Ranch Info

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.

Overrun by honeymooners at the ranch

In the fall, and during part of the winter season, when the ranch is an adult-only playground, we tend to get a lot of honeymooners.  In fact, this week alone we have four couples who chose VVR for their honeymoon!

Although all our cabins provide a romantic setting, the most popular cabin for honeymooners is our smallest one– the Dome cabin. It has a wonderful story as it was built from the shells of two of the original cabins that were built on the ranch almost 70 years ago. The log shells from the two cabins were moved to the site of the Dome cabin and put together and then the interior drastically remodeled to create an incredibly cozy, yet spacious cabin with amazing views of the horses out in their winter pasture. With a private hot tub on the deck and a wood-burning stove in the living room, the opportunities for cozy moments of togetherness are abundant.

We find that couples who choose Vista Verde Ranch came to us because they wanted something different than the cliché beach honeymoon. They wanted some adventure, they wanted to be in the mountains, they wanted things to do together but also to not just be isolated for the whole time. What seems surprising, but we see over and over, is how much they enjoy mingling with the staff and other guests. There is abundant time to relax and have one-on-one time with the way the schedule of activities is set up, but these couples are looking for interaction with other people during meals and while on their adventures.

When not nestled up in their private cabin, honeymooners enjoy a diverse offering of activities. In the fall, couples can choose from guided adventures like horseback riding, hiking, fly fishing, mountain biking, cattle work, horsemanship clinics, and yoga. If they want to tone down the energy output, they can join a wine tasting, cooking class, or photography workshop. When the ranch is covered in a blanket of snow it is a perfect time for snuggling up in between adventures such as backcountry skiing, sleigh rides, tubing, snowmobiling, dogsledding, fat biking, and snowshoeing. Couples can even try Snoga (snowshoeing to a remote cabin for a yoga class), ice fishing on a frozen lake, or beer tasting with our chef. It’s probably no surprise that winter is the most popular time for honeymooners at the ranch.

The all-inclusive pricing of a Vista Verde stay makes planning and budgeting for their honeymoon easy. Lodging, meals, beer and wine, activities, guides, and equipment are all included. Transportation is provided to and from the Steamboat/Hayden airport as well.

So if you are planning your honeymoon, or know someone who wants to honeymoon in Colorado, we’d be honored to be your destination!  We just love being able to provide couples a chance to relax, adventure, connect, and celebrate.

Winter Family Vacations

With the snow starting to fall in the highest peaks of Colorado, many parents are beginning to think about a winter vacation in Colorado. Families wanting to take a snow vacation, but unsure of navigating a big ski resort or unfamiliar weather are finding Vista Verde Ranch to be their perfect match. There are so many reasons that a vacation at Vista Verde Ranch in the winter is attractive. All-inclusive pricing makes planning and budgeting easy. A diverse offering of activities, both indoor and cozy as well as outdoor and adventurous, appeals to a family with broad interests. An engaging kids program gives parents the chance to spend some adult-time together as well as peace of mind that their kids are happy and safe, but the varied schedule still allows for plenty of family time. The size of the ranch means a guest’s needs don’t slip through the cracks, and the service is personal and friendly. Being a luxury ranch, the quality of accommodation, food, and service are top-notch. But, when it comes down to it, the main reason it’s an easy choice for families is it’s EASY! Book the trip, pack the cloths (with help of a packing list of course), and show up. The staff at Vista Verde take it all from there so guests can truly relax and enjoy each other’s company.

Family times for the winter season run during the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, and then again starting on President’s Day weekend until the end of March.  Definitely keep VVR in mind for a unique Spring Break vacation option!  The sun is warming up a little more in March, and the snow starts to melt away, but it’s the perfect time for slushy spring skiing and being out in the snow without being bundled up!

If you’re looking to plan a winter vacation with your family, check out the many activities offered during the winter months as well as the cabin and Lodge room options. Or, because EASY is our theme here, just give us a call at 800-526-7433.

summer family vacation

Peace of mind when planning your ranch vacation

Knowing that life sometimes gets the best of our guests, and that no one wins when there is a last-minute cancellation, we have teamed up with Red Sky Insurance to offer travel insurance for our guests at the time of booking. Now, some of you will choose to take a pass, but this plan is for those of you who want to play it safe and know that even if you have to cancel within days of your planned arrival, you will get your deposit refunded. It’s a win-win to work with this company to help our guests have peace of mind when planning their trips. So, if you have concerns of pending health issues, have an ailing family member whose condition might affect your travel plans, or are concerned about travel delays and weather affecting your trip, give Devyn a call at 800-526-7433 and she’ll walk you through the plan.

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!

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.

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!




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.

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.

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.

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.

coming to Steamboat for winter vacation

Planning your trip to Steamboat Springs & VVR

With the first snow teasing us about the upcoming winter we are getting a lot of calls and reservations for the winter season these days.  One of the main questions that comes up after people get an idea of how the ranch works is “How do we get to you?”  So I thought I’d take a few minutes to answer that question for folks checking in on our blog.

When coming to Vista Verde Ranch for a winter vacation, we strongly encourage our guests to fly directly into the Steamboat/Hayden (HDN) airport.  With the potential of winter driving conditions it’s just a lot easier to avoid driving up from Denver, and with all the direct flights available during the winter months it is a lot easier to to Steamboat Springs quickly.  One of our great staff will pick you up at the airport in a ranch vehicle and take care of the driving for you, so it makes life easy for you on your vacation!

The Steamboat Ski Resort puts together some handy info on the direct flight options into the Steamboat/Hayden airport, and you can even book your airfare through their travel service.

