Dude Ranch Life: Gearing up for the summer season

meeting at a dude ranch

Oh boy. Can I just tell you all how excited I am about this summer? I’ve been doing this a long time (this summer marks 20 years in dude ranching– who’d have ever thought I’d be saying that?!) and there are some years that I am more excited about the start of the season than others. It varies based on so many things, but this year it is definitely different. I am pumped like I haven’t been in a long time. Why? So many reasons!!!

Where to start……in no particular order

Kids, tweens and teens- We’ve always put a lot of energy into our programs for the younger guests, but this year it seems like the stars are aligning. With Addie and Mandy joining the ranch team, there is a level of professionalism, excitement, maturity, and fun that gets me giddy just thinking about it. Both educators, these two gals are pouring into the program to make it the best ever. And it wasn’t a shabby program to start with, so they really are reaching for the stars. The two of them compliment each other so well as far as personality and skill sets and they will be tag-teaming on making this summer the best ever. They have embraced and run with our new concept of not just splitting up the kids into kid and teen groups, but into kid, tween, and teen groups. In doing so, they have crafted a whole new program, and there are so many fun activities packed into one week. On top of that, they made all sorts of tweaks and improvements to the existing programs that are going to make them so much fun. Listen, my two girls join in on the program each summer, so I have an extra personal stake in the game, and I know they are going to love it. Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy, I could go on and on….but let’s move on.

Betterness- Former owner John Munn left a legacy with his term “betterness.” He always encouraged us to work toward that, and never settle for status quo. This spring the ideas have been flowing, following many of us taking trips of our own and experience great service and unique amenities (hint, hint Chris and Laura, maybe we should all get paid to travel in the off-season, haha). In little ways here and there, we are freshening up the special details that make a ranch vacation at VVR stand out to our guests. Sorry, I can’t reveal them all, but it’s exciting to see them coming together!

The leaders- No, not me, Ben and Charlie. We all just sit around and look pretty. I’m talking about the people who make it all happen. We have such a fabulous team this year, and they are so committed to excellence that I just get all mushy inside thinking about it. Monday we had our pre-season manager meeting. What I thought was going to be an hour or so meeting turned into an all-day affair. Yes, keeping a bunch of dude ranchers seated inside for that long is beyond painful, but the discussions and the ideas that came out of it were so incredibly productive, positive, and honest. It was incredible. I was cranky by 5pm after being cooped up all day, but also so full of thankfulness for the team who makes this place rock and roll. In addition to the old faithfuls, there are a number of new players involved in the ranch this past year, and everyone of them seems like they have been here forever. I already mentioned the gals in the kids hut, but there is also Chef Jason who joined us last winter, and one would think he and Chef Chol have been working together for years based on the ease with the dining program has moved forward. Then there is Zach who took over the HR and activity coordinating while Beka moved into the Adventure Center, and we all love having him in the office. Ben Yoder Henley has returned to take the head wrangler role and team up head trainer KP in the horse program. Melissa helped lead us in a new direction with housekeeping last winter, and she’s become a pivotal player in the office where she balances two very important roles. And how can we forget the ranch owners Laura and Chris and their amazing kids–talk about energy and excitement!

Adventures await- We have a new era starting in the Adventure Center, and that might be different for some. But the door is almost bursting off with enthusiasm from the talented and experienced team up there. Beka, Isaac, Brandon, Ben, and Nate are working diligently to be ready to roll on June 4. They have the newest and greatest gear, ideas for fun ways to experience the backcountry, and are so loaded up with wilderness safety training that you better not stub your toe on a hike or you might find yourself in triage. They are ready to shake things up and give our guests the best outdoor experiences they have ever had at the ranch before. That’s contagious, and I can’t wait to try the new bikes, hear about the fish tales, and watch the log of the many miles our guests and guides put on the trail grow over the summer.

Animals- The mare barn is going to be a little more noisy this summer with the addition of some chickens, chicks, goats and bunnies. Yes! The brainchild that started with some casual conversations between Charlie and Devyn has turned into some real live animals that Mandy rustled up for the ranch. Me thinks I might have to take a few walks down to the mare barn for “quality control.” I mean, it is really important for me to check out the foals and the animals, just to make sure the guests are getting the best experience possible, right?

Ok, I could go on and on, as in every corner of the ranch, in every department, and with everything we do there are amazing things happening this spring. So, with the pace kicking into full steam this week and the staff arriving next week the heat has been turned up. And it’s going to be a good one! If you haven’t already made plans to join us this summer, maybe it’s time to squeeze in a week to the ranch. Don’t miss this summer at VVR–I’m going to soak it all up and hope you can too!