June 2013

Dude Ranch Award Season

By Steph

It must be award season in the dude ranch world.  In the past few days we have received notice of 2 awards we have won, and I just got a notice about voting opening for another award.  Get out the high heels, the bling and the ballgowns.  Well, or at least maybe I should wipe the dust off my boots?

Big thank you’s go out to Tripadvisor for bestowing the Certificate of Excellence on us once again this year, recognizing that we rank in the top 10% worldwide for traveler feedback.  Really, the thanks go to you, our guests, who have written so many kind reviews.  Often times perspective guests call up, shocked that we have so many great reviews.  I never know how to respond to that, and typically give some sort of awkward comment back like, “Well, it must be something in the water.”  What do you say?  I suppose a simple “Thank you” would do the trick.  We try our hardest to make this vacation experience the best, and we appreciate those of you who share your experiences with others on Tripadvisor, at cocktail parties, on the ski lift and in the line at the grocery store, among other places.

The second piece of mail (yep, the old fashion kind) was from Gene Kilgore’s Ranchweb team announcing that we have been awarded the 2013 World’s Best Ranches Award.  I’m guessing we’re not the only ones to get this award, but appreciate that Gene Kilgore is still singing the praises of Vista Verde to the world.

Lastly, the Signature Ranch Awards by Duderanch.com are now open for voting.  This is a fun contest each year, putting all the power in the hands of the guests.  Last year we won two of the categories, and we’d love to do it again!  If you have a minute, the voting is pretty quick, and you can even skip categories if you don’t have an opinion, or just write in Vista Verde if you’re feeling incredibly biased.  Click here to start voting.

We are humbled by your support of Vista Verde, and don’t take it lightly.  Maybe our choice of lifestyle isn’t the most high pressure work environment, but we do feel the burden of living up to your expectations and delivering you all the most amazing vacation experience we can pull off here at Vista Verde.  Thanks for recognizing our hard work!

Minitime.com – June 2013

Summer’s Sweetest All-Inclusive Family Resorts

By Suzanne Rowan Kelleher

For parents with one eye on their kids and the other on their wallets, all-inclusive resorts are the ultimate antidote to the nickel and diming that’s become so prevalent in the hotel industry. By paying one price for your accommodations, meals, and a raft of activities, you can have fun with no worries that your bill will careen off the tracks like a runaway train.

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to travel to Mexico or the Caribbean to find a terrific all-inclusive resort. Here are eight fabulous and family-friendly picks where you can go all in this summer without leaving the continental USA.

Tyler Place Family Resort: Highgate Springs, VT

This 165-acre, family-run Vermont resort on the shores of Lake Champlain was among the first to pioneer all-inclusive pricing in the early 1930s and has been winning fans and creating awesome summer family vacation memories for three generations. Its children’s program is, hands down, the best we’ve ever encountered, with nine age-staggered groups from babies through teens. Other highlights include a gorgeous lakeside setting, slew of family activities, delectable farm-to-table meals, and just the right amount of adults-only time. (Pre-dinner cocktail hour? Champagne cruises? Yes, please.) Top it all off with a charming summer-camp vibe, and voilà—you’ve got the gold standard in family vacations. The resort’s remarkable 90 percent return rate is proof that the Tylers are still getting it right after all these years. Good to know: Early- and late-season rates can be up to half of what you’ll pay in the peak of summer.

Club Med Sandpiper Bay: Port St. Lucie, FL

The world’s most famous all-inclusive brand has just a single property on U.S. soil. Still fresh from the $28-million makeover it received in 2011, Club Med’s property on Florida’s Treasure Coast has a full-service nursery and a standout kids’ program that comprises a tennis academy as well as–holy flying trapeze!—a circus school. Water babies will love kayaking, sailing, and stand-up paddleboarding on the St. Lucie River. Good to know: Fear not the published rates. Sales of up to 45 percent pop up so frequently that you needn’t ever pay full price.

Vista Verde Guest Ranch: Steamboat Springs, CO

Dude and guest ranches almost always offer all-inclusive pricing, and this one in Steamboat Springs is one of the most luxurious and family-friendly around. Rates include lodging in private cabins or lodge rooms, all meals and beverages, and a generous roster of activities that includes horseback riding, biking, fly-fishing, rock climbing, river rafting, kayaking, and just-for-fun rodeos in the evening. There’s even a free shuttle service to and from Steamboat Springs.Good to know: Kids need to be 6 or older for horseback riding and some other key experiences.

