August 2012

Hard work has its rewards

Ben and Holly’s son Jack, learned about the rewards of hard work this summer.  In the spring, he had asked if he could help out at the ranch a bit, and earn some money.  Of course, being the loving father, Ben told him he could help with washing dishes.  As it turns out, Jack was a lifesaver for our staff as he would jump in and help during the day with dishes, and make all of their lives much easier, and a bit more fun.  In between dish duty, he would learn from the chefs, and has gained an appreciation for the culinary arts.

But, the big payoff for Jack was when he cashed in his paychecks and bought himself an Ipad.  He bought it all by himself, with the money he earned helping out around the ranch this summer.

It’s fun to watch staff grow and develop, but I have to say we all took some serious pleasure in watching Jack enjoy the materialistic benefits of hard work on the day his Ipad arrived.   Now, it’s time to get ready to go back to school.  We hope Jack returns to school with some new life skills, pride in himself, and an understanding of what it means to help others.  But, if nothing else, he’ll have a rocking new Ipad to enjoy!

Happy Trails, and come back home real soon

For those of you who have been at the ranch over the years, you may remember Dace standing in front of the campfire saying, “Around here, we don’t say goodbye.  We say come back home real soon.”  That is his hallmark statement for anyone leaving the ranch.  At this time, it becomes our turn to say that to Dace.

Much to the loss of all of us, it became Dace’s time to move on to a new venture.  After over 6 years at the ranch, and being an integral part of what Vista Verde is today, Dace has hung up his cowboy hat and loaded up his truck to head down the driveway.

Although Dace has been a hugely influential part of molding the ranch into today’s Vista Verde, his biggest contribution has been visioning and piecing together the amazing staff that we have had the joy of working with each season.  This is no small feat to find the talented and service minded folks who he has found over the years, place them in the right spot on the ranch, and build the community that defines the ranch experience.  We have a great template in place now, so moving forward will be easy with what Dace has put in place for all of us to enjoy.

Dace’s impact on the ranch came through in so many different ways as well.  The music, the special events, the daily operations all are what they are because of his love of the guest ranch experience, his care for making each moment just right for all of you, and his joy in celebrating the ways in which we can impact people at the ranch.

In saying goodbye to Dace, we all lose a great friend, a mentor and a partner in our mission at Vista Verde.  But, we rejoice with him as he moves on in life.  Next up?  First, a little time focusing on his family and helping with some big events going on in their lives.  After that, he’s heading back to school to pursue another Masters Degree.  It’s time for Dace to start checking off some items on his bucket list that were hard to do when he had so much energy going toward the ranch.

So, at this time, please join us in saying Happy Trails to Dace.  But, it’s not goodbye.  It’s come back home real soon.  Thanks for being part of this great adventure that is Vista Verde. – August 2012

Vista Verde Ranch, Colorado

By , Guide

This luxury guest ranch near Steamboat Springs ski resort welcomes families year-round. Price includes gourmet meals, snacks, beverages (including beer and wine), evening entertainment, airport transfers, gratuities for staff, horseriding and many other outdoors activities. Accommodation-only rates are also available, whereby guests can pay for activities a la carte.

Families can stay in a lodge room or a luxury log cabin; the cabins are standalone units and have up to three bedrooms, with a woodstove and a private hot tub on the deck; fridges are stocked with complimentary beverages. Be prepared to relax and disconnect: there are no phones or tvs in the rooms. (Complimentary wireless is available, though.)

For evening meals, parents can opt for family-style dining, or indulge in a candlelight dinner while the young’uns have their own kid-friendly meal.

The ranch also has a kid’s hut play zone, a Great Room (photo above) with a nightly fire in winter months, and an indoor riding arena. Vista Verde has received a AAA Four Diamond Award.

