What’s Happening on the Ranch?

There’s always something happening at Vista Verde Ranch. Foals are born, new recipes are created, or the wranglers are playing tricks on each other. Come here to read the latest news!

Dude Ranch Life: Junecember

If you ask an old time rancher around the Steamboat Springs area about snow in the summer, they’ll laugh and tell you that it can snow every month of the year here in the mountains.  It’s one thing to hear that, but it’s another thing to be scraping off the windshield of your car on the summer solstice!  We tell our guests to pack for their vacation with lots of layers and to expect a range of temperatures and weather….but snow during your summer vacation?

Last week, the pattern of precipitation we’ve had so far this spring/summer was in the forecast and we were ready.  What we weren’t quite expecting was to wake up to snow on Friday, and have it keep falling all day long.  It wasn’t just a couple flakes like we’ve seen before.  It was a full on snowstorm!  Snow was piling up on the roofs, the railing, and the meadows.  Our hearty guests did a great job of embracing the fact that on the longest day of the year they were bundling up in whatever clothes we could dig up and going out to play in the snow.  Some of the teens made a snowman, and the ranch hands spent a good part of the day shaking the snow off the trees so we wouldn’t lose too many.  All those aspens are not designed to have leaves on them at the same time as snow so they were leaning over perilously!  The chefs switched gears from light outdoor lunch to a variety of grilled cheese and soups for lunch to warm everyone up, and we kept a fire in the fireplace going all day.  Of course, the horses weren’t too happy about this all as they have long ago shed their winter coats.  So, they all got a little extra alfalfa to keep their bodies firing up their internal heaters.

Here we are just a few days later enjoying summer weather with lunch out on the patio, smearing on the sunscreen as we strip down to short sleeves.  Go figure, and here’s to all those who come out to Vista Verde Ranch for a summer vacation embrace whatever weather shows up for us in these mountains!

Sunday Evening Post – June 2019

This article popped up on our radar the same week we had two multi-generational families vacationing at the ranch with us, so it felt very timely!  Check out this article called “Multi-Generational Travel: Tips and Trips that Will Please All Ages” and see the great options they included with, of course, a dude ranch vacation at Vista Verde being one of them!  Read the article….

Travel Awaits – June 2019

There are so many great dude ranches in the US that we were surprised and honored to be included in this article about 10 great US dude ranches that are fun for the whole family.  One of the hallmarks of a Vista Verde Ranch vacation is that we try to make it so there is something for everyone in the family so all can have fun on their trip.  This article highlights that, as well as showcasing some other great dude ranches.  Read the article…

Dating Advice – June 2019

Vista Verde Guest Ranch has earned the Editor’s Choice Award as a top romantic destination from DatingAdvice.com.  They start out the article, “In such a digitally connected society, it’s nice to go somewhere you and your special someone can get away from it all. The team at Vista Verde Guest Ranch in Colorado takes pride in helping couples unplug and unwind. Whether you choose to visit in the winter or summer, the ranch offers many outdoor activities, and it’s a wonderful setting for proposing, eloping, or honeymooning.”  Read the article….

Dude Ranch Life: Orientation 2019

It’s that time of year when the staff arrive at the ranch with so much enthusiasm that the ranch buzzes with energy each day.  Even some spring snowstorms haven’t dissuaded the crew’s excitement.  We fill up the days with talks, training, safety demos, practice meals, getting the cabins opened up, fixing fence, and then cap off most days with some sort of social event to build the community of the ranch staff.  It’s wonderful, overwhelming, exhausting, and so exhilarating all at the same time.

In the Lodge Chol’s kitchen crew is busy making sauces and stocks, finalizing menus, and cooking for the staff.  The server’s are learning the ropes of how we do things in our dining room, which is far different than any restaurant any of them have worked in before.  Devyn has the office crew busy getting the pre-arrival arrangements made with the guests, organizing and updating the back of house systems, and fielding questions from guests who are starting to anticipate their stays.

