This week at the Ranch

US Foods delivery truck at luxury dude ranch Vista Verde

Dude Ranch Life: Like an oasis in the desert

The past month has been a bleak one for those of us so spoiled by the ranch chefs the rest of the year.  Gone were the fresh fruit bowls, the pastries, the hearty lunches on a cold, wet day, and the steaming platters of freshly prepared dinner time meals.   Woe is us.  We get it.  Life isn’t so bad here.  But, nonetheless, the sight of the US Foods truck backing up to the kitchen receiving doors was a sight for sore eyes yesterday.  As were the white chef coats Cholly and JT put back on as they opened up the kitchen for the season.  There was definitely some rejoicing going on all around the ranch with the handful of staff who are slogging out these rainy, snowy spring days in anticipation of sunshine and green grass to come.

In about 14 days the new staff will roll in along with the returners who have been away while we were closed down.  By then hopefully the snow will finally be gone, the mud drying up, and we’ll get to work training and setting up for the summer season.  Between now and the start of orientation we have a lot of work to do!  Tomorrow is moving day, as we start moving furniture into the newly renovated duplex units.  We are so excited to kick off the summer season with those units almost fully booked.  They are turning out even better than we envisioned!

So, bring on the sunshine and bring on the hustle and bustle to get everything done in the next couple weeks.  But, most importantly, bring on the food!

spring snow in Colorado

Dude Ranch Life: April showers bring May flowers

You know the proverb “March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb?” Well, we all decided, as it was dumping snow during the final days of April, that whoever came up with that didn’t live up here in the mountains of Colorado.  This spring has been one of snow, snow, and more snow, mixed in with a little rain.  While there have been beautiful days mixed in there, we all feel a little trapped in an eternal winter.  In fact, Bill just finished his charting for the month of April and his records show that we had more snow in April than we did in February!  Granted, February was a lighter snowfall month for us this past winter, but based on his records we had 20 inches of snow in February and 24 inches of snow in April.  And that April snow?  It’s wet, wet, wet, so there is a lot of moisture in those 24 inches.

Hopefully what this means is that the grass will be brilliantly green, and the wildflowers will be exploding all over the valley and mountains this summer.  Until then, if any of you have an extra room in a warm, sunny climate, and maybe even a sandy beach, there is a good chance one of us might show up on your doorstep pretty soon.  Because with a big weekend storm to close out the month of April, it seems like April is going out like a lion!  To heck with March, we’re just hoping the lambs show up in May!

new horses at Colorado dude ranch

Dude Ranch Life: A horse shopping spree

Each year, as we retire some horses and others are purchased, we need to replenish our herd to be ready for our dude ranch season in the summer.  Typically this takes the form of going to sales in the spring, and hoping that they horses we picked will be as good when they get back to the ranch.  This year, we decided to try a different approach.  All fall and winter, Sam and KP have been scouring the classifieds, Craigslist, special horse for sale pages on Facebook, and spreading the word through local horse connections.  They’ve put in a lot of miles on the road–going to see horses, try them out, get to know their history, and making purchases.  All in all, since last fall they have brought home 16 new horses!  It’s been a lot of work, but we’re all hopeful that the success rate for the horses working out for our needs will be much higher than past years due to this more in-depth purchasing process.

So, here’s who we have new to the team:

  • Betty- She’s a sweet and sassy Appaloosa mare with a hysterical Mohawk.  We’ve already used her this winter for both kids and adults, so she’s a perfect, versatile horse.
  • Turtle- This guy is one of those priceless horses.  His beautiful sorrel color is contrasted with four white socks and a big bold blaze.  He’ll be one of our go-to kid horses as he is steady and safe.
  • Dollar- A stocky, little buckskin with a white snip.  We’re looking forward to seeing who matches up best with him.
  • Chip- Sam describes him as “gritty.” He came from a feedlot where he’s worked hard dragging cows and keeping order.  This little sorrel was painfully thin when we bought him, so he’s been on the VVR weight gain program and is doing really well now.
  • Sadie- A beautiful gray mare, she came as a two-fer with her son last fall.  It’s going to take a little time for her to settle in, but she’s solid and gorgeous and we’re looking forward to putting some miles on her.
  • Bugs- This is Sadie’s son, and he is a spitting image of her.  Sam says he’s still figuring things out at the ranch, so he might be one we work with for the first couple weeks of our season before we start using him for guests.
  • Blondie- Of course this is a palomino paint mare with that name!  Her four white socks and petite frame make her a standout.  She’s an old pro at giving kids riding lessons, so she will be great for kids and her slight build will make her a match for small adults as well.
  • Belle- She’s black, she’s sweet, and she is ready to be a kind babysitter for the kiddos.
  • Brother- This guy must have some Warmblood in his breeding as he is a tall drink of water.  His solid build and kind temperament will make him a great steed for larger riders.
  • Peso- A big bay, this guy is going to take a little more time to work into the VVR lifestyle.  KP has been working with him, and will probably spend more time on him this summer– settling him and tuning him up until he’s ready to get out with our guests.
  • Montana- This big, gray gelding has a colorful history.  He was trained to do cowboy mounted shooting, but he just wasn’t fast enough to make the cut.  So, just know that nothing can phase this guy!
  • Willow- Another beauty, this sweet mare is a gruella, which is a beautiful coloring that isn’t very common. She had a good little injury on her hip that we’ve been nursing, and she’s healing up really well, so she’ll be ready for the summer season.
  • Polly- This gal got her name from her unique brand with a P in it.  A well-proportioned sorrel mare, she has given riding lessons to kids in the past, so there’s a good chance we’ll put some kiddos on her this summer.
  • Bear- He reminds us all of Nacho, so we’re hoping he’ll be a perfect replacement for that old guy as he heads towards retirement.  This half-draft is big, bay, stocky, and laid back.
  • Jasper- Another half-draft, this one is a black beauty.  His beautiful, long forelock makes me think of the kind of horse you’d see in a jousting match.  But this guy would rather meander on the trail than charge down a lane carrying an armored knight.
  • Millie- There will always be the one KP falls in love with, and this is the one.  She’s a super sweet bay mare who is ready to go….that is if you can get KP to share her!
planning a honeymoon

Planning a honeymoon?

