Vista Verde Ranch, Luxury Guest Ranch
Vista Verde Ranch, Colorado Luxury Ranch
Vista Verde Ranch, Colorado Luxury Ranch"
Vista Verde Ranch, Colorado Luxury Ranch
Vista Verde Ranch, Colorado Luxury Ranch
Vista Verde Ranch, Colorado Luxury Ranch
Vista Verde Ranch, Colorado Luxury Ranch

Posts Tagged ‘winter ranch’

Vista Verde Ranch, Colorado Luxury Ranch

Madison.com – November 2010

Date: November 5th, 2010

A Ranch in Winter by Eileen Ogintz
Think four-wheel drive — on skis.

I’m floating over five feet of snow in the wilderness on skis that are slightly fatter than traditional cross-country skis.

This isn’t the kind of skiing where a snowcat takes you up a ski slope so you can ski down in deep powder as fast as you can. Nor is this the kind of backcountry experience my kids enjoy where you sling your skis on your back and hike up the mountain for the glory of skiing down — “working for your turns,” as they call it.

Vista Verde Ranch (www.vistaverde.com), 25 miles north of Steamboat Springs on some 560 pristine acres at 7,800 feet above sea level, is a place to literally slow down and enjoy the scenery from the back of a horse or on snowshoes or backcountry skis away from crowds and cars. It’s also a good place to introduce kids to snow, if you aren’t sure how they’ll take to a major ski resort like Steamboat (www.steamboat.com) an hour’s drive away.

Atlanta grandparents Bill and Sally Smith brought their daughter, son-in-law and three grandchildren from Atlanta for a few days for just that reason. They expected to go over to Steamboat to downhill ski part of the time, “But we never made it. We were having too much fun,” said Bill. “The kids loved every bit of it and didn’t want to leave,” he said, after the younger members of the family had departed.

Vista Verde Ranch has just nine well-appointed log cabins, each named for a surrounding mountain. Ours is called Farwell. (Think wood-burning stoves, oh-so-comfy beds with patchwork quilts, deck hot tubs and astounding mountain views.)

Of course, none of this comes cheap. Figure on more than $1,300 a night for a family of four all-inclusive, though there are much less expensive deals if you choose your dates wisely. (Come Jan. 2 to March 12 and pay regular rate for the first two guests and half off for additional ones.)

And if you don’t want all of the guided excursions, rates start at $195 a person, including meals, equipment and evening programs. At a major ski resort you could spend more without the personal attention. (Mention Taking the Kids and get an additional $50 off. The B&B rates work the same for the kids — first two people at rack rate, additional guests 1/2 off.)

There is room for just 45 guests; today there are just about 20 of us. There’s a new main log lodge with a huge fireplace that seems to invite you to stretch out on the big couches, as well as a new indoor arena — to help teach riding (there are 90 horses here). “It has gotten used 10 times more than we expected,” said Peggy Throgmartin, who, along with her husband, has owned the ranch for the last four years.

“This is my husband’s dream since he was seven,” said Peggy, adding that it took till they were in their 50s to make it happen — here at Vista Verde Ranch. Throgmartin, scion of an Indiana family business now in its fourth generation, and his wife searched all over the West for the right place to serve as a gathering place for their own three grown children. “We are a very close family and we wanted a place where the family would want to come. That was a big factor,” she said. “As soon as we drove up the driveway, we knew this was the place.”

The three young teens we’re traveling with were a bit more skeptical at first wondering if they’d be bored without downhill snow sports. I’m traveling with my cousins Carl and Dana Weinberg and their two kids, as well as another friend and her teenage son. We opted to try the ranch for a couple of days in the middle of a 10-day ski trip.

Maddie King, 11, whose parents oversee the activities, is convinced a kid would be crazy not to love the place. “It is a ball to get out in nature and have snow all over you,” she says. There’s nothing better either than having a snowcat pull you back up the hill you’ve just sledded down. Sledding, Maddie declares, is her favorite thing to do on the ranch.

