This week at the Ranch

christmas vacation gift guide

Vista Verde’s First Annual Holiday Gift Guide

Ok, take this post as a little tongue in cheek, and just know that it’s the little things that make me laugh. Since everyone has a gift guide these days, I thought we needed to jump on the bandwagon. But it might actually be something I try to do each year a little earlier in the holiday season in earnest because there are actually some fun suggestions I think we could share with all of you each year! And, of course, only a little of it is completely self-serving.

With that humble intro, here are some suggestions on great gift ideas from many of the vendors we work with at the ranch.

Tender Belly Bacon!

Ok, we’re serious. I know I mention our bacon a lot, but it is really that good, and guests even comment about it when they aren’t here. So, if you can’t gift your loved one a vacation to Vista Verde Ranch, why not at least get them bacon? Tender Belly, our purveyor for that awesome bacon, offers a Bacon of the Month Club, among other options for gift purchases.

Experiences, not stuff

We all have too much stuff, don’t we? And, wouldn’t it feel better to save some packaging from the landfills? So, why not buy a winter vacation package or a week at the ranch this summer for your loved ones? You’ll create memories instead of more items to store!

Wild Rags

This is a great gift to give to someone who enjoys the Western look. We all live in them, and there are so many great designs and colors out there! Check out the variety at Wyoming Wild Rags.

Ranch Organics

Not only do we love the name, and love the gal who started this great company, but we love the products! If you want the same scent as what we have with our amenities, look for Sweet Grass. Ranch Organics is a great small Steamboat company that has gone nationwide in the past decade because of their great products.

A Horse!

Yes, we know you all need a new horse, right? So why not buy a Vista Verde Ranch bred and raised young horse? Come on now, the obstacles are merely simple ones to overcome–we’ll help you find a way to ship this critter to your home and even put a red bow around its neck.

Steaming Bean Coffee and our favorite mug

We love, love, love our blue coffee mugs. So much that we shell out the high price for them to replace the broken ones each season. They are just so beautiful, and a great size to snuggle up with on a cold morning, or a warm one, or whenever…they are that great. And the Black Magic blend from Colorado’s Steaming Bean coffee is a guest favorite, so why not pair a bag of that with a gorgeous mug from Mountain Arts Pottery?

When in doubt, gift wine!

Well, it’s always a good fall back, and why not represent the brand and buy someone a bottle of the Williams Selyem 2014 Vista Verde Vineyard Pinot Noir? No relation to the ranch, but what a cool name, right?

There you go. The inaugural holiday gift guide from Vista Verde. Here’s to a happy holiday season! Oh, and if you’re looking for something to get me, I’ll always take another wild rag. Who knows, maybe my husband might read this…..

Spotlight on Sara Brinkley

Our longtime massage therapist Trish left us this past fall to move closer to her family. We were left wondering, “How will we ever fill her shoes?” Well, after searching high and low in the Steamboat and Clark community, we found Sara Brinkley. So we wanted to introduce her to all of you this week. Sara is getting settled in at the ranch, giving massages to staff so they know her work, and getting the massage room set up to her liking. I was the lucky recipients of a massage from her recently, and am still enjoying the newly stretched muscles and relaxed back! I asked her some questions to help you all get to know her, so if you’re showing up this winter for a vacation at the ranch, you’ll already know a bit about Sara!

1. Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Maplewood, MN.

2. When you were a kid, what did you think you wanted to do when you grew up?

As I kid I really wanted to be a professional tennis player.

3. What drew you to massage therapy for a profession?

Also as a child, I was the one giving family and friend backrubs. At friend sleepovers, everyone always wanted to be in front of me in the backrub chain. So, the idea of making people feel better was probably what initially drew me to massage therapy.

4. How do you spend your free time?

I love hiking and snowshoeing with my dog. My husband and I love to backpack. We have a boat and love spending time on Steamboat Lake. We also really enjoy working on our land and doing house projects. And I still do enjoy playing tennis, even if it’s not on the circuit!

5. Beside relaxation, are there benefits to guests getting a massage while at VVR?

I believe any minor body pain can be something that changes your day, your activity, or experience. So, by relieving muscle tension, lengthening muscle tissue, and creating better circulation; massage can reduce stress, aid in better sleep, relieve injury pain, and aid in your body functioning at its best.

