Date: April 16th, 2014
Why every family needs a dude ranch vacation
By Susan Tucker
My family and I recently enjoyed an amazing few days away just outside of Steamboat Springs in Colorado at the Vista Verde Guest Ranch, and while there I discovered why a dude ranch vacation is the ultimate family vacation. You too can experience life like a cowboy this summer by taking a family vacation at a working, dude or luxury ranch, so you can disconnect, reconnect and connect with nature.
Here are my top reasons why a dude ranch family vacation is a must and what type could be best for yours.
Date: April 14th, 2014
I giggled a bit at the title of this blog post. If anyone could truly answer that, they’d be worth a lot. Or at least they’d have a lot of dude ranchers for friends. Every dude ranch owner that I know struggles with this- finding great horses for their guests to enjoy. You see, every year we have to retire some horses as they can’t keep going at the pace we go at in the mountains and need a little more leisurely lifestyle. Then, there are the horses that just don’t cut it. They might be great horses, but they are horses who need a single owner and not different riders each week. When all is said and done, we end up needing new horses every year. And, there lies the challenge.
Buying horses is an art. First you have to consider age and training. Some really young horses are calm and collected, but many are still a little “green” as we call them. For our guests, we want horses who are trustworthy and safe first. But, we don’t want horses that are too old as we need them to be able to handle the many miles we put on out on the trail. We pride ourselves in taking care of our horses with healthy feed, monitoring them for needed rest, proper hoof care and vet care. But, even with all that, our horses need to be like a strong athlete and able to perform to the task. Next up is size and confirmation. Put into car terms, if they are built well, they will run longer and with fewer trips to the mechanic’s shop. Finally, how are they trained, and what is their temperament? Are they kind? Are they responsive? Do they have enough good training to be soft, supple and easy to cue? Will they overreact to a scary situation or stay cool and calm?
Ok, so we’ve laid out the criteria, but it’s not like there is a superstore of horses out there and you just go and pick them out. We go to sales, we watch the classifieds, we spread the word among our horse friends, and then we drive around and try out a lot of frogs before we find our princes. And, once we find them, we have to bring them back to the ranch and get to know them. Sometimes we find out that our prince wasn’t as much of a prince as we thought on first glance….so then we have to find a better fit for them with someone else.
All said, it’s a process that requires long hours in the truck, a critical eye and a sense of understanding a horse’s heart. Ben, Nate and Mandy are spending their spring doing just this. So far, we’ve found 3 who we think will be keepers. They are settling into their new home and we’re getting to know them. As you can see by the fact that he hopped on with no halter or bridle or saddle, Nate is pretty confident this guy, “Dusty”, will work out well.
Wish us well in the shopping process. If you’re coming for a dude ranch vacation this summer, maybe you’ll get to try out one of these new rides!
Date: April 9th, 2014
Typically when we close down for the spring break at Vista Verde, it’s because all that amazing snow that Colorado is known for needs to melt away, which leads to a lot of mud. This year, the memo seems to have missed the mountains, as we’ve been getting more days of snow than sun in April. We could have stayed open another month, and still be hosting families coming for spring break vacations! But, hindsight is 20-20, of course. So, we’re making the best of it and trying to enjoy these fun spring conditions while the ranch is closed down.
There are several special times that happen throughout the spring in the mountains of Colorado. One of them is a small window of time when fly fishing the rivers is prime. It comes right in between the end of winter and spring. Brandon will be writing about that in an upcoming installment of The Fly. The other is crust skiing season. This “season” can come and go throughout the spring, depending on the conditions. We had those perfect conditions for our spring break week earlier in March. And, after weeks of fresh snow, we just hit those conditions again today.
Perfect spring crust skiing conditions arrive when the snow base is still deep but the spring sun has been beating on the top layer of snow for a day or two. Then, if you get a hard freeze overnight, the snow forms a perfect firm crust that you can walk on, bike on or ski on. No grooming equipment needed to pack down the snow, you just go wherever you want.
This morning I anticipated those conditions and grabbed my skis as I headed out the door to the Lodge. After getting a few things done in the office, waiting for the sun to peek over the Continental Divide, I put on my boots, hopped over the fence (it’s easy as it’s only peeking out about 4 inches above the snow) and hit the meadows.
Skating around the ranch property on the crust allows for you to go almost anywhere. I was in the meadows, playing slalom with the aspens, and dodging willows. Then I crossed a snow bridge over the creek, hopped a few more fences and ended up enjoying the sun breaking over the mountain as I headed toward Indian Hill. You can ski fast and far without much effort on the crust.
I didn’t see much wildlife, but there were a lot of tracks, and I was being watched at one point by a large winged friend (couldn’t tell what kind of hawk it was). Otherwise, it was perfectly silent and I glided across the snow.
Although we’re all dreaming of summer days right now, we would be foolish to not seize the moment to enjoy these experiences during our spring break! You never know what and when the right conditions will apply, but if you want to explore the idea of having a spring break vacation while we’re open in March next year, maybe we’ll get you out crust skiing!
Date: April 3rd, 2014
With summer quickly approaching, many people are planning their dude ranch vacations now. Many are surprised to find out that they are behind the 8-ball as most dude ranches tend to fill up quickly and often by spring are very full. With the availability at dude ranches waning and the pressure on, here are some tips on how to pick the best dude ranch vacation:
1) Start early- so you’re only planning your trip in April this year. Don’t give up. There are still some good dude ranches with availability. Find one, grab it and enjoy. And then start planning your next trip so you can book it in the fall!
2) Start with what kind of ranch you want. There are many different kinds of ranches, and from the Dude Rancher’s Association blog, I pulled this breakdown:
- “WORKING DUDE RANCH
These are working cattle or sheep operations. Your horseback riding adventures will be determined by the ranch’s livestock and the work related to them. Be prepared to experience these activities first hand.
