October 2012

Planning for your Winter Vacation just got easier!

By Steph

Vista Verde Ranch and Christy Sports are working together to make your winter vacation planning a bit easier. Christy Sports at Gondola Square has been selected for an exclusive partnership for our ranch guests. As a guest of Vista Verde, you will have access to special pricing on downhill ski rentals as well as clothing for your winter vacation in Colorado.

The Christy Sports location we have partnered with is located right at the base of the gondola at the Steamboat Ski Resort. This makes picking up your gear and returning it easy and convenient. The shop has been awarded SKI magazine’s “North America’s Top Shop” award for 4 of the past 6 years. That is a pretty amazing feat, and we felt they deliver a quality experience that we want our guests to experience at the ranch, and off the ranch.

If you have already booked your winter vacation at the ranch, we will be sending more information as we finalize arrangements and get closer to your arrival. For those still thinking about booking a winter ranch vacation, know that we are working to make your planning easier!

First Snow: It’s a Winter Wonderland!

by Alaya

The first real snow of the season is always exciting. Overnight, as if by magic, the world outside the window is radically transformed into a magical playground. No wonder winter has been deemed a “wonderland.”

Every winter, the first snow brings the same renewed sense of excitement, wonder and play. Nevermind that this is the first taste of the long, cold season ahead. All of that is erased by pure beauty, a world stilled: tucked-in by a blanket of snow.

Looking out the window, our minds immediately conjure up the possibilities: sledding, skiing, building snowmen, making snow angels, or even starting the occasional snowball fight! And then there are the things we do when not out in the snow:

snuggling with a good book and a cup of cocoa by the fire, writing long letters to good friends, decorating our homes for the holiday season to come… The cold weather outside draws us back into the fire within our own hearts.

And so it is with this sense of warmth and wonder that we experience another year’s first snow here at Vista Verde. Here’s to the season ahead!

Introducing Amanda and David Gillie!

This past weekend we celebrated the marriage of Amanda and David. Amanda is Ben and Holly’s daughter, who has worked at the ranch during the summer months for many years. David and Amanda are high school sweethearts, and David gladly joined Amanda at the ranch each summer, and quickly became part of the family. Ben had the privilege and responsibility of officiating the ceremony….no pressure there.

It was a beautiful day filled with love and much celebration. The couple now plans to settle down in Denver. Chances are, we’ll be seeing them a fair amount at the ranch. I have a good feeling the call of the horse will lure David to the mountains, and the call of family will lure Amanda right along with him.

Congratulations from all of us at Vista Verde. We wish you a beautiful and blessed life together!

Chef’s Corner: Pumpkin Cheesecake [Recipe]

by Alaya

There is just something about fall that says, “Bring on the pumpkins!” Muffins, pies, lattes… it’s seems everywhere you go, you find this autumnal squash.

And I guess we’re no different here at VVR. As a treat for the few staff who are still here, Chef Chol recently made his delicious Pumpkin Cheesecake. (His recipe is shared below!)

After dinner, we gathered cozy by the fire, chatting and enjoying this seasonal dessert.

A clever alternative to the classic pumpkin pie, this cheesecake is hearty, without being too rich. It is sweet, with classic pumpkin-paired spices. (Goes great with a cup of coffee or homemade chai.) Chol served it to us with leftover caramel sauce and a dollop of whipped cream. Delicious!


Pumpkin Cheesecake
Makes one 10″ round cake


Ingredients (For Crust)

  • 1-1/4 cups toasted pecans
  • 1/4 cup panko bread crumb
  • 2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. melted butter


Ingredients (For Batter)

  •  36 ounces cream cheese
  • 9 ounces brown sugar
  • 6 ounces granulated sugar
  • 5 large eggs + 1 yolk
  • 1/4 cup + 3 Tblsp. all purpose flour
  • 1 1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 2 Tblsp. Brandy
  • 18 ounces pumpkin (canned or cooked)



