October 2010

Tripadvisor Certificate of Excellence- October 2010

We just receive a nice letter from Tripadvisor congratulating us on so many positive reviews along with a 2010 Certificate of Excellence. That’s pretty cool! We have had a lot of great reviews, thanks to those of you who took the time to write up your thoughts after your dude ranch vacation. Thanks to everyone who has done that, and for any of you who have thought about it, we do so appreciate your candid reviews. So many people have chosen Vista Verde Ranch as their vacation spot due to those reviews on Tripadvisor.

Never Give Up

After two failed marriages I wanted to give up. My heart was broken, I felt all alone. Then I reconnected with God. I started attending church regularly just like when I was young. I felt like life was worth living again and then I reconnected with Jon from my kindergarten class. I hadn’t seen him in 40 years. We became best friends and are now dating. He treats me like a princess and I call him my knight in shining amour. I would love to go on a vacation, which I haven’t had in forever, and be with Jon in God’s country. We love nature and this would be a dream come true. (Well we did have one dream come true already, being together). Thank you.

Name: Marianne Laginess
City: Monroe
State: Michigan

Spotlight on Christi Cline

Christi Cline is proof that every business needs a former kindergarten teacher to be successful. Don’t laugh, I am currently spending much time in awe of kindergarten teachers as my oldest is in the big K and I watch her teacher manage those children with amazement. Then I walk in the door at Vista Verde and see Christi managing all of us, and the guests with those same skills. Not only is Christi (known as CC to many of us) wonderful with people and a joy to be around, but she brings a creative energy to the ranch that Ben and I lack, and Dace doesn’t have the time to pursue. I was reminded of this last week after asking CC to take on the project of giving our massage rooms some TLC. It was a fine room, but a former office and had never been given the attention we give the rest of the facilities. So, CC went to Denver armed with a very small check and lots of creative inspiration. Then she spent a couple days with dining room manager and roommate Sallie (we all wear many hats, especially in the off season) sneaking up to the massage room and not letting any of us in to see the progress. This past Thursday was the unveiling and it was like being on HGTV to see the change! No pictures here, you’ll just have to come out and get a massage on your next dude ranch vacation to see for yourself!

All this makes a point that we would be lost without the creativity, energy and enthusiasm CC brings to her job as front desk manager. Yes, kindergarten children all over the place are missing out with her at the ranch. But we are enjoying having her here to herd us around like the children we often can be, and to keep us all in line.

Not to miss out on a little background, CC came to us from Prescott, Arizona where she grew up and spent several years teaching. She is the youngest of 4 girls, and is very close with all her sisters, nieces and nephews, and her parents. Just before joining us, she had spent time living and working in Mexico. She fearlessly heads up our front desk, helps Kelli manage the store and assists me in every possible way with the office and marketing side of running the ranch. My girls love spending time with their CC, and she gets a chance to spoil them a bit when she takes care of them from time to time.

So, raise a glass to CC and all that she brings to Vista Verde!

My Story

My husband and I are 70, and 75 years old. I have breast cancer and my whole life I have owned horses and when I got cancer I gave them to my son not knowing what was going to happen. It broke my heart. One of my dreams have been to come to a ranch like yours but have not had the money to do so. I would love to come it would truly be a dream come true for us. Thank you.

Name: Addie Velharticky
City: Topeka
State: Kansas

Baby Update

Several of you have asked for an update on the foals so I finally took some time to go down and shoot some photos of them yesterday. They aren’t little babies anymore! It was so much fun to love on them, hug them, kiss them and get followed around the pasture trying to get the photos. It’s not easy to shoot a foal when they want to be right next to you. All of them are so friendly from the guests working with them this summer. And they are calm and relaxed, so I know they will make great guest ranch horses in a couple years for all of you!

The foals get another month or so to grow, play and hang out with their moms. Then, sometime around Thanksgiving, they will be weaned from their moms and Terry will take them down to his ranch on the other side of the mountains where they will spend the winter where there is less snow as it is a little harder to feed a growing adolescent at our Colorado winter resort. All of the moms except Mary Jane are in foal again (horse term for pregnant) and will be expecting early next summer. Our new stallion Whiskey will be the proud papa of all the foals next year and we’re excited to see his first foals.

So, I have a little challenge for those of you. Can you match the foal to the mom? I’ll post the challenge on our Facebook page to see who gets it right first!


