March 2010

Visiting Colorado, one stop at a time


We had some suprising visitors stop by the other day to see our Colorado dude ranch.  It was in the whirlwind of a Sunday turnover, as we were getting ready for some new families to arrive, filled with anticipation and hoping they picked the best dude ranch.  All of us were running several directions at once.  Lucky for me, I was the one who took some time to show these gals around and hear about their traveling adventures.

Elaine and Marlene are two women with a strong travel bug.  When both of them got through raising children, and found more free time, they decided to team up and start traveling the world.  Their trips have been inspired by the book, “1000 Places to Visit Before You Die”.  Their stop by on Sunday was not just because they were enjoying a Steamboat Springs vacation, but because Vista Verde is part of this book.  Little did they know that they would be visiting a luxury dude ranch in Colorado when they first took on this epic journey!

I didn’t get a chance to spend a whole lot of time with these gals, but I was so taken by their travel stories that I took a picture of them in front of our Colorado lodge before they headed off to see the Zirkel Wilderness area, just up the road from the resort.

If you get a moment, check them out at Wild Women Wanderers.  It may inspire your next vacation!

Our 15 minutes of fame

Yesterday brought a little bit of the big city to Steamboat Springs and the ranch. A crew of about 25 people from Eddie Bauer rolled in at 7am to use the ranch for a catalog photo shoot. Luckily, we’re still holding on to winter at the ranch so there was enough snow in the meadows. We shuttled them around on snowmobiles to and from the Homestead cabin, as well as provided some horses who got to hang out with their Italian model. We even had Zag hooked up to the bobsled for one shot. The best part of the sleigh shot was that Jess was all set as the driver, but they didn’t want him in the shot (poor Jess) so he had to crouch down out of eyesight of the camera, but ready to jump on and drive in the event that Zag decided he needed to go somewhere. Luckily, it was such a nice, warm, sunny day that Zag quickly realized there was nowhere better to go and took a cat nap while the models did their best to look enthralled that they were about to go on a pretend sleigh ride, and photographers, make up artists and stylists hovered around them. The crew was the best we’ve ever worked with and were respectful of the ranch and very professional. It was a long day of shooting and Jess, Grahm, Rachel and Charlie all stuck it out from 6:30am until 7pm….but we had some fun laughs, enjoyed a gorgeous spring day, and shook up our routine a bit. We are a little worried that Zag might have a Diva complex though….. A Colorado sleigh ride, filled with Italian models.

The magic of a Colorado honeymoon

As I watch the honeymoon couples come through the ranch, it makes me excited about how we are helping start off a marriage.  Typically, they are exhausted when they walk in the door.  Months of planning, stress from the wedding and the emotional ride of committing your life to another person have overloaded them.  As they walk into the Lodge, you can see the tension still there.  It typically isn’t until the step foot into their Colorado honeymoon cabin that I see them start to take that deep breath.  We call it the Vista Verde sigh.  Letting it all go, leaving it all behind.

Once they have enjoyed a dinner with our other guests, gotten a chance to plan out their next day’s activities and have had a good night sleep in their romantic mountain getaway cabin, suddenly we are looking at new people.  They are now diving into the experience.  Sharing laughter and pushing their limits on a ski or horseback ride make them lighten up, have fun together, and seal the deal on leaving the rest behind.

A romantic Colorado getaway is all a couple needs to bring them closer together, make some lasting memories, and start them off right when they return home.  We love being a part of so many honeymoon vacations, and look forward to helping more couples start off their marriage the right way- with laugther and fun!

You know you’re spoiled when….

You know you’re spoiled when you get to go to work with your mom at the premier (sorry, the writer is biased) Colorado luxury guest ranch. Then, while she is busy with work, you get to go into the kitchen to make play-dough and Chef Rob happens to show up and helps you make gourmet play-dough, not just the regular old kind, in your own private cooking class. And then you get to color it and play with it and then put all your dishes in a special industrial sized dishwasher and watch it whoosh and make exciting noises before you head to the staff room to meet up with your mom for a hot lunch prepared by Chef Brandon. Oh, and the dessert today was Macerated berries with homemade Bundt cake. OK folks, it isn’t like this every day at the ranch during the off-season, but these cute girls scored this morning!
This afternoon? Maybe a quick horseback ride in the indoor arena, because it’s just a little chilly outside and we’re all kind of spoiled now with that arena!

