What’s Happening on the Ranch?

There’s always something happening at Vista Verde Ranch. Foals are born, new recipes are created, or the wranglers are playing tricks on each other. Come here to read the latest news!

obstacle course

Dude Ranch Life: Dancing and history and Pilates, oh my!

With opening day nearing quickly, we are putting the finishing touches on all the old favorite aspects of the ranch, but also some “new and improved” features.  It’s an exciting time, and a little frantic.  The summer season of 2016 is going to be a launch pad for a few new activities and opportunities for our guests.  From the horse and bike-friendly obstacle course to the dance lessons, Pilates, history on wheels, and the new Confidence Course, there are a lot of new additions.

  • History on Wheels- Join Charlie for a drive around the Elk River Valley to learn some of the history and a lot of great anecdotes about the area surrounding the ranch.  Wait, yes, you did read that correctly. Charlie is hosting an activity.  Hold onto your hats–the Suburban is going to fill up quickly!
  • Pilates- This is one for the early birds who aren’t ready to sleep in and relax.  Devyn will lead an all-levels Pilates class early one morning for those looking to sneak in one more activity during their stay.  Get your core fired up and ready to go for the day!
  • River Read- This activity developed organically over the past couple years, and we decided to formalize it as an option.  If you have a friend or family member heading out to fish, and would like some time on the river, but have no interest in casting a line, then the River Read is for you!  We will have a nice outdoor chair for you, a cool drink, and a beautiful setting for you to relax, read, and watch the river roll by you.  You just need to provide the book.
  • Dance Lessons- You’ve asked, we are delivering.  Get some in-depth instruction prior to all the dancing that MIGHT ensue during the week.  We’ll teach some couples dances, some line dances, and who knows what else.  You’ll be ready to show off your new tricks at the Barn Dance or Music Night.
  • Confidence Course- As our old horse obstacle course started to fall apart, and our mountain bike skills park needed some TLC, an idea sprung.  Why not build one that can accommodate both bikers and horses!  Crazy, right?  We don’t think so.  As we speak we are moving rocks, chainsawing logs, and creating a playground for both bikers and horses to gain confidence and skills.  It doesn’t hurt the the location is in an idyllic setting right by the river and just a short ride from the ranch.  This will be a work in progress, and we look forward to adding to it as the summer goes on and in future years.
  • Round ’em Up- Our fall cattle round up weeks might look a little different this fall as we have some new cows to work with.  The ones we’ve had the past several years are just a little too scrappy and wild, which made rounding them up so challenging that there were still some left out in the forest at the start of winter time.  Since that is neither good for the cows, the forest, or a cattle rancher’s pocket book, we’re starting out this year with some cow-calf pairs.  Rounding up the gals may be a bit more tame, but should also be a lot more successful.  We’re also looking to plan a unique all-day ride during those fall cattle round up weeks to get out and explore some new terrain.

Whew, it looks like those of you coming to the ranch this summer might want to extend your stay for an extra week.  So much to do and so little time!

 

Where are they now?

There have been a lot of amazing people who have called Vista Verde home for a season or two, or more.  It’s fun to look back on some of the folks who have worked at the ranch over the years, and see where they are now.