- DUDE RANCH
Horseback riding is central to these ranches. The cowboy in you will experience Western riding and a variety of outdoor activities.
- RESORT DUDE RANCH
Horseback riding is featured, and these ranches offer an array of diverse activities and onsite facilities. These are apt to be the larger ranches.”
I would add to this the question of do you want a more luxury experience or a more rustic experience, or something in the middle? Dude ranches ranges from the bare-boned experience you may remember from “City Slickers” to luxury dude ranches that offer fine linens and gourmet meals. Where do you fall in that spectrum? This choice will point you towards either more luxurious accommodations and meals that are like what you find at a fine restaurant or rustic and quaint log cabins and simple meals, or somewhere in between. Your answer to this question will also slide you one way or another along the price point spectrum.
3) What kind of activities do you want? Are you looking for a ride, ride, ride experience or do you want to try a little bit of everything? Some of the best dude ranches offer only riding and some of them offer a full range of activities.
4) Kids. Do you have ‘em? Don’t like ‘em? If no, then you may want to find a ranch that doesn’t cater to families. Or, many ranches offer times during their season when they are adult-only. At Vista Verde, we set aside September and October for adult-only ranch vacations.
5) Kids. Have ‘em, like ‘em? If yes, then you get to decide how you want to play out your family vacation. Do you want to spend all your time with them? Do you want to have some times when the kids are watched? Are you hoping to show up on Sunday and not see your kids until the following Sunday? Each dude ranch with a kids program sets up theirs up differently. Decide what feels right to you and then look for a ranch that meets that desire. At Vista Verde, we try to hit it in the middle with an active and engaging kids program, some dinners set aside for just the adults, but then also a lot of opportunities for families to be together and create memories. Also, pay attention to age minimums. Ranches are usually best suited for kids 6 and up, but some do have programs for the little ones.
7) How is the riding program? Do you just want to sit on a horse and enjoy the scenery or is this a learning vacation for you. The best dude ranches have a lot of learning to their riding programs, but maybe you don’t want that? Do they offer clinics or instruction? How big are the trail rides? How often do you ride? Again, taken from the Dude Rancher’s Association blog:
“Choose the riding environment that appeals to you; open meadows, prairies, mountain trails or southwestern desert. The location of the ranch determines the terrain.
Then, choose the type of riding you’d like; working livestock, cattle drives, pack trips, team penning and arena games or daily trail rides.”
8) Size- Do you want to be in a very intimate setting with only a dozen other people, or do you want a larger feel? Smaller ranches (20 guests) are indeed more intimate. Larger ranches (80-100 guests) are less personal but there are a lot of people to meet and enjoy. And the mid-size ranches (~40-50 guests) kind of hit it in the middle. Still personal, but a variety of people to meet and get to know during the course of your stay. Because you will. Dude ranches are not the place for an anonymous vacation, but you very well will develop relationships that last for years and years. And dude ranch guests are usually really interesting, adventurous and fun people.
9) Reviews- Check Tripadvisor reviews of dude ranches. Ask your friends if they’ve ever been to one. You’ll get pointed to the best dude ranch vacation through those avenues.
10) Last, but most important. Trust your gut. I just heard a story on the radio (yep, I do still listen to the radio when I drive) about how a group of people who are given some basic facts about world events do a better job predicting what will happen than an expert who has access to all the classified information. It reminded me how I tell potential guests to just trust their gut when choosing. Yes, it can be overwhelming to choose a dude ranch vacation. But, once you’ve narrowed it down to your top 5, just trust your gut on your pick. The truth is, you’ll probably have a great time at any of the ranches on that list.
Now pack your bags and enjoy! If you want more info on what to do if you chose Vista Verde and then found out we are full, check out this post on planning your dude ranch vacation.
Date: March 31st, 2014
As Cholly heads out with Alaya and Eamon to visit family for their spring break, he left us with a couple great recommendations for spring time sips. Not to alienate the beer or wine drinkers, he is sharing one of each. Cheers!
Light copper-colored with a tall, white head, the Spring Blonde has a nose of lemon peel, fresh baked bread (my favorite aroma), black pepper, cloves and a hint of apple and pear. The taste of this medium-bodied ale starts with a bit of malty sweetness that transitions into a dry, lightly bitter finish. It is a light and refreshing, but still slightly malty brew perfect for the changing season that is spring.
2013 Arnot-Roberts, Touriga Nacional Rosé, Luchsinger Vineyard, CA
Named Winemaker of the Year for 2012 by the San Francisco Chronicle, Arnot-Roberts (pronounced AR-NOT; it’s Scottish, not French) has made a delicious rosé from the Touriga Nacional grape, indigenous to Portugal’s Douro Valley. With a nose of strawberry, watermelon and rose water that immediately captivates you and a taste that matches with bright, under-ripe berry tartness, herbal spiciness, and a long finish, this medium-bodied wine is not a sweet rosé – the Arnot-Roberts shines more like a Provencal-style wine with intense complexity and vivid acidity for a mouth-watering, refreshing and thirst quenching quaff that one could enjoy on a warm day on the patio or porch.
The best part is that both of these selections pair well with the same foods enabling you to serve them both at the same cookout or dinner party. They are lovely with steamed mussels, grilled lobster tail, salmon and even some lightly gamy meats such as venison and wild boar, even slightly spicy dishes match well with these refreshing choices.
Date: March 26th, 2014
Spring has arrived at Vista Verde Ranch, and we’re all enjoying a little break between our winter season and the start of summer. Although there is still a lot of snow on the ground, there is also a lot of mud starting to creep up around the ranch. Our version of spring break in Colorado means early morning crust skate skiing and snowbiking, long walks down the driveway (it’s the only place that isn’t muddy or slushy right now), riding the young horses as much as we can in the arena, but also introducing them to strolls down the driveway, and road biking. Or, if you ask Ben, it might just mean turning on the big screen to March Madness. Either way, we’re enjoying the sunshine, the birds singing the the sound of slushy snow.
