This week at the Ranch

John Lyons, a renowned horse trainer who will be teaching a clinic at Vista Verde Guest Ranch October 11-15 2015.

John Lyons Horsemanship Clinic at Vista Verde Ranch

By Steph

We are excited to announce a partnership between the renowned John Lyons and Vista Verde Ranch to offer a one-of-a-kind horsemanship clinic.

October 11-15, 2015

Join a small group of riders to ride and learn under the renowned John Lyons.

John Lyons is one of the most internationally known horse trainers in the field of natural horsemanship. Lyons has been presenting training clinics and horsemanship symposiums since 1980, has written many books on horses and horse training, and is the founder of John Lyons’ Perfect Horse magazine. He lives and works out of Parachute, Colorado.

Lyons’ approach to establishing a partnership between horse and handler is based in part on the principles of operant conditioning. He encourages owners to notice what is going on with their horses and to use consistent cues and reinforcement to encourage positive behavior. He places a strong emphasis on safety of handler and horse, using gentle techniques, and eschewing dramatic results in favor of setting specific goals, then teaching them by use of clear signals, responsible methods, and consistency.

During the course of the clinic, riders and horses will learn the foundation exercises, lessons, and principles of the Lyons Method. Riders will, first and foremost, learn to effectively control their horse. Whether pleasure rider, trail rider, or experienced competitor, all riders have the same common goal: to improve the level of control they have over their horses. The clinic will help you reach that goal and take your horsemanship to the next level.

Participation in this 4-night, 3-day clinic will be limited to a small group of riders and auditors. Riders may bring a non-rider companion to take advantage of other ranch activities during the clinic dates. And guests just looking for a shorter version of our week-long stays can enjoy the ranch activities and visit with clinic attendees over meals.

Rates include lodging in one of our luxury cabins or lodge rooms, meals, beer and wine, clinic on our horse or yours, and airport transfers to and from the Steamboat/Hayden airport.


$1,900/non-rider: Guided trail rides, hiking, mountain biking, and fly fishing available for non-riders

$100/auditor/day: For non-guests who just want to come up to the ranch for the day to audit the clinic and enjoy lunch with our guests.

Please note: If you are bringing your own horse, a current health certificate will be required. Board is $100 for the 4 nights.

Please contact us at 800-526-7433 for more information or to reserve your spot.



Nearing the finish line

By Steph

The winter season is coming to an end, and just in time as the snow is rapidly melting away. Tomorrow we officially close the winter resort season, but then Sunday the guests for our Horsemanship Retreat check-in. We’ll have a group of about 10 ladies here riding with Jason Patrick until Thursday, and then we shut the doors until summertime. There is a mix of excitement, sadness, anticipation, and celebration going on for many of us right now. Excitement as it’s always fun to have a change of pace, and many staff are heading off on amazing off-season adventures. Sadness as some of our great people are moving on to their next venture in life and we’re sad to see them go. Anticipation as those who are leaving wonder where their next move will take them, and will they miss the ranch or not? Celebration as we have worked our tails off since December serving others, and now it’s time to take a deep breath and enjoy the quiet of the off-season.

Although there are many staff moving on to new and different adventures in life, I need to recognize one in particular today. Malori has led the office team this past year and has been the main voice of Vista Verde. She’s handled the bulk of the reservations and been the point person for all our guests prior to their stay at the ranch. It’s been such a pleasure having her in the office and watching her grow over the past couple years. We will miss her tremendously, but are excited for her to go find her “thing” out there in the big world. I know she’ll do wonderful things and contribute in great ways. At the same time, Malori’s partner in crime and roommate Kerri will be heading out too. She’s the other voice of VVR who steps in on Malori’s days off to cover the reservations. The amazing person has proven that farm girls can be smart and beautiful, and we’ve loved having her as part of our team. With every sad good bye there is always also a warm welcome.

With Malori stepping out, Meagan will be stepping into her role. Many of you who have been here know Meagan as the lively server or the bubbly kid wrangler. Now she is stepping inside the office and will be taking over the phones, emails, and all that goes on in the front office. So, expect to hear a new voice when you call in to book your reservation (have you booked for the summer yet? If not, get on it so Meagan can get to work!). We’re all looking forward to having her join the fun in the office.

There are many more to say goodbye to, and many more to welcome come summer, but that will be another blog. I’m hoping that sometime in the coming month I’ll have the new website launched, and then we’ll start updating the staff bios so you can check out who will be working here this summer. Lots to do with the closing of the season, and lots of great news to share in the coming weeks. Stay tuned!

Why should you choose a dude ranch for your next vacation

By Steph

How to choose the right dude ranch

So, you’re trying to decide if a dude ranch vacation is right for your family? But if you haven’t been to one before, how do you know if you’ll like it, and how do you know which dude ranch is the right one?

Dude Ranch People

Unfortunately dude ranches are not a great money making business prospect, so most people who get into the business do it out of a labor of love. Therefore, at most dude ranches, you will find hosts who are friendly and engaging and who really do want to share their backyard with you. And, because things trickle down, the staff are usually the same. In fact, one of the things that surprise most first time guests is the staff. Most of them are working at a dude ranch for a season or two during college or just after graduation. They have chosen to come to that dude ranch for the job, and they not just looking for a way to make money but looking for a unique experience, much like you! And most ranches incorporate their staff in a way that makes them less like the “help” and more like friends taking care of friends. Now, we happen to think our staff are particularly special, and spend a lot of time each year picking out the best of the best to join our crew.

The Dude Ranch Experience

In addition to the unique relationships formed with staff at a dude ranch, most guests are surprised to find that they become fast friends with the other guests. Many dude ranch guests keep in touch in ensuing years, and even plan to return to the same dude ranch or a different one next year.

You may be picking up on a theme….relationships. That’s really what a dude ranch is all about. The beautiful backdrop, great activities, and service are all wonderful. But the relationships formed at a dude ranch are what make it really special.

Having said that, you do want to know that the backbone of a great dude ranch vacation is there. Some dude ranches offer just riding, some have various other activities. Some are a great place for families with little kids, and some are better for when the kids are older. Some have specialty times like adult only weeks or women only weeks. Most dude ranch stays are week-long stays during the main season, but some offer shorter stays during other times of the year.