  1.  In a food processor, combine all crust ingredients and pulse until crumbs and nuts are fine and it all comes together.
  2. Press crust into the bottom of a 10 inch spring form pan lined with parchment paper.
  3. Wrap the spring form pan in a double layer of aluminum foil, bake the crust at 325 degrees F for 5 minutes, let cool and chill in refrigerator until batter is prepared.
  4. In the bowl of a kitchen aid mixer (or in a mixing bowl with a hand held mixer) combine the cream cheese and the sugar and blend until smooth.
  5. Add the eggs and yolk one at a time, scraping down the bowl after each addition, and blend until incorporated.
  6. Add the flour, spices, brandy and pumpkin and mix until just combined (but do not over mix).
  7. Pour the batter into the spring form pan, place the spring form into a roasting pan and fill the roasting pan with warm water half way up the side of the spring form pan (hence the double layer of aluminum foil), place the roasting pan in the oven and bake for 1 hour, 15 minutes (or until the cheesecake is set). If the top of the cheesecake becomes too dark, cover loosely with a sheet of foil to prevent further browning.
  8. Remove the cheesecake from the oven, remove from the water bath (roasting pan) and place on the counter-top with a large mixing bowl turned over top to allow the cheesecake to cool slowly (if the cake cools too quickly, the top will tend to crack).
  9. After cooling for one hour, place the cheesecake in the refrigerator for another four hours to allow the cheesecake to fully cool and set up.
  10. Remove the cheesecake from the spring form pan, slice and serve with caramel sauce, whipped cream, pumpkinseed or pecan brittle, or all of the above.
  11. Enjoy!

Wow, you sure clean up nicely Sally

By Steph
In a blog post a while back, I mentioned that one of our guests, Wendy, bought a horse from us several years ago. Sally, the horse, was a sharp looking dude ranch horse. She traded her Western look for a much more sophisticated English style upon her move to the South. Recently, we received this fun update about a horse show that she and Wendy competed in, and won a first place ribbon and a second place ribbon. Sally and Wendy have also been practicing for a drill team presentation, but missed being able to perform due to bad weather.

It just goes to show that a girl from a dude ranch can clean up pretty well. Hmmm….I may have to take that to heart as I head out for some off-season adventures in the big city.

Off-Season Hobbies

by Alaya

It’s hard to believe that the 2012 summer season has come and gone. What a whirlwind!

We officially closed up shop on Saturday, and won’t open our doors to guests again until December 15. Of course, as Stephanie mentioned in her previous post, there is still plenty to be done. But even for those of us who will be around between now and December, work (and life) takes on a whole different pace.

Our seasons are busy, and while we love a little down time, those of us who like to “go go go” find we need something to keep us occupied in the off-season.

Whether here or away, it is not uncommon for our folks to use this time to take up a new project or hobby.

In talking to my fellow staff about their off season plans, I’m reminded once again of what’s so special about the staff here at Vista Verde. Plans are varied and interesting and include salsa dancing, drawing, leather work, construction & remodel projects, piano, travel, a new language… the whole gamut. Once again I impressed by the variety of skills, talents and the level of passion my co-workers have. I look forward to seeing everyone in December to hear about their off-season adventures.

As for myself, I just bought myself a new uke to play with. Hopefully I’ll have a few songs under my belt by the time our winter season begins.

October at Vista Verde

So, the dude ranch season ended September 30, and many assume we all pack up and take off for the Bahamas, or something like that. Although the thought of that is kind of attractive with a weather forecast of snow this weekend, there are no umbrella drinks in my future, or others here at the ranch.

Right after we close each season, we have the pleasure of sitting down in the Great room for two solid days, and break down the season step by step. The theme of our end of season meetings is “what worked and what didn’t”. Note the sarcasm in my use of the word pleasure, as getting a dozen people who are used to being outside all day and on the go at all times to sit down in meetings for two full days is not exactly an easy feat. There is a lot of squirming, and a lot of gazing out the window at the fabulous view, and maybe even a bit of day dreaming. But, it is a very effective time as we can map out what we need to do in order to make the next year even better. We take the feedback we received from all of you, the input from staff, and the experience we all have to look at whether everything we are doing is making this the best dude ranch experience we can possibly provide to our guests as well as the best work experience for our staff.

