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What Kind Of Fish Is That?!?!

When it comes to fish, there are a multitude of species that can be targeted with a fly rod. There are species all over the world that will readily and eagerly go after flies. In Colorado, many species of fish are available to target, however trout seem to be the most popular. People travel from around the world to fish in Colorado to take advantage of the incredible trout fishing and water spread throughout the state.

At Vista Verde, we have an opportunity to fish on the Elk River as well as other rivers around the area. In the Elk, you will find trout and a native fish to the area called Whitefish. Both of these species are extremely fun to catch.  A popular question that fishing guides are asked on the river is, “What kind of trout is that?” or “what kind of fish is that?” This blog post is here to clear up any confusion and is here to help those who would like to go out for a day of fishing and know what they’re catching.

Rainbow Trout: 
Rainbow trout are native to the cold water tributaries of the Pacific Ocean in the United States and also parts of Northern Russia along the Pacific Ocean. These fish have been stocked in numerous countries around the globe. You can identify rainbow trout because of their red/pink stripe along the sides of their bodies. Other identifiers are red/pink gill plates, small black spots covering their bodies, and their silver body color. Rainbows are some of the most beautiful fish out there.

Cutthroat Trout:
Cutthroat trout are native to the cold water tributaries of the Pacific Ocean, Rocky Mountains, and parts of the Great Basin area of the United States. The reason they are called “Cutthroats” is because of the red/orange coloration under the lower jaw of their mouths. Other identifiers are reddish colored gill plates and lower body fins, green/yellowish colored bodies, and small black spots over their bodies–but most spots are
concentrated towards their tails. Colorado’s state fish is the Greenback Cutthroat which is endangered.

Cutbow Trout:
Cutbow trout are a hybrid trout containing rainbow and cutthroat genetics. This hybridization can occur naturally if there are rainbows and cutthroats in the same water system. Cutbows are hard to identify because they look extremely similar to rainbows, but they have red/orange coloration under their jaws just like cutthroats. Cutbow trout are immune to certain diseases that other trout aren’t so they are able to survive in prevalent numbers in many rivers.

Brown Trout:
Brown trout hail from Europe. They were stocked in the United States around the late 1800s. These stocking efforts used brown trout taken from Scotland and Germany. Many people will refer to brown trout as “German Browns” for this reason. You can identify brown trout by their dark yellowish/golden color, and red and small black spots on their bodies. Brown trout can be very aggressive when it comes to eating flies. They
can make for an extremely fun day of fishing on the river.

Brook Trout:
Brook trout are native to the Eastern United States and Canada. Today natives can be found along rivers in the Appalachian Mountains. You will often hear brook trout referred to as “brookies”, not to be mistaken with the cookie/brownie combo. They are identified by their dark green body, a lighter marbled pattern within the green, red spots all throughout their body, with blue halos around the spots. Their belly and lower fins are reddish in color with white edges on each fin. They are very eager to take well presented flies.

Whitefish are native to northern parts of the Northern Hemipshere. There is a good population size throughout the Yampa and Elk rivers in Steamboat and Clark.  They readily take flies and are very fun to fight and catch. They are identified by their silver/shiny bodies and extremely small mouths.

Let’s go catch some fish!

Exploring Steamboat Springs

It is pretty common for our guests to ask for advice on how to enjoy Steamboat Springs, as they tack on a day or two on either end of their Vista Verde Ranch vacation. Steamboat Springs is a down-to-earth resort town with a Western heritage. Our favorite part of Steamboat is that the locals and tourists all mix in with each other—it’s a real town, not a segmented off resort. Here are some suggestions for making the most of your time in Steamboat. Chances are you’ll bump into one of us out playing on a day off!

