colorado ranch Tag

Touring Colorado

I have had the pleasure of serving on the board of the Colorado Dude and Guest Ranch Association for the past 7 years. One of the parts of that job that is really fun is inspecting other ranches. Each member ranch is inspected every 3 years and then any ranches that want to join get a fairly in-depth inspection.

I’ve done one member ranch inspection already this summer and took Bill along with me as he had never been to any other ranches. It was fun to have him along for that visit and we enjoyed sharing our thoughts on that Colorado ranch on our drive home. This week I had to go visit two ranches who are applying for membership in the Colorado Dude and Guest Ranch Association. It was a whirlwind tour through several counties to get to these two ranches and spend some time getting to know them. The biggest treat for me was I got to spend the night at one of them and enjoyed a nice dinner with their guests and manager. It reminded me how fun it is to be a guest! I love the Steamboat area and our landscape here, but it is refreshing to be reminded of the diversity in Colorado. I went from the most extreme mountain passes with craggy rocks and snowcapped peaks to the farmland of Colorado, home of fresh peaches and cherries, then back over another pass with a lush forest and multiple lakes off of every turn in the road, then into the rocky, dry high desert with sagebrush and amazing rock formations, and finally back home to beautiful Steamboat Springs and my favorite ranch, Vista Verde. Hey, there’s a reason I’m still here after all these years. It was great to catch up with our guests again this morning and find out what adventures they’ve had the past couple days. There’s never a dull moment and it sounds like there have been memories made for everyone, and still more to come!

Introducing Poncho and Lefty

The past year has been a bit of a challenge for the ranch and our draft horse teams. Sadly, we lost Zig during the summer of 2009. Zig was part of our Percheron team, and his buddy Zag was left with an empty harness next to him after Zig passed. With draft horse teams, it can be hard to pair up horses who haven’t grown up together and learned to pull together. We gave it a shot with another draft horse named Whopper, but he and Zag weren’t a good match. So we bought a young team named Ben and Jerry, hoping they could work into being our rising stars. Well, the stars didn’t rise quite the way we wanted, and they didn’t have quite the right mindset for what we wanted in a team. We did successfully pair up young Ben with Zag this past winter, and it was a great learning experience for Ben to learn from an old-timer like Zag. But, as Zag is aging and having a harder time with the hard work of pulling the feed sleigh every day, we realized that we needed to find a pair that could step into the role right away and being in our starting line-up. So, with that, we introduce Poncho and Lefty. These guys come from a nearby rancher who didn’t need a team anymore, much like Zig and Zag when we first got them. They’ve done it all and we’re excited to start working with them to see how they do for Vista Verde. The team just got here last week, so they are still settling in and are a little nervous, as many horses tend to be when placed into a new setting. We’ll let them get comfortable with their setting and then hitch them up and see how it goes. Right now, they are living up at the barn with the ponies- Shamrock and Morris, who are not exactly intimidating pasture partners as you can see in this picture.
We are looking forward to introducing all the kids coming to our Colorado dude ranch this summer to Poncho and Lefty for the hay wagon ride we take out each Sunday evening. By the way, any guesses on who goes on the left side when hitched up?

Off Season Adventures

Although we don’t have any guests around right now, the ranch is nothing but quiet these days. The off-season is a time for knocking out projects on the to-do list, cleaning up from the winter, gearing up for the summer, and taking a little time off too.

This year, the off-season at our Colorado ranch began with a Wilderness First Aid training for many of our staff. It was an intense 4 days of training, but well worth it. You hate to think about the worst case scenarios, but it’s important to do that so if it ever happens we are prepared. With that done, we can focus on the best case scenarios and how to make the summer full of those! Before the winter season leaves our memory for too long we will have our End of Season meeting to talk through what worked and what needs tweaking. It’s that never ending quest for “betterness” (a Vista Verde made-up word) that keeps us all fired up and looking ahead. In addition to that meeting, Dace and I spent a couple days earlier this week in Denver at the Colorado Dude Ranch Association’s spring meeting. It’s always fun to get around other ranchers, share ideas and learn new tips and tricks. We had a cool experience this time of having one of our former guests come as a speaker on Labor Law. Not the most exciting topic, but Matt gave a lot of the ranchers much to think about and some really good tips for making sure we’re doing things the right way. It was also a pretty intense meeting for me as I am serving as President of the Association this year, so I had to be on my game and lead the group.

So between meetings, trainings, getting the Nordic center turned over into the Adventure Center, doing inventory in Fancy’s Merchantile, starting to work with some of the younger ranch horses who need tune-ups and keeping up with the recent snowfall (we thought it was spring?), it’s not exactly quiet around Vista Verde these days!

