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: 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!

family snow vacations in Colorado

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!

ski rentals for ski vacation at vista verde

Combining your winter ranch vacation with a Steamboat Ski Resort vacation

Sometimes we feel like nervous parents when we hand our guests off to other service providers in Steamboat. Because of that we’ve been picky for our guests heading to the Steamboat Ski Resort, and are proud of the great partnership with Black Tie Ski Rentals. Black Tie gives our guests top notch equipment with the same level of service we want our guests to experience even when they are away from the ranch for the day.

If you are coming out to visit us this winter and plan to spend some time at the Steamboat Ski Resort, check out this special offer on ski and snowboard rentals for those who book before November 30. Now, please note that if you’re not yet ready to commit to a day on the mountain, we can always help make a last-minute reservation with Black Tie for your ski or snowboard rentals.

Also, for those of you considering spending some of your winter vacation time at the Steamboat Ski Resort, you can also check out their lesson packages as well as lift ticket options. It is always the best deal to purchase your tickets ahead of time online.

The Steamboat Ski Resort shuttle leaves at 7:30, so you can grab a quick breakfast, pick up your to-go lunch, and then head to the mountain. We’ll pick you up at the end of the day and bring you back in time for a quick dip in the hot tub before dinner.

luxury dude ranch cookie recipe

Chef’s Corner: Ginger Lace Cookies

If you’ve ever wondered why our pastry chef Melissa is so good, you need only dig into her family history to realize that she comes from a long line of talented bakers. This recipe from her great grandmother Formanek dates from the WWI era, hence no butter!

Melissa’s Grandma’s Ginger Lace Cookies

1 ½ cup shortening
2 cups sugar
½ cup molasses
2 eggs
4 cup flour
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp ginger
4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt

Cream the first three ingredients together until uniform, about 30 seconds in a stand mixer. Don’t over beat. (Over beating makes very flat cookies) Add eggs, mix 30 seconds. Whisk the rest of the dry ingredients together. Add to the sugar mixture and mix just until combined. Mixture will be stiff. Form into 1 inch balls and roll in sugar, do not flatten. Bake at 350 degrees for 6-8 minutes, until cookies crackle on top. That’s the “lace” design. Don’t overbake! They should not have dark edges. Let cool on the cookie sheet a few minutes, then transfer to a rack or paper towels to cool completely. These freeze well.

New Powder Riding options for your winter ranch vacation

Many of you who visited the ranch last winter tried out our snowmobiling program, and we received some great feedback over the course of the winter. We’re excited to be expanding the program this year with some new riding options.

Our programs at the ranch allow our guests to grow their skills and learn during their stay, and we wanted to mirror this in the snowmobile program. So, there will still be the option of 2-hour trail rides on the snowmobiles, but we have also added another step in the program for those who have already taken a 2-hour trail ride and want to learn more technique, skills, and play a bit more on the machines.

During the 2-hour powder rides the guides will take guests into the powder to teach them how to maneuver and manage the machines in the fresh snow. In addition, there will be the option of all-day rides that give riders time on the trail as well as powder riding instruction and play time. So, there are many options for our guests who catch the bug of riding a snowmobile. And, for all of you who want to avoid the sound of machines, please remember that we have the newer machines that are quieter, and we leave from the barn area and head off ranch right away on our tours, so the ranch remains a quiet and peaceful place. So, the phrase ‘come ride with us’ has multiple meanings—horses, fat bikes, and snowmobiles!

winter vacation overview

Dude Ranch Life: A California girl’s take on dressing for winter vacations

The other day I asked Melissa to help a guest who is coming for a winter vacation, but lives in a place where putting on a sweatshirt is most people’s idea of winter weather. What she wrote was so great, I wanted to share it with all of you. So, without knowing she was going to be a guest blogger, here is Melissa’s advice:

Melissa here! Stephanie passed along your info and that you needed some help figuring out what to bring on your winter trip. I have attached our packing list, but I wanted to give you a little more insight below.

