This week at the Ranch

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

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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!

Loving the summer, but thinking of fall

By Steph

bayleeFive weeks into our summer season we are loving the sunny days, the green mountains, the wildflowers and the many adventures on the trail. But, as we look forward and prepare for what’s to come, our thoughts are also turning to the fall, and even the winter.

The end of August brings the start of our adult-only weeks. It’s such a fun time! Four of those weeks are cattle round-up weeks, as we bring in the cows from the forest before the weather turns. Then, in October we move into the option of shorter stays. Guests can either join us for our Sunday-Sunday stays, or come for a little shorter version of the dude ranch week with a Sunday-Thursday or Thursday-Sunday option. This is a great time to enjoy the seasonal transition as the valley prepares for the coming winter.

October is also a great time for business retreats. If you’ve ever thought of planning a retreat at a ranch, this is a great time to take advantage of our lower fall rates and bring your group together at Vista Verde.

Although much of the fall is full at this point, there is still space during the first few weeks in October. Come out and join us for a little fall fun in the Rocky Mountains!

Winter Vacations at Vista Verde

by Steph

Sleigh ride ColoradoThe other evening, I got to enjoy a wonderful dinner with some of our guests. The evening was a stitch with the guests firing questions at me, left and right. They told me at the end that I passed my annual job review, and I could come back to work the next day. Phew.

But, during the conversation, one question stood out to me (ok, besides the “brilliant” marketing ideas we were passing around such as adding cow tipping, among other things). The question was, “What would it look like for me to come here with my family during the winter?” The point of the question was that guest said when he found our website, he saw that we offer winter stays as well. But, although he could imagine the summer vacation concept he couldn’t really wrap his head around what a winter vacation at Vista Verde would be like for his family. So, I began to paint the picture. Here’s how it went.

winter horse back ridingWinter vacations at Vista Verde are magical. That’s the best word I can use to describe them. The snow is piled up as high as the fences, which muffles all the noise and looks like a sea of marshmallows. When it’s a snowy day, flakes fall gently out of the sky- sometimes huge fluffy flakes, sometimes small tiny specks. On the bluebird sky days, the snow sparkles like a field of diamonds and the sun warms us all as we play outside.

For the romantics, a winter vacation at Vista Verde is like none other. Ok, no itsy bitsy string bikinis here. But, imagine a cozy cabin with a fire roaring inside. The hot tub bubbles on the deck, waiting for you to come out and sit under the stars. No TV, no phone, no distractions from the one you love. Reading by the fire, chatting in the hot tub….it’s up to you.

kids sledding on their winter vacationFor families, I firmly believe there is no better place to introduce kids to snow. Unlike the big ski resorts, there are no lines here. No crowds. No hassle of renting gear, figuring out ski schools, finding your kids, hauling your wet and tired kid all the way across a mountain to get back to your condo, dealing with the neighbors who are staying up all night partying. Out here it’s quiet, quaint and comfortable. Kids can experience all sorts of different snow based activities. If they get cold, it’s just a hop over to the cabin to change clothes and warm up. Someone is always looking out for them with our small community atmosphere. It’s easy, safe and fun. And every kid needs to experience the joy of snow at least once while they are still young enough to want to make snow angels.

All inclusive resort ColoradoWhat do you do? Are there enough activities? Well, give back country skiing a try, or take a skate ski lesson. If that seems like too much technique (it’s not, we promise even a total novice can do it) then let our guides take you out on a back country snowshoe. Ride a horse in the snow. Take a horsemanship clinic in the heated indoor arena. Go for a sleigh ride. We have the one horse open sleigh….it doesn’t get any more classic than that. Help us feed our herd of horses the old fashioned way on the big sleigh pulled by the draft horse team. Step inside for a wine tasting or a cooking class. Stretch out with some yoga. Learn the finer points of using your camera in our photography workshop. Tube! We’ll pull you up the hill with snowmobiles and then you can fly back down on a big, cushy snow tube. If that’s not enough, head into Steamboat for dogsledding or snow mobiling, or even downhill skiing. Trust us, there is plenty to do in between those amazing meals.

If you’ve ever wanted to experience a classic winter resort, it’s time to try Vista Verde Ranch in the winter! As much as I’m loving the summer season right now, thinking about winter gets me excited to bundle up and go out to play in the snow. Soon enough we’ll be enjoying the winter wonderland again.




Where’s Willie?

By Steph

There’s a little game we play with the kids who come to Vista Verde Ranch. It involves a moose name Willie and some bedtime snacks. You see, each evening the housekeeping fairies visit the cabins and leave a little something for mom and dad, along with a snack for the kids. The snack is guarded by Willie the Moose. However, most nights Willie gets a little sneaky and hides with the snack. All good and fun, right?

Willie the dude ranch mooseWell, not always. Yesterday, housekeeping fairy Emily was stumped when she came by to clean up one of the cabins in the morning. She couldn’t find Willie. He was missing. If you’ve been following us for a while, you may be aware of the Willie the Moose book, and may even have your own copy. If you’ve read the book, you know that Willie is a funny critter so maybe it’s not a surprise that he went hiding. (If you don’t have the book, pardon the shameless plug but you can buy one now!)