Our winter season runs December 14-April 1, so we hope you can come visit us and play in the snow!

Newly added October ranch stay

Due to the popularity of our October short stay, we have added another option for guests looking to come out to the ranch without the full week commitment.  The October 8-12 stay is already fully booked, but now we also have the option of another short stay October 15-19, 2017.  The 4-night, 3-day stay will be an adult-only stay, and we will offer the same program as we do the previous week with horseback riding, horsemanship clinics, guided hiking, mountain biking and fly fishing as well as yoga, cooking class, wine tasting, and a photography workshop.  That’s a lot of adventure to pack into a few days, so gear up and be ready for some fun!  Activities are weather dependent, but there is always something to do indoors if the weather isn’t cooperating with us.  Rates start at $1,795/person for the 4-night stay.

Learn more about our fall dude ranch stays or give Devyn or Melissa a call at 800-526-7433 to book your stay, and start packing your bags!

packing for your dude ranch vacation

7 tips for packing for your Summer dude ranch vacation

Packing for a dude ranch vacation can be tricky, especially when you’re heading to a ranch like Vista Verde that offers multi-sport opportunities. In preparation for the upcoming summer season, we put together some insider packing tips to complement the packing list we share with our guests.

1) If you’re planning on hiking it is handy to have hiking boots. They aren’t a must, as many of us hike in our running shoes. You just have to be prepared to get them wet (so wear your Darn Tough Socks or Smartwool socks). However, if you haven’t been out hiking in your boots ahead of time, make sure to get half a dozen hikes in them before you get out to the ranch. Nobody wants blisters on their vacation! Even if you can’t go for a hike on the dirt, just walk around your neighborhood for an hour once or twice a week for a few weeks. Go up and down stairs, climb whatever hill you can find. Your feet will thank you.

2) Don’t forget your bathing suit! Because although no one will know if you’re skinny dipping in the dark, those post-ride afternoon soaks in the hot tub might be a little awkward, even if the horses are trying to avoid eye contact.

3) Bring your social security number if you want to fish. Any US resident over the age of 15 will need an SSN in order to get a fishing license, which you’ll need if you want to go out on the river or to a high alpine lake.

4) Pack your longest jeans. Yes, the ones that kind of drag on the ground when you are wearing normal shoes. Jeans hike up when you get in the saddle, and if yours aren’t long, they’ll ride up over your boots, and that’s just annoying! Don’t have jeans you’re willing to get dirty? You can find jeans such as Wranglers at Rod’s Western Palace or Sheplers.

5) Add to your suitcase some hiking sandals or shoes that you’re ok getting wet so you can use them to cross streams. There are some amazing hikes as well as the option for hiking to fishing spots–but you will be crossing creeks along the way to get views like this. Our favorites are sandals like Teva or Chacos.

6) This one might be more for the ladies, but guys you can still take note. You don’t need to dress up for any of the evenings at the ranch. But, having said that, wouldn’t it be fun to pair a cute dress with your cowgirl boots for the barn dance? When at a ranch, why not cowgirl up and have a little fun?

7) Padded shorts! You might already know that this just makes the world a happier place when you go mountain biking, but did you also know it might help with horseback riding? Just think about it. And, know that we have some available in the Adventure center if you don’t have a chance to buy them ahead of time. Just slip them on under your jeans and you’re smile will be a bit brighter after several days of riding.

We know those suitcases can get a bit full with all these suggestions, so feel free to ship a box out to the ranch prior to your vacation. We’ll store it for you until you arrive, and then can help get it shipped back home after your week at the ranch. Or, we’ll even store it for you until your return for your next visit!

tween program colorado family vacation

Creating a better family vacation

What makes a great family vacation?  Well, in our mind it is when everyone in the family has fun and amazing memories are created together.  At Vista Verde, we believe that part of the magic of the best family vacation is to have options for families to enjoy adventures together, but also to split up and pursue their own interests.  With that in mind, we have always poured our energy into our kids programs.  Over the years, the kids program turned into a kids program and a teen program.  Now, starting in 2017 we will be adding a tween program.

We’ve recognized the desire of our guest kids for a little more personalized experience while they are at the ranch. Maybe you remember your middle school dance, where some of the young folks want to slow dance, others want to talk, and some want to go outside and play games. It is no different here at the ranch – kids all develop and grow in different ways and at different rates.  Our newly added tween program will mean the kids, tweens, and teens will each have their own activities and adventures. The breakdown of the groups is based on a typical US school set up with the kids program geared for kids entering 1st-5th grades (6-10 years), the tweens will represent kids entering middle school grades (11-13 years), and the teen program will be for kids entering high school grades (14-18 years). Knowing that not all kids enter the same grade at the same age, we will adjust as needed each week based on the overall makeup of the kids here.

The kids and teen programs will stay mostly the same, as there are so many tried and true favorites, but with some new twists and turns just to spice things up. The tween program will take the best of both programs so we retain some childlike fun while still bringing in many of the cool adventures that the teens enjoy.

Also, we are excited to introduce Mandy Anzalone and Addie Simms as the new heads of the kids programs. Mandy worked at the ranch in the late-nineties as a wrangler, and is returning after spending the past 15 years in education and starting a family. She is excited to be back at the ranch and putting her background in education into play by helping oversee the kids programs. Addie is another educator who spends the school year working at the North Routt Charter School. Addie is an avid outdoorswoman which makes sense as she is married to one of our ace guides Ben S. These two are working diligently on updating the programs, fine tuning the details, and preparing for a wonderful summer season. We are excited about all they are bringing to the ranch with their professionalism, knowledge, and enthusiasm.