Picking the Right Dude Ranch

It can be a bit overwhelming, trying to find the right dude ranch for your vacation. First, you need to identify what level of quality you desire. Some are very rustic, some more luxurious. And what kind of activities are important to you? Is location important, and how easy is it to get to the ranch? Because the relationships are such an integral part of the experience, we do recommend you get on the phone with the ranches you are considering. You will either feel really good about the person you spoke with, or you will know it’s not for you. That gut feeling is important, as the person answering your questions is usually a good representation of the kind of people you’ll find at that dude ranch. Lastly, look for reviews on places like Tripadvisor as those can be very telling.

Questions to ask

Here are some questions that might help you plan your dude ranch vacation:

1) What is included in the rate? What is extra? Taxes, gratuities? Beverages? Extra charges for optional activities?

2) How are activities organized? Can families participate in activities and meals together?

3) What’s the best way to get to the dude ranch?

4) What is the staff to guest ratio?

5) What are the accommodations like? Do they have pictures?

6) What is the riding program like? How many people per ride? How are rides split up? What is the terrain like?

7) If someone doesn’t want to ride, what else is there to do?

8) Describe a typical breakfast, lunch and dinner.

9) Describe the setting of the dude ranch.

10) What makes that dude ranch special?

Hopefully this helps you pick the right dude ranch. Just as much as you want to make sure we’re the right dude ranch for you, we want to make sure you are going to be happy here. You can read more about Why Vista Verde to get a quick hitter on our dude ranch. The right match is paramount to creating those memories and relationships that will lead to making it the best vacation ever!

Local’s Ski Day- March 1, 2015

We’re excited to open up the ranch to Steamboat locals for a day of skiing and great food on Sunday, March 1, 2015. The new snow has freshened everything up and it’s gorgeous right now!

Come enjoy the ranch’s groomed ski trails and treat yourself to an bountiful spread at lunchtime.

Ski all day on our classic and skate trails. Between 12:30-1:30 come on into the Lodge for a scrumptious lunch.

Ski & Lunch- Includes a glass of wine or beer with lunch. $45/person, 1/2 price for children 12 & under.

Trail pass only – Come and enjoy the trails and peaceful scenery for a couple hours. $15/person

Cross country ski or snowshoe rentals- $15/person

Please call or email ahead of time to reserve your spot. 879-3858

What’s up at Vista Verde?

By Steph

So, I’ll be the first to admit, I’ve been a little slack on blogging this winter. I could give all sorts of excuses from lacking good ideas to being distracted by having fun outside to being bogged down with other items on my to-do list–you name it. Nonetheless, I just decided this morning to sit down and write about whatever came to mind.

We’re more than half-way through the winter season at this point, and are in our last week of adult-only vacations. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve all stated, “We love these guests!” and then turn around 2 days later and say the same thing, and then again 3 days later…..point being we have been so lucky to have some amazingly wonderful people choose Vista Verde for their winter vacation this year. From the young honeymooners to the group of gals here for a girls getaway to celebrate their 50th birthday to the returning guests who call this their second home…they’ve all been a blast. It’s fun to come in each day and see what everyone has chosen to do for the day. It’s been a pretty even spread, except for this afternoon when all but 4 guests are going to doing the wine tasting! Cholly will have his hands full, and a lot of fun, I suspect.

A week or so ago, we got a call from our friends at the Belton Ranch. We co-op with them on our cattle round-up in the fall months. There were some cows that we couldn’t get in last fall, and they were finally spotted out in the snow recently. So, a few of the wranglers loaded up the trailer with our most hearty horses and plenty of warm clothes and went out to find those strays. Mission accomplished with only a couple hours of riding. It was a bit of a challenge, but some good cattle dogs helped, along with roping one of the cows to lead the rest in towards the trailer.

While last winter was the winter of overwhelming snow, this winter has been one of hit or miss snow. We’ll have a huge dump of snow, and then nothing for a couple weeks, then another huge dump, etc… right now we’re in a weird “spring break” pattern of sunny days and slushy snow. Go figure, as that is not something we typically see in February! The word around town is that March and April will be huge snow months. Regardless of the conditions, we’re finding good stashes of snow for the backcountry ski tours, and the skating and classic track has been amazing for people who are going out to cross country ski around the ranch. I’ve skated more this year than ever before, and it’s been a blast. It’s also great conditions for snow biking, and of course horse back riding in the snow or a sleigh ride with the sun shining down on you isn’t a bad way to spend the day.

As we get closer to Valentine’s Day, the chefs are preparing for our annual Aphrodisiac Dinner. This year will be interesting as Valentine’s Day falls on the same weekend as President’s Day, so we’ll have families here as well as couples enjoying the romantic weekend in the snow. That kicks off our family times again, and we’ll fire up the kid’s program from now until we finish with our spring break weeks in late-March.

I’ll wrap up with an office update. Beka and Ben have been pouring over the applicants for the summer and interviewing, interviewing, interviewing. They are pretty excited about who they have on board, and have some other great prospects to check out still. We’re also busy working on an updated website. Trying to keep the aspects of our current site that we love, but also make the site more accessible for mobile users. Stay tuned for the launch of the site this spring. In the meantime, keep in touch with us on Facebook, among our other social platforms. We’ll keep posting photos and videos of what’s going on here at the ranch. And, I’ll try to stay up on the blogging a bit more!

Spotlight on- Mary Grefrath

By Steph

It’s been a long time since I’ve done a spotlight on a staff member post. As soon as I started to think about who to put the spotlight on, Mary jumped into my mind and I knew it had to be her.

Mary and Meesh jumping on the feed sleigh to go feed the herd.

Mary and Meesh jumping on the feed sleigh to go feed the herd.

Originally from Buffalo, New York, Mary joined us during the winter of 2013-14. She had recently completed her degree in Art Education at Buffalo State University, and, like many of our staff, had that “What do I do now?” moment. Not quite ready to jump into becoming an art teacher, and not quite ready to pursue that Masters degree, she made the obvious choice to come work at a dude ranch!