If you’re coming out to the ranch for a winter vacation, we hope you’ll get a chance to meet Sara and enjoy her work. She offers either 60 or 90 minute Swedish or relaxing massages typically on Monday, Wednesday and Friday afternoons. 60 minute massages are $130 and 90 minute massages are $170. Feel free to call us at 800-526-7433 to schedule your massage ahead of time, as those muscles do get sore with all the outdoor adventures going on here at the ranch!

winter dude ranch season is getting closer

Dude Ranch Life: Gratitude for the little things

It’s amazing how quiet it is around the ranch right now with us being closed for the off-season. And what got on my radar this past week was realizing how much that quiet space allows us to appreciate the little things. Sure, we recognize that compared to the busy world many people live in, being at the ranch is still a more quiet place to be for many. But, when we’re open and we have a house full of guests to organize, an equally large group of staff to shepherd, and activities going every which way, there are definitely a lot of balls up in the air to keep juggling! We’re all pretty mindful of noticing the special moments, but sometimes don’t get the space to really soak them up. This past week I found myself relishing those special moments.

The bald eagle flying over head as I was driving up Seedhouse Road yesterday morning. Those are the times when I remind myself, “This life isn’t normal–most folks don’t get to see bald eagles soaring around on their commute to work!?”

The alpenglow on fresh snow in the Zirkels as the sun goes down earlier and earlier each evening.

Getting together at my house for dinner the other night with the few people who are at the ranch right now. Great times, lots of laughter, and total joy when I pulled out the dessert I had slaved over all day–a selection of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. Because we have amazing baked goods at the ranch all the time, but when we get to binge on Ben & Jerry’s?

Seeing the elk move across the hillside above the cabin early in the morning, and then later on gather in the valley floor underneath an epic sunset.

Sharing a huge pot of venison stew that Chef Jason made last week just because he’s going a little stir crazy not working much these days. What a surprise, and I can assure you all the brown bag lunches from home were quickly put back into the fridge when we smelled the stew!

Pushing the door when the handle says “Pull”! Yes, I am telling you it’s the simple pleasures I’m talking about here! Those kitchen doors are such a source of controversy with the staff, and it’s just kind of fun to walk through them the wrong way when no one is around.

What doesn’t change during the off-season? The camaraderie of the passionate people here at the ranch, who all care so much about making this dude ranch the best vacation experience ever for our guests, and who work their tails off during the off-season to gear up for the coming season. It’s a smaller crew right now, so we’re all enjoying the quiet together, getting things done, reflecting on what we can do better, implementing new ideas, and putting the wheels into motion so they are ready for when the staff arrive in early December.

 

New Powder Riding options for your winter ranch vacation

Many of you who visited the ranch last winter tried out our snowmobiling program, and we received some great feedback over the course of the winter. We’re excited to be expanding the program this year with some new riding options.

Our programs at the ranch allow our guests to grow their skills and learn during their stay, and we wanted to mirror this in the snowmobile program. So, there will still be the option of 2-hour trail rides on the snowmobiles, but we have also added another step in the program for those who have already taken a 2-hour trail ride and want to learn more technique, skills, and play a bit more on the machines.

During the 2-hour powder rides the guides will take guests into the powder to teach them how to maneuver and manage the machines in the fresh snow. In addition, there will be the option of all-day rides that give riders time on the trail as well as powder riding instruction and play time. So, there are many options for our guests who catch the bug of riding a snowmobile. And, for all of you who want to avoid the sound of machines, please remember that we have the newer machines that are quieter, and we leave from the barn area and head off ranch right away on our tours, so the ranch remains a quiet and peaceful place. So, the phrase ‘come ride with us’ has multiple meanings—horses, fat bikes, and snowmobiles!

Dude Ranch Gear

The season is wrapping up at Vista Verde Ranch, and we have some great new and used gear available for sale! If you’re in the area, stop by Sunday, October 22 from 1-4pm to shop and score a deal!

Bikes: Salsa
Bucksaws (S-XL) $2,500
Spearfish (S-XL) $1,200
XL Carbon Spearfish $1,900
Blackborows (XS-L) $900-$1,000

Winter Gear:
Snowshoes: Atlas, Crescent Moon $20-$40
Solomon SNS Ski Boots and Bindings: Various Sizes $20-$40
Backcountry Touring, Classic, and Skate Skis: Limited Selection $100
Kids Skis: $40

Paddleboards:
Hala Inflatable Boards-Nass, Straight-up, Hoss
Comes with carry kit and patch kit $850-$950

Discounted NEW Clothing and Technical Gear

Fly rods: (Prices will be posted soon)
Sage accel sizes ranging from 376-4 up to 596-4
Sage circa sizes 386-4 and 486-4
Sage LL 379-3
Sage txl-f 00710-4

Boots:
Redington willow river women’s boots sizes 5-9
Redington palix river men’s boots sizes 8-13
Simms freestone men’s boots sizes 7-14

