This week at the Ranch

animals and kids at a family dude ranch vacation

Dude Ranch Life: Angels among us

On the very first day of my kids’ summer vacation we discovered that my daughter’s old faithful horse has some really serious health issues. Given that having a horse is an integral part of my summer childcare plan, this put us in a bind. Yes, we have plenty of horses here at the ranch, but they all have a job to do during the summer! So I’ve been madly hunting for a great horse for my kid. In that search, I have been reminded that it is a special creature who weighs 1,000 pounds and gently takes care of our children. It’s never far from my thoughts or those of all our wranglers as they work with our herd, but this situation has put it really high on my radar right now. We truly live among angels with these horses, and even the dogs and cats, here at the ranch who so patiently care for our little people.

No horse is perfect, just like none of us are–ok, maybe some of you have achieved perfection, but I’m far from it! However, as I watch these animals who are so powerful stand patiently while little girls braid their manes, or small children pull on their mouths with no awareness of the discomfort they are causing the animal, or a group of kids lie down and surround a young colt, leaving it with no escape when he is wired to always have an out from prey, I see little angel wings sprouting. So, parents, please remember when your kid complains that her horse eats grass to much, or that when he wants to trot or lope the horse doesn’t do it without a lot of kicking, or whatever other imperfections arise, that these creatures are taking care of your babies and keeping them safe. I’ve been shopping for a replacement horse who is safe and kind, willing and sure-footed, calm and gentle, and they are not abundantly available. So, I am treasuring the ones we do have here at the ranch. Because we are surrounded by angels here, and luckily the kids who come here (and my kids are included in that thankfully) get to spend time riding around on winged horses without even knowing it! Bet you never imagined when you booked your family vacation here at the ranch that you were also booking time with an angel?

dude ranch staff on bikes

Dude Ranch Life: Orientation week

It’s been a whirlwind of excitement and learning this week at the ranch. You know that saying about drinking out of a firehose? That is pretty much how our staff feel at this point. They arrived Monday, and we kicked off our orientation time with a welcome dinner Monday night. First thing Tuesday morning there were introductions and then we jumped right into laying out the ranch mission, touring the new staff around the ranch, and getting paperwork filled out. Then if was off to their individual departments. We’ve been busy from sunrise to sunset and everyone is ready for a well-deserved day off tomorrow! Following a great suggestion by longtime guest Bruce G., I asked a couple of the new staff to share their experiences with our followers on social media. Here’s what they’ve been experiencing so far this week. First up, meet Catherine:

Day 1:
Hi, I’m Catherine,
I’m from Charlotte, North Carolina.
I am so excited to spend my first season at Vista Verde Ranch as a Horse Wrangler.
Follow me on my journey over the next few weeks as I learn all the ends and outs of this beautiful place.

Today, we were completely immersed in the vision and mission behind what we are doing here at the ranch. Whether learning about values like compassion and leadership, or meeting those that are the heartbeat of the ranch; This place has already stolen my heart.

However, the day wasn’t all meetings. The wranglers spent the day exploring the acres of the ranch on horseback and meeting a few of the horses. Here are a few pictures from today’s adventure!

Day 2

Hey Y’all it’s Catherine!
Today was such a blast. It was the most beautiful weather we’ve had all week. Summer is definitely here. We spent the morning practicing all different types of first aid emergency scenarios. From practicing what to do about back injuries, making slings, or walking through head to toe checks, all of our first aid training was reinforced with live scenarios.

This afternoon the wrangler department saddled up and had our first clinic with the head trainer KP. Y’all, KP knows his stuff. He is such a wealth of knowledge on all things horsemanship. I learned so much in one short hour, and I’ve been riding my whole life. Today was full of reminders of how much of a gift this summer will be.
Also, I’ve been taking some spins on the Cruiser Bikes. It’s definitely going to be a favorite aspect of after work activities! So. much. fun.

Day 3

Hey y’all,
Big things are happening here at the ranch. Today was spent with everyone really diving into getting the ranch prepped for guests. Wranglers were mending fences and placing gates, guides were building paddle board trailers, and kids supervisors went on an orientation
horseback ride. It was a busy day, and most people were outside working all around. The energy was high, and it really feels like we’ve gotten into a steady rhythm with our departments. I’ve found that my favorite parts of the day are meals when we all gather together in the staff room and share conversations across tables. I also love department time. We get to bond with our team and focus on what we really love to do at the ranch. For me, it’s horses.

Counting down the days until we get to meet you all!

Day 4
Hi friends,
Today was filled with a lot of “first times.” We de wormed the mares and the yearlings, had our first “run out” to the back pasture, and had our first barn dance! There’s nothing quiet as exciting as chasing a heard of galloping horses through a pasture and herding them in the right direction. Also, I learned that head wrangler Ben Yoder-Henley and head trainer KP have some serious dance moves. Everyday the ranch has more and more to offer!

And now it’s Day 5 and Catherine and the rest of the crew are working with the housekeepers to learn the ins and outs of Sunday turnovers. Because, here at the ranch, everyone jumps in on Sundays to help get the cabins cleaned for the next group of guests!

Next we introduce you to Mackenzie:
My name is Mackenzie and I am beyond stoked to be a server at VVR this season! I’m originally from a suburb close to Chicago, and can’t wait for this change of pace in the mountains! Follow my staff orientation over the next 2 weeks to see a glimpse of what goes into prepping to serve our amazing guests! Day 1 consisted of stellar talks about the ranch, it’s mission, and what it means to be a part of the family here. I’m feeling truly honored to have this opportunity. The entire staff has already learned so much, and of course we continued the fun after training with bike rides and staff yoga!

Day 2- The ranch staff spent the entire morning soaking up information about first aid. We then practiced mock first-aid scenarios around the ranch!
In the afternoon, the waitstaff toured and explored the in’s and out’s of the kitchen. We also began to learn a bit about breakfast service and practiced carrying plates (current drop count: 0)! As you can see from the picture, it was a tough view to commute to work today, and an even tougher view to study our server book in our cabins! What a great second day for the waitstaff.

Howdy from day 3! All of the waitstaff just happened to show up in matching outfits today- wow we must ALREADY be stellar as a team! (Ok..maybe we planned it…) Today we had a birthday in our department of one of our wonderful returning staff, Terrence! What better way to celebrate than singing happy birthday to him as he walks in the staff room rubbing his eyes at 7am?!
Today the servers gained a wealth of knowledge from our lead server, Lisa, as well as birthday boy Terrence. We ran through a fake breakfast service- between the four of us “newbies” we probably asked a grand total of 1 million questions to make sure we’re the best we can be! Next, we learned how to set the table for formal dinner service. Lisa surprised us at the end of the day by telling us we will be riding tomorrow as a department! We couldn’t be more excited, bring on day 4!