True to her word, our teens perk up immediately. Because the ranch is all-inclusive, there are drinks and snacks in the cabin fridge — and the kids have their pick of activities, not to mention cookies. I love that for a few days, the only decisions we have to make is whether we want to ski or snowshoe or whether we want fish or lamb for dinner. (Or whether the kids want to eat with us or with the other kids.)

We spend the morning in the backcountry touring on skis, through the trees in the deep snow on National Forest land that surrounds the ranch. We end up at an ice cave built by local school children. So quiet! So beautiful!

“Nothing better than being outside on a day like this,” says our enthusiastic guide, Jeff Ballantyne, who spends summers fighting fires with the U.S. Forest Service. He gestures to the fresh snow, the quivering Aspens, the sun trying unsuccessfully to peak through the clouds as the snow continues to fall. There are 30 guest ranches in Colorado but Vista Verde is just one of a handful that is open in winter and summer. (For more information on ranches, visit www.duderanch.org).

One afternoon, we go out horseback riding — good thing we were dressed warmly. We take a tour of the ranch, past the original cabin built by homesteaders early on in the 20th century. It’s snowing gently; the air is cold and fresh. We’re limited to a narrow trail that the ranch staff has blown out for the horses, but I don’t mind the lazy pace. We mosey along happily.

The place forces you to get unplugged — there is Wi-Fi, but cell service is spotty. We go deep in the backcountry to snowshoe or ski where we won’t see another soul. Another plus: This is a safe place where kids can have some freedom and try new things — with or without their parents by their side.

The atmosphere is conducive to making new friends too, whether you’re nine or 49. All of the kids ate dinner together and then watched a movie while the adults shared a large table and an impressive meal that included tamales, guinea hen with rice pilaf, Napoleons filled with peanut butter pastry cream and an assortment of sorbets.

The good news: We’ll work off the calories snowshoeing tomorrow. The other good news: The teens are smiling.

For more on Eileen’s winter Colorado adventure, read her trip diary at www.takingthekids.com and also follow “taking the kids” on www.twitter.com, where Eileen Ogintz welcomes your questions and comments.

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Snowy Whiskers

Date: November 5th, 2010

As a grown women who gave up her pony when she was 19, I cant help but dream of one day owning a horse again. I miss the smell, the hay, the out doors. A stay would look like for me, a few days of relaxing, stunning beauty of the rough and brilliant ranch and being surrounded by what I still love and miss. Great food and true down to earth people to visit with. My husband and I would soak up every second with walks and a glass of vino in the evening. it would be perfect.

Name: Julie McQuillan
Company:
City: Nanaimo
State: B.C.

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Choose Me!! Choose Me!! No … Choose my son

Date: September 2nd, 2010

When I first saw the post on Christmas Eve, I was ready to enter… Then, I thought how much I would love to have my "baby boy" ;who is 42 years old) come to the ranch while we are there. It has always been on my bucket list to bring my family, even more so since I have been sick. He is sooo much fun. You will never meet anyone with more energy. He is most excited about riding bikes!!! He has been looking at hundreds of pictures over the years, and spending time with his wife of 20 years away from the demands of over 100 teenagers would be a dream come true. I would love to be able to be a part of such a great adventure for them. So, it would be like I won too.

Name: Wanda Willis
Company:
City: Gastonia,
State: North Carolina

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Christmas in September?

Date: September 2nd, 2010

No, we’re not decorating the place for the Christmas vacation time right now. We’re actually enjoying some fabulous fall weather, our first of four adult-only weeks, and looking forward to the fall cattle gather weeks coming soon.

But our thoughts are starting to turn towards Christmas and New Years vacation experience. It’s this time of year that we start lining up the details of the holidays, including the trees in the picture. Charlie ordered the live trees this week so we’ll have one for each family to decorate in the Main Lodge. And the phone has been ringing off the hook with potential guests looking into planning their family Christmas vacation. It seems odd to be thinking about the ranch covered in snow when there is still so much grass out there, but ’tis the season!