Romance at Vista Verde Ranch


I just got some great photos from a wedding of former staff members, and it got me thinking.  There are so many couples who met at Vista Verde as staff, who have now turned into wonderful marriages.  What is it about this place?  Between romantic honeymoon vacations, surprise engagement getaways and couples rekindling the flame over long winter weekend stays, Vista Verde does seem to have something going on in the romantic destination department.  But, it doesn't stop with the guests coming to our luxury guest ranch.  In fact, there is a pretty big track record of this place being a meeting spot for young folks who work at the ranch, who find a spark here, and then go on to get married down the road.

To start off, we should all send a huge congratulations to Stacy and Daniel Knapp, whose wedding this past weekend was beautiful.  The two of them worked at our Colorado dude ranch a while back. What was fun to hear about is that there were several other Vista Verde alumni included in their wedding.  Jess, Kimmie, Cliff and Lindsey were all in attendance, and a very special part of the event.  We wish all the best to the Knapp's in their marriage, and hope the Vista Verde magic continues to make it a wonderful relationship.

So, be careful if you choose to come to Vista Verde.  If you weren't looking for a romantic resort getaway, you might just end up with one.  If you work at the ranch, you just might end up with a spouse down the road.  If you come to the ranch as a guest, there is a good chance you will find the spark rekindled with your loved one.  And, if your boyfriend brings you on a trip here… out for those romantic rides up to the Cliffs.  You might find something sparkly on your finger by the time you get back to the ranch.  

Off Season Adventures

Although we don’t have any guests around right now, the ranch is nothing but quiet these days. The off-season is a time for knocking out projects on the to-do list, cleaning up from the winter, gearing up for the summer, and taking a little time off too.

This year, the off-season at our Colorado ranch began with a Wilderness First Aid training for many of our staff. It was an intense 4 days of training, but well worth it. You hate to think about the worst case scenarios, but it’s important to do that so if it ever happens we are prepared. With that done, we can focus on the best case scenarios and how to make the summer full of those! Before the winter season leaves our memory for too long we will have our End of Season meeting to talk through what worked and what needs tweaking. It’s that never ending quest for “betterness” (a Vista Verde made-up word) that keeps us all fired up and looking ahead. In addition to that meeting, Dace and I spent a couple days earlier this week in Denver at the Colorado Dude Ranch Association’s spring meeting. It’s always fun to get around other ranchers, share ideas and learn new tips and tricks. We had a cool experience this time of having one of our former guests come as a speaker on Labor Law. Not the most exciting topic, but Matt gave a lot of the ranchers much to think about and some really good tips for making sure we’re doing things the right way. It was also a pretty intense meeting for me as I am serving as President of the Association this year, so I had to be on my game and lead the group.

So between meetings, trainings, getting the Nordic center turned over into the Adventure Center, doing inventory in Fancy’s Merchantile, starting to work with some of the younger ranch horses who need tune-ups and keeping up with the recent snowfall (we thought it was spring?), it’s not exactly quiet around Vista Verde these days!

Steamboat Springs Vacations

Summer has arrived in Steamboat Springs and people are enjoying their vacations all over town.  Just north of Steamboat Springs, at Vista Verde Guest Ranch, we are enjoying having a full house of guests who have chosen a family dude ranch vacation.

Last week was our opening week, and it was a blast.  We had a great group of guests.  Some were families with kids, coming for a great family dude ranch vacation.  Some were younger couples, coming for a romantic all-inclusive resort ranch experience.  In fact, one of the guests chose Vista Verde as the spot to propose to his girlfriend.  She is actually a former staff member, so it was especially special to be able to be a part of their romantic mountain getaway when it turned into a proposal.

Now we are in our second week, and have a great group of people from all over the world.  There is even a family from Tasmania, although they have lived all over the world.  We also have a former state department diplomat who’s stories of his world travels completely entrance both me and Ben at lunch the other day.  It is the best to be at a dude ranch and be able to meet all these amazing people!

