October 2009

Time flies when you are at a Colorado Dude Ranch

Golden days of August- by Bill D.Every season it seems like we live in a vortex of time. The pre-season preparations as we try to be one of the best dude ranches are frantic and exciting. Then we get going with the guests and the days just zoom by. Here we are in the second week of August already. The grass is just starting to turn a bit more golden and the kids head back to school in just a couple weeks.  Now we are looking at preparing for our adult only weeks. Where does it all go?

A good friend in the Colorado lodge and resort industry said something the other day that really rang true for me. He said, “I got a letter from someone who was here in June. It seemed like a year ago that they were here. But, here it is Thursday and it feels like the folks who came in on Sunday have only been here for a day.” How does time work that way? In the moment, it flies. But then looking back it feels like forever ago.

At our staff meeting on Sunday, Dace was having the staff think back to our orientation weeks. How long ago that seems that we were shoveling snow off the patio in preparation of our first cookouts of the summer. Getting to know each other and getting geared up and ready for the guests to arrive is a distant memory.

Now, some of our staff are starting to head back to school while the second wave of summer staff rolls in to fill their spots. The memories we’ve shared with all of you who have been here this summer are priceless. You have helped shape the lives of our crew and given each person a better understanding of human nature and how to serve others with all their heart.

And, as fast as the days fly by for all of us, we still have more to look forward to. Personally, I’m getting so excited for the fall. September is my favorite time of year. We’ll have some great friends from Michigan coming out in a couple weeks, then the adults come in with the freedom that goes along with traveling without children. Some will be here for a romantic mountain getaway, while others are here with friends to try all our activities.  We’ll chase some cows, ride rugged mountain bike trails, sing around the fire and continue to create memories…all the while trying to hold onto each day as it flies by.

Enjoy the last little bit of summer. Hug your kids a bit tighter as they get ready to go back to school. And give yourself some time to enjoy an evening on a deck, soaking up those longer daylight hours while they last!  We’ll be holding onto every little bit of summer that we can, treasuring each day to its fullest.  Because, oh so soon winter will be here and we’ll be flying through our Colorado ski lodge season! 

New guests at the ranch

We’ve been enjoying the company of some new guests this fall. A herd of 2 bull elk and about 30 cows and calves has been spending their late afternoons and evenings enjoying their own dude ranch vacation in our winter pasture. Although they make for a beautiful sight at dusk, they are doing a dandy job of tearing up our fences when they come and go. That’s just the price we pay for living out here with these critters. Pretty soon they will be moving to their winter grounds, although we still tend to see a few throughout the winter months. Jenn took this picture last week from her front porch. What a nice way to finish the day!

Dude Ranch with a Pool?

dude ranch swimming poolAdding a swimming pool to our list of ranch amenities was not an easy decision here at Vista Verde Ranch.  We resisted it for years for a long time for many reasons.  Although a luxury ranch, we didn’t want our all inclusive dude ranch to feel too much like a resort.  We didn’t want a pool to detract from the unique activities for kids and teens, which is part of what makes this such an amazing family vacation.  And, we were cognisant of the fact that a pool in this climate will go unused for more of the year than it is actually utilized.  Because, when the snow hits and we turn into a Colorado ski lodge, a pool doesn’t fit in the picture.

So, after much planning and debate, the pool was added last fall and finished up this spring.  There was much speculation about how it would play out to have a pool.  Would we regret adding it?  Would it be worthwhile?  I can confidently say, “Yes, it was the right choice” after more than 7 weeks of our summer dude ranch season.  The pool has helped get folks here who wouldn’t have considered us for their ranch holiday if we didn’t have one.  Although, most of them have found out that it really doesn’t matter if we have a pool or not as they are too busy having fun with our large selection of activities.  However, it has been a real bonus on hot afternoons when it feels good to just cool off a bit after an adventure out on the trail.

For those of you who have been wondering about it, here are some pictures finally.  We hope you get a chance to enjoy it this summer!  If not this year, come visit us next year for a wonderful dude ranch vacation!

The snow is here to stay

October is fickle here in Colorado. It can be beautiful and cool and sunny and just ideal. Or, it can be blustery and sleety and make you want to run away to Mexico. This year, those in charge of the weather have decided to make it a mixed bag. We’ve had the sensational Indian summer days and we’ve had 6 inches of snow on the ground at one point. With all that going back and forth, one thing has stayed constant. Ever since the first snowfall, the snow is here to stay on the highest peaks. The combination of the snow on the highest peaks and the occasional sunny day has made for pictures like this one. Hey, it may not be the prettiest time of year here, but it’s still worth looking out the window each day! And, in no time at all, the whole scene will be covered in snow and we’ll be ready to be a winter guest ranch again!