Is the one cookie cutter answer for how to dress here? No. Why? Because each activity requires some differences in attire.

I like to break it down into active activities outside, sedentary activities outside and sedentary activities inside.

Active activities outside: Skiing and snowshoeing
These activities require your body to be active, moving and working. What that means is that your body is going to generate heat and make you warmer than if you are just sitting out in the snow. Here’s what I wear.
On Top- I start with an active tank top over a sports bra. Then, I layer a long sleeve. I wear a Smart Wool long sleeve, Hot Chili’s long sleeve, or a Nike Pro long sleeve. My next layer is either a down jacket or vest (jacket for when it is a chillier day and vest for when the sun is shining!). I have a 700 fill Marmot jacket that I absolutely LOVE. I have a Patagonia puffy vest that is great for warmer days. My final layer on top is my waterproof, hooded, lightweight jacket. I have a North Face one that does great – any brand will work.
On Bottom – If it is a chillier day, I first put on thermal leggings or long underwear. I have Hot Chili’s and they work great. Then, I wear a pair of leggings that I would wear if I was running or working out. If it is a warmer day, I skip the thermals and go straight for the leggings. My final layer is a pair of light, waterproof pants. I purchased the generic REI brand pair and they are perfect. I like to make sure they have a drawstring, so it is a really snug fit that snow can’t get into my pants if I take a spill on my toosh.
On your feet – Socks are going to be key! I have a few I like. You can’t go wrong with a pair of SmartWool. I also have REI brand merino wool hiking socks that I love. Then, you’ll slip your feet into a pair of our boots. On top of those, you’ll want a pair of gaiters so that snow doesn’t get into your boots. You can always buy a pair of gaiters here if you need.
On your hands – A pair of warm, waterproof gloves or mittens is ideal. I have an Outdoor Research pair of mittens that are great. We always have some here you can purchase. In addition, we provide hand warmers to slip into them to make your hands extra toasty on a cold day.
On your head – A warm hat or headband is great. I tend to use my Nike running headband that is lined with fleece. It covers my ears and then my hair is normally enough to keep my head warm. If it is not, I just put one of my hoods on. You will want a pair of glasses, preferably polarized. I also wear a fleece-lined buff around my neck for extra warmth. We sell them here in our store.
Lightweight Day pack- I carry a light backpack when I ski so that I can strip of layers as needed and have somewhere to put them. I also have a camelback bladder that I fill with water and keep in my pack. It’s great to carry some snacks too 
Sedentary Activities Outside: Horseback riding, sleigh rides, tubing, snowmobiling, etc.
These activities are all outdoors and don’t require much movement on your part. That means that your body won’t generate as much heat and you will really start to get chilly fast if not dressed properly.
On top- I normally go with a warm long sleeve, a sweatshirt, a puffy vest, and then a warm snow jacket.
On bottom – I will wear my thermals, leggings and then a pair of ski pants that are fleece lined.
On your head – A warm hat. This is where you can be really fun and get a cute winter hat with a pom pom! 😉
On your hands – Same as above
On your feet- Same socks as above. Then, a pair of snow boots would be ideal. We do have over-boots available for rent here. Stephanie looked and the smallest size we have is size 5 for women.
Sedentary Activities Inside: Riding in our indoor arena
Riding in the indoor arena is the main indoor activity people wonder how to dress for. It is a heated building in the winter that stays at about 50 degrees.
On Top- I wear a t-shirt and then a flannel over it. Then, I am fine with just my down jacket or vest.
On bottom- Jeans will do just fine!
On your feet- Warm socks and then a pair of boots with a heel. We have riding boots you can borrow if you need.
As far as our other indoor activities, such as cooking class, wine tasting, meals, or just hanging out in our main lodge you can dress how you would in normal cold weather and then just bundle up when walking to and from your cabin.

I hope this helps. Please let me know if you have any questions. I’m a baby when it comes to cold, it’s the Californian in me, and I do just fine here. It’s all about being prepared and having layers!




