This week at the Ranch

fall adult only vacations dude ranch

Changing seasons at the ranch

Lately, the mornings have been just a tad bit cooler, and the grass touched with gold instead of green.  Fall is coming, and we can feel it in the air.  Last week marked the final week of family vacation times for the summer.  The kids are heading back to school, and the ranch has made the transition now to adult-only vacation weeks.  It’s always a bittersweet time of year.  A group of our key players from the summer season have headed back to college, and that always makes for a lot of teary goodbyes.  The ranch is not only more quiet with their departure, but also the sound of giggling children has gone away.  What a classic sound of summer, and one we love to hear.  But, with those shifts, we also welcome the start of our fall season.  The adult-only weeks are a blast.  Monday night was evidence of the fun to come with a rowdy (the good kind of rowdy) group of guests laughing and joking over dinner before moving into the Great room to play guitar, sing, and hang out with each other.  With these weeks, we also welcome cool weather, changing aspens, and the coming days of rounding of cows.  Those are some fun times– riding through the mountains as the leaves change from green to yellow to gold, red, and orange.  The air is crisp and more colorful than any time of the year.  For most of us here, this is our favorite time of the year.

Many of you are transitioning with children heading back to school, and we wish you all the best as you shift over from lazy summer days to organized sports, homework, tests, and early mornings.  Those of you without kids, we hope you’re finding a way to soak up the change of the seasons.  And, for those of you who live where the shift isn’t noticeable, come see us!  We’ll gladly share this amazing transition with you!

Teen fun at Vista Verde Gust ranch located North of Steamboat Springs Colorado

If you ever wondered why dude ranches are different….

Often times we find ourselves trying to explain what makes a dude ranch vacation different than a resort or other destination.  It’s hard to explain how it is that we form relationships here, not just provide a great vacation experience.  Especially since we are offering a luxury ranch vacation it makes it even more weird to try to tell someone who is used to the Ritz Carlton or Four Seasons that yes, they are paying for very nice accommodations, deliciously prepared meals, and top-notch service.  But, what they’ll probably remember after returning home is the relationships.  It just starts sounding a little too much like Kumbaya.  Call it what you want, what makes a dude ranch vacation at Vista Verde different than a resort or luxury boutique property is the people.  We’re going to laugh a lot.  We’re probably going to tease you a bit.  You’ll probably tease us back.  You’re going to have fun with our people, and we’re going to have fun with you.  You’re going to learn about these amazing people we call staff, and want to keep in touch with them and follow where they go in their lives.  It’s not just that you’ll have amazing experiences with your own family or friends, but you’ll make new ones within the other guests and the staff.  Sound creepy?  Well, it’s not for everyone, but for those who try it out, it’s pretty amazing.

This past week, hiking & biking guide Chris upped the anty with his video antics.  After a beautiful hike up into the Zirkels, he and Lisa busted out this rap on camera.  To me, this video defines what makes a dude ranch vacation different.  You’ve got this classy lady who is lively and fun, but also always well put together and on top of her game jamming and rapping with Chris while her husband is completely immersed in his fishing experience on the lake.  They all got to know each other on the hike.  They shared some amazing experiences.  They took in some beautiful scenery.  But, more than anything, they just had fun together.  And that’s what we do.  You expect the luxurious cabins, the gourmet food, and the quality service.  What you don’t expect is rapping out in the wilderness with your guide.  For those of you coming later this summer, watch out for hikes with Chris.  You never know what will happen.

Housekeeping fun at Vista Verde Guest Ranch

The wacky world of housekeeping

By Steph

Each area of the ranch has it’s own quirks, but we recently decided that housekeeping is the most quirky of them all.  Maybe it’s the fact that if you’re doing a dirty job, you have to make it fun?  Or, maybe it’s that it’s a more behind the scenes job, so there isn’t as much interaction, and the housekeepers need to come up with something to spice things up?  Is that why every time Meesh calls up to the office to ask a question, she always uses a different accent?  Ok, in full disclosure, some of the office gals (ahem, that’s me) may reciprocate when they call down there too….just saying.  Regardless of the reason, there are some distinct housekeeping “isms” that make it a special part of the ranch.

So, let’s test out your best guesses at a little matching game about some of these “isms”.

 

1. Whiteya. Knocking on Heaven's Door
2. Top to Bottomb. One of the 12 washers and dryers
3. HSKPHQc. Tidying up the cabin or room during a guest's stay
4. Gandalf the Greyd. The beat up old white truck housekeepers use to get around the ranch
5. Tuesday's theme song (MAY include interpretive dancing) e. The order in how we clean the accommodations
6. Dailiesf. The iron press
7. Matildag. An acronym for Housekeeping Headquarters, which actually takes longer to say than the name itself.

How did you do?  Post your answers on our Facebook page, and the housekeepers will do an interpretive dance in your honor next Tuesday to the song of your choice!

And, we want to give a huge shout out to our amazing “housekeeping fairies”, and Trevor too!  Without the hard work of Meesh, Grace, Kami, Shawnta, Gracie, Trevor, and Anna, we would have a mess on our hands.  Sure, the wranglers and guides get all the credit for fun adventures, and the chefs get all the credit for great food, and Ben gets credit for playing his banjo.  But it’s the housekeepers that create the first impression for our guests as they walk into their rooms, and keep everything looking good throughout their stay.  Hats off to this silly and humble group of people who take every spec of dust and stray water spot seriously!

PS- Can you find Willie the Moose in the photo?

Fun with foals at Vista Verde Guest Ranch

Catching up with the foals

By Steph

The little ones are growing up so fast!  And that means it’s time for an update on our 2015 foals.

reddRedd – He was our first foal to arrive out of a new mare named June.  Although Redd isn’t a ranch-bred colt, he’s quickly made himself a part of the family.  His newborn chestnut coat is shedding out to reveal a gorgeous red roan color, just like his mama.  June is a tall mare, and Redd looks like he will carry on that trait with substantial stature and a lot of height.  He was the resident punk in his first month, but has settled down and become a chill dude, bordering on lazy.  We’re ok with that, as punks don’t fit in well in our herd, but relaxed and sturdy horses are what we’re looking for in our riding horses.

wessonWesson- Our of Reyn (aka “Tubby”), this cute little bay colt loves to be scratched and petted, as you can see by this photo of him and George.  He’s got quite the build with a JLo style caboose that will serve him well as he grows up and climbs the surrounding mountains.  Wesson started out as a scared little guy– in fact he double barrel kicked Mandy when he was 2 days old as he was so afraid of people.  Now he is turning out to be laid back and super friendly, and gets plenty of attention as a result of that new and improved attitude.

 

RemyRemy “Remington”- This spunky and fun little girl is out of one of our favorite broodmares, MJ.  MJ consistently produces great foals, and Remy is no exception.  Remy is a people loving filly who is sweet and friendly to all.  She is very feminine, but seems to have no troubles keeping up with the boys.  She has big, kind, and calm eyes that are a telling sign that she’ll make a great ranch horse as she grows up.  Remy was the star of one of the videos we posted this spring, bravely crossing the creek for the first time.  If you haven’t watched it, you’ve got to check it out.

