Archive for the ‘This week at the Ranch’ Category
Date: July 5th, 2013
This summer is a unique one for me. For the first time, my children are joining the kid’s program at Vista Verde. In the past, they may have tagged along with a babysitter overseeing them. But this year, they are jumping in with their little cowgirl boots and jeans. The past two weeks have been an amazing eye opener for me. Here is what I have learned:
1) The kid’s program at Vista Verde is amazing. Yes, I always knew that, and always sang the praises to potential guests. But, I now believe it with such intensity, that I am not just singing, but singing in tune.
2) The kid wranglers are saints. I could actually say this about anyone who works with children. The patience, energy, kindness and did I mention patience that they practice on a minute by minute basis is unbelievable.
3) Horses really are a kids best friend. Here my girls have grown up around horses, but I am once again reminded about the power of forming a relationship with a horse. I have a note sitting on my desk to Eight Ball from a little girl that drives this point home as well. I’ll share that one later.
4) A filthy, sobbing child is the kind of child we can all hope for at the end of a good day. My girls were so dirty yesterday afternoon, that the tear streaks from their sobbing left tracks like war paint. They traded off the crying, falling on the ground in a heap, kicking the back of the car seat all the way home and screaming in the shower as we attempted to remove some of the acquired dirt. Yes, I needed a therapy session afterwards, but I knew it was a sign of an absolutely amazing day at Vista Verde. Tomorrow I just need earplugs and a pre-game cocktail. In fact, maybe that is something we should provide all our guests who come with children?
My kids have no idea how lucky they are to be able to be a part of something so amazing all summer long. For those of you gearing up for your trip, just know the fun factory awaits your little ones. Bring on the dirt!
Date: June 27th, 2013
It must be award season in the dude ranch world. In the past few days we have received notice of 2 awards we have won, and I just got a notice about voting opening for another award. Get out the high heels, the bling and the ballgowns. Well, or at least maybe I should wipe the dust off my boots?
Big thank you’s go out to Tripadvisor for bestowing the Certificate of Excellence on us once again this year, recognizing that we rank in the top 10% worldwide for traveler feedback. Really, the thanks go to you, our guests, who have written so many kind reviews. Often times perspective guests call up, shocked that we have so many great reviews. I never know how to respond to that, and typically give some sort of awkward comment back like, “Well, it must be something in the water.” What do you say? I suppose a simple “Thank you” would do the trick. We try our hardest to make this vacation experience the best, and we appreciate those of you who share your experiences with others on Tripadvisor, at cocktail parties, on the ski lift and in the line at the grocery store, among other places.
The second piece of mail (yep, the old fashion kind) was from Gene Kilgore’s Ranchweb team announcing that we have been awarded the 2013 World’s Best Ranches Award. I’m guessing we’re not the only ones to get this award, but appreciate that Gene Kilgore is still singing the praises of Vista Verde to the world.
Lastly, the Signature Ranch Awards by Duderanch.com are now open for voting. This is a fun contest each year, putting all the power in the hands of the guests. Last year we won two of the categories, and we’d love to do it again! If you have a minute, the voting is pretty quick, and you can even skip categories if you don’t have an opinion, or just write in Vista Verde if you’re feeling incredibly biased. Click here to start voting.
We are humbled by your support of Vista Verde, and don’t take it lightly. Maybe our choice of lifestyle isn’t the most high pressure work environment, but we do feel the burden of living up to your expectations and delivering you all the most amazing vacation experience we can pull off here at Vista Verde. Thanks for recognizing our hard work!
Date: June 4th, 2013
The ranch is now open for business! Opening day was Sunday, June 2, and we were all excited to welcome our first group of guests as they came up the drive and into the Lodge. We have a full house, lots of kids, and everyone has jumped into their dude ranch adventure with smiles one their faces.
The aspens are brilliantly green right now, the grass is getting thicker each day and the wildflowers are peeking out here and there. Spring (technically it is still spring, you know) at the ranch is such an amazing time. The whole valley just comes bursting alive and it is so fresh and wonderful.
We’re excited about this summer. It’s a big one with every cabin booked from now until September. For those of you coming out to join us, we can’t wait to spend time with you playing in the mountains! And for those of you who won’t be physically at the ranch, we look forward to sharing our stories of the season as we make our way through the season.
Date: May 23rd, 2013
Nature has a funny way of taking care of itself. Last summer was such a dry summer, that all we did was worry about water and fires. Luckily, the latter did not become a reality for us here in the Steamboat Springs area. We have been so happy to have more moisture this past winter, and are hoping for a summer with a few more rainstorms.
Just the other day, Charlie and Carson discovered an unexpected benefit of the dry weather last year. Because the grass didn’t grow as high last summer, another natural phenomenon took place. Little Lodgepole pine seedlings took hold and started to grow. You see, they needed to see the sun, and not be covered up in the thick grass that normally grows in this valley. So, with the excitement of new parents, Charlie and Carson have been busily staking out these little seedlings, in order to try to help bring them along their way as they begin their climb to the sky.
In addition to those little seedlings, we are also excited to see that our young trees that serve as Christmas trees for each of our families at Christmas time have taken root and are growing well. Each year, we get a tree for every family, place them in the Lodge, and each family who comes to the ranch for a Colorado Christmas vacation gets to make decorations and put them on their tree. It is a bit of a contest to see who has the best decorated tree. Then, come summer, we plant them around the ranch. It’s fun to have each family have a lasting mark on the ranch with their little family trees.
The forest changes, year after year, and we get to be humbled in recognition of the power of the natural world. Luckily, we get to enjoy the ride, and watch for a short time, the shifting patterns of the forest.