  1. Zac Dean was a wrangler from 1999 until early 2001, and was the head wrangler towards the end of his time at the ranch.  He lives in Alexander City, AL with his beautiful family.  With the wrangler days behind him, Zac spent 10 years in the private sector and now is a licensed land surveyor for the AL Department of Transportation.
  2. Jeff McClintic worked as a wrangler the summer of 2012.  He lives in Zionsville, IN, and is working at Traders Point Christian Church, pursuing ministry full time.  He and his wife are coming up on 3 years married with a 14 month old little boy.
  3. Matt Moore wrangled for us the summer of 1998.  He’s been married now for 16 years, and lives with his wife, Kate, and their 4 kids in Springfield, OH.  Matt hasn’t strayed far from the world of horses as he has been running his own farrier service for 15 years now.  He says he’s starting to feel it (the farrier work), but we wonder if it’s the 4 kids!
  4. Rachel (Ratkovich) Daughenbaugh worked at the ranch 2008-2010 as a Wrangler (summer) and Ranch Hand & Server (winter).  She is now married to Dr. Nate Daughenbaugh in Steamboat Springs, and they livie on his family’s ranch. Nate and Rachel met at VVR when he was new to the practice and came out to vet a few VVR horses. I was the lucky wrangler who got to assist. After managing a boarding facility south of Steamboat, Rachel now works for Big Agnes in their marketing department.  Int he photo is Bandit (gray), my first wrangler horse. I later bought him from the ranch.
  5. Roxy Kestner, our infamous head housekeeper was at the ranch from the winter of 1997 through the summer of 2000.  Roxy was an instrumental part of the VVR team and finished her time at the ranch as the Staff Manager.  She’s now living in Philadelphia, PA, and we just cringe for anyone who ever asks her to check if they cleaned something well enough….
  6. Lindsey Thorsen was a teen wrangler the summer of 2008.  Living in Muskegon, MI she is now working in marketing for ServiceMaster and coaching girls Varsity soccer.  Good thing she got all that experience with teenagers at the ranch!  Here she is with “the best horse ever: Chief.”
  7. Miles DeBardeleben, from Jackson, MS, was a ranch hand the winter of 2011/1012.  He is now finishing his first year of medical school at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. This summer he will be working in the Department of Surgery: Urologic Surgery.  As Miles put it, “That’s only because I can’t commit to and I’m too old for a full summer season at VVR.”
  8. Meredith Ozier settled down at the ranch from the winter of 1997 through the summer of 2000.  She began as a server under your truly and finished her time as Dining Room manager.  Now living in Middletown Springs, VT, Meredith is a clinical mental health counselor/psychotherapist in private practice.  She specializes in working with trauma, PTSD and mood disorders. Meredith has been working for herself for going on six years now, but recently picked up a small contract with the state of Vermont to do critical incident stress debriefing with police and first responders. It’s definitely very different than my ranch days. I definitely get a taste of that lifestyle by living on 10 acres and enjoying the outdoors. Stay tuned because I tended to document my younger years particularly ranch days very well. I have so many pictures of just about everyone that I will be posting and or sharing with stuff as soon as I had a chance to get them loaded.
  9. Eliza and Brett Leeper are one of our ranch romance couples!  Eliza worked at the ranch 2006-2007 and Brett worked at the ranch 2005-2006. They met at Vista Verde during the summer of 2006.  Eliza worked in the dining room then the Nordic center. Brett was a teen wrangler, ski guide, and ranch hand.  After 5 years of living in Steamboat, they moved to Vermont in 2011 and were married in 2013.  They are expecting their first baby in August!  Eliza works for Vermont Creamery (a goat cheese and butter company) and Brett runs a cross country ski area in the winter (using all the grooming tips he got from Charlie Cammer!) and runs his own landscaping and property management business in the summer- Leeper’s Property Management.  Fun fact: Eliza is childhood friends with Chef Chol’s wife Alaya.  They worked at the ranch at the same time, and that is when Alaya and Chol first met as well!
  10. Beth Rogers Bundy, from Portland, OR, was at the ranch the summer of 1997 and Winter of 1999/2000.  She was a kid wrangler during the summer and a server during the winter.  The photo is on Diamond from summer 1997.  She is now married with two teenage stepdaughters and a 3 year old son, and is an art teacher–looks like some of those kid wrangler skills are still at work!
  11. Brittany Haile worked at the ranch the summer of 2012 as a housekeeper.  She lives in San Diego and is a Marketing Coordinator at Qualcomm.  Brittany’s family has been coming to the ranch since she was a teenager, and recently built a beautiful ranch across the river!  So, we still see Brittany here at the ranch as she likes to spend as much time as possible at Serenity Ranch hanging out with Sarge, a retired VVR horse.
  12. Scot Keck (aka Waldo) wrangled at the ranch the summers of 1997 and 1998.  He’s been married for almost 10 years and lives with his wife, Angela, and their two children in Leipsic, OH.  Scot is a Value Stream Leader manufacturing IAMS and Eukanuba Pet foods for over 15 years now.
  13. Brad Leeper (yes, there is a connection to #6 above….he’s Brett’s brother!) came to the ranch for the summer summers of 2006 and 2007 as a teen wrangler.  He lives in Nappanee, Indiana where he and wife Brittany have one son, Weston, and are expecting another boy in August.  Brad owns Leeper Land Management, LLC, a company that restores conservation projects in the Midwest. Restoration projects consist of wetlands, prairie plantings, and reforestation.
  14. Robin and Aaron Christensen are another one of our ranch romances that have worked out pretty darn well.  They worked at Vista Verde from 1992-1998.  Robin was the staff manager (she hired yours truly, Steph Wilson) and Aaron was the business manager and ran the fly fishing program.  These days you can find them wrangling their 4 children while managing a dude ranch down in Creede, CO called 4UR Ranch.  No surprise for those who knew Aaron that 4UR is known for it’s excellent fishing program!
  15. Alan Czepinski had a variety of experiences at the ranch from being a barn hand, guide, and ranch hand the summers of 2011 and 2012 and the winter of 2013.  After he left the ranch he started working as a Marine Field Geophysicist.  He enjoyed the international adventures and life experiences with this position.  Currently, he’s back in Texas, but is always looking for a chance to travel.  Alan recently put together a pretty amazing video of some of his travels. Check it out!
  16. Jennifer Stewart Boyle was a housekeeper and server the summer of 1998 and spring of 1999.  These days she is living in Euless, Texas (Dallas-Fort Worth) and is working as a Management Analyst for the U.S. Dept. Of Health and Human Services and raising a baseball-playing 7 year old boy.   
  17. Janice Tatum spent the summers of 1998 and 1999 as a Kid Wrangler.  She and her family have lived all over the world, but are now in North Carolina where she is a Kid Wrangler to her own two children.  Her job du jour is a Technical Assistance Provider for a non-profit that helps rural folk with water issues.  Her photo is from back in the days at the ranch with her best VVR friend Alison Wade!
  18. Jo Stolzfus represents another one of our ranch romances still going strong.  She worked at the ranch from 2007-2011 in almost every area of the ranch.  Head housekeeper, head wrangler, you name it, she’s done it!  These days she and her husband Javin live just across the river, where she manages a horse ranch for a wonderful couple she met while at the ranch.  Javin is working for us again, and we love having them as part of our community.  Pictured with Jo is her VVR bestie the fabulous Beka Adam.
Head Wrangler Sam

What makes a saddle fit, and why does that matter?

Sam, our Head Wrangler, is a wealth of knowledge in an area that isn’t on most people’s radar: Saddle Fitting.  Here, she shares some basic information about saddle fitting that gives a little insight into what goes on behind the scenes in the barn.

Have you ever been uncomfortable in a pair of shoes, or socks and shoes that don’t fit? Or for the avid hikers and campers, a heavy backpack that isn’t sitting in the right spot and makes you’re back sore? Well, that is exactly how a horse feels when their saddle or saddle pad doesn’t fit them well.

