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!

snowmobile guide learning about avalanche safety

Dude Ranch Life: Safety First

This winter has been the winter of safety training. More specifically avalanche safety training. It really is more of opportunities for training arising than anything, but it has led to a lot of interesting conversations around the dinner table (ok, breakfast and lunch too as we do take gathering to eat seriously here). The course opportunities started in January when Devyn took an avalanche safety class from the local community college, which has an outstanding outdoor education component. Following that, Ben (guide) and Michael headed off to Estes Park for a level 1 course with the American Institute of Avalanche Research and Education. Both discovered in that course that they did know a lot more than they gave themselves credit for prior to the course, but the hands on, backcountry classroom experience was the most valuable portion of the course. Just days later, Charlie had the opportunity to join some local park rangers for a Level 1 class for snowmobile riders with Tyler’s Backcountry Awareness.

We have always taken safety as a high priority, as we carry a lot of responsibility every time we take our guests out into the backcountry–whether on foot, horseback, skis, bikes, or snowmobiles. And, winter weather adds a whole new element of safety issues into that equation. It’s really nice to be armed with this knowledge and experience to continue to work towards providing all of you compelling experiences that are also safe experiences! It’s truly a line we walk every single time we take guests out, and we’re thankful to have so many amazing pro-guides to help steer the course of those daily decisions.


colorado fly fishing news

So, you fish for flies?

We have a new guest blogger! Isaac Ness, who runs our fly fishing program has agreed to pick up the reins of the category of our blog dedicated to anglers. I say dedicated, but it’s been a bit quiet for a while, so we’re excited to start getting some fly fishing content up again. For those of you who have been to the ranch in the past several years, you know Isaac is a bit single minded and has the ability to turn every conversation to revolve around fishing. I guess that means he’s in the correct role here at the ranch. With no further ado, I give you Isaac’s intro to fly fishing….more to come soon with tidbits for the novice angler to those who dream of big trout!

So you think you want to try fly fishing? That’s that thing from “A River Runs Through It” right? Sure, we’ve all seen the movie but what really is fly fishing? What makes it different from fishing with a “normal” (conventional) fishing rod? Honestly, probably not as much as you think. I’ve heard the definition of fishing as a jerk on one end waiting for a jerk on the other. This definitely applies to fly fishing as well as conventional fishing. What really sets it apart is the type of line and the lures or flies used.

When you break it down, line is the biggest difference. With a conventional rod, the lure or bait on the end has weight to it. When it’s casted, that weight pulls the nearly weightless line off the reel. This is a great way to be able to whip your lure nearly half way across the lake. The down side is that we need a lure that has enough weight to pull our line off, meaning that when it lands there’s going to be a splash like a fat kid cannonballing off a diving board. We might not get too many bites after that. It also means we can’t cast anything that’s small or light enough to float on the surface.

With fly fishing, we’re generally trying to imitate the food trout eat. Which often is bugs so small you must squint with your reading glasses on to see them at all. Realistic imitations of these bugs would be hard to throw on a conventional rod because they wouldn’t have enough weight to pull out your line. Fly fishing solves this problem by using a weighted line that pulls your weightless lure or fly out to where the fish are. This system accounts for the different cast you saw brad pit doing in “A River Runs Through It” where the line goes back and forth through the air like he’s Harry Potter trying to cast a spell. While this method doesn’t get our flies or lures out quite as far, it results in a more delicate presentation and more accurate cast (once the technique is mastered). But where does the “fly” part come in?

The other part to this story, and one of the hallmarks of fly fishing, is the use of artificial lures called flies. The name comes from traditional anglers imitating an insect called a mayfly that lives in and around streams. Today flies can be any artificial imitation of a fish’s diet that is tied with thread onto a hook. Most of them are imitations of various bugs that trout eat, but they could represent anything. I’ve even seen a fly tied like a cigarette butt. The fish that take that bait obviously haven’t read the surgeon general’s warnings! Some people have even tied flies that don’t end up looking like anything besides a hunk of fur on a hook despite their best efforts (we all have a few flies that match that description). One key feature to all flies is that they’re light enough to be cast by our weighted line. Because flies are so light they can be presented very delicately and quietly to fish. The down side to a lighter fly however, is a heck of a time trying to get them to go down deep in the water. Ever try diving with a lifejacket on? Parallels could be drawn. These Factors make fly fishing very effective for targeting shallow water fish.