After having so many people request for us to stay open a bit later for spring break vacations, we decided to add another week next winter. So, for those of you who’s spring break schedules allow, we’ll be open until March 21 in 2015. Spring break getaways at Vista Verde are a little different than the rest of the winter. Typically the weather is warmer, the snow is melting and mud boots are handy during the warm afternoons on the walkways and driveway. But, with that warm weather there are some fun opportunities. Slush skiing in the afternoon. Crust skate skiing in the morning. Snow biking on the crust is the best (I’m sneaking out soon for a quick ride) and there is something super fun about being on a ski with short sleeve shirts. Give us a call if you’re interested in making a spring break trip to Colorado next year!
Oh, is that a chickadee I hear? Must mean the sun is coming up and it’s time for me to hop on that bike.
Date: March 25th, 2014
Weekend Life….Vista Verde Ranch, Steamboat Springs, Colorado
Over the next few days we throw ourselves into ranch activities. Cross-country skiing on groomed trails, tobogganing (I start off nervously – wearing my yaktrax for extra grip – and by the end am taking a flying leap before hurtling down the slope, face covered in snow and laughing wildly), a horsemanship clinic, backcountry skiing, and a snowy horse ride. My favorite? Backcountry skiing. Before we head out into the wilderness, Steve and Kelli, our wonderful guides, kit us out with skis, boots and poles and ask about our expectations, experience, likes and dislikes. I sense that skiing in a remote forest in deep, untracked powder is as much about the spiritual as the physical. With Steve’s words of wisdom spurring us on “Nobody grooms as good as mother nature” and “We are human beings, not human doings”, we set off with Steve andKelli’s adorable lab, Rosie, leading the way. As Rosie bounds ahead of us – four legs are better than two skis it seems - her black face sprinkled with snow, we are soon deep in a pine forest where the only sounds are the swoosh of our skis (and the rustle of my pants!) and Steve and Kelli’s enthusiastic encouragement. It is magical. And although I fall, feel frustrated(mostly trying to master uphill!) and am exhausted by the end, we both agree that it is the highlight of our stay at Vista Verde Ranch.
Date: March 20th, 2014
After breakfast this morning, our last guests of the season will check out and head home. We closed out the winter season with a fabulous final day yesterday. The 12 guests attending the horsemanship clinic rode hard, laughed a lot and finished strong. The energy in the indoor arena was wonderful when I went down to watch them ride yesterday. There were four wranglers in there teaching, each sharing their own perspective on horsemanship and helping give tips to the guests as they tried out complicated maneuvers with their horses. Nate, Mandy, John and Terry were instructing and helping our guests understand the nuances of how they were using their bodies to send cues to their horses. It was fun to watch Terry and John relish in their last time teaching at the ranch before they both head off for their next adventures in life. And it was great to see Mandy and Nate step up to the plate and establish themselves as talented teachers with their own style, preparing to step into their new roles as trainer and head wrangler at Vista Verde.
In the afternoon, Melissa and I walked over to the other side of the river to celebrate the graduation of our first “class” of guest guides. In our inaugural Guide Training for Guests we had 3 guests try out the course. It was everything I could have imagined and better. Steve, Kelli and Brandon put together an amazing, information packed course for these guests to learn how to head out into the backcountry safely. Anyone who likes to hike, fish, bike, ski, snowshoe, you name it…..should take this course. Our guests learned about the dangers, reading the land, navigating, first aid and safety, proper dress, shelter building, and the list goes on. I enjoyed hearing them share their new knowledge and realization that they can’t believe they used to go out without all this information before. Congrats to the class of 2014, and happy trails.
Today brings a flurry of cleaning, closing down cabins, deep cleaning the kitchen, putting away the skis, and wrapping up the winter season. Tomorrow we’ll get the key players to sit down and hash out all the ins and outs of this past winter, what worked, what didn’t, what changes do we want to make next year. Friday night the staff will come over to my house for dinner before heading off to watch KP and Bubba dance in tights (ok, that’s just our joke….they’ll be in their cowboy boots and jeans we hope) at the annual Steamboat Dance Showcase. Then many of the staff will be loading up their cars or hopping on planes to head off to vacation or their next step in life. A small group of us stick around in the off-season and start hitting our to-do lists. Mine’s a mile long, and I’m looking forward to some quiet days of catching up, but also sneaking out to play a bit. I’ve got my eye on a little mare down in the barn and there’s still some snow out there to enjoy before it melts away completely.
Thank you to all the wonderful people who made this past winter season at Vista Verde so fun. We loved watching families try out a snow vacation for the first time. The honeymooners here on a snowy honeymoon were sweet and fun. The couples rekindling the romance, the singles coming to share their experience with friends, the girlfriend getaways, and all the other ways people found to experience Vista Verde in the winter made this a memorable and action packed season. Thanks for playing with all of us at the ranch this past winter.
Date: March 14th, 2014
Vista Verde Guest Ranch: Rustic Luxury Defined
Living in Colorado makes it easy to spend a lot of time outdoors; you can often find my family on the slopes, by the soccer field or camping by a lively stream. Being “outdoorsy” is just our way of life. However, I never realized that doing the things I love outside and having a “luxury” vacation could intersect… boy, was I in for a glorious surprise! Read more…..
Date: March 10th, 2014
At the end of every season, we say goodbye to a number of our wonderful staff who came to the ranch for a season (or more) and are now moving on to their next adventure in life. It’s always a mix of sadness to see them go, but excitement for their next steps in life and continued growth. And then we start looking forward to the new arrivals to come in time to prepare for our next season. That is the life cycle of a seasonal business. There are a few of us who stick around to become what we call “lifers”, but that is only a select few who are in a place in life to be here for the long term.