Out in the Adventure Center Ben Simms is working with the barn and kids crew to get all those folks on the same page for what being a VVR guide looks like and all that goes into guiding a trip at the ranch.  There is so much for all of them to absorb and learn!

Next door at the kid hut Mandy has her crew ready to install our new bouldering feature outside the kids hut, as well as making sure the goats show up in time for the season, and teaching the kids crew the ropes of the program.

Mary and Sam have the farriers working daily to get shoes on all the horses in time for opening day while also getting the horses and equipment ready to go and the wranglers dialed in on how to teach the VVR way.  In addition to that work, Sam from Sam’s Saddle Solutions has been back this year to do saddle fits for all the new horses.  We have invested in her program the past couple years and it has been priceless for the comfort of our horses and the safety of our riders.  Our horses are happier, have less injuries, no saddle sores, and are able to be kept in the riding string more consistently with a professional saddle fit.

Michael has the ranch hands fixing fence, moving the lawn and pool furniture back out from storage, building new hammock stands, putting the screen doors back on the cabins, and that’s just the start of the honey-do list.  Down in the housekeeping area Hannah has her crew working diligently to get the cabins opened in time for a photo crew to come and shoot 360 tours of each cabin and Lodge room.  Nothing like a deadline to pick up the pace!

Whew, I’m tired just thinking about all this!  For those of you coming the first week or two of the season, we hope you’re getting excited.  Our staff are counting the days until you arrive, and we hope you are as well.

Red Tricycle – May 2019

When the other destinations in an article about the best family vacations that are worth the money include Indonesia, Aruba, and South Africa, it is pretty humbling indeed.  Yet, here we are as part of the section about Colorado family vacations.  It’s a great reminder to all of us who live here that we are lucky folks, and what a treat to share this place with families all summer long!  Read the article….

Recipe: Asparagus and Spring Pea Risotto

Everything is coming up green in the Elk River Valley, so it’s only fitting that Chef Chol serves up a light recipe filled with seasonal greenery. This is a great one for entertaining, or just a yummy dish to relish at the end of a big day at work.

Asparagus and Spring Pea Risotto

• 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
• 1 cup chopped yellow onion
• 2 cloves garlic, minced
• 5 cups (40 ounces) vegetable or chicken broth, divided (if your broth comes in 32-ounce containers, feel free to avoid opening another container by substituting 1 cup water for 1 cup broth in step 3)
• 1 1Ž2 cups carnaroli rice
• 1Ž2 cup dry white wine
• 1 big bunch of fresh asparagus spears (about 1 pound)
• 1 1Ž2 cups fresh English peas (about 8 ounces)
• 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
• 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced
• 1 teaspoon sea salt, more to taste
• Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
• Zest and juice of 1Ž2 lemon, preferably organic (about 1Ž4 teaspoon zest and 1 tablespoon juice)
• Handful chopped fresh parsley, for garnish

• Make sure your oven rack is in the middle position and place another rack in the lower third of the oven. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
• Prepare the asparagus by snapping off the tough ends and discarding them, then slicing the spears diagonally into 1 1Ž2-inch long pieces. On a large, rimmed baking sheet, toss the asparagus with 1 tablespoon olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper.
• Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a medium Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and turning translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the minced garlic and rice and cook until fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes.
• Deglaze with white wine and simmer until the wine is nearly gone. Add 4 cups broth (or 3 cups broth and 1 cup water), cover the pot, and bake for 15 minutes.
• Once the risotto has been in the oven for 5 minutes, transfer the asparagus to the lower rack of the oven. Carefully remove the Dutch oven from the oven and take off the lid. Quickly dump the peas inside, cover the pot again and return it to the oven for another 10 minutes. (This will give the peas time to steam.)
• Remove the pot from the oven but leave the asparagus in for another 5 to 10 minutes, until tender and roasted to your liking. Remove the pot lid and add the remaining cup of broth, the Parmesan, butter, salt, a generous amount of pepper, and the zest and juice of half your lemon.
• Using a big spoon, stir gently for 2 to 3 minutes, until the rice is thick and creamy. Stir in the roasted asparagus. Season to taste with salt and pepper, divide into bowls, and top with a generous sprinkling of chopped fresh parsley.