Date: May 15th, 2013
Springtime in Colorado is such an exciting time. After sitting dormant under a blanket of snow all winter long, the valley starts to come back to life. The snow melts, the green grass starts peeking through, the crocuses bloom, and the baby cows and horses start to arrive. It is hard to not be exuberant during this time, as the whole area is just bursting with new life.
Because of that blanket of snow all winter long, we have to feed our horses daily with huge bales of grass hay that was grown in the valley the previous season. If you’ve ever shuddered at the grocery bill of a family with a bunch of teenagers, just imagine the hay bill for roughly 100 hungry horses. As long as there is enough snow on the ground, we use our draft horse team and a feed sleigh to sling bales out to the horses. Our guests, visiting the ranch for a winter vacation, enjoy helping us with this task. Or, at least we think they enjoy it…. However, come spring when the snow has melted but there still isn’t grass, we switch over to feeding with our tractor and big, round bales. Then, there is the delightful time, when the grass is growing well enough and we don’t have to feed the horses anymore. The family who Homesteaded the ranch was smart enough to choose a valley where the grass grows thick, unlike much of Colorado. During the summer months, our horses get all the nutrition they need from the fresh grass growing in the meadows.
Yesterday marked the transition from those daily feedings to the lazy days of grazing in the pastures. We moved the horses out into the Homestead pasture, so we could rest the winter pasture for a while. There isn’t quite enough grass to keep us from feeding them some, but it is a milestone to make this move. Summer must be coming soon!
Date: May 9th, 2013
We’ve had a long running joke about the TV show “As the Aspens Turn”. It would be a soap opera, possibly reality TV show about ranch life. Not that our drama here is really all that worthy of TV coverage, but hey, these days anything flies. We’d have exhausted wranglers trying to stay awake on late night foal watches. Every day mis-communications could be turned into a scene set to dramatic music. There may or may not be some relationship drama. It’s just a fun way to look at the lighter side of the human interactions that happen here at Vista Verde, so we don’t take it too seriously in the heat of the moment.
This time of year, the show would get kind of slow though. There aren’t as many people around the ranch, and there just isn’t as much going on. Not that those of us who are here aren’t busy, there are just fewer of us. However, yesterday marked the start of the start. The pre-season meetings. It’s always an exciting time as the key players gather for the first time in a month or so. First, some leadership development. This is a testament to Peggy’s investment in all of us as she brings out a leadership coach to work with all of us. Then, we’ll roll into the summer planning meetings. This is when we finalize the schedule and make sure our t’s are crossed and our i’s are dotted. Next week we’ll have a Wilderness First Aid training. It pays to be safe. Then, the staff will roll in the following week to start the official orientation. Our eye is on June 2, which is opening day!
While all this is going on, there are still horses to feed, stalls to clean, babies to be monitored and cared for, and new horses to train. In addition, there are all the ranch projects to be wrapped up. Nate and Brandon just drove to Fort Collins yesterday to get a new trailer, the other Brandon is wrapping up a new wine room and a band practice room. Charlie finished building the housekeepers and ranch hands an office space down in the machine shed. And the phone still rings with last minute reservation requests.
Though all this, the aspens are starting to bloom. So, as the aspen turn to green buds on their branches, we gear up for another great summer.
Date: April 24th, 2013
There are so many talented people who come through the gates of Vista Verde for a summer or winter vacation. We are reminded of this all the time, when we get to spend time with folks out on the trail or over a cup of coffee. My closet entrepreneurial side is always enamored by the stories of guests who have started their own businesses, maybe even sold them and moved on to another project. Then, I tend to feel in awe of those who dedicate their professional lives to the world of medicine or education. There are philanthropists doing great things for the human experience. And, there are amazing people supporting others in their professional lives as well as their personal passions. But, one of the more tangible talents that we see in our guests is the arts. Whether it’s the talented 10 year old Samantha blowing us away with her ukulele playing last summer, or John from England taking photos that should be sold in a gallery, or the photography of Debby Thomas, which is actually sold in galleries, there are so many guests who surprise us at the ranch. Most recently, Alphonso Foster sent me a photo of a painting he did of wrangler Dan after his family vacation a few years back.
Lucky us that we get to know the people who come here on vacation well enough to learn about some of their amazing talents. I’m sure there are so many that we don’t get to learn about, and wish we did! So, during this upcoming summer dude ranch season, please share your talents with us!
Date: April 17th, 2013
Cowboy Quotes, Sayings, and Wisdom
- Never approach a bull from the front, a horse from the rear, or a fool from any direction.
- Don’t squat with your spurs on.
- Don’t judge people by their relatives.
- Behind every successful rancher is a wife who works in town.
- When you lose, don’t lose the lesson.
- Talk slowly, think quickly.
- Remember that silence is sometimes the best answer.
- Live a good, honorable life. Then when you get older and think back, you’ll enjoy it a second time.
- Don’t interfere with something that ain’t botherin’ you none.
- Timing has a lot to do with the outcome of a rain dance.
- It’s better to be a has-been that a never-was.
- The easiest way to eat crow is while it’s still warm.
The colder it gets, the harder it is to swaller.
- If you find yourself in a hole, the first thing to do is stop diggin’.
- If it don’t seem like it’s worth the effort, it probably ain’t.
- It don’t take a genius to spot a goat in a flock of sheep.
- Sometimes you get and sometimes you get got.
- The biggest troublemaker you’ll probably ever have to deal with watches you shave his face in the mirror every morning.
- Never ask a barber if you need a haircut.