The past couple years I have immersed myself in research and learning more about this topic.  Everyone has different opinions on it, but more and more veterinarians are getting educated on proper saddle fit, and they are doing more studies and analyses to get scientific evidence on how to make horses more comfortable while we ride them. There are even certified saddle fitters and ergonomists!

Saddles are made with a base structure, called a “tree”.  This tree can be made out of wood (typically), and sometimes fiberglass.  Its purpose is to evenly distribute the weight of the rider over the horses back (on the proper saddle support area) and it keeps the saddle up off of the spinal cord and spinal ligaments.  However, the tree must properly fit the contour of the horse’s back, or it can create unwanted pressure points.  The anatomy of the horse proves where the saddle should sit.  The tree should not sit on top or too far forward, or the shoulder (scapula) cannot extend properly for full motion.  This causes the horse to compensate in other areas, creating pain and pressure points, unexplained lameness, kissing spine, and irritable behavior.  Moving down the back, if the gullet (space down the length of the saddle that keeps it off the spine) is too narrow or sits on the spine, the horse cannot properly lift its back, ribs and engage its hindquarters.  Most likely he will compensate by hollowing his back and raising his head, and putting more weight on the front end (which none of us want as that makes for an uncomfortable ride as well as leads to injury in the front legs).  At the end of the saddle support area, the tree cannot extend past the last rib. After the last rib are the lumbar (of the spine), and they have no support. Saddles that are too long can cause back soreness.

The tree and the gullet width are two very important parts.  The whole construction is important of the saddle, for English and western both.  Stirrup bars, girth placement are also important parts of saddle fitting.  When fitting a saddle, even weight distribution should be felt along the underside of the saddle.  Under a trained eye, you can take your hand and run it underneath the saddle and see if there are any points where there is a lot of pressure (remember this all should be done without a saddle pad).  Most commonly, you’ll see what we call “bridging”, which is high amounts of pressure at the front and the back of the saddle, leaving little or no weight distribution in the middle (where most of it should be anyway). You’ll see this a lot with sway backed horses, or horses with high withers.

Why should this all matter to riders?  It is important because it affects our horses behavior and long term physical health.  Saddles that are not fitted properly can cause extreme pain, and with some horses you would never know until it is too late.  If your horse has unexplained lameness, white spots on the withers, bad behavior, is “cinchy”, won’t stand still to be saddled and/or mounted, then saddle fit should be considered.

Saddle pads are a huge industry. You pay anywhere from $30 to $400+ for a saddle pad that may not even help the saddle fit.  The saddle must fit without a pad, so you would want as thin a pad as possible to not interfere with the saddle fit.  Sometimes (for sway backed horses for example), a thicker pad can help.  But, if you have pressure points, a thicker pad (which most think will eliminate the pressure points), actually makes it worse.  That is the most basic explanation for saddle pads – that is a whole other topic for the next time Steph bugs me to write a post for her!

At Vista Verde, we are spending a lot of time this Spring focusing on fitting the right saddles to each horse.  It is a time consuming process, but a great learning experience for all involved.  These horses take such good care of us, and it is our responsibility to take care of them and make them comfortable.

Interested in learning more?  Here are some Facebook pages that are great resources:

Schleese Saddlery Service

Saddlefit 4 Life

Fit Right Saddle Solutions

 

 

 

ranch waffle recipe

Recipe: Cheddar Cheese-Chive Waffles

Are you looking for something a bit different to jazz up your weekend breakfast?  Our ranch chefs recommend this recipe for Cheddar Cheese-Chive Waffles (makes 8 waffles).

Ingredients:

1½ cups all-purpose flour

½ cup rye flour

1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese

1/3 cup minced fresh chives

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon grated nutmeg

¼ teaspoon salt

2 large eggs, separated

1½ cups buttermilk

½ cup whole milk

2 ounces unsalted butter, melted

Directions:

  1. Preheat waffle iron.
  2. Mix together the flours, cheese, chives, baking powder, soda, nutmeg and salt into a large bowl.
  3. In a separate bowl whip the egg whites to soft, glossy peaks.
  4. In another bowl whisk together the egg yolks, buttermilk, milk and melted butter.
  5. Add the buttermilk mixture to the dry ingredients and combine. Fold in the egg whites until incorporated.
  6. Make waffles!
US Foods delivery truck at luxury dude ranch Vista Verde

Dude Ranch Life: Like an oasis in the desert

The past month has been a bleak one for those of us so spoiled by the ranch chefs the rest of the year.  Gone were the fresh fruit bowls, the pastries, the hearty lunches on a cold, wet day, and the steaming platters of freshly prepared dinner time meals.   Woe is us.  We get it.  Life isn’t so bad here.  But, nonetheless, the sight of the US Foods truck backing up to the kitchen receiving doors was a sight for sore eyes yesterday.  As were the white chef coats Cholly and JT put back on as they opened up the kitchen for the season.  There was definitely some rejoicing going on all around the ranch with the handful of staff who are slogging out these rainy, snowy spring days in anticipation of sunshine and green grass to come.

In about 14 days the new staff will roll in along with the returners who have been away while we were closed down.  By then hopefully the snow will finally be gone, the mud drying up, and we’ll get to work training and setting up for the summer season.  Between now and the start of orientation we have a lot of work to do!  Tomorrow is moving day, as we start moving furniture into the newly renovated duplex units.  We are so excited to kick off the summer season with those units almost fully booked.  They are turning out even better than we envisioned!

