January 2011

The Spotlight is on Ben Martin

Ben would be one of the more obvious ones to spotlight over this past year, but he was never in the right place at the right time for me to catch him for an interview. For those of you who have been to the ranch, it’s hard to not know and love Ben. Officially, he shares the General Manager job with Dace. Unofficially, he’s the coffee and eggs guy. You can always count on Ben to sit down for his favorite meal with a big cup of coffee and share great stories about life at the ranch, oh, and maybe some opinions on sports too.

You see, Ben is not only a cowboy, he’s a sports fanatic. Raised in New Holland, PA, Ben was the youngest of 5 siblings, and the youngest of 49 grandchildren. Yep, you read that right. Growing up with all those kids, he had to be athletic to survive. Those skills took him to college where he studies marketing and was an All-American soccer player and track star before moving on to play pro indoor soccer for several years. After hanging up his cleats, he remains a sports fan so when he’s not ranching, you might find him cheering on the Phillies, Eagles and Flyers.

Back to the ranching side, Ben worked at Lost Valley Ranch, another Colorado dude ranch, for a number of years in the 90’s which is where he crossed paths with our own Dace and Terry. He left briefly to attend Denver Seminary school, receiving a Masters in Youth and Family studies. During that time, he met Holly and finally convinced her to marry him in 1997. Their marriage began with Amanda (now 21 and at college) and Chelsea (now 18 and about to head to college) as their flower girls, and later they added Annie (now 12) and Jack (now 9) to the family. After working as a Youth Pastor in Denver for 7 years, Ben returned to Lost Valley Ranch where he crossed paths with Jerry and Peggy shortly before they purchased Vista Verde. The rest is history as he and Dace teamed up to come to manage Jerry and Peggy’s new ranch.

In the midst of his juggling act of family man and dude ranch manager, Ben tells me he absolutely loves being here – he loves the people, the natural surroundings, and the activities. He loves that his family gets to live in a place like this. It’s pretty obvious Ben feels this way, although he left out how much he loves to go out on a horse and play with cows. And, he’s become quite the ski guide. It’s a rough life, so it’s a good thing we have someone like Ben to live it. Hopefully you’ll all get a chance to enjoy some eggs and coffee with Ben one day.

“If I could change anything about my life, I would eliminate some moments of gross immaturity between ages 14 and 24. Some might argue that the time span needs to be greater on both ends. But, it helps me understand, forgive, and care about others knowing I need it myself.” Quote by the wise Ben Martin

Trekaroo.com – January 2011

20 Vacation Spots For Kids Who Love Horses- Lydie Thomas

Horses are animals that have captured the hearts of children and adults for generations, and for anyone who loves horses, there is nothing more heavenly than spending a whole week in the company of these mighty yet gentle animals. Even if you’ve never had any experience horseback riding, a visit to a good dude ranch will be sure to make a rider out of you. They’ll take you patiently through the very beginning steps all the way through advance galloping rides. The perfect age to begin learning to horseback ride is about 6 or 7 years old. Many ranches will also offer childcare services for younger kids during riding hours.

But if a Dude Ranch vacation isn’t quite in your budget, this list also includes some horse-themed vacations that won’t break the bank, but will bring lots of joy to any one who loves horses. I have to confess that I’ve always been a little weary of of horses myself, but after putting together this list, I am now thinking of taking my family on a horse-themed vacation too.

So check out some of these wonderful ranches and equine facilities and plan to visit one of them soon.
1. Wilson Ranches Retreat Bed and Breakfast

16555 Butte Creek Road
Fossil, Oregon
Peaceful vacation: here we come. This is a 9,000 acres working cattle ranch and this will definitely be a change from your everyday life (unless you are a cow boy). You can go on horseback rides or decide to go move cattle. The horseback rides can last up to 5 hours, your choice. They even offer sunset horseback ride to view the Cascade Mountain and the sunset over Mt Hood. Special rates for family of 4 or more. Children have to be 6 to ride the horses.