If you know housekeeping fairy Emily, you may also know that she is a wee bit vertically challenged, so it’s no surprise that it took her a while to find Willie. As you can see, he went for a bit of a climb overnight. But, fear not, he has been rescued and returned to his happy place in the cabin. However, let us just say it now to Jack and Austin. Game on. Good luck finding your snack tonight!


All-American food for an All-American Vacation, but with a luxurious twist

By John, with some input from Steph, and excerpts from product sites

The other day, Chef John showed up in my office beaming with excitement to share a slice of “ham”. I put that in quotes, because that’s what I thought it was. After a 5 minute enthusiastic explanation, I realized this isn’t just “ham”. So, I asked John to give me a little more info on some of the other things like “ham” that he’s excited about in the kitchen for this summer. As you can see, Chef John does not lack enthusiasm for amazing culinary products (catch him talking fishing and you’ll find this extends to his life as an angler). Here’s what he has to say about where he and Chef Cholly are taking things this summer:

This season, instead of looking for inspiration from across the world, we decided to look right in our backyard to see what small and specialty producers are doing close to home. The cooking techniques and products that we are using are specific to regions of the states that are known for their unique contributions to the culinary world. Also we are featuring local, organic and heirloom varieties whenever possible, this includes meats and dairy with no antibiotics or growth hormones. Here is some info on a few of the products we’re excited to be serving our guests at Vista Verde: 

Edward’s family hams in Virginia

Developed as an All-American alternative to Europe’s dry-cured hams, Edwards Surryano Ham is crafted from rare heritage breed hogs. The purebred Berkshires are pasture-raised to create perfectly marbled meat. Hand-cured, hickory-smoked and aged, the unforgettable rich flavor matches and surpasses anything from across the pond.

Hams from S. Wallace Edwards & Sons in Surry, Virginia, are prepared in the true Virginia Tradition.

Long before the first settlers arrived at Jamestown in 1607, the Native Americans had been curing venison and fish, plentiful in forest and rivers.

The taste of the salt-cured and smoked meat was different from the sun-dried method the settlers knew in their native England.

The settlers soon brought hogs which were left to forage New World vegetation including nuts and acorns. By 1608, the colonists were keeping their hogs on an island five miles below the Jamestown settlement. The island soon became known as Hog Island, as it is today over three centuries later. In 1652, Surry County was formed encompassing Hog Island and much other land across the James River from Jamestown.

These early colonists soon developed a process of smoking pork over hickory and oak fires, after rubbing it with salt obtained from evaporating seawater, then allowing the meat to stand for a period of time. The salt preserved the meat, the smoking and aging enhanced the flavor.

When other crops failed or tobacco prices fell, there were always hams to trade; thus, Virginia hams were exported to England from Surry.

For generations, ham curing has been a seasonal event for Virginia farmers. Hogs were killed in the winter and their meat packed in salt while the weather was cool enough to keep it from spoiling. The meat then was rinsed and hung to dry and smoke during the remaining cool months. With luck, it would endure the high temperatures of summer age.

In 1926, S. Wallace Edwards, the young captain of the Jamestown-Surry ferry began selling ham sandwiches to his passengers. The ham had been cured by him as on the family farm according to those time tested methods.

Soon demand became great enough that S. Wallace Edwards began curing hams on a full time basis, distributing them to country stores and fine hotels, and shipping them throughout the country and overseas.

S. Wallace Edwards & Sons remains a family operation in Surry County not far from Jamestown where Native Americans taught the settlers to cure meat. Today’s facilities simulate the seasons without sacrificing the care and attention that result in that unique flavor of Virginia hams.

In the time-honored style of the Native Americans, settlers and farmers before them, S. Wallace Edwards & Sons processes each ham by hand as it goes through the stages of curing.

Many days of cool “hickory” smoked are required to give these hams their rich mahogany color. They are then allowed to hang undisturbed for “aging” until they develop that real Virginia flavor. The very finest hams are selected and hand-rubbed with salt. They remain in the curing room under controlled temperature until the desired amount of salt has been absorbed. Excess salt is removed by washing and the hams are then pepper-coated and ready for hanging in the smokehouse.

Uncooked hams are ready to ship at this point others may go through a cooking process in the ham kitchen. These are submerged in water and slowly simmered until they are fully cooked and ready to be served.