So, bring on the sunshine and bring on the hustle and bustle to get everything done in the next couple weeks.  But, most importantly, bring on the food!

spring snow in Colorado

Dude Ranch Life: April showers bring May flowers

You know the proverb “March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb?” Well, we all decided, as it was dumping snow during the final days of April, that whoever came up with that didn’t live up here in the mountains of Colorado.  This spring has been one of snow, snow, and more snow, mixed in with a little rain.  While there have been beautiful days mixed in there, we all feel a little trapped in an eternal winter.  In fact, Bill just finished his charting for the month of April and his records show that we had more snow in April than we did in February!  Granted, February was a lighter snowfall month for us this past winter, but based on his records we had 20 inches of snow in February and 24 inches of snow in April.  And that April snow?  It’s wet, wet, wet, so there is a lot of moisture in those 24 inches.

Hopefully what this means is that the grass will be brilliantly green, and the wildflowers will be exploding all over the valley and mountains this summer.  Until then, if any of you have an extra room in a warm, sunny climate, and maybe even a sandy beach, there is a good chance one of us might show up on your doorstep pretty soon.  Because with a big weekend storm to close out the month of April, it seems like April is going out like a lion!  To heck with March, we’re just hoping the lambs show up in May!

steamboat winter vacation

5 Night Winter Steamboat experience

Here is an itinerary we put together for a 5-night stay that gives you a taste of Steamboat and the ranch experience.  There is a lot packed into this one!

Day 1 (Thursday)

  • Arrive to Steamboat Springs and check into the Steamboat Grand.
  • Go check out the ski area, get your rentals ready to go at Christy Sports, and then stop by the Truffle Pig for a happy hour cocktail.
  • Grab a shuttle to downtown Steamboat Springs and head over to Carl’s Tavern for a nice, but casual dinner. Stretch your legs a bit after a day of travel by walking over to Ciao Gelato before heading home to bed!

Day 2 (Friday)

  • Wake up and grab a quick, hearty breakfast at Paramount. Spend the day downhill skiing at Steamboat Spring’s famous Mt. Werner.  Enjoy long runs, fast chair lifts, and that Colorado champagne powder.  Lunch stop?  The Four Points Lodge has amazing food and a great view of the valley below.
  • After a day of skiing, what’s better than soaking your muscles in hot water? Take a shuttle up to Strawberry Hot Springs.  Enjoy multiples levels of pools with different temperatures, beautiful grounds, and all beneath the open Colorado Sky.  If you want to enjoy the views, head up there before dark and then treat yourself to dinner afterwards at Café Diva.  Make sure to make your reservations far in advance as they book up early!

 

Day 3 (Saturday)

  • Take your time checking out and stop by Creekside Café (a local’s and Vista Verde staff favorite) for the best breakfast in town.
  • After breakfast, take time to check out the town! Visit the shops and take a stroll down the Yampa River Core Trail.  You might even see some ski jumpers flying off the jumps over at Howelsen Hill from the trail!
  • After exploring town, it’s time to head to Vista Verde Ranch. Check in is at 4 o’clock, but if you get in earlier, you are more than welcome to explore the ranch or relax in our Great Room until your private cabin is available.
  • After settling into your cabin, unpacking, and getting the lay of the land, come on down to the Lodge for our Happy Half Hour (we’re too busy having fun outside to make it an hour!). Grab a glass of wine or craft beer and meet the other individuals staying on the ranch.  After Happy Half Hour, stroll into the dining room to enjoy an outstanding, elegant formal dinner (don’t worry – this doesn’t mean it requires formal attire – you can be as comfortable and casual as you’d like!) filled with fabulous appetizers, entrees, and a dessert that have been personally crafted by our chefs.
  • After dinner, wander back to your cabin under the light of the stars and enjoy your private hot tub or snuggle up by the wood burning stove to relax before your adventures the next day!

 

Day 4 (Sunday)

  • Wake up to the horses nickering and the snow plows working, and head down to the Lodge where the coffee is brewing and the bacon sizzling.
  • After breakfast, start your ranch vacation adventures off with and introduction to classic skiing. You will meet with our guides, go over all there is you need to know about skiing, and then head out onto any of our 20 km of private ski tracks to practice technique, or into the backcountry with a guide!
  • After an active morning and a delicious lunch joined by the Vista Verde staff, spend the afternoon riding a horse on a snow covered trail. Enjoy this beautiful loop around the ranch property and take in the exciting experience of riding a horse in the snow.  And a bonus – the horse you ride will be yours for the duration of your stay!
  • After the trail ride, hop onto the feed sleigh and help the wranglers feed our Vista Verde herd. The sleigh is pulled by our team, two Belgian brothers named Kenai and Sitka.  Enjoy the lap around our Winter Pasture and watch the horses as they interact while eating.
  • Following a full day of adventures, head back to your cozy cabin and hot tub as the sun sets or relax before another wonderful dinner paired with the perfect glass of wine.

 

Day 5 (Monday)

  • After a delicious breakfast, try out the horsemanship clinic with your horse you rode the day before. Learn the details and intricacies of working with a horse, both on the ground and in the saddle.  Lead by one of our talented horse trainers, the horsemanship clinic is a great way to learn all that it takes to find a connection with the horse you are riding
  • Come back after riding for a hearty lunch cooked to order and prepare for your afternoon! A quick post-lunch nap refreshed you to jump on the back of the snowmobile to head up to the tubing hill.  An hour of exhilarating rides up and down the hill is capped off with a private sleigh ride—the perfect way to wrap up an active day.
  • Finish the day off with a casual BBQ dinner where you enjoy the company of the staff and any children staying for the week. After a lively dinner, head up to our barn for the barn dance!  Learn to square dance, line dance, and partner dance with other guests and our staff.  It is a great way to get your country western moves on!

