May 2009

Mud Season

When it’s not quite still winter, and not quite yet summer here at Vsta Verde Ranch, we don’t refer to it as Spring but call it by another name.  Mud Season.  During this time most of the Steamboat Springs resorts close down because of Mud Season. 

Most years, it’s just an affectionate term that we use as we slop through the melting snow and ensuing mud underneath, trying to be diligent about wiping off our boots before coming inside.  Because most years the sun is shining, the birds are singing and you can almost feel the grass pushing with all it’s might to explode up out of it’s dormancy.  You just know that great Colorado summer vacations are about to begin.

However, this year, it doesn’t seem to be such a laughing matter.  The birds are still singing, those little optimists.  But the sun has hardly been shining.  Rain, snow, sleet and various other forms of precipitation keep lingering.  And it’s becoming all that anyone talks about these days.  At this point, we could have been offering some great cross country skiing in Colorado way into April.

Yesterday, I had to drive over for my final board meeting (we take the summer off as everyone is too busy to meet) of the Colorado Dude Ranch Association- an association of the best dude ranches in Colorado.  What is normally a picturesque drive, with majestic mountains peaks still covered in snow, but green meadows busting with young grass and baby calves was replaces by a slow slog through a blizzard in four wheel drive.  

Those poor little calves out there don’t know any different.  But, as soon as spring finally decides to join us, and stay, the valleys are going to explode with vegetation and those little birds are going to have something to sing about for sure.  Heck, you might just hear me singing at that point! 

The Big Move, Part II

Today is the day! The design crew got started around 8am and are cranking away getting all the furniture moved into the Great Room. The rugs are down and much of the furniture is in the building. Right now they are placing the different pieces in their spots. The elk head is looking down from his perch, peering into my new office. A little unnerving yes, but we’ll get to be friends soon. I might need to name him. After they have all the furniture in place the crew will start hanging art. Oh, I just saw the refinished dining room chairs coming in. Same chairs, just a new look! I’m hoping that any minute someone will step in for my personal makeover! Ahh, a girl can at least dream.

Honeymoon at a Dude Ranch?

Yes!  These days, we are seeing more and more folks coming to Vista Verde Ranch for their honeymoon.  The cliche beach vacation is just so…..well, cliche.  Coming to a guest ranch is a different and fun way to have a romantic honeymoon getaway with shared experiences that will last long past the pina colada getting warm. 

What is it like to spend your honeymoon at Vista Verde Ranch? 

When you arrive, tired and worn out from the planning and stress of your wedding, the first thing you will find is a welcoming and accommodating staff, waiting to take care of your every need.  Then, you’ll step into your Colorado honeymoon cabin and instantly feel at home.  The ecclectic mix of log and antique furniture along with Western art makes each cabin unique and incredibly cozy.  The hot tub sitting out on the deck of your cabin will beckon you to soak and reflect on the huge day you just went through, marrying this person who sits next to you now.  In the winter, you may be looking out at a snow filled landscape as the bright sun shines down, or the stars twinkle in the night sky.  Or, if it’s snowing, all you’ll see are big, fluffy white snowflakes.  Peaceful?  Oh, yes.  And I forgot to mention the cozy wood burning stove, for those nights when you want to watch the snowflakes from inside your cabin.

As you make your way over to the Main Lodge of our luxury dude ranch for your first dinner, you’ll revel in the serenity of the ranch at night.  The talented Chefs will have prepared a delectable dinner for you to enjoy by yourselves at a private table, or in the company of intersting and adventurous guests from all over the world.  

Waking up on your first morning, you’ll find the caring and fun loving staff in the dining room to serve you a hearty breakfast before heading out for your first adventure.  You and your spouse will deepen your relationship as you learn more about each other trying new activites and experience the beauty of the natural setting of our romantic resort.  There are so many options to choose from that you might just try different activities each day, or fall in love with one and never turn back. 

By the time you leave to head back home and your new life as a married couple, you will have memories that stay with you for years.  In fact, we often hear from couples who honeymooned here years ago wanting to now bring their families back to see the place where they first vacationed as a married couple. 

Bottom line, we’ll take care of you on your honemoon getaway at Vista Verde.  You’ll enjoy having the luxury dude ranch become like a second home, and surprise yourself in how much you enjoy getting to know all the folks at Vista Verde Ranch. 