Following that, many of the crew took a 3 day break, while a few of us continued on the meeting track with some long range planning and strategy sessions. We had staff head out all over the state of Colorado, as well as some even going further on their adventures. We all reconvened at the ranch on Sunday, in time to check in a business retreat group. Some meetings, a lot of fun later, they headed out this morning and we have our second round of business retreats here having meetings in the Great room this morning. On Saturday, we will officially close the doors and most of the staff will head down the road for their next adventure in life, or just a break before the winter.

With the ranch moving towards off-season, those of us who are sticking around will be getting to those hefty to-do lists, and tackling them before we start ramping up for the winter season. More to follow in the coming weeks on what people are working on during this time. For me? An email newsletter should be coming in a couple weeks. Setting up the outfitters for the winter so we have plans in place for dogsledding, massages, etc… Updating the website. Getting all the winter guest information in place so we’re ready with schedules, program information, etc… And the list goes on. Luckily, much of it can be done inside as the weather may turn cruddy pretty soon here. Don’t start your snow dances yet, but it’s not far away.

Elk at Vista Verde

by Alaya

It’s amazing how quiet this ranch gets at the end of the season. Evenings around here are always tranquil, but without guests this place starts to feel like a ghost town. This has been especially true the past few days, as staff have scattered to their various adventures for a three-day weekend.

However, for several evenings in a row, we’ve had a distinct sound cut through the silence. Starting in the final weeks of September, each night we would hear the bugle of a elk bull calling to his herd of cows. Early in the mornings, and just after dusk the sound pierces the air: one part majestic, and three parts primal. It’s like no sound I’ve ever heard before. Even being woken by the sound in the early hours of the morning, rather than be frustrated (as is my usual reaction to an early wake-up call), I would smile to myself, exciting to know how close they are!

One evening, Chol spotted the cows in the Winter Pasture with the horses, and later caught sight of the bull rubbing his antlers against an aspen under the light of the full moon. How’s that for romantic imagery?

Sometimes I forget that we’re tucked right up against national forest land, wilderness and wildlife all around us. When they come to visit, it is a wonderful reminder of the full majesty of this place.

For more info on elk, check out the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation: http://www.rmef.org/ElkFacts.aspx

Growing up on a dude ranch

By Steph-

I passed by the mares the other afternoon, and noticed that they were alone. The foal weaning has begun. It’s a big step in a little horse’s life, and our little friends took that step this week. Once they are old enough, we move the foals away from their momma’s so they can take the next step in growing up to be civilized dude ranch horses. I asked Terry for an update on how they are doing, and here is what he had to say:

“We brought them up to the cow pen, right next to the Arena, so we could keep a close eye on them, and they would be far from their momma’s.

They have had a great start on training from the guests who visited our dude ranch all summer, and now they all are trying to find friends in the horse staff who go work with them daily (work is mostly petting and fellowship). Jr. really loves his mom and is still calling out to her so he’s keeping the girls awake in the barn apartments (barndominiums as we call them). Jr is the smallest and always will be, and just like Terry, he has “littleman complex”. So, he is really tough with his siblings yet he has plenty of time to be sweet and remains Nickys’ choice for “favorite baby”. Thermond (Hopalong Cassidy) is still struggling with trust; but we try to reassure him that all is well. He genuinely likes the ladies better than he likes the authority figure (ranch trainer Terry Wegener) so T-dub is trying to let him know all is well and safe. Chisholm is the most loving and kind and accepting of people. We must have gotten some sweet folks on his lead line…. Bailey loves Peggy. That was the big connect of the summer which was very sweet. These things just happen, and you never know who will be the one who the foal picks. Gemmy and Rascal were sold together to one of our guests and will winter as best friends. We will stay in touch with them and watch their development with great excitement. Rocket gets more elegant everyday and right now is showing the most changes. He is aptly named as he exudes speed and shows a mischievous nature that is really fun.”

As we get closer to our winter resort season, and the snow starts flying, we will send most of the foals down to the Front Range of Colorado to spend the winter growing up in a big, open pasture. They will be able to frolic with each other, and get bigger and stronger. Being at a winter resort with all the snow isn’t the best place for them, and so we’ll wait until next spring to bring them back and start their more official training.