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Cookshack E-Newsletter – April 2019

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

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

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

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

Dude Ranch Life: Kids Unplugged

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

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

Dude Ranch Life: Chef’s Corner

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

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

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

Dude Ranch Life: Simms’ Summits

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

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

Dude Ranch Life: Yogis in the Woods

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

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

Dude Ranch Life: Teaching and Whip Cracking

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

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

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

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

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

Travel Boulder – March 2019

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

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

Read the full article…

Simplemost.com – March 2019

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

The Forecast – March 2019

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

Dude Ranch Life: The Vendors Behind the Scenes

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

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

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

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

Rocky Mountain Bride – March 2019

Laura from Rocky Mountain Bride says it best when she writes, “While many newlyweds will opt for a getaway in the Caribbean during the winter months, let us fill you on a hidden gem located just north of Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Vista Verde Ranch, a luxurious ranch resort, offers the perfect balance of romance and excitement. It’s the perfect honeymoon destination for those adventurous at heart.”

We couldn’t agree more, and have enjoyed having so many honeymoon couples come to the ranch this winter to celebrate their recent marriage.  It is so much fun to offer a different way to honeymoon for these couples!  Read the article…

Mic – February 2019

Over at Mic they had this to say: “March is famously known for being Spring Break month — but students are hardly the only people who deserve a vacation. After all, particularly if you live in a winter climate, March is about that time when you probably feel the need to get away from home and treat yourself to something other than commuting to and from work in every warm layer you own.”  We are definitely getting a lot of calls from folks who would agree with this and are interested in having fun in the snow rather than having to deal with it on their commute!  Read the article….

Miami Student Magazine- February 2019

We spend a lot of time here sharing how fun it is to be at the ranch, the beauty of the place, and the fun personalities who make VVR so special. But, we don’t often pull back the curtain to reveal the WHY behind it all.. It’s very personal for all of us, and it’s what gets us excited about what we’re doing here. Deep down at the core of why we all work so hard to make VVR successful is the fact that it gives us a platform to help people grow and change. Life change comes in so many different forms, and we see it happening to people here all the time in different ways.

One of our staff from this past summer wrote this article that has moved us all tremendously. Thank you Julia for taking that leap of faith to come to VVR last summer, for pouring yourself into your work at the ranch, and for being open to learning how to live. Your story has given us all a charge to keep doing what we’re doing and we thank you.

Read the article….

Insider Tips: Winter Boots

Going on a wintery guest ranch vacation full of unknowns brings lots of questions to mind. What dessert will they serve Saturday at lunch? What temperature do they keep the hot tubs? And what the heck kind of boots should I bring? All are thoughts that drift by as you stare off from your desk at work, dreaming of your upcoming escape to paradise. Okay, maybe you’re not too worried about the first two, but I bet the third question has been on your mind. Deciding which boots to bring is complicated. Because of the wide array of activities we offer here, an entire suitcase of different boots and shoes could be brought, and all effectively worn during a week stay. However, before you pay for that extra checked bag, let us help you whittle that number down to something more reasonable. Here are the 3 best types of boots to bring to the ranch for your vacation.

1. Snow boots:

These will work wonders when walking between the lodge, cabin, and activities center during your stay no matter how much snow we get. They are the perfect boot for tubing, ice fishing, and even snowshoeing. You should look for something with good insulation and an aggressive tread, and they definitely need to be waterproof. Some good brands are: Sorel, Muck/Bogs, and Columbia.

2. Cowboy boots:

Cowboy boots will help you fit right in around the ranch and at barn dance and music night. They are also great for any horse riding you do; they can also be a great piece of footwear for dinners here. Be aware, cowboy boots tend to have little to no traction and can be slick on our snowy walkways. Many people will wear their other shoes down to the lodge while carrying their boots, then put them on inside. Some good brands are: Ariat, Lucchese, and Justins. Keep in mind that we do have a selection of boots down at the indoor arena to borrow for the horsemanship clinics, if that is preferable to you.

3. Hiking boots:

A good pair of hiking boots is never a bad option. These are a good all-around pair of shoes for winter on a ranch. They can be worn hiking, ice fishing, tubing, snowshoeing, walking around the ranch, and even while dancing or to meals. Though they won’t be as warm as full-on snow boots, or as stylish/ easy to dance in as cowboy boots, they are a good all-around option. Look for pairs with aggressive tread that are waterproof. Some good brands are: Merrell, Salomon, Lowa, and La Sportiva.