- If you get to thinkin’ you’re a person of some influence, try orderin’ somebody else’s dog around.
- Don’t worry about bitin’ off more’n you can chew; your mouth is probably a whole lot bigger’n you think.
- Always drink upstream from the herd.
- Generally, you ain’t learnin’ nothing when your mouth’s a-jawin’.
- Tellin’ a man to git lost and makin’ himdo it are two entirely different propositions.
- If you’re ridin’ ahead of the herd, take a look back every now and then to make sure it’s still there with ya.
- Good judgment comes from experience, and a lotta that comes from bad judgment.
- When you give a personal lesson in meanness to a critter or to a person, don’t be surprised if they learn their lesson.
- When you’re throwin’ your weight around, be ready to have it thrown around by somebody else.
- Lettin’ the cat outta the bag is a whole lot easier than puttin’ it back.
- Always take a good look at what you’re about to eat. It’s not so important to know what it is, but it’s sure crucial to know what it was.
- The quickest way to double your money is to fold it over and put it back into your pocket.
- You can’t tell how good a man or a watermelon is ’til they get thumped.(Character shows up best when tested.)
- Never miss a good chance to shut up.
- If lawyers are disbarred and clergymen are defrocked, shouldn’t it follow that cowboys would be deranged?
- There never was a horse that couldn’t be rode;
Never was a cowboy who couldn’t be throwed.
Date: April 16th, 2013
‘Tis the season for late nights and early mornings if you’re a wrangler here at Vista Verde. Terry, Nicky, John and Reid have been taking turns checking on the broodmares and keeping watch on new foals. With the snowy weather we’ve had recently, it is even more important to make sure the mares are carefully watched for signs of impending deliveries. Typically, the mares are brought in at night to their warm and cozy stalls. Then, someone checks on them late at night. Inevitably, the mares hold off until everyone leaves them alone, and whoever checks in early in the morning finds a new foal happily nursing away. It’s amazing how animals just do this stuff naturally and without affair.
So far, we can introduce you to Bella, a filly out of Houston. Next up is Stormy, another filly by MJ. Those of you who remember sweet Bailey from last year will believe me when I tell you that Stormy about crawled into my lap when I went down to meet her and take her photo. Then Flicka delivered another cute filly, who we are calling Whimsey. We are still waiting on Rachel, Lucky, Sassy and Patti. It will be exciting to meet these new foals as they arrive. We’ll continue to post photos of each of them on our Facebook page as they arrive.
For those of you coming this summer for a dude ranch vacation, don’t forget that you get a chance to help us train these youngsters in our weekly Foal Handling Clinic. It’s always an amazing time, bonding and loving on these sweet little equines. Everyone can use some baby love!
Date: April 16th, 2013
As I sit here and watch the snow fall outside, I’m dreaming of my very own family vacation coming up soon. It’s true, even those of us who live in paradise do need to leave the valley to see other scenery from time to time. What has struck me in the process of trying to find a great place for my family to vacation is how much work it is to find a unique family vacation destination. I’ve always heard it on the phone, when a desparate mom calls up, completely overwhelmed by the process of sorting through the myriad options. For someone who has narrowed down the choice to knowing they want a dude ranch, it’s still not easy as there are dozens and dozens of great options. But, for those who haven’t even narrowed down their search to a specific kind of vacation, it’s enough to send one back into their shell and stay home and watch movies.
So, what tips are there for finding the perfect spot for your family vacation? Here are some of my thoughts, but I’d love to have all of you comment to help others who are on the hunt.
1) Just book at Vista Verde Ranch- it’s one stop shopping, the experience is magical, and then you can get back to your life. (Ok, sorry, my geeky humor popped out here)
2) Budget- this sounds obvious, but I found myself struggling because I didn’t set a budget initially, so I was all over the place. From renting a condo on the beach to luxury all-inclusive resorts. It wasn’t apples to apples, and that made it harder. Just commit to what you can/want to spend and then use that as your filter.
3) Experiences- Do you want to be on your own for planning all activities and cooking meals, or do you want to be pampered a bit? Again, it seems like a no-brainer, but sit down as a family and decide what your vision for how much you want to do on your own and how much you want taken care of for your family.
4) Setting- Do you want a remote, peaceful setting (like Vista Verde) or do you want to be in the heat of the action (in the heart of the city) or somewhere in between?
5) Advice- Once you have the above decided, start asking your friends. Social media is an unbelievable tool for vacation planning. If you’re a Facebook user, post a status update asking your friends if they have any recommendations on a great place for what you are looking for based on the above credentials. I have been amazed at how many times we find out that one of our guests knows someone else who has been to the ranch before, but they didn’t realize it until after their trip. Not everyone goes to cocktail parties ready to tell all their acquaintances about the great vacation they just had at Vista Verde. Well, I may know a few, but most don’t and there is a hidden arsenal of great ideas and recommendations among your peers.
6) Tripadvisor- It is my go-to. Although I’m spoiled by us having really good reviews for the ranch, not all properties have that going for them, and it’s helpful to know the pro’s and con’s of any resort or destination. However, I do have to say that you need to keep in mind that there are always some reviews by people who just can’t be pleased. Somehow, our guests are so incredibly wonderful that it seems like we don’t have to deal with folks like that, but they are out there. I tend to take a 10% rule on reviews. If there are 10% that rip apart a vacation destination with 90% raving about it, I take that in to account, but also recognize that there people out there who can’t be pleased.
