This week at the Ranch

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!

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?


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.

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.

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.”

The Spotlight is on Cheryl Levesque

It’s been a while since we’ve featured a staff member, and the stars aligned this week to put the spotlight on Cheryl Levesque.  Why?  Because we are going to be handing over the reins of our Instagram and Facebook accounts for a while to Cheryl, so it’s great for you all to meet who will be the face behind the posts this winter! Both Steph and Devyn have found themselves in the weeds a bit this winter, with so many great projects to tackle and so many great guests to entertain, so Cheryl is helping lighten our loads while the ranch is covered in snow.

After graduating High School, Cheryl was working as a secretary for an Optometrist and Personal Assistant for a Psychiatrist. Realizing that she had no desire to go to college, at the time, and wasn’t feeling fulfilled in the 9-5 job life, she decided to spend some time doing things that she enjoyed and packed up and moved to Colorado. Before coming to Vista Verde, Cheryl had worked at a couple other guest ranches in Colorado–working for 3 summers with one and the winter season with the other. She first heard of Vista Verde through a friend who had worked for us for a few seasons, and then through her sister, who was (and still is) working as a line cook at the ranch. Missing her sister and ready to experience a new environment she joined the VVR team in August of 2017 as a line cook alongside her sister.  This winter she branched out to join the team in the office crew, and is learning all the behind the scenes workings of a dude ranch. Cheryl enjoys the great outdoors and being able to be active in them by hiking, biking, running, riding, and now in the snow! One of her more memorable experiences was getting to trek through Nepal and the Himalayan mountains. While there she volunteered with a local café and got to meet many locals and travelers both. She’s looking forward to going trekking through Norway and Europe this spring during our off season break!

We look forward to seeing what Cheryl finds to share with all of you on our social media accounts.  If you aren’t already following us on Instagram and Facebook, tune in and stay up to date on what’s going on at the ranch!

christmas vacation gift guide

Vista Verde’s First Annual Holiday Gift Guide

Ok, take this post as a little tongue in cheek, and just know that it’s the little things that make me laugh.  Since everyone has a gift guide these days, I thought we needed to jump on the bandwagon.  But it might actually be something I try to do each year a little earlier in the holiday season in earnest because there are actually some fun suggestions I think we could share with all of you each year!  And, of course, only a little of it is completely self-serving.

With that humble intro, here are some suggestions on great gift ideas from many of the vendors we work with at the ranch.

Tender Belly Bacon!

Ok, we’re serious.  I know I mention our bacon a lot, but it is really that good, and guests even comment about it when they aren’t here.  So, if you can’t gift your loved one a vacation to Vista Verde Ranch, why not at least get them bacon?  Tender Belly, our purveyor for that awesome bacon, offers a Bacon of the Month Club, among other options for gift purchases.

Experiences, not stuff

We all have too much stuff, don’t we?  And, wouldn’t it feel better to save some packaging from the landfills?  So, why not buy a winter vacation package or a week at the ranch this summer for your loved ones?  You’ll create memories instead of more items to store!

Wild Rags

This is a great gift to give to someone who enjoys the Western look.  We all live in them, and there are so many great designs and colors out there!  Check out the variety at Wyoming Wild Rags.

Ranch Organics

Not only do we love the name, and love the gal who started this great company, but we love the products!  If you want the same scent as what we have with our amenities, look for Sweet Grass.  Ranch Organics is a great small Steamboat company that has gone nationwide in the past decade because of their great products.

A Horse!

Yes, we know you all need a new horse, right?  So why not buy a Vista Verde Ranch bred and raised young horse?  Come on now, the obstacles are merely simple ones to overcome–we’ll help you find a way to ship this critter to your home and even put a red bow around its neck.

Steaming Bean Coffee and our favorite mug

We love, love, love our blue coffee mugs.  So much that we shell out the high price for them to replace the broken ones each season.  They are just so beautiful, and a great size to snuggle up with on a cold morning, or a warm one, or whenever…they are that great.  And the Black Magic blend from Colorado’s Steaming Bean coffee is a guest favorite, so why not pair a bag of that with a gorgeous mug from Mountain Arts Pottery?

When in doubt, gift wine!

Well, it’s always a good fall back, and why not represent the brand and buy someone a bottle of the Williams Selyem 2014 Vista Verde Vineyard Pinot Noir?  No relation to the ranch, but what a cool name, right?

