Dude Ranch Life: The season ends and an era ends

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This week marks the end of the reign of the Kings. Literally–Steve and Kelli King are moving on from the ranch after almost two decades of leading the Adventure Center at the ranch. Steve joined us back in 1999 as a ski guide, fresh into town and looking to start a new life with his wife Kelli and their infant daughter Madi. Over the years, Steve became the guardian of the ski program in the winter and the biking and hiking programs in the summer. What started out as a job sharing role between Steve and Kelli, so one of them could stay home with baby Madi, turned into both of them working at the ranch full-time. In Madi’s younger years, Kelli ran the kids program with Madi tagging along all summer long, and then guiding when there were not kids at the ranch. Once Madi hit her teen years, Kelli moved out of the kids program and into the guide world full-time. Steve and Kelli have been the momentum behind growing the mountain bike program to what it is today, bringing yoga to the ranch, adding paddle boarding and fat biking, and much more. Their emotional investment in the ranch has been their biggest contribution–from pouring into the guests to contributing to the big picture ideas, advocating for never letting go of the quest for excellence, and preaching the gospel of safety, self-care, work-life balance, and healthy living.

With Madi graduating from high school last year, and moving on in her life, the door opened for Steve and Kelli to move onto their next adventure. Vista Verde was never the destination, but rather a stop on an life long adventure. They are selling their house (anyone want a sweet vacation home in North Routt?), packing up their things, and heading out on the road for a while. None of us know for sure where exactly they will land, but they have their sights on some pretty great options after first taking the time to explore, spend time with family, and visit friends.

But who steps into those big boots? We have a whole team lined up and ready to go. Beka has been waiting to move into this role for a while now, and her time has arrived. She’s about the most fit person I know–come on, anyone who gets up and runs to Steamboat just for fun before work (that’s a marathon, you realize) has the stamina to keep our guests going day after day. Beka is a backcountry and fitness addict, and is so excited to be taking over for Steve and Kelli to head up the Adventure Center. And right in there supporting and teaming up with Beka will be Ben Simms, Isaac Ness and Nate Margason. Bikers, fishermen, skiers, avid outdoors men–these guys all know this area like the back of their hands, have extensive training and experience playing in the outdoors as well as serious emergency and safety training. The team is lined up and ready. What about yoga? Devyn, who currently teaches Pilates at the ranch, is ready to jump into the role of leading Wild Yoga and looks forward to introducing folks to yoga as well as practicing with those who are yogis already. In fact, much to my envy, Devyn is heading to Hawaii this off-season for some additional teacher training to prime the pump with new ideas and flows. And, our gift shops will still be stocked with great items in Kelli’s absence due to the hard work of Laura (she owns the place, if you haven’t met her yet) and Melissa (she adds inches to your waistline with pastries but has also embraced our retail operation in anticipation of Kelli’s departure). So, not to worry, although the Kings leave big boots to fill, we have a lot of people with big feet ready to step into them!

When you work with people for as long as many of us have worked with Steve and Kelli, you become like family. You love each other, drive each other nuts, know each other’s quirks and pet peeves, and share in life’s wins and losses. So, their departure is bittersweet. We all thank them for their years of service and dedication to the ranch, the mission, and our guests. We know their presence will be missed at the ranch, but we are also so excited for their upcoming journey. Please help us send off the Kings with fanfare worthy of, well, kings! If you would like us to share a note of thanks or bon voyage with them, please send it to us and we’ll pass it along.

As we never say goodbye here, we just assume we’ll see each other down the trail. Here’s to many happy trails for Steve, Kelli, and Madi!