2. Wild Horse Sanctuary

Wilson Hill Road
Shingletown, California
As the name indicates, wild horses live here in a safe environment. However in the summer, you can enjoy a 2 or 3 day week-ends pack trips and even 4 day cattle drive. During the fall, you can enjoy the real work in the farm with a 4 to 6 day cattle roundup and drive. It is a very different experience and it is good to know that the money raised with the rides help sustain the wild horses. Expensive but rustic. You can also see wild horses without riding on Saturday and Wednesdays all year long from 10 am to 4 pm (free).

3. Greenhorn Creek Guest Ranch

2116 Greenhorn Ranch Rd
Quincy, California
With miles of horseback riding trails adapted to each level, families are going to really enjoy their vacation at this dude ranch. Many activities are planned to fill the day of the little cow-boys and cow-girls. Children need to be 6 to ride the horses. Kids younger than 6 can enjoy the kiddie corral while mom and dad and the older sibling enjoy some horseback riding on their own.

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4. Ridgewood Ranch

16200 North Highway 101
Willits, California
Watch a documentary or the movie about Seabiscuit and then come to Ridgewood Ranch, home of the famous horse. You will not get to ride horses but you will learn how one horse can capture the heart of a nation.

5. Rankin Ranch

23500 Walker Basin Road
Caliente, California
No cell service and no television. And horses… Already the perfect start of a family vacation. Families can enjoy horseback riding through the mountain and meadow cattle country. During summer, children can enjoy a supervised children’s program with activities planned during the day. Children have to be 6 to ride the horses.

6. Quicksilver Miniature Horse Ranch

1555 Alamo Pintado Road
Solvang, California
This is an ideal stop if you have toddlers. They will get to tour the property and get up and close to the miniature horses. Tours are available only by appointment so make sure you call before showing up.

7. Circle Bar B Guest Ranch and Stable

1800 Refugio Rd.
Goleta, California
A perfect mix of a quiet and horse rides. Stay in one of their rustic (but with modern amenities) cabins and cottages and enjoy horseback rides ith beautiful views of California chaparral country and the Channel Islands. Children have to be 7 to ride the horses. And rides can be as short as 1.5 hours but can also last half a day.

8. McGarry Ranches

6140 West 5000 South
Rexburg, Idaho
If you decide to stay at the McGarry Ranch, you will be spend your vacation working but you will go back home happy, fulfilled, and with memories to last for a lifetime. 2,000 herds of cattle do not get moving alone so you will be complete part of the ranch experience. You can participate at the level you want, you can just go along for the ride or you can learn how to rope and work the cattle. Minimum age to ride is 8.

9. Western Pleasure Guest Ranch

1413 Upper Gold Creek
Sandpoint, Idaho
Kids of families who stay at the ranch during the summer can enjoy a very fun program. Children have to be between the age of 8 and 18. They will learn how to ride, take care of the horse and the equipment. They will have the time of their life and will never want to leave.

10. The Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain

15000 North Secret Springs Drive
Marana, Arizona
You can enjoy daily or sunset horseback and trail rides at the White Stallion Ranch by the hotel. Hotel guests enjoy special rates that can vary from $30 to $54 depending on the rides. Children 8 and older can go on fast rides, mountain rides and all day rides. 5 years and older have access to slow rides. All guests need to go on a slow ride before going on a more advanced ride.

11. Vista Verde Guest Ranch

Seedhouse Road
Steamboat Springs, Colorado
Vista Verde owns more than 90 horses so you are sure to find your favorite amongst them. They offer everything from private instruction to morning or afternoon trail rides and even evening dinner ride. They help you pick the best trail according to the level of everybody involved. If the whole family is experienced, they can even leave for the whole day with a picnic lunch. Children have to be 6 to ride the horses.

12. Black Mountain Ranch

4000 Conger Mesa Road
Mc Coy, Colorado
Black Mountain is a guest working ranch so expect a lot of action. A weeklong package will include on top of lodging and meal, horseback riding, cattle drive, overnight trip, whitewater rafting, fishing, archery, rodeo and much more. You can do as little or as much as you want. Admire the Rockies and just enjoy nature! Minimum riding age is 6 and they offer pony rides for younger kids.