 

Day 6 (Tuesday)

  • Your last morning at the ranch has arrived, and you know that all of the Vista Verde crew are sad to see you go! But you have just had the most incredible winter vacation, experiencing much of what Steamboat Springs and a winter guest ranch vacation has to offer!  You will be missed at Vista Verde, and we will be counting down the days until we get to see you here again!  Because there is so much you didn’t get a chance to fit in during this stay!  Dogsledding, cooking classes, snowmobiling, ranch yoga, perfecting your technique on back country skis, tasting wines with the ranch chefs, and more!  Come back and enjoy this Western town and lifestyle soon!
new horses at Colorado dude ranch

Dude Ranch Life: A horse shopping spree

Each year, as we retire some horses and others are purchased, we need to replenish our herd to be ready for our dude ranch season in the summer.  Typically this takes the form of going to sales in the spring, and hoping that they horses we picked will be as good when they get back to the ranch.  This year, we decided to try a different approach.  All fall and winter, Sam and KP have been scouring the classifieds, Craigslist, special horse for sale pages on Facebook, and spreading the word through local horse connections.  They’ve put in a lot of miles on the road–going to see horses, try them out, get to know their history, and making purchases.  All in all, since last fall they have brought home 16 new horses!  It’s been a lot of work, but we’re all hopeful that the success rate for the horses working out for our needs will be much higher than past years due to this more in-depth purchasing process.

So, here’s who we have new to the team:

  • Betty- She’s a sweet and sassy Appaloosa mare with a hysterical Mohawk.  We’ve already used her this winter for both kids and adults, so she’s a perfect, versatile horse.
  • Turtle- This guy is one of those priceless horses.  His beautiful sorrel color is contrasted with four white socks and a big bold blaze.  He’ll be one of our go-to kid horses as he is steady and safe.
  • Dollar- A stocky, little buckskin with a white snip.  We’re looking forward to seeing who matches up best with him.
  • Chip- Sam describes him as “gritty.” He came from a feedlot where he’s worked hard dragging cows and keeping order.  This little sorrel was painfully thin when we bought him, so he’s been on the VVR weight gain program and is doing really well now.
  • Sadie- A beautiful gray mare, she came as a two-fer with her son last fall.  It’s going to take a little time for her to settle in, but she’s solid and gorgeous and we’re looking forward to putting some miles on her.
  • Bugs- This is Sadie’s son, and he is a spitting image of her.  Sam says he’s still figuring things out at the ranch, so he might be one we work with for the first couple weeks of our season before we start using him for guests.
  • Blondie- Of course this is a palomino paint mare with that name!  Her four white socks and petite frame make her a standout.  She’s an old pro at giving kids riding lessons, so she will be great for kids and her slight build will make her a match for small adults as well.
  • Belle- She’s black, she’s sweet, and she is ready to be a kind babysitter for the kiddos.
  • Brother- This guy must have some Warmblood in his breeding as he is a tall drink of water.  His solid build and kind temperament will make him a great steed for larger riders.
  • Peso- A big bay, this guy is going to take a little more time to work into the VVR lifestyle.  KP has been working with him, and will probably spend more time on him this summer– settling him and tuning him up until he’s ready to get out with our guests.
  • Montana- This big, gray gelding has a colorful history.  He was trained to do cowboy mounted shooting, but he just wasn’t fast enough to make the cut.  So, just know that nothing can phase this guy!
  • Willow- Another beauty, this sweet mare is a gruella, which is a beautiful coloring that isn’t very common. She had a good little injury on her hip that we’ve been nursing, and she’s healing up really well, so she’ll be ready for the summer season.
  • Polly- This gal got her name from her unique brand with a P in it.  A well-proportioned sorrel mare, she has given riding lessons to kids in the past, so there’s a good chance we’ll put some kiddos on her this summer.
  • Bear- He reminds us all of Nacho, so we’re hoping he’ll be a perfect replacement for that old guy as he heads towards retirement.  This half-draft is big, bay, stocky, and laid back.
  • Jasper- Another half-draft, this one is a black beauty.  His beautiful, long forelock makes me think of the kind of horse you’d see in a jousting match.  But this guy would rather meander on the trail than charge down a lane carrying an armored knight.
  • Millie- There will always be the one KP falls in love with, and this is the one.  She’s a super sweet bay mare who is ready to go….that is if you can get KP to share her!
planning a honeymoon

Planning a honeymoon?

So you’re happily engaged, busy planning a wedding, and then your fiance drops the bomb on you–it’s your job to plan the honeymoon!  We get so many honeymooners here at Vista Verde, and we love having them at the ranch celebrating their new life together.  But, we’ve also been on the phone with enough folks who are nervously trying to find the perfect honeymoon getaway that we sympathize with the pressure that goes along with planning this big getaway!

Of course, we think Vista Verde is a perfect honeymoon option for couples looking for adventure, ease of access, and simplified planning.  The opportunity for adventurous days are abundant here at the ranch!  With multiple direct flights coming into the Steamboat airport (in the winter) getting here is pretty straightforward, and our all-inclusive pricing makes planning and budgeting a no-brainer.  Top that all with a secluded setting, gorgeous views, a private and luxurious cabin–complete with a bubbling hot tub on the deck, and meals that range from ranchy to fancy.  Adventure, romance, and relaxation are all wrapped up into one ranch honeymoon.

