, the “Girls’ Getaway” weekend or program has become an annual tradition where small or extended groups of women, ladies, girls, mothers, daughters, or friends organize a get together unaccompanied by (one might even say unburdened by) or exclusive of men, boys, brothers, and fathers. The motivation and/or common denominator is about connecting.

A girls’ weekend might include recreating or relaxing together, enjoying good food and good wine, and a host of other activities that provide the backdrop for engagement and lasting memories. has found a list of women’s programs for the upcoming winter 2014-15 ranging from once-a-week group outings to week-long all inclusive packages.  Read more…..

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The making of a sleigh ride in Colorado

Date: December 9th, 2014

By Steph

As we gear up for our winter season to open on December 13, there is a lot of work to do.  The Lodge is getting decorated as I write this post.  The tree has gone up, the wreaths are being hung, and Willie the Moose has donned his Santa hat once again.  The ski guides are going through their in-depth guide training (remember if you want to learn all that is taught to the guides, you can participate in our Guide Training for Guests in late-March), the ranch hands and kid wranglers are getting dialed in on snowmobile driving for the tubing hill, the chefs are finalizing their menus, and the housekeepers are getting the cabins sparkling clean after sitting empty for the off-season.  The other day, Mandy and KP tried out a new horse for the one horse sleigh.  Ben and Jerry came to us as a team years ago, but weren’t quite right for our big feed sleigh.  Ben turned out to be a great one for the one horse sleigh.  But Jerry hasn’t gotten his chance until this winter.  So, to see if he makes the cut, the wranglers are trying him out for a few days before we open for the season.  Same captured this video of a late afternoon practice run.  He still needs some time to settle into the job, but he’s coming along nicely so far!  Come visit us for a vacation in winter wonderland and enjoy your own private sleigh ride!

Music provided by the talented Brent Rowan.  Brent is a past Academy of Country Music Guitarist of the Year who now lives in Steamboat Springs.  His CD “Bare Essentials” is one of our favorites.

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Waiting for winter

Date: November 21st, 2014

By Steph

Charlie saw this wild turkey on the deck the other day.  I never even knew we had turkeys around here, but what great timing.  Happy Turkey day!

Charlie saw this wild turkey on the deck the other day. I never even knew we had turkeys around here, but what great timing. Happy Turkey day!

I’ve fallen off the blogging bandwagon this off-season.  It’s easy to do as it’s so quiet at the ranch and not much is happening.  Well, a lot is happening but not so much that you really want to hear about.  Let me tell you about the projects I’m working on!  Nah, maybe interesting to me, but likely ho hum to you.  Ben could tell you all sorts of new things on the insurance front.  Woo hoo!  Bill could take photos of every paint spot he’s repaired, the vent pipe he fixed (this is big news for those of us who were here in the fall….) and the new stain on the Lodge.  Charlie could check in and report on financials.  Snoring yet?

Off season is a great time at a dude ranch.  Those of us still around get to knock out the projects we don’t have time for when we’re open with guests at the ranch.  But, it’s not always the most news worthy time.  I will tell you that it’s been one of the nicest falls we’ve had in a long time.  Everyone has been on a bit of a high because of it.  The warm and sunny weather lasted way longer than normal.  There was about one week of mud, cold, and wet before Mother Nature turned on the winter season.  Then, within about 5 days it went from dirt to snow, and we haven’t looked back yet.  That’s how we like it!

Some folks are rolling in from vacation, some of us headed out for a bit.  Many of us take Thanksgiving to go see family, as it is the one holiday we get to leave the ranch so we take advantage of that.  Some of us stick around and band together to celebrate the holiday with the ranch family.  Either way, we are so thankful that we get to live here, enjoy this amazing place, make our passion our work, and play with wonderful people.

While the snow piles up, we’ll continue to prepare for the winter season.  December 13 is opening day, and by the looks of the reservation calendar, it’s shaping up to be a season filled with lots of fun people!  Enjoy the upcoming holiday, and I’ll check back in when the staff arrives in early December.

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Outside Adventure Guide- November 2014

Date: November 14th, 2014

This winter, take a cross-country ski vacation at a scenic mountain resort or ranch for the perfect winter trip. The following destination cross-country ski vacations offer excellent accommodations, delicious dining options along with an abundance of winter activities such as snowshoeing, sledding, sleigh rides, snowmobiling and nearby downhill skiing. These winter recreation vacations are perfect for the entire family or as a romantic getaway.  Read more….