7) Call- We live in such an email age, but I have to say there is something amazing about the good old fashion telephone. Pick it up. Call the places you are considering. The person on the other end will tell you a lot about the property you’re considering. For better or worse, Melissa and I have been told time and time again that we were the reason someone chose Vista Verde for their vacation. We recognize that it’s likely that for every person who chose the ranch for that reason, there are likely others who chose not to come here because of our presentation on the phone. But, our hope is that we get the kind of people who will really enjoy their ranch vacation at Vista Verde because of that reason. If you feel good about the place because of the person on the other end of the line, it’s very likely that that person reflects the personality of the property so you will be happy. Trust your gut!
7) Dream- Hopefully by now you have found a great spot. Now it’s time to sit back and start dreaming about your wonderful upcoming family vacation….maybe it’s to Colorado this time?
Speaking of, I’m going to get my beach chair out and go sit out in the falling snow to read a good book. I need to gear up for my escape from paradise! Please help others by sharing your tips for planning a unique family vacation.
Date: April 8th, 2013
During the off-season, the pace at the ranch slows down a bit. I know, those of you who are laughing, thinking we always live at a slower pace are wondering how that can be possible? Well, in our perspective, it does seem slower! There are no guests to take care of or play with, which can be lonely, and definitely not as exciting and fun, but also a nice change of pace. There are very few staff to look out for and no figurative traffic to direct. While I cherish the quiet and the ability to crank through my mile-long to-do list that accumulated during the season, it also makes it a little harder to find “news” to share with all of you. But, then these serendipitous events happen and I suddenly have an a-ha moment!
Last week, as I was giving Nicky’s new puppy (more later) some love, it hit me that it would be fun to update everyone on Sidney. At the same moment, Art, the UPS driver (don’t you all know your UPS driver by name?) showed up with box after box from California. As we opened the boxes, we realized that our great friends Lucy and Charlie Postins had sent us treats, food and goodies for the ranch dogs from their business The Honest Kitchen. What a fun surprise, and now I had a topic!
I walked around the ranch with some of their natural dog treats, trying to get the dogs to pose for photos. Unfortunately, as I was getting mobbed, it was a little challenging to get a decent photo. Estatic dogs, mud, melting snow….it wasn’t pretty. I finally recruited Kristen, who was busy ordering new ipod docks for the cabins (I told you, it’s kind of quiet around here in the off-season) to come out and help me get the dogs to pose. Still, not much luck, as you can see. So, instead the doggies just got to enjoy their special treats, and now think I am the coolest person on the planet. Thanks Lucy for putting me on that platform in the dog’s eyes.
With that, I do think I owe all these wonderful, less heralded four legged ranch creatures a chance at the spotlight. First of all, we have to introduce Sidney. Nicky fell in love and brought Sidney home to the ranch toward the end of the season. Cute, small and fluffy right now, she will not be that way in another year as she is a Bernese Mountain Dog. She is sweet, smart and completely lovable.
Those of you who have been here before know Rosie, Dodger and Trouper. Rosie (black lab) is Steve and Kelli’s guide dog. Nope, not because of vision issues, but because she helps them guide ski trips in the winter and hiking trips in the summer. She even attended yoga with us last summer and had the best down dog of the group. Dodger (cattle dog mix) is Reid’s teenage pup. He is about 1 1/2 years old, and full of energy and enthusiasm. Trouper (yellow lab) is Terry’s buddy. Trouper hangs around the indoor arena as much as possible, as he just loves being with his dad. He’s a staple in the stable, so to speak.
There are a few other ranch dogs who don’t make appearances, as they stay inside with their “parents” most of the time. But, you can always count on the ones mentioned here to have a great sense of Western hospitality. They seem to have attended our orientations, as they know how to treat people well when they come on a dude ranch vacation! And, if you’re a dog lover in your own life, don’t forget to check out The Honest Kitchen and their line of natural dog food.
Date: March 26th, 2013
And this is why we love what we do here- who else gets thank you poems from their guests??
We left on a Friday; all filled with good cheer
Anxious for fun, home in the rear mirror.
Days of driving ahead, some adventure, some fun
Me and my wife, and our daughter and son.
Adventure we got, more than you know
Blizzards and such – You know, high winds and snow?!
After a long journey, we finally had a fair day
We arrived on a Sunday to Vista Verde.
We were welcomed by the staff, with actual smiles, not pretend
With the same familiarity and comfort of an old friend.
We planned our next day, hugged our kids and then kissed ‘em
We sat down and ate a Thanksgiving dinner with Kristen.
A pair of Robs took us snowshoeing; they had a great time in store
Hot chocolate at the Homestead, and then ate some s’mores.
Delicious lunch followed, we talked and we talked
About our awesomely fun snowshoeing walk.
We wanted a trail ride, with horses and such
A trail ride we got, with our guide called Hutch.
Tonto Bob and Slider, Ranger and Smokey
(Smokey was stubborn and a little slow pokey).
It was cold, with cold snow and wind blowing
But the warm smiles on all is what kept us all going.
The trail ride ended with laughter and glee
Hutch took some great pictures of my family.
We went back to our cabin, relaxation in sight
The kids went to kids club for our special date night.
The kids went off with the VVR staff
My wife and I looked at each other and laughed.
‘What a great place; they think of it all…’
I said as we feasted and both had a ball!
The succulent servings, the perfection … Good golly!
The balance of flavors from the head chef named Cholly.
The snow was still falling as we lay down that night
We awoke to fresh snow, a ten inch blanket of white!
We ate some breakfast and talked about our next outing
All of us so excited, we were nearly shouting.
Let me explain because some may not know
How awesome it is to go tubing in fresh fallen snow!