Seasonal Activities

The all-inclusive rates at Vista Verde offer lots of outdoors fun that families can sample as much or as little as they like. In summer this include horseback riding, clinics with horse trainers and wranglers, guided hikes, guided mountain biking on trails or in a terrain park, use of bikes, guided fly fishing with gear, rock-climbing, river rafting and kayaking, a photography workshop, cooking classes, kids and teens programs, transport to Steamboat, and evening entertainment such as barn dances.* Guests can also enjoy the ranch’s swimming pool.

In winter, rates include guided backcountry skiing, snowshoe tours and cross-country trails, as well as the gear you’ll need for these activities. Winter also offers sledding, horseback rides, sleigh rides, a photography workshop, cooking classes, teen programs during holidays, and evening entertainment. Transportation is provided to and from Steamboat for ski days. Guests can also pay extra for dog sledding, snowmobiling, ice climbing, and massage treatments.

The holiday season is a top time to visit. Before Christmas, each family has its own tree in the lodge to decorate. Families can also try seasonal activities such as making decorations, and take a horse drawn sleigh ride to go caroling.

Kids and Teen Programs

Naturally, horse-riding is a primary focus for all ages, and kids are matched to an appropriate horse for the week. For other fun, “kid wranglers” take kids age 6 to 11 to treasure hunts, powwows in the tepee, boat races in the creek, gold-panning in the river, fishing, campfires… Meanwhile, teens age 12 and up have a separate program, with movie night, adventure rides, and other activities. – August 2012

Top 10 family resorts in the US

Geographically diverse, the U.S. offers an overwhelming range of destinations when it comes to planning family getaways. From Wild West ranches to laidback beaches to urban escapes, this list will help you hone in on a place for every interest. It also takes the adult factor into account. You may be a parent, but this is your vacation too, which means you want more than just water slides and bingo nights. What’s wrong with a great wine list, spa treatments and golf for mom and dad, along with circus activities, scavenger hunts and fire truck rides for the kids? Understanding the needs of adults and children, these properties are not only for staying together, but for playing together — and apart — while on holiday.

Ojai Valley Inn & Spa 
Popular as a weekend spa and golf escape for Angelenos, the Ojai Valley Inn & Spa offers an ideal retreat for both adults and kids. Dating back to the 1920s, this sumptuous property features kid-oriented adult activities such as biking and fishing, as well as Camp Ojai (ages five to twelve), where offerings include animal yoga, Chumash rock painting (based on local Native American traditions) and history hikes. Teens also enjoy dedicated programs, ranging from Friday night “dive-in” movies at the kid’s pool and Latin groove dance classes to tennis clinics, golf clinics and special spa treatments. Accommodations are residential in style, with comfy, contemporary ranch décor, and dining celebrates California produce and products. In short, this is the place to go when you want to combine luxury with an enriching experience for all ages. For more information, read a complete hotel review of Ojai Valley Inn & Spa

Steamboat Springs
Vista Verde 
You gotta love a place that boasts its own Kids Wranglers. No, these babysitters in boots don’t round ’em up and rope ’em in. Instead, they teach horseback riding basics, host powwows in teepees and fill tiny bellies with nutritious food while you enjoy a wine tasting class or dinner by candlelight. From the welcoming day hayride to the marshmallow roast on the last night, Vista Verde’s all-inclusive getaways are filled with traditional ranch activities and a few unusual extras, such as gold panning, hunting for animal tracks and fire truck rides — complete with sirens blaring — into town for hand-cranked ice cream. The ranch has separate programs for younger children and teens, so the older kids can play it cool while taking an adventure ride or embarking on an overnight campout. And if you’d like to come in the winter, kids will find just as much to do, with skiing, snowshoe outings and igloo building. Just outside Steamboat Springs, this working ranch offers lodge accommodation and private cabins with up to three bedrooms. For more information, visit VistaVerde.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge 
Antelopes, gazelles and giraffes, oh my! Leave it to Disney — creators of “The Lion King” — to bring the savannas of Africa to Orlando. Four tropical savannas, to be precise, separated by guest room wings. Make sure to ask for a room with a balcony overlooking the wildlife … and don’t be surprised when a zebra or wildebeest strolls by (at a safe distance). African style pervades this resort and 43-acre wildlife preserve, from the thatched roofs to handcrafted artifacts to regional cuisines. Kids are invited to participate in cultural safaris, night vision animal viewing and junior research projects; as well, they can hit the waterslide at Uzima pool or check out the flamingos while they play at Hakuna Matata Playground. Adults who want a night out on their own can entrust kids aged three to twelve to Simba’s Cubhouse, featuring supervised activities, Disney movies (big surprise) and dinner. Read a complete hotel review of Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge

Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach Resort & Spa 
Kids’ clubs are an art form at luxury resorts in Hawaii, but the Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach Resort & Spa offers more than just a few youth-oriented activities. Everything about the property feels as if it was made to accommodate parents traveling with their offspring, from Atlantis submarine tours (check out the sunken coastal freighter and old passenger plane) to the Friday night fireworks show with hula dancing. This 22-acre beachfront “village” in Waikiki also offers more than a dozen restaurant options, daily wildlife feedings on the grounds and Camp Penguin for ages five to twelve. The half- and full-day programs (for a fee) include diversions such as supervised Hawaiian crafts, lei-making, Hawaiian storytelling and outside visits to places like the Waikiki Museum.

New York City
Four Seasons Hotel New York 
We have always loved the Four Seasons hotel group for its efforts to pamper little ones. Call before you arrive, give the names and ages of your kids, and they will be welcomed with special amenities, appropriately sized robes, board games, coloring books, children’s DVDs and complimentary toiletries (for babies). Kids’ dishes are offered in the restaurant and on the room service menu, and the range of freebies is seemingly endless: childproofing, cribs and rollaways, Diaper Genies, bottle warmers and even strollers for perambulating Park and Madison Avenues. Take advantage of babysitting services while you hit the spa, and ask the concierge to help arrange carriage rides, museum tours and helicopter excursions. Best of all, there’s no extra charge for kids seventeen and under to share a room with their folks. Read a complete hotel review of Four Seasons Hotel New York

Lake Toxaway 
Earthshine Mountain Lodge 
All-inclusive, Earthshine Mountain Lodge introduces kids and parents to an eclectic range of experiences. On Pioneer Mornings, you can apprentice in a blacksmith shop, press apple cider and make candles. And on Cherokee Mornings, you can learn the traditional ways of the Cherokee tribe, with activities that include making pottery and throwing tomahawks. Educational opportunities include the Destination 1840 immersion in living history, and Earth Explorers, where folktales become reality as kids discover their natural surroundings. Because the resort believes that family vacations are about more than just dropping your children off at the “kids’ club” and then heading to the spa and golf course, activities here are made for the entire family — creek hikes, turtle tracking and zip-lining are just the beginning. There are even Hunger Games weekends for fans of the popular book. Storybook rooms are available in the hand-built cedar lodge, while the Sunrise Cottage offers a selection of larger family suites. For more information, visit

Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Gainey Ranch 
With its scenic championship golf and pampering Spa Avania, this 27-acre Hyatt Regency knows how to meet adult needs. And if those adults happen to be traveling with their youngsters, they can rest assured that they can actually get some R&R while their offspring are entertained at Camp Hyatt Kachina (with two programs for ages three to five and six to twelve). Heavily influenced by Native American culture, the camp offers a wealth of activities, including arrowhead arts and crafts and Apache relay races, as well as desert scavenger hunts, mining at the Lost Dutchman’s mine, cactus garden tours, Western sand art and Mexican bark painting. Enhancing the resort’s draw for families even further is a 2.5-acre water playground with ten pools and a sand beach. For more information, visit