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USA Today – November 2014

Date: November 13th, 2014

Warm up: Beautiful hotel fireplaces around the USA

Susan B. Barnes, Special for USA TODAY 5:37 p.m. EST November 12, 2014

Fireplaces reign supreme in rustic – albeit often luxurious – lodging and hotels, and that’s certainly obvious at these spots across the USA.  Read more….

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Realize Magazine- November 2014

Date: November 12th, 2014

5 Ways to ‘Glamp’ this Winter

Escape to Neverland (for grownups)

Snowshoeing across white terrain. Sipping a hot toddy near an open fire (extra whiskey please!). These are some highlights of a perfect fall or winter getaway. But what if we could promise cozy accommodations that bring you right into the heart of the great outdoors? Read more…

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A day of skiing at the Steamboat Ski Resort

Date: November 4th, 2014

By Steph

dusk_ski area cows04With only 22 days until the Steamboat Ski Resort opens for the 2014-15 season, and a fresh dusting of snow sitting on the mountains right now, it’s hard not to to finally get excited about winter.  Usually a rough transition for me, to move from the pleasant days of being outside soaking up the sun, the fresh air, and the amazing views to bundling up to go outside to soak up the sun, the fresh air, and the amazing views.  Hmmmm….that didn’t come out right.  Point being that although the winter experience is an amazing one that I think everyone should come try out, living in it for 6 months can make for a little kicking and screaming as the weather gets cooler and the clouds roll into town.

This year is a bit different.  With such a mild fall, we’ve had tons of time to enjoy the trails, watch the aspens change, fit in our last trail rides, bike rides, hikes, etc…and now it is finally feeling to me like it’s time for snow.  While getting out in downtown Steamboat today, I looked up at the ski mountain and had a moment.  The sun was shining brightly on the fresh white snow sitting up on the mountain.  It hit me.  I’m ready to ski.  Now, don’t get me wrong.  I could write an entire blog post on how much I love skate skiing, back country skiing, snowshoeing, horse back riding in the snow, going on a sleigh ride, you name it.  I love all the outdoor pursuits that we share with guests when they are playing at Vista Verde on their winter vacation.  But, I do save a special spot in my heart for downhill skiing.  That’s where my roots lie, and, like many, that’s what brought me here to Colorado in the first place.

So, if you have been thinking about planning a winter ski vacation, do it!  Come to Steamboat and enjoy the fresh powder we get so often, the tree skiing or the meandering groomed trails.  In fact, imagine this day…..

You wake up to the sound of horses neighing at each other as the sun peeks over Wapiti mountain.  Peering out of your cabin window, you see that the snow has stopped and the sunrise is turning the sky shades of orange, pink, and yellow.  After a quick soak in the hot tub on the deck, where you finish watching the sunrise, you bundle up in your ski duds and head down to the lodge for a hearty breakfast…..including that amazing bacon that has ruined your bacon experience anywhere else in the world.  As you finish up your last bites, Bubba hands you a lunch to go and Ryan comes in to tell you he’s ready with the Suburban by the front door.  You and your ski buddies hop in the vehicle and head down the road.  After a scenic drive down the Elk River Valley, Ryan drops you off right at the base of the Gondola.  You swing by Christy Sports to pick up your rental gear (of course you stopped on your way in from the airport with Brandon and got fitted so it was ready to go this morning, as well as your lift tickets) and then hop of the Gondola for your first run.

steamboat ski resortYour legs are burning, but the skiing has been so good that you only stopped for a 15 minute lunch break.  By mid-afternoon, all you can think about is that bubbling hot tub and the delightful dinner that Chefs Cholly and JT have prepared for you back at the ranch.  Ryan is waiting for you as you slowly walk from dropping off your ski gear at Christy Sports and lay yourself into the Suburban.  On the ride home, you enjoy watching the sun set over the valley floor, the cows munching on their hay, and a herd of elk sauntering across the meadow.  Once firmly planted in said hot tub, you see the stars…..more stars than you could ever imagine seeing!  It’s all you can do to get jeans and a sweater on to head down to the Lodge for dinner.  The amazing meal is only topped by the delicious wine and the great conversation, as everyone recounts their adventures from the day.  As you stroll back to your cabin following dinner, you are surprised by the fact that there are now even more stars in the sky than earlier.  Fantasies of sitting in your hot tub again are quickly washed away by the comfortable bed, the low lights, and that pillow… you curl up and fall asleep earlier than you’ve been to bed in ages, your legs twitch a bit as your muscle memory revisits some of the amazing turns you made today.  A winter day well played.