We met our guide JJ; his face lit up with a smile
‘Are you ready for tubing? Let’s go for a while!’
We rode to our hill in a snowmobile-pulled sled
JJ turned around, and here’s what he said…
“You guys slide down, all the way till you stop…
… then me and my snowmobile will take you back to the top!”
My family and I made some memories that day
Superb reminiscences that don’t go away
All fueled by VVR and our guide JJ.
We had lunch and we cured our hunger and thirst
Then went and saw mares that were ready to burst!
They were pregnant, you see, and very much so!
Within a few days they’d be ready to go.
At the mare barn, another treat to behold
We spent some time with the colts who were just a year old!
My kids were lit up with glee, while petting the horses
VVR has made magic with their equine resources.
Our guide Nathan was so full of pride
Of the VVR ranch and the good things inside.
The kids had a thousand questions, they grilled Nate for a while
And he answered each one with a warm gentle smile.
We finished up and went back towards the cabin
But then I noticed the snow Tyler was grabbin’.
He turned around with his eight year old grace
And threw a fat snowball right in my face.
We played in the snow and enjoyed ourselves fully
We made a great snowman, we called him ‘Wully’.
We had our last dinner and I have to say
We were all a bit mopey since we had to leave the next day.
We stayed up and talked about the vacation we’d taken
And then we talked about the awesome bacon.
“That bacon, That bacon, That Cholly be makin!”
My wife and I laughed, we laid down for the night
Thinking of all the snow filled sights.
We had one sad thought, one thing had been missed
One thing to leave on the ol’ bucket list…
The snow had melted a bit in the day
Making it dangerous for a horse to pull us on a sleigh.
Alas we had missed a whole lot of fun
And it was at the fault of no one.
We woke and ate our breakfast that day
They surprised us and said they were preparing the sleigh!
VVR spent some time and put their heads together
To get us a sleigh ride, no matter the weather!
They made a safe route for the horse to pull
And made sure that our vacation was completely full.
This was the vacation of a lifetime, I just have to mention
How thankful we are for every bit of attention.
The VVR magic was the same with all staff
Their hospitality; much more than a craft.
Always caring and helpful, with superb attitudes
Words will never express our deep gratitude.
We were initially blessed with a gift won online
We now have our memories of a vacation sublime.
With much thanks and appreciation,
The Wullaert Family (Andy, Shera, Tyler, Brooklyn)
Date: March 22nd, 2013
With yesterday’s guest departures, our season comes to an end. How does it go by so fast? You know that saying, and yep, we are having fun here at Vista Verde. I just took a little tour through photos of our guests and our staff, and it put a great perspective on the winter of 2012-13.
It started with Ben and Alaya putting together a great team. Then, a sprinkling of snow (ok, we’ll a big, huge dump of fresh powder really) to start us off right in December. Mix in some interesting, adventurous guests and the recipe was almost done. What topped it off was snow, snow and more snow.
Ironically, we normally close as the snow is melting and the mud starting to find it’s way out from hiding. But, this year we seem to be closing when it feels like mid-winter. We’ve had over a foot of snow in the past week, and we’re finding ourselves still having to plow the driveway and shovel the walkways. If only we had known what Mother Nature would give us this year, and we could have stayed open a bit longer! I guess it’s just some bonus fun time for all of us sticking around. I’m not packing up my skis yet this year!
Thanks to the wonderful crew who made it possible to pull off all that we do for our guests. They are cleaning up, closing down and preparing the ranch for off-season today. Some will be returning for summer, but many will move on to their next adventure starting this weekend. We couldn’t do it without all of them, and it’s always a gift for those of us “lifers” to get to spend time with each season’s crew. I only wish I had more time to get to know all of them better and learn from each of them.
Thank you also to our wonderful guests. From the first time honeymooners, to those who have been coming for years and years, you each give us such a gift to share this place with you. We appreciate the support, the loyalty and your belief in what we are doing at Vista Verde.
And that’s a wrap for the winter. On to preparing for summer, taking some time to re-charge, and maybe even playing in the snow before this belated spring arrives.
Date: March 12th, 2013
It’s hard to believe that our winter dude ranch season will be coming to an end in less than a week. In the coming week we will have the last of our regular dude ranch season guests check out on Sunday, host a big event that day, and then have our Horsemanship Retreat guests check in to the ranch. All of our regular programs will close down at that time and those folks will be here riding, riding, riding, until Thursday. Come next Thursday, the “Closed for the season” sign will go up on the entry gate, and we’ll start preparing the ranch for spring and summer. Wow, time does fly. It seems like just last week that we were preparing for our Christmas guests to arrive!
This winter has been a great one. So many wonderful guests have come through our doors. Honeymooners, families with kids new to snow and friends who have been coming here for years. We have also been so lucky to have great snow this year. That hasn’t been the case across all of the West, so we feel pretty lucky. The skiing has been great, and the views pristine.
As we make our way towards the end of the season, we’ll be sad to see some of our great staff move on to bigger and better things. But, we’ll look forward to having more time with those who are returning for the summer as well as the new ones who Ben and Alaya are working on getting hired right now!
Date: March 5th, 2013
Some of you may have seen the video I posted on Facebook a week or so ago with baby Wyatt taking part in the Farwell Mountain Boys band. Today, I got another photo of that precious moment on a Sunday night a few weeks back. Brandon’s son Wyatt got to sit on dad’s lap while the guys were playing for our guests. It was a beautiful reminder of that fact that being a part of a place like Vista Verde is just different. It’s not like a hotel or a resort. Having guests here at Vista Verde is a little like having guests into our homes. As a guest, you may see our kids pop in and out, as this place is their home too.