If you’ve ever considered trying a Vista Verde winter ranch stay, we do still have space during the holidays. The snow is sparkly, the jingle bells ringing on the sleigh and Mom can actually relax for once with the cooking, cleaning and entertaining taken care of for her!

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Baby any day and a new horse

Date: April 27th, 2010

For a while there, it seemed like winter at the ranch would never leave. But, even though we’re still getting some snow here and there, it is melting away faster than it’s falling these days. We’re down to bare grown right in most places right around the ranch buildings, and the fences out in the pastures are finally fully exposed. On a sunny day like today, it feels like spring should feel. And with spring in the air, we’re getting ready for the first foal to arrive….any day now.
In the meantime, a crew from the ranch headed down to the Legends of Ranching horse sale at Colorado State University this past weekend. We were taking bets on how full the trailer would be on the way home. Apparently the recession has ended in the horse world as the prices were much, much higher this year than last. Because the horses were going for a fair bit, we only ended up with one little filly. She’s a cutie though, and is getting used to her new home. She is a 2 year old, so will take some training before we start using her for riding. She may be one who is rotated between the broodmare herd and the riding herd over the years. SCR Badger Pep is her registered name, and her nickname is still to be determined. She’s a sweetheart!

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Taking great photos at a Colorado Dude Ranch

Date: April 27th, 2010

We have had some amazing photos shared with us by guests at our all inclusive dude ranch resort this summer.  Thanks to the many guests who send photos in each week, as they are often times better than what a professional photographer could capture in a day at the ranch.  There is a distinct advantage to be able to be in a place for an extended period of time, as you get a better chance of being in the right place at the right time for the perfect shot.

Enjoy these great photos taken this summer by guests who were here for family dude ranch vacations.  We'll look forward to more great photos as we move into autumn and start having our adult only dude ranch stays and cattle round up weeks.

Morning roundup by Debbie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Star Spangled Stampede by John

Angels around us by Tammy

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Our 15 minutes of fame

Date: March 29th, 2010

Yesterday brought a little bit of the big city to Steamboat Springs and the ranch. A crew of about 25 people from Eddie Bauer rolled in at 7am to use the ranch for a catalog photo shoot. Luckily, we’re still holding on to winter at the ranch so there was enough snow in the meadows. We shuttled them around on snowmobiles to and from the Homestead cabin, as well as provided some horses who got to hang out with their Italian model. We even had Zag hooked up to the bobsled for one shot. The best part of the sleigh shot was that Jess was all set as the driver, but they didn’t want him in the shot (poor Jess) so he had to crouch down out of eyesight of the camera, but ready to jump on and drive in the event that Zag decided he needed to go somewhere. Luckily, it was such a nice, warm, sunny day that Zag quickly realized there was nowhere better to go and took a cat nap while the models did their best to look enthralled that they were about to go on a pretend sleigh ride, and photographers, make up artists and stylists hovered around them. The crew was the best we’ve ever worked with and were respectful of the ranch and very professional. It was a long day of shooting and Jess, Grahm, Rachel and Charlie all stuck it out from 6:30am until 7pm….but we had some fun laughs, enjoyed a gorgeous spring day, and shook up our routine a bit. We are a little worried that Zag might have a Diva complex though…..

A Colorado sleigh ride, filled with Italian models

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Visiting Colorado, one stop at a time

Date: March 29th, 2010

 

We had some suprising visitors stop by the other day to see our Colorado dude ranch.  It was in the whirlwind of a Sunday turnover, as we were getting ready for some new families to arrive, filled with anticipation and hoping they picked the best dude ranch.  All of us were running several directions at once.  Lucky for me, I was the one who took some time to show these gals around and hear about their traveling adventures.  

Elaine and Marlene are two women with a strong travel bug.  When both of them got through raising children, and found more free time, they decided to team up and start traveling the world.  Their trips have been inspired by the book, “1000 Places to Visit Before You Die”.  Their stop by on Sunday was not just because they were enjoying a Steamboat Springs vacation, but because Vista Verde is part of this book.  Little did they know that they would be visiting a luxury dude ranch in Colorado when they first took on this epic journey!