Ultimately fly fishing is just another way to present your lure to a fish. Lots of people have gotten caught up in this purist mentality that they’re somehow better than the guy throwing a night crawler under a bobber. Everyone must decide for themselves how they want to fish. If you’re trying to catch bottom feeding fish in 200 feet of water, fly fishing may not be for you. If you want to catch a skittish trout in a crystal-clear mountain stream, fly fishing is probably your best chance. But just remember, however we choose to fish, we’re all just a jerk on one end waiting for a jerk on the other.

luxury ranch resort horse care

Dude Ranch Life: Drunk Ponies

They were drunk. Or something was going on. Why else would there be horses scattered around the arena with their heads hanging low while they swayed back and forth as if on a boat? Rounding the corner, the mystery was solved. It was dental day at Vista Verde! Dr. Courtney and Dr. Sarah had their power drills going and the horses were sleepy from sedation. What does dental care mean for horses? Typically we try to annually have our horses teeth examined, and floated as needed. What’s that? Here is a little info on what that all means, and why it’s important for equine health care. Our horses are important to us, as just like our staff if we take care of them then they will take good care of you while you’re here on vacation!

It was a assembly line of horses in the indoor arena. Sedation first, then as they got sleepy they were brought into the stalls where the vets were set up. Examine the horse’s mouth, assess their status, float the teeth as needed, turn out into the arena to slowly wake up, get the next horse. Oh, and then there was Zen Ben waiting with gloved hands for the boy horses to have their annual sheath cleaning. Because why not take care of that dirty business while they are a bit knocked out? We’ll leave those details for you to explore on your own. Not the most fun part of horse ownership, but someone’s gotta do it!

Mystery solved. Nope, the horses hadn’t gone on a bender in the wine room. But, I bet they are enjoying their hay a little more today than the day before. It’s a great think when your chompers work like they should!

Dude Ranch Life: As the Snowflakes Fall

There has been a long running joke at Vista Verde over the years of making up names about the ranch that sound like soap opera titles. As the Aspens Turn, As the Snowflakes Fall, All My Horses, Rides of our Lives, you get the idea. It’s not that life at the ranch is really that dramatic, but on the days when we’re all going a dozen different directions trying to keep all the different plates spinning, it is a good way to chuckle. So, with the funky winter we’ve had this year–late to start, then snow, then no snow and warm weather, oh yeah finally snow again, oh gosh now it’s blowing away, phew another storm–you get the idea–this title felt somewhat appropriate.

So, what has been going on at the ranch? Behind the scenes of taking out guests on skis and snowshoes, tubing, dancing, dining and hot tubbing there is a lot of hitching up the sleigh for feeding time, baking breads and simmering stocks while at the same time preparing meals for 10 different dietary restrictions, cleaning stalls, early morning grooming and snow blowing, ironing sheets and polishing mirrors, answering back to back phone calls about reservations for vacations this winter, next summer, the fall, and even next winter, and lots and lots of Skype interviews with potential staff. The ranch reminds me of a beehive sometimes. Nice, quiet, and peaceful from the outside, but a buzzing factory once you dive into it.

Deep in that buzzing beehive there are some exciting things happening! Ben and KP returned from a horse sale late Saturday night with 5 new geldings who all seem pretty amazing. After giving them a day to settle into their new home in private stalls in the Indoor Arena, Monday was a play day with a number of staff hopping on them to see how they go. So far, we’re really happy with what we see. You never know what you’re going to get when you buy a horse, and often times you find out things about them once they are back at the ranch that didn’t show up at the sale.

So, as the beehive keeps buzzing and the snowflakes hopefully keep falling, we’ll continue to try keeping all those plates spinning.


Vacation with the Griswolds – February 2018

January was the month of radio interviews for the ranch. We were asked by two different blog radio shows to chat with them about Vista Verde. It was fun to chat with both hosts, and I got a little insight into the world of blog radio shows. Both of the hosts were intrigued to learn about dude ranch vacations, and it was fun to explain to their listeners how a luxury ranch vacation is quite different than what people remember from the movie “City Slickers.” In addition, opening up their eyes to winter ranch vacations brought on a lot of questions about what you can do at a ranch in the winter months. I had a ton of fun chatting with Steve and Lisa Griswold from Vacation with the Griswolds and am hoping they come out to the ranch with their kids someday soon! You can read their blog post (Vista Verde–this is not your normal ski vacation) as well as listen to their interview.

Parents Magazine – January 2018

Wow, to make it into Parents Magazine is quite an honor, and we are grateful for Karen Cicero including Vista Verde in her article about the 10 Best Snow Resorts. With the kids program kicking back into gear this coming weekend, the timing is perfect to be celebrating family snow vacations at the ranch. Bring on the snow, bring on the giggles, and bring on the hot chocolate! Read the article…..