This spring we say goodbye to some really outstanding members of the Vista Verde team, who have made a commitment of leading one or more of the departments at the ranch. Closest to my heart is Melissa, who has been my life saver in the office the past 2 years. She has run the office with grace and ease, overseeing all the reservations, communications with our guests and the many logistics that need to be managed to keep the ranch running smoothly. She moves on to explore new career options in Austin, TX. Another one near and dear is Jess, our amazing red-headed, wine-serving, white table cloth slinging dining room manager. After several years with us at the ranch, Jess will be heading off to further her education with a dual masters degree in teaching and fine arts & creative writing in Spokane, WA.
The kids will be crying when they learn that Carson has finally decided to move onto his next venture. He started as our ace dishwasher, then became a ranch hand, then managed our kids program before finishing out his time at Vista Verde managing the ranch hand department. But, the kids always remember and know Carson as “the funny guy” and the one who they vied for his attention. Carson will be jumping on a motorcycle with John I., and heading to Kodiak Island, AK to hop aboard a fishing boat for the summer. They were looking for a new experience, and they definitely found one! That leads us to sending off John I., our ace wrangler with the big smile. He’s trained our horses, been the farrier for our horses, led the wrangling crew the past 2 seasons, and played a role in the Farwell Mountain Boys band, always with that great big smile on his face.
After spending 4 years in the kitchen, most recently as our Sous Chef, Vinny is packing his bags and getting behind the steering wheel for an epic road trip around the Western US. Having grown up in Steamboat Springs, he’s excited to be touring and exploring, looking for a new place to call home and further his culinary experience.
Lastly, we send off the ever charismatic and entertaining Terry. He’s headed to the warmer weather of Texas to dip his toe back into the waters of the show horse world. Terry’s been an integral part of our team for the past 6 years helping us grow our breeding program, and he has taught so many people the finer points of horsemanship. And, he’s never been at a loss for words, jokes or stories. We will miss his laughter and love of horses, but know he’ll be bringing a lot of joy to folks in Texas.
Along with these great folks who have contributed to the “betterness” of Vista Verde in so many ways, we say goodbye to some of the great people who made Vista Verde their home recently. Maureen, Heidi, Annie, Maddie, BMac, and Steve J. It’s always a blast sharing this place with new people, watching them grow over the course of the seasons and then sending them off with our best wishes for new adventures.
Although sad to say goodbye, all of us here embrace the excitement and enthusiasm the new managers bring to the place. Malori has been training all winter to step into Melissa’s role in the front office. Bubba will be handling the fine china and taking over managing the dining room crew. Brandon will be picking up the reigns to lead the ranch hand crew (don’t worry, he’ll still be guiding fishing trips this summer!), and Nathan and Mandy will be teaming up to oversee the horse program. These folks have all put in their time learning the ropes, understanding our business and are now ready to step up in their responsibilities. We’re revamping our clinics, adding new ones, making plans for the next breeding season and lining up the young horses to get a great base of training this summer so they can start moving into the riding herd soon. Pretty soon some of these young horses who our guests enjoyed as foals will be steady trail steeds, ready to take you out into the mountains of Colorado.
With our heartfelt thanks for their contributions to the ranch we send off these folks to leave their mark in other places, and can’t wait to hear the tales of their new lives in the real world. And we look forward to the excitement, new ideas and energy that our incoming managers bring to their roles for the upcoming summer dude ranch season. Let’s Ride!
Date: March 10th, 2014
As I grudgingly dragged myself out of bed this morning and stumbled to the coffee pot at 6:00 am – that extra hour of sleep I lost felt like an eternity. However, once I gulped one cup of coffee down, the world seemed a little less harsh and I thought about the excitement the words “spring forward” denote.
We’re just a few months away from paddle boarding on the lake, hiking through wild flowers, and riding on trails no longer blanketed by snow. Our spring breakers are here this week, the temperatures are starting to warm up, and there’s a new anticipation in the air. An extra hour of daylight means one more hour to play outside – just enough time after work for a run on the tubing hill, a snowshoe to Hinman Lake, or maybe a skate ski. I guess an hour lost is a fair exchange for one more hour in the sun – now get outside and soak up that sun!
Date: March 3rd, 2014
A co-op blog by Steph and Malori
Every now and then we’ll brainstorm some fun story ideas to send along to our media partners. It’s not that we expect them to pick up that exact story, but it can sometimes get a writer’s creative juices flowing. Malori has been working on some fun ones this winter, and for grins I figured I’d share them with those of you who follow the Vista Verde story.
I love this first one. It is a true story (Doug, you know we’re writing about you!) and it happens over an over each winter!
The Unlikely Winter Fan -
So you think you hate winter? Are you sure?
It happened again. Another one of our guests confessed to being a lover of snow, cold and everything winter. He told us: when my wife suggested a winter vacation at a ranch – I told her that sounded like a miserable excuse for a vacation. But after the first morning of back-country skiing, followed by an afternoon horse clinic, he told us, “That was the best day of my life!” By day three he was planning his family’s return trip. Why? Because he was unexpectedly introduced to a whole new world of experiences, adventure, challenges, and rewards he never even knew existed. So, how many people have been pleasantly surprised by their vacations? Perhaps a story about unlikely vacation fans could be a fun twist for readers.
Disconnect to Reconnect-
Remembering the joy of a simple life
Ever have the desire to ditch the city, technology and the fast-paced life? How do you disconnect, but also reconnect with the stuff that really matters? Vista Verde guests end up disconnecting and reconnecting at the same time, thanks to a unique blend of personalized luxury and beautiful simplicity. For the luxury, envision deluxe mountain cabins, fluffy down comforters, a 1:1 staff to guest ratio, private hot tubs and an endless flow of wine. As for simplicity, there’s plenty of space each day to simply be present. Decisions are wonderfully rewarding: Horseback riding or cooking class? Homemade butternut squash ravioli or bison short ribs with sweet potato gnocchi? Engage in meaningful conversation with your spouse or read a book in while looking out over the pristine meadows? Guests slow down and enjoy the moment.