The big move, part I

So far, we have 3 of the 4 new offices moved into. Ben was the first to jump on the moving bandwagon and was moved in by early this week. Yesterday was a big push to get Rob and Teresa moved into the new Kitchen office, and I got moved into my new one down by the front desk. After all these years of wondering if someone is wandering around downstairs looking for help, I will finally be where I should be and we will finally have an official front desk! I’ve got to admit, I’m going to miss the fun of sharing an office with Ben. We’ve had some fun! But we’ll probably both be a little more efficient without someone sitting right there, bouncing ideas off each other and getting distracted in the process. Next up is Dace’s office move, but we are waiting until he gets back from Santa Fe and Scottsdale to move him. He was traveling with Peggy and the designer the past couple days looking for some artwork for all these new spaces we have to decorate! You might even see a Dace Starkweather original hanging somewhere in the Lodge this summer! Didn’t know he was such an artsy kind of guy? Hey, we all have our surprises.

In the process of all this moving, we’ve come across some pretty funny stuff such as VHS tapes full of teen videos from past summers, Mobil 4 star plaques that we just couldn’t get rid of, years after Mobil decided to stop rating guest ranches, old flip charts with notes from staff orientation, and the most random assortment of single gloves.

While all this moving was going on, the chefs were also moving their stuff back into the new and improved kitchen. It was fun to watch these guys who are usually focused on creativity and food to be moving heavy equipment and using tools. They did all right! However, there seem to be some sizing snafoos with the dish washing area, so Rob was at his wits end as Bill and a couple others tried to figure out how to make it all work.

The next big step is the mega-moving party happening sometime around the 27th. The designer and his team will pull an all-nighter while they move in the furniture, arrange it all, adjust lights and artwork and fixtures. We should be on TLC!

Hopefully it will all be in place by the time the staff show up on June 1. The clock is ticking!


As written for

The movie “City Slickers” has a lot to answer for, encouraging a popular fantasy to leave it all behind, head for the old West and dress up in your chaps and cowboy hat to ride the range with your fellow cowboys and cowgirls. But whilst many so-called ranches have cashed in on the opportunity to provide a pale version of the real thing, we’ve discovered a colorado ranch which is a genuinely extraordinary experience.

Set at over 6,000 feet, deep in the Colorado Rockies, Vista Verde combines the rigours of real ranch life with an astonishing level of service and friendliness. As you drive through the gates for the first time you’re met on horseback by a western-clad cowgirl, welcoming you to the property and beginning what is a hugely impressive and constant ethos of personal care and friendliness.

Vista Verde is family run and never sets out to be Four Seasons luxury, but by combining authenticity and home comforts with an immaculately trained team of staff, they leave many luxury hotels in the dust beneath their hooves.

There are never more than 40-something guests at any one time and the expectation is that you’ll be an active member of the guest community – dining together and enjoying a dazzling array of activities during your week. But the community spirit isn’t overwhelming and you can always slip away to your comfortable cabin with its outdoor hot tub, or choose from many thousands of acres of stunning mountain scenery to go walking or biking.

Horses and ranching are the dominant themes – at least in the summer months. Vista Verde has an outstanding herd of horses for guests to ride and an expert team of wranglers on hand to guide you and take you out on the trail. The spiritual leader of the team is Terry Wegener, a compelling character who is a real-life horse whisperer. In just a few days he will teach you things about horses and western riding that would normally take years. An enduring image is of our son and daughter being taught how to make their horses follow them anywhere without a lead rein or any physical contact – truly extraordinary.

At the start of the week you’re matched with your horse – you’re given your own personal trusty steed for the duration of your stay. Many first-time riders have come with trepidation and been out riding the range within a day – the horses and wranglers are that well trained.

Each day you have the choice of a ride into the mountains, more formal schooling in their wonderful indoor and outdoor arenas, or a non-riding activity such as fly fishing, mountain biking or hiking. As with the riding, expert guides are on hand for every activity, providing you with really memorable (if slightly scary, in the case of mountain biking) experiences!

As the week progresses, riders are introduced to the fine art of cattle ranching in preparation for the final day, when you’re all let loose in the mountains to round up real cows usually found in really tricky places. The ranching lessons are truly hilarious, with teams of guests desperately trying to steer their horses towards uncooperative cows whilst screaming ‘Getooorn cow!’ (The key is apparently to let your horse nibble the cows’ bottom…)

Ranch cuisine is provided by a wonderful team of chefs, who can alternate between haute cuisine dinners and delicious ‘cookout’ breakfasts, lunches and dinners created in mountain camp areas dotting the landscape. After a day out riding, appetites are huge and diets forgotten. Magically, few put on weight and many lose a few pounds.

Vista Verde can either be a family experience of a memorable adult holiday. During the summer the ranch is a haven for children and teens – separate programmes are run for under twelves and teenagers which guarantee that your offspring will magically disappear and only sporadically reappear at times to ride with you or recount breathless tales of forest sleep outs and hair-raising rodeos. The team in charge of the children and teens are truly the best in the business – young and endlessly enthusiastic whilst being true friends and older siblings to the kids. Outside holiday time the ranch is a more grown-up affair – a great time to go is September, when the cattle really do need to be brought down from the mountains in readiness for the Winter. Vista Verde is equally magic in the Winter – enormous quantities of pristine powder snow provide an opportunity for really amazing ski touring through the national park which surrounds the property.