Stay tuned, as we’ll keep you updated on the adventures of Catherine and Mackenzie as they navigate their way to opening day. We’re in the final countdown!

meeting at a dude ranch

Dude Ranch Life: Gearing up for the summer season

Oh boy. Can I just tell you all how excited I am about this summer? I’ve been doing this a long time (this summer marks 20 years in dude ranching– who’d have ever thought I’d be saying that?!) and there are some years that I am more excited about the start of the season than others. It varies based on so many things, but this year it is definitely different. I am pumped like I haven’t been in a long time. Why? So many reasons!!!

Where to start……in no particular order

Kids, tweens and teens- We’ve always put a lot of energy into our programs for the younger guests, but this year it seems like the stars are aligning. With Addie and Mandy joining the ranch team, there is a level of professionalism, excitement, maturity, and fun that gets me giddy just thinking about it. Both educators, these two gals are pouring into the program to make it the best ever. And it wasn’t a shabby program to start with, so they really are reaching for the stars. The two of them compliment each other so well as far as personality and skill sets and they will be tag-teaming on making this summer the best ever. They have embraced and run with our new concept of not just splitting up the kids into kid and teen groups, but into kid, tween, and teen groups. In doing so, they have crafted a whole new program, and there are so many fun activities packed into one week. On top of that, they made all sorts of tweaks and improvements to the existing programs that are going to make them so much fun. Listen, my two girls join in on the program each summer, so I have an extra personal stake in the game, and I know they are going to love it. Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy, I could go on and on….but let’s move on.

Betterness- Former owner John Munn left a legacy with his term “betterness.” He always encouraged us to work toward that, and never settle for status quo. This spring the ideas have been flowing, following many of us taking trips of our own and experience great service and unique amenities (hint, hint Chris and Laura, maybe we should all get paid to travel in the off-season, haha). In little ways here and there, we are freshening up the special details that make a ranch vacation at VVR stand out to our guests. Sorry, I can’t reveal them all, but it’s exciting to see them coming together!

The leaders- No, not me, Ben and Charlie. We all just sit around and look pretty. I’m talking about the people who make it all happen. We have such a fabulous team this year, and they are so committed to excellence that I just get all mushy inside thinking about it. Monday we had our pre-season manager meeting. What I thought was going to be an hour or so meeting turned into an all-day affair. Yes, keeping a bunch of dude ranchers seated inside for that long is beyond painful, but the discussions and the ideas that came out of it were so incredibly productive, positive, and honest. It was incredible. I was cranky by 5pm after being cooped up all day, but also so full of thankfulness for the team who makes this place rock and roll. In addition to the old faithfuls, there are a number of new players involved in the ranch this past year, and everyone of them seems like they have been here forever. I already mentioned the gals in the kids hut, but there is also Chef Jason who joined us last winter, and one would think he and Chef Chol have been working together for years based on the ease with the dining program has moved forward. Then there is Zach who took over the HR and activity coordinating while Beka moved into the Adventure Center, and we all love having him in the office. Ben Yoder Henley has returned to take the head wrangler role and team up head trainer KP in the horse program. Melissa helped lead us in a new direction with housekeeping last winter, and she’s become a pivotal player in the office where she balances two very important roles. And how can we forget the ranch owners Laura and Chris and their amazing kids–talk about energy and excitement!

Adventures await- We have a new era starting in the Adventure Center, and that might be different for some. But the door is almost bursting off with enthusiasm from the talented and experienced team up there. Beka, Isaac, Brandon, Ben, and Nate are working diligently to be ready to roll on June 4. They have the newest and greatest gear, ideas for fun ways to experience the backcountry, and are so loaded up with wilderness safety training that you better not stub your toe on a hike or you might find yourself in triage. They are ready to shake things up and give our guests the best outdoor experiences they have ever had at the ranch before. That’s contagious, and I can’t wait to try the new bikes, hear about the fish tales, and watch the log of the many miles our guests and guides put on the trail grow over the summer.

Animals- The mare barn is going to be a little more noisy this summer with the addition of some chickens, chicks, goats and bunnies. Yes! The brainchild that started with some casual conversations between Charlie and Devyn has turned into some real live animals that Mandy rustled up for the ranch. Me thinks I might have to take a few walks down to the mare barn for “quality control.” I mean, it is really important for me to check out the foals and the animals, just to make sure the guests are getting the best experience possible, right?

Ok, I could go on and on, as in every corner of the ranch, in every department, and with everything we do there are amazing things happening this spring. So, with the pace kicking into full steam this week and the staff arriving next week the heat has been turned up. And it’s going to be a good one! If you haven’t already made plans to join us this summer, maybe it’s time to squeeze in a week to the ranch. Don’t miss this summer at VVR–I’m going to soak it all up and hope you can too!

foals at Colorado dude ranch

Dude Ranch Life: Springtime in the Rockies means babies!

The valley is just bursting with life. The grass is spreading out over the meadows and the glacier lilies are popping out all over the place. The rivers are rushing by with tremendous speed. The sand hill cranes are calling out from the ponds and the trees are filled with chirping birds in the morning. And, best of all, there are babies everywhere we turn!

Each day as we pass by our fellow rancher’s homes we see more calves dotting the pastures. Our partners Christy and Matt Belton just held their branding over the weekend and now those little black calves are snoozing out under the sunshine next to their mammas.

Teletubby and Jane have both delivered sweet little foals. Teletubby’s little filly is just as sweet and friendly as they get, and June’s colt is a little pistol full of energy and sass.

Oh, and to top all that, Monday morning we got the call from Chol and Alaya that they welcomed Saoirse into their family. Eamon has a little sister and everyone is doing really well! I asked Eamon if anything fun had happened today as we walked through the Lodge today with his papa, and his big news was that they saw some flowers and wanted to ask Charlie about them. Finally, after some prodding he did remember that they also have a new baby! Hey, we all have our priorities.

Here’s to the start of a season of abundance. Bring it on Spring!

 

dude ranch discounted week

Discounted dude ranch week

The start of our summer dude ranch season is always an exciting time. The staff show up in the latter part of May for an intense, two week orientation. During that time we pour information into them so they will understand the culture of the ranch, wrap their heads around their roles for the summer, and prepare to give our guests an amazing vacation experience. By the end of the orientation time, they are bursting at the seams with knowledge and are ready for our guests. So ready that they are practically lining up to meet our first guests as they arrive at the ranch for opening week. The enthusiasm of opening week is contagious and is much of what makes that week such a special time for our staff and guests. What makes it even more special is that it is discounted! Did you know that you can save up to $600 per person if you come for our opening week? So, if your kids are out of school by then, or heck, if you don’t have kids and want to save on a summer dude ranch vacation, come visit us June 4-11, 2017!