 

 

wranglerWrangler- His beautiful coloring makes this colt stand out from a distance.  Another one of Sassy’s dun colts, Wrangler is a full brother to Levi, one of the guest favorites from last year.  He’s a shy and sensitive little guy, but is coming around as he gets older and gets handled by all our guests more and more.  Wrangler and his mama Sassy were purchased by one of our guests this past winter, along with big brother Levi, and will be heading to Texas in the fall to their new home.  We’ll miss these beautifully colored foals, but have some great up and coming broodmares we’re excited to have in the herd in foal for next year.

Mountain Biking through the Aspens at Vista Verde Guest Ranch in Colorado.

The top 3 list of bikes and hikes around Vista Verde Ranch

By Steph

Dude ranches and horses go hand in hand, but at Vista Verde we also have another side to the ranch.  We call it the New West.  Horses are the Old West, and we put a lot of effort into making that an amazing program for our guests.  But, we also put a lot of thought and effort into crafting our New West programs to have an equal impact on our guest experience.  This week, we have been shining the social media spotlight on two of our New West programs–the hiking and mountain biking programs, so no better time to share some of our favorite hikes and mountain bike rides.

Our top 3 hikes at Vista Verde

1) Zirkel Circle- This is the coup de gras hike in the Mt. Zirkel Wilderness Area.  It’s a long one, and requires a higher level of fitness, a backpack filled with water, and a packed lunch.  This hike takes you along a roaring creek with log crossings, past two serene alpine lakes (Gilpin and Gold), and up into the rocky peaks of the Zirkel Wilderness Area.

2) Hahn’s Peak- Another one of our epics, this hike takes you climbing up through the wildflowers to the rocky peak of this perfectly peaked mountain.  Upon arriving at the top, the 360 panorama that goes from Steamboat Springs to the Wyoming border is breathtaking, as is the climb to the top!

3) Gilpin Falls- For those not up for the above two epic hikes, Gilpin falls is a perfect way to go.  Meandering through lush wildflowers and along a roaring creek, you end up at a beautiful spot with a private waterfall all to yourself.  This is a favorite for families wanting to hike together, or those looking for a more mellow stroll through the Rocky Mountains.

Our top 3 mountain bike rides at Vista Verde

1) Burn Ridge- This is the perfect ride for guests who want the thrill of single track riding, but don’t have the fitness to climb, climb, climb.  The trail is somewhat technical in places, but also offers rolling cross country terrain in other spots.  A river crossing towards the latter part of the ride makes for a refreshing way to reward yourself for the pedaling!

2) Steamboat Lake- For those who want to give single track riding a try, but are new to the sport, the trail around Steamboat Lake is a perfect way to start out.  Amazing panoramas will force you to stop and take in the view, and the coolness of the lake is tempting on a hot day.  The trail is mild enough that you don’t have to have a high fitness level, but you can get your heart beating a bit, and the wildflowers in the early summer are delightful.

3) Skills Park- Now, this isn’t really a trail, but an afternoon in the skills park is a must do if you want to explore the sport of mountain biking during your vacation.  Take a short ride with one of our talented guides over to the skills park, and spend a couple hours playing around on the obstacles.  Our guides will teach you how to approach and ride obstacles, while they spot you and help you try out your new skills.

We hope you’ll come hike or bike with us at some point!  Our backyard is so beautiful, and we love to share it with others.

This week the kids program has taken over our social media accounts

10 reasons why it’s great to be a Vista Verde kid

By Steph

This week the kids program has taken over our social media accounts.  During this time we thought it might be fun to blog about out why it’s so great to be a VVR kid.  As my own kids have jumped head first into the kids program the past few years, I’ve been able to see the value of the kids program here from a mom’s point of view.  And, if I was a fan before having kids, as a mom I may now be the kids program’s #1 fan.

Here are our top 10 reasons why we all wish we could be a kid on a dude ranch vacation at Vista Verde:

1) Freedom- When else do kids get to run free without any worry or restraint?  Most parents don’t even know where their kids are when they are here, and they are perfectly comfortable with them out roaming the ranch!  This may sound crazy to you, but it happens, and it happens within the first few hours of arrival.  You see, here at the ranch it’s safe, fun, and that freedom fuels their independent spirits.

2) Role Models- This is coming first hand from a mom who is picky about who her kids look up to as role models.  The VVR staff are the kind of people I want my kids to look up to, emulate, and admire.  They are top notch people, with good values, and a true desire to care for others.  It’s pretty common that even the most clingy kid, or the one who never likes a kids program, will be begging to head off to go find the kid wranglers to join the program for the day.  We have had to tell kids that no, they can’t go wake up a kid wrangler early in the morning.  These super heroes need sleep to keep up with the kids all day!

3) Confidence- Want to see a shy kid come out of their shell, open up, and blossom?  Bring them to a dude ranch, put them on a kind horse, with caring and thoughtful instruction, send them out into the woods, and let them ride, ride, ride.  Then, fill their days with a loving group of people, lots of dirt, and outdoor activities.  It’s a good chance you won’t recognize the kid who leaves at the end of the week, even after you scrub off the dirt.  They’ll be covered in a layer of self-confidence, pride, and accomplishment.

4) Compassion- Whether it’s the tough kid who knows it all or the shy kid who doesn’t believe in themselves.  Learning to handle a 1,000 animal, with it’s own thoughts and opinions teaches a kid compassion.  They learn they can’t jerk on the reins when they get frustrated.  They can’t yell at the horse when it won’t do what they want.  They have to stay calm, be consistent, assertive, and kind to get results on a horse.   Kids learn it’s not all about themselves, and sometimes one has to put another’s needs ahead of their own.  And when they do that, amazing things happen in their relationship with their horse, which carries on into their relationships with others.

5) Dirt & Fresh air- Kids need dirt.  Dirt likes kids.  We have a lot of dirt here.  That’s a good thing.  We also have a lot of fresh air.  The kids are out in it all day long, and much of the evening.  Oh, and did we mention there are no TV’s in the cabins and rooms, and also you can’t stream videos or games?  Crazy thing is, the kids don’t seem to even miss it during their ranch vacation!

6) Fish- Think your kid doesn’t have much patience?  Just wait until you see them out on the pond with their little fishing rods for hours on end, just waiting for that first bite.  It’s always amazing to me how long the kids will stand there, willing those fish to bite.  The fishing rods and the stocked pond are a kid magnet.  We go through them like they are water, as the kids break them daily.  But, it’s a worthwhile investment in the kids.  What a great lesson for them to wait, keep casting, wait, keep casting, and then BAM!  They catch their first fish!

7) Mom gets a vacation- Ok, so this one isn’t as much about the kids as it is about moms (and dads too).  With such an engaging kids program and knowing that the kids are safe as they roam around, moms get a vacation while they are here.  No worrying about what to do to keep everyone entertained.  No worrying about what to feed everyone, or organizing the day.  Chances are your kids will up before you, get dressed by themselves, and head out the door before you’ve even had your first cup of coffee.  You do need to make sure they have sunscreen on, but other than that, relax and enjoy a breath of that fresh mountain air.  We’ve got the rest covered for you.

8) Experiences- During a week at Vista Verde, your kids will get the chance to ride horses, play with foals, ride on an antique fire truck, “gold” pan, learn about bugs, ride mountain bikes, catch a fish, rock climb, square dance, find wildflowers on a hike, and all that without us even mentioning the pool where you expected you’d find your kids most of the time.  They may have a few minutes at some point to jump in, but they are going to be busy with all these other amazing experiences!

