December 2009

Best Resort Hotel?

We had a nice mention on a travel blog today. I’m not sure who it was that gave them the info, but we were included amongst a diverse list of resorts and hotels. It’s always fun to be mentioned in write ups that cover more than just a bunch of ranches.

Fall season at our Colorado Lodge and Resort

The summer and fall luxury dude ranch vacation season officially closed on Sunday, but we do have a group of folks coming in today for a 4 day horsemanship clinic. In the days between the close of the regular season and this clinic, we took some time to regroup, process the season and have a little fun.

Sunday night the staff hosted a VVR “Prom” in the Great room to celebrate the finish of the season.   Some great outfits and hairdos were center stage of the evening.

Monday was the ever popular end of season meeting. Imagine a bunch of people who’s career objectives have been to not be in an office. Give them a summer of getting outside and playing in the backyard of a Colorado resort. Now, try to pin them down for a full day of sitting in a chair and having meetings. Challenging, yes. But this is how we get all our info about what worked, what didn’t and what changes we need to make for next summer’s dude ranch season.

The following day, many of the crew took off and played. We had two trailer loads of staff head up to the high country for a staff ride. The goal was to gather up the straggler cows that weren’t brought in the past weeks. The crew did get another small group, but there are still plenty out there to bring back home before the winter ski resort lodge season arrives.

While the crew was out Family dude ranchplaying, a posse of future wranglers showed up at the ranch. My youngest daughter’s pre-school class did a field trip to the ranch for the day. It was pretty humorous watching all these little kiddos take in the ranch setting. And it pretty well confirmed to me why our program works really well for kids 6 and up, but not so well for the younger ones. The kids were met at the Lodge by the hay wagon, with Jason and Nathan lending a hand to drive the team. We took them up to the arena where Sugar and Pinky, two of our most trustworthy “old guys” were waiting for a ride. Each kid got a turn to be led around the arena. Terry entertained the little ones by teaching them how to honk their saddle horns and laughing the whole time. After riding, they had a picnic on the patio and then headed back for nap. I was jealous at that point, thinking it might be nice to have my own personal nap time in the Great room. Ahhh, if I could be a pre-schooler all over again I would enjoy naps much more!

As we await the horsemanship clinic attendees this afternoon, there seems to be some weather rolling in. Hopefully the gorgeous weather we’ve had the past couple weeks will hold on a bit longer, but there is always the indoor arena if these clouds turn into something more serious.  I hear snow is in the forecast.  So, if you need winter vacation ideas, we might be ready for the ski season sooner than later!

Working at the Ranch

Today is an exciting day. Although we had the guides show up a little early for some extra training last week, the rest of the crew shows up today. We have some great folks returning for their 2nd, 3rd and even 4th seasons, but also some new faces. It’s always exciting to see how everyone gets along and how they take to ranch work.

After getting everyone settled into their housing, we’ll start the orientation week with a welcome dinner tonight. It gives everyone a chance to get to know each other before we start putting them to work tomorrow. 12 days and counting….. article on our Luxury Dude Ranch

Bridle Party: Horsing Around at Vista Verde Ranch

I had never gotten on a horse before in my life. But after getting married in Beaver Creek, Colorado, my new husband and I started our all-American adventure in the sleepy city of Steamboat Springs, a quaint and charming town with lots of open land and a disproportionate population of horses. We had somehow wound up on very foreign territory at Vista Verde Ranch, a breathtaking and remote retreat where we were expected to ride and wrangle with the best of them. (When did I agree to this?) Good thing I’ve always had a soft spot for cowboy boots and hats. Hoist me up and let’s get saddled.

When I told friends we were honeymooning at a “luxury dude ranch,” most people were understandably skeptical. I’m not really known for my athleticism, I’m allergic to large, hairy animals (my husband aside), and I’ve never, ever expressed any interest in horseback riding – let alone dude ranching. Their concern was well justified. But luxury is something I am familiar with, and I held out hope that the two contradictory travel genres would cancel each other out and land me somewhere on middle ground.

Roughing It
Upon arrival, we were greeted by Stephanie, a genuine cowgirl training her horse and walking the grounds. She let us pet her kind-tempered companion and pointed us toward to our cottage where we’d be shacking up and playing house. “It’s our policy to leave everything unlocked around here so just walk right on in.” I laughed. Dan laughed… Oh, she was serious.