Mariposa B&B – A small, friendly B&B close to the heart of downtown Steamboat
Steamboat Grand – Your classic upscale ski resort hotel, with great views of the ski mountain
Holiday Inn – Basic, friendly, easy, you know what you’re getting
Breakfast: Creekside or Winona’s
Lunch: Freshies or Salt & Lime rooftop
Dinner: Carl’s Tavern or E3 Steakhouse
Happy Hour: Aurum
FM Lights – boots and hat and novel Western wear
Lyon’s Drug – Old-fashioned drugstore complete with a soda fountain and $1 ice cream cones
Ski Haus – Outdoor adventurers paradise!
Steamboat Art Company – Fun gifts and interesting variety
Off the Beaten Path – There aren’t many of these small, independent bookstores around anymore…. enjoy the ambiance and a cup of coffee here!
Steamboat Art Museum – Beautiful Western art in a beautiful setting
Ohana – Devyn’s go-to for special gifts with a Steamboat flair
Hot springs – Stay close to town at the Old Town Hot Springs or head up the mountain to the Strawberry Park Natural Hot Springs. The soak is a remedy for all ailments!
Rodeo – You’re in a Western town, go see a great small town rodeo on a Friday or Saturday evening! Go early for some great BBQ
White water rafting or kayaking – Why lose a day at the ranch; hit the river before or after your visit!
Farmers market – Each Saturday morning local artisans and food vendors show up in downtown Steamboat–great for people watching, eating, and shopping at the same time!
Gondola ride and brunch – Even though there isn’t any snow, you can still take a ride up the Gondola for amazing views and a family-friendly hike.
First Friday art walk – Art lovers will enjoy this mix of culture and small town charm on the first Friday of every month. Check the local paper for more information.

We hope you enjoy extending your vacation to spend some time in Steamboat Springs!

Lonely Planet – April 2018

In this article, the folks at Lonely Planet gathered ideas from some of the top family travel experts in the US, and Vista Verde Ranch made the list!  If you weren’t already inspired to plan a family vacation this summer, check out this article and it’s a good chance you’ll start dreaming of adventures with your family.  Read the article….

Dude Ranch Life: A thank you for thank you’s

As I was opening the mail recently, there were two nicely handwritten envelopes, which stand out among the bills as I’m sure you all can imagine.  Upon opening them, I was floored that there were two thank you notes from guests who were here during our last week of the winter season.  How many times have you written a thank you note to a vacation destination?  I know I have never done that!

Actually, this happens here more often than you would imagine.  It’s pretty humbling, and always a highlight of our day to get a note from guests who enjoyed their stay at the ranch.  These two notes were from guests who were both here during our final week of the winter season.  One was a family with older children who we enjoyed getting to know as much as we enjoyed watching them share special moments together–fleeting as the kids head to college next year.  The other note was from a couple who were here on their honeymoon.  Both very important events to commemorate with a special vacation, and we were thrilled to be their destination of choice!

So, this is a thank you to all of you who send thank you’s to us!  You have no idea how much that means to all of us, and how unexpected it is for us to receive these notes.  We work hard to make everyone’s experience at Vista Verde really special, and when we get a note, or someone writes a review on Tripadvisor or other sites to help promote the ranch, it means all our hard work made a difference for our guests.

We are lucky to have wonderful guests spend time with us when they choose VVR for their ranch vacation!  We look forward to seeing old friends and meeting new ones this summer.

Dude Ranch Life: Off-Season Shenanigans

It’s that time of year when the ranch is pretty empty, and much of our crew is off exploring the world, visiting family, and taking some time to recharge.  It’s always fun to take a look at where folks have scattered to while we are closed down, waiting for the snow to melt and the mud to dry out.