Mary stepped into her interim career with ease. She learned the ins and outs of housekeeping, and performed her job with a non-stop smile on her face. She jumped into the community, quickly becoming part of the family, and immersed herself in the Vista Verde lifestyle. Now in her 3rd season with the ranch, Mary has been a key player in many areas. She’s our go-to when we need a crafty design for something, she helps with the kids program here and there, and she is an invaluable part of our housekeeping team. This coming summer, Mary will transition over to being a full-time Kid Wrangler, so know that your little ones will be in good hands if you’re heading this way for a dude ranch vacation this summer.

Not to miss an opportunity, Mary has made the most of her time in Colorado. She loves trying out all the activities here, and loves learning new things. Mary has traveled over most of the hiking trails around here (and there are a lot!), learned to skate ski, and has spent hours on horseback. She told me that what has made her time working at the ranch so special is the relationships with the staff, the camaraderie among the team, and being around other people who are here because they want to be here, not just to clock in and collect a paycheck.

I also learned that Mary really enjoys the night she and the housekeeping team host Game Night during the winter season. It gives them all a chance to hang out with the guests, have some fun with them, and most importantly, get to see their competitive side. And you thought corn hole was a casual back yard game? Not at Vista Verde!

So, what does someone like Mary do when she’s not taking care of guests, ironing, or folding laundry? She’s currently reading “How to be a bad-ass”, although her preferred type of book is a mystery with a really huge twist at the end. This coming spring 0ff-season she is planning on heading to Thailand to spend a couple weeks volunteering at an elephant sanctuary. Last fall she took a road trip with Meesh and Heidi to the Grand Canyon before heading home to spend some time with her family. And, when she’s here at the ranch, she typically has a handful of craft projects going from knitting a hat for Erin to helping Beka make a quilt. Her friends tease her about her endless trail of projects, but remember, she is an art teacher after all!

We’re lucky to have Mary as part of our team, and look forward to hearing her infectious giggle and seeing her huge smile each day!

Celebrating the holidays in Colorado

By Steph

As we roll into 2015 with a crazy cold morning, it gives me some time to hunker down inside and reflect back on the past couple weeks. It’s been a whirlwind, to be sure!

Our opening week was filled with a varied and fun group of guests. The highlight was not only watching them all connect, but also celebrating the engagement of guests Alyssa and Jeff, followed days later by the engagement of Cori and Dan, former staff who stopped by the ranch for a quick proposal. The week was pretty quiet, which allowed us to all settle into the season, work out any kinks, and get into the routine of being open again.

All set up to make natural decorations for the Christmas trees outside the Lodge.

All set up to make natural decorations for the Christmas trees outside the Lodge.

Christmas week was so memorable. Some of the guests were worried we wouldn’t have enough snow leading up to the holiday. Well, Mother Nature delivered with the clouds opening up on the day the guests all arrived, and barely stopping the entire week. Yes, it was indeed a white Christmas. One of the unique events of the week was the decoration making party we had one night after dinner. Hosted by the amazingly creative Kelli (yes, she rocks it out at yoga, skiing, mountain biking, and yet she is also the most crafty gal I know) the guests and staff put together unique and colorful natural decorations to deck the trees in the yard. Although the decorations were intended to be safe for the birds to nibble on, we soon discovered that the ranch dogs thought they were perfectly yummy. Mental note- hang them higher next year.


Chef Cholly relaxing after the big wine pairing dinner for New Year's Eve.

Chef Cholly relaxing after the big wine pairing dinner for New Year’s Eve.

New Year’s week at the ranch has been an amazing one. Everyone is so happy to be closing out 2014 in Colorado. An adventurous group of guests and phenomenal powder have ruled the week, even in sub-zero temps. It’s been crazy cold, but it’s not stopping anyone from having fun. We rang in the New Year with a noisy and fun barn dance last night right in the Great Room. As we caught our breath sometime around midnight (it was midnight somewhere in the world) Charlie dazzled us with the one and only Boot Drop followed by the ranch hand’s show of fireworks. We’re still not sure who had more fun….the spectators watching from the warm Great Room or the ranch hands dancing around with their flares.

Life at the ranch will settle into a routine starting next week. The New Year’s crew departs on Saturday and then we take a few days to clean up, regroup, and give the crew some much deserved time off before kicking off our adult only vacation times at the ranch.

We hope you all finished off 2014 in style, and are off to a new and grand 2015.


A white Christmas in Colorado

By Steph, inspired by Hill

As the day comes to an end, the sun has broken out from behind the ever-producing snow clouds. We woke up this morning to 5 inches or so of fresh, fluffy powder, and the snow kept lightly falling for much of the day. It was a truly white Christmas!

Neil and "Santa" Matthew prepare to take guests up tubing on Christmas day.

Neil and “Santa” Matthew prepare to take guests up tubing on Christmas day.

When Christmas morning dawned on Vista Verde this year, a quiet hush fell over the valley. Snow falling out of the sky muffled the noises around the ranch, the hum of the Bombardier as it glided over the meadows laying fresh corduroy for skiers, the snow plow and the tractor working efficiently to clear out the new layer of snow for all of us to make our way from cabin to cabin. The chefs came in long before dark, gave their Christmas greetings before all jumping into their lists and working without words to prepare the annual feast. A lone horse back rider heads down the driveway, ready to gather up the herd and run them into the corral. The horses, sensing that rider coming, begin to whinny at each other and stir. Their footsteps make crunching sounds in the snow, and as they gather up and gallop out of the pasture, snow is flying in all directions. The VVR staff roll into the dining room to prepare and deliver breakfast to the guests in their cabins, like a bunch of Santa’s elves. Although all are a bit groggy, the sense of teaming up together to create a special Christmas day for our guests prevails and the teams come together to collaborate and deliver.

The snow falls all day as we prepare for the big noon day meal. Giggles from the tubing hill float down to the Lodge, and laughter from skiers and horseback riders drift across the meadows. Once again, I am inspired and amazed as I watch the staff team up to set up the Great Room, get the cabins cleaned in record time, and prepare for a special noon event. As Zach rings the dinner bell with zest, Ben prepares to give thanks and bring everyone together for the meal. The Great room is buzzing with energy and good cheer. Christmas sweaters abound, and kids excitedly find their own boot that was left by the fireplace and magically filled with goodies overnight.