If you don’t have some sort of snow-friendly boot and can’t imagine yourself purchasing a pair, you can always rent our overboots at the ranch. We don’t have a full stock for every guest, but we do have a simple size run of these hefty overboots that can fit over your normal shoes to keep your feet warm and dry while out playing in the snow. These overboots are available for $10/day or $50 for the week.

Now back to dreaming about your upcoming winter vacation…. snow falling, horses neighing, the hot tub bubbling, and the bacon sizzling.

Dude Ranch Life: The Spreadsheet

I admit it. I’m a spreadsheet person. Besides the obvious uses, such as budgeting and task management, I use them for everything from horse shopping to Christmas lists to event planning. So, it has come to no surprise to me over the years that a lot of people create spreadsheets as they research vacation options. There is so much to take into consideration, and it can be like comparing apples to oranges as you attempt to sort through all the options. So, of course you’d use a spreadsheet, right? Some of you likely think I’m nuts, and others are nodding your heads in agreement. I thought it would be fun to collect spreadsheets from those who have created them as they plan for their ranch vacations and have them available for others to utilize. Because, although it’s fun to create a spreadsheet if you’re a geek like me, most of us are not searching hard to find things to fill up our time! If you have one of those ranch vacation planning spreadsheets that you’d be willing to share, send it along to me by replying to the e-newsletter that linked you to this post, and I’ll get them all up online to share with other travelers.

 

Chef’s Corner: Naan

This winter Chef Jason has been getting a little out of the box (not that he ever really spends much time in there) with the cooking class. One of the dishes they’ve been making is naan.  Then at dinner, the guests enjoy the naan served with an assortment of accompaniments that are also made in the class.

Ingredients
4 cups all-purpose flour or 2 cups all-purpose plus 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 cup hot water (but not boiling, just hot tap water)
3/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
3/4 cup warm milk
1 cup Greek yogurt
melted butter for brushing (may use olive oil)
fresh cilantro or other herbs for topping

Instructions

In a medium-size bowl or 4-cup glass measuring cup, dissolve the sugar in the warm water (about 105 degree F). Add the dry yeast to the warm water and stir until the yeast is dissolved. Let it sit for 10 minutes or until the mixture begins to froth and rise.

Add the flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder to a large mixing bowl.

When the yeast is foamy and smells like bread, add the warm milk and yogurt. Pour the wet ingredients right into the middle of the dry and begin mixing the wet with dry using a wooden spatula. When the dough is about to come together, use your hands to finish mixing. As soon as it comes together, stop kneading. It should be sticky but should form a ball and be soft. Cover the bowl with a damp towel or plastic wrap and let sit in a warm place for 1 hour (or, if not using right away overnight in the fridge).

When ready to cook, divide the dough into 8 equal balls and, using a rolling pin, roll each piece of dough into an oval shape. It should be about 6-8 inches long and about ¼ inch thick, but no thinner. Repeat this method with the rest of the dough.

Warm a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat (you want a hot pan). Brush both sides of the naan with melted butter and if desired sprinkle on any spices you like, such as cumin and garlic. Place the naan on the hot skillet, cover with a lid and bake for 1 minute until you see bubbles starting to form. Flip and cook for 1-2 minutes on the other side, until large toasted spots appear on the underside. Brush with a bit more butter if desired, then sprinkle with a little kosher salt, fresh cilantro (I used cilantro) or other herbs. Place the naan in a tea towel-lined dish. Repeat with the rest of the naans and serve.

These are best eaten fresh but will keep in a ziplock bag for a few days or in the freezer.

 

Colorado Meetings + Events – February 2019

People typically think of dude ranch vacations as something for families, and now we seem to be on the radar for romantic getaways as well, and often times single travelers.  But, there’s another spin on the concept that is pointed out in this article from Colorado Meetings + Events –business retreats.  We’ve hosted some great ones over the years, and love providing a setting for businesses to get their people out of their busy lives, focused on their work and their relationships, and sharing new experiences together.  Read the article….

Trips To Discover – February 2019

This is the time of year when we are booking 3 seasons at the same time.  People are still planning their winter getaways for this winter, families are mapping out their summer family vacation options, and a few out there are thinking about the holidays in December and trying to get those decisions made sooner than later.  This is what leads to so many articles about vacation planning!  Here is the most recent one with the 10 Best Family-Friendly All-Inclusive Resorts in the United States.  Read the article…..