9) Connection- So, does it sound like with all that running around freely, and an engaging kids program, that you’ll never see your kids?  For some, this can be true, if that is what they choose.  But for families who want to spend time with their kids, you get them without all the distractions of the real world.  You get to walk through the woods with your kid, talking or just soaking up the silence.  You get to share new experiences together, laugh a lot, and enjoy the little person they are becoming.  Those are priceless moments and lifetime memories.

10) Tears- My kids cry a lot.  Too much.  It makes me crazy.  But, the tears that kids express on Sunday as they leave the ranch fill my heart.  I’ll take those tears any day.  Kids cry a lot on Sunday.  They don’t want to leave their horse.  They don’t want to leave their friends.  They don’t want to leave the staff.  They don’t want to leave the ranch.  Did we mention our Rebooking Special?  Another time…..

a dude ranch that celebrates romance

Dude ranch romance

By Steph

Ok, so it’s not quite like Dirty Dancing, but there is something about getting a bunch of single 20-somethings together in a tight-knit community, surrounded by nature’s beauty, and wrapped up in outdoor adventure.  Romance happens.  We (the old married types) guide our staff through this potential every season– warning them of the risks of a ranch relationship, helping them think realistically about the potential outcomes, and demanding that if it happens it is done respectfully and carefully, with the larger ranch community taking precedence over a summer fling.  With all those warnings, love is still in the air.  And, there are some pretty wonderful couples who have come out of Vista Verde.  I’ve lost track over the years of marriages that stemmed from the ranch, but I can say that this year seems to be a gang buster year for dude ranch romances.

The year began with the January nuptials of Jamie and Rob (Gov).  Then, the summer kicked off with Cori and Dan tying the knot in early June.  And, later on in the fall, Sally and Rob (Stewy) will be going to the chapel.  Kerri and Phil are settling into life as an engaged couple, and they have plans for their wedding next spring.  Over the winter Jason proposed to Lauren on a surprise visit back at the ranch, and they’ll be heading down the aisle sometime in the autumn of 2016.  Not bad for a little ranch out in Steamboat Springs?!

What a treat to watch these couples fall in love and begin their new lives together.  We wish them all the best, and hope that when times get tough (reality check provided by the old married folks) these wonderful people can think back to their carefree and adventure-filled days at the ranch, and pull each other through with some amazing memories.

Kerri and Phil

Kerri and Phil

Jamie and Rob

Jamie and Rob

Sally and Rob

Sally and Rob’

Cori and Dan

Cori and Dan

Lauren and Jason

Lauren and Jason

 

summer dude ranch

What is a dude ranch?

By Steph

Say you’re from a big city, and have never been to a dude ranch or don’t even really grasp what it means to take a dude ranch vacation?  Every once in a while, I find myself trying to explain to someone what it means to visit a dude ranch.  Typically, they are surprised by what they hear.

You think it’s just about riding horses and living like a cowboy in the American West for a week?  Oh boy, you have no idea.

A dude ranch vacation is about horses, soaking up a piece of the American West, and enjoying outdoor adventures in a beautiful setting.  But, it’s really about a lot more than that.

It’s about people becoming better people.  You read that right.  Because people learn a lot about themselves through their experiences on horses.  They see their patterns, their habits, their “stories”, their insecurities, and their strengths all come out in the interactions with these kind-hearted four-legged creatures.  Through horses, people learn more about themselves, find confidence they didn’t know was there and resolve to make changes that are a long time coming.  They often face what they don’t want to face, and come out on the other side better people.  Doesn’t sound fun?  Just talk to someone who has had a life-changing experience because of one afternoon in a horsemanship clinic.  It’s pretty darn good.  ( Warning: The same thing can happen on skis, on a bike, or in the river with a fishing pole in hand)

It’s about people connecting.  Sure, vacations are a great chance to relax.  But, dude ranch vacations do much more than that.  You do relax.  You also connect.  You connect with your family or traveling partners.  You connect with the staff.  You connect with the other guests.  Often times, guests find themselves finding a renewed sense of faith in the human experience.  They are reminded that a deep conversation can do wonders for the heart.  They are reminded that laughter is truly the best medicine.  They are reminded that there are amazing 20-something people out there in the world who are going to be our future leaders.  They are reminded that you can treat people well just because you care, and for no other ulterior motive.  They are reminded that relationships matter.

It’s about getting dirty.  I’ve blogged about this before, but I’m always amazed by how many guests ask why we’re all so happy here.  There are lots of reasons, but I firmly believe that getting dirty, getting out in the woods, and getting a little sweaty while you’re at it promotes happiness.  It doesn’t hurt to be surrounded by amazing people who share a similar passion and care about their community.  But, it has a lot to do with dirt.  So, a dude ranch vacation is about getting dirty, sweaty, into the woods, and in touch with the earth.  We need to do that more as humans.  Kids need to do it more.  And here, you get to do just that.  ALL.DAY.LONG.

It’s about values.  The cowboy code of ethics is as follows:

1. Live each day with courage

2. Take pride in your work

3. Always finish what you start

4. Do what has to be done

5. Be tough, but fair

6. When you make a promise, keep it

7. Ride for the brand

8. Talk less and say more

9. Remember that some things aren’t for sale

10. Know where to draw the line.

When people go to a dude ranch, they see this played out right in front of them.  That doesn’t happen out there in the real world all the time, so it’s a great reminder of living an honest life, and doing the right thing.  No religion needed for this, just ethics.

But, you know what?  It’s also about amazing adventures, loads of fun, being pampered lavishly (ok, maybe not at all ranches), eating fresh and amazing food, and being authentically cared for by others so you can let go of your stress, your worries, and your busy life at home.  Doesn’t sound good to you?  Maybe it’s not the right kind of vacation for you then.  That’s ok, we know it’s not for everyone.  But, you might just surprise yourself, and find out it’s what you’re really looking for with your time away from home.

Happy trails, until we meet at check-in.

Inspired Food + Luxury dude ranch = Luxury Food Ranch?

By Steph

Chefs.  If you think you love food, you should spend some time with a chef.  They LOVE food.  And, for me it’s fun to watch that passion unfold as we near opening day.  The past couple weeks Chol (Executive Chef) and JT (Chef de Cuisine) have been tinkering with their menus in preparation for the summer season.  Each day, JT stops by the office with a spoonful of this, a plateful of that, or a small sample for me to try.  He and Chol are so dedicated to coming up with fresh and inspired new menu options, while also maintaining some of the old favorites in there.  It’s not an easy task to appeal to the variety of eaters we get at the ranch.  Some people like gourmet.  Some like simple.  Some like veggies.  Some only like meat.  Some like creative.  Some like all-American.  Some are picky.  And there are just a few who like it all.  With each meal, they are trying to appeal to every kind of eater, which is quite a feat.  I’m not sure how they are able to pull it off, but they have once again put together a selection of menus that fit a little of all of it into the week.

So, you’ve got Inspired Food.

Now, mix that in with a luxury dude ranch experience.  Upscale accommodations, high-level service, and quality programs.