We hope you end up choosing Vista Verde for your honeymoon, but even if not, please check out this great article titled Honeymoon Planning Tips for Grooms written by Susan Breslow Sardone.  Susan is an expert in honeymoons and romantic getaways, and she has some seriously fabulous tips here in this article.

Good luck with the planning, and have a great time on your honeymoon!

top us all inclusive family vacations

Family Travel Network- April 2016

All-inclusive vacations are all the rage it seems these days.  People used to think you had to travel out of the country to find an all-inclusive vacation option, but it is getting on their radar more and more that there are great options right here in the US.  Historically, dude ranches were the original all-inclusive vacation for domestic travelers.  In this article by the Family Travel Network, the Top US All-Inclusive Family Vacations are highlighted, and they included Vista Verde!  Read the article….

dude ranch life off season adventures

Dude Ranch Life: Off-season shenanigans

While the snow is trying to melt away, despite concerted efforts by Mother Nature to remind us every few days that no, winter isn’t quite over, the ranch is down to a skeleton crew.  Where did everyone go?  Everywhere!  Some of our seasonal staff headed off to their next adventures in life, while others are playing in between the seasons.  There are road trippers, campers, world explorers, and those who went home to earn some extra income while the ranch is shut down for a bit.  Those of us who spend the full year at the ranch are also taking advantage of the chance to sneak away for a while.  Right now baby Althea has packed up her parents to spend some time on the beaches of Florida.  After a winter of snowsuits and mittens, she’s happy to dig her feet in the sand!  Chol is off living the life of a celebrity chef in Montana, cooking at a big fundraiser for the Back Country Hunters and Anglers.  Charlie will be heading out on a Western road trip later this month, and the ranch office gals ditched the office last week to embrace winter one last time on a hut trip near the Nokhu Crags.  There is a slight chance that I am writing this blog post looking out over the redwood covered foothills of Northern California following a long run in the woods…..but that may or may not be true.

While the phones still ring, the emails still come in, the horses must be fed, the mares watched for foals to arrive, construction crews need to be overseen, and off-season projects nag us all, it’s a much anticipated break in the action and a great time to regroup, prepare, and gear up for the summer season.

For all our great staff who are out on other adventures right now, please comment with updates of what you’re doing, the sights you’ve seen, and the exploring that is happening during this spring!

ranch romance

Dude Ranch Life: Ranch Romance

Based on the raging success we’ve had match-making our staff for an unprecedented number of marriages, this year marks the launch of a new division of the dude ranch operation.  We are proud to announce our new venture VVR-mony.com.  Rather than relying on sites like e-harmony.com to match up couples who later come to honeymoon at the ranch, or bring their growing broods for family vacations, we are going to claim that portion of the market so we develop a client base from the ground up.

Beka is already known for her top notch screening skills in picking the right staff and has an uncanny knack for assigning them to convenient housing arrangements where they may catch each other’s eye on the way down to clock in for work.  Now, she will put her laser sharp skills to work with willing applicants who sign up for the VVR-mony.com package.

With this new venture, we are excited to capitalize on the ranch’s history of recruiting quality people and putting them through a sweat-inducing interview process that weeds out those who aren’t able to sing, dance, serve, summit, wrangle, clean, iron, shovel, scoop, and cast all with a smile on their face.  We feel that this base will allow us to match the perfect clean cut, all-American, can-do, service oriented, and nature loving individuals that will ride off into the sunset holding hands and planning their future stays at VVR.

Sign up for a free trial today!  After April Fool’s Day, this offer is no longer valid.

winter glamping in Colorado

Only In Your State – March 2016

As the winter season winds down, many of us are thinking about off-season adventures.  Just in time, this article from OnlyInYourState.com came out titled, “These 8 Glampgrounds In Colorado Will Give You An Unforgettable Experience.”  Along with showcasing Vista Verde as one of the options, there were some other great suggestions that are inspiring many of us to look at a “staycation” this spring!  Read the article….

history of ranch fencing in the West

A history of fencing in the West

For you history buffs, please enjoy this guest post by Andrew Swenson of Gallagher Fence.