The multi-talented staff are brought together at the end of each week to perform irritatingly good renditions of country and western favourites on a final cook out evening which, for many guests, is a properly tear-jerking experience. If you leave behind the cynicism and turmoil of modern living and embrace the world of Vista Verde and its wonderful staff, you will have a life-affirming and truly memorable experience.

Name: The Bakers
City: London
State: UK

Wild Yoga!

We all have our “thing” that we’re into. At Vista Verde, many of us find our “thing” to be related to outdoor recreation. Rob loves fishing. Steve loves mountain biking. Dace and Ben love anything related to horses. The list goes on and on. But every once in a while one of us will find something to love that doesn’t involve being outside, even though that’s where we would all prefer to spend our free time. Kelli became involved in teaching yoga a couple years ago and I discovered the benefits of yoga for my aching lower back (aching at far too young of an age) during that time as well. As much as we try to convince the guys that they’ve got to give it a try, we just haven’t gotten there yet….and as much as we both love yoga, there is that side that yearns to be outside rather than in a room sweating it out. Kelli tried teaching yoga for our guests the past couple summers early in the morning on the fountain deck or in the kids cabin. But it was too cold, or not the right space, or not the right time for many. So, when Kelli came up with the idea of wild yoga, she nailed it. We have noticed that our guests have a hard time missing out on anything. You all seem to want to pack in as much as you can. In fact often times we have to encourage you to take a little time to just relax. It is vacation after all! But, with the mindset that no one wants to miss an activity, and the fact that we would rather be outside in our beautiful surroundings, Kelli will be offering Wild Yoga this summer. What’s that, you ask? Put on your hiking shoes and hike with Kelli or hop on a horse and ride with me out to a fabulously scenic spot where Kelli will lead a yoga practice in the quivering aspens (talk about taking tree pose literally). It’s the best of both worlds! This week we scoped out the perfect spot for the destination and are going to start working the area to smooth out the ground and get the area ready. I can’t wait! Maybe we’ll even be able to drag one of the guys out every now and then.

Romantic Winter Vacations

Looking for a new romantic vacation idea? Get over lace, chintz and potpourri. A great romantic resort getaway features lots of shared activity outdoors that sparks lots of shared activity indoors.

That’s the experience of couples who visit Vista Verde Ranch, near Steamboat Springs, Colorado. After a day spent skiing, riding, sledding, snowshoeing or dog sledding, there’s nothing as tantalizing as returning to your private deluxe cabin and slipping into a steaming, secluded hot tub with your significant other. A gourmet, candlelit dinner and an impossibly star-filled sky add a dreamy finish to the day.

The small guest capacity at our ranch allows us to provide top notch service and an intimate setting. You can choose to enjoy a plethora of activities, or just relax and take in the peaceful setting. With over 600 acres, and surrounded by millions of acres in the Routt National Forest, you wont see any crowds here, and the only traffic jam is that of the horses lining up to be fed each day.

Our staff go out of their way to accommodate your wishes, the Chefs prepare delightful options at each meal, and the snow is pristine outside, just ready for you to put on your jacket and come out to play.

Just fly into the Steamboat/Hayden (HDN) airport in the winter, and we’ll pick you up and whisk you away to the ranch.

We have seen more and more guests at our luxury dude ranch looking for a unique way to reconnect and enjoy a romantic resort getaway that leaves lasting memories. Grab your sweetheart, and come join us at Vista Verde Ranch for a winter stay!

Ranch vs. Resort

There are a broad range of dude ranches in Colorado as well as a broad range of Colorado resorts. The meaning of dude ranch, guest ranch or resort depends on who you ask. Some think a dude ranch is more rustic and a guest ranch is more upscale. Some thing a dude ranch is more of a working ranch while a guest ranch has other activities. Some think a resort should have nothing to do with dirt and animals and be more like Disney, while others think of a resort as a rustic non-hotel-like experience. At Vista Verde, we could be called a dude ranch, a guest ranch or even a ranch resort. We’re a working ranch in the sense that we have a herd of 80 horses who we keep year ’round, feeding them by irrigated hay meadows in the summer and by throwing stored hay off a sleigh pulled by a team of draft horses in the winter. We have acreage to maintain, fences to build and land to preserve. We’re a resort ranch in the sense that we have a diverse offering of activities besides just riding, and not all our staff wear cowboy hats for their specialties. We could also be called a luxury ranch by the upscale accommodations and high quality food. Whatever you like to call us, we hope those who are looking for a classy yet casual, adventurous yet safe, and remote yet accessible vacation experience will find their way to Vista Verde Ranch. It’s a place where relationships are built and renewed, memories are made and time slows down. Call us whatever you want, but when you’re here we hope you call it home.