This week at the Ranch: Meet the Chefs

We had two very talented Chef de Cuisines join us this spring, and Chef Chol has been busy getting them dialed into how we do things here at VVR and creating new menus so they are ready to go when our staff arrive for orientation. Meet David and Tanner:

David Lossing has been in love with cooking and all things culinary since the age of 16. Over the past 17 years in the business, he has found a way to incorporate his love of travel into his profession. At the age of 18, David traveled up to Alaska and worked his first National Park concession. Working there under the talented chef and sous-chef, he was able to learn a lot about seafood and North West cuisine. With a healthy appetite for travel, David has since worked in Sequoia National Park, Death Valley National Park, Olympic National Park, San Francisco, and the BWCA in northern Minnesota–his home state. The experience working in a multitude of kitchens under many different chefs and in many different situations has shaped him and set him up to take on the Chef de Cuisine role at VVR. David looks forward to hiking, fishing, camping, and working alongside the talented culinary team here at Vista Verde.

Tanner Price is a Colorado native coming back home to land in the mountains. He has spent nearly 15 years in professional kitchens learning and exploring a multitude of concepts. Tanner’s true love for food began when he became a saucier at the age of 17, making 36 sauces or soups per week. This introduction to the culinary arts lent itself to the discovery of many international cuisines. Anthony Bourdain has been a great influence of his and, as a writer, traveler, and chef, Tanner strives to explore, dream, and discover BIG. Tanner recollects an Italian food guide once telling him, “There are two types of people in the world, family and those we haven’t eaten with yet”. In that spirit he looks forward to creating, cooking, and becoming part of the family here at Vista Verde. Make sure to ask him about his involvement in Camp to Belong, a passion of his.

This week at the Ranch: Father’s Day Gift Guide

When you live out in the mountains, giving Dad a tie for Father’s Day just doesn’t work. So, we thought we’d put together a gift guide for those of you who want to give Dad something that speaks more to his outdoorsman side. Here’s what we’re giving our dads this year:

Buff: From the fishing guides to the ski guides, anyone who spends time outdoors summer or winter can appreciate a good-looking Buff. They come in so many different colors and patterns that you’re bound to find one that fits Dad’s personality. A Buff is great for pesky bugs, sun protection, or warmth.

Beer: Chol recommends Great Divide Brewing Company’s “Roadie Grapefruit Radler,” an easy-drinking, citrusy, and refreshing ale, not high in alcohol and a perfect accompaniment to your sack lunch on the river while fly fishing.

Leatherman: Another gift that works for all kinds of guys from ranch hands to wranglers, these handy multi-tools are so practical, fun, and just plain cool.

Smartwool or Darn Tough socks: There’s a little debate here as to which sock is the better product. Many of us lean towards Smartwool as the company is local and they have so much more than just socks. But Darn Tough socks are exactly what their name says—they last forever! Put the dress socks and white cotton socks aside and get Dad a pair of quality technical socks for hiking, biking, skiing, and more.

Tender belly bacon: Nothing says “I love you, Dad” like a Bacon of the Month club membership from Tender Belly bacon. You don’t have to wait until your next VVR vacation to enjoy this decadent bacon.

More than anything, spend time with Dad.  That is the best gift any of us can give our dads.  Happy Father’s Day!

Martha Stewart Weddings

According to Martha Stewart Weddings “You don’t have to be an outdoorsy couple to appreciate the purpose of an escape to the great outdoors. In fact, when you take a moment to consider how bogged down you are in the digital world, you’ll probably see just how necessary it is to get outside and unplug. There’s no better time to do just that than your honeymoon.” We couldn’t agree more, and we love having honeymooners come to Vista Verde to unplug and celebrate!  Read the article…

Far & Wide – May 2019

Sometimes the pinnacle destinations overwhelm the lesser known options, and it can be hard to find unique spots to explore that aren’t where everyone else is going to for their vacations.  This article by Sarah Kuta in Far & Wide gives some great options for travelers looking for a special summer vacation that isn’t packed with other tourists.  Steamboat Springs made the list, and we got a shout out to visit Vista Verde as a way to truly take in the Western vibe that makes Steamboat unique.  Read the article….