Our rustic two-story home away from home was anything but rough. This country-cute cottage was cozy and inviting with an open kitchen, large living area, master bedroom, two additional bedrooms, and two bathrooms. (At least if any intruders did sneak into our lock-free cottage, they wouldn’t have to sleep in bed with us.) The wood-burning fireplace made for cuddly, warm nights and the private patio Jacuzzi was a happy surprise. There are no TVs, but since our days were packed with vigorous activities, and our nights were meant for romantic rendezvous*, the lack of television was a welcome change. (*Read: we were so whipped from riding horses, hiking, and biking, that we’d pass out cold at 8 pm sharp.)

Have I mentioned I’ve never gotten on a horse before? I’ll tell you one thing: it’s a lot higher up than it looks. I sadly swapped my straw hat for a hard helmet. Safety over style, my friends.

The guests at Vista Verde – there were about 25 during our stay – generally stay at the ranch for about a week. It’s a comprehensive course, where one gradually learns the basic and not-so-basic skills of riding, and ultimately leaves an accomplished jockey. Dan and I, however, would only be there for two days. So we had to cram a week’s worth of training into 48 short hours. Thankfully, I had DB as my partner in crime.

DB was the horse I was assigned to ride (not to be confused with Dan Boyce, my new husband). A sweet, gentle creature, my handsome horse was a total mush – much like my other DB (awwwww!).

Dan, my Steamboat Dreamboat, riding Zip.

After a few minutes atop my mild-mannered mustang, I felt completely at ease and surprisingly confident. I didn’t need to clutch the reins with all my strength or scream commands. DB and I could practically read each other’s minds; we were getting on like an old-married couple. (Apparently horses lick their lip when they feel good about mutual communication, and DB looked like a kid with an ice cream cone.) Our trainers taught us how to turn, trot, and maneuver, and in no time we were racing obstacle courses and galloping home. It was amazing. I was doing it! And if we had stuck around for the rest of the week, Dan and I would have learned to herd cattle with our fellow vacationers. (I’m still so jealous.)

Guests are also encouraged to take advantage of other on-and-off property activities – like fly fishing, hiking, mountain biking, kayaking, and hot air ballooning. It’s a pretty spectacular destination for an action-packed (but admittedly exhausting) getaway.

Chow Down
Meal time at Vista Verde is an extraordinary experience. An all-inclusive, all-you-can-eat ranch, Vista Verde doesn’t want you to worry about expense, but rather enjoy the tasty morsels being served up morning, noon, and night. And after a busy morning “ranching,” the massive buffet-style lunch is a sight for sore eyes. There’s plenty to spare for seconds, and the comfort food couldn’t be any more comforting.

After a nightly happy half-hour, communal dinners are served in the deluxe dining room. Dan and I were lucky to feast on the delicious food and toast to our successful days at a table with our friends including a few incredibly cool staff members. That’s probably the best part about Vista Verde — it really is a community. You meet new people and make new friends and laugh, learn, and embrace life together. It takes you on an emotional journey on and off the horse. It’s unlike any other experience.

I was definitely disappointed when we had to turn in our saddles and part ways — and even sadder to say goodbye to DB. It turns out this city slicker has developed a love for life on the range. And my new cowboy boots are proof that you can take the girl out of Colorado, but you can’t take the Colorado out of the girl.

Vista Verde Ranch
Steamboat Springs, CA 80477


There is a big significance to weekends this time of year at Vista Verde. Because we are closed, all of us work (for the most part) Monday-Friday and take weekends off. Why is that significant? First of all, it’s significant because that means that we are all actually at work together 5 days of the week. Not only is that great because we all like each other’s company but also because we get a lot done when we can communicate more frequently! Second, it’s significant because we get just a glimpse of what it’s like to be in a “normal” job. Ok, I know that’s a bit of a stretch as ranch jobs are exactly normal in any sense, but it’s fun to just think we’re normal every now and then.

Once we open for the guest ranch season in 14 days, we get into a rotation so that there are very few days when all of us are working at the same time. It is a bit of a challenge to schedule a staff meeting when everyone has different days off, but we manage to find times here and there to make it work!