As someone who spends her life squeezing in fitness and multi-tasking my life away, this one made me laugh:
The All-Inclusive Vacation Workout-
Be adventurous and get in shape – on a Vista Verde Ranch vacation
Vista Verde Ranch, located just outside of Steamboat Springs, CO, is an all-inclusive luxury resort. The vacation package includes lodging in a cozy log cabin, numerous activities, three gourmet meals a day, wine and micro brews, and an opportunity for the best full-body workout you can get while on vacation.
|Day 1: Horseback Riding||Day 1: Horseback Riding|
|Targeted Muscles: abs and legs||Targeted Muscles: abs and legs|
|Day 2: Rock Climbing||Day 2: Snowshoeing|
|Targeted Muscles: arms, chest, back, legs, abs||Targeted Muscles: legs, glutes, abs|
|Day 3: Hiking||Day 3: Back Country Skiing|
|Targeted Muscles: legs, glutes||Targeted Muscles: legs, glutes, abs, arms|
|Day 4: Yoga||Day 4: Yoga|
|Targeted Muscles: Full body, core focus||Targeted Muscles: Full body, core focus|
|Day 5: Mountain Biking||Day 5: Snow Biking|
|Targeted Muscles: legs, glutes, abs, upper body||Targeted Muscles: legs, glutes, abs, upper body|
|Day 6: Paddle Boarding||Day 6: Skate Skiing|
|Targeted Muscles: Full body, core focus||Targeted Muscles: Full body, core focus|
|Day 7: Kayaking||Day 7: Massage & Hot Tub|
|Targeted Muscles: chest, arms, shoulders, back||Targeted Muscles: Rest and rejuvenate all your muscles!|
Each day, refuel your body breakfast, lunch and dinner with Chef Cholly’s healthy gourmet options like an arugula, tomato and feta cheese omelet, lemon and almond kale salad, or fresh grilled salmon. You come back from vacation recharged, refreshed, fitter and healthier – what a concept!
This one was an spin-off from a kids program blog post I did last summer about my kids being filthy, sobbing messes at the end of each day here at the ranch..
A Playground without Fences-
Running wild and free in the Rocky Mountains
A filthy, sobbing child is the kind of child we can all hope for at the end of a good day. Why? You may have seen it before: dirty tear streaks that leave tracks like war paint – evidence of a rewarding day spent playing, running, and jumping in the great outdoors. After a full day of horseback riding, panning for gold, and a low ropes course at Vista Verde, you will end up with a kid who is so exhausted she can barely make it through dinner. But, what a great replacement for fenced yards, sanitized playrooms and recirculated air. The kid’s program at Vista Verde will leave your child begging to be left behind with the kid’s supervisors, horses, and mountains they have come to love. Hey, you may be begging to be left behind too after breath-taking hikes, adventurous horseback rides, and a daily timeout from the kids.
Date: February 27th, 2014By Malori
As March approaches, so does the end to another winter season. For staff at Vista Verde, this means we start thinking about our own vacation time. The ranch closes for a few months while the snow turns into a sloppy, muddy mess – giving us the chance to pick our own adventure.
Beka and Megan are going to hike accross Spain on the Camino de Santiago. Nate and Brandon are getting EMT Certified. John and Carson are planning a cross country motorcycle trip to Alaska. Emily is taking a road trip of national parks and Cori is going on a mission trip to Brazil. Chef John T. is fishing, fishing, and more fishing. He’s going to cast a line in Miami, Saint Augustine, Charleston, Eugene, and northern California. Andrew is running a marathon and Dan, Shannan, and I are heading to Thailand for three weeks – that’s just to name a few trips people are going on!
Two common traits among many of the staff here are a spirit of adventure and a heart for travel – the perfect combination for an eventful vacation!
Date: February 19th, 2014
Published on February 18, 2014 by Terri
Winter is HOT at Vista Verde Ranch! Whether you are planning a romantic proposal, honeymoon, or the perfect anytime getaway you will find yourself knee deep in love with it all at this Luxury Colorado Dude Ranch. Read more…..
Date: February 14th, 2014
Each season our guides go through an in-depth guide training to prepare for the season. This training has been developed over the past 10 or so years to cover all aspects of taking guests out into the back country safely. From understanding the dangers of the terrain to proper trip preparation, first aid to survival skills, this training will prepare anyone to head out safely into the back country.
Now, for the first time ever, we are offering this same training to our guests. So, if you’ve ever felt like you’d like to feel a little more confident heading out on a hike or snow shoeing up a mountain, this training is for you!
Your days will be spent learning, practicing and training. Your evenings will be spent enjoying a nice meal followed by the peace and quiet of the ranch as you reflect on all your learned that day.
March 16-20, 2014
The training is limited to 6 guests, so grab your spot quickly if interested!
Contact us at 800-526-7433 with any questions, or to make a reservation.
Date: February 11th, 2014
A while back I asked the question “Where are you now?” to our Vista Verde Ranch Alumni. It was wonderful to hear back from so many former staff. We’ve lost touch with a lot of folks, but are trying to get a group together to keep in touch better in the future. So, if you’ve wondered where life has taken some of our great staff, read on.
If you are a former VVR staff and want to keep in touch with others, please leave a comment as to what you’re up to and I’ll add you to the Vista Verde Ranch Alumni list.
Erin Fellows- I am back in Austin, Tx and now the General Manager of a Bakery that just opened 2 months ago. I worked for a privately owned ice cream company called Amy’s Ice Creams for 5 years and last year they offered me the position as the General Manager of Baked by Amy’s. I credit Vista Verde so much for where I am today! Rob gave me a chance to learn in a real kitchen and I fell in love with a career I will enjoy for the rest of my life.