I want to win a vacation to the beach so bad because it is so cold here. I don’t have the money for vacation because I have so many medical bills.

Name: Patricia Hamill
City: Nashville
State: TN

Snowshoe Magazine- October 2010

Adventure Guides for a Great Winter Snowshoe Experience
by Roger Lohr – XCSkiResorts.com

These days, snowshoeing is easy on packed and marked trails, but a lesser known secret about the winter ski experience is guided adventures in the backcountry.

Perhaps the term backcountry or adventure paints pictures of avalanches and extreme skiing movies. The fact is that this type of snowshoeing can mean anything from a quiet morning tromp through the woods, getting back in time for a bowl of hot soup in front of the fireplace, to a challenging all-day tramp to the top of the world. You can maneuver up hills and then swoosh back down, but if you don’t want any hills, you can snowshoe over frozen snow covered lakes, alongside rivers, or through meadows.

Guides can virtually hold you by the hand or offer a recommendation for a self-guided tour. They can suggest appropriate equipment and clothing to make it a more comfortable experience and they can offer ski instruction to a first-timer. Expect an experienced guide to help snowshoers master higher skill levels or lead those who are advanced on more extreme expeditions reaching new heights.

Adventure guides can plan your trip to match your skill level and desired intensity. The value of a guide is that your comfort level is increased multifold. That is because the experienced guide knows about trail and terrain selection to fit the snowshoer’s level; he or she knows technique tips to help successfully crossing terrain in different types of snow conditions. Most of all, the guide will give you personal attention and help you to avoid backcountry calamity.

A resort vacation is great, but while you’re there take half a day to snowshoe off into the untouched powder where the snow is fresh and fluffy. The pace might be like a long hiking trip – where you can hustle along if you’re looking for a killer workout, or just take your time and enjoy the scenery. Most guides love to talk, too. So, expect some gab about local historical, geological or interpretive to provide a more informative and interesting experience.

Guide services to backcountry adventures on XCSkiResorts.com include Vista Verde Ranch in Colorado.

Uncle Date’s Sleigh

Our previous visit to Vista Verde was in February of 2005… before we had kids. We own a few horses here in North Carolina but we were looking for a western ranch experience with winter horseback riding. While we get an occasional dusting of snow here in Eastern North Carolina we wanted to experience powder, horses in powder and all the great winter activities that are just not available here at home. We talked our friends Jamie and Linda into joining us and packed everything we could into our one week stay! We did spend a good bit of time riding the horses and it was fabulous but there were so many other things to do. We tried dogsledding, snowshoeing and rode snowmobiles for the first time. We spent a day downhill skiing at Steamboat and we soaked in the hot springs at Strawberry Park. We had the best sledding experience of our lives at the ranch. We also fell in love with cross country skiing. It was just something we had never had a chance to try here at home and could there possibly be a better place to learn than Vista Verde? It was (and I say this regularly) the best vacation experience of either of our lives.

So now we have two wonderful, intelligent and athletic kids. Darcy is five and John will be three in February. Since 2005 we have kept up with all of the changes at Vista Verde through the blog, Facebook and the website including new staff, new facilities, new ownership and the loss of the ranch’s visionary leader… and we waited. We have waited for the kids to grow up just enough. We have waited for them to crawl, then to walk and also to learn to ride. We have waited for them to learn to appreciate what they have and the opportunities they have been given. Perhaps most importantly, we have waited for them to be potty trained. We have waited to take the big winter vacation at Vista Verde until the kids were old enough to join us.