Cookshack E-Newsletter – April 2019

Chef Chol recently passed along to me this email newsletter from Cookshack, the company who makes our smoker.  It was a great surprise to see the write up all about Vista Verde and Chol’s testimonial for the smoker.  Hey, it’s about to be BBQ season, so this gets us excited for summertime!  Because the link may not last for too long, here is the write-up below:

Testimonial by Food & Beverage Director, Chol McGlynn with Vista Verde Ranch

Vista Verde Ranch has been around since it was homesteaded in 1916 and then established as a guest ranch in 1975. It is located just north of scenic Steamboat Springs in Clark Colorado nestled within the Routt National Forest. Since its beginning, Vista Verde Ranch has seen a few owners come and go, each one leaving their mark and leaving the ranch a better place; growing it into a AAA Four Diamond Award Recipient as an all-inclusive luxury guest dude ranch. The ranch features a lodge with 3 rooms and free standing 1-3 bedroom log cabins with private decks and hot tubs. The cabins are stocked with snacks but all meals are served in the informal dining room. Along with horseback riding and a seasonal outdoor pool, the ranch offers biking, fishing, hiking, and cross-country skiing.

Seventeen years ago when Chol McGlynn took the position as Food and Beverage Director at Vista Verde ranch, he inherited the Cookshack Model 105 Smoker Oven that was built in 1994 (current model is the SM160). They use the smoker every day to smoke ribs, brisket, pork butt, fish, butter, and vegetables. Chol specifically likes the easy control system of the Model 105 and how it allows them to smoke and serve all kinds of food for their guests. “Not all places have a smoker, guests love the food that comes from it.” Chol’s favorite recipe to cook and serve to guests are ribs with a simple dry rub. “If only the rest of our kitchen equipment were as dependable and trouble-free as our Cookshack Smoker!”

Dude Ranch Life: Kids Unplugged

Each member of the ranch team brings their own passions to their areas of the ranch. With Mandy’s background as an educator, her love of the outdoors, and enjoyment introducing children to the natural world, she is finding more and more ways to weave her passions into the kids, tween, and teen programs.

Without making major shifts to the much-loved events of these programs, she is adding a layer to each experience that helps children be more mindful of the beautiful details around them and their experiences in the outdoors, embrace what it feels like to unplug, and raise their awareness of the layers of discovery they can have by being observant. What a gift in our age of constantly looking at screens and being so busy that we don’t have time to stop and appreciate the magnificence in the things.

Dude Ranch Life: Chef’s Corner

Transitions are a key part of ranch life, and this spring we say goodbye to Jason Monahan who has been a key player in our kitchen the past few years. Looking forward Chef Chol is excited to add two new highly talented chefs to the roster this Spring. These guys both bring a wealth of talent and great enthusiasm, which Chol is excited to capitalize on for new ideas and creative dishes.

Along with the new talent, Chol has been busy working with Bill on the design for a kitchen expansion later in the year, as the culinary program and talent have outgrown our current design.

Chol’s plate is full indeed, pun intended, but he still finds time to work with his crew to discover new vendors so we can offer locally sourced options for our guests. We’re loving the addition of eggs from Hayden Fresh Farm already, and he has some interesting produce options he’s trying out right now as well.

Dude Ranch Life: Simms’ Summits

We are constantly trying to find the balance between giving our guests the best possible experience and keeping this special place sustainable for years to come. With this in mind, Ben Simms brought a new idea to the table for our guests this past winter, and it was the highlight of many guests’ stays.  Dubbed the Epic Tour, it was a combo snowmobile and ski tour.  Using snowmobiles, the guides were able to design trips to access areas of the backcountry we weren’t able to explore on skis alone. Once the skiing was over, guests still had the ability to see tons of terrain via snowmobile or to try their hand at playing in the powder.

