January 2010

Dude ranches are great for families

I'm getting so many calls these days from people looking for great dude ranches for families.  This is not a new concept, as families have been traveling to dude ranches for generations.  But, it's especially valuable in today's fast-paced world and families going several different directions at once.

Why is a dude ranch so great for a family vacation?  

First of all, a dude ranch vacation allows a family to slow down and unplug.  Most of the best dude ranches are located in remote spots where cell phones don't work well, and wireless hot spots are not at the corner coffee shop.  Some dude ranches, like Vista Verde, do have wi-fi, but it is limited to the cabins and Lodge area.  What does this do for a family?  It allows the family to actually focus on each other, the conversation, the laughter and the relationships.  Sharing tales of adventures on the trail that day brings a family back together.

The slower pace of life on a dude ranch also helps a family relax, recharge, and enjoy each other's company.  Fathers and daughters can learn to fish together.  Sons and mothers can round up cows together.  Families can share experiences that they will remember, rather than in a whirlwind of forgettable moments.

Another reason why dude ranches are great for family vacations is that the kids will be happy, so mom and dad can be happy.  We see so many kids cry as they leave the ranch at the end of the week.  That tells us they have connected.  Connected with the place, the people, the animals and the experience.  The ranch experience will stay with them long after they return to baseball practice and music lessons.  

So, pack the bags, round up your family, and plan a vacation of a lifetime at a great Colorado dude ranch.  Whether you want a luxury dude ranch like Vista Verde, or a more rustic experience, it will be one to remember.



Lunch at the Homestead Cabin

Every Thursday during the winter ranch season, we go out to the Homestead cabin for lunch. It’s a pretty low key lunch, but it’s just fun to be out there in that beautiful setting, and an adventure to get out to the cabin. Today we had guests walk , snowshoe, ski , snowmobile and even take the sleigh out there. Jo will probably knock me out for putting this close-up picture of her front and center on the blog, but she just looked so great driving her team in her beautiful red sleigh! The sun came out right as we got to the cabin, and it was downright balmy as we came out of the cabin to make our way home.


Why I love September

In all reality, there is no best time at our dude ranch.  However, I find myself over and over telling people who are looking at coming to Vista Verde in September that it is my favorite month.  I recently added this photo to our Facebook page, and it brought it all back to me.  This photo, by guest Bette Levine, captures the essense of fall at our all-inclusive Colorado resort ranch.

In September, the ranch switches over to adults only.  I love kids.  I have 2 of my own.  But, I love, love, love the adult only times so much.  Between the friends gathering, the couples coming for a romantic mountain getaway and the single guests coming to find camraderie amongst others, it has such a great vibe.  

As this photo captures for me, the air is a bit more crisp and clear.  It almost sparkles.  The colors are rich with the angle of the sun just right.  It's cool and fresh.  It's just breathtaking.

I love cross country skiing at our resort, and the winter vacation season in general.  I love our summer dude ranch season too.  Heck, I even love off-season, when the weather isn't so good, and no one is traveling here for a ranch holiday.  But, September…..ahhhh, September, is just so amazing.

If you haven't experienced it before, make plans.  Pack your bags.  Come to Colorado for a September visit.  Hey, I know of a great all-inclusive resort that might even have some space for your romantic getaway or gathering with good friends!

Dude Ranch gifts

On a regular basis, we have experiences at our all inclusive ranch resort that are unbelievable.  Here’s an example.  None of us went into the dude ranch business to make money.  We’re all here because we love taking care of people, playing in the outdoors and living this life.  Having said all that, we are still running a business, and there are real transactions that take place.  Each day this winter, we have checked out guests as they wrap up their winter getaway, and they pay for their time at the ranch.  After having paid for their ranch vacation, you would think guests would see it as a fair transaction.  But, this is when the surprise happens.  