Travel and Leisure – October 2017

With an article titled the Best All-Inclusive Family Resorts, you can imagine that we were honored to be a part of this collection that Travel + Leisure put together for families looking for an amazing family vacation. Right now we are busy booking winter family vacations, but it’s not too early to think about your summer trip as well, so read on for some great ideas, as we’re hoping Vista Verde makes your list for 2018! Read the article….

Ranch Holiday tips for those travelling from the UK

Tips For Travelling To Colorado From The UK
This guest post was provided by the folks at ESTA, who help travelers from the UK get their travel documents organized before they come to the US for ranch holidays, among other destinations.

Based in the middle of the Rocky Mountains, Colorado is one of the most interesting and diverse states in America to visit. As well as being full of stunning landscapes, Colorado has some excellent outdoor recreation facilities to offer- from skiing to hiking and horseback riding. The city life is pretty bustling too, with plenty of great places to eat and shop. There are also a number of popular festivals throughout the year. If you’re planning a trip to Colorado, here are our top tips.

When travelling to the US from the UK, you’ll need to make sure you have the right documentation. Apply for a USA esta online in the months before your trip to ensure that your application is accepted in time for your flight. Without a completed ESTA application, you won’t be allowed to visit Colorado. You’ll also need an up-to-date passport that is valid for six months after the final date of your trip.

Pack The Right Clothing
Packing for Colorado’s climate can be tricky, particularly if you have limited suitcase space. In the summer months, the temperatures are much hotter than the UK- averaging around 28 degrees Celsius, while in winter temperatures plummet with lows of -15 degrees Celsius! In addition, the weather can change quickly so make sure you’ve packed a range of waterproof clothing as well as your t-shirts and shorts. If you’re going to be completing any activities, you might need appropriate clothing, such as a skiing jacket, to ensure you can participate properly. Ranch note: check out our packing lists for tips on what to pack when coming to Vista Verde for your ranch holiday.

Drinking Age
The drinking age in America is 21 and Colorado is no exception. Most bars and restaurants strictly stick to this rule, unlike in the UK where under aged individuals can drink with their parents present. Be aware that if you look under 21, even if you are not, you will be asked to show a valid ID when purchasing alcohol or ordering a drink in a bar.

The rules for tipping, or gratuity as it’s known in the US, are completely different to those found in the UK. Due to the low wages of waiters, it’s considered good manners to leave a tip of between 15 and 20% of the bill cost. Some restaurants will add this for you, so be sure to check your receipt before you leave an additional tip. It’s also common to leave bartenders a tip for your individual drink or a large order of drinks. Of course, it’s totally up to you but it’s good to know what is considered the norm when you’re visiting somewhere new. Ranch note: At Vista Verde, we are committed to our all-inclusive pricing being just that. So, no tipping is expected, and we ask that guests to not tip staff throughout their stay. Put your wallet away when you arrive, and just let us take care of you! If you are inclined to want to leave a token of your thanks at the end of your stay, you are welcome to add a tip onto your final bill and we will place it in a tip pool to be distributed to our staff. But please note that this is not expected as part of our service.

As the US’s highest state, averaging 2,073 meters above sea level, visitors may experience altitude sickness when they first arrive to Colorado. Recognisable symptoms of the illness include headaches, sickness and tiredness but these are all easily treatable ailments. If you find yourself feeling ill when you’re away, be sure to drink a lot of water and avoid alcohol for the first few nights.

These are just some of our tips to ensure that you have a great time while you’re away in Colorado.

Dude Ranch Gear

The season is wrapping up at Vista Verde Ranch, and we have some great new and used gear available for sale! If you’re in the area, stop by Sunday, October 22 from 1-4pm to shop and score a deal!