There you go.  The inaugural holiday gift guide from Vista Verde.  Here’s to a happy holiday season!  Oh, and if you’re looking for something to get me, I’ll always take another wild rag.  Who knows, maybe my husband might read this…..

Spotlight on Sara Brinkley

Our longtime massage therapist Trish left us this past fall to move closer to her family.  We were left wondering, “How will we ever fill her shoes?”  Well, after searching high and low in the Steamboat and Clark community, we found Sara Brinkley.  So we wanted to introduce her to all of you this week.  Sara is getting settled in at the ranch, giving massages to staff so they know her work, and getting the massage room set up to her liking.  I was the lucky recipients of a massage from her recently, and am still enjoying the newly stretched muscles and relaxed back!  I asked her some questions to help you all get to know her, so if you’re showing up this winter for a vacation at the ranch, you’ll already know a bit about Sara!

1. Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Maplewood, MN.

2. When you were a kid, what did you think you wanted to do when you grew up?

As I kid I really wanted to be a professional tennis player.

3. What drew you to massage therapy for a profession?

Also as a child, I was the one giving family and friend backrubs. At friend sleepovers, everyone always wanted to be in front of me in the backrub chain. So, the idea of making people feel better was probably what initially drew me to massage therapy.

4. How do you spend your free time?

I love hiking and snowshoeing with my dog. My husband and I love to backpack. We have a boat and love spending time on Steamboat Lake. We also really enjoy working on our land and doing house projects. And I still do enjoy playing tennis, even if it’s not on the circuit!

5. Beside relaxation, are there benefits to guests getting a massage while at VVR?

I believe any minor body pain can be something that changes your day, your activity, or experience. So, by relieving muscle tension, lengthening muscle tissue, and creating better circulation; massage can reduce stress, aid in better sleep, relieve injury pain, and aid in your body functioning at its best.

If you’re coming out to the ranch for a winter vacation, we hope you’ll get a chance to meet Sara and enjoy her work.  She offers either 60 or 90 minute Swedish or relaxing massages typically on Monday, Wednesday and Friday afternoons.  60 minute massages are $130 and 90 minute massages are $170.  Feel free to call us at 800-526-7433 to schedule your massage ahead of time, as those muscles do get sore with all the outdoor adventures going on here at the ranch!

winter dude ranch season is getting closer

Dude Ranch Life: Gratitude for the little things

It’s amazing how quiet it is around the ranch right now with us being closed for the off-season.  And what got on my radar this past week was realizing how much that quiet space allows us to appreciate the little things.  Sure, we recognize that compared to the busy world many people live in, being at the ranch is still a more quiet place to be for many.  But, when we’re open and we have a house full of guests to organize, an equally large group of staff to shepherd, and activities going every which way, there are definitely a lot of balls up in the air to keep juggling!  We’re all pretty mindful of noticing the special moments, but sometimes don’t get the space to really soak them up.  This past week I found myself relishing those special moments.

The bald eagle flying over head as I was driving up Seedhouse Road yesterday morning.  Those are the times when I remind myself, “This life isn’t normal–most folks don’t get to see bald eagles soaring around on their commute to work!?”

The alpenglow on fresh snow in the Zirkels as the sun goes down earlier and earlier each evening.

Getting together at my house for dinner the other night with the few people who are at the ranch right now.  Great times, lots of laughter, and total joy when I pulled out the dessert I had slaved over all day–a selection of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream.  Because we have amazing baked goods at the ranch all the time, but when we get to binge on Ben & Jerry’s?

Seeing the elk move across the hillside above the cabin early in the morning, and then later on gather in the valley floor underneath an epic sunset.

Sharing a huge pot of venison stew that Chef Jason made last week just because he’s going a little stir crazy not working much these days.  What a surprise, and I can assure you all the brown bag lunches from home were quickly put back into the fridge when we smelled the stew!

Pushing the door when the handle says “Pull”!  Yes, I am telling you it’s the simple pleasures I’m talking about here!  Those kitchen doors are such a source of controversy with the staff, and it’s just kind of fun to walk through them the wrong way when no one is around.

What doesn’t change during the off-season?  The camaraderie of the passionate people here at the ranch, who all care so much about making this dude ranch the best vacation experience ever for our guests, and who work their tails off during the off-season to gear up for the coming season.  It’s a smaller crew right now, so we’re all enjoying the quiet together, getting things done, reflecting on what we can do better, implementing new ideas, and putting the wheels into motion so they are ready for when the staff arrive in early December.


