September 2009

White water adventures at a Colorado Summer resort

By Krista Coy- Staff member at Vista Verde Ranch

Coming from the core of the corn belt in Indiana, it seems Colorado has it all from the golden-lit snow-capped mountains to the calm cool lakes. In particular, Steamboat aka Ski Town USA, is best known for its family snow vacations, but The Boat’s motto “Come for the winter and stay for the summer.”, suggests there is more to see in the “off” season.

I would have to agree this area is worth seeing in the summer. After all, the champagne powder snow has to melt which makes water sports an unavoidable part of Steamboat Spring’s culture.

This year the quick snow melt caused the waters to be roaring, which makes for a great excuse to take advantage of. I’m not brave (or niave) enough to take on the river waters on my own, so I jumped in on trips with the guests here at Vista Verde, an all inclusive dude ranch, on my days off.

With the unpredicitablity of mother nature, the rushing waters at over 3,600 cfs, gave us a unique experience on both the kayaking and rafting adventures. For kayaking we headed off with the great men at Mountain Sports Kayaking School. The class for beginners was a great way to get acquainted with the water and learning how to handle a kayak. We paddled and got instructions in a small pond before heading down the river to bear the high raging waters of the Yampa. We zipped through the waters in Steamboat in nearly half of the time a regular trip would take, but stopped in a few eddies to practice maneuvers and to chat about the area. Since we had the time, we played around a bit and tried paddling up stream. With every stroke it was a struggle to even keep up the pace to stay in the same spot which was enough to work up an appetite. Although there were a few close calls, luckily, we all stayed upright and got back just in time for lunch.

After my kayaking experience I wanted more and decided to head out the next week with the rafting group. Even a couple hours away on the Colorado River, the waters were still so high that our trip started a few miles down from its intended departure. Dana our guide couldn’t have been more entertaining as she pointed out an old covered wagon trail and took us off the beaten path to scope out dinosaur footprints.

With the high waters, some of the rapids were covered, but sitting in the front of the raft still proved to be a “swimmingly” good time. Not that any of us fell in, but it felt that way as the water crashed on our faces. Note to future rafters, never try to turn and have a conversation from the front of the boat or the tricksters in the raft may succeed in “drowning” out your conversation.

Thanks Krista for your story!  We look forward to hearing more about your adventures at our Colorado summer resort!


The Doors are Open!

We kept telling people all summer that the indoor arena would be ready to go by the time we have snow here. We didn’t really mean it needed to snow in September to prove that point! Nonetheless, we had our first snow yesterday (it’s gone already) and today used the indoor arena for the first time. They thought they signed up for a summer vacation, but it looks like they got a winter ranch vacation today!

Matt, Jamie and Bunky got to be the inaugural guests in the arena and everyone stayed a bit warmer than they did this morning on the breakfast ride. In fact, Matt and Jamie earn the tough guests of the year award for going on the ride at 7am this morning in 30 degree weather!! Apparently winter has decided to come a little early…but we’re hoping our nice fall weather returns soon.

After playing around with the clay and sand percentages for the footing in the arena for weeks, Terry seems to be pretty happy with how it’s turned out. But, as I’m writing this, I hear him on the radio, and it sounds like he’s back down there this afternoon tweaking a few things. Doesn’t he have some horses to train?

Cattle Round Up – the Ultimate Horseback Riding Vacation

Many of you have contacted us about our fall cattle round-up. For those who don’t know about it, I thought I’d give a run down of what those weeks look like at Vista Verde Ranch.

Although our first adult-only week is August 28-September 4, the cattle round-up weeks begin September 4 and run through October 2. These are still Sunday-Sunday stays like our regular summer season, and most of our regular activities are still offered like during our regular all inclusive dude ranch stays. But there is the added bonus of the cattle round-up option.

For those participating in the cattle round-up, we spend the first day or two in the arena in riding clinics. What does that mean? The trainers and wranglers will be getting you and your horse totally dialed in on how to work together as a team and how we want to work the cattle when we’re out on the trail. This will give you a definite edge in your riding ability, whether it’s your first time on a horse or you’ve been riding since you could walk. As we get into the week a little further, we’ll start heading out on the trail. This is not a City Slickers, camp out on the range kind of deal. Nope, we trailer the horses out to the 16,000 acres where the cattle are hiding. It really is like a game of hide and seek. Sometimes it’s more like playing hide and seek with my 5 year old…you almost have to pretend you don’t see them they are so easy to find. And some days it’s a lot of riding, riding, riding, over hills, through meadows around logs, and between bushes just to find nothing. If we find some, we gather them up and drive them to a holding area. If we don’t find them, we just enjoy the gorgeous Colorado fall weather and then come back to the ranch for dinner.

