April 2010

Baby any day and a new horse

For a while there, it seemed like winter at the ranch would never leave. But, even though we’re still getting some snow here and there, it is melting away faster than it’s falling these days. We’re down to bare grown right in most places right around the ranch buildings, and the fences out in the pastures are finally fully exposed. On a sunny day like today, it feels like spring should feel. And with spring in the air, we’re getting ready for the first foal to arrive….any day now.
In the meantime, a crew from the ranch headed down to the Legends of Ranching horse sale at Colorado State University this past weekend. We were taking bets on how full the trailer would be on the way home. Apparently the recession has ended in the horse world as the prices were much, much higher this year than last. Because the horses were going for a fair bit, we only ended up with one little filly. She’s a cutie though, and is getting used to her new home. She is a 2 year old, so will take some training before we start using her for riding. She may be one who is rotated between the broodmare herd and the riding herd over the years. SCR Badger Pep is her registered name, and her nickname is still to be determined. She’s a sweetheart!

Your first winter snow vacation

So, you’re a bona fide beach lover.  But, there is this lingering curiosity about what it would be like to take a vacation in the snow.  Whether it’s a family snow vacation you’re considering or a romantic winter getaway, it can be a little daunting to figure out how to tackle that kind of trip for the first time.  How about a little help?

First off, you need to decide how you want to experience the snow.  If the idea of shooshing down the slopes and enjoy apres ski drinks at the bar sounds appealing, you definitely need to consider a ski resort vacation.  Of course we’re biased, but the Steamboat Ski Resort would be our pick, among all the great ski resorts in the country.  I have always been biased to finding a hotel or condo right on the slopes, so you can walk out your condo door and put your skis on right away.  But, there are plenty of places that offer shuttle services too, so don’t be put off by a little distance from the ticket office.  If you are downhill skiing for the first time, I have one and only one suggestion.  Get lessons.  Pay the extra to have an instructor show you the ropes.  It is too frustrating, and you are spending too much money on this vacation already, not to go the extra mile to do it right.

If the crowds and social scene of a big ski resort aren’t up your alley, what are your options?  You could just rent a small cabin in the woods somewhere with snow and have a DIY snow vacation.  Buy a cheap sled for the kids, bring along some hot chocolate, and enjoy.  Or, you can visit a cross country ski lodge.  There is some great cross country skiing in Colorado, but there are also nice ski lodges in the other Western states as well as the East Coast.  Some are more geared toward family snow vacation, and some just for hard cord cross country skiers.

Of course, I left my personal favorite option for the finale.  A winter guest ranch!  It is the best of both worlds for a winter vacation idea.  You get the snow, the beautiful Lodge, the great meals, the beautiful vistas, the warm Western hospitality, all wrapped up in an all inclusive package.  All you need to do is get to the airport, and we take it from there.  No rental car, shuttle services, or bellhops to tip.  At Vista Verde, we will pick you up from the Steamboat airport and whisk you off to the ranch with a friendly driver.  Once at the ranch, you can choose daily from a diverse offering of activities.  No planning ahead of time, calling around for the best options, or finding the lines too long.  Snowshoe, sled, horseback ride, sleigh ride, you name it….we’ll provide you a personalized and unique experience.  Meals are all included, as is beer and wine.  So, once again, no reservations, long waits or planning needed.  Just show up at mealtime, and we’ll take it from there.  If you have kids, it’s a great option for introducing them to the snow as your cabin is right there to go back to for dry clothes or to take a break.  Honeymooners find it a unique option as the planning is easy, the setting romantic, and the service top notch.

Whatever path you choose, we hope you’ll give it a try.  Winter is fun, especially when you dont have to worry about shovelling your driveway!  Come see why we love winter vacations at Vista Verde Ranch!

Spotlight on Dace Starkweather

Many of you have gotten to know Dace in your time at the Ranch. Officially, he’s the General Manager who focuses on the staffing side of the business. Unofficially, he’s the do it all guy. Both at the ranch and on his off time, Dace is a guy with surprising skills and interests.

Raised on a farm in rural Illinois, but just an hour or so from Chicago, Dace had an innate love for nature and solitude, but a taste for culture and the arts. He grew up with 2 younger sisters and 2 older brothers, and stays close to all of them to this day. In fact, Dace is the proud and fun-loving uncle of 8 nieces and nephews with another arriving soon.