Suddenly, we start receiving gifts of all types.  Maybe it's a card or an email saying thank you.   Or, it might be one of those amazing dude ranch reviews on Tripadvisor.  Or, a Facebook post saying thanks for their romantic honeymoon vacation.  Then, we get photos sent to us- amazing photos from their many adventures.  Sometimes, it’s even a gift, some sort of goody, or a phone call saying they miss the ranch.  As the recipient, there are not enough thanks for all those kinds of gifts.  Not only do we get to play with fun people in the outdoors, share stories, learn about their worlds and enjoy them at their happiest time.  We get paid for it, and then we get thanked too.  

The past couple weeks, I have been overwhelmed with emails filled with photos and words of thanks.  Cards have shown up on my desk.  I’ve picked up presents at the post office for staff, and found little goodies left for the crew in the staff room.  The Facebook posts and the Tripadvisor reviews are enough to make my heart beam with pride.  How lucky are we to be able to call this place home, and get thanked for doing what we love every day?  So lucky, it’s unbelievable.

The rewards of Guest Ranching

As much as we all love what we do here in the world of guest ranching, there are times when we need a reminder of how we are contributing to make this world a better place. I just had one of those reminders today.
I talk and email with people every day about coming out to the ranch. Some already know they want to come and just need to make the reservation. Some have done extensive research on the best Colorado dude ranches and ask a million well-educated questions. Some are just sniffing the whole idea out. I try to give them a realistic view on the ranch and hopefully convince them it’s the right place for them if it’s a match. But I’ve never been very good at the hard sell. It’s just not my style. However, this fall I had a situation that I stepped up to with a hard sell. I had a family who was interested in coming for a winter stay, but were pretty hesitant about the price. I recognize that our prices are high, but also fully understand the value in what we offer guests. And I also see what it costs for us to do what we’re doing here. It’s tough because I believe that once guests are here, they see the value, but it’s sometimes hard to get that across beforehand. Anyway, I digress. Something about this family just seemed like a great fit for the ranch. I could tell that this was the place for them, and that they would really enjoy being at Vista Verde. So I made it my mission to convince them that it was worth every penny. I went hard sell and did everything I could to make them see that it would be worth their money. And it worked! They came! Little did I know, but as their story unfolded and we got to know them, there were so many more reasons that this trip was really important to them. We loved them and they were beaming the whole time. So, how does this tie into the title of this post? Because I just got a thank you note from mom. To quote part of her note, “Because of you my family had the best family vacation that we have every had. Vista Verde was everything you said it was plus much more, many, much, many more. Thank you for a lifetime of wonderful memories and we can’t wait to see y’all again” Wow. That was a priceless reminder of what we are doing here on a larger scale. Ok, so that’s my touchy feely post for the month. Thank you Christy. And if you’re the next person who calls and isn’t sure about this place, watch out. I may have to bring out the hard sell.

Full moon at a Colorado winter resort

full moon over a Colorado resortfull moon over a Steamboat resortTuesday night was the full moon for February, which is a really amazing thing here at our Colorado winter resort during the winter.  When the meadows and mountains are covered in snow, the full moon’s reflection lights up the Elk River valley.  It’s amazing how bright it can be when it’s dark outside!  You can even see your shadow on the snow.

Ok, so I can’t take credit for this photo of the full moon, but I found it and it inspired me.   I actually found it onliine, taken somewhere near the Steamboat resort in January.

I don’t get the chance to get out and play as much as I used to in my pre-kid days.  But, I have fond memories of full moon snowshoes “back in the day”.  My favorite one is with my buddy Tim (do any of you remember ranch hand Tim, from way, way back in the late 90′s?).  We hiked up Hinman Mountain on snowshoes one of those full moon nights. We didn’t take headlamps, and there was no path to the top so we just explored and found our way up there.  The hike started through a thick forest of trees, up a super steep hill.  Then, we broke out of the trees and into the open mountain side.  From there on, it was just serene and peaceful and we didn’t talk much.  We watched our shadows and listened to the soft crunch of the snow under our feet.  At the top, we sat down and enjoyed looking out over the valley, down on the ranch.  It was bright enough with the light of the moon to see the whole valley, and see our Colorado ski lodge down below.  The lights of the cabins seemed so far away, but the place looked cozy and inviting.  We could imagine all those folks who were enjoying a winter vacation finishing up their dinner and heading off to their cabins.  After enjoying the view for a bit, we made our way back down.  I don’t remember what we talked about, or if we even talked at that point. 