UCSB Family Vacation Center: Santa Barbara, CA

This beachside family camp on the University of California Santa Barbara campus garners raves for its staff of enthusiastic counselors and the wide variety of activities for kids and adults. Families get a taste of collegiate life in multi-bedroom student suites, and children can participate in one of three programs: baby and toddler care from one month to 2 years; kids’ camp for ages 3-11; or teen activities for ages 12-18. Rates cover lodging, meals, and a roster of activities that includes hiking, mountain biking, tennis, and simply kicking back by the pool, while some premium adult activities—including wine tastings, sea kayaking, horseback riding, and surf lessons—are available at an additional cost. Good to know: Families can book a one-week stay or a four-day “mini week.”

Mohonk Mountain House: New Paltz, NY

Ninety miles north of New York City, this 251-room Victorian castle in the Shawangunk Mountains appears to soar into the clouds. Upon arrival you’ll discover that Mohonk Mountain House commands its own little world complete with a pristine lake, 85 miles of hiking trails, a nine-hole golf course, tennis courts, stables, and a grand lawn where guests can watch movies al fresco. The award-winning children’s program allows kids ages 4 to 12 to decide what activity they’ll do each day; the dozens of options include guided nature walks, animal tracking, and fossil hunts. Rates include accommodations, meals, afternoon tea and cookies, and most resort activities. Good to know: Kids 12 and under stay and eat free if you visit midweek July 7-31, 2013.

Skytop Lodge: Skytop, PA

This grand mountain resort has been welcoming families high into Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains since 1928. To make your stay all-inclusive, book the Family Fun Package including accommodations in either the main lodge or a storybook cottage, all meals, plus a huge choice of ways to play in the resort’s 5,500 forested acres, including ziplining, kayaking, archery, tennis, boating, biking, rock climbing, and hiking. There’s also an excellent supervised children’s program, and golfers get a bonus that’s virtually unheard of: unlimited greens fees. Good to know: Men must wear jackets in the Windsor dining room; ties are optional.

Lodge on Little St. Simons Island, Georgia

The most luxurious and intimate all-inclusive on our list, this beautiful lodge is located on a private island off Georgia’s coast and can only reached by boat. Built in 1917 as a private hunting lodge, the hideaway can accommodate just 32 guests and offers a VIP experience that includes gourmet meals and top-notch service. Even so, the lodge’s most exceptional feature is its setting inside a 10,000-acre wildlife sanctuary, which families can explore through naturalist-led hikes, reptile safaris, kayak tours, fishing trips, and evening owl prowls. Rates include meals, snacks, beverages, all activities, and boat transfers to and from the island. Good to know: Kids of all ages are welcome all summer; children must be 8 or older to visit October to May.

Fair Hills Resort: Detroit Lakes, MN

If you like your summer getaways affordable, old school, and unpretentious, this crowd-pleaser on Minnesota‘s Pelican Lake attracts plenty of like-minded families who return year after year. You stay in rustic lake cabins, get called to meals by a bell, and wile away the long summer days with kayaking, scavenger hunts, swimming, pony rides, fishing, tennis, golf, and sailing. The American Plan includes accommodations, meals, and a full roster of activities that includes water sports. Good to know: Kids 5 and under stay free.

Colorado All-Inclusive Resorts

By Steph

Out of curiosity (that’s the marketing geek in me coming out) I did a search this morning for “Colorado all-inclusive resorts”.  I was pretty surprised at what I found, and in some ways more surprised by what I didn’t find.

Top of the list were a bunch of paid ads.  Some of them were for Colorado dude ranches, some were for website that bunch vacation destinations together, and some were for places like Sandals.  The one that made me laugh the most was the one for an all-inclusive resort in Mexico.

In digging a little deeper, I found that when I visited the websites that list a bunch of places, those listings were exclusively dude ranches. The only non-dude ranch listing that I could find was for a Club Med in Crested Butte.

The other lists that came up were articles that have been written about some of the best all-inclusive resorts, but most of them were not in Colorado.  I am biased towards the Travel + Leisure article titled “America’s Best All-Inclusive Resorts“, as we did get a nice mention in that story.  But, it’s still not a Colorado only listing.

So, the moral of the story?  Besides fun sleuthing around, I think someone needs to write an article on the best all-inclusive resorts in Colorado.  I am a firm believer that all-inclusive resorts are a big draw for people who want to simplify their vacation planning.  So, it would be great to provide a platform for folks to find places in Colorado.  I guess dude ranches are truly the original all-inclusive vacation, but I’d love to find out more about other types of resorts that exist in this beautiful state!

June Fly-Fishing report

 By Brandon

Greetings friends!  It’s June and we’re now a few weeks into our anticipated summer guest season! While we still wait for the rivers to shape up a bit from spring runoff, the fishing couldn’t be much better on some of our nearby lakes and smaller creeks.  Hahn’s Peak Lake, Pearl Lake, and Steamboat Lake are offering some great early season action with fish beginning to feed hungrily on or near the surface after a winter spent beneath the ice.  Some nearby smaller creeks have been producing, as well, while our beloved Elk River and its tributaries slowly return to their normal summertime flows.  In addition to getting on the water with some of our wonderful guests, my wife, Rachelle and I had the pleasure of hosting Nate and Jamie Bennett from Jackson Hole, Wyoming and were able to show them some of our favorite early season fishing spots.  Nate owns and operates Teton Fly Fishing in Jackson and is a long time friend and fishing partner.  For a great day on some Wyoming water be sure to give Nate a call if you’re ever up in their neck of the woods.

