December 2010

The Excitement of Christmas

I’m still buzzing from last week. This year was truly one of the most exciting Christmases at Vista Verde for me. It’s always great here for the holidays, but this year may go down as the best ever in my book. Why?

I’ve been trying to figure out what it was that created this above and beyond magic for me this year. It’s partly a fact that I have been working REALLY hard since mid-summer to find ways to put Vista Verde’s winter guest ranch season in front of more people. With all that work has created a lot more calls, emails and inquiries. It’s been fun to talk with so many people about the ranch, but it’s also kept me busier than ever before. I wasn’t sure it was going to be a gang-buster holiday season back in August. But, by the time we got to opening day, the calendar had filled up with reservations from folks all over the country. So, feeling pleased to see all these families was just the start of the excitement. When they walked in the doors of the Lodge the first time, I knew it was going to be great. Each time we checked in a new family, Christi, Hannah and I would look at each other and say, “They are just soooo nice!”. And these really nice people were also just really excited to be here. I mean bouncing off the walls, giggling in the dining room, smiling so much your cheeks hurt kind of excited. It’s hard for that kind of energy not to be contagious. So I caught that bug.

In addition to all this wonderful energy and fun times, we have had the most amazing staff. Again, those of you who have been here before may say the last staff you met was the most amazing. But this crew, they really take the cake on that award. They are fun, enthusiastic, hard working and they have that factor of “getting it”. I have seen more ownership, logical decision making, and thoughtful initiation of ideas with this group than I’ve ever seen with a crew before. With people like Sallie running the dining room, Steve and Kelli in the Nordic Center and Jo, Terry and Nicky in the barn, we also have a lot of continuity to make this just run like they should.

My memories of this past Christmas will keep me smiling for a long time. Most of the families have since headed home and we now have another fabulous group of energetic and excited guests here to ring in the New Year. My hat goes off to all of you who took a leap to try us out for such a special and personal holiday. I hope your memories are keeping you smiling throughout your days too.

There’s still time to book your Colorado winter vacation at Vista Verde! Nudge, nudge, wink, wink. We turn over to adults only in about a week, so get the girlfriends together for some snow play or grab your sweetie for a romantic getaway. In mid-February, the families start coming again and we’re open until March 20 for those of you with early spring breaks. Give it a try this year- it’s healthy, it will fuel your energy, it will make 2011 a better year! Wow, now that’s a guarantee.

Happy Holidays to all of you from all of us at Vista Verde Ranch. We wish you the best in 2011!
Stephanie and the VVR Crew – December 2010

Steamboat Is Featured In Eddie Bauer Catalog– Shannon Luthy, Colorado Editor

Steamboat received plenty of ink in the “Christmas in Steamboat” edition of the Eddie Bauer catalog. Page after page featured the northern Colorado town, also known as “Ski Town U.S.A.” Olympian’s were featured on a page titled, “Steamboat’s Legendary Winter Olympians Meet Up With Eddie’s Legendary Down Sweater.” Those featured include Nelson Carmichael, Todd Lodwick, Bugs Werner, Johnny Spillane, Caroline Lalive, and Chris Puckett.

Steamboat’s ski and snowboard instructors also are outfitted in Eddie Bauer.

One of the principals in the Eddie Bauer company apparently spends time in Steamboat and got in touch with officials of the ski area. Loryn Kasten with the Steamboat Ski Area says Eddie Bauer thought Steamboat would be a great location for the holidays, to show the Christmas spirit. “It’s a prime example of alternative means for the resort to speak to clients and potential guests to get the message out about what a great destination Steamboat is.”

It’s more than just the catalog, according to Kasten. “I was just in Denver at the mall and saw huge displays of Steamboat, with the More Barn, and Champagne Powder Snow. It’s great exposure for Steamboat and the community as a whole.”

It was a community effort, with shooting locations on the mountain, at Marabou Ranch, and Vista Verde Ranch, as well as downtown on Lincoln Avenue, which is Steamboat’s main drag. “The Steamboat Chamber was very helpful, as well as the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club kids who came out for a shoot at Howelsen Hill with Billy Kidd.