Dude Ranch Life: The VVR Book Edition

When you live in a place with limited bandwidth and spotty cell phone service, there tends to be an inclination to either go to the dark side or just read a lot of books. As we prefer the latter option, there tend to always be a lot of great book recommendations that come from our staff. This week we share some great suggestions that tie into our local area and activities we like to pursue.

Recommended by Beka
Hiking the Boat by Diana Crane-White: We use this book all the time when trying to learn more about the history and surroundings of the beautiful trails we use year around. It is focused on summer but has many useful and fun facts and advice about the area. It’s a must have, even as an encyclopedia for hiking the areas around Vista Verde Ranch in the summer. It’s hard to find in any shops outside Steamboat Springs but can be ordered online.

Recommended by “Zen Ben”
Horses Never Lie and Considering The Horse by Mark Rashid: These are two wonderful books that help introduce true horsemanship to anyone interested in learning more about horses. These books help transform the old mindset of “breaking the horse” and the old cowboy into the new trusted-based relationship through passive leadership. True horse people start with trust as the foundation to build a relationship with their horse. I read this book faster than I read Harry Potter!

Recommended by Devyn
Nothing Daunted by Dorothy Wickenden: This is a true story of two adventurous East Coast society girls who take teaching jobs west of Steamboat Springs in the Elkhead Mountains. This book is seamlessly written, with beautiful descriptions of the landscape, great stories from the wild west, and historical information.

dude ranch babies

Dude Ranch Life: All kinds of babies

With the large staff filled with young people starting off in life, we always have a stream of ranch babies to cuddle and love on. And we’re not even referring to the cute foals that arrive every spring. We’re talking about little people! As one set grows up, another arrives, and 2018 is no different than the past several years.

At this point it’’ pretty hard to hide the fact that Beka and Michael are expecting a little one to come skiing out to join them on their many adventures at the end of March. Not that anyone was trying to hide it, but somehow it flew under my radar to make a big announcement last summer when we heard the great news. Of course, Beka hasn’t let pregnancy slow her down much, and she’s still getting out and enjoying her time recreating in the snow as long as possible. We can’t wait to meet this little girl soon, and we will keep you all posted of her arrival.

Adding to the excitement there was another baby announcement recently. Must be something in the water up at the Adventure Center, as Ben and Addie will be welcoming their first child mid-summer. Wow, we’re going to have some active little kiddos cruising around this ranch pretty soon. I suppose Eamon will finally get a run for his money!

What a great place to start a family, and what a great place to grow up! We look forward to meeting these new additions to our ranch family.

kids on winter vacation

My winter ranch vacation: Poppy’s 5 perfect days at VVR

It has been fun to ask different guests about what their 5 perfect days at the ranch look like to them. Twelve-year-old Poppy represents the age that I want to be at the ranch–when you get to enjoy all the fun, but don’t have to foot the bill! I interviewed her when she was at the ranch over the holidays, and here is how she broke down her perfect 5 days of a winter vacation at Vista Verde.

Day 1
Definitely need to start the trip off right with a tubing party with the kids and the kid wranglers. What makes it even better is a break in the middle of the fun for hot chocolate and apple cider.
Poppy has figured out that the best way to play out her time at Vista Verde is to spend some time enjoying the kids program mixed in with sharing experiences with her family. So, in the afternoon, she would rally her mum, dad, and brother to go out on a family snow shoe tour with a guide. There are so many places to explore, that she would leave it up to the guide to pick the best spot where the powder is the most fresh that day.

Day 2
After breakfast with her family, Poppy would head over to the indoor arena to join the kids and play games, and learn how to stay on her horse. This is a big deal for Poppy, as she has been a little nervous about riding. Zip is her main man, and despite his tall size, his gentle spirit shines through and comforts her a bit. After some instruction as well as horseback games, she starts feeling a lot more comfortable on Zip and the smile gets bigger and bigger on her face.
Once again, following a hearty lunch in the dining room with the staff, other guests, and her family, her parents and brother strap on skis with her and they go out to explore the back country with one of the ranch guides.

Day 3
Today Poppy is going to start off the morning with an invigorating ski with her folks. A stop to build a snow pit and make a fire only make the adventure even more fun. Hot chocolate again? You bet!!
After burning all those calories skiing, everyone in the family is hungry so they make sure not to miss the lunch bell and warm up by the fire.
Next up is a trail ride with the kids program crew, followed by grooming Zip and braiding his mane and tail. It’s nice to get that time to pamper her horse, and Poppy enjoys making Zip look fabulous.