Fencing has come a long way over the years and has a fascinating history. Long gone are the days that farmers would collect sticks, strap them together and hope for the best.
How Did Barbed Wire Fencing Come To Be?
With advances in technology, better fencing was inevitable. Farmers needed a solution to issues surrounding containing and protecting their livestock. While sticks may contain small animals such as goats, sheep, and other smaller animals, large animals such as cows, horses, and the like require much sturdier fencing.
In the late 1800s, barbed wire was invented. It provided a solution to large animals knocking over fencing, predators simply walking through or under fencing. All of this in a readily available format that was both low maintenance and low cost.
Barbed Wire Made the Standard of Fencing
Once the barbed wire was introduced to the market, it offered farmers an option that they could not ignore. As the West was being colonized, it allowed the farmers to contain their livestock quickly and safely without wasting valuable space. Without barbed wire, many farmers would have been unable to protect their livestock and mark their lands.
This was particularly important with vast areas of government land being given away and free for anyone to use for their animals grazing. This led to an argument between farmers who kept their livestock on their land or had their fields fenced to keep out wildlife and other animals and the farmers who let their animals out to graze. This led to the Fence Cutting War in Texas.
The Fence Cutting War in Texas
Due to a widespread drought in 1883, farmers were finding it harder to find water and food for their cattle. This led to desperation and for some farmers to seek desperate measures. Migrating herds would be blocked by the fences that had been set up and wander around trying to find a way through. Ranchers began cutting down these fences to help their cattle get through to somewhere they could get water. The owners of the land would also try to increase their borders by cutting the fences to neighboring properties or government land and rebuild them past their original lines. This eventually got out of hand, fences started appearing across roads, some fields were burnt, and there was over $20 million worth of damage done in the summer and fall alone. While fence cutting still continued on and off over the years, it was not permitted to get as out of hand as it did in 1883.
Why to Look For Alternatives
Farmers have always cared for their livestock. After all, it is their livelihood and abused, or starved animals are of no use to anyone. This is why farmers wanted to find a viable solution that would keep their livestock safe and contained.
As other methods of containment merely hold the animals inside their paddocks but offer no protection from predators, barbed wire was a necessary evil and was therefore left as a standard.
Early Electric Fencing
The first electric fencing was not used for animals. Rather it was designed to keep people out of places. These wire fences could carry currents that ranged from a light zap to lethal force. It was heavily used in areas such as prisons, government buildings, and, with the war, concentration camps, dugouts, and other military zones. These electric fences caused thousands of fatalities throughout World War 1; the most deadly was known as the “Wire of Death”.
Today’s Standard of Fencing
Although barbed wire fencing had become an industry standard, farmers were always on the lookout for a better alternative. One that did not cause their animals to end up with tangles, lacerations, or other injuries. That led to farmers to start looking towards electric fencing in the 1930s although it was not widely used at first. Certain areas would ban or limit its usage as much of the first electric fencing was unpredictable when it came to the strength of the shock that one sustained after touching it.
Despite these roadblocks, farmers knew this was the viable option they had been hoping for. It would keep their animals safely contained and would keep predators on the right side. Not only was it safe and more efficient than traditional methods, but it was also cheaper in the long run too. The wires (particularly high tensile wire) required very little maintenance, were quick and easy to set up, and did not need a lot of materials. This saved farmers a lot of money, time, and effort and for these reasons electric fencing will continue to be the new industry standard for livestock fencing.

This post was written for Vista Verde Ranch courtesy of www.gallagherfence.net

cross country ski package

Cross Country Ski, Fat Bike, and Mountain Bike Equipment Sale

In preparation for upgrading all our equipment, we are clearing out our current fleet of cross country ski equipment as well as our fat bikes.  If you’ve been in the market for a back country ski touring set up, or some used cross-country or skate skiing equipment then pay attention!

Saturday, March 26 from 10am-2pm will be the big sale.  If you don’t live in the Steamboat area, you are welcome to call Steve or Kelli, and have them ship you the package if you know your size.  Give them a call at 970-879-8836 ext.115 or you may fill out the Contact Us form and they’ll get back to you when we’re not out guiding guests.

Backcountry ski packages- $150 for skis and boots, $175 for skis, boots, and poles

  • Salomon BC ski boots size 36 through size 50.
  • Alpina Lite Terrain waxless ski’s with Salomon BC Manual bindings size XS, Small, Medium, Large
  • Alpina Cross Terrain waxless skis with Salomon BC Manual bindings size Small & Large
  • Alpina Discovery & Woody waxless skis with Salomon BC Manual bindings size XS, small, medium and large

Snowshoes- $50-$100

  • Tubbs, MSR, Crescent moon and Atlas snowshoes, various sizes

Skate Ski and Classic Ski packages- $150-$350

Fatbikes- $1,500

  • Fatback fat bikes 14,16,18 & 20 inch
    • 2×9 drive train
    • 26 wheels with 3.8 inch tires
    • mechanical disc brakes
  • Salsa Horsethief & Spearfish Mountain bikes 2×10 with 29 inch wheels

Mountain bikes- $600-$2,500

  • Full suspension DeVinci, Jamis, and Salsa

Kids bikes and cruiser bikes- $50-$200

family snow vacation

TakingtheKids.com – March 2016

Following their experience at the ranch through travel diaries, Eileen and her family have put together another installment of the trip report.  There is a section about Steve talking about families who come to the ranch for winter vacations.

Steve King, who oversees the winter cross country ski program here and the summer adventure program, says he sees growing numbers of families seeking an alternative fun in the snow adventure that the ranch provides. “They think the kids will want to go into the downhill mountain every day—and we provide free shuttles—but they just want to play in the snow.”  He says they’ll take families out Nordic or back country skiing, build a fire and make s’mores.

Read the article….

  • barn dance at luxury ranch
  • snowmobiling on Colorado vacation
  • leather working at vista verde ranch
  • learning to dance at winter ranch
  • beer tasting vacation in Colorado

Dude Ranch Life: The winter’s biggest hits

What would make the winter vacation experience at Vista Verde better?  That is the question we ask ourselves every year at the end of the season as we reflect on the past season and make plans for the following year.  Last spring, as our background noise was the drip, drip, drip of the snow melting off the roofs, we sat in the Great room and talked about what could we add to our program that our guests would love.  There was quite a list that came out of that meeting, and we were able to implement some of them this winter.  Guess what?  They’ve been a hit!

The biggest project was the construction on the barn loft, which allowed us to bring a little of our summer fun into our winter season.  Nate spent most of the fall busily insulating and upgrading the loft for a beautified look and some nice warmth on winter nights. Now, each Monday evening, we’re stomping and swinging with our guests for an old fashioned, W estern barn dance.  In addition to that we’ve noticed that our guests often ask to learn more about couples dancing and line dancing so they can whoop it up during the music show.  Bubba offered up his services, and our dance lessons have been in demand almost every week of the winter so far.