Ready to ski Steamboat?  I am!

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You know it’s off-season at a dude ranch when:

Date: October 27th, 2014

By Stephclosed for the season

It’s off-season at Vista Verde right now.  What does that mean?  We’re not open for guests, most of the seasonal staff have headed home, either for a break before the winter season or onto their next adventure in life.  Many of the managers are on vacation as well.  Yesterday I had a chuckle at some of the classic signs that you know it’s off-season:

  1. Beka has worn her running clothes to work every day this week.  I think she has run before work, mid-day, and then gone outside to hike or run at the end of the day as well.
  2. The “Closed for the Season” was up within 24 hours of our last guests leaving the ranch last week.  That’s a Bill ritual.  He never misses it.
  3. We all said, “Have a great weekend” to each other last Friday afternoon, and meant it in the normal sense that people use those words.
  4. Ben’s cowboy boots have been replaced by cozy, soft, slip on shoes.
  5. It takes an hour to find and catch a horse to ride, since they are spread out on about 200 acres, and aren’t getting rounded up each morning and brought into the corral.
  6. We’re being reminded of what the rest of the world goes through with having to pack a lunch each morning.  Novel concept.
  7. I have worn the same pair of ratty jeans every day this week.  Yep, saves on laundry.  Don’t worry, I will be more than happy to bust out my “fancy” jeans when guests return.  We’ve gotta have some standards around here!
  8. Dead flies.  We miss the housekeepers cleaning the Great Room.  Nuff said.
  9. Appointments.  Everyone seems to have an appointment.  Haircuts, oil changes, teeth cleanings.  You name it, we all have time to get things done now.

Some of us here love the off-season as it offers a chance to catch up on projects without distraction, work a more traditional 8-5, Mon-Fri schedule, and of course it’s the time when we all fit in our vacation!  Others dread it as it’s just too lonely and quiet around the ranch with everyone gone.  Either way you slice it, we’re taking advantage of what it has to offer, and getting ready for the staff to arrive early December and the guests to follow a couple weeks later.

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Chef’s Corner: Applesauce Gingerbread Cake (and more)

Date: October 27th, 2014

enews dessertPerfect for cold weather, a warm fire, and a cozy evening.  You can make the full dessert, or just enjoy the cake by itself!

Applesauce Gingerbread Cake


½ C. Sugar

¼ C. Butter

1 Egg

½ C. Applesauce

1 C. Molasses

2 ½ C. All Purpose Flour

1 ½ teaspoons Baking Soda

1 teaspoon Cinnamon

1 teaspoon Ginger

½ teaspoon Ground Cloves

½ teaspoon Salt

1 C. Warm Milk


1. Preheat oven to 350*F.

2. Cream together butter and sugar in stand mixer.

3. Beat in eggs, applesauce, and molasses.

4. In separate bowl, sift together dry ingredients. Slowly add to wet mixture.

5. Mix in warmed milk.

6. Bake in greased and floured 9×9 pan.


Crème Brulee


1 Quart Heavy Cream

1 T. Vanilla Bean Paste

½ C. Sugar

6 Large Egg Yolks


1. In medium saucepan, heat cream and vanilla to steady boil. Remove from heat and allow to cool, ~15 minutes.

2. In mixing bowl, whisk yolk and sugar until combined and color begins to lighten. Slowly add cream mixture, one ladle at a time, stirring continuously.

3. Portion mixture into ramekins and place in a deep cake pan or roasting pan.

4. Pour hot water into cake pan until liquid reaches halfway up ramekins.

5. Bake at 325* until custard is just set. About 45-50 minutes.

6. Cool at least 2 hours, or overnight.

Spiced Sugar topping (For Crème Crust)


½ c. Sugar

1 teaspoon Cinnamon

½ teaspoon Nutmeg

¼ teaspoon Allspice

¼ teaspoon Cloves


1. Combine ingredients in small bowl and sprinkle lightly over cooled Crème Brulee.

2. Torch or place under broiler briefly, until just browned.


Toffee Sauce


¾ C. + 1T. Brown Sugar

6 T. Butter

1 T. Molasses

1 T. Corn Syrup

2/3 C. Heavy Cream


1. Combine sugar, butter, molasses, and corn syrup in small saucepan over medium heat. Cook until butter is melted and mixture is bubbly.