If you are interested in learning more about our upoming opening week, please give us a call at 800-526-7433 or fill out a reservation request form. We look forward to seeing you when the valley is bursting with wildflowers, the foals still teeny tiny, the meadows dotted with calves, the Elk River roaring, and the mountains still capped with snow.

ranch bikes

Dude Ranch Life: Off-season at Vista Verde

Spring is a busy time for Art, our UPS driver. Each day a slew of boxes of new gear arrives, and lately those boxes have been really, really big as our new bikes arrive. Beka and the guides spent a week building bikes to update our Salsa fleet. This year they are playing around with the newest trend in cycling, which is a fatter tire bike that can function in both summer and winter conditions. These bikes will allow novice bikers to feel more comfortable riding over obstacles on the trail, so we’re excited to get you out on them this summer!

Mandy and Addie have been revamping the kids and teen programs to make room for the new tween program. They’ve come up with some fun new events in addition to the all-time favorites of our past guest kids. Ahhh, to be a kid at VVR is to live the good life.

KP traveled to several horse sales this spring and has a great batch of new riding horses to start working into our string. They are big, beautiful, kind, and willing, so we can’t wait to get some mileage on them so you all can try them out! In addition to that, we’ve tweaked the clinic schedule just a bit to accommodate some new options for our guests. It’s time to get in shape for riding!

A big load of fence rails arrived the other day, just in time for Javin to lead a crew to rebuild and repair fences all over the ranch. With 600+ acres to fence, this is a job that never is finished!

Chef Chol is picking out some new wines for the list while also working with Jason on the summer menus. Bill is busy with his list of cabin fixes and improvements. And that is just the start of it. If you haven’t planned your summer vacation yet, don’t fret. We have cabins here and there throughout the summer still available, so give us a call or fill out a reservation request form so we can find a spot for you to spend a week at the ranch with us!

Colorado dude ranch general manager

Dude Ranch Life: Exciting Changes for this Summer!

Every now and then someone at the ranch moves on and opens up the door for shifting around within our management structure. As Steve and Kelli moved on this spring to their grand adventure (more on this in the last blog post), we saw some opportunities to move people to areas of the ranch where they are better suited.

With that we are so excited to announce the new management structure of the ranch, which we believe will create the best dude ranch vacation experience possible for our guests. Ben (formerly the GM) has stepped into the Executive Chef role to sling burgers and cook up bacon. He is leaning towards a meat only menu, as that is his area of expertise. That shift has allowed Chef Chol to become a full-time hiking guide. With his sleep patterns affected by a newborn baby and years of early morning shifts in the kitchen, we will be offering a whole new option of 4am guided hikes in the Zirkel Wilderness area. Following that change, Charlie has taken over the yoga and Pilates classes, and is looking forward to finding his down dog with our guests out in the aspen trees. Now that Charlie isn’t managing the finances and all the back end logistics of the staff and guests, stepping into that role will be KP, who has been counting the days until he can finally claim an upstairs office and a desk job. Now, we did find it a little tricky to figure out the right replacement for overseeing the horse program, but it became an obvious fit with Devyn when she took a lesson from KP and realized that she, too, can be a horse whisperer. Brandon, who has been eye-balling the Director of Marketing role for years, has finally gotten his wish and will be relieving Steph of her marketing duties. Keep an eye on the social media accounts, as they are about to get exciting. Of course, with him picking up those duties, Steph suggested that it would just make sense that he take on all the rest of her role as we all agreed that she would be the perfect fit for the newly created guest advocate role. Actually, since this position logically would take two people to fill, Steph and Nate have agreed to carry the burden of trying out all the guest activities, staying in guest cabins, and essentially being un-secret shopper guests at the ranch. They have a vital role in making sure folks coming for a ranch vacation are getting the best experience possible. Oh, and we almost forgot to mention that Bill will be taking over the kids program! He has some great craft projects planned with power saws and other sharp tools. Whew, so many great people finally finding their perfect role at the ranch.

So, as you start to think about your summer vacation (if you haven’t already) keep in mind that the winds of change are blowing at the VVR. While we are gearing up to give folks the best family dude ranch vacation they have ever dreamed of, you can sit back and wonder if this is just a big, fat April Fool’s day joke.

 

colorado-vacation-activity-biking

Dude Ranch Life: The season ends and an era ends

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!

springtime at Colorado Dude Ranch

Dude Ranch Life: Hunting for Easter Eggs

Just after the official closing day of our winter guest ranch season, we mark the coming of Spring with the annual Easter Egg Hunt Fundraiser at Vista Verde.

Local vendors have donated all the ingredients for a huge pancake breakfast that the ranch chefs prepare for upwards of 300 locals coming to support the North Routt Pre-School. Following a big breakfast, the kiddos will head outside to hunt for Easter Eggs, and, rumor has it, a helicopter might be flying in to add to the excitement.

It’s a fun day of camaraderie among the local community coming up to dine together, let the kids romp, ski and snowshoe all over the ranch, and just enjoy the beautiful setting while we raise money for the school. We hope you will come join us this year! Here are the details:

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Breakfast- 9am to noon

Egg Hunt- 11am

Skiing and Snowshoeing all day on the ranch trails

Snowman building contest, raffle, and more!

Cost- $10/adult, $5/child or $35/family – no advance tickets, pay as you arrive

Colorado dude ranch staff

The Spotlight is on Ben and Addie Simms

Guest blogger: Maggie Aceto

Last August, Vista Verde got a wonderful addition to our adventure guide crew – Ben Simms, a Georgia native who moved here with his wife Addie and his dog Chief. Addie is a special education teacher at the North Routt Community Charter School and has teamed up with Mandy Anzalone to run the kids program when she isn’t teaching. Ben spends his days bringing Vista Verde guests out to hike or mountain bike our beautiful trails in the summer months and snowshoe or ski through the fluffy snow in the winter. Their passion for the outdoors and service to others is one of the many reasons why we’ve loved the addition of the Simms family to the ranch. Earlier this month, I sat down with them for an interview and got to know a little more about their story:

  1. Ben, what was your childhood like?

I grew up in Atlanta, Georgia in a very outdoorsy family with three older sisters. Me and my dad would do something outside like camping or fishing at least once a month in the areas around North and South Carolina.

  1. What brought you to move to Colorado?

When I was in college at the University of Georgia, I spent a summer as a mountain biking and hiking guide at Estes Park. After I graduated, I came out to Colorado for one more summer after college and never went back. I got a job with landscaping for the National Park Service, then moved to Boulder and did some work there, which is where I met Addie.

  1. How did you finally make the transition from landscape architecture to guiding?

Addie won a photography contest and a weekend trip to a ranch (not Vista Verde). While skiing at the ranch, we met Steve and Kellie (who were also there just for the weekend), and within ten minutes had shared our life goals and dreams. I saw two people who were living the life I’d dreamed of, guiding in the mountains, and they were still happy doing it all these years later. That night, Addie and I sat down and she asked me “If you could do anything in the world, what would it be?” and I knew the answer was to be a guide.