As a participant, it’s up to you as you how many days you want to go out on the round up. It’s hard riding and long days, so it’s fair game to take a day off and go fishing, go for a hike or just take a nap and relax by the pool. For those who want to ride, but don’t want to take part in the gather, we still do lead trail rides during that time, but not our regular clinics. It’s all part of your Colorado summer resort ranch experience.

A fair warning…the riding during the cattle round-up is definitely the most intense riding we do all year. You are riding very independently, the terrain is rugged and varied and we are not on trails much of the time. For a novice rider who is game for an adventure, it’s just fine. But if you are a timid or nervous rider, let’s talk first. We are safety conscious and are out to make this a great experience for all, but it is the real deal out there on our fall cattle round-up. Hopefully you all get a chance to join us at some point for this incredible horseback riding vacation. These 4 weeks at Vista Verde Ranch are really phenomenal!


Colorado Ski Lodge

It’s funny to be thinking about skiing in Colorado when I just took a ride out yesterday through the lush aspen forest around the ranch.  But, it seems that a lot of folks are thinking about fun in the snow already.  We are getting calls and emails from all over the world- folks researching winter vacation ideas.

As we rejoice in the beauty of summer, I find myself having to dig deep to describe the ranch when it is covered in snow.  But, as I dig into that memory bank, magical images fill my head.  Snow covering the fences around the ranch, bare aspens csating dramatic shadows on the snow, muffled hoof beats from the horses frolicking, and squeals of joy as folks sled, ski and play around the ranch.

Yesterday, we had a visit from friends of ours who have only been to Vista Verde Ranch in the winter.  They were amazed to see all that is hidden below the snow.  I enjoyed reminiscing with Don about the carolling on the sleigh at Christmas, and all the fun we have in the snow with guests.

So, what is it like to stay at our Colorado Ski Lodge?  Peaceful, serene, breathtaking and personal.  We hope you feel like you’ve stayed with friends after you leave, because that is how we look at it.  We’ll play with you in the snow- skiing, snow shoeing, sledding, riding, going on the sleigh, and more.  We’ll kick up our feet and share some laughs and songs.  We’ll treat you to an amazing dining experience.  And then we’ll send you off to retire to your cozy and luxurious cabin….maybe you can even fit in a soak in the hot tub on your deck before heading to bed.  Whether it be a romantic mountain getaway, a family snow vacation or just a retreat from the world all by yourself, we’ll do our best to make it magical and memorable.

Off I go to head out into the sun and green grass.  But now I have visions of snowflakes in my head.  We hope to see you when the snow flies!

July 4 Holiday at a Colorado Guest Ranch

Yesterday was a fun day at the ranch. Ok, most days are pretty fun, but it’s always a bit more special to celebrate a ranch holiday.

The morning started out with our regular orientation ride, as one would expect with a horseback riding vacation. The guests got a chance to get to know their horses, learn a little more about where we’re going this week with their horsemanship skills, and get some basic tools for understanding how to communicate better with their horse.

Lunch was a festive affair with the Colorado Lodge decorated in red, white and blue. Compliments to the tireless Sarah and her crew for all their efforts to make it look so good!

After lunch out on the deck, we held the first ever Vista Verde Ranch egg toss competition. It was a fierce and messy battle, but one by one each team was eliminated. Some were a bit more messy on their exit than others. After finishing, the guys had to take it one step further, so both Dace and Ben had to take turns trying to lob an egg over the pond to Clay, who was part of the winning team. Hey, when else is it socially acceptable to throw raw eggs around?

Everyone headed out for a variety of activities- riding, biking, fishing, hiking…and even some just relaxing by the pool. We gathered up again at the corral later in the afternoon to paint the white horses with red and blue paint. The festivities capped off just before dinner with the star spangled stampede. Hard to describe the fun of this annual 4th of July event at the ranch, but everyone should have the chance to witness it at some point.

It’s great to be able to celebrate being an American while vacationing at a dude ranch. We wish you all a wonderful Independence Day, and continue to appreciate those who serve our country as they allow us to live here and share this place with others.