I didn’t get a chance to spend a whole lot of time with these gals, but I was so taken by their travel stories that I took a picture of them in front of our Colorado lodge before they headed off to see the Zirkel Wilderness area, just up the road from the resort.

If you get a moment, check them out at Wild Women Wanderers.  It may inspire your next vacation!

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Burzy Wurzy

Date: December 4th, 2009

That’s the line we use in my house (for those who don’t know me, I live with a 4 year old) when it’s just that cold out. And all of us at the ranch keep looking at the thermometer in disbelief each morning because it has been THAT cold for 3 days now. Terry claims that his car told him it was -23 yesterday morning. Bill says he would never trust a Jeep and that his “accurate” thermometer said it was -12. Ok folks, when it gets that cold, the difference between -23 and -12 really doesn’t matter. It’s just too darn cold. We can’t figure out what’s going on, but those of us who get to work inside are sure happy with our desk jobs right now.

The upside of this crazy cold weather is that the sky has been sparkling clear at night and blue as can get during the day. Even though we are closer to the sun up here, it still isn’t quite doing the trick as it beams down on us.

Those of you coming later this winter, don’t panic. This isn’t normal and as I write this the sky is beginning to cloud over (which actually means it is warming up) and a storm looks like it is rolling in. So, Wanda and our other snow dancers, start doing your dances! Bring on the snow, that real champagne powder. And we’ll start getting ready for those perfect days of winter when those of us inside are REALLY, REALLY jealous of those who get to go out and play.

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the dude ranch Summer season comes to a close

Date: December 4th, 2009

To update you all luxury dude ranch coloradoon where we are in our summer dude ranch season, we have moved from our dude ranch for families time to adults only, and then adults only cattle round up weeks.  This is our final cattle round up week, and also our final week of the season.  We have had 4 total weeks of rounding up cattle, and have brought in about 250 head so far, so there is still some work to be done this week.  While not all the guests at our Colorado lodge and resort participate in the cattle round up while on their ranch holiday, we have had a lot of folks heading out to ride the back country and find those critters.  

The first week was the most successful, as we got the cows who seemed to be the most willing to be rounded up.  The second week was the week of weather, with rain, drizzle, fog, but still some sunshine in there.  That was a hearty and willing group of guests who laughed their way through the weather and brought sunshine to our lives!  Last week it seems like fall officially hit us.  The colors started to change, the air got a bit more crisp and it finally felt like September is suppose to feel around Steamboat Springs.  This week is a continuation of that great weather, and we are gearing up with our cattle clinics today, and will start looking for more cows tomorrow.

Sunday is our official closing day, but we are going to sneak in a quick horsemanship clinic next week for a couple days.  The staff will be heading out for off-season adventures or moving on to their next step in life.  Those of us considered "lifers" will be getting together to reflect on the season, make plans on how to improve our all inclusive resort experience, and look forward to gearing up for the winter season, when we become more of a Colorado ski lodge.  And, of course, even though we live in vacation paradise…we’ll probably be taking a little time to get out of town for some time off.  Oh, and we have a wedding to throw in November…I’ll be posting all sorts of photos of Johanna and Javins’ wedding on November 12, in the Great room! 

We hope to see you this winter for some fun in the snow!

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Full Moon on Snow

Date: December 2nd, 2009

So it’s not like we’re the only place enjoying a full moon tonight, but there is something very different about full moons on winter snow. At Vista Verde we get to enjoy a spectacular show every time there is a full moon in the winter. The opening act is when the moon starts peeping over Wapiti mountain with a navy blue sky as the backdrop. The main event is the first part of the night when the snow reflects all the light from the moon which makes it light enough to go out for a walk, a ski, or a snowshoe without any lights needed. It’s so bright that the trees make shadows. After crawling into bed and sleeping under the moon’s watchful eye, if you wake up early enough (which I do) you get to watch the moon set over Sand Mountain. It’s actually darker at that point until the sun starts lighting up the sky again.

I’ll see if I can get a picture tonight as it comes up….but we are all heading into town tonight for a little manager dinner to have a bit of fun before the rest of the staff arrive!