With that delightful bit of insight into life at VVR, I’m going to go back to the couch for a few minutes of reading the newspaper before my kiddos wake up from their nap!

the dude ranch Summer season comes to a close

To update you all luxury dude ranch coloradoon where we are in our summer dude ranch season, we have moved from our dude ranch for families time to adults only, and then adults only cattle round up weeks.  This is our final cattle round up week, and also our final week of the season.  We have had 4 total weeks of rounding up cattle, and have brought in about 250 head so far, so there is still some work to be done this week.  While not all the guests at our Colorado lodge and resort participate in the cattle round up while on their ranch holiday, we have had a lot of folks heading out to ride the back country and find those critters.  

The first week was the most successful, as we got the cows who seemed to be the most willing to be rounded up.  The second week was the week of weather, with rain, drizzle, fog, but still some sunshine in there.  That was a hearty and willing group of guests who laughed their way through the weather and brought sunshine to our lives!  Last week it seems like fall officially hit us.  The colors started to change, the air got a bit more crisp and it finally felt like September is suppose to feel around Steamboat Springs.  This week is a continuation of that great weather, and we are gearing up with our cattle clinics today, and will start looking for more cows tomorrow.

Sunday is our official closing day, but we are going to sneak in a quick horsemanship clinic next week for a couple days.  The staff will be heading out for off-season adventures or moving on to their next step in life.  Those of us considered "lifers" will be getting together to reflect on the season, make plans on how to improve our all inclusive resort experience, and look forward to gearing up for the winter season, when we become more of a Colorado ski lodge.  And, of course, even though we live in vacation paradise…we’ll probably be taking a little time to get out of town for some time off.  Oh, and we have a wedding to throw in November…I’ll be posting all sorts of photos of Johanna and Javins’ wedding on November 12, in the Great room! 

We hope to see you this winter for some fun in the snow!

Burzy Wurzy

That’s the line we use in my house (for those who don’t know me, I live with a 4 year old) when it’s just that cold out. And all of us at the ranch keep looking at the thermometer in disbelief each morning because it has been THAT cold for 3 days now. Terry claims that his car told him it was -23 yesterday morning. Bill says he would never trust a Jeep and that his “accurate” thermometer said it was -12. Ok folks, when it gets that cold, the difference between -23 and -12 really doesn’t matter. It’s just too darn cold. We can’t figure out what’s going on, but those of us who get to work inside are sure happy with our desk jobs right now.

The upside of this crazy cold weather is that the sky has been sparkling clear at night and blue as can get during the day. Even though we are closer to the sun up here, it still isn’t quite doing the trick as it beams down on us.

Those of you coming later this winter, don’t panic. This isn’t normal and as I write this the sky is beginning to cloud over (which actually means it is warming up) and a storm looks like it is rolling in. So, Wanda and our other snow dancers, start doing your dances! Bring on the snow, that real champagne powder. And we’ll start getting ready for those perfect days of winter when those of us inside are REALLY, REALLY jealous of those who get to go out and play.

Western Adventure Vacation

mountain biking at a Colorado resortVista Verde Ranch is a unique dude ranch in many ways.  We work really hard to provide beautiful accommodations and wonderful food, amazing service and old fashion Western hospitality.  But, when people ask me what makes us different, I often single out the diversity of activities.  There are so many great aspects of this Colorado lodge and resort, and we are very multidimensional in our goals to make it the best dude ranch possible.  But, the diversity is indeed unique, and something we invest a lot of energy and resources in maintaining.  So, when Steve King brought this picture down to me after one of his bike rides the other day, I had to laugh at how it embodied so much of who we are as a ranch holiday.  We seem to be a combination of the Old West, with horses and cowboys, with the New West, filled with mountain bikes and people seeking out a healthier lifestyle.

So, whether we bring the cows in on mountain bikes or by horseback, we’ll get those last ones in before the snow flies. Because, that is when those of us in the West put our skis on and go play!  There’s not much time to make it out here this fall still, but why not grab your sweetheart and sneak away for a romantic resort getaway this winter?

15 days to go…

I missed the moon shot last night…. but the manager dinner was great. It’s pretty rare that we all have a chance to get together socially which is too bad since it’s such a great group of people. The talk about work was limited and we got to just laugh and have fun together.