So grab your kids and pack your bags (ok, maybe just book your reservation) for an amazing family vacation at Vista Verde Ranch this summer.

Winter Photography Tips

Our ranch photographer Carla Jones offers a photography workshop each week to our guests.  In the winter she gives our guests some really helpful tips about taking photos in the wintertime.  For those of you who can’t get here for your own ranch vacation, here are Carla’s tips and tricks for you to use at home.

Also, if you are in Steamboat and want to work one-on-one with Carla, she does offer classes through the Steamboat Ski Resort.

Winter Photography Tips


Cold and frostbitten fingers may result from camera operation during severe winter weather. Avoid touching metal and exposure to wind with bare hands. Fisherman gloves with poly pro liners are great. Wear warm boots and a hat to keep you warm. Keep your camera and a spare battery near your body to keep them warm.

Do not let moisture into your camera body and avoid sudden radical changes of temperature. Keep lens and viewfinder free of ice fog and spray. Avoid breathing on camera, because the steam may condense on your lens and freeze will leave an icy coating. Use a protective filter like the Sky1A, which will also give the picture a bit of a warming cast.


Obtaining a proper exposure on snow scenes is often a tricky matter. Your light meter wants to make every scene a medium-gray tone and this can make the snow look gray. You want the snow to look white, not dull gray. Depending on how much of the scene is white, over-exposing will help in making the snow look white. Most cameras have a +/- button. This button is great for over-exposing. Check the histogram to make sure you haven’t gone too far over-exposing a created clipping. Remember, how much to over-expose depends on how much the scene is white with snow. Sunsets and alpenglow you will need to under exposure, going any where from – 1 to –2.


Seeing is most important. Don’t get bogged down with the technical side of the camera. Watch the weather and shoot on the edge of darkness (Morning or Dusk) The quality of light and seeing it is very important.

1. Side lighting will snap out shadows on sunny days and give a 3/D appearance. Enhance a winter scene by including a bit of color from a person’s clothing or a building. Red or yellow are great colors to use.
2. Back lighting of frosty trees and weeds brings out the sparkle of the snowflakes. Morning light is best before the sun melts the frost.
3. Diffused light—–Overcast snowy conditions can set a great mood. Softer light is great for photographing people. You won’t have harsh shadows on the persons face.
4. Magic light-The wow light. Late afternoon when a storm is clearing, the sun breaks through with dark sky behind your subject. Late afternoon can create a warmer tone to the pictures. It is also best for capturing the pink alpenglow on Mt Werner or the Zirkels.
Night scenes are special in the wintertime. Cabins with the lights on can be shot at dusk and where there is still a little light in the sky. Use a tripod to keep the camera steady.


When you find a scene you like take several shots. Work it with different angles (high and low), different lenses (wide angle and telephoto). Try different apertures F22 vs. F2.8 for depth of field or different sharpness. Look at where the light is hitting the subject. Adjust the White Balance if shooting indoors or outside. If a scene or subject catches your eye take the time to explore the composition. Be sensitive to the distracting foregrounds or backgrounds. Moving a foot one way or the other can make a difference. Keep it simple! The subject is very important. Make sure it is a good subject.

Rule of Thirds —–Divide the picture into thirds. Put subject in the intercepting lines
Leading Lines— fences-roads-streams and rivers
Patterns —-A color interrupts color patterns
Frames —-–window-trees

Landscapes (Long shots, medium, and close-ups) First shoot without the tripod to find the spot you like than set the camera on the tripod.
People (try to get a series of photos of someone doing something)
Special events (Ask what is going to happen, when and where. The more you know the better the chance you will get in a good position to get the best shots.)
Do research on area visiting. Look at online photos- get maps and study them.

family winter vacations

Insider tips for dressing your kids for a winter vacation

Gearing up your kids for a winter vacation can be daunting, but we’re sharing some insider tips from Steamboat parents, who know a thing or two about getting their kids out in the snow. You can also check out our Pinterest board that has more ideas for dressing your kids for winter.

Terri Goforth (mom of Caley, 8)- Hand and foot warmers are a must. Whether skiing or sledding or snowmobiling….these items are a definite must-have item for Caley. We actually put the foot warmers on the top of her toes so when putting on her boots, they don’t slip off or get bunched up.

Jessica Spear (mom of Shea, 8 and Sloan, 10)- On those days when motivation is low to go out in the snow, warm pajamas work great under snow suits, and it helps our family to have some sweet treats in our pockets to keep spirits high.

Wes Fountain (dad of Olivia, 8 and Jonah, 12)- Put the mittens on first, then the jacket, then grab a roll of duct tape and seal the jacket over the mittens. That will give you hours of fun without snow going down into their mittens or sleeves.

Kelly Bastone (mom of Simone, 5)- We’re fans of loooong gauntlets on gloves and high boots. A lot of snow boots are ankle models, you know. Snow invariably gets in the cuffs, because pants ride up, etc. Bogs are nice and high, and keep ankles covered even when pant cuffs ride up a bit. Long cuffs on mitts are great too, when we can find models that have them.

We’re also experimenting with the two-glove system that a lot of adults like. Kid wears a thin glove underneath a big, fluffy mitt. Kid can remove the mitt for something requiring dexterity, and put the mitt back on for warmth. It’s not a perfect solution, and not great for many hours in the snow because eventually the mitt gets damp, and doesn’t stay warm. But it does seem to keep her fingers warmer for an hour or two.