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Moonlight Hiking at our Colorado Resort

Date: December 2nd, 2009

John and some of the staff had a little adventure last week.  Here is his tale of their hike up Hahn’s Peak.  Hahn’s Peak is one of the hallmark peaks around our Colorado Lodge and Resort.  In the summer we hike it, but if you come for a winter vacation then we put on skis to get up the mountain.

Hiking in the moonlight in ColoradoLast Sunday a group of Vista Verde Ranch staff did a full moon hike to summit Hahn’s Peak. The moonlight negated any need for headlamps, yet the multitudes of rock pieces made the last stretch of the ascent fairly difficult. Without shelter of trees at the top, the wind picked up quite a bit so we hid out in the abandoned tower at the summit. Trey brought his ukulele to play a few songs while the group was huddling in the cover of the tower. After quickly posing for a group shot at the top of the mountain everyone headed back down. The staff members from left to right in the group picture: John Hill (Pool Manager), Kathy (Server), Jason (Ranch Hand), Jess (Wrangler), Trey (Fly Fishing Guide), Jami (Housekeeper).

Thanks for sharing your story John!  Our summer season is almost over, but you can still plan a winter vacation to go cross country skiing in Colorado, or sneak away for a romantic mountain getaway.

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Heading Home for the Holidays

Date: November 19th, 2009

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.

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Loving the luxury guest ranch life

Date: November 19th, 2009

Hiking vacation in ColoradoYou know how some postcards read, "Wish you were here"?  Yesteray I got a photo that made me wish I was there!  Guides Beka and Lindsay took guests John and Astri up to summit Little Agnes last week, and sent me this photo to share the gorgeous view.  Wow, I could take just getting planted down there for a couple hours, soaking in the panorama.  The photo is taken from the top of Little Agnes, looking over toward Big Agnes and overlooking Mica Lake.  I recognize the view I see right here at our Colorado lodge isn’t too shabby, so I’m not complaining.  But, the Mt. Zirkel Wilderness takes spectacular vistas to a new level.

The other day I was talking with someone in Steamboat who has traveled a lot.  She mentioned to me this summer she and her husband just stayed put, rather than heading out of town.  Instead of going to Switzerland to hike, they took their backpacks and camped in the Zirkels.  Her point was, "Why do we leave Steamboat Springs to go see other beautiful places when this is our backyard?"  Great question. 

Then, I ran into guest Jeff in town….he had come back to mountain bike for a couple days after having a ball biking the trails around the Steamboat Springs resorts with Steve earlier in the summer.  I was giving him a trail suggestion and he asked if that was my favorite ride, do I ride it a lot.  Yes, it is a spectacular ride, but no, I don’t ride it a lot.  All these folks are coming here for an amazing Colorado resort experience, and I dont seem to find the time to get out and enjoy what’s right in front of my nose!

All of this has made me decide to change things a bit.  Instead of leaving town when I have time to get away, I’m going to take my own hiking vacation and go deeper into the areas that are right here.  I’m going to take a day to hike the Zirkel Circle instead of going to a yoga retreat in Boulder.  I’m going to camp up by one of those gorgeous lakes instead of leaving town to stay at a hotel.  And, yes, I am going to find time to sneak out of the office in the next couple weeks to chase cows with the guests like Ben, Dace and Charlie have been trying to convince me to do.  There.  I wrote it down, so now I have to do it.

So, if you call to make a reservation and I’m not available…..I’ll get back to you as soon as I wipe the dirt off my feet and come inside.  Summer is fleeting, spectacular and worth taking the time to relish!  If you haven’t found time to treat yourself to summer yet, please make some time for it before it goes away.  In fact, come on out here for a ranch holiday and play with us!  There is still space for the September 25-October 2 week, and we also have a few spots for Terry’s horsemanship clinic October 5-9.