We’re also bringing in heirloom and organic grains and legumes from Anson mills in south Carolina

Anson Mills founder and visionary Glenn Roberts grew up in San Diego, California, the son of a professional singer and photographer, and an erstwhile Southern belle from Edisto, South Carolina who became an accomplished scratch cook and occasional restaurateur. Glenn was a restless, deeply curious boy, who, by all accounts, required steady discipline to stay out of mischief. His mother tried to tame him by putting him to work on weekends as a busboy in her restaurant. His father taught him to fly an Aeronca Champ when he was just eight years old, using pillows to prop him up and two-by-fours wired to the rudder pedals. Both parents required their children to have musical training: Glenn studied French horn throughout his boyhood and adolescence, performing first in the San Diego Youth Symphony, and later occupying fourth chair in the San Diego Symphony. None of this, however, prevented Glenn from pursuing his real passion (and every parent’s nightmare): chemistry experiments. Working with explosive gas for a national science contest, Glenn blew the door off his parents’ garage on one occasion and decimated his mother’s kitchen on another. (The experiments earned him second place in the contest; the damages earned him a whipping.)

At 17, Glenn entered the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on a music and science scholarship and graduated four years later. A conventional life track, however, was too narrow to contain his energies: he joined the Air Force to feed his love of supersonic jets and flying and later sailed around the world on private yachts as a navigator and a mate (becoming, in the process, absorbed by indigenous foods of the tropical environment and the agriculture that accompanied them). He took up riding and dressage. He drove long-haul trucks.

Somewhere along the road of diversionary adventure, Glenn’s overarching interests distilled into the study of architectural history and the history of food. Settling down into a suit and proper shoes, he backed into historic property restoration from the kitchen door, working on space design and adaptive reuse in Virginia, the Carolinas, and Georgia. His geographic area ultimately narrowed to South Carolina where Glenn took on broader aspects of redesign projects, carrying those through to the hiring of chefs and marketing staff, and to the planning and execution of celebratory dinners at projects’ end. The menus he helped plan were intended to offer period-authentic dishes. But the ingredients didn’t exist: they were extinct. Local growers did not produce them and would not be persuaded to try. In particular, grains of the era like Carolina Gold rice, lynchpin of the Antebellum cuisine of South Carolina, were nearly impossible to source.

Glenn’s career epiphany came on a hot summer afternoon in the kitchen of an historic Charleston property. An elaborate rice dinner was just hours away, and the solitary source on earth for Carolina Gold rice at that time—a grower in Savannah—had delivered his product earlier in the day. When the chef opened the bag to cook the rice, the grains were writhing with weevils. Picking through the rice was laborious and time was of the essence. At 7 o’clock in the evening, Glenn found himself at a prep table with two dishwashers, sweating in his suit and tie, and rousting weevils from Carolina Gold, the dinner swirling by without him. He thought of his mother’s cooking when he was a boy. He looked at the lousy rice. He vowed to put Carolina Gold into serious production so this would never happen again.

For the next several years, between projects, Glenn grew small-plot Carolina Gold in Charleston and worked with a rice geneticist in Texas to reinvigorate the seed, which, through neglect and inactivity, had begun to display characteristics of its sister rice, Carolina White. To support his experiments in Carolina Gold, whose resurrection now represented for Glenn an all-consuming preoccupation (his mother, after all, was Geechee, a person who eats rice every day), he began to research other regional heirloom grains of the era that he could throw into production more quickly.

The research began with corn. In 1995, Glenn explored rural back roads looking for the famous white Carolina mill corn that was revered in Antebellum plantation inventories and recipes for its high mineral and floral characteristics and its creamy mouthfeel. He found this corn in a bootlegger’s field near Dillon, South Carolina in 1997, and planted and harvested his own first crop of 30 acres in 1998. Known as Carolina Gourdseed White, the single-family hand-select dated back to the late 1600s.

Glenn passed the Gourdseed grits around to chefs in Charleston and Atlanta, and they all went crazy.

The discovery of Carolina Gourdseed White, and of other nearly extinct varieties of Southern mill corn, fueled Glenn’s efforts to preserve nutrition and flavor in heirloom corn. But he knew the corn would have to be milled as carefully as it was grown.

Returning to historic documents, Glenn read about an heirloom that had been bred to blow down in late fall for hand harvest under snow in deep winter. The corn, an 1850 yellow dent of Appalachian provenance called John Haulk, was known to have made the “finest cornbread and mush.” The fact that it was milled under freezing conditions after full field ripening and drying puzzled Glenn until he froze and milled his own Gourdseed White. The flavors of the cold-milled corn were stunning. With this experiment, Glenn “rediscovered” cold milling and, in so doing, found a way to offset the heat damage grains experience between two stones. He also found a perfect place to store his seed corn: in the freezer.

At this point Glenn possessed a fully realized, madly ambitious plan: to make Carolina Gold rice a viable Southern crop, and to grow, harvest, and mill other nearly extinct varieties of heirloom corn and wheat organically. By doing this, Glenn hoped to re-create ingredients of the Antebellum Southern larder, ingredients that had vanished over time. Grits, cornmeal, Carolina Gold rice, graham and biscuit flour—these ingredients, all milled fresh daily for the table, had helped create a celebrated regional cuisine and America’s first cuisine: the Carolina Rice Kitchen.

Never one for half measures, Glenn, in 1998, sold his worldly possessions, tossed his business cards, and began living out of his car. He rented a sprawling metal warehouse behind a car wash in Columbia, South Carolina and bought four native granite stone mills. Anson Mills was born.