And I don’t think we ever go out without a tin of Dermatone. It’s a great emergency layer for cheeks and noses, and our kid definitely tolerates ointment better than a big bulky mask or scarf over her face, blocking her mouth/nose breathing.

Monica Niedermeier (mom of Tomas, 12)- Jackets with clips for mittens are a must, as are snow boots with a tall shaft. Get their snowpants a little long and make sure to look for ones that have a tight cuff or built in gator, so they stay on over the boots. No one likes snow in their boots!

These folks spend a lot of time with their kids out in the snow in the winter months, so these are tried and true suggestions! Give them a try and always feel free to call us with questions as you gear up for your winter vacation.

a romantic winter vacation

Romancing the Snow

It’s the antithesis of sitting on a beach with an umbrella drink in hand. But it turns out that not everyone wants that kind of vacation. We hear from couples all the time who want to have some adventure, experience new things together, meet other interesting people, yet still fit some romance into the equation. Wintertime at Vista Verde does just that. Imagine getting the blood flowing on a ski tour over a frozen lake or giggling like children as you tube down the hill before heading into your private cabin, building a crackling fire, and enjoying a glass of wine in the hot tub (fine print: we are not encouraging drinking and hot tubbing…that is totally your decision folks) while you watch the horses frolic in the snow. Mix that alone time with some great conversation over a fabulous dinner and a cozy down comforter waiting for you to curl up in bed at the end of the day. It’s not for everyone, but I’ll take that over the beach chair and umbrella drink any day. Here is what some folks have said on Tripadvisor following their honeymoons or just a romantic escape during our adult-only times.
Honeymoon review

Adult-only couple review

Honeymoon review

Packing for your ranch vacation

Packing for your Vista Verde vacation can be a challenge, especially given the airlines weight restrictions on bags.  We try to help by having an in-depth packing list, and are more than happy to dole out advice over the phone or email.  But there is no way to get around the fact that there are potentially a lot of costume changes when you come here and want to try it all!

There are a couple ways we can help though!  Did you know that we are more than happy to receive a box of your gear that you ship ahead of time, and have it waiting for you in your cabin when you arrive?  We’ll even ship it home for you at the end of your stay.  And, if you’ve caught the VVR bug, and know you’re going to be coming back, we can even store some of those items that you’ll never wear at home.  We’ll package up your boots and hats and put them in a marked container to wait for your return.  No charge, just one way we try to help make this Western lifestyle a little more accessible for you!

Contact one of us at the Front Desk if you have questions, or want to make arrangements for storing your gear at the ranch next time you visit!

Head Wrangler Sam

What makes a saddle fit, and why does that matter?

Sam, our Head Wrangler, is a wealth of knowledge in an area that isn’t on most people’s radar: Saddle Fitting.  Here, she shares some basic information about saddle fitting that gives a little insight into what goes on behind the scenes in the barn.

Have you ever been uncomfortable in a pair of shoes, or socks and shoes that don’t fit? Or for the avid hikers and campers, a heavy backpack that isn’t sitting in the right spot and makes you’re back sore? Well, that is exactly how a horse feels when their saddle or saddle pad doesn’t fit them well.

The past couple years I have immersed myself in research and learning more about this topic.  Everyone has different opinions on it, but more and more veterinarians are getting educated on proper saddle fit, and they are doing more studies and analyses to get scientific evidence on how to make horses more comfortable while we ride them. There are even certified saddle fitters and ergonomists!

Saddles are made with a base structure, called a “tree”.  This tree can be made out of wood (typically), and sometimes fiberglass.  Its purpose is to evenly distribute the weight of the rider over the horses back (on the proper saddle support area) and it keeps the saddle up off of the spinal cord and spinal ligaments.  However, the tree must properly fit the contour of the horse’s back, or it can create unwanted pressure points.  The anatomy of the horse proves where the saddle should sit.  The tree should not sit on top or too far forward, or the shoulder (scapula) cannot extend properly for full motion.  This causes the horse to compensate in other areas, creating pain and pressure points, unexplained lameness, kissing spine, and irritable behavior.  Moving down the back, if the gullet (space down the length of the saddle that keeps it off the spine) is too narrow or sits on the spine, the horse cannot properly lift its back, ribs and engage its hindquarters.  Most likely he will compensate by hollowing his back and raising his head, and putting more weight on the front end (which none of us want as that makes for an uncomfortable ride as well as leads to injury in the front legs).  At the end of the saddle support area, the tree cannot extend past the last rib. After the last rib are the lumbar (of the spine), and they have no support. Saddles that are too long can cause back soreness.

The tree and the gullet width are two very important parts.  The whole construction is important of the saddle, for English and western both.  Stirrup bars, girth placement are also important parts of saddle fitting.  When fitting a saddle, even weight distribution should be felt along the underside of the saddle.  Under a trained eye, you can take your hand and run it underneath the saddle and see if there are any points where there is a lot of pressure (remember this all should be done without a saddle pad).  Most commonly, you’ll see what we call “bridging”, which is high amounts of pressure at the front and the back of the saddle, leaving little or no weight distribution in the middle (where most of it should be anyway). You’ll see this a lot with sway backed horses, or horses with high withers.

Why should this all matter to riders?  It is important because it affects our horses behavior and long term physical health.  Saddles that are not fitted properly can cause extreme pain, and with some horses you would never know until it is too late.  If your horse has unexplained lameness, white spots on the withers, bad behavior, is “cinchy”, won’t stand still to be saddled and/or mounted, then saddle fit should be considered.