Looking towards summer, Ben has crafted an Epic Experience for our summer guests that involves packing up tents and sleeping bags and heading out for an overnight stay deep in the backcountry.  This is the real deal, with a vigorous hike carrying packs, dinner, and stories as the sun drops behind the peaks, and a night listening to the rhythms of nature.  Due to the Epic nature of these trips, the numbers are limited and there is an additional cost.  Ben and his Adventure Center crew are excited to share this Epic Experience with those looking to take their vacation to the next level.

Dude Ranch Life: Yogis in the Woods

Once the snow melts to reveal the yoga platforms out in the woods, Devyn will be tidying things up for another summer of Wild Yoga. She has spent the past couple of years diving deeper into her yoga teacher training, and this Spring is wrapping up her Big Power Yoga Teacher Empowerment Program and Internship at Out Here Yoga in Steamboat. As she reflects on this next level of teacher training, she tells us she’s found more tools to empower people to new possibilities through the physical asanas.

With the Wild Yoga program, Devyn takes the opportunity to use the outdoors and the yoga practice to open the door to being more present in body, thus connecting people with themselves. Plus, you may receive the extra gift she sometimes weaves into the close of practice out under the aspens…..we’ll leave that as a surprise.  Start counting the days to warm sunshine and rustling aspens and yogis in the woods.

Dude Ranch Life: Teaching and Whip Cracking

What do teaching and whip cracking have in common?  At Vista Verde, it’s all part of a grand plan from the folks who head up the barn.

Mary and Sam had a lot of time to think about the summer program as they tossed out hay to the horses day after day this winter, and they have all sorts of great ideas brewed up for the horse program!

It starts with day one of staff orientation and how they are planning on training the wranglers, followed by in-depth wrangler clinics throughout the season. The goal of all this is to take the riding history of each wrangler, help them find a way to share that knowledge better with our guests, and then take them further along in their horsemanship skills, so every wrangler is a better teacher and horseperson.

Capitalizing on the unique backgrounds of each wrangler and recognizing that there are so many areas of horses and ranching that we don’t get to dive into with our guests, Mary and Sam are also putting together a new event to showcase all things ranching. From learning to crack a whip and swing a rope, to understanding proper saddle fit and examining conformation, to learning what to look for when purchasing a horse, to showcasing our wranglers’ special skills, this event will allow guests to experience the diversity of horses and ranching.

Mary and Sam have also been busy this past winter getting several of our young colts started under saddle and ready to go out on the trail and learn the ropes of being a ranch horse. Wingo, Scout, Charm, and Wesson are all well on their way, and a few older project horses who had been sitting on the back burner are turning into nice mounts ready to enter the riding string. With the addition of 5 new horses already this spring, and another sale on the horizon, we have a number of up and coming horses for you all to try out!

Spring for Fly Fishing Guides

It’s funny that I’m writing about spring fishing right now as snow is falling here in Clark. With about 5 feet on the ground, and no end in sight, I’m starting to wonder about the remaining existence of any of the fences on the ranch. It’s starting to seem like spring might never actually happen. However, as unlikely as it seems right now, it is EVENTUALLY going to happen… I mean it has to by at least July, right? Ok now I’m just being pessimistic. Really, we should be thankful for the abundance (what some may call OVER abundance) of snow we have received this winter.

Snow is one of those weird things that as an angler you wish to have, and simultaneously not have. As in, I want us to have 400 inches of it sitting in the mountains, ready to feed our rivers all summer; I just don’t want it to fall on any of the days I want to go fishing, which just happens to be every day. That’s not too much to ask for right? Since I have yet to hear about 400 inches falling overnight in any one place, and since I don’t know about any great trout rivers that exist without winter snowfall, I guess I’ll just put up with shoveling my deck every morning for now. Sigh.

When all this snow finally starts melting, it creates a phenomenon that anybody who lives in the west knows as run off, and any fishing guide who lives in the west knows as fly tying and beer drinking season. Ok, really, it’s just beer drinking season, but I felt that I should include the first part because the two seem correlated, at least inversely. The more and more empty my fridge gets, the more and more full my fly boxes get. It’s the craziest thing, but other guides that I’ve asked about it have confirmed that they have experienced the same strange relationship between the two. So, I think it’s at least worth acknowledging.