For the last two years we have waited for something else. About ten years ago I received a call from my now deceased great-uncle Date in Virginia. He wanted me to have his sleigh. It was an old pony sleigh, the Albany Cutter style with the graceful curves and delicate woodwork. He had pulled it out of a barn sometime in the sixties and had restored it (sort of) himself and painted it bright red. He kept a small horse near his home for several years and would hitch him to the sleigh for a drive about town when the weather permitted. The sleigh had been in storage for more than thirty years and was in a sorry state of disrepair. Date’s daughter-in-law had inquired about having the little sleigh to use as a planter in her front yard. He hated to think of the proud vehicle rotting away with a pot of begonias in the seat. I was his only relative with horses. When we picked the sleigh up I promised him we would drive it again someday. We placed the little sleigh in storage knowing that neither it nor the new owners were ready to go for a drive. My wife Amy is the equestrian but she had never operated a horse-drawn vehicle of any kind. In the fall of 2010 we decided it was time to purchase a pony for our daughter. We wanted a gentle, child-friendly pony with driving experience. We settled for gentle and child-friendly and sent our new pony off for a month of driving school. At the same time, we sent the little sleigh away for a professional restoration. It took nearly a year but in August of 2011 we brought home the nearly unrecognizable and very expensive sleigh. Restored to its original burgundy and red color scheme with gold pinstripes and wool upholstery it is a beautiful vehicle and something we hope to continue to pass through the family. It joined the pony, two harnesses and a cart which we had purchased for driving practice (something you can’t do very often with a sleigh in North Carolina it turns out) in a new barn built specifically for storage of these new toys. So we wait.

In 2010, before the sleigh was restored we were blessed with two wonderful winter storms which brought sleigh ride quality weather to our part of the country. In 2011 I brought the sleigh home and staged it by the barn door for easy access in the event of snowy weather. We purchased sleigh bells. We sing all of the sleigh riding songs… OK, both of the sleigh riding songs. We have built up the expectation of the sleigh riding experience for the kids to the point that they asked Santa for snow this year. Last winter was the warmest and driest on record here in North Carolina. This year, the same pattern has established itself. So we wait. The little sleigh still sits by the barn door ready to go. We have no snow.

Our Vista Verde winter vacation begins and ends with a nice long family sleigh ride through powder snow and the beautiful aspen trees. Let’s throw in a picnic lunch and hot chocolate! The kids know both the songs. Of course, in between sleigh rides we need to make room for snow shoeing, sledding, horseback rides, cross-country skiing and all of the incredible food. We hope to see you soon! Can we bring our own sleigh bells?

The Dean Family of Zebulon, NC – Matt, Amy, Darcy and John Wayne

Name: Matt & Amy Dean
City: Zebulon
State: NC

Real Weddings- October 2010

Mini-Moon: Vista Verde Ranch – by Darren Elms

Ready for a little romance way out West? Well, technically it’s east, for us Californians, but you can’t get more authentic than Colorado’s Vista Verde Ranch.

YES, it’s a luxury ranch, and you get to sleep indoors, but as a guest of Vista Verde once told them, “We were treated like royalty, but made to feel like family.”

Check out the property year round, but especially in autumn when Steamboat Springs explodes in seasonal color. You just don’t get that same experience in the Golden State.

Recommended Resort: Vista Verde Ranch. The facilities are rustic yet romantic, the setting breathtaking. Hosting no more than 40 folks at a time, the atmosphere is intimate and accommodating, and the staff is a joy to interact with.

The quiet, luxurious cabins are all standalone units, not duplexes, and range from one to three bedrooms and one to three bathrooms with living rooms, wood stoves and private hot tubs out on the deck. The spacious lodge rooms are very convenient and have sitting areas, balconies and gorgeous mountain views.

Check In: Vista Verde Ranch in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. 800-526-RIDE, vistaverde.com

Check Out: The Culinary Adventures. These weekly classes are held most of the season and offer a new kitchen challenge each session. Designed for skilled chefs, those who have trouble boiling water and everyone in between, there’s always something fun and new to be learned in the kitchen. Also, be sure to stop in to one of their wine tastings and pick up a whole new wine vocabulary along with techniques for picking the best bottles.

Don’t Miss: The horses. These creatures are the heart and soul of the ranch, offering talented instructors and first class facilities for a truly special experience. There’s nothing like saddling up and heading out to the breathtaking natural beauty that surrounds the ranch. For beginning riders, they provide training everyday and teach the various aspects of horsemanship. Rides happen in the mornings and afternoons, with day treks that stop for a picnic lunch at destinations like Pearl Lake or Elk River. Even if you travel in the snowy winter months, you can enjoy a ride in a full-sized indoor arena.

VVR Limerick

A man and his wife from Ohio,
Dream of winter in Colorado.
To ski, tube, and eat
Vista Verde can’t be beat
After three days they will start to feel mellow.

Summer days bring fun things to do
Like biking, hiking and canoes.
Winter is time to ski
With his sweetheart named Dee
They’ll hike the stream bank by snowshoe.