You know that Johnny Cash song, “I’ve Been Everywhere?”  Start humming that song in your head, and here we go:

Ethan is visiting family and checking out colleges in Boston, MA, Chol just got back from Boise, ID where he was a celebrity chef at a field to table fundraising dinner for Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, Shannon, Hailey, and Rachel are backpacking around Slovenia, Italy, and England, Miller is in South and North Carolina visiting family and spending most of his time, guess what?  Fishing!  Mackenzie and Natalie are hiking and touring through Iceland and Norway, Maritza and Melody took a huge road trip all around the USA on their way back to PA, Morgan and his family are road-tripping and he’ll be seeing Missouri, Iowa, and then a stop in Florida for some time at Disneyworld, Cat is floating around on a houseboat between UT and AZ on Lake Powell, BYH is Salsa dancing and hanging with his grandma and family in Minneapolis, MN, Hannah is on a sailboat on the Chesapeake Bay, and Terence is figuring out what he is going to do with his life in Philadelphia, PA.  As for those of us with a little shorter vacation window Charlie is hanging out sipping coffee and reading the paper, and watching the snow melt, Zach has been fitting in as much fishing as possible, Devyn has some long weekends planed for staycations, Ben and Addie are baby-mooning in CA, Mary is meeting her family for some Disney time, and Ben is trying to get his house finished so they can finally move in before summertime.  Phew, and that’s just some of our staff!

You all typically give us a hard time about taking vacation when we live in a place where everyone else comes for their vacation.  But, there is something pretty special about getting away to see other sights and be around special people, and then we all come back thankful for where we live and ready to take care of others on their vacations!

best gf cookies at the ranch

Chef’s Corner: Gluten Free Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

As the last days of the season wound down, these cookies were particularly tempting.  I had stayed away from the cookies most of the season, but there is just something about knowing they won’t be there much longer to tempt that creates a sense of urgency.  Nonetheless, when I finally buckled and went to get one, they were all gone.  Karma.

1/2 C. Vegetable Oil
2 C. Granulated Sugar
2 tsp. Vanilla
3/4 C. Cocoa Powder – I use a very dark, 22% fat cocoa powder
4 Eggs
2 T. Half and Half (or coconut milk, almond milk, etc.)
2 1/2 C. Superfine Rice Flour
2 tsp. Baking Powder
1/2 tsp. Salt
1/2 tsp. Guar or Xanthan Gum
Powdered Sugar, reserved

*This dough is prepared one day ahead and refrigerated. Don’t skip this step.
When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and either lightly grease a cookie sheet or line with parchment paper.
Combine all of the ingredients, except the eggs and the powdered sugar, and mix with an electric mixer until crumbly.
Add all four eggs and mix until fully incorporated. The dough will be very, very sticky.
After being in the fridge overnight, roll the dough into evenly sized balls and coat in the reserved powdered sugar. Space each ball of cookie dough evenly on the prepared cookie sheet and bake in a preheated oven for 10-12 minutes. Do not over bake.

summer dude ranch news

Dude Ranch Life: Big plans and exciting changes for 2018!

The last couple weeks we have spent some time surveying many of our return guests about what direction they would like to see us go with the ranch in the coming years.  There were some big ideas, and crazy ideas, and just out-of-the-box ideas that we floated their way to get a sense of whether we are on the right course, or not.  Through this process we have learned that although everyone has a different opinion there were definitely some trends that we noticed.  Based on those trends there are some new plans that we’re excited to implement starting this summer.

There was a strong consensus to continue investing in keeping up on the quality of the accommodations.  Following the many suggestions along those lines, and assessing how we can best accomplish this task we are proud to announce that we will be remodeling all the cabins throughout the coming summer months.  As you can imagine, there is a limited window of opportunity given the amount of snow we get each winter, so we have to take advantage of the good summer weather for construction.  We are sure that our guests will enjoy the open air feel of their cabins as we replace windows, and we have even devised a plan where Bill will build new furniture right in the cabins so the guests can enjoy watching him in his artistic zone and learn more about the art of woodworking, all while they are getting ready for the day or relaxing with a good book in the afternoon.  We are recommending that guests bring slippers with them, as when we are replacing flooring, they might prefer the protection from the nails and splinters.  Porta potties will be placed near each cabin for our guests’ convenience during the bathroom remodel phase, and we will allow a one time variance to the “please don’t shower your children by putting them in the hot tub” rule for this summer only.  This is an exciting undertaking, and we are looking forward to having all the remodels finished by next winter!