By 2000, Glenn had his first real harvest of Carolina Gold rice, as well as 10 varieties of heirloom Southern dent corns. He was milling grits for chefs in Georgia and the Carolinas. Word got around. A handful of ingredient-conscious chefs across the country began to use Anson Mills products and promote them vigorously to their colleagues. The circle widened.

In 2001, sustained by the success of Anson Mills’ early efforts, Glenn was able to take on full production of certified organic Carolina Gold rice and a “Thirteen Colony” wheat called Red May.

In 2004, Glenn found a complementary match for his drive and detail awareness in the diminutive personage of Kay Rentschler, a former chef and then freelance journalist for the New York Times dining section, as well other New York publications. On assignment for the Times to report on Glenn’s grits, Kay asked more questions and pursued the acquisition of information like few others he had known. Her Times article on Anson Mills, “A Grits Revival with the Flavor of the Old South,” brought such attention to the company that Glenn promptly fell in love. He married Kay, but could not keep her in the South. He’s not complaining: you can’t have everything.

Today, in addition to its collection of native heirloom grains, Anson Mills grows Japanese buckwheat, French oats and Mediterranean wheat, and Italian farro. Kay creates period-authentic recipes, catalogues the history and virtues of the ingredients and dishes alike, and is the photographer for

Glenn continues to be restless and deeply curious. He works tirelessly to manage his old grains, the land, and their growers, as well as chefs and retail customers. It’s a relentless effort. But only rarely must he wear a suit.

We also have tender bellly bacon and breakfast sausage and other heritage pork products

Entrepreneurial fires burned in both Erik and Shannon, along with a broad set of professional skills and most importantly, a love for good, pure, clean food and making the simple things extraordinary.

In 2010 they joined forces and started Tender Belly. An immediate hit, the lure of TASTY BACON and other outstanding PORK PRODUCTS was too good for chefs to pass up.

Now Erik and Shannon would like to offer a taste of Tender Belly to individuals like you, OUR FELLOW PORK LOVERS. we understand that anything good takes time and commitment. FINE PORK can only make its way to your table after the utmost care and devotion to the well-being of the animal. The animals live a stress-free life with plenty of open space to roam and exercise. This freedom promotes exquisite intramuscular marbling you can’t achieve any other way.

We also understand that the choice of diet influences the taste of what ends up on your plate; that is why they’re fed an all-natural 100% vegetarian diet.

Dedication to all these aspects is why TENDER BELLY PORK PRODUCTS are the finest and most mouthwatering on the market.


Go Time! Dude Ranch style

By Steph

The staff are all here now. The guests have booked their stays. The snow has melted (well, except for some up on the top of the Zirkels). The grass and wildflowers have re-appeared. The bikes have been tuned up. In fact, so have the horses….teeth floated, feet trimmed, vaccinated, and first rides out of the way. The chefs have practiced their meals. The staff have walked through mock rides, mock meals, mock dances, mock everythings. It’s time to open!

Sunday afternoon marks the first time we’ll have guests coming up the drive for the summer dude ranch season. We’re ready to kick off the season with a great group of guests, an excited staff and lots of fresh air and sunshine.

So, what have we been doing to prepare for these folks to come in and enjoy a great family vacation?

Nathan clearing a trail- so many trees were down this spring!

Nathan clearing a trail- so many trees were down this spring!

We devote two full weeks to training our staff and preparing for the summer season. The first week is spent focusing on the nuts and bolts of each department and establishing the culture of the ranch. The second week is the practice week, when we reinforce what they’ve learned and put it into play. Mixed in with all of this is some serious prep work. After a huge winter, there are a ton of fences to fix. The tack needs to be cleaned and oiled. The cabins need to be deep cleaned and polished up so they are ready for Sunday. The constructions projects need to be finished up (we upgraded the Hinman cabin flooring this spring and Bill did a remodel on the bunkhouse). Every spring we have to clear the down trees, so the wrangler and guide crew were out clearing trails on Wednesday. Staff photos are taken and new bios are written. The list goes on and on.

I did a “walk-about” this morning to check in on everyone. I kept hearing, “We’re ready, we just need to open now.” So, how about this? Let’s do it! Bring on Summer, as Olaf would say.



In search of inspiring photos from summer vacations at Vista Verde

By Steph

After pouring through all our photos in search of one to use for our new note cards, we realized we needed something fresh and inspiring.

Do you have an amazing photo from your summer vacation at Vista Verde Ranch? Are you willing to share it? If so, we’d love to consider it! We will have a box of note cards customized and printed for you if we select your photo for our cards.

Here are the many ways you can submit a photo:

1) Post it on our Facebook page.

2) Tweet it to us @vistaverderanch

3) Create a Pinterest board with you photos you want considered and email the url to

4) @mention us on Instagram @vistaverderanch

5) Email the photo to

Submit your photo by the end of Memorial Day weekend (close of day, May 26, 2014) and then we’ll pick the finalists and post them on Facebook for some voting action.