We dine like kings, and all get a chance to celebrate the day together. If everyone were so lucky.

Colorado-Christmas-Day-300x168As the guests roll out of the Lodge and off to their adventures for the afternoon (some opt to skip their plans of active outings and relax in their cabin with a good book, or take a nap following a dip in their hot tub), the crew teams up to clean up the mess we have made. Laughter and camaraderie take over to ease the hard work, and the Great room and dining room are put back into shape in no time at all. I step out to head to the barn with my family for a Christmas day trail ride. As the girls chat with their horses, and feed them the special carrots Santa delivered for them, Todd and I revel in the bond between a child and a horse. The ride is beautiful, the temperature just perfect, the snow is still falling, and as we head back to the barn, the sleigh passes us with jingling bells.

It isn’t until late in the afternoon that the sun breaks out. The light is angelic, as if someone planned on making a statement with it. The day comes to an end with families relaxing together, staff making their calls home to give holiday greetings, and the horses munching on their extra Christmas hay. We are so lucky to be able to share this amazing spot called Vista Verde (which is actually Vista Blanco now) with the world. We, as a crew feel blessed to be here, even when it’s hard to be away from family for the holidays. The guests know that not everyone gets to celebrate the holidays like this, and revel in the winter wonderland. I still hear the sleigh bells in my mind, and I almost wonder if they are coming out of the sky? Is it in my head, or is it real? Well, with that, I must say, “Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night”!

Budgeting for an all-inclusive vacation

By Steph


I ran across this great little gratuity guide recently, and found it quite handy. Gratuity is an area where I feel like I stumble frequently. How much is enough, when is it expected, when is it not expected? In the effort of not wanting to cheat anyone out of a tip, but also wanting to not go over budget all the time, I feel like I can’t go right. In looking over this gratuity guide, my professional wheels started turning. How much would a guest have to spend if they followed this gratuity guide at Vista Verde? Now, keep in mind one important piece of this inner dialogue–at Vista Verde we do not add any sort of service charge or gratuity, and gratuities are not expected at all. Point being, we assume everyone will pay the rate we are charging for their stay and be done. Nothing extra expected. Now, some folks do like to leave a gratuity at the end of their stay to be split up amongst the staff. That’s fine, and we’ll take it if they want to do so. But, I want to drive home the point that there is no expectation of any gratuity. So this question I pondered was a hypothetical one.

After crunching the math and adding it up, I came to the amount of roughly $800 for a couple staying for a week. That was based on tipping at each meal, every activity, each night, etc. Then it hit me. Most all-inclusive resorts expect their guests to tip their staff. Which got me thinking about the fact that people typically budget for their vacations, and how often are budgets blown over at all-inclusive resorts? So, here are a few tips to keep in mind the next time you’re booking an all-inclusive vacation. Ask these questions to help you determine if this fits your budget:

1) What is the policy on gratuity/tipping.

2) What activities are and aren’t included?

3) What extra charges might be incurred? Airport shuttles? Beer, wine, or liquor?

4) Is there any sort of resort fee? Parking or internet?

Hopefully this helps you figure out if the vacation fits within your budget. And, it’s also what keeps us committed to making a vacation at Vista Verde as all-inclusive as possible. It’s just easier for all of you, and it feels better for us to deliver a product with no surprises. Well, maybe some unexpected wonderful surprises. – December 2014

Among some women, the “Girls’ Getaway” weekend or program has become an annual tradition where small or extended groups of women, ladies, girls, mothers, daughters, or friends organize a get together unaccompanied by (one might even say unburdened by) or exclusive of men, boys, brothers, and fathers. The motivation and/or common denominator is about connecting.

A girls’ weekend might include recreating or relaxing together, enjoying good food and good wine, and a host of other activities that provide the backdrop for engagement and lasting memories. has found a list of women’s programs for the upcoming winter 2014-15 ranging from once-a-week group outings to week-long all inclusive packages. Read more…..

The making of a sleigh ride in Colorado

By Steph

As we gear up for our winter season to open on December 13, there is a lot of work to do. The Lodge is getting decorated as I write this post. The tree has gone up, the wreaths are being hung, and Willie the Moose has donned his Santa hat once again. The ski guides are going through their in-depth guide training (remember if you want to learn all that is taught to the guides, you can participate in our Guide Training for Guests in late-March), the ranch hands and kid wranglers are getting dialed in on snowmobile driving for the tubing hill, the chefs are finalizing their menus, and the housekeepers are getting the cabins sparkling clean after sitting empty for the off-season. The other day, Mandy and KP tried out a new horse for the one horse sleigh. Ben and Jerry came to us as a team years ago, but weren’t quite right for our big feed sleigh. Ben turned out to be a great one for the one horse sleigh. But Jerry hasn’t gotten his chance until this winter. So, to see if he makes the cut, the wranglers are trying him out for a few days before we open for the season. Same captured this video of a late afternoon practice run. He still needs some time to settle into the job, but he’s coming along nicely so far! Come visit us for a vacation in winter wonderland and enjoy your own private sleigh ride!

Music provided by the talented Brent Rowan. Brent is a past Academy of Country Music Guitarist of the Year who now lives in Steamboat Springs. His CD “Bare Essentials” is one of our favorites.

Waiting for winter

By Steph

Charlie saw this wild turkey on the deck the other day. I never even knew we had turkeys around here, but what great timing. Happy Turkey day!

Charlie saw this wild turkey on the deck the other day. I never even knew we had turkeys around here, but what great timing. Happy Turkey day!

I’ve fallen off the blogging bandwagon this off-season. It’s easy to do as it’s so quiet at the ranch and not much is happening. Well, a lot is happening but not so much that you really want to hear about. Let me tell you about the projects I’m working on! Nah, maybe interesting to me, but likely ho hum to you. Ben could tell you all sorts of new things on the insurance front. Woo hoo! Bill could take photos of every paint spot he’s repaired, the vent pipe he fixed (this is big news for those of us who were here in the fall….) and the new stain on the Lodge. Charlie could check in and report on financials. Snoring yet?