Lindsey Conklin- I saw your post on facebook! Thought I’d respond as I’d love to see what everyone’s been up to! I miss the Ranch, you, Ben, Melissa, and Charlie!!!! How are things going? For now I’m living in New York City, writing for a blog called “The Gloss,” possibly going to grad school in the fall. (although a piece of me hates to leave NYC–I’ve fallen in love with this city!) Hope everyone’s doing well, would love to come back and visit at some point!
Brittany Haile- That’s a great idea! I just moved to DC as you know and am doing special events with the American Heart Association
Lasha Halsey- I live in Fort Collins now. I am a yoga instructor at Raintree Athletic Club and also Om Ananda Yoga Studio. VVR is where I started teaching yoga, unproffesionally of course, with my fellow co-workers. But it’s where my teaching career started! I am a also a part-time nanny/household mananger for a wonderful family here with 2 kids; a 9 year old and 12 year old. I spend a lot of time with other VVR folks here: JJ Fountain, AJ Fountain, Jamie Porter and Rob Panos. We have a wonderful little community here because of the friendships built while at the ranch. I love Fort Collins but also miss the ranch and plan to visit soon! Hope all is well. Sending my love!
Jenn Brouder- Great idea for the blog! Can’t wait to see where everyone is I’m in my final semester at Elon University about to graduate with a degree in Human Services. I’d really love to pursue outdoor adventure therapy or recreation therapy! I send my love to everyone out there!
Emily Taylor- That is such a cool idea! I’m at Vanderbilt Law School- Nashville, TN- in my second semester, with an internship lined up for part of the summer at a small firm just north of Nashville. And, obviously, I’m constantly missing Colorado, looking for a way to get back as soon as possible! The pictures of the ranch all over my apartment don’t help me concentrate on my homework Miss you!
Anita Olson- Okay I will tell you about me. On Feb 1 I will be taking over as the Director of Keep Loup Basin Beautiful. We are a non-profit organization that promotes waste reduction, recycling, litter prevention and beautification for several counties in central Nebraska. I’m actually going to be working sometimes with your buddy Sarah Switzer. However we still haven’t met in person even though we were supposed about three different times. I live in Ericson with my mom (you don’t have to put that detail) and Pinky and Chico. That’s about it. I update the Keep Loup Basin Beautiful facebook page if you want to see what kinds of things we do. How are things at Vista Verde? I got to see Johanna, Beka and Terry at the stock show. That was fun and it sounds like things are going really well. Take care!
Rob Citto- My current job is Resident chef of a cooking school in Tallahassee Florida. I have two CBS appearances a month cooking on live TV. I am also writing a Food and Wine blog for the Tallahassee democrat. www.tallahassee.com/chefrob. I miss the ranch and Steamboat Springs. Keep in touch.
Sallie Hallmark- I saw the “where are they now” page and thought I would just let you know. I am nowhere exciting in another country like several of my counterparts, lol, but I am back in Birmingham and am now the Director of Sales for the Aloft Birmingham Soho Square. (www.aloftbirminghamsohosquare.com). I miss y’all all the time, but it is an awesome job and it is great being back close to family and friends.
Liz Tripodi- Nate and I live in the Washington, D.C. area where I work as an attorney litigating mergers and acquisitions of public companies and Nate runs his whitewater kayak school, Potomac River Outfitters. I am running a good bit and active with the DC Road Runners. Nate remains very active in the paddling community teaching and volunteering with Team River Runner, an organization that helps wounded veterans. We still keep in touch with Chol, and were fortunate enough to have him on our Grand Canyon trip a couple of years ago – 21 days of pure river bliss! We miss the Colorado winters (I miss the summers too) and being able to ski right out of our front door. We hope to make it back out to Steamboat one of these days! Give my best to everyone!
Evan J. Younger- I’m responding to your post asking where people are. I’m in Boston, MA working in corporate real estate for CBRE. I hope all is well with you and your family.
Evan Forsythe- Greetings from Tucson AZ! I’m in my second year of a phD program at the University of Arizona. I study and research Genetics and Evolutionary Biology in plants (not fish?!?). Sending my love to the ranch!
Kelly Luce- Hey, Steph! Great idea. I’m in Austin, TX right now, doing a writing fellowship at UT. My first book came out in October. http://kellyluce.com/, Kelly Luce | Author of Three Scenarios in Which Hana Sasaki Grows a Tail
Rucker Staggers- Hey Steph! After the ranch I drove to Auburn, Alabama and worked at a local auto shop before starting med school. I just finished my first semester as a first year medical student at UAB in Alabama. I am pretty sure I am the only one here who has driven a tractor or worn a cowboy hat
Grace Berryman- Hey Steph! Right now I’m in the national tour of The Phantom of the Opera understudying the role of Christine! Some of the guests Reid and I keep in touch with are coming to see the show in their respective cities! So fun to stay connected with them all as I travel the country!
Teresa Cristina- Yoooo! I’m in Sayulita, Mexico teaching first and second graders at a non-profit bilingual school with an ecological focus. Also, I’m trying to learn (rather unsuccessfully) to surf. Here’s my blog https://twonunsontherun.wordpress.com and the school website in case anyone wants to come volunteer and keep me companyhttp://www.colegiocostaverde.com/Joomla/ . I miss you ranchers somethin fierce!!! Hugs for the girls, please!
Bekah Chadwick- Rusty and I are in Rome, GA where he works as the Operations Manager at WinShape Wilderness. Rusty is also working on his Master’s in Management & Leadership. I was working for the WinShape Foundation but am now staying at home raising our 18 month old, Dawson.
Kelsey Detzner- I am in Denver, nannying and working on my MA in counseling ministries, but the end is in sight! One more semester + one outstanding summer class, and then job searching, possibly with a trip to the west coast after graduation!