Another strong recommendation we received was that although improved bandwidth is helpful for those who need to work while on vacation, most of our guests really like the lack of connectivity and the resulting connection they find with their family.  Since so many people enjoy this, we have decided to collect cell phones, iPads, and laptops at check in.  Now, for those who just have to work, with an advance note from their boss, we will release their devices during limited hours.  Please do know that these notes need to be notarized and on company letterhead.  And, if you would like to post anything on social media, as long as you use the hashtag #vistaverderanch and have a following of at least 1,000 people, Devyn will temporarily allow you access to your device.

Lastly, we have tweaked our kids program based on the feedback we received from our guests.  Apparently everyone is frustrated that kids don’t have discipline anymore these days, so we are going to take things into our own hands and help shape the next generation.  It may take a village to raise a child, but it takes a ranch to shift their paradigm.  Fire engine rides with ice cream and horseback riding to pan for gold will be awarded only to the kids who can show that they can make a proper hospital corner on their beds each morning, polish their silverware prior to breakfast, clean the grease trap in the kitchen, scoop out the cow pen, and massage the guides feet after long hikes.  It’s really going to be an amazing program, and Mandy is already lining up the schedule to include a 6am wake-up to feed the chickens and clean the coop.

You can imagine how excited we are to get the ball rolling on moving forward on our plans!  Of course, we may have to wait until after April Fool’s Day to do our final review and rubber stamp these ideas…..or not?


Vacation Idea – March 2018

If you’re looking for an adventure vacation, look no further than this article from Vacation Idea about 25 Perfect Adventure Vacations.  Vista Verde was included as their pick for a Western dude ranch vacation.  We got a chuckle from the photo used for the ranch–there’s a chance it’s changed since I posted this, but take a look and see if you can figure out what’s funny about the photo (not from VVR).  Read the article….

Flightnetwork – March 2018

We’ve seen an uptick in guests coming from Canada for a Colorado vacation the past two years.  So, this article in Flightnetwork, the largest Canadian-based online travel company, was pretty timely.  Whether you are traveling from Canada or not, this article makes the idea of a Colorado vacation pretty enticing!  And, they even include a shout out to stay at a top-quality dude ranch while you’re in Colorado.  Oh look, it’s Vista Verde they suggest!  Read the article…..

snowmobile guide learning about avalanche safety

Dude Ranch Life: Safety First

This winter has been the winter of safety training.  More specifically avalanche safety training.  It really is more of opportunities for training arising than anything, but it has led to a lot of interesting conversations around the dinner table (ok, breakfast and lunch too as we do take gathering to eat seriously here).  The course opportunities started in January when Devyn took an avalanche safety class from the local community college, which has an outstanding outdoor education component.  Following that, Ben (guide) and Michael headed off to Estes Park for a level 1 course with the American Institute of Avalanche Research and Education.  Both discovered in that course that they did know a lot more than they gave themselves credit for prior to the course, but the hands on, backcountry classroom experience was the most valuable portion of the course.  Just days later, Charlie had the opportunity to join some local park rangers for a Level 1 class for snowmobile riders with Tyler’s Backcountry Awareness.

We have always taken safety as a high priority, as we carry a lot of responsibility every time we take our guests out into the backcountry–whether on foot, horseback, skis, bikes, or snowmobiles.  And, winter weather adds a whole new element of safety issues into that equation.  It’s really nice to be armed with this knowledge and experience to continue to work towards providing all of you compelling experiences that are also safe experiences!  It’s truly a line we walk every single time we take guests out, and we’re thankful to have so many amazing pro-guides to help steer the course of those daily decisions.


luxury ranch resort horse care

Dude Ranch Life: Drunk Ponies

They were drunk.  Or something was going on.  Why else would there be horses scattered around the arena with their heads hanging low while they swayed back and forth as if on a boat?  Rounding the corner, the mystery was solved.  It was dental day at Vista Verde!  Dr. Courtney and Dr. Sarah had their power drills going and the horses were sleepy from sedation.  What does dental care mean for horses?  Typically we try to annually have our horses teeth examined, and floated as needed.  What’s that?  Here is a little info on what that all means, and why it’s important for equine health care.  Our horses are important to us, as just like our staff if we take care of them then they will take good care of you while you’re here on vacation!