Off season is a great time at a dude ranch. Those of us still around get to knock out the projects we don’t have time for when we’re open with guests at the ranch. But, it’s not always the most news worthy time. I will tell you that it’s been one of the nicest falls we’ve had in a long time. Everyone has been on a bit of a high because of it. The warm and sunny weather lasted way longer than normal. There was about one week of mud, cold, and wet before Mother Nature turned on the winter season. Then, within about 5 days it went from dirt to snow, and we haven’t looked back yet. That’s how we like it!

Some folks are rolling in from vacation, some of us headed out for a bit. Many of us take Thanksgiving to go see family, as it is the one holiday we get to leave the ranch so we take advantage of that. Some of us stick around and band together to celebrate the holiday with the ranch family. Either way, we are so thankful that we get to live here, enjoy this amazing place, make our passion our work, and play with wonderful people.

While the snow piles up, we’ll continue to prepare for the winter season. December 13 is opening day, and by the looks of the reservation calendar, it’s shaping up to be a season filled with lots of fun people! Enjoy the upcoming holiday, and I’ll check back in when the staff arrives in early December.

A day of skiing at the Steamboat Ski Resort

By Steph

dusk_ski-area-cows04With only 22 days until the Steamboat Ski Resort opens for the 2014-15 season, and a fresh dusting of snow sitting on the mountains right now, it’s hard not to to finally get excited about winter. Usually a rough transition for me, to move from the pleasant days of being outside soaking up the sun, the fresh air, and the amazing views to bundling up to go outside to soak up the sun, the fresh air, and the amazing views. Hmmmm….that didn’t come out right. Point being that although the winter experience is an amazing one that I think everyone should come try out, living in it for 6 months can make for a little kicking and screaming as the weather gets cooler and the clouds roll into town.

This year is a bit different. With such a mild fall, we’ve had tons of time to enjoy the trails, watch the aspens change, fit in our last trail rides, bike rides, hikes, etc…and now it is finally feeling to me like it’s time for snow. While getting out in downtown Steamboat today, I looked up at the ski mountain and had a moment. The sun was shining brightly on the fresh white snow sitting up on the mountain. It hit me. I’m ready to ski. Now, don’t get me wrong. I could write an entire blog post on how much I love skate skiing, back country skiing, snowshoeing, horse back riding in the snow, going on a sleigh ride, you name it. I love all the outdoor pursuits that we share with guests when they are playing at Vista Verde on their winter vacation. But, I do save a special spot in my heart for downhill skiing. That’s where my roots lie, and, like many, that’s what brought me here to Colorado in the first place.

So, if you have been thinking about planning a winter ski vacation, do it! Come to Steamboat and enjoy the fresh powder we get so often, the tree skiing or the meandering groomed trails. In fact, imagine this day…..

You wake up to the sound of horses neighing at each other as the sun peeks over Wapiti mountain. Peering out of your cabin window, you see that the snow has stopped and the sunrise is turning the sky shades of orange, pink, and yellow. After a quick soak in the hot tub on the deck, where you finish watching the sunrise, you bundle up in your ski duds and head down to the lodge for a hearty breakfast…..including that amazing bacon that has ruined your bacon experience anywhere else in the world. As you finish up your last bites, Bubba hands you a lunch to go and Ryan comes in to tell you he’s ready with the Suburban by the front door. You and your ski buddies hop in the vehicle and head down the road. After a scenic drive down the Elk River Valley, Ryan drops you off right at the base of the Gondola. You swing by Christy Sports to pick up your rental gear (of course you stopped on your way in from the airport with Brandon and got fitted so it was ready to go this morning, as well as your lift tickets) and then hop of the Gondola for your first run.

steamboat-ski-resortYour legs are burning, but the skiing has been so good that you only stopped for a 15 minute lunch break. By mid-afternoon, all you can think about is that bubbling hot tub and the delightful dinner that Chefs Cholly and JT have prepared for you back at the ranch. Ryan is waiting for you as you slowly walk from dropping off your ski gear at Christy Sports and lay yourself into the Suburban. On the ride home, you enjoy watching the sun set over the valley floor, the cows munching on their hay, and a herd of elk sauntering across the meadow. Once firmly planted in said hot tub, you see the stars…..more stars than you could ever imagine seeing! It’s all you can do to get jeans and a sweater on to head down to the Lodge for dinner. The amazing meal is only topped by the delicious wine and the great conversation, as everyone recounts their adventures from the day. As you stroll back to your cabin following dinner, you are surprised by the fact that there are now even more stars in the sky than earlier. Fantasies of sitting in your hot tub again are quickly washed away by the comfortable bed, the low lights, and that pillow… you curl up and fall asleep earlier than you’ve been to bed in ages, your legs twitch a bit as your muscle memory revisits some of the amazing turns you made today. A winter day well played.

Ready to ski Steamboat? I am!

You know it’s off-season at a dude ranch when:

By Steph

closedIt’s off-season at Vista Verde right now. What does that mean? We’re not open for guests, most of the seasonal staff have headed home, either for a break before the winter season or onto their next adventure in life. Many of the managers are on vacation as well. Yesterday I had a chuckle at some of the classic signs that you know it’s off-season:

  1. Beka has worn her running clothes to work every day this week. I think she has run before work, mid-day, and then gone outside to hike or run at the end of the day as well.
  2. The “Closed for the Season” was up within 24 hours of our last guests leaving the ranch last week. That’s a Bill ritual. He never misses it.
  3. We all said, “Have a great weekend” to each other last Friday afternoon, and meant it in the normal sense that people use those words.
  4. Ben’s cowboy boots have been replaced by cozy, soft, slip on shoes.
  5. It takes an hour to find and catch a horse to ride, since they are spread out on about 200 acres, and aren’t getting rounded up each morning and brought into the corral.
  6. We’re being reminded of what the rest of the world goes through with having to pack a lunch each morning. Novel concept.
  7. I have worn the same pair of ratty jeans every day this week. Yep, saves on laundry. Don’t worry, I will be more than happy to bust out my “fancy” jeans when guests return. We’ve gotta have some standards around here!
  8. Dead flies. We miss the housekeepers cleaning the Great Room. Nuff said.
  9. Appointments. Everyone seems to have an appointment. Haircuts, oil changes, teeth cleanings. You name it, we all have time to get things done now.