Keep in mind that we will need a high resolution image for the final product, so if yours is selected we will reach out to you to get that version.

Thank you, and we look forward to seeing your photos!

Day Dreaming of your Vista Verde vacation?

By Kelli

Make it productive by doing these simple exercises to get your body ready too!

dreaming of your Colorado vacation

While at your desk…

Sit Tall

One of the best things you can do for your body is to sit properly throughout your day. Sit at the edge of your chair with your feet flat on the floor. Lengthen your spine, gently pulling in your lower abs to support the low back so that your spine is in a neutral position (keeping the natural curve to your spine). Pull your shoulders back gently with shoulder blades down the back. Try to maintain this position for several minutes or until your muscles start to fatigue. Picture yourself in the saddle; building postural strength will help prevent back fatigue/pain while riding, using the natural curve of the spine as a shock absorber.

Calf Raise/Hip Stretch

You get two for the price of one with this exercise! Once again, sit at the edge of your chair with your feet flat on the floor. Cross your right leg on top of the left so that your right ankle is resting on your left thigh, just above the knee. Ahh, a great stretch for your right hip! Maintaining that position, push your left toes down into the floor so that your left heel lifts up off the floor, engaging your left calf muscle. Raise and lower several times until you feel slight fatigue in the left calf muscle. Repeat on the other side. Building calf strength will help you hike up those mountains and hip flexibility will be a bonus in all your activities at the ranch, even barn dance!

Chair Slides

This exercise only works if you have an office chair with wheels. Sit on the end of your chair with your feet flat on the floor, knees bent. Sit up tall and hold on to each side of your chair with your hands. Push the chair backwards so that your legs start to straighten out in front of you but your feet remain on the floor. Next pull the chair forward so that you are back where you began. When pushing and pulling back and forth, keep your core engaged yet stay tall in your seat. A great glute and hamstring workout to prepare for that push/pull on those bike pedals.


Ball Squeeze

Do you have an extra ball lying around the house? Take it to work with you and get those adductors (inner thigh muscles) ready for riding! A 4” ball is ideal but anything close to that will work. Place the ball between the knees and keep the feet flat on the floor. You can squeeze the ball and release several times or squeeze and hold the squeeze for several seconds, then release. As always, sit with great posture and keep your core slightly engaged while squeezing. Believe it or not, this exercise will make you a better communicator with your horse (not sure how it works with spouses!) Slight leg movements and pressure applied with the thighs tell your horse what you want them to do!

Chair Twists

Twisting is a great way to loosen up the torso and squeeze out tension in the body. Plus, it just feels great after sitting at your desk for long periods. It is very important to always lengthen the spine before twisting it, so start off by sitting tall. Keep your feet flat on the floor and start the twist from your belly. As you start to twist to the right, place your left hand on the outside of your right knee and allow your torso and shoulders to follow the twist. If your right hand reaches the back seat of your chair, you can grab a hold, but don’t force the twist by pulling yourself further with your right hand. Just let the twist happen naturally. Make sure to keep yourself tall throughout the whole twist, not collapsing as you twist. Hold the twist for a few breathes, then slowly unwind from the twist. Repeat on the other side. Practicing the twist will help you be more flexible in the saddle, allowing you to chat with the “Dude” behind you on the trail, not to mention enjoying the beautiful 360 view!

Camel Pose

No camels on the ranch, just horses. We are borrowing this pose from yoga class, as it is a great chest opener, something everyone who sits at a desk can benefit from. Once again, sit near the edge of your chair, with feet flat, and posture tall. Place your fists behind each glute and draw your elbows towards each other, shoulder blades coming together too. Lift your chest up towards the ceiling, lengthening the spine, keeping the neck in line with the spine. Breathe into the stretch, holding it for a few seconds, then releasing. Repeat several times during the day, each time imagining all those stars you will be able to see from your hot tub at night.


So enjoy your productive day dreaming and before you know it, you will be here, fit and ready to take on all the exciting activities at VVR. We look forward to seeing you soon!

Turning up the heat- 17 days until the dude ranch season starts

By Steph

The hush that settled in over the ranch back at the end of March is about to be blown up with the energy, excitement and enthusiasm of an incoming crew of new staff, as well as some great returners. During the off-season, the seasonal staff headed out for their down-time, and those of us who stick around year round got out our oh-too-long to-do lists and started plugging away at them in the quiet of an empty dude ranch. For some of us it was a peaceful time of knocking out one project after another. For some (ok, mainly Bill) it is a frantic scramble of trying to get all the projects done that can only be done when we are closed. But, all that is wrapping up as we prepare for the start of our orientation weeks.

You see, we take training our staff very seriously. We invest two solid weeks into infusing the culture of the ranch into them, teaching them the ins and outs of their jobs, building a sense of community between all of them, and helping them wrap their heads around why we take all the little details so seriously. It’s a fun 2 weeks, but an intense 2 weeks.

The snow has melted and the flowers are starting to bloom.

The snow has melted and the flowers are starting to bloom.