So you’re happily engaged, busy planning a wedding, and then your fiance drops the bomb on you–it’s your job to plan the honeymoon!  We get so many honeymooners here at Vista Verde, and we love having them at the ranch celebrating their new life together.  But, we’ve also been on the phone with enough folks who are nervously trying to find the perfect honeymoon getaway that we sympathize with the pressure that goes along with planning this big getaway!

Of course, we think Vista Verde is a perfect honeymoon option for couples looking for adventure, ease of access, and simplified planning.  The opportunity for adventurous days are abundant here at the ranch!  With multiple direct flights coming into the Steamboat airport (in the winter) getting here is pretty straightforward, and our all-inclusive pricing makes planning and budgeting a no-brainer.  Top that all with a secluded setting, gorgeous views, a private and luxurious cabin–complete with a bubbling hot tub on the deck, and meals that range from ranchy to fancy.  Adventure, romance, and relaxation are all wrapped up into one ranch honeymoon.

We hope you end up choosing Vista Verde for your honeymoon, but even if not, please check out this great article titled Honeymoon Planning Tips for Grooms written by Susan Breslow Sardone.  Susan is an expert in honeymoons and romantic getaways, and she has some seriously fabulous tips here in this article.

Good luck with the planning, and have a great time on your honeymoon!

dude ranch life off season adventures

Dude Ranch Life: Off-season shenanigans

While the snow is trying to melt away, despite concerted efforts by Mother Nature to remind us every few days that no, winter isn’t quite over, the ranch is down to a skeleton crew.  Where did everyone go?  Everywhere!  Some of our seasonal staff headed off to their next adventures in life, while others are playing in between the seasons.  There are road trippers, campers, world explorers, and those who went home to earn some extra income while the ranch is shut down for a bit.  Those of us who spend the full year at the ranch are also taking advantage of the chance to sneak away for a while.  Right now baby Althea has packed up her parents to spend some time on the beaches of Florida.  After a winter of snowsuits and mittens, she’s happy to dig her feet in the sand!  Chol is off living the life of a celebrity chef in Montana, cooking at a big fundraiser for the Back Country Hunters and Anglers.  Charlie will be heading out on a Western road trip later this month, and the ranch office gals ditched the office last week to embrace winter one last time on a hut trip near the Nokhu Crags.  There is a slight chance that I am writing this blog post looking out over the redwood covered foothills of Northern California following a long run in the woods…..but that may or may not be true.

While the phones still ring, the emails still come in, the horses must be fed, the mares watched for foals to arrive, construction crews need to be overseen, and off-season projects nag us all, it’s a much anticipated break in the action and a great time to regroup, prepare, and gear up for the summer season.

For all our great staff who are out on other adventures right now, please comment with updates of what you’re doing, the sights you’ve seen, and the exploring that is happening during this spring!

ranch romance

Dude Ranch Life: Ranch Romance

Based on the raging success we’ve had match-making our staff for an unprecedented number of marriages, this year marks the launch of a new division of the dude ranch operation.  We are proud to announce our new venture VVR-mony.com.  Rather than relying on sites like e-harmony.com to match up couples who later come to honeymoon at the ranch, or bring their growing broods for family vacations, we are going to claim that portion of the market so we develop a client base from the ground up.

Beka is already known for her top notch screening skills in picking the right staff and has an uncanny knack for assigning them to convenient housing arrangements where they may catch each other’s eye on the way down to clock in for work.  Now, she will put her laser sharp skills to work with willing applicants who sign up for the VVR-mony.com package.

With this new venture, we are excited to capitalize on the ranch’s history of recruiting quality people and putting them through a sweat-inducing interview process that weeds out those who aren’t able to sing, dance, serve, summit, wrangle, clean, iron, shovel, scoop, and cast all with a smile on their face.  We feel that this base will allow us to match the perfect clean cut, all-American, can-do, service oriented, and nature loving individuals that will ride off into the sunset holding hands and planning their future stays at VVR.

Sign up for a free trial today!  After April Fool’s Day, this offer is no longer valid.

history of ranch fencing in the West

A history of fencing in the West

For you history buffs, please enjoy this guest post by Andrew Swenson of Gallagher Fence.

Fencing has come a long way over the years and has a fascinating history. Long gone are the days that farmers would collect sticks, strap them together and hope for the best.
How Did Barbed Wire Fencing Come To Be?
With advances in technology, better fencing was inevitable. Farmers needed a solution to issues surrounding containing and protecting their livestock. While sticks may contain small animals such as goats, sheep, and other smaller animals, large animals such as cows, horses, and the like require much sturdier fencing.
In the late 1800s, barbed wire was invented. It provided a solution to large animals knocking over fencing, predators simply walking through or under fencing. All of this in a readily available format that was both low maintenance and low cost.
Barbed Wire Made the Standard of Fencing
Once the barbed wire was introduced to the market, it offered farmers an option that they could not ignore. As the West was being colonized, it allowed the farmers to contain their livestock quickly and safely without wasting valuable space. Without barbed wire, many farmers would have been unable to protect their livestock and mark their lands.
This was particularly important with vast areas of government land being given away and free for anyone to use for their animals grazing. This led to an argument between farmers who kept their livestock on their land or had their fields fenced to keep out wildlife and other animals and the farmers who let their animals out to graze. This led to the Fence Cutting War in Texas.
The Fence Cutting War in Texas
Due to a widespread drought in 1883, farmers were finding it harder to find water and food for their cattle. This led to desperation and for some farmers to seek desperate measures. Migrating herds would be blocked by the fences that had been set up and wander around trying to find a way through. Ranchers began cutting down these fences to help their cattle get through to somewhere they could get water. The owners of the land would also try to increase their borders by cutting the fences to neighboring properties or government land and rebuild them past their original lines. This eventually got out of hand, fences started appearing across roads, some fields were burnt, and there was over $20 million worth of damage done in the summer and fall alone. While fence cutting still continued on and off over the years, it was not permitted to get as out of hand as it did in 1883.
Why to Look For Alternatives
Farmers have always cared for their livestock. After all, it is their livelihood and abused, or starved animals are of no use to anyone. This is why farmers wanted to find a viable solution that would keep their livestock safe and contained.
As other methods of containment merely hold the animals inside their paddocks but offer no protection from predators, barbed wire was a necessary evil and was therefore left as a standard.
Early Electric Fencing
The first electric fencing was not used for animals. Rather it was designed to keep people out of places. These wire fences could carry currents that ranged from a light zap to lethal force. It was heavily used in areas such as prisons, government buildings, and, with the war, concentration camps, dugouts, and other military zones. These electric fences caused thousands of fatalities throughout World War 1; the most deadly was known as the “Wire of Death”.
Today’s Standard of Fencing
Although barbed wire fencing had become an industry standard, farmers were always on the lookout for a better alternative. One that did not cause their animals to end up with tangles, lacerations, or other injuries. That led to farmers to start looking towards electric fencing in the 1930s although it was not widely used at first. Certain areas would ban or limit its usage as much of the first electric fencing was unpredictable when it came to the strength of the shock that one sustained after touching it.
Despite these roadblocks, farmers knew this was the viable option they had been hoping for. It would keep their animals safely contained and would keep predators on the right side. Not only was it safe and more efficient than traditional methods, but it was also cheaper in the long run too. The wires (particularly high tensile wire) required very little maintenance, were quick and easy to set up, and did not need a lot of materials. This saved farmers a lot of money, time, and effort and for these reasons electric fencing will continue to be the new industry standard for livestock fencing.