Sharing ideas

Today is my marketing brainstorming day. I spent some time this afternoon reading articles on social media and how it is used in various small businesses. As I read them, there are some applicable ideas. If I had all the time in the world I could Twitter, Flickr, comment on other’s blogs, etc, etc..but that time just isn’t there. I have had a lot of fun using this blog as well as our Facebook page to keep in touch with all of you and let you know what is going on here at Vista Verde, when you aren’t here. Well, actually some of you have even kept in touch online when you are here! But that’s another story.

In addition to keeping you all up to speed on the going on’s at the ranch, I also want to use these outlets to reach out to new guests. In the wide world of adventure travel, we are just a teeny tiny raindrop in a big, big bucket. It’s hard to figure out how to spread the word about Vista Verde. So, that was my mission today. To get some ideas on how to use these social media outlets to get in front of people who haven’t been here before. As much as we love all of you who come back year after year, if we don’t find new guests, our business model doesn’t work very well! As I thought through some of the ideas I was reading about, I kept thinking, “but we’re different. We’re a different product than a coffee shop or a restaurant.” You all know this better than anyone. So, I started thinking about how well you all know the ranch and how creative and smart you all are and wondered if any of you have ideas? How can we get Vista Verde Ranch in front of more people like you? Fun, adventurous types who like the finer things but want to have a unique experience?

So, to truly embrace the social media world, I am asking for any comments, ideas, thoughts, anything!

And I promise, the next post will be an update on what is going on at the ranch. Not just what is going on in my little brain. 🙂

The Dangers of Dude Ranching

We're cheering for this family today!Most people enter the dude ranching business because they love people, horses, the outdoors, or just the Western way of life. Most don’t know that entering the business will have a profound impact on their lives.

It starts with finding out that the people you serve daily are really amazing folks. Wait a sec, suddenly you are becoming friends with those very people you take in as guests. And the staff you hire to make the dude ranch operation a success? Hey, you kind of like them too!

Here’s where the warning comes for those who consider the dude ranch business. Now that your friends with these folks, life becomes more meaningful. You are not just working at one of the best dude ranches, you find your self engaged in the guests’ lives. I think of the folks who I’ve cried for, wished for, and had heart ache for- Don, Guy, and Carol come to mind immediately. But I also think about those who joys I’ve been able to share. The new grand babies, new careers, new family ventures, marriages, beating the odds, and all those success that come in life. Long after guests leave from their Colorado summer vacations, we get to hear those updates and rejoice with our friends. The multiple invites to amazing places that all of us receive from grateful guests are overwhelming. I’ve whooped it up in Bermuda, Chelsea and Amanda just had a memorable dinner in London, Ben is looking forward to front row seats at a big game, Steve and Kelli had a heartwarming visit in Montana, and Dace has sat at too many dining room tables reconnecting with guests to mention. Mary, we will make it to Florida one day!

And then there’s the staff. Those pesky young people who you have to put up with in order to get the job done, right? Not at this Colorado dude ranch. I just reluctantly sent an RSVP to Gabriella to decline attending her wedding. We’ve been able to watch these great people go into the world and do powerful things, fall in love, start families, and continue to grow. The notes of thanks from past staff in all of our desk drawers keep each of us going on the tough days.  We’ve even had staff return to the ranch for a romantic honeymoon getaway.

Yes, it’s a rough job to work at a guest ranch, but we’ll take it a little longer. We hope to have many more of you cross our cattle guard as guests the first time, and drive across it on your way home as friends and family.

Blustery Conditions no match for inspiring Love

So I didn’t come up with that headline. AJ and Charlie came into the office at just the right time for me to ask, “How do I title this blog post?” and AJ came up with the winning entry. Doesn’t it sound like it came out of the Vista Verde Post?

We just married off another couple in Vista Verde style. The irony is that in my years of coordinating weddings at the ranch I have a 100% showing for perfect weather, until today. But isn’t it perfect that we have the new Great Room right on time?

Mary Kate is Ben’s niece and Ben officiated her marriage to Dustin. The week started off with beautiful weather, but as we got closer to wedding day, it began to deteriorate. This morning it was 37 degrees and overcast, and the sun never came out. But it didn’t matter to anyone attending…the ceremony was lovely in front of the big fireplace in the Great Room. The food was delicious and the dancing is still going strong.