Day 4
It’s been a while since she’s been on the tubing hill, and it is such a highlight for a kid who likes to giggle, so she heads up on the snowmobiles with all the other kids joining the kids program that morning. The squeals of delight are heard all the way down at the lodge as the kids sail down the hill on the tubes. And, the icing on the cake is that Poppy gets a ride back up the hill on the back of a snowmobile after each trip down. Hot chocolate and apple cider again mid-morning? Yep!
Following lunch, Poppy heads back up to the kids hut to join the kids in making ice sculptures and snow treats. What, you haven’t made a snow treat at Vista Verde before? Well, you might need to track down Poppy to find out the secret recipe.

Day 5
Oh boy, it’s the last day….how hard it is to pick the grand finale! Poppy decided that a snowshoe with her family in the morning would be a great way to wrap up a wonderful family vacation. Of course, stopping for treats along the way is a must.
Just because it is a family vacation, and Poppy knows she has a great family, she is going to opt for a trail ride all together for their last afternoon. Even better would be to order up some light snow falling from the sky to mute the sounds and make the ride even more peaceful and enjoyable.

winter vacation ideas

My winter ranch vacation: Max’s 5 perfect days at VVR

Here’s the guy who has been coming to Vista Verde since he was a little tike, and has now been at the ranch during both the summer and winter time. So, how does a veteran VVR guest play out his 5 perfect days? Max shared with me his vision of 5 perfect days over breakfast when he was at the ranch recently.

Day 1
Max didn’t hesitate to suggest that he would start his stay off with a horsemanship clinic. He acknowledged that riding a horse is much like riding a bike, and that a refresher on his technique is always a good way to get tuned up for the rest of his stay. It’s time to reconnect with his buddy Rebel and get his timing and cues sharpened up with KP’s instruction.
Over lunch, Max reconnects with his family, and lingers over coffee with his grandma. She’s been bringing him to the ranch for years, and they have shared so many memories here together. This is a special place where they enjoy long conversations and tales of the trail together.
After spending the morning inside the indoor arena, it’s time to get out and get moving, so Max chose to go cross country skiing that first afternoon. It’s a good intro for him as he hasn’t spent as much time at the ranch in the winter as he has in the summer. This intro to skiing gets him dialed in so he is able to do more and advance throughout his stay at the ranch.

Day 2
Now that he’s feeling more acclimated, Max is ready to hit it hard today. The morning is a backcountry ski, and it’s amazing with fresh snow having fallen overnight. The powder is light and fluffy, and the scenery is glorious. Almost so much that he doesn’t realize that he is working pretty hard as the guides see a young, fit guy and decide to push him a bit.
The warm fire in the Lodge and a big lunch are a welcome sight after that big ski. It’s wonderful that when you’re a young guy packing away the calories you can just keep eating and eating at the ranch! It’s good to catch up with his little brother and hear about what fun he had that morning as well.
Fueled up and recharged, Max jumps onto snowshoes for the afternoon. It is fun to be able to tackle terrain he might not have wanted to attempt on skis, but have no problem climbing up hills and meandering through tight trees on the snowshoes. I’m guessing this is a night that Max barely makes it through dessert before he falls asleep.

Day 3
Now it’s time to get back on Rebel, and Max is really looking forward to the new clinic that Ben Y-H is leading this winter called Zen and the Art of Horsemanship. Max points out how cool it is to stop thinking about himself as a rider and instead think of his horse as an extension of himself. During the clinic he finds himself tuning into the smaller, subtle details of riding, which is eye-opening and exciting to notice.
After yesterday’s epic outings, a trail ride with his family sounds kind of nice today. Mellow, scenic, relaxing, and then, look at that, there is time for a dip in the hot tub before dinner and the music show that night!

Day 4
Having rested yesterday, Max is ready to strap on snowshoes for an all-day outing. The crew going on the trip pack lunches and hit the trial mid-morning. It’s a highlight for this California guy to be walking across a frozen lake, with a view of Hahn’s Peak in the distance. Also, having been to the ranch so many times in the summer, it’s fun to experience a new version of places he’s been before–like this lake where he’s dipped his hand into the cool water in the summer, but is now literally walking on water as he snowshoes across to the other side!