What a treat it is to grow up as a dude ranch kid. My girls had the best time riding and playing with Abbi and Drew this weekend. Maggie told me that she wanted to skip school on Monday so she could come to the ranch and play with them again. As I was recounting the fun they had with Abbi and Drew’s grandparents this morning, it reminded me of stories of Maddie King, when she was a little kid here at the ranch. Now, as a teenager, I’m sure she’d rather run and hide than have me tell this story…..but, I do remember her sobbing at every Saturday night campfire in the summer, so sad to say goodbye to her friends from that week. Her parents, Steve and Kelli, finally realized that they couldn’t come to the Saturday night event, as it was just too traumatic for her! Then, I think of Jack Martin, learning that if you work hard, you get to earn enough money to buy something like an Ipad. That was a joy to watch him through that process. Jack’s sister, Annie, has fallen in love with horses and what a backyard she has for a horse lover!
It’s a great life, and we all know that. It’s even better when we get to watch our children enjoy it and gain an appreciation for nature, animals, serving others and hard work.
Even if you can only join us for a few days or a week, giving your kids a taste of this life is a phenomenal gift. Hopefully you can join us for a fun family vacation at some point!
Date: February 19th, 2013
What are some of the most memorable days of your life? Many of you married folks would probably say your wedding day was a pretty big one. Unfortunately, for many folks, those days that hold such significance can also create some of the most stressful situations as some pour their lives into making those days play out exactly how they want them. Well, a couple of our guests this past week decided to make their wedding day as stress free as possible, and it was truly beautiful. I had the pleasure of driving this love-struck couple out to the Homestead cabin by one-horse opened sleigh, where they were married right there on the porch, with only a pastor and her husband, myself, and Ben, the draft horse, as witnesses. The ceremony took no longer than 15 minutes, vows and rings were exchanged, and under the endless blue-bird sky of that pristine winter day, the new couple was pronounced to all the world. Funny how so many of us are so steeped in tradition and the way it “should be” that we feel surprised by this story. I was stunned as well when I heard (the day before) that I would be participating in a wedding! “Aren’t those things supposed to take months to plan?” I thought. Well, they don’t have to. What an honor it was to be reminded, standing on the porch that day, watching this man and this women confessing their undying and eternal love for each other, that a marriage celebration is not about a party, a guest list, a cake, or a string quartet giving life to Pachelbel’s cannon, but that a marriage celebration is a moment in time to stop, still your heart, and revel in the miracle of two souls becoming one – even if the only living things witnessing that miracle is a sleigh driver, and his horse.
Steph’s notes: Congratulations to Richard and Monica on starting their lives as husband and wife together here at Vista Verde! We wish you all the best! In addition to their wedding, we also got to wish Andy and Amy on their engagement. It was quite a romantic Valentine’s weekend here at Vista Verde!
Date: February 17th, 2013
Every year the seasons change; spring, summer, fall, winter. Not only do they change; they fly by! While that long day at work may seem like it took days instead of hours, at the end of the week (or month…or year) we wonder where all of the time went. For many of us who have grown up in the city, this fact is especially true. This is one of the reasons that I love spending winter at a Colorado guest ranch located in a secluded area. You really get to witness firsthand the changing of the seasons. Fall starts to dwindle, and you can see the beginnings of winter; a few flurries here or there, and before you know it, the snow starts dumping everywhere. When winter begins in earnest, and even when it is on its way out, you can connect memories and experiences with the snow that blankets the ground. You remember what it was like to see the first few inches of accumulation; you relive the anticipation of snow and all of the joy and fun that it brings. You remember when the first foot or so covered the ground; that first cross-country ski sure was fun (even if you tripped over exposed branches and roots a few times)! You recall how wonderful it feels to be utterly exhausted after a hard days work snowshoeing through four feet of champagne powder and relish the chance to soak in the hot tub on your cabin’s porch and reflect on the great day you had. For all of us that work and live here, and those of you who come and visit us, this is winter in its most ideal state. Winter in the West connects the active, energetic, and fun nature of life on a ranch with the relaxing, restful, and memorable experience of being able to unplug from the world as we know it, and truly dig in to life as it should be; tranquil, simple, and profoundly beautiful. That, to me, is why a winter at Vista Verde is so special.
Date: February 12th, 2013
I suppose it goes without saying to acknowledge that I am a nature lover. How could you live somewhere like this for over 15 years, without having it be a big part of your life? As often as I can, I try to get outside into the Great Outdoors. But, the reality of being busy at the ranch along with a mom of 2 is that I don’t get out all that far frequently. The other day, the perfect combination of fresh snow, a couple kid free hours and a hall pass from work took me a bit further out than my normal jaunts. And, it was magical. Floating along on skis through fresh powder, feeling the terrain shifting under my skis gently, being surrounded by the muted silence that you only get on a snowy day and seeing no one else for over an hour was a powerful experience. The high I experience during that back country tour, that lasted for hours and hours afterwards, reminded me of the power of escaping deep into nature.
So, I ask of you, what does nature do for you? Does it “fill your bucket” like it did mine? In what ways? How do you hold onto your experiences here at the ranch or in nature elsewhere, to pull you through challenges?
And, here’s to finding time to get back into the natural world more often. Strap on the skis, go for a walk, ride a horse, sit and watch the clouds soar by, pedal your bike, you name it….just get out. It’s a good thing.