Honestly, I think about that magical night every time we have a winter full moon.  One of these days I’ll strap on snowshoes and take my family up to that spot.  The great part about these mountains is that they aren’t going anywhere.   I look forward to watching my shadow in the middle of the night the next time I’m up on a mountain with a full moon shining down on my back.

Dome is back!

We took the fall and early part of the winter season to update the Dome cabin with a remodel to make it ADA compliant and just a more updated look. The new and improved Dome is back in action as of this afternoon and we’re so excited about how it looks! Good job to Bekah and Bill for all their hard work and great attention to detail. Bekah’s parents are coming to visit, so they get to be the first occupants.

What is a Horsemanship Retreat?

Horsemanship retreat at a dude ranchYou’ve heard of a horsemanship clinic, but what is a horsemanship retreat?  Our horsemanship clinics have been a lot of fun for us, and we have actually started casually calling them horsemanship retreats as that seems to be more of the feel to the guests.  Why?  Because it’s a time to immerse onself in understanding the horse and focusing on that apsect of the ranch, rather than all the other bells and whistles we normally offer at our dude ranch.  We offer one in the spring (March 21-25, 2012) and one in the fall (Oct 3-7, 2012).  

Each morning breakfast is at 8am,  and then we head off to the barn to work on the topic of the morning in the arena (usually in the indoor, but if the weather is nice we’ll go in the outdoor).  There isn’t a set topic as ranch trainer Terry Wegener sees where the group is and picks something to focus on at each session.  For those of you who know Terry, this isn’t surprising.  For those of you who don’t know the horse trainer at our all-inclusive Colorado resort, know that he is great at making each topic fun and interesting and challenging for each rider’s ability.  After the morning session we have lunch down in the Main Lodge, followed by another session on horseback in the afternoon.   Following dinner, guests get the chance to relax in their cabins, take a well needed soak in the hot tub, or visit in the Great room.

The other activities we normally offer if you were to join us for our regular luxury dude ranch vacations are not offered during this time as the focus is just on riding.  These clinics are geared towards an intermediate rider who wants to learn more about understanding their horses and how to communicate better to them.  Terry has a reining background, so that is his platform, but he can speak to many styles of riding. The rate for the 4 night stay is $1,400/person.

We hope to have you join us at some point for a Horsemanship Retreat!

Girl’s Night Out

The winter season is almost halfway over and so it was time to shake things up and get out of our routines. Last night, the gals of VVR headed into the “big city” of Steamboat and had a little girls night out. We met up at Amante for some drinks, divine cookies and lots of laughs. In fact, I’m going to guess that we all learned something new about each other through the funny game we played. Sorry, can’t repeat those details here. What happens in Steamboat stays in Steamboat. After driving back to the ranch on perfectly dry roads, we all woke up to fresh snow this morning. It’s been coming all day long, so we got what we wished for!


 Romantic honeymoon getaways are the best way to spend your time in the winter.  We love having them at Vista Verde Ranch!

Some of the best dude ranches have honeymoon packages.

Up to my ears in websites

With 2010 underway, it’s time to start checking things off my to-do list for the year. One of the to-do’s was to get some updated photography for the ranch. As I mentioned in my last post, that kind of fell into my lap with Alex showing up at the ranch. I still don’t have all the final shots to share with you, but just to give you an idea of what he did, here is his shot of the Great Room. Yowzer.