Waders:
Redington crosswater women’s waders sizes small and medium
Redington crosswater men’s waders sizes S-XL
Redington sonic pro men’s waders sizes S-XL

 

cattle round up at Colorado dude ranch

Dude Ranch Life: Cattle Ranching with the Beltons

October came upon us quickly, but it didn’t come quietly this year. Although we always have the chance of snow here in the fall, this month kicked off with a full-fledged winter style snow storm. Stunning? Yes. Welcomed? Well, we’d actually rather default to our preferred October weather of sunny skies to show off the golden aspens. But, that’s life in the mountains and today we’re already back to those sunny skies, albeit a wee bit chilly with the snow still hanging around on the ground.

The snow did help us out as it did encourage the remaining cow-calf pairs out in the forest that coming home is indeed a good idea. You see, we’ve spent the last month convincing the cow-calf pairs to stay out by moving them around to find where the grass was still thick and lush so they could spend as much time out in the forest before we brought them home. So, by the end of September we were pretty sure they would come home willingly. Apparently they missed that memo, and although we brought a lot of them home that last week, there are still some stragglers out in the forest. Following the storm early this week, their attitude seems to have shifted and this time they were a lot more willing to head back to the ranch.

One of the highlights of this fall round-up season for me has been getting our partners Christy and Matt Belton more involved with our guests during the round-up weeks. We had them join us for dinner each week to meet the guests and then gather around the fireplace after dinner so everyone could learn a little more about their cattle operation. It was fascinating. Every week the conversation went a little different direction from water rights to testing bulls productivity (yep, that one got a little silly), but each week gave our guests a chance to understand a little more about the cattle industry and our partnership with Belton Livestock. This is one of those amazing relationships where everyone wins–our guests get to be a part of a real cattle operation and Christy and Matt get some help with managing a roughly 14,000 acre USFS grazing permit along with over 200 cow-calf pairs. What was apparent was that having this conversation with Christy and Matt helped the guests realize this is the real deal, and recognize that they have a vital role in helping with the Belton’s business success.

Now we just have to get the stragglers in and call it a year. Fat happy cows and spunky, well fed calves are heading back to the Belton Livestock headquarters as I write this blog post. Good job to all who came out to have some fun riding the land and rounding up cows!

Dude Ranch Life: When we say guest blogger, we really mean a guest blogging!

To start I should tell you how it came about that a guest is writing the VVR blog! I was talking to my friend Stephanie and saying how much we enjoyed her blogs, and when could we expect the next one? As we know, Stephanie’s blogs are informative, amusing and beautifully written and must take time and inspiration to get out, but this time, like all writers, Stephanie was suffering writers block. She asked me for some ideas, and while other guests nearby came up with several suggestions I suggested “why not get a guest to do a blog?” Stephanie grabbed hold of this idea and said “When do you think you can do it?”……well I was “strung up like a kipper” as we say in England, (Stephanie does have a slightly devious side to her,) so here goes.

My wife and I traveled 5500 miles to get here, suffering jet lag and aeroplane food and driving past many other dude ranches. So, we make a big effort to get here! This is our third time coming to VVR… and it is so worth it. Just for the record, in the past we have never been back to any holiday destination before, so why does VVR draw us back? Not just us but many other guests. I decided I would attempt to find out what draws us all back.

Over lunch today I asked several people how many times they had been to VVR and why they keep coming back? Some, I asked, have been here over 10 times and many 8 or 9 times (good time to say that those on 9 get the 10th one free) so we are still “newbies ”

When asked why they keep coming back there were lots of different responses. Some say the horses, and indeed there is a horse for every standard of horsemanship from beginners to experienced riders.

But many people never ride a horse, and spend their time fishing, so for them its the fishing and the tales you hear over dinner each night tell of great fish caught and great fish lost all in stunning surroundings. I keep promising myself to go fishing but there is so much else going on. The hard thing at VVR is to make your choices each day.

And the hikers and bikers all talk enthusiastically about the excitement of their days, when we gather together for meals.

Which brings me onto another reason people keep coming back… the food. It is always superb, whether its breakfast out in a field or a gourmet dinner in the lodge you never hear any complaints. And, if you are gluten free, vegetarian or have any other dietary requirement they will always be able to provide for you.

With great activities and great food in beautiful surroundings you could not want for anything more. But, hold on a minute…the fun doesn’t stop there! Every evening there is some event taking place to continue the enjoyment. Line dancing, wine pairing, music night, horse shoe throwing etc with VVR personnel all on hand to make sure it all goes well. My particular favourite is line dancing, which is surprising as I cannot dance! but at VVR I can, as the song says when you get the chance to dance, dance.