Date: February 8th, 2013
Are you trying to figure out what to do for Spring Break this year? How about bringing your kids to snow and fun, at Vista Verde Ranch? Our all-inclusive pricing makes the planning easy. You just need to show up with your snow clothes, and we’ll take it from there. Romance for Mom and Dad while on a family vacation? Yes, it’s true. The spacious luxurious cabins allow room for your family to spread out. The private hot tub on your deck is perfect for late night soaks under a star-filled sky, while the little ones slumber. Families can enjoy guided activities together. Or Mom and Dad get a chance to enjoy activities as a couple while the kids frolic in the snow with our kid wranglers. You can enjoy most of the meals together as a family, but there are several nights a week when the kids have a separate, more casual dinner while Mom and Dad relax, have a glass of wine and enjoy uninterrupted conversation with other adult dining companions.
There is still time to plan your Spring Break vacation in Colorado. Enjoy the snow, the vistas and the fun without the crowds and excessive time spent planning at a big ski resort! Call 800-526-7433 to reserve your cabin, or visit www.vistaverde.com for more info.
Date: February 7th, 2013
Join ranch trainer Terry Wegener and his crew for our annual Horsemanship Retreat in March. The retreats have been very popular for guests looking for a more in-depth focus on their riding skills. The retreat offers an intensive riding experience for intermediate riders. Clinic numbers are limited to 12 participants to insure a more productive learning environment. Or, if your better half wants to ride but you don’t, you can just relax and enjoy the Retreat part. Hearty gourmet meals, beer and wine and airport transfers are all included in your stay. Ride hard morning and afternoon, and then relax in your private hot tub or by your crackling fire at night.
March 17-21, 2013
Rate: $1,600/person or $1,100/person for the non-riders
Contact us at 800-526-7433 to book your spot. Only two riding spots left!
Date: January 23rd, 2013
For those of you who remember Sugar, we thought you might enjoy this update from his retirement home that came over the holidays. It’s fun to follow our horses throughout their lives. We only wish we could know their stories before they come to be a part of the ranch! Thanks to Barbara for providing a wonderful, loving home for Sugar in his retirement years.
Dear Vista Verde Ranch Family,
Sugar and I would like to wish you all a very happy holiday.
A year ago October, I adopted Sugar when you were thinning the herd. My other horse had put me on the ground hard a couple of times and I was looking for something dependable. Rachel Ratkovich suggested Red or Sugar. I had my eye on Red as I have never wanted to deal with a gray/white horse. But… I brought Sugar to SPR.
I would like to say it was a match made in heaven but we have had our ups and downs…the main down was an eye ulcer that took 3 months of medication and dedication to heal. But in between arrival, confinement and now… have been great.
We don’t rodeo around… we walk and trot… by ourselves or with others. We played aena games last winter… he has a few age issues, doesn’t see distance too well, a leg catches now and then… but I have similar issues and understand.
When I got him he was pleasant and dependable… now he is a hoot. Makes everyone who deals with him smile. He gets 2 cookies when he comes in for his meal (nicker, nicker, nicker) and 2 for dessert (same response), he lives with his harem (4 mares, 2 are extra special), he talks to his harem, he is happy to see me, he is happy to go for a ride, he is happy to leave me. I think he is enjoying his semi-retirement.
I have enclosed some pictures… he with his girls, coming when he sees me, the girls welcoming him back, us out for a ride, the summer rainbow (honest I didn’t know it was there when I put the pink Swat in his ears but had to take the picture anyway) and center… Sugar himself. Good haircoat and weight.
Thanks again for offering your guys a new home instead of just shipping them off to who knows where. Thanks for having such a wonderful guy in your string.
If you have a chance to share this with those who worked with Sugar that would be great.
Again… The best to you and yours.
Sugar and Barbara
Date: January 18th, 2013
Following the theme of fun staff adventures, Rob share this story with me recently.
By Rob Carter
On the morning of new years eve I awoke to an overcast, chilly, but beautiful winter day here at Vista Verde. After my customary mug of tea and some always-inspiring Aaron Copland to start the morning, I peered out of our window to see my friend and co-worker, Alan, walking down to wax his snowboard (as a southern transplant to Colorado, this time of year I’m accustomed to my neighbors sauntering around with their golf clubs, driving with the top down, and playing touch football in the yard). I greeted Alan with the usual “have you recovered from our ping pong match yesterday?”, and asked what his plans were for the day; the next thing I knew, I was sitting in a single-cab truck with John Isder, horseman extraordinaire, and Alan Czespenski, my table-tennis nemesis. Just like that, we were off on a snowshoeing/snowboarding back country adventure. After a strenuous snowshoe we found ourselves about a mile away from Little Agnes and right in the thick of some of what I’ll wager to be the most pristine powder on this side of the Mississippi River; Alan and John both started off the day with a jump off of a 15 foot cliff. I was struck by how far they flew and how softly they landed and said to myself, “well I can do that”. After taking several minutes to strap in my bindings (i.e. muster up the courage to take off), I found myself hurtling down a hill of fresh powder towards that rocky edge thinking about how nice it had been on top of the hill. As I approached to lip of the jump, I suddenly lost speed and ended up barely trickling over the edge; a 15 foot fall into 5 ft deep powder is actually kind of nice. Granted, I didn’t look very impressive on Alan’s GoPro, but fun was had by all nonetheless. The day only got better after those first few runs. We ended up snowshoeing (kudos to the guests and guides who get after it on snowshoes…what a workout!) up a good-sized hill and getting a long run in to end the day. Did I mention that the fun was just beginning? The transition from play to work, and back to play, here at VVR is incredibly seamless. We got back from our little expedition at around 3:50PM; just enough time to shower and get to work at 4:00! Upon arriving in the “office”, I was asked to help set up the dance floor for our new years bash, and spent the rest of the evening swinging in the New Year with our wonderful guests and staff. And to top it all off, there was a top-notch fireworks show administered by our Pyrotechnic Specialists (AKA: Carson Reese and his Ranch Hands). I’ve been blessed with a great life; loving family and friends, health, and the luck of having been born in the United States. However, I can say with conviction that my time at Vista Verde has introduced me to a new idea of ‘family’. I believe that I can speak for all of us here at VVR when I say that we love what we do. In a very real sense, we are a big family during our time working here together. However, that is an incomplete rendering of the picture of VVR as a whole. What really pulls it all together and makes this place so special in my mind is the fact that I can come from “play”, go to “work”, and all the while feel like the people I’m around are kin; the guests are always so friendly, curious about the ranch, and eager to share their lives with us. This is what pushes us to do our best for everyone at Vista Verde; guests and colleagues alike. This is also why I can call New Years Eve of 2012 the best one I’ve ever had. Whether for a snowy winter getaway or a sunny summer vacation, we look forward to spending time with you and your family here at Vista Verde!