  1. What do you love most about being a guide?

The fact that I can do something meaningful with my passion for the outdoors. I think we’re all given passions for a reason, and I love seeing that appreciation for the outdoors blooming in other people when we’re out on trips. Vista Verde is such a special place where people can connect, get inspired and take that inspiration back home to their jobs and lives.

  1. Addie, I heard you’ve traveled a bit?

Yes! I studied abroad and spent a semester at sea.

At sea?

It was on a cruise ship, and we’d have classes on the ship. We visited 12 different countries and got to explore and experience all of the cultures. It was in Africa that I realized I wanted to be a teacher. I met this man and he was telling me about how, depending on what day of the week it was, that was how you would name your child. For instance, if your son was born on Saturday, you would name him Kwámè. I asked the man to write down all of the names, and he kind of hesitated before going over to his brother’s shop. When he came back, everything had been written down. I realized he didn’t know how to read or write. In that moment, it dawned on me how important it is to have an education. Giving someone an education is giving them a key to the world that will open so many different doors. So when I went back to the States, I went back to school and got my degree in education.

  1. So what do you both love about the Vista Verde and Clark area?

At Vista Verde, there’s amazing leadership. Clark is a unique part of the country that hasn’t lost the deep sense of community. Everyone wants to help everyone out, because we’re all friends and neighbors. Addie’s car slid in a ditch once, and a minute later someone had stopped to help her. Another person came along and towed her out, and she was back on the road within 5 or 10 minutes. You just can’t find that kind of genuine help in many places. Our time here has been an absolute blessing.

Dude Ranch Life: Surrounded by romance

Valentine’s Day is long gone, but we still seem to be overflowing with romance here at the ranch. It’s pretty fun to be an “old” married lady as I can really appreciate the sweetness of all this love and tenderness happening on the ranch property. Here’s a little peek into the hearts, flowers, and chocolates that have been floating around in the air at the ranch.

Last month, while every single staff member tried to keep their mouth shut to the surprise (KP wasn’t very good at keeping it quiet ahead of time), Sam came up for a visit from her current home in Fort Collins to visit KP. In jeans, boots, and some arena dirt to add to the charm, KP asked Sam to marry him. Phew, now we could all stop trying to pretend we didn’t know a secret! They are planning a wedding in October and we are so excited for the two of them!

Mixed in here are plenty of honeymooners and anniversary celebrations, so there have been a lot of chocolate covered strawberries and bottles of champagne heading out of the kitchen this winter!

As we near the end of our winter season, we’ve had two wonderful events at the ranch. Quietly and discreetly, there have been some weddings happening in front of the fire in the Great Room. Last week Dinara and Davide said their “I do’s” just before hopping into the one horse sleigh for a ride on a gorgeous sunny afternoon. What a sweet couple, and what an honor to have them chose Vista Verde for their elopement trip. Then, just days ago Kalli and Mick tied the knot in a private ceremony. Mick is a photographer, so I got a kick out of watching him set up the scene and the lighting so the hired photographer could get the best shots. No pressure taking photos of a photographer’s wedding ceremony, right?

It truly is an honor to have people chose Vista Verde for their romantic getaways and elopements. We recognize how precious vacation time is, and how important it is for a couple to have a special place to celebrate their partnership. We love helping people start their lives together, celebrate their years together, and rekindle the romance in a beautiful setting without all the distractions of everyday life. Thanks to all of those who have made the ranch their special place to celebrate their love!

 

dude ranch horses

Equine Elementary School

Every year we have a new “kindergarten” class come through the ranch. These kids are the young colts who were born and raised here who are ready to take the next step and start learning the ropes of being a riding horse. Here is a quick update on some of these little guys in the VVR Elementary School, and how they are doing. If you’ve been to the ranch in the past 5 or so years, you might remember some of these names from when they were cuddly little foals.

Typically with the colts during their 2-year-old year we start doing some work on the ground, put a saddle on them, and maybe sit on them just a bit. Then, when they are in their 3-year-old we year get to take it to the next level and ride them and get them to master the basics. A few trail rides for exposure that summer, but still just light riding while they are growing physically and emotionally. During their 4 year old year we hand them over to wranglers to start exposing them to more terrain and different riders and get them to gain confidence out in the big, bad world. Finally, by the time they are 5 we start handing them over to guests.

Chisolm-5- He’s gone through the training program, he’s been tested out on the trails, and is ready to start taking guests on rides!
Junior– 5- Part puppy dog and part horse, Junior is little and athletic. He’s graduated the training program and is ready for smaller guests to start riding him.
Malia– 4- This gorgeous filly has about 50 rides so far and she’s coming along nicely. As with most of the 4-year-olds, she will probably have a wrangler riding her on easy trail rides this summer so she can get used to the trails and get stronger before we ride her harder in the coming years.
Magnum– 4- He’s a late bloomer and still looks young. With just 10 rides so far we’re going to give him some time and wait for him to grow a bit more before he’s ridden harder. KP will ride him in clinics this summer given his immaturity and slower progress.
Stormy– 4- This great horse has more rides than we can count, so she’s ready to hit the trails and will be a wrangler horse this summer to gain more experience and build strength.
Rocketman– 4- This is one we are having a lot of fun with and have put a lot of rides on so far. He will get a chance being ridden by advanced guests this summer who don’t want to ride really hard.
CJ– 3- She’s willing and curious, and with about 30 rides CJ is progressing very well. KP is hoping to have her on trails a little here and there with a wrangler this summer.
Charm-3- A little slower to come along, this gal has had just 1 ride. It was a little chaotic, but she has a kind heart and KP will be riding her this summer in clinics to keep working with her
Sage– 3- She was started on the ground, and then an eye injury put her training on hold. She’s healing up, so we’re hoping to get to ride her this spring.
Sonja– 3- She’s big, beautiful, and a just a little bratty. With about 15 rides Sonja is coming along nicely despite being a tad stubborn at times. She’ll probably be on trails with a wrangler this summer.
Baretta– 3- With so many foals in the 2015 foal crop, it’s taking a while to get all of them started under saddle. Baretta is hanging out for now getting a little bigger, and KP is looking forward to getting started with this one soon.
Coming 2 year olds- Wesson, Scout, Remy, Red – KP got a saddle on Remy and Red and did a bunch of ground work with Wesson, but otherwise they are just hanging out and growing for another year before they get serious about learning. Consider that kindergarten with lots of snack breaks and recess.

 

 

winter dude ranch

Dude Ranch Life: Snow, videos, snow, honeymooners, snow, photos, snow

It’s been a whirlwind of a winter season so far here in the Steamboat Springs area. Between everything we have going on at the ranch and the amazing snowfall we’ve had in 2017 everyone around here has been pretty busy! So, what’s been taking up all our time?

