June 2012

Travel + Leisure – June 2012

America’s Best All-Inclusive Resorts by Suzanne Rowan Kelleher

Vista Verde Guest Ranch, Steamboat Springs, CO

“Picture this,” raves Jamie Pearson on her Travel Savvy Mom blog: “After an outrageously fun day of riding, learning to herd cattle, or watching your kids compete in a just-for-fun rodeo, you unwind on the porch of your private cabin in your private Jacuzzi. It’s heaven.” It’s otherwise known as Vista Verde Guest Ranch, where rates include meals and all beverages; horseback riding; guided hiking, biking, and fly-fishing; river rafting and kayaking; kids’ and teens’ programs; evening barn dances and rodeos; and shuttle service to and from Steamboat Springs.

Price Tag: Weekly rates from $2,900 per adult and $2,300 per child under 11 staying in the lodge; add $400 per person for a cabin.

Thelma and Louise take on Vista Verde Ranch

We had some fun visitors stop by the other day to see the ranch.  It was in the whirlwind of a Sunday turnover, as we were getting ready for some more families to arrive.  All of us were running several directions at once.  Lucky for me, I got a few minutes to show these gals around and hear their story.  Elaine and Marlene are two women with a strong travel bug.  After both of them got through raising children, and had some 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 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 adventure!

I didn’t get a chance to spend too much time with these gals, but I was so taken by their travel stories and reason for their visit that I took a picture of them before they headed off to see the Zirkel Wilderness area, just up the road from the ranch.

If you get a chance, check out their website and learn about the Wild Women Wanderers.

Chef’s Corner: Naranjillo Spanish Appetizer [Recipe]

Today is Chef Cholly’s birthday, and to  celebrate we’re sharing the recipe for his Naranjillos (or “Little Oranges.”)

Guests get a hand at making these small golden delights each week in Chef Cholly’s Friday afternoon cooking class. They are then served as an appetizer before the Friday-night meal – a continuation of our Spanish-themed Friday lunch. (Think: aromatic paella, cool and zesty gazpacho, nutty chickpea salad…)

These are a twist on the Italian arancini (also meaning “little orange.”) They get their name from their size, shape, and the deep golden hue they acquire in the frying process. In Chef Cholly’s Spanish version, the saffron-infused paella-style rice imparts an extra hit of gold. Breaded, fried, and filled with a tangy Spanish sheep cheese, these “little oranges” are a real treat!

Perfect as an appetizer, these “little oranges” always snatched up and enjoyed thoroughly. The best part? They’re easy to make! Kids are great at shaping the rice balls, making them a great family cooking activity. (Just watch those small hands near the hot oil!)

Start with Chef Cholly’s recipe below. If you’re feeling adventurous, try using different ingredients. Pair chorizo or olives with the Manchego to punch-up the Spanish theme. Ground meat, mozzarella, marinara, and peas will give you an Italian classic. You might even try a curried version with potatoes and peas to capture the flavors of India. (You can skip the saffron with these.) The possibilities are endless!

Recipe: Naranjillo (Little Oranges) – makes 20


½  pound semi-soft Manchego cheese – diced into 1 /2 inch pieces
  • 2 cups bomba rice 
5 cups chicken or vegetable broth, simmering
15 threads of saffron
½ cup olive oil
  • Salt
  • Flour for dusting
4 eggs
  • Fine panko bread crumbs (or fine regular bread crumbs)
    (Make regular breadcrumbs fine by pulsing them in a food processor
  • Oil for frying (Canola, peanut, or other high-temp oil)