Some of us here love the off-season as it offers a chance to catch up on projects without distraction, work a more traditional 8-5, Mon-Fri schedule, and of course it’s the time when we all fit in our vacation! Others dread it as it’s just too lonely and quiet around the ranch with everyone gone. Either way you slice it, we’re taking advantage of what it has to offer, and getting ready for the staff to arrive early December and the guests to follow a couple weeks later.

  • Dogs love the ranch life at Vista Verde Guest Ranch!
  • Dogs love the ranch life at Vista Verde Guest Ranch!
  • Dogs love the ranch life at Vista Verde Guest Ranch!
  • Dogs love the ranch life at Vista Verde Guest Ranch!
  • Dogs love the ranch life at Vista Verde Guest Ranch!

The many adventures of Goldie the dog

By Steph

Over the course of the summer, Erica (in charge of our kids program) has sent me photos from her adventures out in the mountains around Vista Verde. Always by her side is her trusty friend Goldie.

We’ll throw our friends at the Honest Kitchen some love here in mentioning that Goldie is one of the ranch dogs fueled by the Honest Kitchen. These fine folks provide our ranch dogs with all natural human grade dog food products, using dehydrated whole foods. Their pet foods are produced in the USA from non-GMO produce, hormone-free meats and some organic, fair trade ingredients. Try some out for your cat or dog!

Now, back to Goldie’s adventures. In each batch of photos, there is a perfectly posed photo of Goldie with some absolutely amazingly scenic backdrop. This dog was meant to be a model, and loves being in front of the lens! I’ve had fun posting these photos throughout the summer on our social media channels. With the season coming to an end, I thought I’d take a walk down memory lane via Goldie’s adventures. It has been an amazing season. We’ve had pretty much a full house all the way up until last week, when things started to get a bit quiet. The season will come to an end after this week, and we’ll shut down for a few weeks while we wait for the snow to start accumulating. So, enjoy this tour of the summer and fall seasons through the adventures of Goldie.

October in Colorado

By Steph


As we near the end of our season, we are all enjoying the last days of guests at the ranch. Come October 18 things will get awfully quiet around here. The last guests will be gone, the staff will be packing up and heading out for adventures, and the horses won’t be running in and out from their pasture each day, but just staying out there on vacation.

Between now and then, we’re enjoying the beauty of the transition of fall. This has been the longest fall foliage season I’ve ever experienced. Since mid-September, the colors have been gorgeous. Instead of all the aspens going at once, they’ve been changing bit by bit. One stand will change while another stays bright green. Over the course of the past month, the forest has let the colorful show linger. We’re still seeing some stands of aspens just starting to change to yellow, orange, and red. So, chances are that this show will last until Halloween!

The weather this October has been a mixed bag, from snow to rain to bright sunny days. We’ve had freezing weather and we’ve had 70 degree days. As one guest from San Diego pointed out to me this morning, welcome to Colorado! No matter what the weather, our guests have gotten out there and made it happen. Add a jacket, some gloves and a rain slicker and off we go into the woods. A good attitude and a sense of adventure can go a long way on a rainy day!

The elk finally decided it was fall, and have started keeping people awake at night up on the hillside. It’s such an eerie sound to hear them bugling back and forth. There is nothing like waking up to a herd of elk outside your bathroom window.

The days keep flying by, and the season continues to transition as we make our way toward winter. For now, we’ll all take a few more days (can we even request a few weeks?) of gorgeous fall days like today. In fact, we all sat out at lunch today just to soak up the wonderful sunshine, not something you can do all the time in October. As our season comes to an end, we’ll reflect back on a huge year, figure out what we want to change for next year, and how to make the guest experience even better. Then it’s time to start planning for winter. December 13 is opening day for the winter season, and then we’re off to the races again!

  • One of the Vista Verde Guest Ranch chefs works on plating a gourmet meal.

Adult vacations + wine pairing dinners = fun times

By Steph

We are in our 5th adult-only week of the fall season. So far, we have had some gangbuster weeks with a ton of great guests, lots of wonderful adventures, a mix bag of weather ranging from rain, rain go away to what we all call “hot” (If you’re from the southern part of the States, yes you can laugh at us for calling 80 degrees “hot”.) Through all this, it’s been wonderful to watch the transition of the seasons. The grass has turned golden, the aspens are at this very moment exploding with color, and the scrub oak and ferns are alternating on the spectrum of yellow, orange and red.

One of the fun changes we make to our schedule when we shift over to adult-only weeks for the fall is to add in a wine pairing dinner one night. The Chefs get to flex their creative muscles, play around with some different wines and food options, and wow the guests a bit. It’s a fun night, and we always just hope that after a long day of adventures on the trail no one ends up asleep in their plate.

The other evening, Chef Hannah captured some amazing shots of the food. Just to tantalize your taste buds a bit, here are some of these wonderful shots, along with the menu from one of the evenings we enjoyed with great guests and fabulous food.

Bon appetit!

Happiness- it must be in the water at Vista Verde

By Steph

Something hit me the other day as I was talking to a couple guests at lunch. They were telling me how they just love how we all seem to just be so happy. What resonated with me was a word that I’ve heard over and over in that same context. “Seem” As I listened to Devyn (who was sitting next to me and also engaged in this conversation) explain, with her beaming smile and infectious laugh, how it’s really true that we’re all happy folks, I started to think about why is it that the guests regularly mention to me that they are pleasantly surprised at how happy we all “seem” to be.

Part of it is the people we hire at the ranch. As Devyn was explaining, there are “Vista Verde people” and there are people who aren’t. Nothing wrong with those folks, but we do tend to select a person who has a zest for life, a love of taking care of others, and a true investment in the human experience. Oh, and they are typically pretty adventurous, educated, and interesting too. So, take that, and then you add in…..

The view down the trail from the back of my two wheeled steed.

The view down the trail from the back of my two wheeled steed.