Bikes: Salsa
Bucksaws (S-XL) $2,500
Spearfish (S-XL) $1,200
XL Carbon Spearfish $1,900
Blackborows (XS-L) $900-$1,000

Winter Gear:
Snowshoes: Atlas, Crescent Moon $20-$40
Solomon SNS Ski Boots and Bindings: Various Sizes $20-$40
Backcountry Touring, Classic, and Skate Skis: Limited Selection $100
Kids Skis: $40

Hala Inflatable Boards-Nass, Straight-up, Hoss
Comes with carry kit and patch kit $850-$950

Discounted NEW Clothing and Technical Gear

Fly rods: (Prices will be posted soon)
Sage accel sizes ranging from 376-4 up to 596-4
Sage circa sizes 386-4 and 486-4
Sage LL 379-3
Sage txl-f 00710-4

Redington willow river women’s boots sizes 5-9
Redington palix river men’s boots sizes 8-13
Simms freestone men’s boots sizes 7-14

Redington crosswater women’s waders sizes small and medium
Redington crosswater men’s waders sizes S-XL
Redington sonic pro men’s waders sizes S-XL


Dude Ranch Life: Wrapping up and Saying Goodbye

Looking back on photos from this summer it seems so long ago that we opened the doors for the season in early June. But, then again, the time just flew by too fast. Here we are in our final week of the season, and with that we prepare for sad goodbyes as some of our great staff head off for new adventures in life. Notably, we have two folks heading off who we’d like to recognize as they have been instrumental in the VVR family for a long time.

Brandon was being recruited to come work at the ranch long before he even realized we had our sights set on him. As Ben’s nephew and based in Colorado Springs for his military service he came up to visit often. After completing his tours in Afghanistan, we finally were able to get Brandon and Rachelle to come join us at the ranch in 2012. With high expectations for his competence and performance, the poor guy was getting signed up for responsibilities before he even arrived. Well, he rose to the challenge, and even took on more. Over the past 5 years Brandon has been a critical player in helping us fulfill the mission of the ranch. He took on running the fly fishing program, led the charge for the ranch hand crew, launched the snowmobiling program as well as was the lead rock star of the Farwell Mountain Boys. The number of man-crushes that have been had for Brandon are countless, but nonetheless we can all agree that we wish we we could be like Brandon.

After starting their family while here at the ranch, Brandon and Rachelle fulfilled their promise to move back home to Pennsylvania to be closer to their families. Wyatt (Wy-Guy), Scotlyn, and Coulton will never know how lucky they were to start their lives in the mountains of Colorado, but we’re rooting for them to be applying to work here sometime around 2027. Until then, we’re pretty sure we’ll still get the chance to see this great family from time to time, as the pull of VVR is pretty strong. Thanks to Brandon for being such a great part of our team, and thanks to Rachelle for supporting him being gone on those late nights playing bass guitar and those early morning grooming ski trails. We have loved having them and their sweet family here, and will miss all of them dearly!

Right on Brandon’s heels is another great person, but one who had a more quiet role in the operation. Trish first came to the ranch to cover some massage work for our therapist at the time. It only took us a short while to know she belonged here as part of our team. Over the years, she grew the massage therapy program, and then, because every massage therapist is a perfect fit for accounting, she added bookkeeper to her role at the ranch. We all knew when Trish was here in the office, as there was always a zen vibe that arrived as soon as she walked in the door. She heads out this fall to move closer to her folks in Rhode Island, unfortunately further away than her arms can reach to continue to provide our guests relief through massage therapy!

As Brandon and Trish, and the many younger staff head down the drive for the last time this week we give our most sincere thanks for their contributions to making the ranch a better place. Happy trails, until we meet again!!

cattle round up at Colorado dude ranch

Dude Ranch Life: Cattle Ranching with the Beltons

October came upon us quickly, but it didn’t come quietly this year. Although we always have the chance of snow here in the fall, this month kicked off with a full-fledged winter style snow storm. Stunning? Yes. Welcomed? Well, we’d actually rather default to our preferred October weather of sunny skies to show off the golden aspens. But, that’s life in the mountains and today we’re already back to those sunny skies, albeit a wee bit chilly with the snow still hanging around on the ground.