Weddings are great. Vista Verde weddings are pretty special to all of us here. What an honor and what a gift to offer a new couple! Congratulations and best wishes to Mary Kate and Dustin!

Colorado’s Best Dude Ranches for Adults

colorado romantic resortsColorado’s best dude ranches are known for amazing family vacations, but they also make for incredible couples getaways. Most of the state’s ranches offer adult-only weeks, usually in the fall, when the pace slows a bit, the menus are a little more gourmet and guests can be found canoodling in front of glowing fires set amid spectacular mountain backdrops.

These all-inclusive dude ranches welcome you to take part in as many — or as few — ranch activities as you’d like, including hikes, trail rides, cattle drives, fishing excursions and boating, all of which can be tailored to all abilities.

Many ranches also throw in unexpected luxuries like spa treatments, yoga sessions and cooking classes. All of them have incredible home-cooked meals, serene settings and hospitality you can’t stop talking about (we’re serious about this one — read any online review of these ranches to see people expound on this subject).

Although a week is the standard all inclusive dude ranch stay, ensuring guests are really able to unplug and savor ranch life, these adults-only periods are a bit more flexible. Some even open their lodges and cabins to overnight travelers when they’re not booked up, featuring B&B services and a la carte activities.

Below is a sampling of the amenities that will appeal to couples looking for romantic vacatin ideas. Visit the Colorado Dude & Guest Ranch Association for more comprehensive listings.

Vista Verde Ranch, Steambat Springs

Toward the end of September, Vista Verde hosts an adults-only cattle gather, which is a remarkable experience on its own, but becomes even more so amid changing leaves and crisp fall air. You’ll definitely feel you’ve earned the hot-tub soak and three-course dinners that follow. Cooking classes and wine tasting are just a few of the off-horse activities to choose from.  Vista Verde also operates as a romantic winter resort from December – March.

Smith Fork Ranch, Crawford

This Gunnison National Forest ranch ranks among the best in the delicious meal category (though couples massages and guided adventures for two amp up the three-night Romantic Mountain Getaway package). Shade-tree picnics, a world-class wine cellar and private candle-light dinners focus on farm-to-table cuisine, with many of the ingredients harvested from the ranch’s own garden.

C Lazy U Ranch, Granby

For couples who aren’t on the same page when it comes to communing with nature, C Lazy U has the perfect solution: For one night of your trip, they’ll arrange a "luxury campout." A ranch hand will guide you to a campsite with large cozy tent (with a king-size bed inside!), s’mores kit, firepit and other delights. Back at the ranch, deluxe rooms have a stocked mini-bar, plush robes, fresh-fruit baskets and options like jetted tubs and fireplaces.

Home Ranch, Steamboat Springs

A prestigious Relais & Châteaux property, Home Ranch offers two-night stays for adults each October. Live music, roaring campfires, fall-color hikes or horseback rides, and Orvis-endorsed fly-fishing on a private section of the Elk River keep guests busy — even as the in-ranch chef’s haute mountain cuisine tempts them to loiter around the dining room.

4UR Ranch, Creede

4UR sets itself apart from the outset with one major amenity: Its very own natural hot  springs. Those who can find their way out of the mineral water and into the elegant accommodations will also enjoy a cozy little bar and an Adirondack-style porch perfect for stargazing. Seven miles of Rio Grande fishing, long trail rides and food and wine from a Cordon Bleu-trained chef aren’t so bad either. Two adults-only weeks are offered each summer.

Laramie River Dude Ranch, Glendevey

This ranch also has a perfect-for-couples fall cattle drive; this one ambles through a secluded river valley. Additionally, Laramie River has a naturalist program to help visitors explore the area through wildflower hikes, birdwatchng, stargazing, orienteering and more. Three-, four- or seven-night adults-only stays are available in September.

Lost Valley Dude and Guest Ranch, Sedalia

Lost Valley refers to its accommodations as "Levi luxurious with cattle baron comforts." The cabins, complete with stone fireplaces and porches with lounge swings, are nestled in the pines overlooking the valley. Adults-only weeks in September and October feature cattle drives and rides through golden aspen stands and a long list of activities that can be totally ignored by those who prefer to just laze around this peaceful ranch.

Winter at the Ranch?

We woke up this morning to some softly falling….snow! Every once in a while we do get snow here in September. But normally it is a little surprise that melts away before the end of the day. Today it just keeps falling and it’s actually accumulating! We all just keep walking around in shock, wondering what is going on?

Hopefully by the weekend we’ll be back to the gorgeous 70 degree and sunny days we were having earlier this week. We’re not ready to be done with fall!