“The end result is definitely a prime example of how the community comes together to get the word out about Ski Town U.S.A.,” said Kasten.

Sales, Marketing and Moving Furniture

Last week Christi blogged about how job titles are kind of a funny thing around here. I laughed as I started to write this week’s post as it is so, so true. Yes, my main role at the ranch is to focus on the reservations and marketing. Yet, last week I found myself out of the office more than I was in the office because I was busy redecorating cabins, moving furniture and picking through art.

As many of you know, we spent the fall remodeling several of our cabins. Well, Bill and a crew spent the fall remodeling….I just stuck my nose in every now and then to see the progress and helped provide support for the decorating choices. Well, the last mirrors are being hung, the beloved hooks back up on the walls and the dust wiped off every surface. So last week I spent a lot of time overseeing the furniture move, which of course opens the door for furniture swapping from cabin to cabin as well as rearranging with the new floor spaces. Although I’m still muddling through where to put art, what art needs to be replaced or updated and getting the new bedding in (it better arrive this week!) and new curtains hung…I can tell you they are GORGEOUS!! Big Agnes and Little Agnes were the most dramatic remodels and I think I may have a new favorite cabin. The living room space is more logical and laid out better. There is more light with the addition of some new windows. The master bathroom….oh baby. And the upstairs got a major facelift. Saddle also got a brand spanking new master bathroom that is ohh, la, la. Sand and Farwell got some little tweaks here and there but mostly just keeping up with the other 3 cabins with new carpet, paint, floor materials, countertops, fixtures, etc, etc, etc.. I just can’t wait for those of you coming out for the holidays to see them! It’s truly exciting. I tried to get some pictures, but this may require a professional as mine didn’t do the cabins justice.

Speaking of exciting, Dace earned his hiring wings once again with a knock out crew for the winter dude ranch season. We have spent this past week getting to know them, showing them the ropes and having a little fun too. What a great crew! They are from all over the place- West Coast to East Coast and even our lone Brit representative in the Kitchen. Speaking of the kitchen, Matt has a completely brand new team in there and the energy is insanely contagious. When I need a lift, I just walk in there and watch them work and it revs me up. Everyone is talented, professional and passionate. I may be using the word excited too much, but we are pumped!

So, get your plane ticket, pack your bags and give me a call to book your winter vacation at Vista Verde! You may catch me answering the phone from out in a cabin….but I sure hope you get a chance to join the excitement out here this winter!

And that’s the latest from your all-inclusive Colorado resort (I told you I was in marketing too, right?) headquarters. Oh, and did I forget to mention that a Vista Verde Ranch stay makes a great romantic winter vacation idea? Guys…still looking for that last minute present??? Tee hee, can’t help myself.

LA Times- December 2010

Thank you to Amanda Jones for a beautifully written story!

Snow, Horses and Family in Steamboat Springs, Colorado
– by Amanda Jones

Reporting from Steamboat Springs, Colo. —
When I was a teenager, I cut out a magazine photo showing a cowgirl riding a horse through thigh-high snow. The image was so exotic and romantic that I pasted it to my mirror as a reminder of what I wanted from life. So when I had the chance to take Indigo, my horse-mad 12-year-old daughter, to join friends at Vista Verde Ranch outside Steamboat Springs in midwinter, I had an ulterior motive: I was going to fulfill my cowgirl fantasy.

The plan was to spend four nights at Vista Verde, a summer-winter guest ranch, and three at Steamboat Springs ski resort.

Vista Verde is 25 miles from downtown Steamboat in the middle of the Mt. Zirkel Wilderness Area. Even swaddled in snow, the 600-acre property offers an extraordinary panorama of rivers, mountains and forests. The nine cabins and three lodge rooms can house as many as 40 people, although in winter there usually are 20 to 30 guests at a time. Management is careful not to call Vista Verde a “dude” ranch. “There’s a terrible impression of beans and weenies that comes with that term,” said Stephanie Wilson, guest relations manager.