The snow did help us out as it did encourage the remaining cow-calf pairs out in the forest that coming home is indeed a good idea. You see, we’ve spent the last month convincing the cow-calf pairs to stay out by moving them around to find where the grass was still thick and lush so they could spend as much time out in the forest before we brought them home. So, by the end of September we were pretty sure they would come home willingly. Apparently they missed that memo, and although we brought a lot of them home that last week, there are still some stragglers out in the forest. Following the storm early this week, their attitude seems to have shifted and this time they were a lot more willing to head back to the ranch.

One of the highlights of this fall round-up season for me has been getting our partners Christy and Matt Belton more involved with our guests during the round-up weeks. We had them join us for dinner each week to meet the guests and then gather around the fireplace after dinner so everyone could learn a little more about their cattle operation. It was fascinating. Every week the conversation went a little different direction from water rights to testing bulls productivity (yep, that one got a little silly), but each week gave our guests a chance to understand a little more about the cattle industry and our partnership with Belton Livestock. This is one of those amazing relationships where everyone wins–our guests get to be a part of a real cattle operation and Christy and Matt get some help with managing a roughly 14,000 acre USFS grazing permit along with over 200 cow-calf pairs. What was apparent was that having this conversation with Christy and Matt helped the guests realize this is the real deal, and recognize that they have a vital role in helping with the Belton’s business success.

Now we just have to get the stragglers in and call it a year. Fat happy cows and spunky, well fed calves are heading back to the Belton Livestock headquarters as I write this blog post. Good job to all who came out to have some fun riding the land and rounding up cows!

coming to Steamboat for winter vacation

Planning your trip to Steamboat Springs & VVR

With the first snow teasing us about the upcoming winter we are getting a lot of calls and reservations for the winter season these days. One of the main questions that comes up after people get an idea of how the ranch works is “How do we get to you?” So I thought I’d take a few minutes to answer that question for folks checking in on our blog.

When coming to Vista Verde Ranch for a winter vacation, we strongly encourage our guests to fly directly into the Steamboat/Hayden (HDN) airport. With the potential of winter driving conditions it’s just a lot easier to avoid driving up from Denver, and with all the direct flights available during the winter months it is a lot easier to to Steamboat Springs quickly. One of our great staff will pick you up at the airport in a ranch vehicle and take care of the driving for you, so it makes life easy for you on your vacation!

The Steamboat Ski Resort puts together some handy info on the direct flight options into the Steamboat/Hayden airport, and you can even book your airfare through their travel service.

Our winter season runs December 14-April 1, so we hope you can come visit us and play in the snow!

Dude Ranch Life: When we say guest blogger, we really mean a guest blogging!

To start I should tell you how it came about that a guest is writing the VVR blog! I was talking to my friend Stephanie and saying how much we enjoyed her blogs, and when could we expect the next one? As we know, Stephanie’s blogs are informative, amusing and beautifully written and must take time and inspiration to get out, but this time, like all writers, Stephanie was suffering writers block. She asked me for some ideas, and while other guests nearby came up with several suggestions I suggested “why not get a guest to do a blog?” Stephanie grabbed hold of this idea and said “When do you think you can do it?”……well I was “strung up like a kipper” as we say in England, (Stephanie does have a slightly devious side to her,) so here goes.

My wife and I traveled 5500 miles to get here, suffering jet lag and aeroplane food and driving past many other dude ranches. So, we make a big effort to get here! This is our third time coming to VVR… and it is so worth it. Just for the record, in the past we have never been back to any holiday destination before, so why does VVR draw us back? Not just us but many other guests. I decided I would attempt to find out what draws us all back.

Over lunch today I asked several people how many times they had been to VVR and why they keep coming back? Some, I asked, have been here over 10 times and many 8 or 9 times (good time to say that those on 9 get the 10th one free) so we are still “newbies ”

When asked why they keep coming back there were lots of different responses. Some say the horses, and indeed there is a horse for every standard of horsemanship from beginners to experienced riders.

But many people never ride a horse, and spend their time fishing, so for them its the fishing and the tales you hear over dinner each night tell of great fish caught and great fish lost all in stunning surroundings. I keep promising myself to go fishing but there is so much else going on. The hard thing at VVR is to make your choices each day.

