June 2009

Ranch News

With many of us squeezing in vacation time the past couple weeks, it’s been pretty quiet around the Steamboat Springs resort town and our ranch.  This week the long term crew begins to roll back in.  Ben is the last one to arrive back, hot off the beaches of Mexico where he and Holly snuck away for a little romantic getaway.  Our pre-season kick-off meeting with all the managers will be this Thursday, and then we’ll all go running with our to-do lists.  As we race around getting ready for the staff to arrive, and the ensuing orientation weeks, we’re anxiously watching the sun melt the snow.  It turns out we have had a blockbuster, off the charts winter.  The news is saying that the Steamboat Springs resorts area has set an all-time record for the Colorado mountain resorts.  In April, we got 27 days of snow.  Too bad the Steamboat Ski Area didn’t extend it’s winter vacation season!  So, the hiking guides may be doing their training on snowshoes as we wait for the snow pack around our dude ranch to melt away prior to opening day.  We’re going to have some fun adventures with snow still up in the high country.  It will be like no summer I’ve ever seen.  I bet we’ll be able to find snow up at the highest peaks in August…so get ready for snowball fights on your all-day hike if you are coming out to Vista Verde for your Colorado summer vacation!

With the sun shining and the birds singing, we are also enjoying other new life….BABIES!  The Elk River Valley is dotted with baby cows, running and frolicking with their friends.  And we have had our first foal of the year.  Rachel gave us a Cinco de Mayo filly, a little bay with a white star.  She is so adorable and so sweet.  I believe Charlie won the bet on when that first foal would come.  No surprise there.  

For those of you coming this summer for a ranch holiday, we look forward to a full house of interesting and lively guests at our dude ranch.  For those still thinking about coming, we are down to the wire with one cabin open in early June, and then a couple spots later in September during our adult only weeks.  That’s a great time for a romantic mountain getaway!

Come on sunshine, melt it away!  We dont want to be cross country skiing in Colorado this summer!

Rows of bread

Dace and I walked into the kitchen this morning to see Rob working away at his new pastry section. Lined up on the counter next to it were rows and rows of fresh baked bread. I’m one of those people who, before working here, considered bread to be the kind of food product that you buy in a store. No one actually makes it from scratch do they? Well, I’ve learned that not only do a lot of people make it from scratch but that there is a complete art to bread making. Ever since his class in bread making this spring, Rob has been spending all his free time (yes, the guy comes in late at night and on his day off to do this) tinkering with his recipes and perfecting his ideal breads. If you ask me, they all taste pretty darn good. But he’s still not quite satisfied. Then, in case that isn’t enough of a challenge for him, he’s now talking about homemade pretzels, homemade donuts, and more. Dude, give yourself a break. Go fishing. Take a little time off!

On another note….as we head into our second week of guests we want to send a big Happy Father’s Day out to all the dads out there who can’t be here to celebrate Father’s Day in ranch style. We’ll raise a glass of beer to each of you tonight and knaw on some prime rib at dinner (Steve will taste some tender salmon instead) and wish you all a happy Father’s Day!

Dude Ranch Vacations

Dude Ranch Vacations- Jamie Pearson wrote this great article on horse riding vacations after visiting Vista Verde Ranch in the summer.  Here, she gives some advice on dude ranches for families.

Five things to know before you go

I brought a lot of things with me to my Colorado dude ranch vacation last summer, such as jeans, boots, a brand new cowboy hat, and really, really high expectations.  With all that beautiful scenery and horsey fun, I just knew it was going to be the trip of a lifetime.  Luckily, I was right.

If you’re considering heading out west with your family this summer (and you totally should), here are a few things to know before you go.

1. Find the right ranch

I know you wish the ranch fairy would fly down and just tell you which ranch is perfect for your family.  I wished that too, but it didn’t happen.  So I made a list of all the things we wanted (not too many guests at a time, a high staff to guest ratio, riding clinics at no extra cost, luxury accommodations, and river rafting), and then researched until I was cross eyed.

After talking to some horsey friends and Googling myself silly, I chose Vista Verde Ranch in Steamboat Springs, Colorado.   If you don’t know a working ranch from a guest ranch and have no idea what you’re looking for in terms of amenities, I highly recommend you start with The Dude Rancher’s Association website.

Knowing your family helps.  If you have shy kids, don’t choose a ranch with mandatory separate kid and adult activities every day.  If you don’t care about anything but riding, don’t pay extra for activities you won’t try.

2.  Book the right week

Once you’ve decided on a ranch, the next step is choosing a week to book.  Weather is obviously a consideration and holiday weeks (such as July 4th) may cost more.  We went the third week in July and were lucky to be able to participate in a cattle drive.  Had we gone in June, it would have been too wet and boggy.

Also, call the ranch and ask who has already booked the week you’re considering.  Ideally you want there to be kids your kids’ ages.  I’d also recommend avoiding weeks with big family reunions—these groups tend to be very self contained, which limits socializing opportunities.