This post was written for Vista Verde Ranch courtesy of www.gallagherfence.net

cross country ski package

Cross Country Ski, Fat Bike, and Mountain Bike Equipment Sale

In preparation for upgrading all our equipment, we are clearing out our current fleet of cross country ski equipment as well as our fat bikes.  If you’ve been in the market for a back country ski touring set up, or some used cross-country or skate skiing equipment then pay attention!

Saturday, March 26 from 10am-2pm will be the big sale.  If you don’t live in the Steamboat area, you are welcome to call Steve or Kelli, and have them ship you the package if you know your size.  Give them a call at 970-879-8836 ext.115 or you may fill out the Contact Us form and they’ll get back to you when we’re not out guiding guests.

Backcountry ski packages- $150 for skis and boots, $175 for skis, boots, and poles

  • Salomon BC ski boots size 36 through size 50.
  • Alpina Lite Terrain waxless ski’s with Salomon BC Manual bindings size XS, Small, Medium, Large
  • Alpina Cross Terrain waxless skis with Salomon BC Manual bindings size Small & Large
  • Alpina Discovery & Woody waxless skis with Salomon BC Manual bindings size XS, small, medium and large

Snowshoes- $50-$100

  • Tubbs, MSR, Crescent moon and Atlas snowshoes, various sizes

Skate Ski and Classic Ski packages- $150-$350

Fatbikes- $1,500

  • Fatback fat bikes 14,16,18 & 20 inch
    • 2×9 drive train
    • 26 wheels with 3.8 inch tires
    • mechanical disc brakes
  • Salsa Horsethief & Spearfish Mountain bikes 2×10 with 29 inch wheels

Mountain bikes- $600-$2,500

  • Full suspension DeVinci, Jamis, and Salsa

Kids bikes and cruiser bikes- $50-$200

  • barn dance at luxury ranch
  • snowmobiling on Colorado vacation
  • leather working at vista verde ranch
  • learning to dance at winter ranch
  • beer tasting vacation in Colorado

Dude Ranch Life: The winter’s biggest hits

What would make the winter vacation experience at Vista Verde better?  That is the question we ask ourselves every year at the end of the season as we reflect on the past season and make plans for the following year.  Last spring, as our background noise was the drip, drip, drip of the snow melting off the roofs, we sat in the Great room and talked about what could we add to our program that our guests would love.  There was quite a list that came out of that meeting, and we were able to implement some of them this winter.  Guess what?  They’ve been a hit!

The biggest project was the construction on the barn loft, which allowed us to bring a little of our summer fun into our winter season.  Nate spent most of the fall busily insulating and upgrading the loft for a beautified look and some nice warmth on winter nights. Now, each Monday evening, we’re stomping and swinging with our guests for an old fashioned, W estern barn dance.  In addition to that we’ve noticed that our guests often ask to learn more about couples dancing and line dancing so they can whoop it up during the music show.  Bubba offered up his services, and our dance lessons have been in demand almost every week of the winter so far.

In past years, we have danced with the Forest Service to negotiate a way to offer our guests snowmobiling trips that leave right here from the ranch.  And this winter they turned on the music and let us go.  There have been so many more guests going snowmobiling, now that it’s more handy and leaves right from the Sunday pasture.  What fun we’ve had, and the views……they are indeed amazing.

With all the outdoor adventures available for our guests, it’s been clear that many folks just wear themselves out, and sometimes they need a more mellow way to spend their afternoon.  Nate’s class in leather working has given our guests an artistic outlet as well as the opportunity to try something they’ve probably never tried before.  And since our weekly wine tasting has always been a hit, it was no surprise that adding a beer tasting would be a great addition.  This also gives guests who aren’t staying for a full week vacation the chance to spend some time with the chefs one way or another, as we spread out the culinary events throughout the week.

With a month of the season left, and a full house of guests coming for spring break, we still have plenty of time before we sit down again and ask, “What would make a winter vacation at Vista Verde Ranch even better next year?”  But, if you have any suggestions, please feel free to leave them here.  We’ll toss them into the hat and see what we can do for next winter!

celebrating valentines day at the ranch

Dude Ranch Life- A romantic evening in a romantic destination

Love is in the air today.  The kids are loving on their horses.  The dogs just worship their people.  And after tonight’s annual Valentine’s Day Aphrodisiac Dinner, there will be even more love in the fresh Rocky Mountain air! For years the ranch chefs have challenged themselves to come up with unique menu items for this night, with each course including an aphrodisiac.  Hey, why not have a little fun on this day of love?  It’s a little different this year as Valentine’s Day falls on the same weekend as President’s Day weekend, so we have plenty of people enjoying a family vacation at the same time as others are luxuriating in a romantic getaway.  But, the kids are heading up to the barn for some fun food and games while the parents (and kid-less adults) get to be treated to a special night in the dining room.