And the hikers and bikers all talk enthusiastically about the excitement of their days, when we gather together for meals.

Which brings me onto another reason people keep coming back… the food. It is always superb, whether its breakfast out in a field or a gourmet dinner in the lodge you never hear any complaints. And, if you are gluten free, vegetarian or have any other dietary requirement they will always be able to provide for you.

With great activities and great food in beautiful surroundings you could not want for anything more. But, hold on a minute…the fun doesn’t stop there! Every evening there is some event taking place to continue the enjoyment. Line dancing, wine pairing, music night, horse shoe throwing etc with VVR personnel all on hand to make sure it all goes well. My particular favourite is line dancing, which is surprising as I cannot dance! but at VVR I can, as the song says when you get the chance to dance, dance.

When it all boils down to it its not just the horses, the setting, the fishing, climbing, hiking and bike riding, food, evening activities that make it extra special, great as they are, but it is the people. Not just the fine people who look after us, but the friendships that develop over the week keep many guests returning. Ben says in his introduction that it should be like coming back to your family. and, I think, that is why guests return to the ranch year after year, its coming home.

Happy holidays everyone!

Michael Kelleher

The Fly: Enjoying a family fishing vacation

This week we welcome guest blogger Jon Sutton from Outdoor Empire, which is a great website for fishing and hunting enthusiasts.

Most people associate dude ranches in Colorado with riding horses, campfires, and beautiful vistas. But that’s only the start of the story at Vista Verde Ranch: Summers at Vista Verde offer a litany of outdoor recreational opportunities, including paddle boarding, yoga, mountain biking and hiking.

And while these activities are all great ways to enjoy the great outdoors alongside your family, if you ask our fly fishing guides they’ll say fishing may very well be the most fun. Fishing allows you to teach your child a variety of life lessons, and you’ll have a blast while doing so. Most kids love to learn how to fish, even if they normally prefer sitting inside playing video games and watching TV.

However, to make the most of your day on the water, you’ll have to follow a few key tips to maximize your fun and success on the water. Five of the most important things to remember include the following:
1. Select a good location. There are a number of lakes within a few minutes of Vista Verde, many of which offer great opportunities for your kids to learn how to fish. Hahn’s Peak Lake, Steamboat Lake and Pearl Lake are three of the most popular local fishing holes, and they are full of various trout species and grayling. There are also a number of local mountain streams and rivers in our area, but it will be easier for your kids to fish in still, rather than moving, water.
2. Teach your kids to use simple fishing equipment at the outset. Most adults who venture to Vista Verde love to get out with our fly fishing guides and see if they can tempt a trout with a delicate fly. However, fly fishing on a river is a bit too difficult for very young kids (most kids will struggle to wield a fly rod until they reach 10 to 12 years of age). Instead, the ranch guides will take families to a lake and help simplify the activity as much as needed—typically with favorable results.
3. Prepare for the weather. You want to keep your kids comfortable to ensure they have the best possible time while fishing, and this means making sure they are dressed for the weather. Summer temperatures high in the Rocky Mountains never reach unbearable levels, but you’ll want to wear lightweight clothing to stay comfortable. Additionally, the sun’s rays can be rather strong this high above sea level, so make sure you bring hats, sunglasses and sunscreen for everyone.
4. Allow your kids to take plenty of breaks. Kids often become bored after fishing for a half-hour or so – particularly if they aren’t catching anything. So, you’ll want to allow them to take little breaks to keep their interest level high. After allowing your youngsters to explore the shoreline, go for a brief nature walk or simply run and play with their siblings, you’ll likely notice they regain their interest and want to start fishing again.
5. Always pass off your rod if you hook a fish. Let’s face it: You are more likely to hook a fish than your kids are, and reeling in the catch is the most enjoyable part of fishing. So, you’ll want to pass off your rod to one of your youngsters once you hook something (be sure you have a good hookset first), and allow him or her to reel in the fish. And always allow your kid to take full credit for the catch – even if you did the hard part.
If you’d like to learn more about introducing your children to fish, check out Outdoor Empire’s comprehensive review of the subject. There, you will learn more about the equipment and techniques that will give your youngsters the best chance to enjoy a day of fishing with you!