  1. Heat a skillet on medium-high on the stove and add olive oil, then add rice and “toast” the rice in the skillet until it is almost translucent (10Mins.). Add the saffron, let the oils run and then add the stock (or water), salt and pepper to taste.
  2. Cook the rice until all the water is absorbed and the rice is over-cooked but still maintains its shape (mostly). Transfer to a flat pan to cool.
  3. In the meantime, gather your flour, bread crumbs and eggs (crack and beat the eggs), and place each in its own pan, bowl or container.
  4. Go back to the cheese and rice, take a piece of cheese and “wrap” rice around it to form a rice ball (with Manchego cheese in the middle). The rice should be sticky from over cooking and shape into a ball nicely.
  5. When all balls have been formed, dust the rice balls in seasoned flour, then dip in egg and finally into bread crumbs. Make sure rice balls are evenly coated.
  6. Cover and refrigerate the Naranjillo until cool and ready to use.
  7. Heat oil in a tall-sided pan (or use a fry daddy!) to 350 degrees F/(177 degrees C). Drop the Naranjillo into the oil for 1 -2 minutes until golden and heated through.
  8. Drain over paper towel and let cool a few minutes before eating so as not to burn the roof of your mouth!  Enjoy!

The romance factor at Vista Verde

Yesterday’s post by Alaya, along with receiving some great photos from a wedding of former staff members 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 have a strong romance factor.  But, it doesn’t stop with the guests.  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 then go on to date and get married.
To start off, we should all send a great Congrats to Stacy and Daniel Knapp, who just tied the knot this past weekend.  The two of them worked at our Colorado ranch several years ago, and began a relationship as they were making their plans to move on to the real world.  What is even more fun 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.

This got me thinking about where we are in the marriage count.  I can only count back as long as I’ve been at the ranch, but here is what I come up with.  If any former staff are reading this, please comment and let me know if I’ve missed a couple:

Robin and Aaron

Sarah and Mark

Meredith and Tom

Adair and Dusty

Ashley and Ryan

Jill and Doug

Alaya and Cholly

Ashley and Jonathan

Julie and Austin

Bekah and Rusty

Rachael and Brett

Stacy and Daniel

Johanna and Javin

Who are we missing?

Love is in the Air at Vista Verde Guest Ranch!

It is something in the air?

Romance  seems to abound here at Vista Verde. I wrote last week about how I met my (now) husband here six years ago, and know several other couples who met here and are still together years later.

There’s something about the west that is just plain romantic. Gorgeous mountain vistas, a light breeze, adventure in the air – makes for the perfect romantic setting. Even an east coast girl like me can get wrapped up in the draw of rugged cowboy chivalry.

A few weeks ago, we had a young couple stay with us. Kelly worked for us years ago (actually the same summer I met my man!), so she knew she was in for the ultimate Colorado ranch experience, but I’m not sure she had any idea just how romantic it would get.

Her man worked with us behind the scenes to plan a private afternoon horseback ride to the cliffs. Chocolate-dipped strawberries, a bottle of bubbly and a beautiful view… plus, the all-important element of surprise. It doesn’t get much more romantic than that!

She got to say “Yes!” to a modern cowboy, fresh out of the stirrups and down on one knee – boots, hat and all!

Congratulations and best wishes to the newly engaged couple!

Who knows…. maybe they’ll be back to celebrate their honeymoon with us?

Feels Like Home to Me

The word home has embedded itself deeply in both my head and heart since moving back to Vista Verde last month with my husband, Cholly. We met here six years ago – me as a housekeeper for the summer, and him with several years as sous chef under his belt.

At the end of that summer, I stole him back east for several years, to be near friends and family, and to eventually get married in my hometown.

Eventually we found ourselves yearning for adventure and our return to Colorado was plotted. At first we chose a more urban version of the Colorado dream, landing in Boulder and living there for over a year. Even during this time we would fantasize:

“What if we could go back to Vista Verde?”

You can imagine our surprise and delight when we heard that there was an opening for a chef position.

As we explained the move to our friends and family, I kept hearing Cholly say to them, “It’s my second home.” And he’s right. There is just something about this place. And as good as it felt to be here six years ago, it somehow feels even better now.

And so here we are. The summer season began last Sunday, and with it the excitement and inevitable hustle of preparing for the first guests to arrive. (You know the feeling. It’s the anticipation you feel on the morning on Thanksgiving morning; you’ve been cooking & cleaning for hours and you can’t help checking the drive every few minutes to see who might have arrived while you were peeling the final carrot.)