So, what’s on the menu?

How about starting with smoked oysters served with savory granola and lemon, tomato granita or raw with Champagne mignonette?

Follow that with truffle risotto topped with Hedgehog mushrooms, Parmesan, and fresh French Perigord black truffle.

Or, choose between either fresh egg yolk linguine, Royal red shrimp, heirloom cherry tomato, basil, garlic and olive oil or  roasted rack of lamb with Anson Mills farro, cucumber, feta, olives, mint, and pomegranate molasses.

Finally, finish the evening with Cookies and Cream.  That’s vanilla ice cream coated with chocolate cookie crumble, raspberry foam and candied rose petals.

Pair this all with a great Champagne or a luscious wine……folks, we’ll send you off to your hot tub and say goodnight!

Whether you are celebrating Valentine’s Day with a lover or just someone who you love, we hope it’s a wonderful one.  Because love comes in so many different forms, let’s celebrate all of them!

new horses at vista verde guest ranch

Dude Ranch Life- the snow piles up

Somehow my blogging habit got buried in the snow this past month.  It’s not hard as it has been snowing almost non-stop until this week.  Although most of us love fresh snow and it makes for a lot of fun adventures, after a certain point we all need a little vitamin D therapy when it snows day after day after day….

For those of you who like to keep up on what’s happening at the ranch, I’ll give you a little update.

In the barn, Sam and KP continue their horse shopping spree.  Each year we need to add to our herd to ensure that we have enough solid and sound riding horses.  In the dude ranch world as the horses age, they get upgraded to kids only.  I say upgraded as it’s a pretty cushy life taking short rides out with the little kiddos.  As these horses move out of the adult riding string, we have to replace them with younger mounts.  In the past we tend to attend a number of horse sales in the spring.  But, this always leaves us biting our nails as you don’t know what you’ll find, or if what you see at the sale is really who the horse will be once you get them home.  So, in the effort to always try to do things better, we are shopping a little differently this year.  Sam and KP have been perusing the online horse sale listings, traveling all over the state to try out horses, and bringing them home one by one.  It’s a little more time intensive, but we’re hoping for great results with this new approach to horse buying.  So far they have acquired some great ones.  They’ve found Turtle, Blondie, Bugs,  My favorite is a mother-son pair who look almost identical.  The seller showed Sam and KP the son, named “Bugs”.  After he watched them really like Bugs, he thought about how his wife had been bugging him to get rid of more of his horses, so he ran back to the barn and pulled out “Sadie”, the mom, to add to the mix.  Like mother like son?  Yep, it was a two-fer on that day.

Moving down to the dining room, it’s been a great season of hearty winter food and fabulous pastries.  We’ve committed to the weekly wine-pairing dinner all winter long, and I got to join the fun last week.  Chef JT and Chol had decided to change up the menu so it was fun to see the new food and wine pairings put into play.  My favorite was the chicken liver pate ravioli.  Note that this is a big deal, as I can have a bit of a “ewww” factor when it comes to unusual foods.  But JT made me try it, and despite the fact that I thought I’d hate it, I loved it!  What really impressed me was watching Chol move from table to table as he prepared for each course, touching base with the guests who have dietary restrictions and let them know how he was modifying the dish for each of their needs.  I had such a sense of pride knowing how much work goes into preparing a elaborate 5 course dinner as it is, and then seeing how seamlessly Chol and JT accommodated a variety of dietary restrictions without pause.  Those guys rock.

Across the drive, the duplex remodel is coming along.  This week they installed the sound-proof wall in between the units.  Charlie and Bill had fun testing it out yesterday, trying to yell at each other from either side.  It “sounds” like the wall works pretty well, and should be even better once the units get further along in the process.  We are booking both sides up for the summer already as people are planning their summer vacations right now, and we’re looking forward to our guests enjoying the gorgeous view of the winter horse pasture from their hot tubs on the deck.

Last in the updates is the mad pace of interviews that Beka and Ben are on right now.  Every couple days they head into Steamboat where bandwidth is more of a reality than a dream, and they Skype interview dozens of potential employees.  The summer staff is coming together and Beka has her hands full juggling applicants, reference calls, and fielding lots of questions.  As always, we’re hiring for character and attitude, so if you know of a great young person who might fit the dude ranch culture, send them our way!

And that’s a wrap on this week at the ranch.

remodeling new luxury cabin

Dude ranch life: The demolition party

Monday morning the construction crew rolled in ready to start work on a major renovation in our duplex cabin.  After spending all fall getting the plans ready to go, the finishes picked out, and planning the construction schedule, we are happy to see the project officially underway.

The duplex cabin looks out over the Winter pasture, and sitting on the deck in the hot tub in the evenings will be a great spot to watch the horses and even maybe wildlife as they settle in for the night.  The remodel will give each side a master suite with a king bed and a second bedroom with a queen bed.  And the view from the cozy living rooms will be tranquil.  Both units will have a distinct look and feel that Bill has been masterfully creating in his mind, and slowly putting together with each design element he selects.  North Fork will have a more polished and finished feel while South Fork will be a little less refined but still very upscale.  Each side is designed for a variety of users from two singles to a family with one child or a single parent with two children, and even two couples who want to travel together.

North Fork and South Fork are already being booked for the summer of 2016, and we’re excited to reveal the process as we move through the winter and into the spring.

Colorado ranch Christmas holiday

A Colorado ranch Christmas

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the ranch

Nothing was stirring, not even the snow on a branch;

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,

In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;

The guests were nestled all snug in their beds;

While visions of tubing danced in their heads;

And mamma in her woolies, and I in my cap,

Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap,

When out in the pasture there arose such a clatter,

I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter.

Away to the window I flew like a flash,

Untied Bill’s rope curtain ties and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the mile-high snow,

Gave a lustre of midday to the meadow below,

When what to my wondering eyes, but of course,

A cherry red sleigh pulled by a big black horse,

With a handsome driver with the face of a boy,

I knew in a moment he must be Troy.