Next up in the world of marketing is to start thinking about updating and upgrading the website. There are some things I really like about it, but also some things we’re wanting to do better. I’ve spent a bulk of the day poring over other websites to see what I like about others, and what I don’t like. I’ll tell you what, I’m ready to take a vacation right now. There are some cool places out there. How do I convince others to come for a Colorado ranch vacation instead? Our website definitely doesn’t do the place justice….but it’s hard to capture the essence of the ranch in pictures and words. It’s just more than that. However, I would love to hear any feedback from all of you. Are there any sites that you really like? Are there aspects of our site that you love, or don’t love? The blog world is one of transparency, so feel free to post thoughts here. But, if you want to be more private, you can also email me at reservations@vistaverde.com

I’ll keep you posted on the progress!

Snow Dancing in Colorado

Mother Nature can call us all out on ever thinking we can control a thing in life. After last winter’s amazing snow fall, breaking records left and right, and leaving us piles of snow to start our summer season in June, this winter has gone the other direction. These photos by amazing staff photography Jessica Eck prove that there is some snow, and it is beautiful out here, we just have pretty high expectations at our Colorado winter resort.

During the last part of November, we received about 3 feet of snow, and we thought we were off to an early start of the winter resort season in Colorado. Then, December rolled around and it wasn’t as generous. Our staff came in for orientation, and there wasn’t any fresh snow. But we still had so much from November, that we weren’t concerned.

As the weeks moved along, we all just kept thinking, “The powder will come”. And then it never did. This same mindset played into the holidays, when we were full with folks enjoying a family snow vacation. Having so much snow in November still made it a winter wonderland out here, and still allowed us to get out and enjoy the snow cross county skiing, snowshoeing, horseback riding, sleigh riding, and snow tubing in our Colorado backyard. But, like I said before, we’re kind of spoiled out here and used to Steamboat Springs resort towns famous Champagne powder gracing us frequently!

Last weekend, we did recieve a beautiful dump of fresh snow, that added another great layer to the white frosting on the roofs of the cabins and Lodge. Charlie was able to groom a little more of our ski trails, and for the guides to get to some terrain that they hadn’t skied for a little while. This morning, the wind is kicking in and another storm should be rolling into the area. We’ll see how much snow this storm brings, but are just grateful for anything we get these days!

So, my mantra this year has been, “Do your snow dances!”. What’s a snow dance? It’s whatever you want it to be. Grooving to funky tunes, rocking out to the 80′s, sliding to a salsa beat, you name it. Just turn up the tunes, think about snow, and start dancing! Here’s the best part of it: you will burn calories, have some fun, and it will help you get in shape for you to come out and strap on some skis to enjoy the fruits of your labor! I have no idea if snow dances work, and the inner cynic in me doesn’t even want to think about it….but it’s fun so go with it. Do your snow dances, and I’ll let you know if it’s working! Then, come out and join us for a Cross country skiing vacation at our Colorado ski lodge!

Back in the saddle again

For the past couple weeks, I’ve been immersed in the holidays and helping to take care of all the great guests we had here. It was a wonderfully fun and bustling time at the ranch with all sorts of special events and activities unique to the season. For both the Christmas and New Years week we were surprised by how active our guests were on their vacations! We had at least 4-5 ski trips going out each morning, horseback riding on the trail and lots of people in the indoor arena, sledders and then snowshoers too. We also spent a lot of time shuttling guests to and from the Steamboat Ski Resort for downhill skiing. All in all, it was a fun holiday! This past week has been one of catching up a bit as the guest counts dropped significantly. We had some extra staff come in to help us with the holidays, so they also headed back to school this week. Most of them had worked for us this past summer, so it was great to have them back for a couple weeks. Now we’re into our adult-only time, so we have a max of about 20 guests and more typically around 12 or so. We tend to not have guests going as many different directions since so many who come right now are avid skiers. But we’re still getting a lot of horseback riders, some snowmobilers and even the adults like sledding!

