Archive for the ‘This week at the Ranch’ Category
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.
Date: December 20th, 2012
Some of our guests coming to Vista Verde this winter are coming for their first ever winter vacation in the snow. Although we send out a packing list, it can be a little daunting to understand how to dress for playing in the snow. So, here are a couple tips to break it down for those “snow newbies”.
Layers, layers, layers. Yep, that is really the key out here. Because what is comfortable at 10am, might be too much clothing at noon. They most important part of layering is to have the right materials. You need to make sure that the base layer is not cotton, and is designed to wick moisture away from your body. Wool is great, but there are plenty of synthetic fabrics that work well. This link to Christy Sports page for base layers for women should help give you an idea of what works well. You’ll want a top and bottoms (also known as “long johns” in the good ol’ days) to complete your base layer.
Next up, a middle layer. I like a good, basic fleece top. But, a good wool sweater will do the trick too.
Lastly, you’ll want your outer layer. Waterproof is a must, as even though our snow is dry and fluffy out here, if you spend a lot of time getting personal with the snow (falling down) then you’ll be thanking that outer layer for keeping your dry and warm. Need a better visual? Here is a link to Christy Sports jackets for women. And this link will give you an idea of what works for pants. Sorry guys, I gave links to women’s wear as that is typically who is doing the shopping!
Now, keep in mind that I am gearing this list towards those who are coming for the full winter vacation experience. For those of you wanting to focus more on the cross country skiing and snowshoeing, a lighter outer layer will be better. When you do those activities, you get pretty warm and a heavy outer layer will be too much. While we do sell some shell pants and jackets for these type of activities in our Nordic center, here is an example of one of the jackets we have carried in our shop.
For footwear, the best bet is a sturdy snow boot. You can use them for most of the activities here, and then for skiing we have the boots for that. I am a fan of Sorels, but there are plenty of other options out there as you can see in this link. Make sure you give your great boots a chance to work with wool socks, and not cotton.
Lastly, don’t forget a warm pair of gloves (or mittens) that are waterproof, a warm wool or fleece type hat and your sunglasses and sunscreen. Check out this page for winter accessories.
It seems like a lot, but all of this gear will make your winter vacation so much more enjoyable! With the right gear, it’s never too cold out in the snow.
Date: December 19th, 2012
Yesterday we had our inaugural snowbike trip. It was the Aussies who decided to give it a whirl with Steve and Brandon. After getting all geared up, they toured around the ranch, then down to the river and back. It was a first for them, and we had tons of fresh powder for them to enjoy on the bikes.
So, if you thought to yourself, “Self, I would never think about
snow biking on my winter vacation” then you might want to rethink it. Our guests had a ball, and have some great stories to add to their tales of their family snow vacation at Vista Verde. There are not many places you can go for a winter vacation and come back with tales of biking through fresh powder!
Date: December 13th, 2012
The winter vacation season officially begins on Saturday, and we are coming down to the wire on our orientation. The staff have learned the ropes, gotten to know each other, and the snow has finally decided to stick around for a while.
Orientation weeks are always a whirlwind of excitement and anticipation. Training each crew on their roles reminds us all of the immense details involved in our day to day operation. With so many return staff members, it has been a lighter orientation time. But many of them have switched roles and haven’t been here in winter, so it’s still a good learning curve.
In between the teaching and training, we have also managed to have a little fun. Last Friday the whole crew made their way into the nearby resort town of Steamboat Springs for a night of cosmic bowling. White lights, strobes, music, it was a lot of fun. Once again, Melissa showed us that she is a secretive hidden weapon as she produced the top score of the night. She may fly a little below the radar, but that girl can do anything! Nathan, an avid bowler, now has to sharpen his skills before their next standoff.
This week has been the week of “mocks”. Mock meals were on Tuesday, where the staff played guest and gave the kitchen and dining room crews a chance to run through a full day of guest meals. Yummy….. Then, yesterday, the guides got to flex their muscles and take their pretend guests out on horseback rides, skis and sleigh rides. At this point, we are all ready to settle in for our own winter vacation as it seems like fun!
The verdict? We’re ready. A few last preparations today and tomorrow and we’ll be waiting anxiously for the first group of guests to walk through the doors of the lodge.