Beka and Ben have spent the past couple weeks finalizing the housing list, pouring over the timing of the orientation schedule, and then panicking and finding new staff members when they get that dreaded call, “I’m not going to be able to make it out there to work after all.” Now, the arrivals are plugged into our calendars, Devyn is getting all the staff housing tidied up and ready (some spaces a bit more frantically as she waits for Bill to put the finishing touches on his bunkhouse remodel), and we’re all realizing that we have only about 3 more days to finish crossing projects off our to-do lists before they get put away for the summer.

If you are coming out to visit this summer, our promise to you is that we will pour everything we can into these amazing young people coming to work at our ranch, so that they can do their best guiding, helping, caring for and serving you on your vacation. We’ll leave it to them to share their talent, humor, intellect and varied backgrounds with you around the dinner table and on the trail. In the next week we’ll be updating the staff bios on the website so you can learn more about all these great people.

If you don’t have plans to visit this summer, keep in mind we’ve had a couple cancellations in June. So, it may not be too late to schedule an amazing dude ranch vacation. Just 17 days and we’ll be ready to share our beautiful backyard with you! Give Malori or Steph a call at 800-526-7433 for more information on openings.

Summer dude ranch special

By Steph

It was booked, then it wasn’t, then it was booked again, then it fell through….we have had an elusive hole in our otherwise full summer season. And we want to finish up filling our summer dude ranch season so we can move on to focusing on spiffing up the place so it’s ready for guests!

The week is June 1-8 – Opening week, wildflowers, rushing rivers, staff who are soooo excited to have you here finally!

The cabin can hold up to 8 people.

Here’s the deal:

Book 4 people- get 10% off

Book 5 people – get 15% off

Book 6 people – get 20% off

Book 7-8 people – get 25% off

Spread the word or grab this spot for yourself!

Want it? Give Malori or Steph a call at 800-526-7433 or email us at


Colorado Spring fever

By Steph

It’s a well documented medical condition that occurs in Steamboat once or twice a year. Doctors are stumped as to how to vaccinate for this problem, yet they find that the symptoms come on strong and fast. It’s called Coloritis Springius Feverium, casually known to physicians as CSF or Colorado Spring Fever. A huge case has hit the ranch this past week. It’s still spring break time at the ranch, as we wait for the snow to melt and the trails to dry out. We had a bout of the fever about a month ago, when the sun came out, the snow started to melt quickly, and the birds began singing. But it cleared out when the snow and cold weather returned, only to come back even stronger this past weekend.

Symptoms are quite similar among patients and range from inability to sit at a desk for an extended period of time, extreme giddiness, waking up early, and sore facial muscles from excessive smiling. We had the vet up the other day for some horses, and she did a quick examination on our many patients (come on, she’s medically trained one way or another) and she prescribed a simple treatment plan. Get outside and play!

Cori's view of spring sprouts from Scotch's back.

Cori’s view of spring sprouts from Scotch’s back.

So, we did. Brandon went fishing, while Beka and I were on a road bike ride yesterday, Steve and Kelli passed us with their mountain bikes loaded on the 4-runner. Maybe they were headed to lower elevation and dry trails? Cori and Mandy rode Scotch and Whiskey Girl up the nature trail, Charlie seems to keep finding “projects” he needs to go check on all over the ranch, and Alaya and Cholly have little Eamon snugged up in the front pack for miles and miles of walking. And Ben and Holly have been keeping busy cleaning out their garage. What? I know, to each their own.

Although we are following the Dr.’s orders quite vigilantly, we are not seeing a drop in our symptoms. In fact, it seems that the elation levels are only rising. But, you know what? That’s just fine with us!!

Word has it that cruddy weather is sneaking back in later this week. After the high (ok, we don’t need any wise jokes about Colorado’s new laws) of the past 6 days, there may actually need to be some interventions going on for those of us crashing down off that high. It will just give us some time to dream of the coming months and miles and miles of trails waiting for us to take you out and play. 26 days until we open!


Staff Spotlight on Malori- Working at a Dude Ranch

By Steph

working at a dude ranchIt’s been a while since I did a spotlight on one of our staff, and with a handful of staff stepping up into manager roles this spring, I thought it would be perfect to highlight some of these great folks. This week, meet Malori Plush.

Many of you who have been at the ranch in the past couple years have already met Malori. Born and raised in Colorado Springs, CO, Malori joined us back in 2012 as a server in the dining room. She has since helped out in many areas around the ranch before stepping into the role of Front Desk Manager. She is taking on overseeing all the Front Office staff, operations as well as being the main gal in charge of reservations. So, chances are that if you call the ranch, you’ll talk to her!

Malori graduated from the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs with a Bachelor of Science in Business with an emphasis in International Business, and a minor in Spanish.