Nature and Endorphins. Today I had an hour free at the end of the day before I had to pick up my kids. I had a choice. I could definitely have done a bit more work. I could have gone all super-momish and finished up laundry, prepped dinner, etc… I could have written this blog, as it was on my mile long to-do list for the day. Like most of us, the list is never-ending. Instead, I decided that I would be a fool if I didn’t take that 59.9 minutes and head into the woods. I hopped on my trusty mountain bike (the horse wasn’t available at the moment) and took off on a trail. About 30 minutes into the ride I had that moment. Euphoria hit in. The happy juice. Fresh air, dirt, trees, leaves, sunshine, and a fair amount of sweat…..all of it came together and my soul was soaring. Getting out in nature and sweating a bit makes us happy. And, at the ranch, we get a lot of opportunities to do just that.

The internet stinks. So, let’s be frank. The internet access 25 miles outside of a small, rural Colorado town isn’t exactly lightening fast. But, you know what? Besides the frustrations that we all face (ok, even cowboys need to send emails and might even prefer to pay their bills online), disconnecting from the world a bit seems to change people. We look around more. We talk to each other more. We go for moonlight hikes instead of streaming Netflix (now, having said that, Nathan is the biggest Netflix, the old fashion kind where you mail it in…, junkies out there). But, I believe that stepping away from all that does make people a bit happier, once they accept it and embrace it. (PR disclaimer….guests can still access emails for those who need to work on vacation, and we are constantly exploring ways to increase the bandwidth as we do recognize that to function as a business we do need better access.)

What we do is fun. In any business, and any time you are dealing with people, there are stresses. But, what is so great about this business is that we get to see people when they are at their best. We get you at your happiest times, and we get to play with you, share experiences with you, and become friends with you. Sure, we throw our heart and souls into serving our guests, and that can exhaust even the chippiest Devyn out there. But, what we get to do each day is fun.

So, don’t be fooled. We can all get tired, we can all get stressed, we can all get grumpy. Because, it’s just normal life for us with family issues, health issues, and an imperfect world. Even through those down days, there is an inner happiness, a contentment, and a joy that oozes through. But, just know that if you come here as a guest, I can assure you that it’s not an act. It’s happiness. Drink some of the Koolaid (aka Rocky Mountain spring water), and you might feel it too!





Why a guest ranch isn’t a resort

By Steph

Vista Verde is often seen as being a “resort” as many folks can’t wrap their head around the fact that a guest ranch, or dude ranch, can be something more than what they saw in City Slickers. So, when people see us as a luxury property, they change guest ranch to resort. Now, there is nothing wrong with being considered a resort. But, there is something about a ranch that is different. For example…..

We make our guests work:

During one of our formal dinners this week, Larry donned his white shirt and jeans, just to look like the servers. Mid-service, Bubba got Larry a bolo tie and an apron, and brought him into the kitchen to help the servers for a few minutes. And, in the process, gave the chefs a mild panic attack. That’s a ranch for you.

Nappy Cat has earned a following from guests around the globe. CC is here right now, with her stash of Fancy Feast, and Nappy is purr-fectly happy. Then, add to that Diane comes in and gives Nappy Cat a haircut in order to get rid of the….nappies. Next week, Nappy Cat will go back to helping us with mice control. That’s a ranch for you.

The traffic around here stinks:

It seems to be that the cows know to block the road just when it’s time to drive up to one of the many hiking trail heads. It doesn’t matter which trail head we choose, they seem to know where we’re going to be headed and settle down right in the middle of the road. Having said that, when we go out on horseback to round them up, they suddenly disappear. That’s a ranch for you.

The band is inclusive:

Go to a resort and sit down at the bar after dinner to listen to the band, and you’ll probably enjoy a nice evening of music. At Vista Verde, if you have musical talent, you very well may find yourself being the entertainment. Several times this summer, the Friday night music has included guest performers. Sometimes they are even better than the band, but don’t tell the guys.

Those are just a few anecdotal examples of things that happen here at Vista Verde that make us all laugh and say, “Only at a ranch.” For guests who have been here before, please share any of your own stories in the comments!



VVR kids have some fun while helping others

By Steph
A couple weeks ago, the VVR kids got crafty and creative when they decided to raise some money for animals in need. As they went through yard after yard of friendship threads (if you’re a parent of school-age children, I suspect you are finding remnants of friendship thread all over your house these days as well), they came up with a plan. The girls developed their product, did a market analysis, studied their demographic, compared their pricing strategy with the competition, and agreed upon their marketing plan. Then they put it all into action.

The target audience? Unsuspecting parents and staff at the barn dance.

The product? Colorful friendship bracelets handcrafted in the kids hut.

The pricing plan? Donations only. That opens the door for a higher price point for those who don’t want to be called “cheap”.

The competition? Just Ben calling square dance moves. Not too hard to compete with, for sure.

The revenue goal? As much as possible.

So, how did they do? Well, let’s just say these ladies have a future in business and philanthropy. They made a really nice card, bundled up the $75 they raised, and sent it off to the ASPCA. They recognized that not all horses have the luxe life of a Vista Verde horse, and wanted to do something good for horses who don’t spend most of their days in knee deep green pastures.

Way to go girls!

  • Devils Causeway in Colorado, located near Vista Verde Guest Ranch
  • The Zirkel Circle, an amazing hike that can be done at Vista Verde Guest Ranch in Colorado.

Epic staff adventures- the life and times dude ranch staff

By Steph

There is a great amount of pleasure taken in watching our guests have epic adventures on their vacations here at Vista Verde. I love hearing the stories, seeing the photos, and watching their faces light up as they recall their amazing experiences. But, it doesn’t stop with the guests. Hearing about the epic adventures our staff have is also just as much of a treat. Most of them come to work at a dude ranch because they love people, the outdoors, and want to experience Colorado. So, it makes sense that on their days off, they go off and try new things, explore the state, and see new places. Some end up making this home, and this just becomes their lifestyle. Some are just here for a few months, so are getting out as much as possible before heading back home to school or another job.

Sit back, and enjoy a little armchair adventure through the eyes of some fabulous dude ranch staff members.

Erica and John (Kid’s & Teen Program Manager and Chef de Cuisine)

Last weekend JT, Goldie and I summited Flat Top mountain right in VVR’s own backyard along the continental divide. It was a 17 mile round trip hike completed in one day.