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New guests at the ranch

Date: October 29th, 2009

We’ve been enjoying the company of some new guests this fall. A herd of 2 bull elk and about 30 cows and calves has been spending their late afternoons and evenings enjoying their own dude ranch vacation in our winter pasture. Although they make for a beautiful sight at dusk, they are doing a dandy job of tearing up our fences when they come and go. That’s just the price we pay for living out here with these critters. Pretty soon they will be moving to their winter grounds, although we still tend to see a few throughout the winter months. Jenn took this picture last week from her front porch. What a nice way to finish the day!

elkinsteamboat

Elk enjoying a sunset at Vista Verde Guest Ranch in Steamboat

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Time flies when you are at a Colorado Dude Ranch

Date: October 29th, 2009

Golden days of August- by Bill D.Every season it seems like we live in a vortex of time. The pre-season preparations as we try to be one of the best dude ranches are frantic and exciting. Then we get going with the guests and the days just zoom by. Here we are in the second week of August already. The grass is just starting to turn a bit more golden and the kids head back to school in just a couple weeks.  Now we are looking at preparing for our adult only weeks. Where does it all go?

A good friend in the Colorado lodge and resort industry said something the other day that really rang true for me. He said, “I got a letter from someone who was here in June. It seemed like a year ago that they were here. But, here it is Thursday and it feels like the folks who came in on Sunday have only been here for a day.” How does time work that way? In the moment, it flies. But then looking back it feels like forever ago.

At our staff meeting on Sunday, Dace was having the staff think back to our orientation weeks. How long ago that seems that we were shoveling snow off the patio in preparation of our first cookouts of the summer. Getting to know each other and getting geared up and ready for the guests to arrive is a distant memory.

Now, some of our staff are starting to head back to school while the second wave of summer staff rolls in to fill their spots. The memories we’ve shared with all of you who have been here this summer are priceless. You have helped shape the lives of our crew and given each person a better understanding of human nature and how to serve others with all their heart.

And, as fast as the days fly by for all of us, we still have more to look forward to. Personally, I’m getting so excited for the fall. September is my favorite time of year. We’ll have some great friends from Michigan coming out in a couple weeks, then the adults come in with the freedom that goes along with traveling without children. Some will be here for a romantic mountain getaway, while others are here with friends to try all our activities.  We’ll chase some cows, ride rugged mountain bike trails, sing around the fire and continue to create memories…all the while trying to hold onto each day as it flies by.

Enjoy the last little bit of summer. Hug your kids a bit tighter as they get ready to go back to school. And give yourself some time to enjoy an evening on a deck, soaking up those longer daylight hours while they last!  We’ll be holding onto every little bit of summer that we can, treasuring each day to its fullest.  Because, oh so soon winter will be here and we’ll be flying through our Colorado ski lodge season! 

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Winter at the Ranch?

Date: October 1st, 2009

We woke up this morning to some softly falling….snow! Every once in a while we do get snow here in September. But normally it is a little surprise that melts away before the end of the day. Today it just keeps falling and it’s actually accumulating! We all just keep walking around in shock, wondering what is going on?

Hopefully by the weekend we’ll be back to the gorgeous 70 degree and sunny days we were having earlier this week. We’re not ready to be done with fall!

Snow in September

Snow in September

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Colorado’s Best Dude Ranches for Adults

Date: October 1st, 2009

colorado romantic resortsColorado’s best dude ranches are known for amazing family vacations, but they also make for incredible couples getaways. Most of the state’s ranches offer adult-only weeks, usually in the fall, when the pace slows a bit, the menus are a little more gourmet and guests can be found canoodling in front of glowing fires set amid spectacular mountain backdrops.

These all-inclusive dude ranches welcome you to take part in as many — or as few — ranch activities as you’d like, including hikes, trail rides, cattle drives, fishing excursions and boating, all of which can be tailored to all abilities.

Many ranches also throw in unexpected luxuries like spa treatments, yoga sessions and cooking classes. All of them have incredible home-cooked meals, serene settings and hospitality you can’t stop talking about (we’re serious about this one — read any online review of these ranches to see people expound on this subject).