Day 5
That final day has proven to be a tough one for all of those who I’ve asked to craft their perfect 5 days….so tough to pick that final wow moment. Max settles on a final backcountry ski to hone his skills. Maybe some ups and downs to practice technique, so next time he’s back on skis he’ll be able to start a jump ahead with his improved skills.
To wrap up a great trip with his family, they will go on another trail ride to enjoy the views around the ranch on horseback. This also gives him a chance to say goodbye to Rebel and have a final moment of time together before Max has to leave the ranch.
Another great version of how to enjoy the ranch. There are so many different ways one could play out their 5 perfect days at Vista Verde. What would yours look like?

winter guest ranch fan

My winter ranch vacation: Wanda’s 5 perfect days at VVR

There are few guests who are bigger fans than Wanda. Ok, maybe some are pretty close, but what we love about Wanda is her enthusiasm for snow and being at Vista Verde in the winter. So, it was no surprise that, when I asked her to send me what her 5 perfect days at the ranch look like, I received a bit of a novel in reply. It made me excited about winter just reading her descriptions! So, from the Southern empty nester who dreams of fresh powder, here is Wanda’s take on 5 perfect days at Vista Verde.

Day 1
My morning starts with an early morning soak in the hot tub. Dawn is breaking, it is snowing, the only sounds are the horses in the winter pasture. Then to the lodge for my favorite breakfast of VVR branded pancakes with breakfast potatoes & thick cut bacon. The excitement of planning our first full day of activities… must include tubing!!! Off to the Nordic center to meet our group & on the snowmobile up the hill we go to tube down & ride back up..repeat x10 then to the Nordic Center to warm up and talk with the staff & guests with a cup of hot cider.
A quick walk to the barn to check on the horses & off to lunch. Schedule for the afternoon… snowshoe to Elk River (love this trip): the snow is deep, the water is frozen & we snowshoe right on the river.
We have definitely reached our 10,000 step mark. Back to the cabin for a shower in our luxurious bathroom & a quick nap.
Happy hour at 6:00, amazing dinner, and another walk to the barn for the barn dance with staff & guests!! I wish I could remember what I learned the year before.
We fall into our soft comfy bed, happy to be in this amazing place.

Day 2
Up early. It is really snowing. Take a long walk around the ranch, just enjoying the beauty. We can smell the bacon cooking. Down to breakfast for some fresh fruit and amazing granola. Oh… special… grits for breakfast!!! Off to track ski. The trail is groomed, and there is fresh champagne powder in the tracks. A quick change into snowshoes & off to the mare barn to check on all the “girls.”
Ready for a bowl of hot soup & a sandwich. We are ready for a snowshoe trip to Pearl Lake. Love the hike in & out. 10,000 steps again today!
Hot shower, quick nap & ready for dinner!!! Great meal with old & new friends we have met at the ranch over these 12 years. Always wonderful to reconnect. Excited about our schedule tomorrow. The weather calls for snow & more snow. “Early to Bed, Early to Rise!”

Day 3
How I love the hot tub soak to start my day… cup of hot coffee and total silence.
I dream of the sound of “crunch” as we walk to breakfast. Dreaming of pancakes!!! Need the carbs for the energy to handle our busy schedule!! (Justification) We are headed to the Continental Divide on the back of the snowmobile. What an adventure!!! We repeat this trip every year. I cannot get enough of the beautiful landscape. Hoping for another lesson on “avalanche science.”
Ready for a quick lunch and off to feed the horses. They are so beautiful as they run behind the sled in the deep snow, ready for some fresh hay. I hear the tubing hill calling my name. Who would believe a 70-year-old woman would still enjoy that “childhood”memory. Many times up & down and landing in the soft powder at the bottom. The guides seem to enjoy their trips up & down as much as we do.
Time for a break & a nap. Seems to be a common thread every day about this time.
Ready for another great meal… wine pairing tonight. Such fun as Chef Chol comes out and interacts so personally with us. A great time after dinner to sit in front of the fireplace and plan Day 4. The walk back to our cabin with the snow falling always makes me smile & makes me even more excited to see how much falls during the night. I will be up peeking out many times before dawn.

Day 4
Today we are off on another adventure…. Our first try at the Hinman Lake snowshoe. It has been on our radar for three years, and today we are going to give it the old North Carolina try! Could be a very short day… or a very long day.
Lunch & a relaxing sleigh ride… a time to huddle & cuddle with my amazing husband. (With Finn in the front keeping an eye out).
Love having the casual dinners with staff and out for an entertaining evening with the Farwell Mountain Band for a little singing & dancing.

Day 5
Last day. This is always the hardest to plan. How do you get everything else you want to do into one day. I have not ridden in the indoor arena. I have not been on one trail ride. We have not been to Hahn’s Peak Lake.
Ok. Decision time… since it is snowing so beautifully here, we are heading out on trail ride…. then we will strap on a pair of skis and ski around the Ranch until lunch.
Ending up at Hahn’s Peak Lake for our final adventure. There is just “so much to do… so little time.”

celebrating valentines day at the ranch

Travel Channel – February 2018

With Valentine’s Day coming soon, many people are turning their thoughts to romance. The folks over at Travel Channel put together a list of luxury ranches that are just right for romance. And look at that, we were included in the list! We would agree that staying in a cozy cabin with a crackling fire in the wood burning stove, relaxing in the hot tub while you watch the snow falling, sharing new adventures with your loved one, and enjoying a glass of wine and a gorgeous meal are all a great recipe for romance! Read the article…..