We climbed over 4,000 feet in elevation, talk about a workout! The wild flowers are gorgeous up there right now.

This weekend we are backpacking into the Flat Top Wilderness in the White National Forest with Isaac and Zach.

Meagan Kelly (Kid’s Supervisor, Server for the Fall season)

Jen Parent, SallyMcEwen and I went on the Devil’s Causeway hike in the Flat Top Wilderness. It was thrilling and terrifying crossing over the causeway which is at it’s narrowest, four feet wide. A picture could never do it justice. One of my favorite things about Vista Verde is the community and doing an incredible hike like this only bonds us even more.

Ashley Boyd (Kid’s Wrangler)

The “Tuesday Crew,” Ashley, Brandi, Emily and Paul, took a road trip earlier in the summer to The Great Sand Dunes National Park. We camped the night before, and then spent all day climbing the dunes and sand surfing down.

More recently the “Tuesday Crew” plus Jake, decided to explore in their own back yard! We completed a 24 mile hike in the Zirkel Wilderness Area which included summiting Lost Ranger and hiking along the Continental Divide. It was amazing to see the incredible beauty that is so close to the ranch!

Paddle Boarding in Colorado

By Steph

With seat bones sore and bodies worn out, paddle boarding has been a great mid-week option for our guests on a warm summer day. Paddling around a lake, taking in the scenery, and just relaxing with a cool breeze has left folks refreshed and ready to hit the trail the next day! Learn more about summer vacation activities at Vista Verde Ranch.

Vista Verde Quarter Horses – Foal Update

By Kerri

In the blink of an eye, our foals have been growing up so quickly! Here is a quick update to catch you up on who is who and the personalities they are growing into. All of these foals are by our stallion Gunshy Ganster.

Registered Name: Fully Baretta
: Baretta
Filly or Colt: Filly
Dam (mom): Full Persuaded a.k.a. Rachel
Qualities: Fiesty and Spunky

Baretta (800x600)

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Registered Name:
 Calamity Jane
Nickname: C.J.
Filly or Colt: Filly
Dam: Mary Jane Reyn a.k.a. M.J.
Qualities: Refined and Loving

P1010216 (800x600)

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Registered Name:
 Charm N Guns
Nickname: Charm
Filly or Colt: Filly
Dam: Whimsys Last Chic a.k.a. Flicka
Qualities: Calm and Bossy

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Registered Name:
 Catch My Drift
Nickname: Drifter
Filly or Colt: Colt
Dam: Lucky Charm Dunegan a.k.a. Lucky
Qualities: Shy and Calm
Drifter (533x800)

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Registered Name:
 Sly Shooter Levi
Nickname: Levi
Filly or Colt: Colt
Dam: Reyn N Cups O Joe a.k.a. Sassy
Qualities: Curious and Loving
Levi (800x533)P1010603 (800x600)

Registered Name:
 Shootin Sage
Nickname: Sage
Filly or Colt: Filly
Dam: Emmie Oaklys a.k.a. Oakley
Qualities: Sweet and Sassy

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Registered Name:
Nickname: Shooter
Filly or Colt: Colt
Dam: Reynyday Whoamann a.k.a. Teletubby
Qualities: Calm and Carefree

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Registered Name:
 Paid N Made
Nickname: Sonja
Filly or Colt: Filly
Dam: Instant Paychex a.k.a. Chex
Qualities: Sweet and Curious

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Unlikely Friends

By Steph

dude ranch foal and catGoing down to the mare barn to visit the mares and foals is always a great time. But this year there has been an extra special source of fun down there. It’s an unlikely friendship between Bandit the cat and the foals. I saw it first this spring, when we had only two foals on the groud, and many more to go. But, as the other foals have arrived and settled into the herd, we’re learning that Bandit is not exclusive in his friendship with the foals. He likes them all!

Now, let me explain, this is not just a cat that likes to sit on the fence near the foals. This cat gets in there and loves on these foals like you can’t imagine! His first pick is a snoozing foal as that makes for the best cuddling. Even better is when he can roll around and get some nuzzles as that gets all those itchy spots on his back.

Believe it or not, the foals love him! They follow him around, nuzzle him, snuggle with him and even sometimes nibble on him. They do draw the line when he starts to knead with his claws too much. Who wouldn’t?

Enjoy these amazing photos, most of them captured by staff member Suzanna Bloom. Even better, come join us for a ranch vacation and you can join the foal clinic and see Bandit in action!



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Spotlight On – Cori Webb

By Steph

Even the horses love Cori's infectious giggles.

Even the horses love Cori’s infectious giggles.

If you’ve been following the ranch on our various social media outlets, you’ve already met Cori Webb via her photography. I figured it was time to officially introduce her so people could know the person behind the lens.

Cori is originally from Indiana, and attended Indiana University to study elementary education before making Vista Verde her home. She is in her 5th season working at the ranch and has a wide variety of experience from working as a kid supervisor, housekeeper, teen wrangler, and my favorite spot for her in the front office (Cori would disagree as she prefers to be outside, but we’d have her back any day!).

photo 3So, how does Cori end up with all these phenomenal photos? She isn’t a trained photographer, but has always been drawn to the camera and capturing moments around her. Cori’s interest was piqued after a photography class in high school, and she has been shooting ever since. Being at the ranch, she mostly takes photos of the natural world, but she would really like to spend some more time taking photos of people going forward. She loves children, so maybe there’s a future in family photo shoots? Possibly as a side gig as her main focus is elementary education.

summer storm




As with any great VVR staff who settles at the ranch for a while, and much to our chagrin, Cori’s time is coming to move on in life. After this summer she will be heading down the mountain and giving city life a try in Denver. She’s hoping to find a teaching job there so she can start applying her talents with children in the classroom.

When asked what she would miss most about the ranch, Cori answers, “”There are so many incredible aspects to the ranch, but the community is definitely what I’m going to miss the most. This place has become home over the last few years.

horse in sun cori webbIt’s been a gift for us to have Cori as part of the family all these years. On top of her great contributions to the guest experience, and our staff community, we’ve been able to share the beauty of the ranch with so many people through her photos. We hope you enjoy her photos throughout this summer!