Although a week is the standard all inclusive dude ranch stay, ensuring guests are really able to unplug and savor ranch life, these adults-only periods are a bit more flexible. Some even open their lodges and cabins to overnight travelers when they’re not booked up, featuring B&B services and a la carte activities.

Below is a sampling of the amenities that will appeal to couples looking for romantic vacatin ideas. Visit the Colorado Dude & Guest Ranch Association for more comprehensive listings.

Vista Verde Ranch, Steambat Springs

Toward the end of September, Vista Verde hosts an adults-only cattle gather, which is a remarkable experience on its own, but becomes even more so amid changing leaves and crisp fall air. You’ll definitely feel you’ve earned the hot-tub soak and three-course dinners that follow. Cooking classes and wine tasting are just a few of the off-horse activities to choose from.  Vista Verde also operates as a romantic winter resort from December – March.

Smith Fork Ranch, Crawford

This Gunnison National Forest ranch ranks among the best in the delicious meal category (though couples massages and guided adventures for two amp up the three-night Romantic Mountain Getaway package). Shade-tree picnics, a world-class wine cellar and private candle-light dinners focus on farm-to-table cuisine, with many of the ingredients harvested from the ranch’s own garden.

C Lazy U Ranch, Granby

For couples who aren’t on the same page when it comes to communing with nature, C Lazy U has the perfect solution: For one night of your trip, they’ll arrange a "luxury campout." A ranch hand will guide you to a campsite with large cozy tent (with a king-size bed inside!), s’mores kit, firepit and other delights. Back at the ranch, deluxe rooms have a stocked mini-bar, plush robes, fresh-fruit baskets and options like jetted tubs and fireplaces.

Home Ranch, Steamboat Springs

A prestigious Relais & Châteaux property, Home Ranch offers two-night stays for adults each October. Live music, roaring campfires, fall-color hikes or horseback rides, and Orvis-endorsed fly-fishing on a private section of the Elk River keep guests busy — even as the in-ranch chef’s haute mountain cuisine tempts them to loiter around the dining room.

4UR Ranch, Creede

4UR sets itself apart from the outset with one major amenity: Its very own natural hot  springs. Those who can find their way out of the mineral water and into the elegant accommodations will also enjoy a cozy little bar and an Adirondack-style porch perfect for stargazing. Seven miles of Rio Grande fishing, long trail rides and food and wine from a Cordon Bleu-trained chef aren’t so bad either. Two adults-only weeks are offered each summer.

Laramie River Dude Ranch, Glendevey

This ranch also has a perfect-for-couples fall cattle drive; this one ambles through a secluded river valley. Additionally, Laramie River has a naturalist program to help visitors explore the area through wildflower hikes, birdwatchng, stargazing, orienteering and more. Three-, four- or seven-night adults-only stays are available in September.

Lost Valley Dude and Guest Ranch, Sedalia

Lost Valley refers to its accommodations as "Levi luxurious with cattle baron comforts." The cabins, complete with stone fireplaces and porches with lounge swings, are nestled in the pines overlooking the valley. Adults-only weeks in September and October feature cattle drives and rides through golden aspen stands and a long list of activities that can be totally ignored by those who prefer to just laze around this peaceful ranch.

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Vista Verde Ranch, Colorado Luxury Ranch

Vista Verde on TV

Date: January 13th, 2009

Almost two years ago we had a film crew come out to the ranch and follow a family around on their vacation. It all sounded nice and benign when we got the call and put them in touch with a family who was willing to be filmed. It turned out to be a little more “stalking” than anyone expected, but Jill and Ken and their girls were so game and so gracious. After all this time, and many jokes about the whole experience, they are finally going to have their 15 minutes in the spotlight. On January 19 at 6pm EST, their winter adventure will air on the Fine Living Network. We haven’t seen it, so I may regret sharing this with all of you…and Jill may hate me for telling you too! Hopefully it will be a nice piece showing their beautiful family having fun at the ranch in the wintertime.