Date: January 15th, 2013
Days off here at Vista Verde Ranch are the staff’s chance to get out and enjoy the beauty we have all around us! I personally love to get out on the perfectly manicured track for some skate skiing with my dog, Dodger. It’s good exercise for the body, and does wonders for the soul. Here are a few shots from my ski this morning!
Starting out through the Homestead pasture gate.
Gotta love the fresh corduroy.
Swing by the homestead cabin for a look…on a sunny day like today, no fire is needed! By this time I’m toasty warm from burning calories!
Enjoying the view of Wapiti mountain…if I’m super ambitions, later today, maybe I’ll grab some snowshoes and try to summit! We’ll see if Dodger is up for it.
Over the river….…
and through the woods…
My favorite spot along the trail! Does it get much better than this?
Hungry horses await at the end of my ski…beauty surrounds me! EWF! We’re tired!
And that is a good start to a beautiful day! It’s like my own cross country ski vacation, just for a day. Some good cardio, quality time with the Pup, and a scenic wonderland to play in! Wish you were here at this winter vacation getaway dream!
Come visit us soon, at Vista Verde Ranch!
Date: January 4th, 2013
What, did someone just say that it’s 2013? When did that happen?
The holiday vacation time at Vista Verde is a complete whirlwind. We start December pouring into our staff, and getting them geared up to open for our winter season. That, in itself, is a whirlwind of activity and excitement. Once they are all ready to roll, we open the doors and meet our first guests. And, suddenly, I realized it’s January 4.
How lucky are we to have spent the past 3 weeks entertaining some of the most wonderful people, who chose Vista Verde for their family holiday? Some have celebrated with us before, some were here for their first time. Regardless, it was a wonderful group of folks from all over the world. During Christmas-time, we decorated trees, caroled, and ate like you can’t believe. Luckily, between skiing, tubing, snow shoeing and more activities, everyone was burning off a high number of calories daily in order to make room for those stupendous meals. As we got closer to New Years, we prepared for a festive night. A wine dinner, a barn party, a square dance, the boot drop and the ranch hand’s firework extravaganza made it a spectacular night. Although we had a great time with the guests, I do think Carson and Rucker might have had the best night of their lives out in the Sunday pasture lighting off fireworks. Apparently, we could have skipped paying them all winter and just let them do more of that.
On top of all those festivities, action and adventure, I decided to launched a winter vacation giveaway. It came to me in the middle of the night and I figured, no time better than the present. Did I have any idea of the response we would get? NO. It has been humbling to read the entries so far. And, it reminds me daily of the greatness of people. I wish we could give a vacation to each of these wonderfully deserving folks. If you get a chance to read some of the entries for our winter vacation giveaway, you might be inspired by them as well. We’ll be madly trying to pick one of them for the winner on Sunday, January 6, so stay tuned.
Here is to a wonderful 2013! May it be filled with love, laughter, health and some fun.
Date: December 27th, 2012
Christmas at Vista Verde is a magical time. Even after all these years, I am still taken by how much holidays at the ranch feels like a Norman Rockwell painting. Whether is the family-decorated trees in the Lodge, or the screams of laughter as children (of all ages) zip down the tubing hill, it just feels like how Christmas should be.
Each year on Christmas Eve, I get the joy of leading our guests on a caroling expedition. We ride from the Lodge to the Homestead cabin on the big sleigh, caroling all the way. Out at Homestead, Rucker met us with a warm fire, mulled wine, hot chocolate and roasted chestnuts. Yep, it is totally cliche, but I can never help but do the Christmas Song (hum to yourself, “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire…”)while we’re out there.
As we come back from the cabin, and round the bend to see the ranch compound, the lights of the cabins and Lodge glitter like little stars. It is such a peaceful and memorable moment for me, year after year. We pulled up to the Lodge this year singing, “We wish you a Merry Christmas” and while thinking about figgy pudding we decided to surprise the Chefs. Jumping off the sleigh, we all ran to the back door of the kitchen and did a quick rendition. ”So bring us some figgy pudding, so bring us some figgy pudding, so bring us some figgy pudding, and bring it right now”. Next thing we know, Chef Cholly is running away and comes back with- you guessed it- figgy pudding, as you can see in this photo that Kristin captured! Only at Vista Verde.
We had a wonderfully festive day yesterday, and hope you did as well. Even if you weren’t surrounded by fluffy white snow and jingling bells, we do hope you were surrounded by love and laughter.