First of all, we’ve had some amazing guests with whom we are having a blast sharing our winter wonderland. Some long time guests have been visiting as well as those new to the winter guest ranch experience. We’ve had a ton of honeymooners–at one point we had 4 couples here at the same time on their honeymoon! This week we have 3 couples celebrating their wedding with a winter honeymoon in the mountains. It is so much fun having those couples here and hearing their stories and helping them relax and have some fun after the big event. And then there are the guests who have been coming for years which make coming to work feel like a family reunion. Good times all around, and that keeps us busy just taking care of these guests and getting them out to play in the snow.

Speaking of snow, you’ve heard, right? If not, here’s the quick recap. In November and December we had 82 inches of snow based on our snow specialist Bill Backer (also a specialist of a lot of other things around the ranch). Then, in early-January he logged 46 inches one week followed by a week with 54 inches. Yep, in two weeks we got as much as we had received in the two months prior! Needless to say, we had some pretty tired ranch hands and everyone was super excited when the sun finally broke out after those storms. Following a brief reprieve which allowed us to catch up on moving snow, shoveling roofs, moving more snow and shoveling more roofs, it is snowing again. We do love the snow, and it makes our winter outings more fun, but those two weeks sure were a lot of heavy lifting, literally!

On top of all that we’ve also had some special events going on at the ranch. A few weeks ago our friend Seth Dahl from Big Cedar Media came in to shoot some winter video footage for us to use for promotional purposes. Seth is a blast to work with, and he shoots amazing video footage. Those were some pretty crazy days of riding around on snowmobiles, lining up models, getting the right angle, and doing that all as the snow kept piling up! Following that, this week we have Gigi Embrechts here at the ranch leading a group of women in a photography workshop. Her photos are amazing (she loves photographing draft horses as you can see in the above photo), and the gals are having a blast taking photos of everything and everyone at the ranch. Somehow today my sneaking in to the barn to take a photo of them photographing Troy turned into them handing me a horse and clicking away. I’ll be a little more careful where I show up next time they are shooting!

So that’s the scoop from here at Vista Verde. If you’ve been considering a romantic getaway, we do still have space available around Valentine’s Day. And, if you’re wondering what to do with your kids for Spring Break vacation, how about bringing them to a winter wonderland where they can ski, tube, ride, and generally wear themselves out in the snow with our amazing staff while you get to relax a bit? Give Devyn or Melissa a call and they can answer any questions about our winter program.

  • christmas cookies

Dude Ranch Life: Christmas Cheer at VVR

We hope you all are enjoying the holidays and sharing great moments with the people you love. Here are the ranch we have been busy little elves as we hosted families from all over the world escaping to our winter wonderland for their family vacation. The snow has been falling, the sleigh bells have been jingling, and the chefs have been cooking up a storm. Christmas at a Colorado ranch is like living in a Norman Rockwell painting.

A few nights ago, Kelli hosted the Family Tree Decorating night. Over a dozen little trees lined the Great Room hallway with one for each family. Kelli laid out a spread of supplies and suggestions for creative ornaments and decorations, and then she turned the families loose on creating their masterpiece.

Yesterday was an epic production from the kitchen. We treated our guests to breakfast in their cabins, with the guides and housekeepers delivering their meals so everyone could stay in their jammies and enjoy some family time on Christmas morning. Then, as they headed out for adventures in the snow a entourage of elves set up the most amazing feast in the Lodge. The chefs have been cooking nearly around the clock to prepare this feast, and there was a flurry of arranging furniture, decorating long tables, and making everything just perfect for the big feast. Mid-day we all met up for mimosas and a Christmas blessing to all, followed by the most gorgeous and tasty meal.

The staff and the guests got cozy in the dining room with probably twice as many folks as we normally fit in there rubbing elbows and celebrating the camaraderie of the day. We all finished the meal with way too many decadent desserts that Melissa and Annie prepared for us. Following all that, most headed off for a nap or to the tubing party, as sleeping by the fire to sliding down a hill was about all anyone was up for at that point.

Today we are back to burning off all those calories while cross-country skiing through fresh snow and enjoying the memories of the white Christmas we were treated to yesterday. Here’s to a wonderful holiday season and we hope you and yours are merry and well!

snowshoeing in Colorado

Dude Ranch Life: Keeping up with the Joneses Part II

On Monday we announced the exciting news of the new owners of Vista Verde. So many of you sent nice words of encouragement to them, but some of you had that concern of, “What if they change the place we love?” So, I thought it might be nice to speak to that from the perspective of someone who has been here for a long time and worked for more than one owner.

Over the past several months we have been getting to know them a little. But this week we got a chance to really dive into learning about this amazing family. Laura and Chris showed up late Wednesday night with 5 of their kids, and just left this afternoon to head back to Chicago to catch up with the rest of their family. The days they were here were action-packed and every moment was well spent. They got out on horseback, tubed with the kids, went into the back country on skis, sat through meetings with Ben, Charlie and yours truly, got trained on the behind the scenes workings, went snowshoeing (photo above is Laura coming down from Hinman Lake), hosted a staff Christmas party, and they visited with all the guests. In addition to that, they got to experience what happens when things don’t work at the ranch. The huge storm that just rolled through this area left much of Northwest Colorado without power for a period of time. As we’re a little further down the line, it took a bit longer to get power back up. Oh boy, it was an adventure. From smoking out the Great room when we lit a fire (note to self…when the power is out the fan won’t work. When the fan doesn’t work the smoke doesn’t go up the chimney), lighting lanterns as the sun went down, and at the same time dealing with the challenge of snow removal with this wet, heavy snow we got, it was a pretty realistic welcome to dude ranching. Despite the amazing facilities, the great infrastructure, and the well-versed staff, the truth is when you have this many buildings, this much extreme weather, a staff of 60, and a herd of over 100 horses, there is always something exciting going on here!

Disclaimer from the PR department: These types of situations are far and few between. This was a crazy day that will go down in history as the epic day that started the Winter 2016-17 season. One for that book about dude ranching that we’ll write someday. 

Anyway, back to the message, which is after spending the past several days with Laura, Chris and their kids we are more than confident about the direction the ranch is headed, and the fun we’ll have with this family as the owners. They are falling in love more and more with the ranch and can’t wait to be a part of everything that we’re doing. We’ll see them off and on this winter while the kids are still in school, but then come summer Laura and the kids are planning on spending most of their time out here. The coming months are going to be full of just getting to know how things work here, why we do what we do, and wrapping their heads around all that goes on behind the scenes. And we’ll be running our programs like we always have so rest assured that the same team you’ve come to know will be here doing what we do, which is to constantly look at ways to make the guest experience better.