Equitrekking – August 2017

Our friends over at Equitrekking are the experts in planning horse back riding holidays. This month, they put together a list of adult-only dude ranch vacations. Although we are not adult-only at Vista Verde all the time, there are select times of the year when most people aren’t taking family vacations and during those times we do switch over to being adult-only. What fun those weeks are here at the ranch! In the article they mention our fall short stay times which are a great option for those looking for a quick getaway to Colorado. Read the article……

dude ranch wrangler

Dude Ranch Life: What’s happening at the Ranch

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged as I seem to just keep finding myself running here and there, and not planted down in front of my computer. Go figure, it’s a ranch! With the kids back in school and a few less guests because of that, it seems to feel a little more quiet this week. If you haven’t been following where we are in the season, this week is the first of our adult-only weeks. It really tends to feel like a big switch from one season to another. The college-age staff are leaving and returning to their studies which includes most of the kid wrangler crew. The “late-season” hires have or are arriving and getting dialed into their jobs for the fall season. The schedule shifts a bit with no kids and shorter daylight hours. For example, the breakfast ride turns into a brunch ride because while getting up early for a morning ride is lovely, no one really wants to ride in the dark and sit out at Homestead eating a breakfast while shivering at the same time.

Although we have lots of great staff who come and go here, every once in a while there is a departure that needs to be recognized. This week seems a little more quiet with the absence of Troy Corless. Troy has been a guest favorite for years, but we always tell our staff there comes a time when they’ve learned what they needed to learn here at the ranch and it’s time to fly. Troy realized it was that time and he found an amazing opportunity that made it a no-brainer to stretch out those wings and head out. He will be joining a very talented farrier in the east for an apprenticeship. This is such a great opportunity for Troy, and we are so happy to see him go off to take the next step in his profession. No doubt there were tears shed, but we’re also just so happy to see him looking to continue to grow and move up in the world.

I’m sure many of you watched the eclipse on Monday. We had a fun time checking it out, even though we weren’t on the path of totality. It was about 95% here, so we sent our morning ride out a bit early to make sure everyone could get back in time to put on their glasses and enjoy the show.

With the start of the adult-only season we’re kicking off the wine pairing dinners again. Friday nights will be a bit more noisy here I suspect, but they are always a great time with so many interesting dishes paired with tasty wines. Also in a couple weeks we’ll start heading out with our guests to round-up the cows. These weeks always lead to great stories of adventures on the trail–it’s such a splendid way to take in the fall colors and ride some beautiful country!

The office crew is shifting their attention over to winter with Zach getting the winter staff finalized and Devyn and the gals taking calls daily for winter reservations. It’s funny to be talking about the ranch covered in snow when we’re still outside in our short sleeves soaking up the summer rays, but it won’t be long before the snow starts falling and our winter wonderland returns. Until then, we’ll take every moment of time out on the dirt, crisp mornings and warm days, and the rustling of aspen leaves in the breeze.

fall dude ranch vacations article

Newly added October ranch stay

Due to the popularity of our October short stay, we have added another option for guests looking to come out to the ranch without the full week commitment. The October 8-12 stay is already fully booked, but now we also have the option of another short stay October 15-19, 2017. The 4-night, 3-day stay will be an adult-only stay, and we will offer the same program as we do the previous week with horseback riding, horsemanship clinics, guided hiking, mountain biking and fly fishing as well as yoga, cooking class, wine tasting, and a photography workshop. That’s a lot of adventure to pack into a few days, so gear up and be ready for some fun! Activities are weather dependent, but there is always something to do indoors if the weather isn’t cooperating with us. Rates start at $1,795/person for the 4-night stay.

Learn more about our fall dude ranch stays or give Devyn or Melissa a call at 800-526-7433 to book your stay, and start packing your bags!