13. Ghost Hotel

HC77 Box 11
Abiquiu, New Mexico
Enjoy exploring Georgia O’Keeffe backyard from the back of the horse. You will go where O’Keeffe got her inspiration and you can finish the day with a visit to the Georgia O’Keefe Museum in Santa Fe. You need to have a previous riding experience to go on the trail rides. Private rides accommodate any level. Reservation is mandatory: 505.685.433, ext. 0

14. Cowboy Campout

21978 Bays Chapel Road
Richards, Texas
The barn has been converted into a bunkhouse and that’s where you will be staying. It is rustic and authentic. The family will be treated with horseback riding, movies under the stars as well as chuck wagon dinners and much more. This is the perfect place to escape with your family for the week-end. 5 years old and up may be guided on a horse in the paddock area with parental supervision. Children 7 and up can ride on property only after a lesson.

15. Kentucky Horse Park

4089 Iron Works Parkway
Lexington, Kentucky
This is a must visit if you are in Kentucky. You will enjoy the visit of the Museum of the Horse, the Sattlebred Museum, a horse drawn tour and equine presentations. Famous horses Cigar and FunnyCide live on premises and children will get to see and maybe pat them. You can camp in the Horse Park.

16. Coldwater Ranch

Eminence, Missouri
You have to check their Cowboy Rough-out ride. adventure includes a guide, horse, tack, meals and a tent with a sleeping bag. You will take a trail that will take you across streams, up and down hills and you may even catch a glimpse of wild horses. You can even take a break and swim in the river. The day finishes with a ride back to the stables, food by the campfire and a night sleeping in the tent close to the barn. Any age is acceptable to participate.

17. Rockin’ P Public Riding Ranch

217 McNaughton Park Road
Pekin, Illinois
Enjoy a nice one or two hours ride allowing the family to enjoy a bonding experience. Reservations are required. Children need to be 8 to ride the horses. Budget.

18. The Outerbanks Area

Outer Banks
Corolla, North Carolina
If you like horses but are not too fond of riding them, you can also observe them in the outerbanks. they are wild and majestic and have no master.

19. Dutch Creek Trails

793 Rubin Walker Rd.
Vilas, North Carolina
You will meet Keith the cowboy poet and his friendly staff who will make sure you have a wonderful horseback riding experience. The ride last one hour and they will pick the trail that will most fit your taste and your level of experience.

20. Rocking Horse Ranch

600 Route 44/55
With a GPS use 600 US 44 Highland, New York
The horse activities are included in their vacation package so this is the perfect opportunity for the whole family to enjoy some horseback riding together. Riding starts at 7 year old. Younger kids can ride ponies. When you take a break from horseback riding, plenty of activities are waiting for you: indoor and outdoor pools, ski and snow fun if you are visiting during the winter. The perfect family vacation!

D Magazine- February 2011

Steamboat Springs: Skiing, Luxury, and Fun For the Kids- Nancy Nichols

Get your downhill runs out of the way and head north to Vista Verde Ranch for lots more fun. Kids? Not a problem.

WILDERNESS RESORT: I am sitting in a private hot tub on the deck of a log cabin at Vista Verde Ranch (vistaverde.com), which overlooks Colorado’s snow-covered Rocky Mountains. In the distance, the late-afternoon sun hits the peak of Mt. Zirkel, and, for a moment, the mountain appears to be topped with swirls of frozen peach yogurt. I sip a glass of wine and soak my tired body. But then the squeals of preteen girls zap the Zen out of my moment, and before I can drain my glass, three gleeful gals with frosty red noses are standing around the tub. “Let’s go, Uncle Nancy,” they say in unison. “We’re late for dinner.”