As he rounded up the herd, through the snow they came

And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name:

“Now, Trigger! now, Roper! now Mellow! and Tucker!

On, Tonto! on, Mosey! on, Cowboy! and Pucker!

To the top of the cabins! to the top of the Lodge!

Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!”

As aspen leaves that before the thunder storm fly,

When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;

So up to the tops of the cabins the horses all flew

With saddlebags full of toys, wrangled by Sam and KP, and others too—

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof

The prancing and stomping of each little hoof.

As I pulled on my bathrobe, and was turning around,

Down the chimney came Charlie with a thump and a bound.

He was dressed all in Carhartt, from his head to his foot,

And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;

A bundle of fresh towels he had flung on his back,

And he looked like a ski guide just opening his pack.

His eyes—how they twinkled! his dimples, how merry!

His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!

His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,

And his Stormy Kromer hat was all covered with snow;

A leftover scone he held tight in his teeth,

Chef Melissa is making us all round as a wreath;

A radio call from the front desk and a twist of his head

Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,

Stocked our firewood, cleaned our hot tub, and delivered more wine; then turned with a jerk,

With a mention of the time tomorrow we should be ready to ski,

And a heads up that Ben would be waiting with coffee,

He sprang to his saddle, to his steed gave a whistle,

And away they flew like the down of a thistle.

But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight—

“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”

 

Merry Christmas from all of us at the ranch.  We hope you have a wonderful holiday!

winter ranch cattle round up

A winter cattle round up

So, that’s not something you see very often at Vista Verde.  The ranch covered in a blanket of snow and horseback riders herding a bunch of cows coming up the driveway.  Well, for the second year running this has been our reality.  During our fall round up in September, the goal is to get all the cows in before the snow flies.  But, the past two years, our riders haven’t been able to get them all in as the cows have been pretty “dodgy”, to put it gently.  So, when the snow covers up the grass it makes it a bit easier to lure them in.  The other day some were spotted by the South Fork trail head.  Ben and a couple others met up with the Bobcat and a truck full of hay.  With the hay, they were able to lure about 25 cows over to an enclosed field.  The next day, the wranglers saddled up and headed out to herd them up to the round pen, where it would be easier to load them into a trailer.  The snow was falling and the wind was blowing, so it was a job for the hearty.  Without too much trouble, they got the job done, and the cows are now back down at the Belton’s ranch, where they were supposed to be back at the end of September.

Just another day at the ranch.  You never know what will happen next around here!

dude ranch life

Dude Ranch Life: Off-season comes to an end

With our winter staff rolling into the ranch this week, and orientation kicking off into high speed, the off-season has officially come to an end.  The ranch doesn’t open it’s doors for guests for a little while still, but the pace and activity level is at full throttle again.

During the last few weeks of off-season, those of us at the ranch have been busy getting the finishing touches on our many projects.  One of the exciting ones we have on the front burner right now is gearing up for a full remodel of our duplex to make it guest ready for next summer.  The other day Bill, Ben, and I spent the whole day at the interior decorator’s shop picking out tile, carpet, counter tops, fireplace stone, and more.  Now, you have to understand that none of us relish in this, especially Ben.  But, we gutted it out under the amazing guidance of Yvonne, and came up with some great picks.  The North Fork and South Fork units are going to be gorgeous and have a serene views of the Winter horse pasture.

In other exciting off-season news, Bill has been moving into his new house.  It’s been on his radar for years to move off the ranch and buy a home of his own, and he took the plunge this fall.  After over 20 years of living on the ranch, he’s finding all sorts of treasures as he packs up!

During a moment of weakness, Ben got talked into joining the board of the Colorado Dude and Guest Ranch Association.  He’ll be heading to meetings throughout the year to help the board oversee the marketing, policies, and direction of the association, which is made up of about 30 ranches in Colorado.  It’s a great organization that encourages industry cooperation, and we’re proud to have Ben serving on the board.

Beka is a blur today as she gets ready for all our staff to arrive.  Grace put the finishing touches on the staff housing in anticipation of the staff coming in today.  The chefs are prepping dinner for our Welcome Dinner, and we’re having our first manager meeting of the season to regroup and get everyone back together again.

To top it all off, we got another 3 inches of snow last night, and there is more coming tonight.  It’s beginning to look a lot like Winter around here!

funny visitors for a ranch vacation

Dude Ranch Life: A different kind of guest

We normally roll out the red carpet for our guests, and look forward to introducing new folks to the ranch.  This week, there was a surprising new group who showed up unexpectedly for a little ranch vacation.  Sheep!

The sheep were spotted off and on for a couple days earlier in the week just down the road.  Then, mid-week, they decided to make their presence official as they headed up the driveway.  Troy saddled up Caddy and rounded them up the other morning.  We’ve had to do some searching to try to figure out who they belong to: lots of phone calls, asking around at the Clark Store, and networking with other ranchers.  Finally, the owner was located and he’s coming to pick them up in the next couple days.  In the meantime, they are fun little pets to have hanging around and are providing a real shock for our horses.  They can’t quite figure out what these weird smelling animals are doing in their round pen!

It just goes to show that every day is a new adventure here at Vista Verde, and we love a good adventure.

barn loft for winter resort

Dude Ranch Life: Off-season projects

‘Tis the season.  For us, that means it’s time to get busy working on projects around the ranch.  It’s hard to tear the place up too much when there are guests here, so when the ranch is closed down, our work ramps up.  And there is always a lot to do!

Right now Bill is busy in the cabins, fixing all the little bumps and bruises that occur over the course of the season.  Banged up baseboard heaters, holes poked in screens, dings on the walls, and nicks on the furniture.  Later today I’ll do a walk-through to make a list of all the window coverings that need to be replaced or fixed.  The non-washable items are all at the dry cleaners, and new towels have been ordered.

Moving down to the Lodge, we tore out all the dining room carpet in anticipation of the arrival of our new carpet.  It was just time, as the old carpet wasn’t going to make it another season.  And, when I say “we” tore out the carpet, I should clarify.  Meagan and Devyn took office breaks last week and got their hands dirty ripping up the old carpet and pad.  Those two can do a lot more than just have a nice voice on the phones, you know!