The Girls

Normally when I use the term, “the girls”, I am referring to my mini-me’s Maggie and Ella. But these days at the ranch that term is used for the gals out in the pasture- the new breeding stock for Vista Verde Ranch. The three young ones- Houston, Patty and Little Buck stuck around all summer learning the ropes of being ridden and how to behave to Terry’s standards. The older gals- Chex, Stella, Rachael, Mary Jane and Sally all headed off to meet the man of their dreams in hopes of having some cute little foals on the ground next spring. All of them just returned to the ranch and all but Sally came back in foal, so we’re hoping things continue well and we have 4 cute little babies before next summer. Along the way, we also picked up Gimlet, a little weanling (just left her mama for the big world) who will be worked into our herd as she grows up. This is one situation where being barefoot and pregnant is a pretty sweet life! Hopefully you get to meet these gals soon, they are as sweet as can be. And, even better, in a couple years you might be riding one of their kiddos.

Dude, Where’s my Ranch?

Dude, Where’s My Ranch? As seen in Macaroni Kid, by Joyce Shulman

The west is overflowing with guest ranches that range from uber-luxury to affordable.  Here are a few to check out.

Vista Verde Ranch in Steamboat Springs, Colorado is a small luxury ranch with beautiful facilities and accommodations.  An extensive family program is coupled with an effort to maintain its down-to-earth, warm and friendly vibe. With only about 40 guests at a time, Vista Verde strives to provide a personal and tailored experience for its guests. With a new pool, a mountain setting and lots of other activities, like most guest ranches, the horses are at the center. “Everyone is matched with an appropriate horse for the week and for many that results in a sad farewell at the end of their stay,” says the Resort.  We can imagine.  The fun for the kids extends beyond the riding program, with treasure hunts, pow wows, campfires, boat races, gold panning and a ride on a fire truck to the local store for ice cream help to round out the week. Their teen program is a nod to the reality that teens need their own space to explore at their own pace.  Of course, adventure for the entire family the experience together abounds, with family horseback riding, hiking, mountain biking, fly fishing, rock climbing and more.  Vista Verde looks to us like one to check out.

The Vee Bar Ranch near Laramie, Wyoming is a family-friendly ranch that emphasizes horseback riding, but that is only the beginning of this Wyoming family vacation. The ranch activities include hiking, fishing, river tubing, trap shooting, camping, herding cattle, hayrides and more.  A historical setting at the base of the Snowy Range Mountains, the Vee Bar ranch prides itself on providing True Western Hospitality. Vacation activities center around western horseback riding and the Vee Bar claims one of the best horseback riding programs to be found at any guest ranch and offers a range of riding experiences … from the meadows to riding across the top of Sheep Mountain in the Medicine Bow National Forest. Children six and older are eligible for horseback riding activities with parents or other children. All children can work on their horsemanship skills by competing in the gymkhana or moving cattle while receiving pointers and coaching from family-friendly wranglers.

Harmel’s Ranch Resort near Almont, Colorado delivers family fun at affordable prices in a superb location, near Crested Butte and Gunnison. This family dude ranch has been operating since 1958 and brings a touch of old world style to everything they do.  No fancy-schmancy accommodations, just cozy cabins and tons of action and fun … horseback riding, fly-fishing, white water rafting, evening hay rides and more.  Their overnight ride to high camp, junior wrangler program and weekly steak/crab cookout have gotten two thumbs up from loyal guests.  Unlike many guest ranches, Harmel’s gives families the flexibility to arrive any day of the week and to stay as long as they wish.  And, for those of us who hate to leave our dogs behind, Harmel’s is pet friendly (though there are breed restrictions, so be sure to check their website).

Grilled Salad?

Rob decided to use one of the busiest nights of the week to try out a fun new dish. When he told me about it this morning, I thought it would be fun to share it with all of you.

Flash Grilled Hearts of Romaine (Grilled you ask? Yes, he took the hearts of Romaine, tossed them in extra virgin olive oil and then seared them on the grill for about 5 seconds on each side) topped with
Autumn spice rubbed New Zealand venison carpaccio.
Then he drizzled a pumpkin aioli around the plate,
and served it with a whole wheat beer crostini
Oh yeah, and he drizzled an anchovie & basil dressing on top, then topped that with fresh shaved Parmesan cheese.

So, with a crowd of guests giving rave reviews, he decided that experimenting is fun. Tonight’s appetizer looks like it will be pan seared jumbo scallops with a chardonnay and lime saffron sauce, topped with a Parmesan and tomato foam. And why am I going home to eat Mac and Cheese with my kids?????