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.

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!

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!