Romance at Vista Verde Ranch

 

I just got some great photos from a wedding of former staff members, and it got me thinking.  There are so many couples who met at Vista Verde as staff, who have now turned into wonderful marriages.  What is it about this place?  Between romantic honeymoon vacations, surprise engagement getaways and couples rekindling the flame over long winter weekend stays, Vista Verde does seem to have something going on in the romantic destination department.  But, it doesn't stop with the guests coming to our luxury guest ranch.  In fact, there is a pretty big track record of this place being a meeting spot for young folks who work at the ranch, who find a spark here, and then go on to get married down the road.

To start off, we should all send a huge congratulations to Stacy and Daniel Knapp, whose wedding this past weekend was beautiful.  The two of them worked at our Colorado dude ranch a while back. What was fun to hear about is that there were several other Vista Verde alumni included in their wedding.  Jess, Kimmie, Cliff and Lindsey were all in attendance, and a very special part of the event.  We wish all the best to the Knapp's in their marriage, and hope the Vista Verde magic continues to make it a wonderful relationship.

So, be careful if you choose to come to Vista Verde.  If you weren't looking for a romantic resort getaway, you might just end up with one.  If you work at the ranch, you just might end up with a spouse down the road.  If you come to the ranch as a guest, there is a good chance you will find the spark rekindled with your loved one.  And, if your boyfriend brings you on a trip here…..watch out for those romantic rides up to the Cliffs.  You might find something sparkly on your finger by the time you get back to the ranch.  

Glam.com article on our Luxury Dude Ranch

Bridle Party: Horsing Around at Vista Verde Ranch

I had never gotten on a horse before in my life. But after getting married in Beaver Creek, Colorado, my new husband and I started our all-American adventure in the sleepy city of Steamboat Springs, a quaint and charming town with lots of open land and a disproportionate population of horses. We had somehow wound up on very foreign territory at Vista Verde Ranch, a breathtaking and remote retreat where we were expected to ride and wrangle with the best of them. (When did I agree to this?) Good thing I’ve always had a soft spot for cowboy boots and hats. Hoist me up and let’s get saddled.

When I told friends we were honeymooning at a “luxury dude ranch,” most people were understandably skeptical. I’m not really known for my athleticism, I’m allergic to large, hairy animals (my husband aside), and I’ve never, ever expressed any interest in horseback riding – let alone dude ranching. Their concern was well justified. But luxury is something I am familiar with, and I held out hope that the two contradictory travel genres would cancel each other out and land me somewhere on middle ground.


Roughing It
Upon arrival, we were greeted by Stephanie, a genuine cowgirl training her horse and walking the grounds. She let us pet her kind-tempered companion and pointed us toward to our cottage where we’d be shacking up and playing house. “It’s our policy to leave everything unlocked around here so just walk right on in.” I laughed. Dan laughed… Oh, she was serious.

Our rustic two-story home away from home was anything but rough. This country-cute cottage was cozy and inviting with an open kitchen, large living area, master bedroom, two additional bedrooms, and two bathrooms. (At least if any intruders did sneak into our lock-free cottage, they wouldn’t have to sleep in bed with us.) The wood-burning fireplace made for cuddly, warm nights and the private patio Jacuzzi was a happy surprise. There are no TVs, but since our days were packed with vigorous activities, and our nights were meant for romantic rendezvous*, the lack of television was a welcome change. (*Read: we were so whipped from riding horses, hiking, and biking, that we’d pass out cold at 8 pm sharp.)


Gitty-Up!
Have I mentioned I’ve never gotten on a horse before? I’ll tell you one thing: it’s a lot higher up than it looks. I sadly swapped my straw hat for a hard helmet. Safety over style, my friends.

The guests at Vista Verde – there were about 25 during our stay – generally stay at the ranch for about a week. It’s a comprehensive course, where one gradually learns the basic and not-so-basic skills of riding, and ultimately leaves an accomplished jockey. Dan and I, however, would only be there for two days. So we had to cram a week’s worth of training into 48 short hours. Thankfully, I had DB as my partner in crime.

DB was the horse I was assigned to ride (not to be confused with Dan Boyce, my new husband). A sweet, gentle creature, my handsome horse was a total mush – much like my other DB (awwwww!).

Dan, my Steamboat Dreamboat, riding Zip.

After a few minutes atop my mild-mannered mustang, I felt completely at ease and surprisingly confident. I didn’t need to clutch the reins with all my strength or scream commands. DB and I could practically read each other’s minds; we were getting on like an old-married couple. (Apparently horses lick their lip when they feel good about mutual communication, and DB looked like a kid with an ice cream cone.) Our trainers taught us how to turn, trot, and maneuver, and in no time we were racing obstacle courses and galloping home. It was amazing. I was doing it! And if we had stuck around for the rest of the week, Dan and I would have learned to herd cattle with our fellow vacationers. (I’m still so jealous.)