I believe we have ourselves a Luxury Food Ranch.  Eat your hearts out.

all inclusive luxury dude ranches

all-inclusive Colorado dining

luxury dude ranch salads

Living the dream, being a wrangler at Vista Verde Guest Ranch near Steamboat Springs Colorado.

We can hear the train a’coming

By Steph

First of all, welcome to our new website!  It just went live on May 15, and we’re excited to share it with all of you.  This new site brings us several new features.  Most notably, you can remove your high powered magnifying glasses while you view it on a mobile device, as it is a mobile friendly site.  Second, it allows us to showcase the beauty of the ranch with big, amazing photos.  We’re learning that those big, amazing photos aren’t helping our load time…..so a little work still to be done.  Lastly, it has some fun features that are just plain cool.  Have you checked out the ranch tour?  I love the fun sort, and the expanded views of each cabin, room, or building.  Or the Summer dude ranch activities?  There’s a lot of info on the site, but hopefully it helps potential guests get a good feel for who we are, as well as makes it fun for all you returners to keep tabs on the crew at the ranch.  Please feel free to send any feedback my way.  The joy of websites is that they can be tweak and tinkered with even once live.

Springtime at the ranch is part excitement and part frantic.  The whole valley is coming alive.  Bright green leaves are popping out on the aspens.  Wildflowers are peeking through.  The grass it growing at a mad pace.   Tiny calves dot the pastures along the Elk River Valley.  And little foals are showing up down at the mare barn.  There is just so much life.  On top of that, we are anticipating the arrival of our staff for orientation next week, projects are coming to completion as we near opening day, and everyone here is gearing up to be ready for May 31, when our first guests arrive.  Which leads me to the frantic part of it.  There is never enough time to get it all done!  It’s a little like knowing the freight train is coming at you, and at some point you just have to jump on and blow the whistle.

Before starting orientation next Tuesday, there was some pre-orientation happening.  Talitha has come in to learn the ins and outs of the dining room from Bubba, as he hands off the Head Server role to her in order to focus more on wine service and formal dinner service.  Don’t worry, you’ll still see plenty of Bubba, but he’ll have a more focused role this summer, and Talitha will be the ringleader of the servers.  Then, as Nate has shifted over to help Bill out with the maintenance projects and overseeing our safety programs (can you say OSHA?), KP has stepped into the barn to head up the wrangler crew.  That crew came in a few days early for a wrangler clinic with KP and Mandy.  For the Nate fan club, never fear.  You’ll still get a chance to ride or hike with him as he jumps in to guide here and there.  And, there’s no way we’ll get him off of cows come the cattle round-up in September.

One of the projects I am so excited about is our outdoor dining.  Long story, but we spent much of the winter brainstorming and mapping out new ideas to improve the layout, design, and feel of our outdoor dining area.  Today, we unloaded three of the new pieces of “furniture” that we’ll be using on the patio.   When I say “furniture”, I’m talking about pieces the required 4 strong guys to unload off the trailer.  They are absolutely fantastic, and we are so excited to get it all set up!  I know, where are the photos you say?  I was too busy unloading and directing traffic to remember to get some.  So, guess you just have to come out here to see them for yourself!

If you don’t already have plans to join us for a ranch vacation this summer, it’s not too late.  There are a few cabins that are left to be filled, and we’ve had some cancellations here and there that open up other spots.  Give Meagan a call or send her an email to grab your spot.  It’s going to be such a fun summer!

Springtime in Colorado means trail rides amidst melting snow at Vista Verde Guest Ranch

A spring weekend at the ranch

By Steph

What’s happening at the ranch right now, you ask? Not much.  Or a lot.  It depends on who you ask. This past weekend, it felt like not much.  My girls were itching to ride, so we lured our horses in from the winter pasture with treats, and saddled up to meander around the ranch and check out the progress of the snow melt.  It’s happened pretty fast this year, as we’ve had a warm spring.  The meadows are almost fully exposed, the dormant grass is considering it’s return, and the mud isn’t too thick anymore.  There is still plenty of snow up on the mountain tops, which makes for a beautiful stark white contrast to the brown meadows and bare trees.  Down by the creeks, the willow sap is starting to flow, so they are changing colors next to the rushing waters.

After our ride, we visited the “maternity ward” to see the pregnant mares and our new foal.  He is so darling, and his momma, June, is settling in perfectly.  June is new to us, and she came from a horse sale that Ben, KP, Sam, Mandy, and Matthew attended a few weeks ago.  They picked up some great riding horses and came back with this stunning, but very pregnant mare.  We didn’t know her due date at the time, but let’s just say it’s a good thing they came straight back to the ranch as she foaled within days of her arrival.  Apparently she has claimed the title of Alpha mare, so she will be the one ruling the roost over the other broodmares.  Her little guy is a doll, and so friendly.  We’re still waiting to pick a name for him as so many of our Facebook followers submitted fabulous ideas.  But, with the off-season, everyone is coming and going and we haven’t been able to get together and pick the winner.

It was pretty quiet around the ranch on Saturday, and the only person we saw was Troy.  He was busy feeding the horses, dragging the pasture, and power washing the Indoor arena.  There is still plenty to do, even when we’re closed.

As I was running some errands, we stopped by the staff laundry room.  Every year staff leave items behind that someone else might be able to use.  Western shirts, camping gear, jeans, etc…. and every year although we love the culture of sharing and passing along stuff you won’t use back in your real life to someone coming to the ranch, it becomes a mess.  So, my girls and I began an impromptu purge and clean.  After going through all the clothes, hanging up the ones that would be useful for ranch staff, and bagging up the other stuff to take to donate, the room was tidy and organized.  Somehow we ended up coming home with a sombrero, among other things.  Many thanks to that staff member who left that one….it was JUST what we need in our house.  Note motherly sarcasm.

With that, we wrapped up our playtime and headed home for chores.  This weekend marked the 50 days until opening day mark, so the countdown clock keeps ticking.  We hope to see you this summer when the meadows are green, the aspens leaves fluttering in the wind, the horses all shedded out, and the summer staff in place and ready to play with you!

5 ways to make your Colorado ranch vacation just a little more epic

By Steph

So you’ve got your vacation at a Colorado ranch all planned out, and the anticipation for your week-long adventure is building.  But, wait a sec.  If you’re making the trip to Colorado, why don’t you extend it a bit and explore the state a bit more?  I know, not everyone has the time to do this, but if you can squeeze in at least 3 more days, there is just so much to see!

Here are some ideas:

1) Get  High: No, don’t panic on this one.  We are clean cut people here at Vista Verde, but we do like to get up to the highest peaks!  If you are flying in and out of Denver, why don’t you take a detour on your way to the ranch and go through Rocky Mountain National Park? There you can drive up and over the Continental Divide and see amazing Rocky Mountain panoramas. On either side of the park are two cute towns: Estes Park and Grand Lake, so there are lodging options if you want to make an overnight of the tour.

2) Visit the Dinosaurs- or at least where they used to live. Dinosaur National Monument lies just on the border of Colorado and Utah, and is a fun place to explore for the day.  Young kids can enjoy the tour of the fossils, and you can even go for a little hike, or cool off in the river on a rafting trip.  2015 marks the 100th anniversary of the monument, so there are some special events happening between May and October to celebrate.