Saddle pads are a huge industry. You pay anywhere from $30 to $400+ for a saddle pad that may not even help the saddle fit.  The saddle must fit without a pad, so you would want as thin a pad as possible to not interfere with the saddle fit.  Sometimes (for sway backed horses for example), a thicker pad can help.  But, if you have pressure points, a thicker pad (which most think will eliminate the pressure points), actually makes it worse.  That is the most basic explanation for saddle pads – that is a whole other topic for the next time Steph bugs me to write a post for her!

At Vista Verde, we are spending a lot of time this Spring focusing on fitting the right saddles to each horse.  It is a time consuming process, but a great learning experience for all involved.  These horses take such good care of us, and it is our responsibility to take care of them and make them comfortable.

Interested in learning more?  Here are some Facebook pages that are great resources:

Schleese Saddlery Service

Saddlefit 4 Life

Fit Right Saddle Solutions




fitness for your ranch vacation

Fitness for your ranch vacation

Devyn (a certified Pilates instructor among her other roles at the ranch) offers some tips for preparing for your ranch vacation.

Whether you visit the ranch in the winter, summer, or fall–it is a very active vacation. Of course, you don’t have to begin an intense training session before your stay, but getting into a strength routine is always beneficial. Doing a little strength training makes you more aware of your body, helps you get up from a wipe-out in the champagne powder, gain more control in your legs for horseback riding, and some more power for those tough hikes. My favorite kind of exercises are total body and body-weight exercises. They allow you to get a quick work out in anywhere!

Everyone should do planks. They are a fitness junkie’s classic exercise. Yes, they engage your abdominals, but they work the oblique and back muscles too. Gaining strength in the core will help you sit up straighter while riding and help dig into the abs for strength while bike riding (instead of straining the lower back) Try doing them for a minute at a time. Laying on your tummy, place your forearms flat on the floor, stack shoulders over elbows then squeeze your legs together, tuck your toes under to lift the knees off the floor then straighten the legs. Keep squeezing your legs together to engage the glutes and inner thighs.  Think about scooping your abdominal muscles in and up to keep them engaged.

Lunges are an incredible, classic exercise as well.  If you can do them with a resistance band or weights, that’s even better. Strength in the legs and inner thighs is most beneficial when communicating with your horse while riding. In back country skiing, I’ve found that engaging the glutes helps me to stand up straight and power from the rear instead of the hip flexors. To make lunges really effective, make the motion slow, slow, slow.  Articulate through the full length of your leg muscles. Slowing it down fires up the slow twitch muscle fibers which are used for endurance. Keep the knee of the leg in front of you in line with the front ankle. Do not let the knee creep forward over the toes or strain behind your ankle. This protects your knee. Think about pressing the heel of the front leg into the ground to engage the glutes and straighten the leg. Play with doing the full range of motion for 1 minute, then holding (leg in a 90 degree angle) for 30 seconds, then pulsing it out (little up and down) for the last 30 seconds.

Add these exercises to your fitness routine, and you might find your time in the hot tub is more about watching the stars than relieving the aches and pain of sore muscles!

  • history of a colorado dude ranch
  • early dude ranch photo

Dude Ranch Life- a little history

The other day I stumbled across some great historical photos that I had saved in a file.  They were from Elvin Tufly, who sent them to me after he visited the ranch a few years ago.  His stories from that visit took me on an amazing journey back into the early days of Vista Verde Ranch.  Back then, it wasn’t a luxury dude ranch, but a school of hard knocks hay and cattle ranch.  The Tufly family lived at Vista Verde in the summers, and once it got too cold they would move their cattle down to Clark and live there for the winter months.  In the spring, they would drive the cattle back up to the ranch to graze for a bit before driving them up to Willow Creek for the summer.  The amazing, lush grass that fills up the valley and gives the ranch its name would grow all summer until it was time to cut it for hay.  Come fall, the Tuflys would gather up their cow-calf pairs, separate out the calves, and drive them all the way to Steamboat to be loaded on the train for their ride to Kansas City.  In the winter, Elvin’s mom would rally her girlfriends to ski up to the ranch to check in on the buildings.  The gals would spend a night, shovel the roofs, and then ski back to Clark.  Ok ladies, this definitely is a different twist on a girls’ weekend!

It’s pretty humbling to think about how different life was at the ranch in those days.  No fully-staffed, all-inclusive vacation with bubbling hot tubs, housekeepers tidying up after you, chefs preparing amazing meals, and the horses saddled when you show up at the barn.  It was a tough life, and we love to look back and imagine what it must have been like for these folks who called Vista Verde home for so many years.  Thanks to Elvin for sharing these memories!

Some notes from Elvin about the above photos for you history buffs:

  1. After I enlarged the picture I was able to see the smaller boys in the picture better and discovered they are the Fetcher boys; the smallest would be Ned, who I believe was or still is running the Fetcher ranch.  John Fetcher was the one behind the camera; after seeing the picture larger, I recall Orval and Dad were working in the corral and John drove up for some reason, and they had stopped to get a drink, as there always was a tin cup hanging on the pipe filling the water trough.  The water came directly from the spring. I am the one in the goofy, extra large hat.  The adults are, as we had determined previously L-R Orval Bedell Sr, Art Tufly (Daddyart), and Hollis Tufly.
  2. Art and Salome Tufly on the way home (grandparents).  It would appear this was taken just above the old Poppin bridge.  That bridge is gone, and a new one is there; it is the first bridge crossing the river after you turn off onto the Seedhouse road.  The only thing left of the old bridge is a mound of dirt with a bench sitting facing the river.
  3. Art Tufly with a four-up team in front of the old house. It would appear there is a start of my parent’s house or possibly there was something there prior to the small log house, but that is where it stood.