Guests are also encouraged to take advantage of other on-and-off property activities – like fly fishing, hiking, mountain biking, kayaking, and hot air ballooning. It’s a pretty spectacular destination for an action-packed (but admittedly exhausting) getaway.


Chow Down
Meal time at Vista Verde is an extraordinary experience. An all-inclusive, all-you-can-eat ranch, Vista Verde doesn’t want you to worry about expense, but rather enjoy the tasty morsels being served up morning, noon, and night. And after a busy morning “ranching,” the massive buffet-style lunch is a sight for sore eyes. There’s plenty to spare for seconds, and the comfort food couldn’t be any more comforting.

After a nightly happy half-hour, communal dinners are served in the deluxe dining room. Dan and I were lucky to feast on the delicious food and toast to our successful days at a table with our friends including a few incredibly cool staff members. That’s probably the best part about Vista Verde — it really is a community. You meet new people and make new friends and laugh, learn, and embrace life together. It takes you on an emotional journey on and off the horse. It’s unlike any other experience.

I was definitely disappointed when we had to turn in our saddles and part ways — and even sadder to say goodbye to DB. It turns out this city slicker has developed a love for life on the range. And my new cowboy boots are proof that you can take the girl out of Colorado, but you can’t take the Colorado out of the girl.

Vista Verde Ranch
Steamboat Springs, CA 80477
970-879-3858
http://www.vistaverde.com

Heading Home for the Holidays

While some of our guests are starting to think about what to pack for their Christmas vacation at the ranch, those of us living here have our thoughts on Thanksgiving. With Thanksgiving being the one major holiday that we celebrate while the ranch is closed down, the place tends to turn into a bit of a ghost town. It’s the last getaway for most of us before we open for the winter ranch season. So, where is everyone going?

Ben, Holly and the kids will be packing up this weekend to head down towards Colorado Springs to spend the week with Holly’s family.

Dace is visiting some friends at another ranch and then jetting off to IL to see his folks at their farm.

Steph is leaving Todd behind and taking the girls to CA for some warm weather and time with her sister and family.

Steve and Kelli and taking Maddie to Denver for a weekend of museum and aquarium visits to celebrate her 11th birthday. Then they’ll head over to Kelli’s folks home in the middle part of the state for Thanksgiving. Happy Birthday Maddie!! Gosh, we remember when you were barely walking…..wasn’t that just last year?

Charlie is following Barb down to her mom’s in Frisco, CO for a quick one day visit for Thanksgiving, but he’ll spend the better part of the week working on their new house up by Hahn’s Peak. It’s beautiful by the way…who knew one could create such a masterpiece building a house just on weekends?

Jo and Javin left last week for a road trip. Javin dropped Jo off with her family in IN and then continued on to spend a couple weeks with his family in PA. Nicky is also taking the opportunity to catch up with her family in IN for the week. At the same time Bekah is taking a couple weeks to spend time in FL with her folks.

Terry might have the most exciting Thanksgiving plans as he’ll be sitting on the sidelines of the Bronco game. Did you know his wife is the Bronco girl? She’s the one who rides Thunder across the field every time they score a touchdown. Go Broncos!

So, who is going to stay behind and keep an eye on things? Well, Bill took some time off earlier in the fall but is going to stay put and finish working on his projects. And Rob was hoping to get away but has since complicated his life by getting a new baby. After Steve and Kelli showed up with their new black lab, Rob fell in love and ended up with a sibling of Rosie. So, he’ll be staying put at the ranch to take care of his new bundle of joy.

Upon return, the crew will be hitting the ground running as we have just one week to prepare for the new staff to arrive, training them and then getting ready to open for a white Christmas! We hope you all have a wonderful holiday filled with family, friends and laughter.

What Does All-Inclusive mean when it comes to vacations?

Many luxury guest ranches, resorts and even cruise lines promote themselves as all-inclusive vacations.  But, what I have found is that many of them aren’t really all-inclusive. 

At Vista Verde Ranch, we have chosen to truly be an all inclusive Colorado vacation, and not nickel and dime our guests. 

What does that mean?  When you make a reservation for your ranch holiday at Vista Verde Ranch, you will know what the trip is going to cost you, and there won’t be any surprises.

Included in your luxury dude ranch vacation at Vista Verde Ranch are meals, beverages, activities, guides and equipment.