3) Soak in the ‘Boat: Steamboat is such a cute little town, but it’s hard to take a day away from your ranch vacation to explore the town.  How about coming in a couple days early, going to soak in the Strawberry Park Natural Hot Springs, throwing on your boots and jeans for the Steamboat Springs Pro-Rodeo one night, take the kids down the Alpine Slide, ride the Gondola up to the Thunderhead Lodge at the Steamboat Ski Resort, and then spend the day river rafting to wrap it all up.

4) Hit the Beach: If you thought playing in the sand meant going to a coast, you’re wrong!  Colorado boasts some amazing National Parks, and the Great Sand Dunes is one of them.  This one is high on my bucket list, so maybe I’ll see you there!

5) City Life, Colorado Style: Many of you come from amazing cities, so the idea of coming to Colorado to spend time in a city seems unappealing.  However, Colorado Springs is a city worth visiting.  Tour the charming Old Town, walk through the red rocks at Garden of the Gods, take a train up to the top of Pikes Peak, and then visit museums and sites that aren’t exactly what you’d find at home, such as the Pro-Rodeo Hall of Fame or even the US Olympic Training Center.

Hopefully you’ll find some time to explore a few of these suggestions, whether it’s before or after your Vista Verde ranch vacation.

The VVR Canine Personality Assessment/Test (VVR-CPA/T)

By Meagan

The other day, we played a fun game at lunch time.  It was “Are you a Finn or a Jackson?”  For those of you who know our lovable ranch dogs, these two have very different personalities.  You might already know which one you are, but for those of you who haven’t met these guys, here’s a little breakdown of their character traits.
finn-dude-ranch-dogYou’re a FINN if:

  • You find the fun in everything, kindling isn’t just a fire starter, but treasure to be buried.
  • You’re easily excited, but those feet are always getting in the way.
  • You test the boundaries of where you are and are not allowed.
  • You have an adventurous palate, frozen manure, yes please!
  • You’re social, that pack of dogs over there, looks like your new bffs.
  • Being by yourself never stopped you from playing a thrilling game of tether ball.
  • You’re always sad to leave the ranch at the end of the day.
  • Stealing trail markers from the ski trails?  It’s just borrowing in your mind, but you might forget to return them.

jackson-dude-ranch-dogYou’re a JACKSON if:

  • You’re athletic, you can jump 5 feet into the air to catch a snowball.
  • You are focused, always ready to get that stray cow back in line.
  • You’re attentive, when you’re called, you’re ready.
  • You aim to please, ‘oh I dropped the ball too far away? Let me bring it closer.’
  • Dedication is the name of the game, the kids don’t stop throwing the ball, you don’t stop fetching.
  • You love the woods and are ready to go all day, bring it on!
  • You are adventurous, spinning down the sledding hill in a tube sounds like a wild time.

 

 

So, what are you?  A Finn or a Jackson?

A Romantic Family Vacation?

By Steph

There was a great article in Pure Wander Magazine recently called Keeping the Romance Alive While Traveling With Kids.  I saw that and it just hit the spot for me, as I feel like that is something we help facilitate here at Vista Verde.  If you’re reading this thinking, “What?”, then read on.  Here are some of the tips from the article:

Consider the amenities

Lodging is a pivotal part of any trip, but it is even more important when trying to find time for romance. One option is to rent a small cabin or an apartment. Giving your children their own space and setting a bedtime will not only allow you some alone time, but it will also keep the kids from tossing and turning in your bed throughout the trip. On chilly nights in snow-covered cabins, grab a bottle of wine and cuddle up in front of the fire.

Yep, we have spacious cabins at Vista Verde, and the kids typically have their own bedrooms separate from the master suite.

Research special activities when traveling with kids

Many hotels provide guests with day camps or supervised activities. Kids will experience a different side of the resort and make some new friends while you sneak away for the afternoon.

Can you say kids program?  Like, a kids program that the kids won’t want to leave?  As in, you’re going to have to force them to go do something with you when you’re ready for family time?

Incorporate the element of surprise

If you manage to get some alone time, surprise your partner. If you won’t have the opportunity to spend a night out, leave little surprises around your room or in your significant other’s suitcase to remind them that you’re thinking of them even while your children are around.

This is sweet.  We can help you if you need assistance from the Love Experts.

Start before you leave

Before leaving on your trip, think about ways to get the romance started at home. Find classes you can take together—learn the native language of where you’re heading or take dance classes to experience the culture before your plane even touches down. Look up authentic dishes online and try to recreate them together at home. The romance doesn’t have to be exclusive to the trip!

Ahhh…..come on Romeo, you can do it!

We think they hit the nail on the head with these suggestions.  So, if you’re wondering about whether you can spark some romance on your family dude ranch vacation, we’re here to assure you it’s possible.  Come join us this summer for a Romantic Family Vacation!  Who’d of thunk?

John Lyons, a renowned horse trainer who will be teaching a clinic at Vista Verde Guest Ranch October 11-15 2015.

John Lyons Horsemanship Clinic at Vista Verde Ranch

By Steph

We are excited to announce a partnership between the renowned John Lyons and Vista Verde Ranch to offer a one-of-a-kind horsemanship clinic.

October 11-15, 2015

Join a small group of riders to ride and learn under the renowned John Lyons.

John Lyons is one of the most internationally known horse trainers in the field of natural horsemanship. Lyons has been presenting training clinics and horsemanship symposiums since 1980, has written many books on horses and horse training, and is the founder of John Lyons’ Perfect Horse magazine. He lives and works out of Parachute, Colorado.

Lyons’ approach to establishing a partnership between horse and handler is based in part on the principles of operant conditioning.  He encourages owners to notice what is going on with their horses and to use consistent cues and reinforcement to encourage positive behavior.  He places a strong emphasis on safety of handler and horse, using gentle techniques, and eschewing dramatic results in favor of setting specific goals, then teaching them by use of clear signals, responsible methods, and consistency.

During the course of the clinic, riders and horses will learn the foundation exercises, lessons, and principles of the Lyons Method. Riders will, first and foremost, learn to effectively control their horse. Whether pleasure rider, trail rider, or experienced competitor, all riders have the same common goal: to improve the level of control they have over their horses. The clinic will help you reach that goal and take your horsemanship to the next level.

Participation in this 4-night, 3-day clinic will be limited to a small group of riders and auditors.  Riders may bring a non-rider companion to take advantage of other ranch activities during the clinic dates.  And guests just looking for a shorter version of our week-long stays can enjoy the ranch activities and visit with clinic attendees over meals.

Rates include lodging in one of our luxury cabins or lodge rooms, meals, beer and wine, clinic on our horse or yours, and airport transfers to and from the Steamboat/Hayden airport.

$2,700/rider

$1,900/non-rider: Guided trail rides, hiking, mountain biking, and fly fishing available for non-riders

$100/auditor/day: For non-guests who just want to come up to the ranch for the day to audit the clinic and enjoy lunch with our guests.

Please note: If you are bringing your own horse, a current health certificate will be required.  Board is $100 for the 4 nights.

Please contact us at 800-526-7433 for more information or to reserve your spot.