3.  Bring a sports bra

I won’t go into too much detail on this one, but suffice it to say there’s a lot of trotting and galloping at dude ranches.  Hours and hours of trotting and galloping, in fact.  And running around with your kids.  And mountain biking.  And rock climbing.  You get the point.

4.  Pack more clothes than you think you’ll need

I travel extensively, often, and all over the place with my kids and I flatter myself that I know how to pack.  I could have done a lot better on our dude ranch vacation, however.  Every time we stepped outside the door of our cabin, we got really, really dirty.  My husband and I could have used another two or three outfits each.  The kids were so perpetually filthy (and happy) that I’m not sure that would have helped.

Dinners were casual, but I wished I had cuter clothes.  Not to mention clothes that weren’t covered in dust and horse slobber.  Laundry service was convenient and inexpensive, but I wasn’t willing to part with my favorite jeans to have them washed.

If you choose a ranch in Colorado, throw in a rain jacket for everyone too.  It rained briefly (or threatened to) nearly every afternoon of our trip.

5. Don’t expect to relax too much

There are so many exciting things to do at dude ranches that it can be hard to relax.  I wasn’t able to just sit down with a book and read because I felt like I’d be missing something fun.  Worse, I felt like I’d be paying to miss something fun.

If you’re the kind of person who prefers to lounge around a pool or on a beach doing nothing for seven consecutive days, this might not be the right vacation for you.  There are evening activities too, like campfires, rodeos, and barn dances, so you won’t go to bed early very often.  Even the kids got a little worn out by the end of the week.

Coffee and Cards

To lighten the intensity of all the training and orientating the staff has been going through this past week, Dace brought them all into “the big city” last night for a little party at the Steaming Bean, a local coffee shop. We sipped lattes, shared stories, got crafty and competitive over card games and coloring books (hey, there’s a little kid in all of us) and had some great laughs. It was fun to see everyone away from the ranch letting loose a bit. Now back to the important things like how to properly polish the chrome on the sink, memorizing the names of the new horses, learning the best place to park at trailheads and of course, how to do dishes at a level that will keep even Rob happy!

The crew is coming together great and everyone is getting excited for our first guests to arrive. We are all hoping that the rain stops before they get here Sunday. It’s been great to get all this moisture, but enough is enough. As soon as the sun comes out for more than an hour at a time, the grass will grow faster than the horses can eat it down!

Wish us luck on opening day. We’re excited. We’re ready to roll.

The Best Dude Ranches

I was at a Colorado Dude Ranch Association meeting yesterday and we were discussing how some ranches use the term Best Dude Ranch to describe themselves.  It was a hot topic, as many dude ranchers are quite offended by others using that term.  It got me thinking though.  What makes a dude ranch the best dude ranch?  Is there such a thing?

In my mind, no one can claim to be the best dude ranch, but we all want to be it anyway.  Most ranches in the Association are great, and provide an amazing all inclusive Colorado vacation.  And most of them are dude ranches for families, only a few are just for adults.  Many of the ranches do have adult only times, like we do at Vista Verde.  These are great opportunities for romantic mountain getaways for for those looking for a Colorado honeymoon.

Some of the ranches are more rustic, some mid-range, and some are luxury ranches like Vista Verde.  We all have our "thing", but that doesn’t necessarily make one ranch better than the other.  Luxury doesn’t make Vista Verde the best dude ranch, it just differentiates us. 

So, as you plan your horse riding vacation, keep in mind what matters to you the most.  If you are looking for a real working ranch experience, then the most luxurious horse ranch vacation wont be the best ranch for you.  There are so many great options in the Colorado Dude Ranch Association that I’m sure there is a ranch that becomes the best dude ranch for everyone out there.  And if you are looking for a luxury ranch experience with a diverse selection of activities, a great setting and fabulous people, hopefully Vista Verde will be the best dude ranch for you!

Staff and Stuff

We’re in the heart of orientation week and the level of energy at the ranch is at a high. Dace has given his talk about the mission statement. Ben has given his talk about the realities of living, working, eating and playing with the same people all summer long and how to foster a positive community spirit through it all. Bill did his vehicle orientation. The new staff have been paired with returners to learn the ropes of dish duty. Oh, the glamour of ranch work! Now we are into more of what we call “department time”. That’s when each crew gets to really learn the ropes of their specific jobs. The kids wranglers were out practicing the riding orientation yesterday while the housekeepers were spring cleaning one of the cabins. With all this work, we also find time to fit in some fun social events. Game night in front of the fire in the Great Room was Tuesday night instead of a hike because it rained. And last night it was Barn dance practice. Yee-haw!

In the midst of all this, we also are seeing the final touches coming together around the ranch. The new patio dining area was cleaned up of equipment and debris yesterday so now we can see what it really is going to look like. Wow, no one is going to want to ever go inside! There’s a cool new walkway over the creek to a fire pit by the pond. The pond was expanded a bit and has now filled up again (thanks to said rain). It’s just blissful to sit out there and watch the reflection of the mountains on the water.

Well, the crew is showing up for breakfast now so it’s time to go get to know some of the newbies a bit better. Lots of names to learn, hometowns to remember and stories to unfold!