Our cabin, Little Agnes, was cozy: two bedrooms, a sitting room, a kitchenette and a hot tub on the deck. It was decorated traditionally, with a wood-burning stove, leather chairs and oak furniture. It felt like a friend’s guesthouse, with plenty of room for a preteen unpacking explosion.

Part of Vista Verde’s attraction was Terry Wegener and the heated indoor riding arena. Riding in thigh-high snow might be romantic, but it has its limitations. An arena allows you to take lessons and ride for hours in a T-shirt. Wegener is a horse breeder, trainer, champion roper and a true-blue horse whisperer. Although he doesn’t look like the Robert Redford character in the movie “The Horse Whisperer,” he gets the same respect from horses.

Vista Verde is an all-inclusive resort, meaning you don’t pay extra for its array of activities. I relished the 2 1/2 hours we spent each morning in the arena learning the subtle art of flying lead changes and postural communication. “There’s a big difference between sitting on a horse and riding a horse,” Wegener told me, perhaps casting aspersions on my ability. “The horse should know how to move just by where you point your hips.” Wegener proved to be a perceptive and relaxed instructor, and Indigo and I became hip-rotating, intuitive riders.

The ranch is not just for riders. We were also seduced by backcountry skiing. With hundreds of acres and few people, no one was around to laugh at our feeble first attempts. We were entreated to try backcountry by Steve and Kelli King and their also-12-year-old daughter, Maddie. The Kings run the Nordic center at Vista Verde. “Cross-country is wonderful here and you can go for hours on our trails, but you’ve got to try backcountry. There’s nothing like it,” Steve King told me, strapping on a backpack stuffed with outdoor rescue gear.

Backcountry skis are thicker and heavier than their cross-country cousins, with scales on the bottom to grip the snow. This means no trail is required, so you merrily make your own way up hill and over dale. One blue-sky day, Steve and Maddie took us up the Elk River. After a couple of spills, Indigo, who has only downhill skied, mastered the motion and was off in Maddie’s wake. I was less adept, using the dazzling scenery as an excuse for my frequent pauses. It was, as Indigo said, “Snow Queen kingdom-ish,” with shimmering trees, the whispering river and silky mounds of white.

Although we were at Vista Verde for five days, we ran out of time for all the activities and wished we’d stayed a week. We did, however, manage to go sledding and snowshoeing and to take a sleigh ride. I also fulfilled my fantasy of trail riding in the snow, although I was wearing ski pants, a parka and goggles rather than the chaps and cowgirl hat ensemble in that girlhood photo.

At night we’d eat country gourmet food with other families and then assemble in the soaring great room to listen to the cowboy staff singing songs by the “indoor campfire.” The music was especially endearing, particularly “The Last Cowboy,” once famously sung by Kris Kristofferson, Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson, and its line, “Another piece of America is lost.” Hearing this made me content that Indigo was witnessing this piece of her national heritage and that there are still places where we can experience an iconic way of life.

We left Vista Verde late on our fifth day and drove through Steamboat Springs to our accommodations on the slopes of Steamboat Ski Resort. In the heart of the Colorado Rockies, Steamboat is known as one of the best ski hills in America, with nearly 3,000 acres of terrain, 3,670 feet of vertical drop, 165 trails (one more than three miles long), an average snowfall of 349 inches and world-famous “champagne powder” for tree skiers.

Because our group of friends had kids in tow, we chose ski-in/ski-out accommodations, meaning there would be no hellish schlepping of gear. We could store everything in lockers downstairs, where we had only to gear up and waddle 15 feet to the snow.

We rented a condominium at the Edgemont, just above the gondola. Ours was a new, chic two-bedroom with a full stainless-and-granite kitchen (with Viking range), dining table, living room, washer/dryer, luxe bathrooms and a view of the children’s terrain park, where kids would wave up at their parents midair. Downstairs were a heated pool and hot tub.

Well aware of my inclination to get lost and ski out of bounds, Indigo and I took a lesson the first morning to get the lay of the land. Our instructor didn’t do much instructing, but we did learn the mountain, which is actually six peaks linked by 18 chairlifts. The best part was when he took us through the trees and into that champagne powder. We live in California, where Sierra cement is the norm, so this was Indigo’s first time in powder. “It’s like meditating,” she yelled as she whipped past me, “so calming.” Not that the child has meditated for even a single second.