Steamboat dude ranch round up

The Dude Ranches of Steamboat Springs

Steamboat Springs is a pretty wonderful place and has become a bit of a hub of Colorado dude ranches with three ranches belonging to the Colorado Dude and Guest Ranch Association within a 6 mile radius of each other.  We all enjoy the camaraderie of being neighbors and friendly competitors.  Dude ranching can be an isolating business, as there aren’t many people who can relate to the challenges and rewards.  Reading a hotel industry magazine just doesn’t cut it.  We’re not dealing with ADR’s and REIT’s.  We’re dealing with people, emotions, animals, dirt, and a staff that is like family.  So, we feel pretty privileged to have some other great ranches within a stone’s throw with whom we share the ride.

The Home Ranch is just 6 miles down the road, right off of the Elk River Road.  A Relais and Chateaux property, they have a strong emphasis on their farm to table dining.  With beautiful views of the Zirkel Wilderness area right from the Main Lodge, this ranch is top notch and classy.  They have a similar guest count, great riding and fishing, and a variety of cabins and lodge rooms.  As well, the Home Ranch is also open in the winter for cross country skiing vacations and other fun activities in the snow.  This is the first ranch we refer guests to when we are full, as they are as close as you can get to being similar in the dude ranch world.  As I always tell people, comparing ranches is like comparing apples to oranges, but they both taste good.

The Elk River Guest Ranch is only a mile or so down Seedhouse Road, right next to the Elk River.  This ranch has had a number of owners in the past 10 years, and has gone a few different directions.  But, a little over a year ago it was purchased by a Bex, a former staff member at another Colorado dude ranch who had a dream of owning her own dude ranch.  She and her husband opened the Elk River Guest Ranch for traditional dude ranch vacations last summer, and are busily building up the business.  It’s a smaller, more rustic ranch, but is loaded with charm and great riding access into the Routt National Forest.

And then there’s Vista Verde Ranch.  Our ranch has been functioning as a dude ranch since the 1970’s, and we just keep fine tuning our offering.  Through a couple amitious owners, the facilities have been drastically upgraded over the years, the staff filled with long term, dedicated people, and our committment to “betterness” keeps us moving forward all the time.  We pride ourselves in our diverse offering of activities, hiring phenomenal people, luxurious accommodations and amenities, and a culinary program that walks the line between ranchy and fancy.  Summer, fall, or winter you can find us looking forward to getting to know our guests and sharing this little slice of heaven with folks from all over the world.

We hope you make it to one of these Steamboat dude ranches sometime soon.  We’ll take all the guests we can handle, but as long as you visit one of these ranches it’s a win for the industry.

What is Backcountry Skiing, and can I do it?

Many people know what cross country (XC) skiing looks like, but many of our new guests ask us “What is backcountry skiing?”  Backcountry skiing is the most popular kind of skiing at the ranch and one of our hallmark winter activities.

First off, it’s important to understand that backcountry skiing is a broad term that means different things to different people.  For some, this is an extreme sport that you might see in an epic ski movie.  That is not what we’re doing here!  Our version is probably better described as backcountry touring.

Imagine taking a hike through a pristine meadow covered with a blanket of untouched snow.  You cross the meadow and head into the trees.  The hush of the forest is disturbed only by the plop of snow puffs falling out of the trees.  You see fox tracks and keep an eye out for a moose or elk sighting in the distance.  Once out of the forest, you find yourself gliding across a lake that is covered in a thick layer of ice and frosted with fresh powder.  As you head back home, your stomach starts to grumble for lunch.  The hearty breakfast has worn off as you’ve been burning calories out in the woods, and it’s time to warm up by the fire.  That is backcountry touring.

From a technical perspective, what this looks like is a heavy duty pair of cross-country boots and skis.  Your heel is free, so the boot connects only at the toe.  This allows the kick and glide motion that propels you through the snow.  The skis are wider and heavier than a traditional cross-country ski, so you will float in the snow, which means less work for you to get through the powder.  Some backcountry touring skis have metal edges, which makes it easier to grip the snow on a side-hill, or make a turn if you are playing around with going down hills in the backcountry.

At Vista Verde, our guides first teach our guests the basics of backcountry touring.  We show our guests how to move forward as efficiently as possible, and teach how to get up and down small hills.  Most importantly, we teach how to get up when you fall down.  The great part of being out in fresh powder is it doesn’t hurt if you fall!  But you need to know how to get back up in the fluffy stuff, as it can feel pretty bottomless after a big snow storm.  Then, we head out to one of the areas where we like to ski.  With millions of acres in the Routt National Forest, our terrain options are extensive.  Most of the time our guided tours last 1 ½- 2 hours, but there are a few days a week that we pack up a lunch for the more adventurous skiers and head out all day.  Those are double dessert days!

We’d love to introduce you to backcountry skiing, so come play with us this winter!

How to have a stress-free Christmas Vacation

Some people just love Christmas, and some dread the holiday with all the expectations and pressures.  Want to know how to have a relaxing yet festive holiday?  Spend the week at Vista Verde Ranch and enjoy a Christmas vacation without the stress!  One guest put it well to me recently when she said, “We give each other photographs instead of stuff for presents.”  In other words, let the year be the year you make memories with those you love instead of giving gadgets.

What does Christmas week at Vista Verde look like?