We’ll be heading into Steamboat Springs with all our guests for a little pro-rodeo action on Friday night.  There we will meet up with the rest of the folks enjoying a Steamboat Springs vacation.  In the meantime, we’ll stay north of town in our more remote setting, and keep having adventures in the mountains with our guests!

Spring training faux pas

One of the things many of us love about living in the Colorado Rockies is the seasons. Growing up in California, this was a fairly novel concept to me when I moved here in 1997. Among other things, what I have come to love about the seasons is that we get to shake up our recreational approach at least twice a year. Right now, we are in the transition from winter activities like skiing and snowshoeing to summer activities like biking and running. The hiking trails wont be ready for a while, but I did see that Steve and Kelli had their bikes out the other day now that the roads are clear of snow. But, the challenge with switching activities is that sometimes our bodies rebel a little when we’re thrown into a different type of movement suddenly. Yes, we are sympathetic to what you feel when you come here on vacation…we go through it too. Now, we should be a bit wiser after all these years, but both Kelli and I ran (no pun intended) into the same faux pas this past week. The inaugural run of the year. The sun is shining, the birds are singing and it just feels so good to be out running again. So good, in fact, that we both ran just a little too long. And oh boy, the next morning… hurt to get out of bed.

So, let this be your warning…don’t make the same mistake we made if you are emerging from hibernation, or just getting out for the first time with the nice spring weather. We’ll beat you up sufficiently when you come to the ranch for vacation. Until then, let your body ease into the activities. And maybe you can even do a little training to get ready for your trip so it doesn’t shock your body so much! I’ll pick Steve and Kelli’s brains for some ideas on how to train for biking, hiking and riding….even when you don’t have a horse at your front door. Maybe Kelli will pay attention to those same tips on her next run. I’ll try to as well.

Happy trails for now!

The reason I love booking Honeymoon Vacations

Melissa booked a reservation yesterday for a honeymoon vacation in the winter.  The winter season is my favorite time for honeymooners.  It's just perfect when the ranch is covered in snow and we are adults only.  That magic combination happens for most of January and the first half of February.

Maybe it's just because I love the mountains, and find the winter season to be magical.  But, to escape to the Colorado Rockies after the hustle and bustle of wedding planning seems just perfect to me.  For a honeymoon in Colorado, you want a secluded, special cabin.  Snow falling outside is nice.  A bubbling hot tub on the deck is pretty cool, especially after sitting in front of a roaring fire inside.  Also, have a vacation that is all-inclusive so you dont have to worry about pulling out your wallet and going over budget makes things easy for a young couple.  Lastly, with so many activities and fun things to do, couples can get out and laugh and learn together, before retreating to their romantic mountain getaway cabin.  

But, what Melissa and I talked about loving the most in booking honeymoon getaways is talking to the bride or groom on the phone.  There is so much anticipation in booking their vacation.  They are nervous making these big plans.  They want it to be just perfect, as this is such a special experience.  But, who knows?  When you look at a website, will it really be like what it says?  Where the fun is for us is reveling in their anxiety and excitement, knowing that this is a perfect spot for what they want.  The feeling Melissa had yesterday was the same one I've experience time and time again after booking a honeymoon vacation couple.  Excited for the couple and energized by knowing we are going to give them an amazing experience.

So, if you are looking for a romantic honeymoon getaway, give us a call.  We'll let you know why we think Vista Verde is a good fit for you!

Saying Goodbye

Our winter season here in Colorado has come to an end. Each year around February 1, I wonder why are we closing a month earlier than the Steamboat Ski Resort? For Vista Verde, the spring break crowd has never been a big one, and our bookings just slow down in March enough that it doesn’t make sense to stay open. One of these days we may make the push for it and see if we can fill up our cabins all the way through March. But for now, the season comes to an end this week.