Before coming to Vista Verde she worked as an Economic Development Intern at the Mayor’s Office in Colorado Springs. She did lots of national research on small business sustainability and filled in as the Mayor’s secretary. Just before her internship ended the Waldo Canyon Fire started in Colorado Springs, she was given the hefty role of managing the 5 City Twitter accounts (Mayor, Sheriff, Fire Dept. etc.) and collect volunteer hours for FEMA. After the fire ended, she directly assisted the City Event Planner to coordinate the Waldo Canyon Fire Heroes Celebration (over 400 attendees). That may have been what peaked her interest in event planning, which is on her radar to pursue as she moves forward in life.

It seems to be a combination of things that led Malori to Vista Verde. In her words, “learning about small business sustainability made me want to work for a small business, I enjoy coordinating and working with other people, and I love the mountains.”

Malori has a pretty good case of “wanderlust” – she has traveled to 8 different countries so far (Morocco, Switzerland, Thailand…), and many more to go. She loves fly fishing, country two step and swing dancing, hiking, volleyball, sushi and micro brews.

We hope you get the chance to meet Malori this summer. She’s a great part of our team, and we’re excited to help her grow in her new role!

How to find the best dude ranch horses

By Steph

I giggled a bit at the title of this blog post. If anyone could truly answer that, they’d be worth a lot. Or at least they’d have a lot of dude ranchers for friends. Every dude ranch owner that I know struggles with this- finding great horses for their guests to enjoy. You see, every year we have to retire some horses as they can’t keep going at the pace we go at in the mountains and need a little more leisurely lifestyle. Then, there are the horses that just don’t cut it. They might be great horses, but they are horses who need a single owner and not different riders each week. When all is said and done, we end up needing new horses every year. And, there lies the challenge.

new horses for our dude ranch herd at Vista VerdeBuying horses is an art. First you have to consider age and training. Some really young horses are calm and collected, but many are still a little “green” as we call them. For our guests, we want horses who are trustworthy and safe first. But, we don’t want horses that are too old as we need them to be able to handle the many miles we put on out on the trail. We pride ourselves in taking care of our horses with healthy feed, monitoring them for needed rest, proper hoof care and vet care. But, even with all that, our horses need to be like a strong athlete and able to perform to the task. Next up is size and confirmation. Put into car terms, if they are built well, they will run longer and with fewer trips to the mechanic’s shop. Finally, how are they trained, and what is their temperament? Are they kind? Are they responsive? Do they have enough good training to be soft, supple and easy to cue? Will they overreact to a scary situation or stay cool and calm?

Ok, so we’ve laid out the criteria, but it’s not like there is a superstore of horses out there and you just go and pick them out. We go to sales, we watch the classifieds, we spread the word among our horse friends, and then we drive around and try out a lot of frogs before we find our princes. And, once we find them, we have to bring them back to the ranch and get to know them. Sometimes we find out that our prince wasn’t as much of a prince as we thought on first glance….so then we have to find a better fit for them with someone else.

All said, it’s a process that requires long hours in the truck, a critical eye and a sense of understanding a horse’s heart. Ben, Nate and Mandy are spending their spring doing just this. So far, we’ve found 3 who we think will be keepers. They are settling into their new home and we’re getting to know them. As you can see by the fact that he hopped on with no halter or bridle or saddle, Nate is pretty confident this guy, “Dusty”, will work out well.

Wish us well in the shopping process. If you’re coming for a dude ranch vacation this summer, maybe you’ll get to try out one of these new rides!

Spring break adventures

By Steph

Good luck closing that gate right now!

Good luck closing that gate right now!

Typically when we close down for the spring break at Vista Verde, it’s because all that amazing snow that Colorado is known for needs to melt away, which leads to a lot of mud. This year, the memo seems to have missed the mountains, as we’ve been getting more days of snow than sun in April. We could have stayed open another month, and still be hosting families coming for spring break vacations! But, hindsight is 20-20, of course. So, we’re making the best of it and trying to enjoy these fun spring conditions while the ranch is closed down.

There are several special times that happen throughout the spring in the mountains of Colorado. One of them is a small window of time when fly fishing the rivers is prime. It comes right in between the end of winter and spring. Brandon will be writing about that in an upcoming installment of The Fly. The other is crust skiing season. This “season” can come and go throughout the spring, depending on the conditions. We had those perfect conditions for our spring break week earlier in March. And, after weeks of fresh snow, we just hit those conditions again today.

crust skiing during our spring breakPerfect spring crust skiing conditions arrive when the snow base is still deep but the spring sun has been beating on the top layer of snow for a day or two. Then, if you get a hard freeze overnight, the snow forms a perfect firm crust that you can walk on, bike on or ski on. No grooming equipment needed to pack down the snow, you just go wherever you want.

This morning I anticipated those conditions and grabbed my skis as I headed out the door to the Lodge. After getting a few things done in the office, waiting for the sun to peek over the Continental Divide, I put on my boots, hopped over the fence (it’s easy as it’s only peeking out about 4 inches above the snow) and hit the meadows.