The Hotel Hershey 
When it comes to product placement, it doesn’t get more scrumptious than this. Willy Wonka, eat your heart out. Just one aspect of the Hershey, Pennsylvania experience, The Hotel Hershey pairs adult pastimes such as golf and spa treatments (chocolate-themed, of course) with the Cocoa Kids Club, a daily supervised program (for a fee) featuring tennis, basketball, swimming and arts and crafts. For guests thirteen to seventeen years of age, Club Adventure sessions include hiking and woodland exploration, team-building activities, skating and scavenger hunts. Nearby Hershey Park boasts eleven different roller coasters. And the hands-on, interactive Hershey’s Chocolate World will tempt sweet tooths of all ages with an inside look at chocolate making: take a simulated ride through the Hershey’s factory, create your own candy bar (including packaging) and save your appetite for a chocolate tasting adventure. Surprisingly — and pleasantly — the hotel itself avoids kitsch; Spanish in style, it was built in the 1930s (though it has been renovated and expanded) and is a member of Historic Hotels of America. For more information, visit

Barton Creek Resort & Spa 
From the Kids Club (six months to eight years) to Camp Barton (with no more than five kids per counselor), Barton Creek Resort & Spa will keep your offspring entertained. Swimming, nature trail hikes and scavenger hunts are just a few of the standard activities on offer, while fishing excursions and Friday Field Trips offer new experiences for young guests. During the summer, weeks at the camp are themed — for example, Buckaroo Blow-Out Week focuses on cowboy activities, while Party with the Planets Week gives kids the chance to discover the mysteries of outer space. Although this property has all of the expected kid-centric amenities, they have a hard time competing with the outdoor allure of this 4,000-acre Texas Hill Country resort. As for mom and dad, relaxation comes in many forms: unwind in the spa, play a round on the golf course or curl up with the kiddies for family movie night on weekend evenings. For more information, visit

Highgate Springs 
The Tyler Place Family Resort 
Since 1933, Tyler Place Family Resort has been specializing in family vacations. Unlike many resorts that focus on the kindergarten and grade school crowds, this one caters to all ages, from newborns (musical games, bikes with baby seats, a fleet of strollers) to teens (water skiing, ropes courses, campouts). Those who came as kids when Tyler Place first opened now bring their great-grandchildren. It’s hard to name an experience you won’t find at this 165-acre lakefront property: it offers lake trampolines, circus activities, family field days and pontoon boat rides. There are special weekend and weeklong family retreats, and plenty of adult pursuits, like meditative yoga, pottery classes and Champagne cruises. With a picturesque setting on Lake Champlain, the resort features a selection of cottages and suites, all with separate parents’ bedrooms. Though they’re rustic rather than swanky, the accommodations are just right for a casual family escape. For more information, visit


The Unexpected Guest

Every once in awhile we have a guest show up without a reservation – it’s okay though, because they’re not really looking for a place to stay. Just something to nibble on before they get back on the trail.

I’m talking about our wildlife visitors! Chipmunks and songbirds are ubiquitous. Deer are also common. They sometimes sidle up to the salt lick while the horses are distracted.  I remember a dramatic sight during staff orientation when a moose raced in front of the Great Room windows. We regularly hear the call of the sandhill crane, or the yapping of coyotes. On a walk the other day, I surprised a badger on the trail.

Recently we’ve had an extra exciting visitor come down from the hills: a female black bear!
It’s been so dry up in the hills that the (not so) little one has found her way down to the ranch. In looking for food, she found the motherload – a bunch of spilled bird seed underneath the bird feeders. Footprints and droppings were the first sign of her. Since then we’ve set up a trail camera and have been watching her every move (literally) for the past few days. She comes, eats, rests, and then goes.

It’s pretty clear that she’s timid. She comes only at night. Other than what is captured on the trail camera, no one has actually seen her in the flesh. We have been extra diligent about keeping our trash locked up!

In native Ute mythology, the bear represents strength, wisdom and survival skills. Each spring they come together for the annual Bear Dance – speculated to perhaps be the original line dance. They celebrate the end of the winter and the emergence of the bear out of hibernation. Traditionally, it was a time when the people, too, would come out of hibernation. They would come together once again after a long cold winter to celebrate, play and tell stories.