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Vista Verde Ranch, Colorado Luxury Ranch

Wild Mustangs Find a New Home at Vista Verde Guest Ranch

Date: January 13th, 2009

Think back to your favorite Western; the romantic mountain getaway, with the mustangs running wild and free across the plains of the west. Built for the rugged terrain of the Colorado Mountains, the cowboys tamed and trained some of these wild mustangs.  Many herds of these horses still running free today.  In an effort to manage the land and prevent their population from exceeding its carrying capacity, the Bureau of Land Management has begun adopting some of these wild mustangs into the Wild Horse Inmate Program (WHIP).

See the white marking on its neck? That is its special mustang code                  They get lots of love at their new home!

Since 1971, Colorado has protecting and ensuring the future of our beautiful wild mustangs with the Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act passed by Congress. In 1986, the WHIP program was created. The Wild Horse Inmate Program was the first of its kind, bringing the horses to corrections facilities to be gentled and trained by inmates before being adopted. Besides an emotional and relationship building outlet with these horses, it has given the inmates the opportunity to learn equine skills to use when they are released.

These mustangs have a distinct feature that makes them stand out right away in a herd: their distinguishing code on the left side of their neck. This code gives three identifying pieces of information: the registering organization or state they came from, the estimated year of their birth, and the horse’s registration number within the BLM system.

Just this past spring, we adopted 3 new horses for our family dude ranch, giving them a new home and a bright future in the mountains of Colorado. Our horse program was introduced to Cuatro, Cheyenne, and Caddy, our new, once wild mustangs. They joined Crow, another mustang who has been here for years. Cuatro has already carried his share of guests as the 4 year old gelding is a joy to ride. Cheyenne, 6, and Caddy, 4, are still perfecting their skills with our wranglers this season. From their time with their wild herd, these horses understand all too well herd dynamics, so when they came to Vista Verde they adapted very quickly to our herd of over 100 horses. We are excited to have them with us and be able to give them a purpose and new life guiding guests who are on ranch holidays, while staying in the mountains of their home state.

 

If you would like to learn more about the WHIP program you can visit the BLM website at http://www.blm.gov/co/st/en/BLM_Programs/wild_horse_and_burro/Wild_Horse_Inmate_Program_Colorado.html .

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Winter is Here!

Date: December 3rd, 2008

I flew back in from California yesterday to find that winter had arrived while I was gone.  Most of us took some portion of last week off to enjoy time with family and friends during the one major holiday that we aren’t open.  Steve and Kelli were down in Denver and took Maddie to her first Nutcracker performance.  Ben and Holly packed up their troops and drove down the Colorado Springs for some turkey time and Christmas shopping.  Dace headed to Oregon to visit with his brother and family.  Charlie was nearby with Barb’s family.  Rusty and Bekah headed to another ranch to help their friends hosts guests there for the holiday.  And the last guys standing- Rob, Matt and Bill enjoyed a Thanksgiving feast fit for kings here in the dining room while no one else was around.   We all felt there is so much to be thankful for and hope you all enjoyed a nice holiday as well.

Now we’re back in action, gearing up for the staff to arrive next Monday.  Today we hammered out the rest of the details of the holiday schedule and the logistics of all the festivities we have planned.  Oh yeah, and then we all had to fill out our health insurance papers to switch to a new company.  Yep, even here we have some paperwork to shuffle! 

I’ll get some pictures of the snow posted in a couple days so you can enjoy your view of the ranch via computer!

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Vista Verde Ranch, Colorado Luxury Ranch

Fall Not finished

Date: December 3rd, 2008

Soon enough color will sweep the mountains of Colorado offering a painted site for fall vacationers of Colorado’s wilderness. Coming from Indiana, this seems like an early Autumn, but for the short summer’s of Colorado it is completely normal. Maybe I’m getting ahead of myself, but Before we know it the first snowflake will hit the ground. In morning when the horses run through the ranch from pasture to pasture, frost has already started to coat the ground. But it’s too early to talk about cross country skiing in Colorodo, after all, only one yellow leaf has been found on the property so far. The trees encompassing the property are still all green, so this lonely aspen leaf must have floated in from somewhere else. But with the afternoon winds, (that are a sign of fall) the lone leaf could have drifted from 

 

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