Examiner.com – October 2010

A Steak Ride in Autumn: A Vista Verde Ranch Review by Lori Guinn

My horse, DB, struggled a little to regain his footing as we climbed up a rocky path through the vivid purple, orange, gold and rusty brown leaves. DB found a sturdy foothold and hoisted us both up to the more level dirt path above, then began a confident saunter behind our guide. I found myself in the unusual place of feeling both awe at the nearly sensory-overload of my breath-taking surroundings and an extreme inner peace I would have expected more from a week in a monastery than a horse ride through the mountains.

It is not surprising that guests travel from Europe and other places around the globe to visit Vista Verde, a luxury guest ranch near Steamboat Springs, Colorado. It also follows that Vista Verde’s guests tend to be iron-clad loyal—it seemed that nearly every guest I spoke with began his or her story with, “This will be our… (How long has it been, Honey?) … our tenth year visiting so far.” The ranch’s location is ideal and its staff, accommodations and food are outstanding.

The rustic, down-home ambiance is tempered by the quality of lodging and gourmet food. The most striking observation I made though, in my two wonderful visits so far, is the camaraderie between everyone here—staff to guest, guest to staff, staff to staff, and guest to guest. The Steak Ride is the perfect example of this.

As our horses neared the elaborate outdoor kitchen set up especially for the Steak Ride, I noticed I could just see the cluster of cabins and common buildings that comprise the main ranch area. From my viewpoint, they seemed to be huddled in the valley, but not dwarfed by the magnificence around them. The buildings fit—they belong here.

Guests came trotting in a few at a time and the staff offered us wine, homemade lemonade and shrimp cocktail as an appetizer. The smell drifting over from the grills nearly made us all melt–I can’t ever remember feeling so hungry in my life. We sat ourselves on long picnic tables and talked to keep our minds off of the yumminess soon to come. At Vista Verde, the staff members and guests mingle like a close family at a much-anticipated reunion. After lots of chatting, the dinner bell rang and we all got in line to dish up. The marinated steak was covered in an herb butter sauce, but would have still been stellar without it. All the sides that come to mind while thinking of cowboy grub were laid out, including corn that tasted like it was picked at its peak a half an hour earlier. For dessert, I managed to fit a homemade peach cobbler in my extra dessert stomach. Heaven. For entertainment, Ben’s dog kept a piece of juicy cow on his nose while we all marveled. The wonder dog became a salivating statue until he was finally given the okay to wolf it down.

After dinner, the staff stayed to clean up and a few guides took us on horseback at a relaxed, casual pace back to the ranch. I gave DB lots of love pats and let him know I appreciated that he did all the work and I had all the fun. Back at the ranch, the horses were put to bed and the people party began at the lodge. The ballad singing, story-telling and a slide-show presentation of the week’s activities put everyone in a great mood. After the party, I capped the night off with a pampering soak in my cabin’s hot tub while admiring the night sky. I can pass along from personal experience–you haven’t truly admired Earth’s view of space until you’ve seen every last square inch of black sky sprinkled in stars. I can also recommend the perfect spot for everything from a horse ride to star-gazing—Vista Verde Ranch in Colorado.

Please visit Vista Verde online for more information or to book an all-inclusive stay.

Examiner’s Note: Thank you, thank you, thank you Stephanie of Vista Verde, for suggesting this visit. I would also like to thank Dace, Ben, the rest of the staff and the person who grilled my steak.