Days are spent gliding through white
Afternoon for cocktails and firelight
Take a quick nap
Go for a night lap
The snow looks magical by moonlight.

The sunlight shimmers through trees.
It’s like nothing you’ve ever seen.
The sky brilliant blue
You’ve never seen this hue
How could you doubt a Supreme Being?

Now, Terry trains guest friendly horses
and he offers guests great riding courses.
For an ornery old fart,
He’s quite equestrian smart
But we are scared to be one of his corpses!

We heard Steve has dreamed up a new sport
For the very adventurous sort
Its called riding snow bikes
can the tires have spikes?
It’s cold, we can’t wear spandex shorts!

We have come to love all the ranch hands
And the cowboy song-singing bands.
There are Steph, Kellie, and Ben
And many more to befriend
We will always be VVR fans.

It is already twenty thirteen
Who knows what the New Year will bring
Will the couple finally retire?
That’s what they desire
They want mountains and not warm marine.

Most go on vacation to lay
In the sunlight to soak up some rays
We love to ski
Our favorite place to be
Is tucked away at Vista Verde.

I hope you think our limerick is funny,
Mostly because we’re low on money
We really want to go
Where there’s five feet of snow
But we may have to pay you in honey!

Name: Greg and Dee Pifer
Company: Bluestem Farm
City: Baltimore
State: OH

4H Fundraiser with Brenn Hill- by Dace Starkweather

We had a gorgeous weekend for our 4-H fund raiser ride with country musician, Brenn Hill. The temps have been hanging out in the 70’s and the aspen leaves have hung on during our Indian summer. We had a blast as Jo and I took out a crew of local folks out for three hours horseback, along with Brenn. We meandered up past the aspen shelf on the Nature Trail, around Hinman Lake and then out to the Cliffs to kick back and check out views of the Agnes’ in their aspen splendor. On the way home coming down through Coulton Canyon, we saw a robust buck with enormous antlers checking us out from within the shadows of some blue spruce. It was fun to get to know some of our Routt County neighbors.

Once we returned to the lodge, Pat had an awesome lunch for us down on the patio. After eating, Brenn played a personal concert for everyone in the Great Room. He’s a talented musician whose soothing voice is able to capture the life of the cowboy through the poetic imagery of his words. It’s been fun to get to befriend Brenn and Casey over the last couple of years. We saddled up on Sunday morning and went out to look for some strays. (Bruce, if you’re reading this, we didn’t find anything, but we saw some gorgeous country!!) If you want to check out any of Brenn’s music, head over to www.brennhill.com Happy Trails! –Dace

Missing Snow in Sarasota

Oh how I sometimes miss the snow, don’t tell my Northeren friends they don’t need to know, You see I taunt them with our warm sunny days when three inches of snow falls and they’re stuck home for days. I grew up there but have been gone quite sometime. I miss the snow you see but I love the sunshine. A winter vacation with a 3 night stay would simply be perfect in Vista Verde!

Name: Susan G Safreed
City: Sarasota
State: florida

New Pony, New Homes, New Off-Season Office

The first week of our fall off-season brings lots of emotion, changes and new beginnings. We are sad to see the summer season come to a close, but are filled with excitement starting to plan for the winter and even next summer! Projects are in full swing, with several cabin remodels, an addition to our mare barn and finding new homes for our lovable little “oldies.” During my morning walk I ran into Terry, Jo and Nicky….I quickly fell in love with our new mare, Sunday. She arrived at the ranch yesterday from North Dakota and is closely related to our mare Mary Jane. We will work with her all winter and will add her to our breeding program; she has great confirmation and good blood lines.

Other barn news, Jo is in the process of finding new homes for our oldies. Blue will be going to Denver to a therapeutic riding center. He is calm, loving and will the perfect addition for them. He is part of my off-season office…this morning I got to answer phones during my “blog bareback photo shoot,” you gotta love the informality of off-season at a guest ranch. After being here for a little more than a year, I still wake up every day amazed that this is my job. Walking to work past the gorgeous gold aspens, having my morning coffee on Blue, and yesterday going for summer season recap ride with Steph. Life on a luxury guest ranch doesn’t get much better!

By Guest Blogger and Front Desk Mgr. Christi Cline (With help from Head Wrangler Johanna Stouder!)