To close, just some fun facts about the Jones:

  • They are a big sports family–runners, team sports, you name it.
  • Their youngest kids are 11 and the oldest is in college.
  • Yes, they have a 12 person passenger van they use when they are shuttling the whole crew around.
  • Chris has an unbelievable (we think photographic) memory, but he claims he doesn’t always remember names.
  • Laura mentors a group of young moms once a week.
  • Their kids are incredibly kind, respectful, fun, and game for anything.
  • The family loves to downhill ski, but just discovered backcountry skiing and are kind of addicted.

 

 

Keeping up with the Joneses

We are over-flowing with enthusiasm to introduce to all of you Laura and Chris Jones, and their wonderful family of eight children as the new owners of Vista Verde Ranch.

The Joneses connection to Steamboat began when Laura traveled to Steamboat as a little girl. The visits continued, and now whether it is skiing, riding, hiking, running, rafting, or simply pondering on the beauty of God’s spectacular creation, Steamboat is a second home to the Jones family.

The seeds of the idea of a ranch were planted about 10 years ago on one of the family’s many trips to the mountains. However, it wasn’t the right time and place until about two years ago when the Joneses visits to the Steamboat area became more and more frequent. As the dream of having something “special” continued to grow it took a unique turn with the possibility of being part of Vista Verde. This past year, the idea slowly got moved from the “dream” list to the “reality” list. After a lot of prayer and hard work to put the plan into place, today Laura and Chris officially take over the reins as ranch owners.

Please join us in welcoming Laura, Chris and their kids to the VVR family. All of us at the ranch are so energized by Laura and Chris’s excitement about the ranch that it feels like Santa arrived early this year. They have consistently expressed a commitment to continuing with the mission of the ranch while never losing sight of “betterness.” We are all so thankful for the leadership, vision, and support that we had from Peggy and Jerry Throgmartin, and we look forward to the coming years with this amazing family. So here we go!

Onward and upward, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all of you!

Ben, Steph, Charlie, and the VVR crew

 

“There are so many things that drew us to Vista Verde. There are countless first class features. The horses, the cabins, the food, and the various facilities are all top notch. However, what stood out to us the most were the people. The people are what makes Vista Verde such a special and a truly unique place. We were completely blown away that something like this could be a possibility. We feel so fortunate and thankful to be a part of this incredible and spectacular place.”

mares and foals at dude ranch

Dude Ranch Life: We’ve got babies coming!

Last week marked roughly the 60 day pregnancy check for our mares who were bred this past summer. Dr. Courtney Diehl came up with her ultrasound machine and checked each of the mares, and confirmed that they are all still in foal (aka expecting) and everyone is looking good! June, Teletubby, Sugar and Oakley are all well on their way to motherhood. We’re excited to have our first round of foals by our stallion Shaq due next spring. We will even have a foal due in the summer, as Oakley took a little longer to get checked into foal this year!

Now it’s time for the mares to relax, get their nails done, and eat plenty of high quality feed. Not a bad life, eh?

Dude Ranch Life: Out in the community

With all of us settled into the off-season, and catching up with our lives, I’m finding out a bit more about what some of our key players are doing when they aren’t at the ranch. And, it’s kind of fun to see the different ways some of these folks are plugged into the Clark and Steamboat communities.

Recently, “Grandpa” Charlie was elected to the North Routt Pre-School board of directors. It’s a great fit as we (all of us at the ranch) are involved with their big Spring Fling fundraisers. Beka, who loves kids, helps out with the Kids church at the North Routt Community Church, and just this past weekend was a volunteer at the Kids Fall Festival in Clark. Chef Chol is involved in the Backcountry hunter and anglers fundraiser as a guest chef. Devyn, KP, and Brandon all help out with the music at the North Routt Community Church on Sundays. Ben dug out his track cleats to be a volunteer track coach for the high school team (he was once a hurdler, can you believe it!?). And Steph runs the Steamboat Marketing Collective with meetings each month to present and discuss hot topics in marketing. Any volunteers for a guest presenter next time you’re in town?

 

Although much of our time is taken at the ranch, it’s nice to help out in the community around us!

 

cross country ski vacation

Dude Ranch Life: Gearing up for skiing this winter!

You know that saying all dressed up and no where to go? Well, we’re kind of living that right now in the context of all ready to ski, but no snow to ski on yet. See, this past spring we sold off our backcountry ski and boot inventory in preparation for switching over to a new ski and boot set up this winter. We had our old fleet for a while, and the company who made the boots we used was no longer going to be making those boots. So, with all that, it made for logical timing to start clean. We had a big sale right when we closed and cleared out the fleet and then went to work finding the right replacement equipment.

Alpina turned out to be our answer, and just the other day the crates of Alpina Discovery BC skis, Alpina Montana boots, and Rottefella bindings arrived. Beka got them all unloaded, and in the next few weeks she, Nate, Steve, and Kelli will be drilling and mounting bindings. It’s pretty fun to see a whole pile of shiny new skis and beautiful boots (that, by the way, are super comfortable!).

So, give us a couple more weeks to enjoy getting out to hike on the trails, but then you can start your snow dances. We’ll be ready for the ranch to switch over from Vista Verde to Vista Blanca, and we’ll be even more excited to try out the new gear. Hopefully you can come out this winter and ski with us and try it out yourself!

staff at a luxury dude ranch

Dude Ranch Life: Wrapping up and Moving on

There is one thing we can always count on at the ranch and that is we have the most amazing people come through our doors who call the ranch home for a period of time in their life. But, along with that guarantee is the guarantee that at some point many of these folks move on to their next step in life. As we end the summer (fall at this point) season, we are having some sad farewells. At the very same time, Beka is busy lining up the next generation of fabulous ranch staff to come in for the upcoming winter season.

There are many great folks who are packing up this weekend to head off as we close for the season, but here are a few notable ones who have had a great impact on the VVR community.

Erica and John (JT) Thompson, as well as baby Althea and Goldie the dog are moving to Florida to be closer to family with their own growing family. Erica has been the constant in the kids program for years now–pouring her love of children and leadership skills into heading up the program and helping make each child’s vacation memorable. Anyone who has eaten at the ranch can appreciate JT’s contribution as Chef de Cuisine. He and Cholly have been the most amazing match of personalities and skills in the kitchen, and their partnership has been a key to the success of our dining experience. Both leave big shoes to fill, but we have some amazing folks who are ready to step in and move forward.

Small but mighty, our little Sam is hanging up her spurs and heading off to pursue the next step in her life. She will still be pretty close by, we hope, so we’re looking forward to hearing her stories of life in the “real world” when she stops by to visit. Sam has been an instrumental part of our wrangler staff, and took over the reins of running the barn this year, and lead the charge to step up our game on training and setting protocols for proper saddle fitting, which is key to the horses well being. We think the horses will miss her as much as we do!

And the list goes on…..Anna’s style will be missed heading up the dining room, and Grace who ran housekeeping is heading off to plan her wedding with fellow staff member Christian. Mary, otherwise known as little Miss Sunshine, who has worn almost every hat at the ranch. Rachel who has guided the Zirkel Circle what feels like a million times (but who can get tired of that hike?) as well as led the team of those who wrangle kids. Then there is Tim, Tay-Po, Alexis, Hannah, Tom, Johnny, and Emily.