  • Arrive at the Steamboat/Hayden airport where we’ll be waiting to pick you up in a ranch Suburban.
  • Settle into your luxury accommodation with a fridge stocked with drinks, snacks on the counter, and then light a crackling fire in your wood burning stove as the snow falls outside.
  • Sit back at dinner while our friendly and attentive staff treat you to an amazing culinary experience.
  • Soak in your hot tub with a view of the stars before snuggling up under your cozy comforter for a long winter’s rest.
  • Wake up refreshed and ready to get outside and play in the snow.
  • Following a hearty breakfast in the Lodge, head outside with a guide to try back country skiing or snow shoeing.  Or, hop on a horse to ride in the snow or take a horsemanship clinic in the indoor arena.  Or, giggle like a small child as you zip down the tubing hill before being pulled back up by a snowmobile.  Or, join our talented chefs for a wine tasting or cooking class.  Or, there’s a kid’s program, yoga, and the list goes on!
  • Sing carols around the roaring fire in the Great room at night.
  • Create home made decorations with your family to decorate the trees out in the yard.
  • Take a sleigh ride with jingling bells…..yes, this is the time to break out into that song.
  • Indulge in a bountiful feast on Christmas day with all the guests and staff to celebrate the joy of the Christmas spirit.
  • Relax with your loved ones in your cozy cabin to reflect on what Christmas means to you, and savor the quiet moments.
  • Head home at the end of the week refreshed, recharged, and full of memories.

Christmas week at Vista Verde runs Saturday, December 19-Saturday, December 26, 2015.  Join us for an all-inclusive Christmas vacation and savor the Colorado winter wonderland at it’s best!

Riding lessons before or after your ranch vacation

So, maybe you just got back from your dude ranch vacation and realized you caught the bug?  Or, maybe you’re gearing up for your upcoming getaway and want to get a little jump-start on riding before you spend a week in the saddle.  You’re not the first to have either of these ideas!  If you have a ranch vacation in your future, riding ahead of time will help you be more comfortable on day one, as well as alleviate some of the soreness that is inevitable with using muscles you don’t normally use for hours on end, day after day.  Our hot tubs help a lot, but riding before you arrive will help even more.   Granted, it’s hard to know where to start, who to go to, and to know what you’re looking for.  Here are some tips on finding the right place to take lessons and the right trainer who can help you improve your horsemanship skills.

Understand the different types of riding. Western, English, Reining, Cutting, Jumping, Hunter, Three Day, Trail, Dressage….what are all these options?

Western and English are the broadest terms for riding styles.  Western riding got its start on ranches as early as the late 1770s. Much of the equipment was influenced by the early Spanish vaqueros and designed for comfort, function, and necessity.  English is the more traditional European and Eastern style of riding, with a closer contact saddle and more contact with the horse at all times via leg pressure and rein pressure.  Within those two disciplines, there are more specific types of training and riding, so just because two people ride Western doesn’t necessarily mean they are doing the same thing with their horses.  One might be performing cattle work, one might just be trail riding, and one might be barrel racing.  And, with all of these different styles within a discipline, there are opportunities for competition at various levels.  If you’re intrigued, check out this Wiki article showing all the different styles of horseback riding.  There were several I had never even heard of before!  At Vista Verde we teach Western riding with a working ranch horse focus in our training techniques.  That gives us a horse that is handy on cows, willing and safe on the trail, and capable of doing whatever work is required around the ranch (although we’re still working on their dishwashing skills!)

Find someone who teaches to your level. If, like many people, you don’t have a lot of horse experience, you need someone who can teach you the basics, make you comfortable, and get you some mileage in the saddle.  Many horse trainers are focused on high level competition.  These types of trainers are still great at teaching but will be more inclined to teach experienced riders and refine their skills for competition.  We would recommend looking for someone who focuses on general horsemanship and beginner riders.  That person is going to have more practice teaching the novice rider and will be better at communicating the hows and whys of horses and riding.  You wouldn’t go to the astrophysicist for tutoring help in basic biology, so go to a horse trainer whose main goal is to make you comfortable and competent on a horse and who wants to foster a love of equines in everyone.  This trainer might not be at the flashiest stable, and might not have the flashiest horses, but they are going to give you the foundation you need to move up.  If, at some point you want to move on to competitive riding, then maybe the more renowned riding stable will be a better fit.  But my experience is that oftentimes the less flashy trainers are the ones who really teach you how to ride, and don’t just prop you up on a fancy horse and let the horse do all the work.  After all, you want to learn to ride and not just be a pretty passenger, right?

How often? Weekly lessons for a couple months would be a great start.  If you find yourself or your child falling madly in love with riding, then it’s time to step it up to a couple days a week so you can progress more quickly.  But, for starters, once a week is great, as you’ll have a chance to move past being sore, process what you learned before your next lesson, and come to the following lesson ready to step up to the next level.

Okay, I’m ready.  Now what? So, you know what you want, now how do you find it?  Well, I wish we could say we have a great database of inspected and approved riding instructors.  But, many of our guests have checked out some of the pros, and here are a couple recommendations from them.  Not in your area?  Check out the American Riding Instructors Association or the Certified Horsemanship Association for a list of instructors in your state.

One of our guests, Michele,  recommends Gillian Muir for dressage (a subset of English) if you live in the South Florida area.  Michele shared that she feels Gillian really teaches from the ground up, which means she focuses on the whole horsemanship experience, not just sitting on the horse’s back.

Elizabeth suggests Mikia Parker at the Arvada Indoor Equestrian Center for those living in the fine state of Colorado.  According to Elizabeth she is smart, encouraging, an excellent communicator, and absolutely loves her horses.