Up in the barn, Nate has been working hard on the improved barn loft.  He has had help from “little” Ben, Tim, and Troy, as he encloses, insulates, and winterizes the barn loft this fall.  We’re excited to finally have a space to hold barn dances in the winter, as well as be able to spread out a bit for yoga classes in the colder months and when the weather doesn’t allow for outdoor yoga.  An official name for the new and improved Barn Loft is still undecided, but we can work on that as the snow piles up.

When Nate isn’t up in the loft, he’s multi-tasking by working on our new fitness room.  Now, we know that most of our guests never even touch the fitness center, and why would they when there are miles of trails to explore with amazing scenery and natural intervals?  But, for those who want to hit the elliptical or treadmill, we are moving the equipment to an air-conditioned spot near the Machine Shed.  This will allow us to move forward with adding a new unit for our guests.  Named North Fork and South Fork, these two duplex units will be ready for Summer 2016, and will be ready to accommodate smaller families by Summer 2016.

Lastly, Charlie and Ben took on the project of getting the ranch hands an official headquarters, where they can check in on any office work as well as hang their wet and dirty gear to dry in between shifts.  It’s not glamorous, but it gives them a home base to meet up and plan out their days.

So many projects, and so little time.  The beautiful weather made it a lot easier to work on these projects, but the snow rolling in now will scoot us along a little quicker to get them finished!  Because ’tis the season for snow to start piling up too.

dude ranch dining room remodel dude ranch staff off season project fitness room remodel at Colorado resort remodel at luxury resort

dude ranch chefs

Dude Ranch life: Off-season shenanigans

Chefs John (JT) and Cholly came back all excited from a “field trip” to Yampa Valley Farms.  Armed with photos and talking my ear off about the experience, he agreed to share their story with all of you.

As chefs, today was a very special day. We were able to find a totally unique product that is not only amazingly delicious and beautiful, but also local! Minimizing our carbon footprint is something we continuously strive to do by sourcing as local as possible from producers who share similar values.

We had the good fortune to meet with Josh Kilbane of Yampa Valley Farms. Josh is raising the most beautiful pork product we have ever seen. It was a breath of fresh air to see a farm of free-ranged pigs not confined to a concrete slab. The pigs are fed fresh prep scrap from local restaurants, as well as beets and turnips grown on the farm to encourage routing and self-feeding. Also, with two ponds on the lot we had a chance to see the pigs swim and wallow. Josh has made a special cross breed of Berkshire pig and Mangilitaz “Wooly Pig” to create what he calls the Colorado Mountain Pig. This cross allows the pig to be durable enough for the harsh environment of Northern Colorado. All the pork from Yampa Valley Farms is hormone and antibiotic free, as well as sustainably farmed and produced. The Berkshire pork, prized for juiciness, flavor and tenderness, is pink-hued and heavily marbled. Its high fat content makes it suitable for long cooking and high-temperature cooking. The Mangalitsa pork is exceptionally juicy, tender, and marbled, but with a darker red meat and larger more even fat cap making it perfect for charcuterie. Be on the lookout for the “Waygu of Pork” featured on our menus in the seasons to come.

Another exciting off-season project we started today is to “research” some beers for the new Colorado beer tasting being offered once a week this winter for a low impact, high flavor afternoon activity. It’s a tough job to go and explore breweries, sample beers, and come up with the perfect selections, but we’re willing to put in the hard work!  Just another day in the off-season shenanigans of a dude ranch chef.

 
yampa valley farms yampa valley farmsdude ranch animalsbaby dude ranch pigs

dude ranch staff

Dude Ranch Life: Happy trails, but not goodbye

The end of the season is always a bit bittersweet for most of us.  We’ve been working hard for a long period of time, and the break is exciting.  But, for some of the staff, it also means goodbye.  Since most of us (ok, so that’s me) don’t like goodbyes, we tend to subscribe to the happy trails, until we meet again theory.

There are some amazing staff members who were with us this summer (and some longer than that) who are moving onto their next step in life.  Katie and Michelle in the barn, Sarah, Shawnta, Trevor (Trev-bot!), and Kami in housekeeping, Chelsea, Olya, Kaitlyn and Mary Frances in the dining room, Ranch hands Gabe, Ted, both Dans, and the always laughing Matthew, Aaron who quietly washed dishes all summer, and Canipe and Rachel who have prepared countless meals in the kitchen.  All of these folks are the sugar and spice that made this summer so special.  Notably to me, my dear Talitha who came in with a smile and the willingness to run the dining room for the summer, and did her job with grace, confidence, and ease.  And then our sweet, sweet Melanie (photo above) who’s “I’m on it, and I’ll make it happen” attitude made us all happy to arrive in the office each day.  Her cautious enthusiasm to take on the day to day management of our social media platforms for the season was a gift to me, and a fun exercise in collaboration.  And lively Miss Mandy who’s love for the horses is as infectious as her laughter, which could be heard across the ranch.

As those of us who are here for the long run recharge our batteries and gear up for the winter season, we thank all the staff who threw themselves into helping us connect heart with home.  For the ones who are coming back for the winter, we look forward to seeing you after your break.  And for the ones moving on, we thank you for your hard work, dedication, and commitment to this funny and wonderful community we all love so much.  It’s been a pleasure having you all as part of the Vista Verde family, and I speak for all of us when I say thank you, and we can’t wait to see what your futures hold!

dude ranch fall ride

Dude ranch life: One last ride

Sunday, October 18 marked closing day for the season, and it was a flurry of activity.  Our last guests checked out after breakfast, and then we had a chore list a mile long.  From deep cleaning the kitchen to moving all the picnic tables into storage to taking screens off all the windows, there wasn’t a lack of jobs for anyone!

As those chores were wrapped up, the staff moved on to cleaning up and moving out of their homes.  Some of them will stick around for much of the off-season as there are projects to finish before winter, horses to feed and train, and the office doesn’t shut down when we’re closed.  But some are moving onto the next step in their life, and some are just heading off for a break before the winter season.  The office crew had struggled to find a time to do any sort of get together over the course of the summer, so we took advantage of this quiet afternoon to grab some horses and head out for one last ride.