Chelsea Kaufman- Hey Steph, great idea! I’m living in Carmel, IN and working in Sales as an Engineering Recruiter. I’m eager to read this blog and see where life has taken everyone so far. Hope all is well!
Nathan McClure- Cool idea Steph! I live in Augusta, GA and am finishing my 2nd year of med school. I also recently got married. Hope all is well at the ranch!
Dana Gingerich- Man, mine sounds boring compared to all of these! I’m living in Arthur IL with my husband on our grain farm and I work at an agricultural software company doing grain customer support.
Ashley Gillespie- You know our story. Living in Clarkesville GA. Jonathon is the chef at Waterfall Country Club. I am a stay at home mama to our boys, Dylan – 4 and Wyatt – 15 months and do taxidermy when I have time.
Jess Decker- Hey Steph, I’m back in Tiger GA working in Gainesville for Kenworth as a mechanic. What I find interesting is how small this world really is. I’m not sure if Ashley and I know each other, but we live 20 mins apart.
Amber Ortiz- Proud Alum from over 10 years ago! Robert and I are no longer married but did have two amazing children together. Reid (whom I was pregnant with my last summer working there- morning sickness and puking while riding with guests is not fun but Jonathan Gillespie and Chol McGlynn let me eat ice cream whenever I wanted!) is turning 10 in March. Reyata will be 5 in June. Both Robert and I live in Iowa. He’s an Ag Teacher and I work at Coe College. Miss VVR and all my fellow Alums!
Janelle Erickson- Hi Steph and everyone! I just moved back to MN after a loooong time away. Most recently I was in Dubai for four years working as a Copywriter at the TBWA and Leo Burnett ad agencies. Just started at a new-ish agency in MN called Solve. They have some pretty cool clients. So keep an eye out for any Organic Valley, True Value or Bentley advertising, because I probably had a hand in creating them.
Casie Marie Barker- Hey Steph…life after the ranch actually brought me back to Carmel, IN to nanny for Peggy and Jerry’s son’s kids! What a small world! Hope to visit soon!
Alex Mabey- Heyyyyyy everyone! I’m living in WA right now, finishing school, planning a summer winery music tour on the east of the mountains, and finishing my third CD (coming out in April)!! Last summer I coordinated and lead wilderness trips for youth in Alaska and here’s my latest music video, shot in right Homer!http://vimeo.com/72533895 Looking forward to life after college and thankful to have had the break I did to go to cool places like VVR So cool hearing what everyone is up to! xoxox
‘Cry For The Bird’ by Alex Mabey
Dan Croake- Hi Steph! Sang and taught for a few years after I left. Then decided I wanted to take care of people with voice problems and got my clinical degree in voice pathology. Stayed on to get my PhD at the University of Kentucky. Been an exciting year having some of my research published. Should be Dr. Croake in about 9 months.
Grahm Fulton- It’s fun to read what everyone is up to. Such a unique group of people! And we all have VVR in common! After leaving el rancho I pursued the grass fed cattle side of ranching. Interned for a summer in Nebraska at the Rusty Star (sorry Anita Olson, CO is where it’s at.) This past summer was up in MT at the J Bar L (if you’re in need of some tasty grass fed beef this is hands down the place to get it from, plus no minimum order!) Interned for a while back in CO at the Chico Basin Ranch. But for now hanging up the spurs and attempting to use my fine woodworking degree back in Denver.
Roxy Kestner- Steph! This is the coolest idea! One of the (many) best things about working at VVR…I always have something interesting to talk about with random people. And they always think I must have lived the coolest life ever. And they are totally right!!
Dorit Iacobsohn- Steph, I love this idea! Very cool to see where everyone landed. I got my Masters in Social Work from UCLA and I’m now working on Hollywood at a social service organization that serves homeless individuals with mental illness & medical disabilities. I think about VVR all the time, it’s nice to keep connected
Lindsey Thorsen- Married and living in my home town of Muskegon MI. Working as a marketing manager for ServiceMaster.
Matt Moore- I just finished looking at a bunch of old VVR pictures with three of my four kids! I am a professional Farrier (horseshoer) with my own business. I shoe mostly Western Pleasure Quarter horses and Paints. I shoe in Ohio, Mich., Texas, and Florida during the winter. I do have one barn full of polo ponies which are not always fun to shoe but is a great game to watch!
Date: February 8th, 2014
Snowshoeing and cross-country (XC) skiing are some of the most romantic forms of recreation and Valentine’s Day is coming. So get away with your loved one(s) to a winter wonderland of memories for some outdoor recreation and pampering that you deserve.
The XCSkiResorts.com Top 10 features favorite romantic resorts across North America.
Read more to see Vista Verde’s inclusion in the story.
Date: February 6th, 2014
“Rye-sotto” with Glazed Root Vegetables
Ingredients (for the “rye-sotto”):
1 yellow onion, peeled and diced
4 cloves garlic minced
4 tablespoons olive oil
4 cups rye berries
2 quarts vegetable stock
Salt and pepper to taste
3 ounces chevre
This “rye-sotto” is obviously a play on words. The technique used to make this dish is more like making a Pilaf than making a true risotto. Rye Berries will not release starch like Arborio or Carnaroli rice, and therefore the slow cooking while stirring constantly method is unnecessary here. I simply simmer the rye berries until tender and make it creamy by folding in the goat cheese.
1. Start to simmer the vegetable stock; meanwhile in a heavy-bottomed pot sauté the onion and garlic in the olive oil on medium heat until soft and translucent. Add the rye berries and stir to coat with the oil and to toast slightly; you do not want any color on the onions or garlic.
2. Add the vegetable stock to the rye berries, cover with a tight fitting lid or with foil, and simmer until the berries are tender, about one hour. Season with salt and pepper and set aside until ready to use.