I opened my computer this morning to an email from one of the families coming for the holidays, telling me that they had to cancel. That’s never good news- both for them and for us. So, we now have a cabin open for New Years… case any of you want to make a last minute getaway! That’s our only cabin for the New Year’s week, but we do have a couple cabins for the Christmas week still too….White Christmas anyone? No cooking or cleaning or entertaining family? Does it sound appealing to have a real Christmas vacation?

We have a big meeting on the agenda this morning, and then more guide training. Off to get ready for that!

Moonlight Hiking at our Colorado Resort

John and some of the staff had a little adventure last week.  Here is his tale of their hike up Hahn’s Peak.  Hahn’s Peak is one of the hallmark peaks around our Colorado Lodge and Resort.  In the summer we hike it, but if you come for a winter vacation then we put on skis to get up the mountain.

Hiking in the moonlight in ColoradoLast Sunday a group of Vista Verde Ranch staff did a full moon hike to summit Hahn’s Peak. The moonlight negated any need for headlamps, yet the multitudes of rock pieces made the last stretch of the ascent fairly difficult. Without shelter of trees at the top, the wind picked up quite a bit so we hid out in the abandoned tower at the summit. Trey brought his ukulele to play a few songs while the group was huddling in the cover of the tower. After quickly posing for a group shot at the top of the mountain everyone headed back down. The staff members from left to right in the group picture: John Hill (Pool Manager), Kathy (Server), Jason (Ranch Hand), Jess (Wrangler), Trey (Fly Fishing Guide), Jami (Housekeeper).

Thanks for sharing your story John!  Our summer season is almost over, but you can still plan a winter vacation to go cross country skiing in Colorado, or sneak away for a romantic mountain getaway.

Full Moon on Snow

So it’s not like we’re the only place enjoying a full moon tonight, but there is something very different about full moons on winter snow. At Vista Verde we get to enjoy a spectacular show every time there is a full moon in the winter. The opening act is when the moon starts peeping over Wapiti mountain with a navy blue sky as the backdrop. The main event is the first part of the night when the snow reflects all the light from the moon which makes it light enough to go out for a walk, a ski, or a snowshoe without any lights needed. It’s so bright that the trees make shadows. After crawling into bed and sleeping under the moon’s watchful eye, if you wake up early enough (which I do) you get to watch the moon set over Sand Mountain. It’s actually darker at that point until the sun starts lighting up the sky again.

I’ll see if I can get a picture tonight as it comes up….but we are all heading into town tonight for a little manager dinner to have a bit of fun before the rest of the staff arrive!

The Summer Guest Ranch Season is Full, now what?

We’ve encountered a problem this summer at Vista Verde Ranch.  Normally our summer season is fairly full, but this year is off the charts.  For those planning a Colorado summer vacation for 2011, we don’t have good news.  There are still some spots during our last week, when the ranch holidays are for adults only.  That is also the last week of our cattle gather, which is loads of fun.

Colorado Ski LodgeHaving said that, I turn my thoughts to winter.  For those of you looking for an amazing winter vacation idea, please consider Vista Verde Ranch!  We still have space for winter!

Winter time at the ranch is great for a romantic mountain getaway.  Whether you are a skier or not, we can offer a great Colorado Ski lodge experience.  Yes, the cross country skiing is great here, but we also have horse backing riding, sleigh rides, sledding, snow shoeing, and our ever popular weekly wine tasting and cooking class. 

Come join us for a family snow vacation over the holidays, or during our adult only times enjoy the ranch as a romantic resort getaway.

Opening Day Countdown

Many people begin opening their advent calendars today, counting down the days until Christmas. Here at the ranch, we’re doing the countdown to opening day. Our first guests arrive on December 19 and will help us celebrate a white Christmas. I’m going to try to be your Vista Verde countdown clock and post a daily update on what’s going on during this exciting time. The guides are arriving today so they can begin guide training tomorrow. Rob and Pat are opening up the kitchen, scrubbing it down and putting in food orders for the next week. We’re all pretty excited to have them cooking again. It’s such a treat to not be packing lunches and to have a hot breakfast in the morning!

As you can see from the picture, the snow is starting to pile up in the meadows, but the south facing hillsides are still bare. This is pretty typical for December 1, and with a couple big storms in the forecast for the next week or two those hillsides will soon be covered up as well.

Let the countdown to winter vacation at Vista Verde begin!

Snow piling up at Vista Verde