After leaving Illinois to attend college at CU Boulder, Dace essentially never looked back. He discovered guest ranches in Colorado as a wrangler during his summer breaks and that relationship extended well past graduation as he helped manage and run a well established Colorado guest ranch for years.

Next up, Dace attended Biola University in California for his Masters in Organizational Leadership while also working at the Disney Grand California, for a different angle into the world of hospitality. It was shortly after that Dace ended up learning about the opportunity to come be General Manager at Vista Verde Ranch. He and Ben both interviewed for the job and agreed that it would best be approached by them sharing the role and each having their own focus.

Where things get interesting about Dace is to understand the various layers of his passions. An avid sports fan, Dace is currently rooting for the Chicago Black hawks to make their first run at the Stanley Cup. But, taking a break from that, he moves into his studio upstairs (pictured) to work on some of his paintings that he is considering submitting for an art show this Spring. You’ll not only find a guitar in Dace’s office for singing around the campfire, but he plays often at home. Time away from the ranch has taken Dace to China to be a speaker on hospitality, to visit family and explore places like Mackinaw Island, Puerto Rico and the southern states.

Right now Dace is finishing up the hiring for the summer season. He has all positions filled except for the last fishing guide. I’m sure he’ll be celebrating when he fills that last spot! We hope you get to meet Dace if you haven’t already. And if you have, know that he’ll be waiting by the campfire with his guitar for you next time you’re out this way.

A honeymoon story from the past

I met a gentleman the other day who had spent his honeymoon at Vista Verde 51 years ago.  He came for a visit with his great friend, Elvin Tufly, who family owned the ranch from the 30's to the 70's.  It was great to visit with Elvin's family and friend, and hear stories from days gone.  

A Colorado honeymoon 51 years ago was probably a lot different than the romantic honeymoon getaways we are providing guests these days!  There weren't bubbling hot tubs, luxury cabin, gourmet meals and guides waiting to take the couple out into the mountains to play.  But, the same serene vistas and peacefull quiet provided the young couple a chance to relax and enjoy the beauty of the ranch.

What a great treat to meet these folks, hear their stories, and imagine what life was like at our special Colorado dude ranch just 50 years ago.  

Round Bellies

I went to visit the broodmares yesterday down at the mare barn. They are getting big round bellies, with the babies expected to begin arriving in early May. Chex and Teletubby were outside and were pretty hard to get a picture of as they just wanted to follow me around and see what I had in my hands. They are such sweet girls, and we’re hoping their foals get their pretty looks and kind personalities. It was a cold and snowy day yesterday, but they were still happy to be outside of their stalls getting fresh air. Today is going to be a better day for sunbathing, which is one of the broodmares favorite past times. Our spring newsletter is going out this week with some more information on who is expecting babies, so stay tuned. And you can count on cute baby pictures here on the blog and on our Facebook page as soon as they arrive! Did you also see that we were included in Sherman’s Travel as one of 10.

Summer Staff

Dace is busy putting the final touches on the roster for our summer staff. It hasn’t been too tough of a job this spring considering about 75% of the crew are returning staff so he hasn’t had to vet too many new applicants. So, who, you ask, is coming back? Here’s the quick rundown:
Kitchen– Chefs Matt and Pat will be back at it with Rob.
Dining room– Sallie is staying on to oversee the servers and to see what the ranch looks like without snow.
Kids and Teens– Ready? Mandy, Amanda, Chelsea, Lindsey, Grace and Jen.
Housekeepers– Teresa tried to leave, but couldn’t do it, and Amber is sticking around to see what’s under all that snow.
Wranglers– Johanna, Terry and Nicky of course. Then, Rachel is back in the saddle along with Nate, David, Amanda and Leslie.
Ranch Hands– Jess and Javin are tipping the scales to become lifers. Daniel (from winter) and Stephanie (from last summer) jump into the ranch hand crew this summer.
Fly fishing– Grahm is another one who can’t get rid of us.
Guides– Joining Steve and Kelli will be two return staff members, but new to the guide program- Bekah and Cliff. They are already starting some bike training with a spring trip to Moab!
Office– Christi sticks around for another season to keep Dace, Ben and Steph lined out. Thank goodness!

So there’s your sneak preview. If you want to know more, you’ll have to book a stay so you can get the full staff story and visit with all these incredible people!