 

 

Nearing the finish line

By Steph

The winter season is coming to an end, and just in time as the snow is rapidly melting away.  Tomorrow we officially close the winter resort season, but then Sunday the guests for our Horsemanship Retreat check-in.  We’ll have a group of about 10 ladies here riding with Jason Patrick until Thursday, and then we shut the doors until summertime.  There is a mix of excitement, sadness, anticipation, and celebration going on for many of us right now.  Excitement as it’s always fun to have a change of pace, and many staff are heading off on amazing off-season adventures.  Sadness as some of our great people are moving on to their next venture in life and we’re sad to see them go.  Anticipation as those who are leaving wonder where their next move will take them, and will they miss the ranch or not?  Celebration as we have worked our tails off since December serving others, and now it’s time to take a deep breath and enjoy the quiet of the off-season.

Although there are many staff moving on to new and different adventures in life, I need to recognize one in particular today.  Malori has led the office team this past year and has been the main voice of Vista Verde.  She’s handled the bulk of the reservations and been the point person for all our guests prior to their stay at the ranch.  It’s been such a pleasure having her in the office and watching her grow over the past couple years.  We will miss her tremendously, but are excited for her to go find her “thing” out there in the big world.  I know she’ll do wonderful things and contribute in great ways.  At the same time, Malori’s partner in crime and roommate Kerri will be heading out too.  She’s the other voice of VVR who steps in on Malori’s days off to cover the reservations.  The amazing person has proven that farm girls can be smart and beautiful, and we’ve loved having her as part of our team. With every sad good bye there is always also a warm welcome.

With Malori stepping out, Meagan will be stepping into her role.  Many of you who have been here know Meagan as the lively server or the bubbly kid wrangler.  Now she is stepping inside the office and will be taking over the phones, emails, and all that goes on in the front office.  So, expect to hear a new voice when you call in to book your reservation (have you booked for the summer yet?  If not, get on it so Meagan can get to work!).  We’re all looking forward to having her join the fun in the office.

There are many more to say goodbye to, and many more to welcome come summer, but that will be another blog.  I’m hoping that sometime in the coming month I’ll have the new website launched, and then we’ll start updating the staff bios so you can check out who will be working here this summer. Lots to do with the closing of the season, and lots of great news to share in the coming weeks.  Stay tuned!

Colorado luxury dude ranch vacation

Why should you choose a dude ranch for your next vacation

By Steph

How to choose the right dude ranch

So, you’re trying to decide if a dude ranch vacation is right for your family? But if you haven’t been to one before, how do you know if you’ll like it, and how do you know which dude ranch is the right one?

Dude Ranch People

Unfortunately dude ranches are not a great money making business prospect, so most people who get into the business do it out of a labor of love. Therefore, at most dude ranches, you will find hosts who are friendly and engaging and who really do want to share their backyard with you. And, because things trickle down, the staff are usually the same. In fact, one of the things that surprise most first time guests is the staff. Most of them are working at a dude ranch for a season or two during college or just after graduation. They have chosen to come to that dude ranch for the job, and they not just looking for a way to make money but looking for a unique experience, much like you! And most ranches incorporate their staff in a way that makes them less like the “help” and more like friends taking care of friends. Now, we happen to think our staff are particularly special, and spend a lot of time each year picking out the best of the best to join our crew.

The Dude Ranch Experience

In addition to the unique relationships formed with staff at a dude ranch, most guests are surprised to find that they become fast friends with the other guests. Many dude ranch guests keep in touch in ensuing years, and even plan to return to the same dude ranch or a different one next year.

You may be picking up on a theme….relationships. That’s really what a dude ranch is all about. The beautiful backdrop, great activities, and service are all wonderful. But the relationships formed at a dude ranch are what make it really special.

Having said that, you do want to know that the backbone of a great dude ranch vacation is there. Some dude ranches offer just riding, some have various other activities. Some are a great place for families with little kids, and some are better for when the kids are older. Some have specialty times like adult only weeks or women only weeks. Most dude ranch stays are week-long stays during the main season, but some offer shorter stays during other times of the year.

Picking the Right Dude Ranch

It can be a bit overwhelming, trying to find the right dude ranch for your vacation. First, you need to identify what level of quality you desire. Some are very rustic, some more luxurious. And what kind of activities are important to you? Is location important, and how easy is it to get to the ranch? Because the relationships are such an integral part of the experience, we do recommend you get on the phone with the ranches you are considering. You will either feel really good about the person you spoke with, or you will know it’s not for you. That gut feeling is important, as the person answering your questions is usually a good representation of the kind of people you’ll find at that dude ranch. Lastly, look for reviews on places like Tripadvisor as those can be very telling.

Questions to ask

Here are some questions that might help you plan your dude ranch vacation:

1) What is included in the rate? What is extra? Taxes, gratuities? Beverages? Extra charges for optional activities?

2) How are activities organized? Can families participate in activities and meals together?

3) What’s the best way to get to the dude ranch?

4) What is the staff to guest ratio?

5) What are the accommodations like? Do they have pictures?

6) What is the riding program like? How many people per ride? How are rides split up? What is the terrain like?

7) If someone doesn’t want to ride, what else is there to do?

8) Describe a typical breakfast, lunch and dinner.

9) Describe the setting of the dude ranch.

10) What makes that dude ranch special?

Hopefully this helps you pick the right dude ranch. Just as much as you want to make sure we’re the right dude ranch for you, we want to make sure you are going to be happy here. You can read more about Why Vista Verde to get a quick hitter on our dude ranch. The right match is paramount to creating those memories and relationships that will lead to making it the best vacation ever!

Local’s Ski Day- March 1, 2015

We’re excited to open up the ranch to Steamboat locals for a day of skiing and great food on Sunday, March 1, 2015.  The new snow has freshened everything up and it’s gorgeous right now!

Come enjoy the ranch’s groomed ski trails and treat yourself to an bountiful spread at lunchtime.

Ski all day on our classic and skate trails.  Between 12:30-1:30 come on into the Lodge for a scrumptious lunch.

Ski & Lunch- Includes a glass of wine or beer with lunch.  $45/person, 1/2 price for children 12 & under.

Trail pass only – Come and enjoy the trails and peaceful scenery for a couple hours.  $15/person

Cross country ski or snowshoe rentals- $15/person

Please call or email ahead of time to reserve your spot.  879-3858 reservations@vistaverde.com

What’s up at Vista Verde?

By Steph

So, I’ll be the first to admit, I’ve been a little slack on blogging this winter.  I could give all sorts of excuses from lacking good ideas to being distracted by having fun outside to being bogged down with other items on my to-do list–you name it.  Nonetheless, I just decided this morning to sit down and write about whatever came to mind.

We’re more than half-way through the winter season at this point, and are in our last week of adult-only vacations.  I can’t tell you how many times we’ve all stated, “We love these guests!” and then turn around 2 days later and say the same thing, and then again 3 days later…..point being we have been so lucky to have some amazingly wonderful people choose Vista Verde for their winter vacation this year.  From the young honeymooners to the group of gals here for a girls getaway to celebrate their 50th birthday to the returning guests who call this their second home…they’ve all been a blast.  It’s fun to come in each day and see what everyone has chosen to do for the day.  It’s been a pretty even spread, except for this afternoon when all but 4 guests are going to doing the wine tasting!  Cholly will have his hands full, and a lot of fun, I suspect.