The close of each season is always a little bittersweet. On one hand the seasonality of this business is fun for us “lifers” who are here for the long haul. It’s nice to have your year ebb and flow and as much as we enjoy the guests, we also enjoy the quiet nature of off-season. Project time. But for the staff who come and go throughout the years, the end of the season can mark a goodbye. This spring we have one really poignant goodbye. Those of you who have been here in the past several years will have known Bekah from either the dining room or housekeeping. After running the dining room, Bekah wanted a change of pace and moved into running our housekeeping department this past year. Not only has Bekah had her hand in both of these departments and done both great, but she’s been involved in so many other aspects around the ranch. Her passion for guest ranching and the Vista Verde approach towards betterness has always shown through. Although we’re sad to see Bekah go, we’re excited for her next step in life. For those of you who might not have known, Bekah is heading to Tenessee to put the final touches on her wedding to former head wrangler Rusty. They’ll be married later next month, and we wish them both the very best. Who knows, maybe this couple will find their way back to Colorado one day. The pull of ranch life is pretty strong! Thanks Bekah for all you’ve done. You’ll be missed.

A Simple Guide to Dude Ranch staff

If you want to provide the best dude ranch vacation to your guests, you have to start with the best dude ranch staff.  Yesterday marked the start of our orientation weeks, and we are already off to the races on getting our crews dialed in on how to do their jobs with excellence!

Typically, the first day of orientation involves this map.  Each staff member gets up and introduces themselves before planting a push pin on the map to show their hometown.  Part of what makes this a great dude ranch vacation experience is the fact that these talented people come from all over the country. This year, it was all USA, but some years we have folks from outside of the country.

Now, it’s time to work on learning the ins and outs of their departments.

The wranglers need to learn all the horses, their personalities, how we want to teach folks and where to take them on their riding holidays.

The housekeepers need to learn the level of cleanliness we expect for making our romantic cabins (hey, you can have romance whether you’re on a honeymoon or a family vacation) spotless and shiny.

The servers need to learn the proper serving style for a ranch that is luxurious, but still ranchy and friendly.

The guides need to learn where to take guests when they want to bike, hike or fish….because our all inclusive ranch resort is more than just a dude ranch.

The list goes on as each crew learns what it takes to try to provide the best dude ranch vacation out there!


Colorado Horsemanship Clinic

Last week was a fun week here at Vista Verde. It started off with a 5 day horsemanship clinic for overnight guests and finished with a one day Reining and Ranch versatility clinic for locals.

What is the difference? Well, they are very similar in many ways, but also very different. Obviously the 5 day horsemanship clinic gave a chance to spend more time focusing on more topics. One afternoon was all about conformation and understanding how the build of the horse affects their performance and what you can expect from them. Another session Terry focused on locomotion from the rear, in other words, how to make your horse move better by powering their energy from their back end for better performance. Of course, he spent some time working on the riders and their balance and breathing and how the horse recognizes subtle changes in both. We found that it was so engaging for the guests that even those who really wanted to pull away at least one day to go skiing couldn’t do it. In fact, Chris and Laura were rumored to be getting up early each day to go out and snowshoe at 7am so they could get outside, but not miss a moment of the clinic. That’s dedication!

For the Sunday Reining and Ranch Versatility clinic, we had a nice turnout. This group was here to pick Terry’s brains on how to better prepare their own horses for competition in these division. Some of the riders had younger horses, and some were riding more seasoned and well trained horses. Terry had this group fine tuning their stops and turns as well as spending a fair amount of time finding the perfect seat so they can sit quietly and effectively.

For those who haven’t spent time with Terry or another horse trainer, this stuff may all be almost laughable. However, once you dip your toe in the water (or should I say hoof? Sorry…had to..) it is really amazing stuff. The subtleties that horses pick up on in our movement and communications to them make a huge difference in how they respond to you. And learning to move the horse in different ways like moving their shoulders independently from their haunches to learning how to soften their mouths makes a huge difference in the enjoyment of the ride. A well trained horses is like driving a Mercedes. A poorly trained, unresponsive, dull horse is like…well, I won’t sabotage anyone here but it’s kind of like a car with a stuck gas pedal…nuff said. We’re shooting for Mercedes….the 4 wheel drive kind here. And by teaching our guests how to ride better and how to train our horses, we are getting there!