As we were preparing at the front desk to start checking families in, one of our young guests (returning after a stay with us last summer) came bursting through the doors, pink-cheeked and slightly out of breath, and a giant smile on her face.

She was so excited to be here that she had asked her family to drop her off down the driveway, figuring she could get herself here faster than the car could drive (or at least have a place to channel her excitement!)

When her family finally caught up, her grandmother told us: “She’s been talking all week about this. She kept saying, ‘We’re going home!’”I couldn’t help but smile and feel my heart warm. This girl felt the same thing that Cholly and I felt. Even though she spends the majority of her year thousands of miles a way, and spends one mere week of her summer here at Vista Verde, it still feels like coming home.

And that’s just the thing about Vista Verde. Staff returns. Guests return. Because here it feels like home, and it feels like family.

Equitrekking.com – June 2012

Luxury Dude Ranch Vacations

June 4, 2012

Interested in “roughing it” in style? Don’t want to sacrifice comfort while communing with nature? Here’s what to expect on a luxury dude ranch vacation.

by Darley Newman

If camping out under the stars isn’t your thing, but you like to ride horses or want a very comfortable ranch vacation, a luxury dude ranch vacation might be a good fit for you. After researching upscale ranch holidays across the United States and Canada, I came up with answers to some common questions travelers may have about what type of vacation they’ll experience at one of these luxury ranches and some fun photos from ranches that you might want to choose.


One of the biggest modern luxuries for riders who visit Home Ranch in Colorado is the million acres of Rocky Mountain Wilderness.

What are the accommodations like at a luxury dude ranch?

As in with any upscale vacation, accommodations vary, but many luxury dude ranches offer beautiful Western decor. You may recline on handmade log furniture. You may be staying in your own cabin, an elegantly furnished log structure or entire ranch style home with grand stone fireplaces, a hot tub and fully stocked bar.

At BC’s Siwash Lake Ranch, suites and luxury tents have plush linens, private baths, balconies and beautiful lake and wilderness views.

Other ranches help you feel closer to nature in plush tents–– tents that you won’t be pitching yourself. Many are constructed on wooden floors and have en suite bathrooms, art decorating the walls, and even electricity.


Adobe-style log beams, Native American rugs, and king beds with down comforters decorate rooms at Home Ranch. 

How much does a luxury ranch vacation cost?

Riding vacations in general can be economical, which surprises many people when they think about how expensive it is to keep a horse! Ranch vacations average from around $1000 or $2000 per person for an all-inclusive week to around $3500. Considering that this includes all riding, meals, accommodations and sometimes transportation, this can be a good deal. Another advantage of many ranch and riding vacations is that you can know your budget well ahead of time.

Luxury ranch vacations that I came across ranged from $250 a night per person double occupancy to $7,500 and more. The sky is the limit, as are the perks!

What are some fun perks those prices include on luxury dude ranch holidays?

Your vacation package may include private guides for hiking, fly-fishing or horse riding, golf, gourmet meals, dinner shows, fitness centers, indoor riding arenas, hot tubs, personal chefs, spa time and private cabins with fully stocked bars.


Rancho de los Caballeros in Arizona offers Home Sweet Home Milk Baths, brown sugar scrubs and peppermint essential oil body wraps. 
For instance at Home Ranch in Colorado, food is a major focus. Dinner may consist of pan-seared quail stuffed with dates and prosciutto topped with a demi-glace and Maytag bleu cheese crumbles over soft polenta with manchego cheese and asparagus or crispy seared Alaskan halibut with braised spinach, wild rice pilaf and glazed baby carrots. Is your mouth watering yet?

At Vista Verde Ranch, a Colorado luxury ranch resort, an Executive Chef hosts a hands-on cooking classes and wine tastings. House wines, beer and a variety of sodas are included in your stay.


Vista Verde Ranch hosts formal multi-course dinners to delight ranch “foodies.”

Learn about luxury ranch vacations and other upscale equestrian vacation destinations in the luxury ranch guide in the Equitrekking Vacation Guide.