A week or so ago, we got a call from our friends at the Belton Ranch.  We co-op with them on our cattle round-up in the fall months.  There were some cows that we couldn’t get in last fall, and they were finally spotted out in the snow recently.  So, a few of the wranglers loaded up the trailer with our most hearty horses and plenty of warm clothes and went out to find those strays.   Mission accomplished with only a couple hours of riding.  It was a bit of a challenge, but some good cattle dogs helped, along with roping one of the cows to lead the rest in towards the trailer.

While last winter was the winter of overwhelming snow, this winter has been one of hit or miss snow.  We’ll have a huge dump of snow, and then nothing for a couple weeks, then another huge dump, etc… right now we’re in a weird “spring break” pattern of sunny days and slushy snow.  Go figure, as that is not something we typically see in February!  The word around town is that March and April will be huge snow months.  Regardless of the conditions, we’re finding good stashes of snow for the backcountry ski tours, and the skating and classic track has been amazing for people who are going out to cross country ski around the ranch.  I’ve skated more this year than ever before, and it’s been a blast.  It’s also great conditions for snow biking, and of course horse back riding in the snow or a sleigh ride with the sun shining down on you isn’t a bad way to spend the day.

As we get closer to Valentine’s Day, the chefs are preparing for our annual Aphrodisiac Dinner.  This year will be interesting as Valentine’s Day falls on the same weekend as President’s Day, so we’ll have families here as well as couples enjoying the romantic weekend in the snow.  That kicks off our family times again, and we’ll fire up the kid’s program from now until we finish with our spring break weeks in late-March.

I’ll wrap up with an office update.  Beka and Ben have been pouring over the applicants for the summer and interviewing, interviewing, interviewing.  They are pretty excited about who they have on board, and have some other great prospects to check out still.  We’re also busy working on an updated website.  Trying to keep the aspects of our current site that we love, but also make the site more accessible for mobile users.  Stay tuned for the launch of the site this spring.  In the meantime, keep in touch with us on Facebook, among our other social platforms.  We’ll keep posting photos and videos of what’s going on here at the ranch.  And, I’ll try to stay up on the blogging a bit more!

Spotlight on- Mary Grefrath

By Steph

It’s been a long time since I’ve done a spotlight on a staff member post.  As soon as I started to think about who to put the spotlight on, Mary jumped into my mind and I knew it had to be her.

Mary and Meesh jumping on the feed sleigh to go feed the herd.

Mary and Meesh jumping on the feed sleigh to go feed the herd.

Originally from Buffalo, New York, Mary joined us during the winter of 2013-14.  She had recently completed her degree in Art Education at Buffalo State University, and, like many of our staff, had that “What do I do now?” moment.  Not quite ready to jump into becoming an art teacher, and not quite ready to pursue that Masters degree, she made the obvious choice to come work at a dude ranch!

Mary stepped into her interim career with ease.  She learned the ins and outs of housekeeping, and performed her job with a non-stop smile on her face.  She jumped into the community, quickly becoming part of the family, and immersed herself in the Vista Verde lifestyle.  Now in her 3rd season with the ranch, Mary has been a key player in many areas.  She’s our go-to when we need a crafty design for something, she helps with the kids program here and there, and she is an invaluable part of our housekeeping team.  This coming summer, Mary will transition over to being a full-time Kid Wrangler, so know that your little ones will be in good hands if you’re heading this way for a dude ranch vacation this summer.

Not to miss an opportunity, Mary has made the most of her time in Colorado.  She loves trying out all the activities here, and loves learning new things.  Mary has traveled over most of the hiking trails around here (and there are a lot!), learned to skate ski, and has spent hours on horseback.  She told me that what has made her time working at the ranch so special is the relationships with the staff, the camaraderie among the team, and being around other people who are here because they want to be here, not just to clock in and collect a paycheck.

I also learned that Mary really enjoys the night she and the housekeeping team host Game Night during the winter season.  It gives them all a chance to hang out with the guests, have some fun with them, and most importantly, get to see their competitive side.  And you thought corn hole was a casual back yard game?  Not at Vista Verde!

So, what does someone like Mary do when she’s not taking care of guests, ironing, or folding laundry?  She’s currently reading “How to be a bad-ass”, although her preferred type of book is a mystery with a really huge twist at the end.  This coming spring 0ff-season she is planning on heading to Thailand to spend a couple weeks volunteering at an elephant sanctuary.  Last fall she took a road trip with Meesh and Heidi to the Grand Canyon before heading home to spend some time with her family.  And, when she’s here at the ranch, she typically has a handful of craft projects going from knitting a hat for Erin to helping Beka make a quilt.  Her friends tease her about her endless trail of projects, but remember, she is an art teacher after all!

We’re lucky to have Mary as part of our team, and look forward to hearing her infectious giggle and seeing her huge smile each day!

Celebrating the holidays in Colorado

By Steph

As we roll into 2015 with a crazy cold morning, it gives me some time to hunker down inside and reflect back on the past couple weeks.  It’s been a whirlwind, to be sure!

Our opening week was filled with a varied and fun group of guests.  The highlight was not only watching them all connect, but also celebrating the engagement of guests Alyssa and Jeff, followed days later by the engagement of Cori and Dan, former staff who stopped by the ranch for a quick proposal.  The week was pretty quiet, which allowed us to all settle into the season, work out any kinks, and get into the routine of being open again.

All set up to make natural decorations for the Christmas trees outside the Lodge.

All set up to make natural decorations for the Christmas trees outside the Lodge.

Christmas week was so memorable.  Some of the guests were worried we wouldn’t have enough snow leading up to the holiday.  Well, Mother Nature delivered with the clouds opening up on the day the guests all arrived, and barely stopping the entire week.  Yes, it was indeed a white Christmas.  One of the unique events of the week was the decoration making party we had one night after dinner.  Hosted by the amazingly creative Kelli (yes, she rocks it out at yoga, skiing, mountain biking, and yet she is also the most crafty gal I know) the guests and staff put together unique and colorful natural decorations to deck the trees in the yard.  Although the decorations were intended to be safe for the birds to nibble on, we soon discovered that the ranch dogs thought they were perfectly yummy.  Mental note- hang them higher next year.

 

Chef Cholly relaxing after the big wine pairing dinner for New Year's Eve.

Chef Cholly relaxing after the big wine pairing dinner for New Year’s Eve.

New Year’s week at the ranch has been an amazing one.  Everyone is so happy to be closing out 2014 in Colorado.  An adventurous group of guests and phenomenal powder have ruled the week, even in sub-zero temps.  It’s been crazy cold, but it’s not stopping anyone from having fun.  We rang in the New Year with a noisy and fun barn dance last night right in the Great Room.  As we caught our breath sometime around midnight (it was midnight somewhere in the world) Charlie dazzled us with the one and only Boot Drop followed by the ranch hand’s show of fireworks.  We’re still not sure who had more fun….the spectators watching from the warm Great Room or the ranch hands dancing around with their flares.

Life at the ranch will settle into a routine starting next week.  The New Year’s crew departs on Saturday and then we take a few days to clean up, regroup, and give the crew some much deserved time off before kicking off our adult only vacation times at the ranch.

We hope you all finished off 2014 in style, and are off to a new and grand 2015.