Date: December 5th, 2012
Orientation week officially kicked off yesterday as we begin our countdown to opening day for our winter season. As our first guests are getting their bags packed for their winter vacation in Colorado, we are meticulously going down the list of all the details we need to have in place for the season. As we do each season, we started orientation with introductions. There aren’t as many new faces this season, as so many of our summer staff came back for the winter. But, there were a handful of folks who we were all meeting for the first time. One of the traditions at Vista Verde is putting your pin on the map each season. It’s a fun way to see where everyone is from originally.
After introductions, we moved into a brief history talk by Steve, which was informative for all, especially since Steve claims to make up half of it. Jokes aside, as Bill and I stood there listening, we both commented about how we learned something new about the history of the dude ranch. Even old dogs can learn new tricks. I’m talking about Bill, of course.
Steve then took the crew on a walk around the ranch compound, and then they were back into the Great Room to hear us breakdown the mission of our operation. With the foundation laid of who we all are, how the ranch came to be what it is today, and why we are doing what we are doing, we moved into the more detailed aspect of training. Each crew broke off and starting learning the ropes of what they’ll be doing every day during this coming season. So much to learn, and 10 days to go!
Have you planned your winter vacation to Colorado yet? It’s going to be a great season here at Vista Verde….we can just feel it in the air.
Date: November 29th, 2012
Some folks call our fabulous housekeepers “fairies” as they flit in and out without anyone knowing, cleaning up messes and tidying up our guests homes. But, we have another set of magical creatures at the ranch. The Ranch hand “elves”. These guys come this time of year, and don’t always flit in quite as discreetly as the housekeeping fairies, but still leave magical surprises behind. In October, you may have seen a picture of the elves delivering the sleigh to the Great room. This week they were delivering a Santa hat to our favorite moose, as well as a few other fun chores while the scaffolding was laid out. Dusting beams, replacing light bulbs, all in a days work for a ranch hand elf leading into the holidays. Carson, Gov and Rob make for great elves….now they just need little hats and funny boots.
As we get closer to opening day of our winter season, when folks come in for a Colorado holiday vacation or just fun in the snow with their family and other loved ones, more and more elves will be delivering surprises. Christmas trees, garland, lights and more festive fun.
We hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday. If you follow us regularly, you may have noticed we went silent for a while there. I had all intentions of writing some updates while I was away, but seemed to get too distracted going for walks in the redwoods in Northern California with my family. Banana slugs, redwood cones, huge fall leaves were all part of our fun. Thankfully, Nathan and Rucker were willing to stay behind and hold down the fort at the ranch. Although the phones and emails can follow us wherever we go, the horses don’t take a vacation, so someone has to stay behind. Steve and Kelli hosted them for Thanksgiving dinner, so they still got to enjoy some time with good friends and yummy food.
Next week we start orientation for our new staff, and gear up for the season. We’ll keep you posted as we get ready to open for the winter vacation season. Please do your snow dances! It’s come and gone, but we’re ready for more now.
Date: November 16th, 2012
This past week has been one of comings and goings. The numbers at the ranch keep dwindling, as we get closer to Thanksgiving. Alaya and Cholly have headed East to visit family, Reid has hit the road for a while, and a whole slew of us are packing our bags in the coming days to head out and celebrate one of the few holidays we have during the off-season at our Colorado ranch.
Earlier in the week Ben, Charlie and I hopped in the trucks to go to a dude ranch meeting at Sylvan Dale Ranch, near Loveland, Colorado. It is always great to get together with other folks in the dude ranch business, and to share our joys and challenges as well as learn some new tricks. Many of these folks have become dear friends over the years, so it’s as much a dude ranch reunion as it is a learning setting. Although some of the topics may make you chuckle, some are a little less exciting….can we say Labor law and Liability in advertising are not speaker topics that one looks forward to, but know it is a must listen?
We returned to a winter wonderland scene, and found Steve and Kelli strapping on their skis yesterday for the first tour up Coulton Road. There isn’t quite enough snow for skiing in the meadows yet, but they had fun sliding for the first time this season. Keep doing your snow dances so it keeps coming!
We’re only a month away from opening up for our winter season. We kick off with a lot of families coming for their snow vacation, and then move into the adult only times in early January. Keep those times in mind for your romantic getaway, as Vista Verde is a great spot for not just honeymooners, but those honeymooning for their 30th time! And, know that even though we are full for Christmas and New Years vacations, if you are looking to bring your kids to the snow, we still have room for the President’s Day weekend and for those who have spring breaks earlier in March.