It may be late summer, but we continue to carry a bit of that spirit in what we do here. All summer long, Vista Verde is a place to come together to adventure, to play, to celebrate and to enjoy one another’s company!

We’ll continue to watch the bear by way of the trail camera. Her stays are already getting shorter as the spilled seed runs out. We are grateful for the excitement and story-telling value of her visit – but for the time being, we’ll continue to keep our trash locked up tight!

Bread making success

I received this wonderful email the other day, and it was a great reminder of the little ways people take home pieces of Vista Verde in their hearts, and in their kitchens in this case.


It’s a miracle! Thanks to Cholly and his wonderful cooking class on Bread-making. I finally know how to make Sourdough bread.

I tried all of 2011 and gave up finally after trying many recipes.

Well, I began the starter after we returned from the ranch and today made the bread. It is wonderful!

Tell Cholly he made my YEAR!

Love to you all.


New Adventures in the Old West

When most of us think of a western dude ranch, we think of horses, cowboys, and possibly the cattle. Our minds conjure up images of open vistas, traversing the open-range on horseback.

But what does the west have to offer someone who – gasp – isn’t into horses?

Believe it or not, we do have guests that aren’t interested in riding a horse at all during the week. It doesn’t happen very often, but when it does, it’s okay. Because the west (and this ranch) have a surprising amount to offer in the non-equine department.

Most of these activities fall into the category that our lead guide Steve enthusiastically refers to as “new west.” This includes adventure activities such as hiking, mountain biking, fly fishing, yoga, rock-climbing, kayaking and rafting.

Each provides an opportunity to enjoy the great outdoors –  the fresh air, beautiful vistas and impressive landscapes – while engaged in unique and challenging physical activity.

Just like horseback riding at the ranch, these activities can be tailored for any level of experience or fitness acuity. Which means it’s a great place to start a new hobby – or, if you’re already an experienced athelete in the chosen activity, to take yourself to the next level.

New west provides adventure, athleticism, and appreciation for the natural environment.

The beauty of Vista Verde is that we offer this menu of “new west” activities in harmony with our “traditional” trail-riding and horse training and breeding programs.

With a menu of so many options to choose from, there really is something for everyone.

So, the next time you’re here and need a break from the saddle, trade in your cowboy boots and hop on the back of a mountain bike instead and see what “new west” has to offer.

The power of a photo

Often times, guests get better photos than any professional photographer can capture at the ranch.  That is the advantage   of staying at a place for an extended period of time- you have more chances of being at the right place at the right time.   We always appreciate it when our guests share a great photo, or several great photos, they took during their stay.

Earlier this summer, we shared on our Facebook page, some great shots taken by John on the 4th of July, that blew me away.  This one of Nicky coming home from our Star Spangled Stampede, was powerful.

Last week, Tammy shared an amazing photo she took during her stay.  It was a very special photo, and I put it up on our Facebook page Sunday morning.  Well, the photo went completely viral, and took off on Facebook.  The marketing geek in me found it fascinating to watch the stats grow through that day, and the following days.  As of this morning, the photo had been seen by almost 15,000 people.  61 people shared that photo on their wall, about 750 people “liked” the photo, and we have had 82 people make comments to us about the photo.  For a little dude ranch in Northwest Colorado, those are significant numbers!

I love the light in this photo, and it is real, for those of you who asked.  We do truly get sunsets like this at Vista Verde!

Another great photo from the summer is this shot taken by Debbie, who shared a group of her photos with us this past week as well.  I think it really captures the magic of the morning round up at Vista Verde.  It’s always a peaceful time, with amazing morning light, until the horses come charging into the corral.  They kick up dust, raise the energy level and stir up the calm that is sitting over the ranch.

Thanks to all our wonderful guests who share photos of their stays with the ranch.  We greatly appreciate having the shots, and love sharing them with all of you too!  Even if you don’t get a chance to visit the ranch, you can enjoy a bit of an armchair voyage through photos.