FUNNY FAMILY: I have five nieces, and they all call me Uncle Nancy. When I get the urge to have a child, I adopt one or all of my nieces and take them on an “Uncle Nancy Trip.” I was a little nervous about escorting three of them—Mia, 11; Katie, 12; and Hannah, 11—to Vista Verde Ranch. None of them had ever seen deep snow. And I’ve never had to shoulder the responsibility of transporting three young, overly active girls from their home in Dallas to a dude ranch tucked into the wilderness of the Elk River Valley, 25 miles north of Steamboat Springs. They wanted to learn to ski, sled, and ride horses. I wanted them to experience it all. At the same time, I could have used a little downtime.

RESORT RESCUE: I signed up to go during the ranch’s winter kids’ program, when the young, energetic outdoorsy staff is ramped up to entertain kids ages 6 and older. My girls shrieked with delight as Rachel showed us to our cozy three-bedroom, two-story cabin with a wood-burning fireplace, a minibar filled with snacks, and a refrigerator stocked with drinks. I was happy as well. There was high-speed internet, two bottles of complimentary wine, and a king-size lodgepole pine bed.

DINNER BELL: We made our way through the sidewalks, which were more like tunnels due to the 7-foot walls of snow on either side. As we entered the lodge, we were greeted by a staffer who directed the girls to the kids’ table. We all looked at each other. “Could I have dinner with them tonight?” I asked. Before I got an answer, I found myself standing alone.

PARENT TRAP: Three days later, my girls surfaced. They had learned to ride horses at Vista Verde’s heated indoor arena and knew every ranch hand by name. Their instructor, ranch trainer Terry Wegener, has an extensive background in reining and ranch versatility horse training, competition, and judging. He not only taught the girls how to ride but to communicate with their horses. (Of course, now they all want horses.) The girls spent an afternoon zooming up the side of a mountain in a snowmobile and sledding down. They’d spent hours hanging out at the Kids’ Cabin, where they traded e-mail addresses with kids from all over the country, played games, and watched movies. Sure, they had counselors with them at all times, but the rules were clear: no grown-ups allowed.

PERFECT FIT: Between my long naps and book reading, I did manage to share a few activities with the girls. We all learned to cross-country ski and cuddled under blankets for a horse-drawn sleigh ride, both of which allowed us to tour some of the ranch’s 540 acres. And I learned to fit in with the adults. Each night we gathered at a candlelit table, dined on gourmet cowboy cuisine, and talked about what most parents talk about: how much we miss our kids.

Snow Business

Before settling in at Vista Verde Ranch, many guests get their fix of downhill skiing in Steamboat Springs (steamboat.com). By the time they arrive at the ranch, they are ready to tackle the snowy adventures offered at Vista Verde. Don’t bother toting heavy equipment; the Nordic Center provides a full line of top-notch gear to make these winter ranch activities enjoyable. There are miles of trails for Nordic skiing. The property’s ski guides will escort you on full- or half-day backcountry tours. There are telemark instructors to help you learn or take you to some steep terrain where you can practice your skills. If you need an ego boost, try snowshoeing. Anybody can do it. All of these activities are covered in the daily rate of the lodge, but there are optional activities available at minimal charges. You can spend an afternoon dog sledding through the wilderness ($150 per person, children under 80 pounds $110) or climb a frozen waterfall using ice axes and crampons ($125 per person). Go for it all. The resort can arrange to have a massage therapist waiting for you when you return.

How To Get There:
United (united.com) offers daily nonstop flights from DFW to Steamboat Springs. A representative from Vista Verde will pick you up and transport you to the ranch. Colorado Dude Ranch Travel Service, 800-729-5521, is available to help you with flight and transportation arrangements.

Rates: A three-day minimum is required in the winter. The ranch is open for the dude ranch season from June though September and as a winter ranch from mid-December to early March.
Winter rates for cabins: $325 for one person to $2,000 for six per night. Capacity each night is 40.