It was a assembly line of horses in the indoor arena.  Sedation first, then as they got sleepy they were brought into the stalls where the vets were set up.  Examine the horse’s mouth, assess their status, float the teeth as needed, turn out into the arena to slowly wake up, get the next horse.  Oh, and then there was Zen Ben waiting with gloved hands for the boy horses to have their annual sheath cleaning.  Because why not take care of that dirty business while they are a bit knocked out?  We’ll leave those details for you to explore on your own.  Not the most fun part of horse ownership, but someone’s gotta do it!

Mystery solved.  Nope, the horses hadn’t gone on a bender in the wine room.  But, I bet they are enjoying their hay a little more today than the day before.  It’s a great think when your chompers work like they should!

Dude Ranch Life: As the Snowflakes Fall

There has been a long running joke at Vista Verde over the years of making up names about the ranch that sound like soap opera titles.  As the Aspens Turn, As the Snowflakes Fall, All My Horses, Rides of our Lives, you get the idea.  It’s not that life at the ranch is really that dramatic, but on the days when we’re all going a dozen different directions trying to keep all the different plates spinning, it is a good way to chuckle.  So, with the funky winter we’ve had this year–late to start, then snow, then no snow and warm weather, oh yeah finally snow again, oh gosh now it’s blowing away, phew another storm–you get the idea–this title felt somewhat appropriate.

So, what has been going on at the ranch? Behind the scenes of taking out guests on skis and snowshoes, tubing, dancing, dining and hot tubbing there is a lot of hitching up the sleigh for feeding time, baking breads and simmering stocks while at the same time preparing meals for 10 different dietary restrictions, cleaning stalls, early morning grooming and snow blowing, ironing sheets and polishing mirrors, answering back to back phone calls about reservations for vacations this winter, next summer, the fall, and even next winter, and lots and lots of Skype interviews with potential staff.  The ranch reminds me of a beehive sometimes.  Nice, quiet, and peaceful from the outside, but a buzzing factory once you dive into it.

Deep in that buzzing beehive there are some exciting things happening!  Ben and KP returned from a horse sale late Saturday night with 5 new geldings who all seem pretty amazing.  After giving them a day to settle into their new home in private stalls in the Indoor Arena, Monday was a play day with a number of staff hopping on them to see how they go.  So far, we’re really happy with what we see.  You never know what you’re going to get when you buy a horse, and often times you find out things about them once they are back at the ranch that didn’t show up at the sale.

So, as the beehive keeps buzzing and the snowflakes hopefully keep falling, we’ll continue to try keeping all those plates spinning.


Vacation with the Griswolds – February 2018

January was the month of radio interviews for the ranch.  We were asked by two different blog radio shows to chat with them about Vista Verde.  It was fun to chat with both hosts, and I got a little insight into the world of blog radio shows.  Both of the hosts were intrigued to learn about dude ranch vacations, and it was fun to explain to their listeners how a luxury ranch vacation is quite different than what people remember from the movie “City Slickers.”  In addition, opening up their eyes to winter ranch vacations brought on a lot of questions about what you can do at a ranch in the winter months.  I had a ton of fun chatting with Steve and Lisa Griswold from Vacation with the Griswolds and am hoping they come out to the ranch with their kids someday soon!  You can read their blog post (Vista Verde–this is not your normal ski vacation) as well as listen to their interview.

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.”