What do other so-called all inclusive Colorado vacation destinations charge you for that we don’t?
Wireless internet
Airport transfers
Beer and wine
Fly fishing licences
Equipment rentals
Lessons, instruction or clinics
Rafting
Mini bar
Telephone

Having said all that, and in the essence of fairness, there are some extra charges that we don’t feel right building into the price for all guests.  In the summer, those would be spa treatments and hot air ballooning. 

So, do your research.  Ask a lot of questions.  It can be overwhelming with all the choices and every dude ranch being so different.  I’ve even had guests put together grids to try to figure out which ranch is right for them.  Please know that we are always happy to answer any questions and help you find the right all inclusive Colorado vacation for you!

Moose Encounter

Just imagine that you are this guy who owns a really cool ranch in Colorado. You’ve come out to visit for the weekend and are enjoying a beautiful spring morning outside on the deck with your dogs. As you brush these beautiful white dogs, who on this day have decided to stay close by and not run away like they always do, you hear some noise coming from around the corner of the garage. Before your eyes appears a large bull moose. Your beautiful white dogs, who are not always the most intelligent animals, decide that now is the time to show the world that they are in charge. The take off with their powerful barks and begin to chase this enormous bull moose. Did we mention his enormous racks that could squash a small child? Before you even get a chance to put down your cup of coffee, the dogs are off, chasing the moose down the driveway. You watch in amazement until the moose stops, turns around, and decides that he no longer wants to play this game. Now the beautiful white dogs are stumped on what to do next. They figure it out pretty quickly as they are charged by the moose. Next thing you know, the dogs are hightailing it back up your driveway, headed right towards you and the door. The moose is not far behind. As he approaches the front door, he stops and gives one final head butt in the direction of your beautiful white dogs. Then, with the air of victory, he casually turns around and heads back down the driveway. With a courtesy look left and then look right, he crosses the road and heads toward the river.

And with that you think to yourself, wow, this ranch life is pretty exciting!

As far as we know, the moose carried on with his day, possibly with a slight spring in his step. The dogs have not run off in the past two days and seem to be quite content to just bark at coyotes from the safety of the deck.

Waking Up

This wonderful essay was written by guest Katie after returning to school this fall. I thought it was so beautifully written that I wanted to share it with everyone.

Waking Up
As I doze I slowly become aware that I am no longer in Edinburgh, I know this because the quilt under my fingers is soft but unnecessary; warm air washes over me like an ocean. The tangy scent of wood surrounds me, a prominent smells of horse also wafts through the room. I can hear horses as well, nickering softly in the distance. Grasses sigh and a bird begins to sing. The melody of bird, horse and forest fully awaken me.

I open my eyes and take in my surroundings. The soft quilt I feel is large and old, hanging off the side of the wooden double bed. I roll over and see a large window letting soft sunlight filter through as there are no curtains to obstruct the light. The window is triangular and its frame is made of wood; I notice that wood is a main material in this room, as if every piece of furniture is made from the nearby forest that I can see through the window.

This room is large and has a sloping roof; I bend over as to not bang my head as I get up to inspect the window and what lies beyond more thoroughly. What I see is a sight that stirs excitement and happiness within me, Vista Verde Ranch sprawls out beneath my window. I see a large aspen forest to my left in which deer roam freely, not fearful of hunters or bears. To my right is a large field of glistening horses munching on the rich, green grass that sprouts beneath their feet. A bubbling stream runs alongside the house, a fairytale-style bridge crosses it and a path continues down to a huge, homely, wooden lodge that has too many windows for me to count.

I turn back towards my room, the sun sends hot rays on to my back but cool, blue air makes the temperature perfect for shorts and T-shirts. Other members of my family begin to wake up; my mum and dad stir downstairs in the master bedroom. A quiet giggle comes from the room next to mine; separated by a wooden partition, my brother and sister must already be awake. They are excited as I am for the day ahead.
I notice the cowboy boots on the floor and an old pair of jeans resting on an ancient chair. Memories come flooding back as I remember days of riding and making loads of new friends, I remember a birthday I spent here and evenings spent in the Jacuzzi outside. I grow more and more excited with every memory. I dress quickly, pulling on the old jeans and a shirt that will protect my skin from the burning sun that is now rising above the valley. Just before I pull on some socks I notice the soft and luxuriously deep carpet that covers the floor, it tickles my toes and pampers my feet. I notice the high quality of it; little luxuries like this cover the house and make my stay even better.

I know that today will be filled to the brim with horse riding, mountain biking, hiking, excellent food and crazy friends; today I could go to a horse clinic to bond with my horse or herd cattle, just like a cowboy, I could cycle to the ice cream parlour or go for an all day ride, there are endless possibilities! But that’s just the beauty of this place, everyday is a new adventure.

Name: Katie from Edinburgh