Take the Kids: This season kids’ weeks run December 15 through January 5 and February 18 through March 20. Call 800-526-7433 or 970-879-3858 for more information or to make reservations. vistaverde.com

The Pre-Dawn Posse

I tend to come into the ranch early to catch up on my office work while it’s quiet. Most mornings, I have the place to myself. However, on snowy mornings like today, I come into a world of humming machinery and lights of the pre-dawn posse glowing in the distance. It takes a small army to keep up with the snow out here in the Colorado mountains. On these snowy mornings you’ll find Charlie grooming the ski trails with his snow-cat and Bill plowing the plowing the driveway in his truck. In addition, Javin was out on the tractor blowing the piles of snow that Bill pushed to the side of the mile-long driveway and John was over by the barn clearing the parking areas and maintenance areas in the skid steer.

As these guys are out clearing and packing the snow, the Chefs roll into the kitchen. Lewis and Lisa were the early crew in there this morning, preparing everything for Eggs Benedict and Banana Bread French Toast, among other breakfast offerings.
The snow falling dampens the sound of everyone working. It’s a quiet, efficient group of people hustling away at their work to make everything just right for the guests rolling in at breakfast time. We hope to see you step through the Lodge doors for your ranch breakfast at some point this winter!
You might even catch a glimpse of the moon peeping through the snow clouds like it did briefly before the snow began to fall in big, fat, fluffy flakes again.

Vista Verde Indulgences

For the past several years, I’ve been wanting to add to our spa menu, especially for the Winter guest ranch season. It was tough to find someone who lived close by who would be on call for spa services. Emmanell has been our long standing massage therapist, and she is great. Finally, I stumbled across Kate Hallman, a local esthetician. We met, we planned and now we are finally ready to unveil our new Spa services for this winter! So, in addition to a great massage after a day of skiing, horseback riding, or extreme sledding, you can indulge in a facial to revive your skin as well as other great spa services Kate will be offering. She uses a wonderful line of organic products from Phyt, so they are gentle on your skin.

As I am so excited about this new service, we will offer one free treatment with Kate to anyone who books a reservation for this winter between now and January 15. Kate’s ready to get started, so how about a little indulgence in between adventures at Vista Verde Ranch? Give me a call at 800-526-7433 to plan your Colorado winter vacation!

New Year’s Eve Menu

I’m still getting caught up from the holidays, so I don’t yet have the photos from the big night. For your culinary reading pleasure, here is the menu Chef Matt and the crew put together for our annual Progressive Dinner on skis and sleigh. It was a cold night, but the warm stops and great food and drink kept us all going strong.

New Years Eve
December 31st 2010

Kids Hut Menu- 1st course
Arugula salad with goat cheese, dried cranberries, roasted chestnuts,
and a white balsamic vinaigrette
House wine pairing
Bogle Pinot Noir

Hors d’oeuvre
Yukon potato chips topped with a grilled pineapple relish, crème fraiche, and golden reserve white sturgeon caviar
House wine pairing
Tangent Sauvignon Blanc

Kid Friendly Option
Artisan cheese tray with crackers
Beverage Pairing
Cranberry orange juice

Home Stead Menu-2nd course
Canadian lobster and vanilla bisque with sautéed lobster tail meat,
sherry wine crème fraiche, and petite chives
House Wine Pairing
Spiced Mulled Wine

Kids Option
Mini peanut butter and jelly sandwiches
Beverage Pairing
Spiced Apple Cider

Riding Arena Menu-3rd course
Seared foie gras served on toasted brioche topped with blackberry
preserves and micro basil
House wine pairing
Blue Moon Winter Ale

Kids Option
Fresh mozzarella and tomato sandwiches on French bread
Beverage pairing
Henry Wienhard’s Root Beer

Dining Room Menu-4th Course

Champagne Sorbet with a strawberry lime relish

Port Salut cheese roasted pheasant breast, pecan risotto, sautéed royal trumpet
mushrooms, roasted pheasant jus, butternut squash and micro orach
House wine pairing
Bogle Pinot Noir
Chef’s cellar pairing
Antica Terra, Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon, 2008