In past years, we have danced with the Forest Service to negotiate a way to offer our guests snowmobiling trips that leave right here from the ranch.  And this winter they turned on the music and let us go.  There have been so many more guests going snowmobiling, now that it’s more handy and leaves right from the Sunday pasture.  What fun we’ve had, and the views……they are indeed amazing.

With all the outdoor adventures available for our guests, it’s been clear that many folks just wear themselves out, and sometimes they need a more mellow way to spend their afternoon.  Nate’s class in leather working has given our guests an artistic outlet as well as the opportunity to try something they’ve probably never tried before.  And since our weekly wine tasting has always been a hit, it was no surprise that adding a beer tasting would be a great addition.  This also gives guests who aren’t staying for a full week vacation the chance to spend some time with the chefs one way or another, as we spread out the culinary events throughout the week.

With a month of the season left, and a full house of guests coming for spring break, we still have plenty of time before we sit down again and ask, “What would make a winter vacation at Vista Verde Ranch even better next year?”  But, if you have any suggestions, please feel free to leave them here.  We’ll toss them into the hat and see what we can do for next winter!

winter staff luxury guest ranch vacation

Dude Ranch Life- The spotlight is on Chef JT

Every once in a while, Chef John Thompson– also known as “JT”– steps out from behind the kitchen doors.  Even though they rave about his culinary creations, many of our guests don’t get a chance to meet him during their stay.  JT is the yin to Chef Chol’s yang, and how they complement one another is the key to the success of our culinary program.  We interviewed him the other day so you can all get to know him a bit better.

Q: Where did you grow up?

A: I grew up in Hanford, CA.

Q: What brought you to Colorado?

A: I moved to Boulder so Erica, my wife, could go to grad school at CU Boulder, and for me it was a chance to jump into the incredible food scene in that city.

Q: Did you think you would be a chef when you were growing up?

A: No, being a chef was not on my radar as a kid, but my mom and grandma were incredible cooks, and I spent tons of time in the kitchen with the both of them.

Q:  How did you get into the culinary arts?

A: I was offered a job as a prep cook while visiting a friend at the restaurant where he waited tables. The chef said, “What are you doing today?” My answer was, “I’m out looking for a job.” He asked me if I could start tomorrow, and so here I am–15 years later.

Q: Who do you admire in the culinary world?

A: Some of the leading chefs I follow are Sean Brock, David Chang, Alice Waters, Thomas Keller, Daniel Humm, David Kinch, and Corey Lee.

Q: How would you describe your style of cooking?

A: I love American food.  I think of America as a melting pot–it has a very unique style of food and a rich history of using local and in-season ingredients to recreate the food of all our ancestral past as our own.

Q: What is one tip you think everyone should know for cooking at home?

A: Keep your tools in good shape and always use the best produce and ingredients you can find.

Q: What do you do in your free time?

A: I spend time with my wife Erica and our baby Althea.  I am an avid angler (the ranch staff teased us that we would name our baby “Brooke Trout”), so I still find time to fly fish with my fishing buddy/dog Goldie every chance I get.

Q:  How has ranch life been for you and your family?

A: Finding the ranch is the best thing that ever happened to me and my family. Our “ranch family” makes being so far away from our real family much easier. I look forward to going to work every day as much as I look forward to being in nature on my days off.  It’s a very unique opportunity to be a chef in such an amazing setting. I love that I can take a 10-minute break to hang out with my family and that they are only steps away from the kitchen.

fitness for your ranch vacation

Fitness for your ranch vacation

Devyn (a certified Pilates instructor among her other roles at the ranch) offers some tips for preparing for your ranch vacation.

Whether you visit the ranch in the winter, summer, or fall–it is a very active vacation. Of course, you don’t have to begin an intense training session before your stay, but getting into a strength routine is always beneficial. Doing a little strength training makes you more aware of your body, helps you get up from a wipe-out in the champagne powder, gain more control in your legs for horseback riding, and some more power for those tough hikes. My favorite kind of exercises are total body and body-weight exercises. They allow you to get a quick work out in anywhere!

Everyone should do planks. They are a fitness junkie’s classic exercise. Yes, they engage your abdominals, but they work the oblique and back muscles too. Gaining strength in the core will help you sit up straighter while riding and help dig into the abs for strength while bike riding (instead of straining the lower back) Try doing them for a minute at a time. Laying on your tummy, place your forearms flat on the floor, stack shoulders over elbows then squeeze your legs together, tuck your toes under to lift the knees off the floor then straighten the legs. Keep squeezing your legs together to engage the glutes and inner thighs.  Think about scooping your abdominal muscles in and up to keep them engaged.

Lunges are an incredible, classic exercise as well.  If you can do them with a resistance band or weights, that’s even better. Strength in the legs and inner thighs is most beneficial when communicating with your horse while riding. In back country skiing, I’ve found that engaging the glutes helps me to stand up straight and power from the rear instead of the hip flexors. To make lunges really effective, make the motion slow, slow, slow.  Articulate through the full length of your leg muscles. Slowing it down fires up the slow twitch muscle fibers which are used for endurance. Keep the knee of the leg in front of you in line with the front ankle. Do not let the knee creep forward over the toes or strain behind your ankle. This protects your knee. Think about pressing the heel of the front leg into the ground to engage the glutes and straighten the leg. Play with doing the full range of motion for 1 minute, then holding (leg in a 90 degree angle) for 30 seconds, then pulsing it out (little up and down) for the last 30 seconds.

Add these exercises to your fitness routine, and you might find your time in the hot tub is more about watching the stars than relieving the aches and pain of sore muscles!