Come join us for some winter fun!
Date: November 8th, 2012
Have you ever heard of “farming” ice?
I hadn’t either until reading a recent article in the local paper but growing icicles is a part of the process that Brent Christiansen and his team use to build winter ice castles, and this winter they’re building one in Steamboat Springs!
As if the snow-covered mountains were not magical enough on their own, this new attraction will be a real treat for those coming through Steamboat this winter. A unique experience bound to be majestic, romantic, and a dang good photo op (next year’s holiday portrait, perhaps?) – after all, how often do you find yourself exploring an ice castle?! If you’re already planning a stay with us this winter, you may want to add a visit to the ice castle to your itinerary.
Check out this video of their Ice Castle in Silverthorne, CO last winter.
“The Ice Castle in Steamboat will include three tiers of frozen towers and tunnels creating an organic and ever-evolving labyrinth landscape complete with a castle throne perfect for capturing that stunning photo. The icy towers that make up the interior of the castle create a look similar to glaciers transporting guests to a winter fantasy land that is only limited by their imagination.”
Sounds magical to me!
You can read more about the castles here:
Date: November 5th, 2012
We all get pretty spoiled throughout the year, having a kitchen full of Chefs who prepare us hot meals several times a day. Yes, we do all work hard, but the perks are pretty nice. However, there is a time of year, when we get a little reminder to not take those perks for granted. During November, and again for a month in the spring, the kitchen shuts down completely, and the chefs take off for a well-deserved break. For those of us sticking around still during the off-season, the ranch can feel either eerily quiet, or blissfully peaceful. That just depends on the personality. I have noticed over the years that the old farts like me (yes, you’re old when you’re over 35 at Vista Verde), tend to enjoy the peace and quiet. No distractions, getting things done on the to-do list, and just a great change of pace. The younger members of the crew miss the social interactions, the camaraderie and the pack of friends to enjoy in the evenings. But, the off-season at Vista Verde is very short-lived, and so whether one likes the quiet or not, it is a good change of pace for all of us.
Anyway, back to the whole hot meal waiting for you idea…..Chef David decided to have a little fun as he and Cholly we closing down the kitchen. Last week, during one of the final meals, this message showed up on the white board in the staff room. No, no, don’t worry about any of us. I’m sure we’ll all make it. But, we….are….just…so….hungry! Brown bag lunch, anyone?
Date: October 30th, 2012
Vista Verde Ranch and Christy Sports are working together to make your winter vacation planning a bit easier. Christy Sports at Gondola Square has been selected for an exclusive partnership for our ranch guests. As a guest of Vista Verde, you will have access to special pricing on downhill ski rentals as well as clothing for your winter vacation in Colorado.
The Christy Sports location we have partnered with is located right at the base of the gondola at the Steamboat Ski Resort. This makes picking up your gear and returning it easy and convenient. The shop has been awarded SKI magazine’s “North America’s Top Shop” award for 4 of the past 6 years. That is a pretty amazing feat, and we felt they deliver a quality experience that we want our guests to experience at the ranch, and off the ranch.
If you have already booked your winter vacation at the ranch, we will be sending more information as we finalize arrangements and get closer to your arrival. For those still thinking about booking a winter ranch vacation, know that we are working to make your planning easier!
Date: October 26th, 2012
The first real snow of the season is always exciting. Overnight, as if by magic, the world outside the window is radically transformed into a magical playground. No wonder winter has been deemed a “wonderland.”
Every winter, the first snow brings the same renewed sense of excitement, wonder and play. Nevermind that this is the first taste of the long, cold season ahead. All of that is erased by pure beauty, a world stilled: tucked-in by a blanket of snow.
Looking out the window, our minds immediately conjure up the possibilities: sledding, skiing, building snowmen, making snow angels, or even starting the occasional snowball fight! And then there are the things we do when not out in the snow:
snuggling with a good book and a cup of cocoa by the fire, writing long letters to good friends, decorating our homes for the holiday season to come… The cold weather outside draws us back into the fire within our own hearts.
And so it is with this sense of warmth and wonder that we experience another year’s first snow here at Vista Verde. Here’s to the season ahead!