Tasmanian salmon
Baked Tasmanian salmon atop a bead of fava beans, grape tomatoes, and roasted peppers, classic buerre blanc with dill, steamed sugar snap peas, and micro basil
House wine pairing
William Hill Chardonnay
Chef’s cellar pairing
Shafer, Chardonnay, Red Shoulder Ranch, Napa Valley, California, 2008

American Kobe Flat Iron
Grilled Kobe flat iron steak, parsnip and potato puree, black truffle red wine demi glace, roasted cipollini onions, micro mustard greens, and wilted spinach
House wine pairing
Sebastian Cabernet Sauvignon
Chef’s cellar pairing
Shafer, One Point Five, Napa Valley, Stags Leap District, California, 2007

Assorted mousse in mini chocolate cups

Wild Blue Yonder- January 2011

Winter Guest Ranches- Wild Blue Yonder
By Gigi Ragland | January 1, 2011

Winter Guest Ranches

Escape the crowds packed into the mountain towns and ski hills at one of our select guest ranches in the Rockies. The horses may be boarded up for the season, but the snow adds a whole new dimension to the adventures available. Think backcountry or cross-country skiing, snowshoeing or even sledding through the near empty wilderness followed by savory meals served next to a roaring fire.

Clark, Colorado
31100 Seedhouse Rd, 970-879-3858

Buried deep inside the Routt National Forest, the Vista Verde morphs into a cross-country ski area each winter with 30 kilometers of groomed tracks, but it’s better known for backcountry skiing at “Hole in the Wall” a local’s favorite. Three square meals a day keep you fueled both day and night; moonlit cross-country skiing, snowshoeing or horseback rides are on the docket.

Feel like staying inside? At executive chef Matt Campbell’s weekly cooking class, guests enjoy one-on-one instruction preparing dishes such as salmon or lamb for the evening’s meal. Chef Campbell also hosts a weekly wine tasting for guests.

Granby, Colorado
3640 Hwy 125, 970-887-3344

Since opening in 1919, this legendary ranch and its five-star service has attracted generations of guests. And when the Colorado River valley’s blanketed with snow, the C Lazy U breaks out a buffet of winter activities to take advantage of its 8,200-acre spread of mountains, meadows and commanding views of the Continental Divide. There’s snow-cat skiing, pond skating, backcountry and cross-country skiing, tubing, sledding and snowshoeing.

Guests cozy up in their own cabins, but meet in the main lodge where chef John Adams creates and hones his “Colorado meets the Mediterranean” plates. A flavorful example: an appetizer of duck confit and Colorado goat cheese crostini.

Big Sky, Montana
750 Lone Mountain Ranch Rd, 406-995-4644

The 90 kilometers of cross-country ski trails that snake over and around the foothills of 11,166-foot Lone Peak have earned Lone Mountain the distinction of being called the best Nordic ski resort in the country. And that doesn’t even take into account the available backcountry ski touring available in nearby Yellowstone National Park.

The ranch’s success does owe much to the terrain, but its loyal guests also swear by chef Ian Troxler’s menu. Troxler believes in going straight to the source to get the best local products available. As a result, guests enjoy organic cheeses, naturally raised beef steaks, bison tenderloin, elk sausage, smoked rainbow trout, farm-raised pheasant and all manner of organic garden vegetables.

The epitome of a Lone Ranch meal is the North Fork Sleigh Ride Dinner where draft horses pull diners up to a log cabin lit by kerosene lamps and a dinner of prime rib cooked over a wood-fired stove awaits.

Clark, Colorado
54880 County Rd 129, 970-879-1780

Every winter, this Relais & Chateaux luxury dude ranch turns into a cross-country ski resort with 25 kilometers of groomed tracks spread over its 500 acres in the Elk River Valley. If that’s too tame, the ranch provides guided backcountry trips into the Routt National Forest next door.

Mountain splendor aside, what really sets Home Ranch apart are its 3- to 5-course gourmet meals ranging from filet mignon to lobster tails paired with fine wines designed by executive chef Clyde Nelson. Locals in nearby Steamboat Springs refer to Home Ranch as one of the finest “restaurants” in the area, one open only to guests.