When it all boils down to it its not just the horses, the setting, the fishing, climbing, hiking and bike riding, food, evening activities that make it extra special, great as they are, but it is the people. Not just the fine people who look after us, but the friendships that develop over the week keep many guests returning. Ben says in his introduction that it should be like coming back to your family. and, I think, that is why guests return to the ranch year after year, its coming home.

Happy holidays everyone!

Michael Kelleher

dude ranch wrangler

Dude Ranch Life: What’s happening at the Ranch

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged as I seem to just keep finding myself running here and there, and not planted down in front of my computer. Go figure, it’s a ranch! With the kids back in school and a few less guests because of that, it seems to feel a little more quiet this week. If you haven’t been following where we are in the season, this week is the first of our adult-only weeks. It really tends to feel like a big switch from one season to another. The college-age staff are leaving and returning to their studies which includes most of the kid wrangler crew. The “late-season” hires have or are arriving and getting dialed into their jobs for the fall season. The schedule shifts a bit with no kids and shorter daylight hours. For example, the breakfast ride turns into a brunch ride because while getting up early for a morning ride is lovely, no one really wants to ride in the dark and sit out at Homestead eating a breakfast while shivering at the same time.

Although we have lots of great staff who come and go here, every once in a while there is a departure that needs to be recognized. This week seems a little more quiet with the absence of Troy Corless. Troy has been a guest favorite for years, but we always tell our staff there comes a time when they’ve learned what they needed to learn here at the ranch and it’s time to fly. Troy realized it was that time and he found an amazing opportunity that made it a no-brainer to stretch out those wings and head out. He will be joining a very talented farrier in the east for an apprenticeship. This is such a great opportunity for Troy, and we are so happy to see him go off to take the next step in his profession. No doubt there were tears shed, but we’re also just so happy to see him looking to continue to grow and move up in the world.

I’m sure many of you watched the eclipse on Monday. We had a fun time checking it out, even though we weren’t on the path of totality. It was about 95% here, so we sent our morning ride out a bit early to make sure everyone could get back in time to put on their glasses and enjoy the show.

With the start of the adult-only season we’re kicking off the wine pairing dinners again. Friday nights will be a bit more noisy here I suspect, but they are always a great time with so many interesting dishes paired with tasty wines. Also in a couple weeks we’ll start heading out with our guests to round-up the cows. These weeks always lead to great stories of adventures on the trail–it’s such a splendid way to take in the fall colors and ride some beautiful country!

The office crew is shifting their attention over to winter with Zach getting the winter staff finalized and Devyn and the gals taking calls daily for winter reservations. It’s funny to be talking about the ranch covered in snow when we’re still outside in our short sleeves soaking up the summer rays, but it won’t be long before the snow starts falling and our winter wonderland returns. Until then, we’ll take every moment of time out on the dirt, crisp mornings and warm days, and the rustling of aspen leaves in the breeze.

dude ranch foal

News from the Nursery

The foals are growing and getting used to being handled and loved by our guests each week. As we watch them lounge in the sunshine, frolic in the green grass, and stretch their legs running around the pastures, we’re getting to know their personalities and helping them get used to dude ranch life. Here’s a quick update on the sweet things from wrangler Liz B.

dude ranch foalPaisley
Born: 4/24/17
Sire: Shaq “Gray Stik”
Dam: Teletubby “Reynyday Whoaman”

Paisley is Shaq’s first foal to be born here at VVR! Shaq is our current resident stud here at the ranch, and we have been anticipating watching this beautiful filly learn and grow to see if she will have the calm, sweet, curious disposition both of her parents have. Like most gray horses, Paisley was born a darker bay color, but is starting to slowly gray out, just like her father, and displays a star matching that of her mother Teletubby. Paisley is extremely friendly and has a big, sweet personality. She is naturally curious and brave with new interactions and absolutely loves her weekly foal watch visits, where she gets to interact with guests. She especially loves getting pets and scratches from the kids that are more her size! Teletubby is back in foal to Shaq, so we look forward to a full sibling to Paisley in May 2018.

colt at luxury guest ranchMemphis
Born: 5/8/17
Sire: Shaq : “Gray Stik”
Dam: June “Frostys Red Baron”

Memphis is Shaq’s first colt to be born here at VVR. Memphis was born with a lighter red sorrel coloring, but with time is also starting to show some of his Sire’s gray coloring. Memphis definitely has the energy and athleticism of his father. Three days after his birth, he was already zipping around the pasture with the cutest little lope. Memphis is a little bit more timid than Paisley when it comes to interacting with people, but he gets more and more comfortable with people each day. He is a very sweet colt, and we are very excited to see his potential. June will be having another Shaq baby May 2018, so we look forward to seeing what this two produce next year!