I had a friend visiting from California who came up and took some amazing shots at the ranch over the holidays and then again yesterday. He originally came up to take some interiors for his portfolio, but they turned out so well that I invited him back yesterday to a bunch of outdoor activities. Alex is a photographer who’s work varies from architectural photography to travel and fashion shoots. We had a blast and he got some great shots. He’s a really talented I’m sure I’ll be using them as I do updates to the website and brochure down the road!

Spending the Holidays at a Colorado Resort

sunset at our Colorado resortWow, where did the time go? The holidays seem to be a bit of a vortex of time for all of us at the dude ranch. From the whirlwind of getting the staff back in action, training the newbies, and getting everything in tip top shape to open for the season, to all the festivities of the holidays (more about that in a bit) to shuttling people to and from the airport, getting them out on skis, horses, sleds, sleighs, etc….it seems like December 1 rolls in and next thing we know we’re singing Happy New Year! Hopefully you all had a wonderful holiday season, surrounded by friends, family and much laughter.

Our holiday season seemed to be broken down into 3 pieces. There were the folks who came out prior to Christmas and helped us kick off our winter resort season. This was a smaller group of guests and we really enjoyed sharing some fun with them and gearing up for Santa’s arrival. As they headed home, the Christmas guests rolled in, looking for a great family snow vacation. What a great group of guests. We deocorated gingerbread houses, sang carols around the fire, on the sleigh, and all around the ranch. The Christmas day feast was fantastic, thanks to Chef Matt and his wonderfully hard working crew. Then this group of guests headed home to their realities while another group rolled in to ring in the New Year. Once again, we were surrounded with laughter, great energy and fun folks. Our annual New Year’s progressive dinner started with a sleigh ride and skiers, great food and a beautiful evening. Following several stops and about 6 courses, we finished up in the Great Room with the highly anticipated boot drop. Yes, we are fuddy duddies and this happens long before midnight. But, when you are playing hard in the snow all day, you need your sleep!

One of my highlights of the holidays was getting an “office pass” as Charlie likes to call it, and going out to lead a snowshoe tour up by Hahn’s Peak. It was a beautiful day, and I got to have a ton of fun with Holly, Tim and Ted. Lucky me.

Now we are into our adult only times, and with that comes the many honeymooners, some romantic vacation seekers, some getting away with friends, and some just sneaking away on their own for a bit of R&R in a peaceful cabin in Colorado. We’re enjoying the crew here this week. There are some here for their first time, some back after not being here for a while, and even one gal who just drove up the road from close by to snowshoe and relax. It’s a great way to start the New Year!

Here’s to a great year for all of you! We hope to have you join us in 2012. We’re filling up for the winter season, but there are still spots here and there. Surprisingly, we have room leading up to Valentine’s Day….so get your sweetheart and come out for a memorable Valentine’s Day getaway this year if you are looking fora romantic vacation idea!

New Years at the Ranch

A ranch holiday is unlike any other. We do things just a bit differently. No ball gowns, no big city lights, and we don’t even really make it to midnight. It might sound boring, but we all had a blast yesterday. The evening started out at the Kid’s hut for the first course of dinner. Then we strapped on our skis, and some hopped on the sleigh, and headed out to Homestead for course #2. The place was lit up with candles and a crackling fire and Matt was preparing all sorts of goodies to taste. Hot mulled wine and spiced cider warmed everyone up before we jumped back on the trail to go to the Indoor Arena where sparkly lights and nickering horses awaited us along with a wonderful 3rd course. After that we moved down to the dining room for the main entree. The night finished up in the Great room with a plethora of desserts and the place decorated to the nines. Charlie’s boot drop was a spectacular way to finish the night and cheer in the New Year. We hope you all celebrated the night in style. Best of wishes for a happy and healthy New Year!