Mother Nature did a grand job of providing us with spectacular weather right up to closing day.  Although it was much appreciated, we never expect that.  October can be the most beautiful month, but we can also get plenty of weather.  Well, she timed it well as around mid-day the first rain started to roll in, and it was off an on all afternoon.  That didn’t stop us on our ride.  We just put on the big, yellow slickers and kept going!  The company was wonderful and the scenery was gorgeous.

Now it’s time to start gearing up for winter.  Nate and a small crew are working on the barn loft to winterize it so we can have barn dances in the winter.  Yes, you heard that right Wanda!  Kelli will also be able to accommodate larger yoga classes with the loft being enclosed and heated.  And there are plenty of other uses for that area that we’ll work in over time.  KP, Sam, and the wranglers are preparing some horses for a sale we’re having this weekend.  We’re hoping to find forever homes for some of our four-legged staff members who aren’t a great fit for dude ranch life.  Beka is busying wrapping up all the hiring for the winter season.  And Meagan and Devyn are rounding up the reservations for the Christmas break as well as other winter stays.  Ben, Charlie and myself?  Oh, we’re just kicking back eating bon bons by the pool.  Or, put otherwise dealing with the exciting back end parts of the business like insurance, credit card fees, website maintenance, and financial statements.  Yee haw!

Rumor has it we have an El Nino headed out way, which means lots of snow!  So, we’ll hopefully open up in mid-December to a gorgeous white blanket of snow and a lot of excited guests.  We hope you can be one of them.

horses for sale

Herd Dispersal Sale

Toward the end of each season we go through our horse roster and identify horses that aren’t the best fit for our herd.  There are various reasons a horse doesn’t work out for our herd.  Some horses need a one person home, rather than having different riders each week.  Some aren’t physically built to hold up to the hard riding we do here, and we don’t want to hurt them by trying to make it work.  Some need a more experienced rider consistently, which is tough as not all of our guests have much riding experience.  Some just need to have a retirement home as they’ve worked hard for us, but now need a more quiet life.  With that, we have 8 horses we are trying to find homes for this fall.

On Friday and Saturday, October 23 and 24 we will have the horses available to view and try out for any potential buyers.  The Brand Inspector will not be available on the day of the sale, so horses may be picked up after they are inspected with purchaser’s information Tuesday, October 27.

Here is the rundown of who is being offered in the sale.

Cisco Cisco– 9 yo Dun Gelding, 16h. He is big and well built but needs a job.  Cisco is not the best to shoe.  Experienced rider. $1,100

 

 

 

JohnnyJohnny– 17 yo Sorrel Gelding, 15h. He is a nice friendly gelding, any level rider can ride him, but he’s best suited for intermediate to advanced riders. Slight stifle issue, but he’s ok to use for light work. $900

 

 

 

GusGus– 9 yo Red Dun Gelding, 15h. Gus is a smart and athletic gelding who needs a job.  He’s suited for an intermediate to advanced rider only, and he is great on trails. $900

 

 

 

Kapua– 7 yo Red Roan Mare, 15h. She is a very beautiful and athletic mare, and needs to be put to work.  Kapua is good on trails, and she is smart but not always willing so she needs an experienced rider. $1,200

Cali GirlCali Girl– 5 yo Chestnut Mare, 14h.  She is a smart and athletic small mare. Cali will watch a cow and would make a great cow horse or reining prospect. She is great in the arena. Intermediate to advanced rider. $2,200

 

 

 

RienaRiena– 4 yo Bay Mare, 14.2h. Riena would make a nice reining or western pleasure prospect. She has a slight hock issues so she’s not suited for heavy duty use. $2,200

 

 

 

sparkySparky– 19 Grey Gelding, 14.2h.  Sparky is cute and stocky with a lot of go so he needs a strong rider who can contain him.  He’s ok on trails but will jump things instead of step over. He’s great in the arena and can go English or western. $800

 

 

 

Arrow_H (400x300)Arrow– 25 yo Grey Gelding, 16h.  Arrow has been one of our great kid horses, but he has asthma and needs a retirement home.  He would be great for a little girl that would just want to love on a horse or a pasture buddy. Free to good home.

If you have questions about any of these horses, please fill out the Contact Us form and KP will follow up with you.

cattle round up at a luxury dude ranch

An autumn adventure and a office pass for the day

As if following the cues of the calendar, on the day that was marked as the first day of fall Mother Nature graced us with the bluest sky dotted with white, fluffy clouds, and the sun shone through the golden aspens leaves so they almost glowed.  On that same day the board that declares the state of the union at the ranch each day was tipping off on one side, the column marked “All-Day Cows” was filled with names, while the rest of the columns sat sadly vacant.

an autumn vacation at a Colorado dude ranch “Oh no!” said the wranglers.  “What shall we do with so many riders wanting to go out and find cows?” they asked.  Goose and Isaac looked blankly at them, trapped in their fishing waders and unable to trade them for jeans and boots.  Kelli moved from downward dog into warrior pose as if to fend off the suggesting looks that she might turn into a wrangler for the day.  And the housekeeping fairies (and ninja) stealthily slipped by the corral with their cleaning supplies in hand, avoiding eye contact with the desperate wranglers.

From the back office nook, a figure slowly emerged.  Who?  What?  Is that Steph reaching her hand out for the office pass?  With a quick change into one of Devyn’s plaid shirts, she throws on her hat, dusts off her chinks, and fills up her water bottles.  And that, folks, is how I got to go ride for cows on this most brilliant first day of fall.

My riding companions were cheerful, not realizing the relic of a wrangler they were heading out with for this ride.  But the day unfolded into an epic adventure riding through the hills, jumping over streams, navigating downed trees, and scaling the sides of mountains while rocks tumbled down into the ravine below.  It was epic.  Epic-ally void of any cows.  Not one.  Not even a sign of fresh cow poop.  Nada.  Zip. Zilch.