For those in the Kansas area, Vicki recommends Vaught Family Natural Horsemanship.  This family team offers lessons and clinics with a focus on natural horsemanship.  Their goal is to provide a harmonious relationship between horse and rider.  Sounds pretty good to me!

Lastly, if you live in Southern California, Lucy had high words of praise for Nicole Bankhead at River Valley Equestrian Center.  She teaches English riding, and they have beautiful trails to explore nearby, but there is also has a polo field at the Center, so you can try out polo!

At Vista Verde, we pride ourselves in teaching people how to ride, not just tossing them on the back of a horse as a passenger.  It’s exciting to see people learn about horses and horsemanship, improve their skills over the course of the week, and leave excited to ride more.  Our horses appreciate that we teach guests to ride too, as it makes their lives more comfortable, and we keep our horses tuned up by training our guests to ride properly.  It comes full circle as the horses become more responsive and more enjoyable to ride with the consistency from their riders.  So, get out and ride!

Landing a dude ranch job- Interview with Beka

With so many guests asking us how we get these amazing people to work at Vista Verde season after season, I thought it would be fun to do an interview with Beka, who handles the day to day process of hiring our seasonal crews.

Q) Where do most of the staff come from?

A) We hire staff from all over the United States. However, we tend to hire people in clusters. One season we might hire a bunch from Georgia and the next a group from Texas, but it is always a sure thing that a lot will come from Indiana, with all our ties to that state.

Q) How do you interview them?

A) Generally we interview using Skype; it is less like an interview and more like a conversation you would have with someone over coffee. When chatting with prospective employees, we are looking for applicants who genuinely enjoy people and aim to live a healthy lifestyle physically, mentally, and emotionally.

Q) Do you recruit?

A) We post on a few college forums and seasonal work websites. However, our best recruiters are the staff and guests who have experienced Vista Verde firsthand.

Q) What is the weirdest interview experience you’ve ever had?

A) Nothing too crazy has happened yet. We have had some very memorable interviews where people have used props or costumes to express their personalities.

Q) Do you get nervous when they finally show up at the ranch?

A) I used to but not as much anymore, now that we do Skype interviews. There is something very telling about seeing people face to face. It makes you feel that you know them much better when you can see their expressions and reactions to your questions.

Q) When do you hire for each season?

A) Hiring happens pretty much year round.  I email or talk on the phone with potential employees every day. We really amp up hiring for the winter in September and keep at it pretty much until staff arrive in early December.   For the summer we begin doing interviews right after the New Year and aim to have everyone hired before the end of April.

Q) How could I qualify to work at the ranch?

A) The first step is wanting to be part of the culture. When considering employees, we are looking for applicants who sincerely love people, guest services, kids, the outdoors, and will fit in with the community. Some of our positions require specific skills and experience, but we tend to hire people who are teachable, passionate, and hardworking over those who have a great deal of experience. You can teach skills, but you cannot train people how to care for others, have good character, or work hard. They have to come with those qualities.  Another big qualifier is timing; we have a training period before the opening of every season which we take very seriously. We aim to hire staff who are available from the beginning of the training period to the end of the season.

So, are you ready to work at a ranch?  Or, do you know someone who would be a perfect fit?  Put them in touch with Beka, and she’ll take it from there.


A Colorado Christmas and Ringing in the New Year–dude ranch style

Have you ever dreamed of spending a white Christmas in Colorado?  Watching the snow fall outside while a fire crackles in the fireplace, or singing carols on a horse drawn sleigh, or making snow angels in fresh powder with your kids?  It’s not just something that you see in the movies.  In fact, every December, Vista Verde Ranch provides this experience for families from all over the world.

What does a winter holiday look like at Vista Verde?  Read on…

Winter at it’s best

When the snow falls at Vista Verde, all our guests have to do is enjoy it!  And this is fun snow.  No shoveling, no worrying about driving, just fun in the fluffy white powder.  Skiing, tubing, sleigh rides, and more.

Christmas without the stress

No arguing over who cooks what or trying to entertain an overflowing house.  Pack your bags, bring your Christmas spirit, and we’ll take it from there.  Cooking, cleaning, and special events?  We’ve got it covered.  Your job is just to enjoy your family and relish in the important things that get lost in the holiday stress– quality time with your family, quiet moments of reflection, and shared memories that will last a lifetime.  Special Christmas events include making homemade decorations as a family, caroling by the fire, and a huge Christmas Feast shared with all the guests and staff.

New Years for a family

Tired of the same old New Year’s Eve revelries?  We’re guessing you’ve never square danced your way into the New Year?  At Vista Verde, we fill the week with fun outdoor adventures, and then ring in the New Year with a Western celebration.  Savor the flavors of a wine pairing dinner while the kids romp and make a mess at the barn party.  Then, join up as a family to stomp your boots in an old fashion square dance, followed by a firework show outside the Great Room.

Kids and snow

They love it.  All you have to do is bundle them up (we’ll help you figure out what you need to pack) and toss them out in a snowbank.  It’s guaranteed fun for hours, until they get cold and are ready for some steaming hot chocolate in the warm lodge.  The kids program that is so well recognized in the summer months kicks back in for the Christmas and New Year weeks (as well as President’s Day weekend on through late-March).  You can try out adventures with your kids, or know that they will be having a ball in the kids program while you’re off on skis, snowshoes, or horses.  They’ll ski, snowshoe, tube, ride horses, sleigh ride, did I mention tube?

The Christmas and New Year’s holidays require a week-long stay to be able to fit in all the adventures and celebrations that make it such a special time of year.  For more information on dates and rates, visit our winter rates page or contact us for more details.  We hope you’ll join us for some holiday fun!