Skating around the ranch property on the crust allows for you to go almost anywhere. I was in the meadows, playing slalom with the aspens, and dodging willows. Then I crossed a snow bridge over the creek, hopped a few more fences and ended up enjoying the sun breaking over the mountain as I headed toward Indian Hill. You can ski fast and far without much effort on the crust.

wildlife at Vista Verde RanchI didn’t see much wildlife, but there were a lot of tracks, and I was being watched at one point by a large winged friend (couldn’t tell what kind of hawk it was). Otherwise, it was perfectly silent and I glided across the snow.

Although we’re all dreaming of summer days right now, we would be foolish to not seize the moment to enjoy these experiences during our spring break! You never know what and when the right conditions will apply, but if you want to explore the idea of having a spring break vacation while we’re open in March next year, maybe we’ll get you out crust skiing!

Spring Break in Colorado

By Steph

Kelli and Steve out on a spring crust snow bike ride.

Kelli and Steve out on a spring crust snow bike ride.

Spring has arrived at Vista Verde Ranch, and we’re all enjoying a little break between our winter season and the start of summer. Although there is still a lot of snow on the ground, there is also a lot of mud starting to creep up around the ranch. Our version of spring break in Colorado means early morning crust skate skiing and snowbiking, long walks down the driveway (it’s the only place that isn’t muddy or slushy right now), riding the young horses as much as we can in the arena, but also introducing them to strolls down the driveway, and road biking. Or, if you ask Ben, it might just mean turning on the big screen to March Madness. Either way, we’re enjoying the sunshine, the birds singing the the sound of slushy snow.

After having so many people request for us to stay open a bit later for spring break vacations, we decided to add another week next winter. So, for those of you who’s spring break schedules allow, we’ll be open until March 21 in 2015. Spring break getaways at Vista Verde are a little different than the rest of the winter. Typically the weather is warmer, the snow is melting and mud boots are handy during the warm afternoons on the walkways and driveway. But, with that warm weather there are some fun opportunities. Slush skiing in the afternoon. Crust skate skiing in the morning. Snow biking on the crust is the best (I’m sneaking out soon for a quick ride) and there is something super fun about being on a ski with short sleeve shirts. Give us a call if you’re interested in making a spring break trip to Colorado next year!

Oh, is that a chickadee I hear? Must mean the sun is coming up and it’s time for me to hop on that bike.

And that’s a wrap- our winter season comes to an end

By Steph

After breakfast this morning, our last guests of the season will check out and head home. We closed out the winter season with a fabulous final day yesterday. The 12 guests attending the horsemanship clinic rode hard, laughed a lot and finished strong. The energy in the indoor arena was wonderful when I went down to watch them ride yesterday. There were four wranglers in there teaching, each sharing their own perspective on horsemanship and helping give tips to the guests as they tried out complicated maneuvers with their horses. Nate, Mandy, John and Terry were instructing and helping our guests understand the nuances of how they were using their bodies to send cues to their horses. It was fun to watch Terry and John relish in their last time teaching at the ranch before they both head off for their next adventures in life. And it was great to see Mandy and Nate step up to the plate and establish themselves as talented teachers with their own style, preparing to step into their new roles as trainer and head wrangler at Vista Verde.

Mark, Kim and Mike with their Guide Training diplomas.

Mark, Kim and Mike with their Guide Training diplomas.

In the afternoon, Melissa and I walked over to the other side of the river to celebrate the graduation of our first “class” of guest guides. In our inaugural Guide Training for Guests we had 3 guests try out the course. It was everything I could have imagined and better. Steve, Kelli and Brandon put together an amazing, information packed course for these guests to learn how to head out into the backcountry safely. Anyone who likes to hike, fish, bike, ski, snowshoe, you name it…..should take this course. Our guests learned about the dangers, reading the land, navigating, first aid and safety, proper dress, shelter building, and the list goes on. I enjoyed hearing them share their new knowledge and realization that they can’t believe they used to go out without all this information before. Congrats to the class of 2014, and happy trails.

Today brings a flurry of cleaning, closing down cabins, deep cleaning the kitchen, putting away the skis, and wrapping up the winter season. Tomorrow we’ll get the key players to sit down and hash out all the ins and outs of this past winter, what worked, what didn’t, what changes do we want to make next year. Friday night the staff will come over to my house for dinner before heading off to watch KP and Bubba dance in tights (ok, that’s just our joke….they’ll be in their cowboy boots and jeans we hope) at the annual Steamboat Dance Showcase. Then many of the staff will be loading up their cars or hopping on planes to head off to vacation or their next step in life. A small group of us stick around in the off-season and start hitting our to-do lists. Mine’s a mile long, and I’m looking forward to some quiet days of catching up, but also sneaking out to play a bit. I’ve got my eye on a little mare down in the barn and there’s still some snow out there to enjoy before it melts away completely.

Thank you to all the wonderful people who made this past winter season at Vista Verde so fun. We loved watching families try out a snow vacation for the first time. The honeymooners here on a snowy honeymoon were sweet and fun. The couples rekindling the romance, the singles coming to share their experience with friends, the girlfriend getaways, and all the other ways people found to experience Vista Verde in the winter made this a memorable and action packed season. Thanks for playing with all of us at the ranch this past winter.