What Does All-Inclusive mean when it comes to vacations?

Many luxury guest ranches, resorts and even cruise lines promote themselves as all-inclusive vacations.  But, what I have found is that many of them aren’t really all-inclusive. 

At Vista Verde Ranch, we have chosen to truly be an all inclusive Colorado vacation, and not nickel and dime our guests. 

What does that mean?  When you make a reservation for your ranch holiday at Vista Verde Ranch, you will know what the trip is going to cost you, and there won’t be any surprises.

Included in your luxury dude ranch vacation at Vista Verde Ranch are meals, beverages, activities, guides and equipment.

What do other so-called all inclusive Colorado vacation destinations charge you for that we don’t?
Wireless internet
Airport transfers
Beer and wine
Fly fishing licences
Equipment rentals
Lessons, instruction or clinics
Mini bar

Having said all that, and in the essence of fairness, there are some extra charges that we don’t feel right building into the price for all guests.  In the summer, those would be spa treatments and hot air ballooning. 

So, do your research.  Ask a lot of questions.  It can be overwhelming with all the choices and every dude ranch being so different.  I’ve even had guests put together grids to try to figure out which ranch is right for them.  Please know that we are always happy to answer any questions and help you find the right all inclusive Colorado vacation for you!

Chaos, Organized?

We have been trying to keep you all updated with the construction of the Great Room addition to the Main Lodge. But, while that has been going on, we’ve mentioned the indoor arena as well as a few other smaller projects. As I walked around this morning, capturing photos of everything happening around the ranch on this beautiful day, I realized that I should give you all a real feel for the scene. Maybe it’s because it’s all coming together finally and the pieces are falling into place. Or maybe it’s just because the weather is now allowing us to get some of the projects really going. Once you read this list, you’ll understand why Ben and Dace have a glazed look on their faces most days and why I’m working from home as much as possible! Don’t worry, these projects are all nearing completion and are on schedule to be done June 1. Here’s the list:
1) Great Room addition to the Main Lodge– you’ve all heard about this one, but it is looking REALLY good right now.
2) Outdoor kitchen and dining area– brick oven, major grilling space, patio seating right next to the….
3) Enlarged Lake Suzanne– ok, so we needed some dirt to build terrain around the Indoor riding arena (next up) so we decided to make the pond a bit larger so people aren’t hooking each other as they practice their casting.
4) Indoor Riding Arena– you may wonder why I haven’t written much about it. Well, not to knock Californians (I’m one!) but these guys were a little sensitive to working in our winter weather and seemed to take more snow days than work days. But a few pointed words from key people (aka, they guy writing the checks) has gotten them to pick up the pace just a tad, and buy a few pairs of mittens and hats to keep them going. Although it will be enclosed by summer, it wont be ready to use for riding until later in the season, but the point of the arena is really for winter riding more than summer riding and for the summer we’ll have….
5) Outdoor riding arena– this isn’t quite as exciting but the fencing needed to be replaced since we’ve had too many steers jump out during team penning so there is now new fencing and a nice chaparral gate to boot.
6) Staff housing– we needed to finish building out a couple staff rooms in the Parlor. So, since we had NOTHING else going on, we figured we’d that knocked out this spring.
7) Sand bathroom– you may have read about this surprise remodel early in the spring after a water leak ruined the floor. Bill has the tile and granite in, the walls painted and now the plumbing and light fixtures are going in tomorrow.
8 ) Corral space– remember that old hay barn that fell down last winter. Well, we’re taking advantage of that space to expand our holding pen for the horses, so dirt is being moved, rock walls built and fences will go up next.
9) Generator– I know, this really gets you going. But, look at the bright side (pardon the electricity pun) that now if the power goes out we’ll still have lights and water. What can I say, it’s the little details that make this place so great.
10) Revised pathways to cabin– we’ve been eyeballing this for a while and are finally doing it (again, since we have NOTHING else to do). The new pathway system will give each cabin more privacy as the main walkway will be moved to the other side of the stream.
11) Yes, there is a #11. The Dining room, Kitchen and Staff room remodel. Hey, it’s kind of like painting a house. Once you get started, it just seems so easy to add another room, and then another, and then another.

This may seem daunting to you, but with the exception of the Arena, it’s all on track to be done before any of you show up for the summer. The landscapers are coming next week to get the outside areas looking spiffy, lay sod, plant trees, arrange rocks, you name it.

It’s exciting to start seeing all these projects come together and be almost done. But, in the meantime, it’s a bit of a zoo around here!

With all that news of chaos, Kelli and I are going to go out and scout a good spot for our Wild Yoga….details to follow.