 

A white Christmas in Colorado

By Steph, inspired by Hill

As the day comes to an end, the sun has broken out from behind the ever-producing snow clouds.  We woke up this morning to 5 inches or so of fresh, fluffy powder, and the snow kept lightly falling for much of the day.  It was a truly white Christmas!

Neil and "Santa" Matthew prepare to take guests up tubing on Christmas day.

Neil and “Santa” Matthew prepare to take guests up tubing on Christmas day.

When Christmas morning dawned on Vista Verde this year, a quiet hush fell over the valley.  Snow falling out of the sky muffled the noises around the ranch, the hum of the Bombardier as it glided over the meadows laying fresh corduroy for skiers, the snow plow and the tractor working efficiently to clear out the new layer of snow for all of us to make our way from cabin to cabin.  The chefs came in long before dark, gave their Christmas greetings before all jumping into their lists and working without words to prepare the annual feast.  A lone horse back rider heads down the driveway, ready to gather up the herd and run them into the corral.  The horses, sensing that rider coming, begin to whinny at each other and stir.  Their footsteps make crunching sounds in the snow, and as they gather up and gallop out of the pasture, snow is flying in all directions.  The VVR staff roll into the dining room to prepare and deliver breakfast to the guests in their cabins, like a bunch of Santa’s elves.  Although all are a bit groggy, the sense of teaming up together to create a special Christmas day for our guests prevails and the teams come together to collaborate and deliver.

The snow falls all day as we prepare for the big noon day meal.  Giggles from the tubing hill float down to the Lodge, and laughter from skiers and horseback riders drift across the meadows.  Once again, I am inspired and amazed as I watch the staff team up to set up the Great Room, get the cabins cleaned in record time, and prepare for a special noon event.  As Zach rings the dinner bell with zest, Ben prepares to give thanks and bring everyone together for the meal.  The Great room is buzzing with energy and good cheer.  Christmas sweaters abound, and kids excitedly find their own boot that was left by the fireplace and magically filled with goodies overnight.

We dine like kings, and all get a chance to celebrate the day together.  If everyone were so lucky.

Colorado-Christmas-Day-300x168As the guests roll out of the Lodge and off to their adventures for the afternoon (some opt to skip their plans of active outings and relax in their cabin with a good book, or take a nap following a dip in their hot tub), the crew teams up to clean up the mess we have made.  Laughter and camaraderie take over to ease the hard work, and the Great room and dining room are put back into shape in no time at all.  I step out to head to the barn with my family for a Christmas day trail ride.  As the girls chat with their horses, and feed them the special carrots Santa delivered for them, Todd and I revel in the bond between a child and a horse.  The ride is beautiful, the temperature just perfect, the snow is still falling, and as we head back to the barn, the sleigh passes us with jingling bells.

It isn’t until late in the afternoon that the sun breaks out.  The light is angelic, as if someone planned on making a statement with it.  The day comes to an end with families relaxing together, staff making their calls home to give holiday greetings, and the horses munching on their extra Christmas hay.  We are so lucky to be able to share this amazing spot called Vista Verde  (which is actually Vista Blanco now) with the world.  We, as a crew feel blessed to be here, even when it’s hard to be away from family for the holidays.  The guests know that not everyone gets to celebrate the holidays like this, and revel in the winter wonderland.  I still hear the sleigh bells in my mind, and I almost wonder if they are coming out of the sky?  Is it in my head, or is it real?  Well, with that, I must say, “Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night”!

Budgeting for an all-inclusive vacation

By Steph

all-inclusive-tips

I ran across this great little gratuity guide recently, and found it quite handy.  Gratuity is an area where I feel like I stumble frequently. How much is enough, when is it expected, when is it not expected?  In the effort of not wanting to cheat anyone out of a tip, but also wanting to not go over budget all the time, I feel like I can’t go right.  In looking over this gratuity guide, my professional wheels started turning.  How much would a guest have to spend if they followed this gratuity guide at Vista Verde? Now, keep in mind one important piece of this inner dialogue–at Vista Verde we do not add any sort of service charge or gratuity, and gratuities are not expected at all.  Point being, we assume everyone will pay the rate we are charging for their stay and be done. Nothing extra expected.  Now, some folks do like to leave a gratuity at the end of their stay to be split up amongst the staff. That’s fine, and we’ll take it if they want to do so. But, I want to drive home the point that there is no expectation of any gratuity. So this question I pondered was a hypothetical one.

After crunching the math and adding it up, I came to the amount of roughly $800 for a couple staying for a week.  That was based on tipping at each meal, every activity, each night, etc. Then it hit me. Most all-inclusive resorts expect their guests to tip their staff.  Which got me thinking about the fact that people typically budget for their vacations, and how often are budgets blown over at all-inclusive resorts? So, here are a few tips to keep in mind the next time you’re booking an all-inclusive vacation. Ask these questions to help you determine if this fits your budget:

1) What is the policy on gratuity/tipping.

2) What activities are and aren’t included?

3) What extra charges might be incurred? Airport shuttles? Beer, wine, or liquor?

4) Is there any sort of resort fee? Parking or internet?

Hopefully this helps you figure out if the vacation fits within your budget. And, it’s also what keeps us committed to making a vacation at Vista Verde as all-inclusive as possible. It’s just easier for all of you, and it feels better for us to deliver a product with no surprises. Well, maybe some unexpected wonderful surprises.

XCSkirResorts.com – December 2014

Among some women, the “Girls’ Getaway” weekend or program has become an annual tradition where small or extended groups of women, ladies, girls, mothers, daughters, or friends organize a get together unaccompanied by (one might even say unburdened by) or exclusive of men, boys, brothers, and fathers. The motivation and/or common denominator is about connecting.

A girls’ weekend might include recreating or relaxing together, enjoying good food and good wine, and a host of other activities that provide the backdrop for engagement and lasting memories. XCSkiResorts.com has found a list of women’s programs for the upcoming winter 2014-15 ranging from once-a-week group outings to week-long all inclusive packages.  Read more…..

The making of a sleigh ride in Colorado

By Steph

As we gear up for our winter season to open on December 13, there is a lot of work to do.  The Lodge is getting decorated as I write this post.  The tree has gone up, the wreaths are being hung, and Willie the Moose has donned his Santa hat once again.  The ski guides are going through their in-depth guide training (remember if you want to learn all that is taught to the guides, you can participate in our Guide Training for Guests in late-March), the ranch hands and kid wranglers are getting dialed in on snowmobile driving for the tubing hill, the chefs are finalizing their menus, and the housekeepers are getting the cabins sparkling clean after sitting empty for the off-season.  The other day, Mandy and KP tried out a new horse for the one horse sleigh.  Ben and Jerry came to us as a team years ago, but weren’t quite right for our big feed sleigh.  Ben turned out to be a great one for the one horse sleigh.  But Jerry hasn’t gotten his chance until this winter.  So, to see if he makes the cut, the wranglers are trying him out for a few days before we open for the season.  Same captured this video of a late afternoon practice run.  He still needs some time to settle into the job, but he’s coming along nicely so far!  Come visit us for a vacation in winter wonderland and enjoy your own private sleigh ride!

Music provided by the talented Brent Rowan.  Brent is a past Academy of Country Music Guitarist of the Year who now lives in Steamboat Springs.  His CD “Bare Essentials” is one of our favorites.