foals on summer vacationApache
Born: April 2017
Dam: Ginger

Apache and his mom Ginger came to us from our cattle partner Matt Belton. Apache came to us at about one month of age and is growing fast. Apache is a cute little black colt with two white socks and the sweetest little face. Apache is by far one of the most curious, kind foals within the group of four foals we have this year. He’s inquisitive and quite independent of his mom at a very young age. He loves people and getting scratches and rubs in all his itchy spots! This young colt is very brave and seems to be a fast learner. His relaxed, carefree personality helps settle his mom, who can sometimes be nervous and very protective of him.

colt at family guest ranchHoulihan
Born: March 2017
Dam: Big Momma “Zans Rainy Gal”

Houlihan and Big Momma came to us from a horse sale in CO this last spring, and we are lucky to have them. Houlihan is a gregarious, friendly colt who gets his calm disposition and size from his beautiful, big-boned gray momma. Houlihan has great conformation, and his dark coat is already starting to gray out, so we’ll have another gray colt. He is extremely friendly and loves people. Big Momma is also currently pregnant with Shaq’s baby, who is due around next May/June 2018. With her easy personality and great size, we think the combination of those two horses will produce an amazing guest ranch horse.

 

hiking vacation in Colorado

Dude Ranch Life: How do they all have so much energy?

Maybe it’s that I’m not 23 anymore, or maybe it’s just because our staff are just that adventurous. But, this morning it hit me that our staff are moonlighting (sometimes quite literally) in some pretty amazing athletic endeavors. Why did this hit me this morning? Well, Beka and I went for an early morning run, which was amazing and beautiful and fulfilling for this busy mom who is psyched when she fits in a 4 mile run. However, you must please note that Beka was merely warming up for a full day of guiding and anticipating that she would be leading a hike on the Zirkel Circle. You know, that silly little 11 mile hike into the Zirkel Wilderness. While we were out running, we saw footprints on the trail. Beka’s guess was that those footprints belonged to Shannon. She had invited Shannon to join us on our run but Shannon opted out. She was hoping to get a longer run in that morning…..before she also guided an all-day hiking trip. Ummmm…..ok.

This conversation led to further ones with other staff about their epic outings recently. The same energizer bunny Shannon joined Molly and Max H. earlier this week on a 21 mile/11 hour hike into the Zirkels. The highlight of the hike was getting up on top of Flattop Mountain.

Oh, and then there was the climb up Wapiti Mountain with Maggie A., Jonah S, Shannon (do you see a pattern her?) and Molly that started at sunset and got back well after the full moon was way up in the sky.

Well, I can’t forget to mention the gallant attempt to climb Farwell Mountain by Nolan and Max. Perhaps they didn’t make it all the way, but the scratches and bruises they brought back proved their pioneer spirit.

Of course, what better way to celebrate kid wrangler Max K.’s birthday than a sunrise hike up Hahn’s Peak with a whole crew of friends?

For creative adventures, the award goes to Jason and Sarah who are attempting to climb every mountain or visit every lake that one of our cabins are named after….each Sunday they tackle another one.

There was that night that Jonah J. hiked up to the top of Wapiti at 9pm, camped out, and was back at work by 7:30am.

Needless to say, our crew is making the most of their time off, and somehow they still have the energy to whip up amazing dishes, wash those dirty dishes, wrangle the horses and kids, and lead more wild adventures out into the mountains with our guests.

Anyone up for a walk around the block?

dude ranch owners at Vista Verde

Dude Ranch Life: Special Visitors

Recently we had some special visitors come up to the ranch. Does the name Tufly ring a bell for any of you? If not, here’s a clue: the Tufly family owned Vista Verde from the late 1920’s until the 1970’s. Their boys grew up on the ranch, so we were thrilled when Elvin and Roy came by to visit with their wives Carolyn and Delene. It was great timing, as they not only got to spend some time at the ranch and share stories of growing up at Vista Verde, but they also got to meet Chris and Laura who own the ranch now.

The guys had us totally entertained hearing about the trouble they got into as boys growing up on the ranch as well as what life was like at Vista Verde in those days. They used to close the ranch down in the winter, and ski in throughout the winter to shovel snow off the roofs of the buildings. Such a different lifestyle than what we have today!

It’s amazing how many people’s lives Vista Verde has touched in the past, and how many it continues to touch as a guest ranch today. We’re all pretty lucky to call it home for even a week at a time!

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!