2. Meanwhile, heat cream in separate saucepan.

3. Add hot cream slowly to sugar mixture. Whisk continuously.

4. Continue to cook, 3-5 minutes. Cool until slightly thickened. Serve.


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Vista Verde Ranch, Colorado Luxury Ranch – October 2014

Date: October 21st, 2014

When it comes to winter travel, there are a few reasons we’ll brave crowded airports and tiny airplane seats in the name of travel. Usually, it’s to see loved ones for the holidays, but oftentimes, an irresistible destination will also lure us out of the comfort of our homes and into the sea of holiday travelers.

This year, why settle for the ho-hum winter destinations? Skip the crowds and the monotony. Instead, consider these six unconventional winter vacations in the U.S.  Read more….

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The many adventures of Goldie the dog

Date: October 14th, 2014

By Steph

Over the course of the summer, Erica (in charge of our kids program) has sent me photos from her adventures out in the mountains around Vista Verde.  Always by her side is her trusty friend Goldie.

We’ll throw our friends at the Honest Kitchen some love here in mentioning that Goldie is one of the ranch dogs fueled by the Honest Kitchen.  These fine folks provide our ranch dogs with all natural human grade dog food products, using dehydrated whole foods. Their pet foods are produced in the USA from non-GMO produce, hormone-free meats and some organic, fair trade ingredients.  Try some out for your cat or dog!

Now, back to Goldie’s adventures.  In each batch of photos, there is a perfectly posed photo of Goldie with some absolutely amazingly scenic backdrop.  This dog was meant to be a model, and loves being in front of the lens!  I’ve had fun posting these photos throughout the summer on our social media channels.  With the season coming to an end, I thought I’d take a walk down memory lane via Goldie’s adventures.  It has been an amazing season.  We’ve had pretty much a full house all the way up until last week, when things started to get a bit quiet.  The season will come to an end after this week, and we’ll shut down for a few weeks while we wait for the snow to start accumulating.  So, enjoy this tour of the summer and fall seasons through the adventures of Goldie.

goldie rainbowgoldieGoldie the wonderdogphoto 1goldie having funGoldie fall vacationgoldie in ColoradoGoldie autumn vacationcolorado fall vacation with goldie

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October in Colorado

Date: October 8th, 2014

By Steph

Erica took this gorgeous photo of Hahn's Peak from a hike on Sand Mountain.

Erica took this gorgeous photo of Hahn’s Peak from a hike on Sand Mountain.

As we near the end of our season, we are all enjoying the last days of guests at the ranch.  Come October 18 things will get awfully quiet around here.  The last guests will be gone, the staff will be packing up and heading out for adventures, and the horses won’t be running in and out from their pasture each day, but just staying out there on vacation.

Between now and then, we’re enjoying the beauty of the transition of fall.  This has been the longest fall foliage season I’ve ever experienced.  Since mid-September, the colors have been gorgeous.  Instead of all the aspens going at once, they’ve been changing bit by bit.  One stand will change while another stays bright green.  Over the course of the past month, the forest has let the colorful show linger.  We’re still seeing some stands of aspens just starting to change to yellow, orange, and red.  So, chances are that this show will last until Halloween!

The weather this October has been a mixed bag, from snow to rain to bright sunny days.  We’ve had freezing weather and we’ve had 70 degree days.  As one guest from San Diego pointed out to me this morning, welcome to Colorado!  No matter what the weather, our guests have gotten out there and made it happen.  Add a jacket, some gloves and a rain slicker and off we go into the woods.  A good attitude and a sense of adventure can go a long way on a rainy day!

The elk finally decided it was fall, and have started keeping people awake at night up on the hillside.  It’s such an eerie sound to hear them bugling back and forth.  There is nothing like waking up to a herd of elk outside your bathroom window.

The days keep flying by, and the season continues to transition as we make our way toward winter.  For now, we’ll all take a few more days (can we even request a few weeks?) of gorgeous fall days like today.  In fact, we all sat out at lunch today just to soak up the wonderful sunshine, not something you can do all the time in October.  As our season comes to an end, we’ll reflect back on a huge year, figure out what we want to change for next year, and how to make the guest experience even better.  Then it’s time to start planning for winter.  December 13 is opening day for the winter season, and then we’re off to the races again!

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