We ate some dinners in the condo, thanks to a supermarket at the base of the hill, reached by Edgemont’s free shuttle. One afternoon we took the shuttle into Steamboat Springs, where we bought big-buckled Western belts and wool-lined boots at F.M. Light & Sons, had tea and scones and bought books at Off the Beaten Path bookstore and cafe, procured fudge at the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory and joined Steamboat resident friends at the decidedly non-cowboy Bistro C.V. for dinner. Indigo, who survives on mac ‘n’ cheese, ordered grilled romaine with garlic truffle dressing, Chinook salmon tartare and a Wagu beef burger with foie gras and aioli. Amazing what tree skiing does to an appetite.

Steamboat was founded in the early 1800s by fur trappers and still has that frontier look. It houses about 10,000 Mountain Hardwear-and-cowboy-boot-wearing locals, a five-block stretch of movie set-style brick buildings and a disproportionate number of Winter Olympics athletes.

The area is also known for its thermal springs, so one snowy afternoon we headed to Strawberry Park Hot Springs, seven miles outside town. The pools are surrounded by trees and mountains and are contained by a series of rock walls stepping down the valley. Seeing humans crouched in the steaming water — eyes half-mast, snowflakes coating their hair — I was reminded of the blissed-out snow monkeys of Japan.

The following day we flew out over the Rockies in all their craggy, rumpled splendor. It had taken me 30 years to ride a horse in the snow, but I’d done it. And I’d also done things that reminded me of how well life had turned out, including watching my daughter out-ski me in the trees.

Sunshine and Sand in Steamboat Springs

Several weeks ago, when I was in the midst of the fall mud season….the time when we change from gorgeous fall weather to spectacular winter, I got a call from some guest friends who were vacationing in Hawaii. That time of year can be gray, dreary, rainy and just plain cruddy here in Steamboat Springs so I was especially jealous of these friends. So I told them to send me some sunshine and sand. And this morning I opened a box of….sunshine and sand! With that, I had to plop in the snow and enjoy a little virtual vacation on the beach. Luckily, the sun came out this morning after snow falling all night and it’s actually quite wonderful here today. We have more snow right now than we have ever had at this time of year at our Steamboat Springs guest ranch.

Whether you are dreaming of snow or sand….happy dreaming! I’m enjoying both right now! I’ll update you on the cabin remodels in a few days. I’m still busy directing traffic as we move furniture back into the finished cabins. Oh, they are beautiful!

HGTV Rustic Winter Mantel Feature

Job descriptions at any guest ranch are a bit vague, just ask Steph Wilson, director of Marketing and Reservations with a side of wrangling, yoga, winter guiding, training, purchasing…and well the list goes on. Sallie Hallmark, Front of the House Manager and myself can add Creative Designer to our job descriptions here at Vista Verde. Just before going on vacation Sallie and I took on the task of designing a winter mantel to be submitted to HGTV. We started brainstorming and came up with a theme that is reflected throughout our Colorado ranch resort, which is rustic luxurious. We wanted different colors, textures and layers and we wanted it to feel just as warm to the eye as it did when sitting by the fire. Upon completion, Nathan, a wrangler and our amazing resident photographer captured some great shots. We submitted them to HGTV and received a “thank you for your submission” email. When I came in this morning and checked my email there was an awesome surprise, an email from HGTV’s Decorating Editor and a link to the HGTV Winter Mantel article. We are amongst the company of many luxurious destinations, including the Fairmont Chateau Whistler in Whistler, British Columbia, the Ritz London Hotel in England and the Biltmore in Asheville, North Carolina. We are excited to be with fellow luxury hotel and resort destinations. You can check out our rustic mantel by clicking on the link, or even better, come sit by the fire during an apres ski with a glass of wine and delicious gourmet appetizers.

‘Til Next Time…Christi Cline, Front Desk Manager and newly appointed Designer