Anyways, while I’m busy squinting at practically microscopic hooks, the nearly 400 inches of snow that we DIDN’T get all at once is going to melt at a much faster rate than it fell. This will effectively turn our crystal clear, mountain trout stream into a raging torrent of chocolate milk for the next, oh, let’s say 300 flies or so. During that time, our beautiful winter wonderland will go through a not so beautiful transition into what you know of it in the early summer, green pastures and wildflowers. Like if a butterfly somehow became a caterpillar then morphed back into a butterfly–ok bad analogy. After the dust has settled and we’re back into butterfly mode then I should have fly boxes bursting at the seams alongside a mild case of carpal tunnel. If everything goes as planned, the only contents left in my fridge by then will be condiments, and the trout in the again clear mountain stream will be biting.

Until then, bring on the melt.

Travel Boulder – March 2019

It can be hard to explain Vista Verde to people who haven’t been here before.  It’s luxury, but it’s not stuffy.  How do you paint that picture for potential guests?  Well, I now have some words to use after reading this article in Travel Boulder.

“You can find plenty of opportunities to connect with horses at Vista Verde Ranch, an all-inclusive dude ranch that will make you feel like you’re roughin’ it like a cowboy — but not too rough. The 540-acre ranch is a picture of rugged luxury — it’s elegant without being pretentious, but comfy and cozy at the same time. You won’t feel like a visitor at all, with the ranch hands and other staff joining you at meal time and on game nights.”

Read the full article…

Simplemost.com – March 2019

After a day of outdoor adventure, using muscles you forgot you had, and playing in the snow, we think there is no better way to cap off your winter vacation than by soaking in a private hot tub while you watch the snow fall.  Journalist Sarah Kuta was thinking the same thing when she put together this article titled 11 Insanely Cozy Hot Tubs You’ll Want to Soak in ASAP.  Read the article….

The Forecast – March 2019

When Ariana Dickson reached out to us to ask if we would mind being included in her article for The Forecast titled 10 Unbelievable All-inclusive Resorts You’ll Never Want to Leave of course I said “Sure!”  But when I saw the final piece I realized quickly this is not your normal all-inclusive resort round-up.  In fact, I just added a number of new destinations to my bucket list!  If you’re looking for a really unique vacation destination, then check out this article!  We would recommend #7 as the best option!  Read the article….

Dude Ranch Life: The Vendors Behind the Scenes

While we not shy to give our staff props for being such wonderful folks, we don’t typically point out all the people behind the behind the scenes who are an integral part of making the wheels on the bus go round and round here at Vista Verde.  This past week it struck me that there are a lot of great people out there working and rooting for the ranch who don’t get to spend time with our guests and reap the rewards of seeing folks having a great time on their vacations.

What really got me thinking about this is an email I got from Andrew Bisbee of Bisbee Creative, who does our graphic design work and just finished helping us create our new brochure.  He is so committed to making sure our message is being delivered well that he drove all the way to Denver in winter conditions to monitor the printing of the brochures, despite me telling him not to go through all that effort for us.  Nonetheless he did it.  It’s inspiring to work with professionals who are committed to quality in what they do, and who take care of us in such an excellent way so we can focus on doing what we do as well as possible.

I also met some of our vendors while down in Colorado Springs at the Colorado Dude and Guest Ranch Association Spring convention.  Yes, dude ranchers have conventions.  From the couple at Mountain Arts Pottery who make that gorgeous pottery we have in the dining room (you have to love those blue mugs, right!?) to the cowboy who makes the chaps that our wranglers appreciate so much when they are riding through trees, brush, and chasing cows, these folks all contribute to the ranch’s success.

There isn’t enough time left today for me to go through the longer list of deserving vendors, but here’s a general shout out to all the people who help us do our jobs and who care about the product we’re delivering to our guests here at the ranch.   We couldn’t do it without you!!