The Spotlight is on Cheryl Levesque

It’s been a while since we’ve featured a staff member, and the stars aligned this week to put the spotlight on Cheryl Levesque. Why? Because we are going to be handing over the reins of our Instagram and Facebook accounts for a while to Cheryl, so it’s great for you all to meet who will be the face behind the posts this winter! Both Steph and Devyn have found themselves in the weeds a bit this winter, with so many great projects to tackle and so many great guests to entertain, so Cheryl is helping lighten our loads while the ranch is covered in snow.

After graduating High School, Cheryl was working as a secretary for an Optometrist and Personal Assistant for a Psychiatrist. Realizing that she had no desire to go to college, at the time, and wasn’t feeling fulfilled in the 9-5 job life, she decided to spend some time doing things that she enjoyed and packed up and moved to Colorado. Before coming to Vista Verde, Cheryl had worked at a couple other guest ranches in Colorado–working for 3 summers with one and the winter season with the other. She first heard of Vista Verde through a friend who had worked for us for a few seasons, and then through her sister, who was (and still is) working as a line cook at the ranch. Missing her sister and ready to experience a new environment she joined the VVR team in August of 2017 as a line cook alongside her sister. This winter she branched out to join the team in the office crew, and is learning all the behind the scenes workings of a dude ranch. Cheryl enjoys the great outdoors and being able to be active in them by hiking, biking, running, riding, and now in the snow! One of her more memorable experiences was getting to trek through Nepal and the Himalayan mountains. While there she volunteered with a local café and got to meet many locals and travelers both. She’s looking forward to going trekking through Norway and Europe this spring during our off season break!

We look forward to seeing what Cheryl finds to share with all of you on our social media accounts. If you aren’t already following us on Instagram and Facebook, tune in and stay up to date on what’s going on at the ranch!

Dude Ranch Life: Observations from a ranch baby

This past month we were joined by Cori and Dan Ford, two of our ranch alum who met at the ranch and are now married. Cori and Dan have come back over the years, during breaks in Dan’s medical school schedule, to help out during busy times. We always love having them at the ranch, and they always jump right into the mix and help out in so many ways. This holiday season we had the extra special fun of having 4 month old baby Tyler along for the ride. We’re all pretty sure Tyler is the cutest baby ever…..ok, well maybe right in there with Saoirse. And Eamon. And Wy-Guy, Scotlyn, and Coulton. Oh, and Althea. And Maggie and Ella. Ok, the list goes on and on. Maybe it’s just fun having ranch babies!?

Having Tyler cruising around the ranch in various arms, we’re pretty sure he came to some conclusions and still has some questions about spending the holidays at a dude ranch. They most likely go something like this:

  1. What is with the forest inside a building? I thought big trees belong outside?
  2. I will never learn to walk as the people here just hand me around all day long. By the way, has anyone seen my parents lately?
  3. When those furry creatures breath on me it tickles.
  4. Why is everyone here so nice?
  5. I like celebrating New Year’s Eve on East Coast time, as it was already long past my bedtime and the dancing was exhausting to watch.
  6. Wow, those desserts look REALLY good, but I can’t eat them yet.
  7. Wow, that dinner looks REALLY good, but I can’t eat it yet.
  8. Oh look, another person just took me and carried me away. By the way has anyone seen my parents lately?
  9. Wow, that bacon looks REALLY good…….are you sure I can’t just gum it for a little while?
  10. What’s up with Beka’s belly? It’s so round.

Hmmm, did you see how I slipped that one in there? In case you all hadn’t already figured it out we’re expecting another ranch baby soon! Beka and Michael have a little one coming in March. So, even though Tyler is heading back home this weekend with his parents, we won’t have long to wait for another ranch baby to show up! And maybe there will even be more right behind……but that story will have to wait until next time.