It turns out that our ride wasn’t the only one to have a gorgeous ride through the mountains only to strike out on rounding up cows.  One group did bring home 4 reluctant bovines.  Another saw plenty of cows, but couldn’t get a lick of them to cooperate, as they squirted off into the trees at the first sight of humanoids.  And one more saw nothing but tall grass, golden aspens, and gorgeous mountains.  Nonetheless the smiles were wide as the dinner bell rang tonight.  Because there is always tomorrow.  And, if you end up riding over hundreds and thousands of acres of mountains, rivers, and forests for the day without spotting a cow, it is still something to smile about.  Watch out cows…..we know you’re out there.  And, we know where you’re not now too!  We’re going to hunt you down, round you up, and bring you home.  But, that story will be someone else’s tomorrow as this rusty wrangler hangs up her office pass and goes back into the corner nook.

Happy trails to you, until I ride again.

adventure vacation gear

A few of our favorite things

Kelli and Steve are not only our ace guides and outdoor enthusiasts, but they are also our resident gear-heads.  Kelli recently put together a list of some gear that they are loving these days or is on their most wanted list.

The Salomon Quest Origins GTX hiking boot is a great Gore-Tex boot that gives support of a full hiking boot but feels as light weight as a running shoe.  Even though it only comes in Men’s sizes, both myself (Kelli) and Bridgette (Chef) have purchased them (as well as Steve) and love them. Just follow their size guide and the fit should be right on.

Rail Riders is a great company who boasts having the “Toughest Clothes on the Planet”! Although inspired from the sea, this clothing is great for all adventurous pursuits.  Steve and I are pretty keen on the Adventure Tops, so lightweight and breathable but great SPF protection for our aging skin J.  Steve also loves his Bushwacker Weather Pants.  Super tough, reinforced knees, butt, and back of ankles yet fashionable enough to host dinner at VVR!

As the mornings and evenings turn a bit cooler, Steve is turning to his Breakaway II Hoody from Ibex.  It’s a lightweight climawool™ softshell hybrid jacket ideal for aerobic pursuits in cooler weather.  A great transitional piece and I do believe it is on sale right now!

I have been hiking in Sierra Design’s Stretch Trail Pant on cooler days.  They are designed to wear with a pack, sporting a stretch knit waistband that feels like a pair of tights so there is no bulk under the waist strap.  I also like the water resistance patches on the knees and bottom.  Plus they are stretchy, so super comfy, and have a feminine fit.

The Salsa Bucksaw is redefining boundaries with its Fat Bike design and go anywhere attitude. Steve is loving its ability to be an all season bike.  Great for the shoulder seasons, riding in variable mud/snow mix without damaging trails. And its ability to float over obstacles and grip the trail with incredible traction in summer time fun.  It is on our wish/drool list!  For all our fellow bike geeks, you gotta check this one out!

yoga-luxury-guest-ranch

Simple yoga poses to help you transition from “carefree summer days” to “school day routines”

By Kelli

Transitioning from impromptu BBQ’s with the neighbors, pool parties with the kids, and summer vacations to VVR, to homework, after school activities and the early morning hustle and bustle can be exhausting and give you a sense of chaos!  Change can be bumpy, so here are a few yoga poses to keep you grounded and help smooth out the transition to Fall.

“Easy” Pose

I put parenthesis around the word easy, because for some of us, sitting crossed legged is anything but easy.  If you happen to be one of these people, sitting on a blanket or cushion will help.

Begin by crossing the legs and feeling both “sit” bones connected to the ground, sit up tall so that you are not rounded through the low back, bring a gentle awareness to the core, and keep your shoulder blades down the back, chest open.

Hold the pose for several minutes, feeling grounded, following the breath. Better yet, take this pose to the yard and enjoy watching the leaves fall.  I love this pose! You can do it anywhere, like watching soccer practice, and no one even has to know you are “doing” yoga.

Warrior II

Practicing Warrior II pose not only stretches and strengthens the legs and shoulders but also increases stamina. And who couldn’t use more stamina!

  •  Place your feet three to four feet apart and raise your arms parallel to the floor with palms down.
  • Turn your right foot slightly in and your left foot out 90 degrees to the left so the toes are pointing away from your body. Align your left heel with the right.
  • Bend your left knee over the left ankle, causing the shin to be perpendicular to the floor. Bring your left thigh parallel to the floor, creating a 90- degree angle in your knee. Straighten your right leg and press your right heel out and down into the floor.
  • Stretch your arms out, keeping them parallel to the floor. Imagine you are increasing the space between your shoulder blades as you spread your arms. Turn your head to the left as you look out over the fingers of your left hand. Keep your spine straight and perpendicular to the floor.
  • Hold this pose for 30 seconds to one minute. When you are ready, come out of Warrior II Pose. Reverse your feet and repeat with the right side.

After practicing your Warrior II pose, you will have the courage to face the challenges of the day, knowing you have grounded yourself in strength, flexibility, and stamina!

Mountain Pose

A truly easy pose to practice anywhere, and at any time.  Who hasn’t picked the “wrong” line at the grocery store, always when you are in a hurry to get somewhere else?  Instead of feeling anxious and impatient, surrender to the moment and use the time to bring a calm, unshakable steadiness to the moment.  Allowing you to let go of the anxiety and to respond with the fortitude of a mountain!

Stand with your feet at hip-width apart with equal weight on balls and heels.  Draw energy up the quads and bring awareness to the core. Draw shoulder blades down the back, feeling an open chest.  Practice a few deep breaths, especially if the shopper in front of you has just sent her kid to aisle 85 for a new carton of eggs!

Corpse Pose

Viewed as one of the most important poses in yoga, corpse pose rejuvenates and clears the mind providing you with the tools to deal with stress and emotions in your life. Practiced on a regular basis, its benefits are…

*Lowered blood pressure

*A decreased heart rate

*Slowed rate of respiration

*Decreased muscle tension

 

So the next time you need a “pick me up”, skip the cup of coffee and go lay in the backyard! Enjoy the cool grass, watch the clouds go by, and treat yourself to 10 minutes of relaxation.  You are worth it!

Enjoy the last few months of Fall before Mother Nature closes up shop and covers the ground with a blanket of snow!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!