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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!

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.

Documents
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.

Tipping
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.

Altitude
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.