We thank these folks, along with the ones who have just made VVR a brief stop on their life journey. It takes an amazing team of people committed to excellence in service to make the ranch what it is today. It’s been a joy to work with all of these fine folks, and we wish them the best in their next ventures. There are only a few moments to pause and wipe away the tears before we jump right back in to developing the next generation of VVR leaders. It’s exciting to have new people to help grow and teach them the VVR way!

The VVR Love Factory

A new name for the ranch has recently been put out there–The Love Factory. Once again, Vista Verde has turned out another round of engagements. Of course, it may have something to do with the age of our staff and the fact that we hire individuals who share a love of adventure, the outdoors, and serving others. But, we’d like to think there’s just something in the air here at VVR!

Grace and Christian met last winter, when Christian came in as a new ranch hand who found himself stopping by the housekeeping world headquarters often to just check in and see if the housekeepers, particularly the head housekeeper, needed anything. After dating all winter, taking a whirlwind spring road trip (the ultimate test of a budding relationship in my estimation), and then exploring the long term realities of their relationship this summer, Christian popped the question a few weeks ago up on top of Mt. Evans. No surprise that Grace said yes! Next up is a move to Georgia to get some time dating in the “real world,” before their May wedding.

On the heels of Grace and Christian’s engagement, a sparkly ring showed up on the hand of Melissa, our amazing pastry chef. After waltzing into the ranch last year, and capturing the heart of our loyal Nathan, the two of them are headed down the aisle this fall. There may not be two people more perfect for each other, and their relationship is a great testament to having patience and waiting for the right person to come along. No matter what pursuit these two follow, they both give it their all and don’t quit until the job is done. Nate has finally met his match in finding Melissa, and we’re thrilled, both for them and that we hope that means we’ll have an endless supply of pastries for several years to come!

Next up is Beka and Michael’s wedding in two weeks, which will be an intimate, casual wedding with a backdrop of golden aspens and brilliant fall colors. If you’ve ever needed a shot in your arm to remind you of young love and a romantic recharge, just come to Vista Verde, otherwise known as the Love Factory!

Dude Ranch Life: Nepotism at its best

If you look at our staff bios, you’ll start to notice a pattern. There seem to be an unusual number of siblings and relatives working at the ranch this summer. Bubba pointed this out to me the other day, and he is indeed correct! Maybe it’s because the people who love working at the ranch want others to have the opportunity to have the same experience, and who better than those who you love the most? Check out this roster of relatives and see how nepotism is alive and well at the VVR. Of course, we think it’s pretty swell, as they have all earned the right to be here through a full interview process, and each day prove that they are of the caliber person we expect at the ranch.

  1. Bubba and Phil Veteto- Brothers, both working in the kitchen. Bubba has been here for years, and this is Phil’s first season. Good luck telling them apart at first glance.
  2. Isaac and Micah Ness- Brothers, Isaac is one of our senior fishing guides extraordinaire, while Micah is helping out in the kitchen for his first season.
  3. Brandon and Ben Martin- Let’s see…this one is tricky. Brandon is Ben’s nephew, yet they are not too far apart in age. This may have something to do with the enormous family they come from in Pennsylvania. Brandon is the head of the fishing program and the ranch hands and part of the Farwell Mountain Boys. Ben is our friendly and visionary GM and also one of the founding members of the Farwell Mountain Boys. Haven’t heard of them? You should. They are a big deal.
  4. John and Jessie Thompson- Another kitchen brother combo. John (JT) has been our Chef de Cuisine for years, and recently talked his little brother into coming out for the summer to help in the kitchen.
Gilpin lake engagement

Ranch Romance- Another engagement at the ranch

Those of you who have followed us over the years are well aware that Vista Verde seems to be the place to be for budding romances that turn into marital bliss. Although this relationship didn’t start at the ranch, it involves someone who has been a staple at the ranch for years, and so we are excited to share the news of her engagement.

Beka began her dude ranch career back in 2009, when she was just a wee thing. Over the years, she has held many roles at the ranch–from heading up the kids program to tending the gardens to leading hiking, biking, and ski tours all over the nearby mountains. Currently, she is the one responsible for finding, sorting through, and selecting the amazing group of people who make up our staff each season. It’s not small feat, and she does an amazing job at finding the right kind of people who make Vista Verde such a special place to be–whether as an employee or a guest.

An avid traveler her entire life, Beka has seen much of the world. She relishes the off-season time-off to rack up the miles and explore new corners of the Earth. A couple years ago, she and Shannon (former guide) packed up their packs and headed to Patagonia. While trekking around that country, they met a number of interesting people. One of those people was just a bit more interesting. Michael was from Denmark, but he was employed by the military to patrol the coast of Greenland. Oh, and did we mention he did that job via a dogsled? Those of us who know Beka well knew that she might have finally met her match. And, indeed she did. Since that fateful meeting, there have been a number of long plane rides, amazing adventures, and plenty of Skype calls. This summer Michael came to the Elk River Valley to spend a little more time living in the same town, er county, um state, ah country for more than two weeks. That was all they both needed to know that this was meant to be, and just last month there was a hike to Gilpin Lake (still covered in snow), a proposal, and now a wedding coming soon! Congrats to both of them, and we can’t wait to be a part of your next adventure as husband and wife!

cowboy at dude ranch

Dude Ranch Poetry

This well-known poem, first published in 1917, recently came onto my radar, and I wanted to share it with all of you. It sums up so much of why all of us at the ranch love this lifestyle and the people who make this place tick.

Out Where the West Begins- by Arthur Chapman

Out where the handclasp’s a little stronger,
Out where the smile dwells a little longer,

That’s where the West begins;
Out where the sun is a little brighter,
Where the snows that fall are a trifle whiter,
Where the bonds of home are a wee bit tighter,

That’s where the West begins.
Out where the skies are a trifle bluer,
Out where the friendship’s a little truer,

That’s where the West begins;
Out where a fresher breeze is blowing,
Where there’s laughter in every streamlet flowing,
Where there’s more of reaping and less of sowing,

That’s where the West begins.
Out where the world is in the making,
Where fewer hearts in despair are aching,

That’s where the West begins.
Where there’s more of singing and less of sighing,
Where there’s more of giving and less of buying,
Where a man makes a friend without half trying,

That’s where the West begins.

Where are they now?

There have been a lot of amazing people who have called Vista Verde home for a season or two, or more. It’s fun to look back on some of the folks who have worked at the ranch over the years, and see where they are now.