Denver Post – January 2018

At the start of our winter season, travel writer Chryss Cada spent a couple days at the ranch for a mini winter vacation with her family. In reading the article she wrote for the Denver Post, what really captured me was her opening line. “The hooves of more than a hundred horses pounding the hard-packed snow didn’t shatter the silence of the cold December morning — they filled it.” Such a beautiful statement, and so true!! Read the article…

Great American Country – December 2017

With the snow finally falling, this article by Meredith Rosenberg about 10 Great Ski Resorts for Horseback Riding came out just in time for winter riding at Vista Verde! Of course we ride a lot of in the summer, but VVR is also a great place for those who dream of riding through a field of snow. We keep a few trails packed down all winter around the ranch for those looking for a ride in the snow. In addition, our wranglers also hitch up the sleigh for sleigh rides as well as our ranch trainers lead horsemanship clinics each morning in the heated indoor arena. So, there are lots of opportunities for horseback riding on a winter vacation at Vista Verde! Read the article….

christmas vacation gift guide

Vista Verde’s First Annual Holiday Gift Guide

Ok, take this post as a little tongue in cheek, and just know that it’s the little things that make me laugh. Since everyone has a gift guide these days, I thought we needed to jump on the bandwagon. But it might actually be something I try to do each year a little earlier in the holiday season in earnest because there are actually some fun suggestions I think we could share with all of you each year! And, of course, only a little of it is completely self-serving.

With that humble intro, here are some suggestions on great gift ideas from many of the vendors we work with at the ranch.

Tender Belly Bacon!

Ok, we’re serious. I know I mention our bacon a lot, but it is really that good, and guests even comment about it when they aren’t here. So, if you can’t gift your loved one a vacation to Vista Verde Ranch, why not at least get them bacon? Tender Belly, our purveyor for that awesome bacon, offers a Bacon of the Month Club, among other options for gift purchases.

Experiences, not stuff

We all have too much stuff, don’t we? And, wouldn’t it feel better to save some packaging from the landfills? So, why not buy a winter vacation package or a week at the ranch this summer for your loved ones? You’ll create memories instead of more items to store!

Wild Rags

This is a great gift to give to someone who enjoys the Western look. We all live in them, and there are so many great designs and colors out there! Check out the variety at Wyoming Wild Rags.

Ranch Organics

Not only do we love the name, and love the gal who started this great company, but we love the products! If you want the same scent as what we have with our amenities, look for Sweet Grass. Ranch Organics is a great small Steamboat company that has gone nationwide in the past decade because of their great products.

A Horse!

Yes, we know you all need a new horse, right? So why not buy a Vista Verde Ranch bred and raised young horse? Come on now, the obstacles are merely simple ones to overcome–we’ll help you find a way to ship this critter to your home and even put a red bow around its neck.

Steaming Bean Coffee and our favorite mug

We love, love, love our blue coffee mugs. So much that we shell out the high price for them to replace the broken ones each season. They are just so beautiful, and a great size to snuggle up with on a cold morning, or a warm one, or whenever…they are that great. And the Black Magic blend from Colorado’s Steaming Bean coffee is a guest favorite, so why not pair a bag of that with a gorgeous mug from Mountain Arts Pottery?

When in doubt, gift wine!

Well, it’s always a good fall back, and why not represent the brand and buy someone a bottle of the Williams Selyem 2014 Vista Verde Vineyard Pinot Noir? No relation to the ranch, but what a cool name, right?

There you go. The inaugural holiday gift guide from Vista Verde. Here’s to a happy holiday season! Oh, and if you’re looking for something to get me, I’ll always take another wild rag. Who knows, maybe my husband might read this…..

Spotlight on Sara Brinkley

Our longtime massage therapist Trish left us this past fall to move closer to her family. We were left wondering, “How will we ever fill her shoes?” Well, after searching high and low in the Steamboat and Clark community, we found Sara Brinkley. So we wanted to introduce her to all of you this week. Sara is getting settled in at the ranch, giving massages to staff so they know her work, and getting the massage room set up to her liking. I was the lucky recipients of a massage from her recently, and am still enjoying the newly stretched muscles and relaxed back! I asked her some questions to help you all get to know her, so if you’re showing up this winter for a vacation at the ranch, you’ll already know a bit about Sara!

1. Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Maplewood, MN.

2. When you were a kid, what did you think you wanted to do when you grew up?

As I kid I really wanted to be a professional tennis player.

3. What drew you to massage therapy for a profession?

Also as a child, I was the one giving family and friend backrubs. At friend sleepovers, everyone always wanted to be in front of me in the backrub chain. So, the idea of making people feel better was probably what initially drew me to massage therapy.

4. How do you spend your free time?

I love hiking and snowshoeing with my dog. My husband and I love to backpack. We have a boat and love spending time on Steamboat Lake. We also really enjoy working on our land and doing house projects. And I still do enjoy playing tennis, even if it’s not on the circuit!