Glazed Root Vegetables
1 pound of carrots, peeled and cut into obliques
1 pound of parsnips, peeled and cut into obliques
1 pound of baby turnips, peeled and cut into obliques
1 pound of beets, peeled and diced (keep beets separate)
water to cover vegetables
2 tablespoons of sugar
2 bay leaves
4 springs of fresh thyme
¼ teaspoon salt
If the beets are red beets, you will want to keep them separate from the other vegetables; otherwise they will stain them red (I also recommend latex/vinyl gloves to keep your hands from staining as well!)
1. In a large sauté pan add the vegetables and other ingredients and cover all with water about ¼ inch above the vegetables and set on medium heat to begin a simmer (do the beets in a separate pan).
2. Keep a close eye on the vegetables, and when they are just tender remove them from the liquid. Strain the liquid to remove the bay leaves, thyme, and peppercorns. Return the liquid to the stove and reduce until the liquid is almost evaporated. Toss the root vegetables in the pan to “glaze” them. Keep warm until ready to use.
Red Wine Reduction
1 shallot, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 bunches thyme
1 bay leaf
1 750ml bottle red wine (cabernet, merlot, syrah)
2 tablespoons honey
salt and pepper to taste
You will want to use a good bottle of wine for this; a sub-par wine will be sub-par in the sauce.
1. In a small sauce pan, heat the olive oil on medium low and sauté the shallot and garlic lightly. Add the red wine and the herbs and adjust to a low simmer until reduced by about half.
2. Strain the reduction and return to the pot. Add the honey and continue to reduce to a sauce consistency. Season to taste, and taste often to ensure the correct level of reduction; the sauce should be flavorful without being harsh. The honey softens the wine without too much sweetness and gives a nice sheen and color to the final sauce.
The timing of this dish depends on the rye berries; once they are cooking begin the vegetables and red wine reduction as they can simmer while the berries cook and the dish can be finished once the berries are done. Toss the goat cheese in with the rye berries at the last minute and taste for seasoning before serving.
Place the “rye-sotto” in a line down the near-center of the plate, then spoon the root vegetables at an askew angle, and drizzle the red wine reduction across the top. Enjoy.
Date: January 31st, 2014
A Dude Ranch Valentine
January 28, 2014
For many couples, February 14th is a special day set aside to rekindle the spark of romance that flames a relationship. Whether a new couple, or long time soul mates, a romantic get away at a dude ranch can without a doubt be a memorable experience whereby you ignite not only campfire flames, but a passion for the life you share together.
There are several things to consider when selecting which dude ranch would be your perfect, romantic winter destination. With an abundance of options for accommodation styles, activity levels and particular interests you may have as a couple, you will need to do some research when planning. Read more….
Date: January 31st, 2014
JAN 2014 | BY ANDREA GUTHMANN
5 Destinations for a Last-Minute Ski Getaway
The Polar Vortex may be gone, but we are still in the thick of winter. Why complain about the weather when you can enjoy it?
Take advantage of the cold and snow by making tracks for a ski resort. Here’s a look at a few favorites, near and far, to fit every budget. Read more…..
Date: January 28th, 2014
Before I came to work at Vista Verde, I cringed at the mere thought of winter. The most common response I receive when I say that is, “Um, aren’t you from Colorado?” Yes. I am a Colorado native and I hate winter. Well, used to hate winter. Thanks to VVR, I may actually be warming up to winter – just a little.
I guess in some ways you can blame my distaste for winter on my gene pool. I generally blame all my “glitches” on my gene pool. My mom is a long time hater of wind, snow, ice and everything cold. Naturally, like her, I got cold easily which makes being out in the cold an unpleasant and usually brief experience. I went downhill skiing at least twice a year when I was younger, but I just never could get past the icy chill the trips up the lift left me with.
It wasn’t until I was introduced to back country skiing, snowshoeing, snow biking, and skate skiing that I decided: maybe winter isn’t so bad after all. All those activities actually keep me warm enough to stay outside, and in doing that, have open my eyes to how beautiful and fun winter is! Navigating through a silent snow covered forest is a magical experience – and riding a bike on snow, who would have thought!? Now, I find myself looking forward to the change of seasons and even feel a tinge of excitement when I see those snowflakes falling. I guess all I can say is, if you think you hate winter, give it another chance, coming from the CO girl who used to hate winter.
Date: January 27th, 2014
How to have more fun in the snow
When was the last time you made a snow angel? When was the last time you took some time to have fun in the snow, not just shovel it or grumble about it ?
Don’t do snow sports? No problem. There are as many ways to have fun in the snow off the slopes as on. We’ve compiled an entire list at Taking the Kids. Here are some ideas.
Ride, ‘Em Cowboy
Date: January 27th, 2014
The Ten Best All Inclusive Honeymoon Resorts in the USA
Finding the perfect, most romantic, all inclusive honeymoon resort doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to rush out and get a passport in order to honeymoon abroad. In fact, there are many beautiful honeymoon resorts located right here in the United States. Below is a list of our top ten picks for the best, all inclusive honeymoon resorts in the USA. Read on….
Date: January 23rd, 2014
Glide Your Way to Romance – Getaways for XC Skiers or Snowshoers!
By Roger Lohr
It has been said that cross country 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 XCSkiResorts.com Top 10 features favorite romantic XC ski resorts across North America (in alphabetical order). Read on….
Date: January 17th, 2014
Top Dude Ranches for Corporate Retreats & Team Building
Dude ranches are a great setting for corporate retreats, meetings and team building, whether you’re a small business, group of executives or larger corporation. Different ranches focus on varied activities to help colleagues excel as leaders and gel as workmates, ranging from the equestrian–– team penning, horseback riding, horse communication sessions and cattle drives–– to non-horsey outdoor adventures–– ropes courses, fishing, yoga, and survival skills. Read more at Equitrekking.com.