  1. Zac Dean was a wrangler from 1999 until early 2001, and was the head wrangler towards the end of his time at the ranch. He lives in Alexander City, AL with his beautiful family. With his wrangler days behind him, Zac spent 10 years in the private sector and is now a licensed land surveyor for the AL Department of Transportation.
  2. Jeff McClintic worked as a wrangler the summer of 2012. He lives in Zionsville, IN, and is working at Traders Point Christian Church, pursuing ministry full time. He and his wife are coming up on 3 years married with a 14-month-old little boy.
  3. Matt Moore wrangled for us the summer of 1998. He’s been married now for 16 years, and lives with his wife, Kate, and their 4 kids in Springfield, OH. Matt hasn’t strayed far from the world of horses as he has been running his own farrier service for 15 years now. He says he’s starting to feel it (the farrier work), but we wonder if it’s the 4 kids!
  4. Rachel Daughenbaugh worked at the ranch from 2008 to 2010 as a wrangler (summer) and ranch hand & server (winter). She is now married to Dr. Nate Daughenbaugh in Steamboat Springs, and they live on his family’s ranch. Nate and Rachel met at VVR when he was new to the practice and came out to vet a few VVR horses. She was the lucky wrangler who got to assist. After managing a boarding facility south of Steamboat, Rachel now works for Big Agnes in its marketing department. In the photo is Bandit (gray), Rachel’s first wrangler horse. She later bought him from the ranch.
  5. Roxy Kestner, our infamous head housekeeper, was at the ranch from the winter of 1997 through the summer of 2000. Roxy was an instrumental part of the VVR team and finished her time at the ranch as the staff manager. She’s now living in Philadelphia, PA, and we just cringe for anyone who ever asks her to check if they cleaned something well enough….
  6. Lindsey Thorsen was a teen wrangler the summer of 2008. Living in Muskegon, MI she is now working in marketing for ServiceMaster and coaches girl’s Varsity soccer. Good thing she got all that experience with teenagers at the ranch! Here she is with “the best horse ever: Chief.”
  7. Miles DeBardeleben, from Jackson, MS, was a ranch hand the winter of 2011/1012. He is now finishing his first year of medical school at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. This summer he will be working in the Department of Surgery: Urologic Surgery. As Miles put it, “That’s only because I can’t commit to and I’m too old for a full summer season at VVR.”
  8. Meredith Ozier settled down at the ranch from the winter of 1997 through the summer of 2000. She began as a server under yours truly and finished her time as dining room manager. Now living in Middletown Springs, VT, Meredith is a clinical mental health counselor/psychotherapist in private practice. She specializes in working with trauma, PTSD, and mood disorders. Meredith has been working for herself for going on six years now, but recently picked up a small contract with the state of Vermont to do critical incident stress debriefing with police and first responders.
  9. Eliza and Brett Leeper are one of our ranch romance couples! Eliza worked at the ranch from 2006 to 2007, and Brett worked at the ranch from 2005 to 2006. They met at Vista Verde during the summer of 2006. Eliza worked in the dining room, then the Nordic center. Brett was a teen wrangler, ski guide, and ranch hand. After 5 years of living in Steamboat, they moved to Vermont in 2011 and were married in 2013. They are expecting their first baby in August! Eliza works for Vermont Creamery (a goat cheese and butter company), and Brett runs a cross-country ski area in the winter (using all the grooming tips he got from Charlie Cammer!) and runs his own landscaping and property management business in the summer: Leeper’s Property Management. Fun fact: Eliza is childhood friends with Chef Chol’s wife Alaya. They worked at the ranch at the same time, and that is when Alaya and Chol first met as well!
  10. Beth Rogers Bundy, from Portland, OR, was at the ranch the summer of 1997 and the winter of 1999/2000. She was a kid wrangler during the summer and a server during the winter. The photo is on Diamond from summer 1997. She is now married with two teenage stepdaughters and a 3-year-old son, and is an art teacher—looks like some of those kid wrangler skills are still at work!
  11. Brittany Haile worked at the ranch the summer of 2012 as a housekeeper. She lives in San Diego and is a Marketing Coordinator at Qualcomm. Brittany’s family has been coming to the ranch since she was a teenager, and recently built a beautiful ranch across the river! So, we still see Brittany here at the ranch, as she likes to spend as much time as possible at Serenity Ranch hanging out with Sarge, a retired VVR horse.
  12. Scot Keck (aka Waldo) wrangled at the ranch the summers of 1997 and 1998. He’s been married for almost 10 years and lives with his wife, Angela, and their two children in Leipsic, OH. Scot has been a Value Stream Leader manufacturing IAMS and Eukanuba Pet foods for over 15 years now.
  13. Brad Leeper (yes, there is a connection to #6 above….he’s Brett’s brother!) came to the ranch for the summers of 2006 and 2007 as a teen wrangler. He lives in Nappanee, IN where he and wife Brittany have one son, Weston, and are expecting another boy in August. Brad owns Leeper Land Management, LLC, a company that restores conservation projects in the Midwest. Restoration projects consist of wetlands, prairie plantings, and reforestation.
  14. Robin and Aaron Christensen are another one of our ranch romances that have worked out pretty darn well. They worked at Vista Verde from 1992 to 1998. Robin was the staff manager (she hired yours truly, Steph Wilson) and Aaron was the business manager and ran the fly fishing program. These days you can find them wrangling their 4 children while managing a dude ranch down in Creede, CO called 4UR Ranch. No surprise for those who knew Aaron that 4UR is known for it’s excellent fishing program!
  15. Alan Czepinski had a variety of experiences at the ranch including being a barn hand, guide, and ranch hand the summers of 2011 and 2012 and the winter of 2013. After he left the ranch, he started working as a Marine Field Geophysicist. He enjoyed the international adventures and life experiences with this position. Currently, he’s back in Texas, but is always looking for a chance to travel. Alan recently put together a pretty amazing video of some of his travels. Check it out!
  16. Jennifer Stewart Boyle was a housekeeper and server the summer of 1998 and the spring of 1999. These days she is living in Euless, TX (Dallas-Fort Worth) and is working as a Management Analyst for the U.S. Dept. Of Health and Human Services and raising a baseball-playing 7-year-old boy.
  17. Janice Tatum spent the summers of 1998 and 1999 as a kid wrangler. She and her family have lived all over the world, but are now in North Carolina where she is a Kid Wrangler to her own two children. Her job du jour is a Technical Assistance Provider for a non-profit that helps rural folk with water issues. Her photo is from back in the days at the ranch with her best VVR friend Alison Wade!
  18. Jo Stolzfus represents another one of our ranch romances still going strong. She worked at the ranch from 2007 to 2011 in almost every area of the ranch. Head housekeeper, head wrangler, you name it, she’s done it! These days she and her husband Javin live just across the river, where she manages a horse ranch for a wonderful couple she met while at the ranch. Javin is working for us again, and we love having them as part of our community. Pictured with Jo is her VVR bestie, the fabulous Beka Adam.