We got the chance to christen Vista Verde’s newly-acquired float tubes on Pearl Lake and were fortunate enough to land a number of Cutthroat Trout and Grayling we found cruising the shallows.  The action has kept up through our first couple of weeks and it’s been an absolute joy spending time stalking fish and swapping stories with our guests.  The highlights and have been many thus far, but we’ve especially enjoyed creating some memorable family fly fishing trips for our guests.  Getting parents and the kids on the water is what it’s all about and there’s no better place to do it than the high mountain lakes and creeks that surround Vista Verde Ranch.  For those of you who we’ve had the opportunity to get out with already this season, thanks for spending some time with Bubba and I.  And, if you’ve already booked your western family dude ranch vacation with us for this summer, we very much look forward to spending some time with you!

Chicago Parent- June 2013

By Andrea Guthmann

This isn’t my first rodeo. Well, actually it is. Maybe that’s why I’m having so much fun living out my cowgirl fantasy on our family’s dude ranch vacation!

Prime rib, Caesar salad, shrimp and a dessert table? Whatever happened to franks-n-beans? Apparently, they’re long gone, like much of what I expected to find at a dude ranch. Thankfully, some of the iconic images are still here. There’s a lot of horseback riding, as well as an occasional old-fashioned chuckwagon cookout, complete with a country-western crooner and cowboy doing incredible rope tricks. But you’ll also get to indulge in spa treatments, a luxurious pool, wine tastings and cooking lessons.

Free-range kids

Most importantly for our family, Tucson’s Tanque Verde Ranchhas plenty to keep every age group happy. Tweens meet up at the basketball court, while teens have their own dining table in the restaurant. Since the ranch is all-inclusive, our kids were pretty much free to get their meals whenever they felt like it, and the terrific kids club took my 4-year-old on pony rides in the corral, allowing me to horseback ride and mountain bike with my 12- and 14-year-old sons.

We ended up enjoying the mountain biking as much as the horseback riding. Tanque Verde sets you up with top-of-the-line mountain bikes, helmets, gloves and a friendly guide who takes you through trails in the surrounding Saguaro National Park. At the end of the day everyone’s exhausted, which, of course, has plenty of benefits for mom and dad.

When we were done horsin’ around, we’d head over to the pool, with its waterfall and postcard-perfect view of the surrounding mountains. The cute cowboy saloon right next to this sophisticated swimming hole has a pool table or you could just pick up your drink and lounge by the water.

Ranch roundup

Not all dude ranches are as luxurious or kid-friendly. Some ranches have incredible kids’ programs, making vacation feel like summer camp. Want to really immerse yourself in the great outdoors? Consider Montana’s Nine Quarter Circle Ranch in the northwest corner of Yellowstone National Park.

When you’re visiting matters as well. We wanted a warm spring break escape-Arizona was an obvious choice. But you can visit ranches in the winter-Vista Verde Ranch and The Home Ranch, both near Steamboat Springs, Colo., allow you to spend time skiing while also making yourself at home on the ranch.

The Dude Ranchers’ Association, representing more than 100 of the best dude ranches in the United States and Canada, will steer you in the right direction. Its website, duderanch.org, allows you to search ranches by size, location and activities.

Chicago-area families looking for a sunny adventure will not be disappointed at Tanque Verde Ranch. Besides the horseback riding and mountain biking, daily guided hikes allow you to comfortably explore the desert landscape of Saguaro National Park, so exotically different from our own. As you plan your family’s next vacation, consider saddling up at a dude ranch.

Summer has arrived

By Steph

The ranch is now open for business!  Opening day was Sunday, June 2, and we were all excited to welcome our first group of guests as they came up the drive and into the Lodge.  We have a full house, lots of kids, and everyone has jumped into their dude ranch adventure with smiles one their faces.

The aspens are brilliantly green right now, the grass is getting thicker each day and the wildflowers are peeking out here and there.  Spring (technically it is still spring, you know) at the ranch is such an amazing time.  The whole valley just comes bursting alive and it is so fresh and wonderful.

We’re excited about this summer.  It’s a big one with every cabin booked from now until September.  For those of you coming out to join us, we can’t wait to spend time with you playing in the mountains!  And for those of you who won’t be physically at the ranch, we look forward to sharing our stories of the season as we make our way through the season.