5. Beside relaxation, are there benefits to guests getting a massage while at VVR?

I believe any minor body pain can be something that changes your day, your activity, or experience. So, by relieving muscle tension, lengthening muscle tissue, and creating better circulation; massage can reduce stress, aid in better sleep, relieve injury pain, and aid in your body functioning at its best.

If you’re coming out to the ranch for a winter vacation, we hope you’ll get a chance to meet Sara and enjoy her work. She offers either 60 or 90 minute Swedish or relaxing massages typically on Monday, Wednesday and Friday afternoons. 60 minute massages are $130 and 90 minute massages are $170. Feel free to call us at 800-526-7433 to schedule your massage ahead of time, as those muscles do get sore with all the outdoor adventures going on here at the ranch!

US News and World Report – November 2017

We were included in another great article about all-inclusive resorts! Much thanks to Holly Johnson from ClubThrifty.com  for including Vista Verde in her article about the 9 Best All-Inclusive Resorts for Outdoor Recreation. Vista Verde definitely fits the bill as a great place for outdoor recreation, and we’re excited about all the snow sports this coming winter! Read the article…..

dude ranch vacations for fal

Smarter Travel – November 2017

All-inclusive vacations seem to be all the rage these days. Possibly it is people’s busy lives that make the ease of an all-inclusive trip so appealing to travelers. It does make vacation planning more simple, the vacation experience more seamless, and budgeting is a breeze as you know what it’s going to cost and you can budget for that cost. And, with more and more US travelers choosing to stay in the US for their vacations, finding an all-inclusive in the US is rising high up on traveler’s lists. So, this article about the 12 Best All-Inclusives in the United States by Smarter Travel Magazine is pretty appropriate. We’re happy to be included in this round-up of great all-inclusive vacation destinations! Read the article….

winter dude ranch season is getting closer

Dude Ranch Life: Gratitude for the little things

It’s amazing how quiet it is around the ranch right now with us being closed for the off-season. And what got on my radar this past week was realizing how much that quiet space allows us to appreciate the little things. Sure, we recognize that compared to the busy world many people live in, being at the ranch is still a more quiet place to be for many. But, when we’re open and we have a house full of guests to organize, an equally large group of staff to shepherd, and activities going every which way, there are definitely a lot of balls up in the air to keep juggling! We’re all pretty mindful of noticing the special moments, but sometimes don’t get the space to really soak them up. This past week I found myself relishing those special moments.

The bald eagle flying over head as I was driving up Seedhouse Road yesterday morning. Those are the times when I remind myself, “This life isn’t normal–most folks don’t get to see bald eagles soaring around on their commute to work!?”

The alpenglow on fresh snow in the Zirkels as the sun goes down earlier and earlier each evening.

Getting together at my house for dinner the other night with the few people who are at the ranch right now. Great times, lots of laughter, and total joy when I pulled out the dessert I had slaved over all day–a selection of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. Because we have amazing baked goods at the ranch all the time, but when we get to binge on Ben & Jerry’s?

Seeing the elk move across the hillside above the cabin early in the morning, and then later on gather in the valley floor underneath an epic sunset.

Sharing a huge pot of venison stew that Chef Jason made last week just because he’s going a little stir crazy not working much these days. What a surprise, and I can assure you all the brown bag lunches from home were quickly put back into the fridge when we smelled the stew!

Pushing the door when the handle says “Pull”! Yes, I am telling you it’s the simple pleasures I’m talking about here! Those kitchen doors are such a source of controversy with the staff, and it’s just kind of fun to walk through them the wrong way when no one is around.

What doesn’t change during the off-season? The camaraderie of the passionate people here at the ranch, who all care so much about making this dude ranch the best vacation experience ever for our guests, and who work their tails off during the off-season to gear up for the coming season. It’s a smaller crew right now, so we’re all enjoying the quiet together, getting things done, reflecting on what we can do better, implementing new ideas, and putting the wheels into motion so they are ready for when the staff arrive in early December.


all inclusive winter ranch vacations

Ranchseeker – November 2017

Our friends over at Ranchseeker are always trying to help spread the word about dude ranch vacations, and at this time of year they are shouting out about winter ranch vacations. In this article, they make the case for coming to Vista Verde for a winter ranch vacation. With the winter season starting in 30 days, the timing is perfect to be planning a winter vacation in Colorado! Read the article…..

Supercall – November 2017

The folks over at Supercall magazine know all about good drinks. In this fun article, they highlight their 4 best all-inclusive ski resorts with great drinks. We can’t deny that coming in from a long ski to the Vista Verde Ranch Great room where there is a crackling fire and a nice glass of wine awaiting you is pretty appealing! Read the article…. and get excited about winter vacations!