New Powder Riding options for your winter ranch vacation

Many of you who visited the ranch last winter tried out our snowmobiling program, and we received some great feedback over the course of the winter. We’re excited to be expanding the program this year with some new riding options.

Our programs at the ranch allow our guests to grow their skills and learn during their stay, and we wanted to mirror this in the snowmobile program. So, there will still be the option of 2-hour trail rides on the snowmobiles, but we have also added another step in the program for those who have already taken a 2-hour trail ride and want to learn more technique, skills, and play a bit more on the machines.

During the 2-hour powder rides the guides will take guests into the powder to teach them how to maneuver and manage the machines in the fresh snow. In addition, there will be the option of all-day rides that give riders time on the trail as well as powder riding instruction and play time. So, there are many options for our guests who catch the bug of riding a snowmobile. And, for all of you who want to avoid the sound of machines, please remember that we have the newer machines that are quieter, and we leave from the barn area and head off ranch right away on our tours, so the ranch remains a quiet and peaceful place. So, the phrase ‘come ride with us’ has multiple meanings—horses, fat bikes, and snowmobiles!

Dude Ranch Gear

The season is wrapping up at Vista Verde Ranch, and we have some great new and used gear available for sale!  If you’re in the area, stop by Sunday, October 22 from 1-4pm to shop and score a deal!

Bikes: Salsa
Bucksaws (S-XL) $2,500
Spearfish (S-XL) $1,200
XL Carbon Spearfish $1,900
Blackborows (XS-L) $900-$1,000

Winter Gear:
Snowshoes: Atlas, Crescent Moon $20-$40
Solomon SNS Ski Boots and Bindings: Various Sizes $20-$40
Backcountry Touring, Classic, and Skate Skis: Limited Selection $100
Kids Skis: $40

Hala Inflatable Boards-Nass, Straight-up, Hoss
Comes with carry kit and patch kit $850-$950

Discounted NEW Clothing and Technical Gear

Fly rods: (Prices will be posted soon)
Sage accel sizes ranging from 376-4 up to 596-4
Sage circa sizes 386-4 and 486-4
Sage LL 379-3
Sage txl-f 00710-4

Redington willow river women’s boots sizes 5-9
Redington palix river men’s boots sizes 8-13
Simms freestone men’s boots sizes 7-14

Redington crosswater women’s waders sizes small and medium
Redington crosswater men’s waders sizes S-XL
Redington sonic pro men’s waders sizes S-XL


cattle round up at Colorado dude ranch

Dude Ranch Life: Cattle Ranching with the Beltons

October came upon us quickly, but it didn’t come quietly this year.  Although we always have the chance of snow here in the fall, this month kicked off with a full-fledged winter style snow storm.  Stunning?  Yes.  Welcomed?  Well, we’d actually rather default to our preferred October weather of sunny skies to show off the golden aspens.  But, that’s life in the mountains and today we’re already back to those sunny skies, albeit a wee bit chilly with the snow still hanging around on the ground.

The snow did help us out as it did encourage the remaining cow-calf pairs out in the forest that coming home is indeed a good idea.  You see, we’ve spent the last month convincing the cow-calf pairs to stay out by moving them around to find where the grass was still thick and lush so they could spend as much time out in the forest before we brought them home.  So, by the end of September we were pretty sure they would come home willingly.  Apparently they missed that memo, and although we brought a lot of them home that last week, there are still some stragglers out in the forest.  Following the storm early this week, their attitude seems to have shifted and this time they were a lot more willing to head back to the ranch.

One of the highlights of this fall round-up season for me has been getting our partners Christy and Matt Belton more involved with our guests during the round-up weeks.  We had them join us for dinner each week to meet the guests and then gather around the fireplace after dinner so everyone could learn a little more about their cattle operation.  It was fascinating.  Every week the conversation went a little different direction from water rights to testing bulls productivity (yep, that one got a little silly), but each week gave our guests a chance to understand a little more about the cattle industry and our partnership with Belton Livestock.  This is one of those amazing relationships where everyone wins–our guests get to be a part of a real cattle operation and Christy and Matt get some help with managing a roughly 14,000 acre USFS grazing permit along with over 200 cow-calf pairs.  What was apparent was that having this conversation with Christy and Matt helped the guests realize this is the real deal, and recognize that they have a vital role in helping with the Belton’s business success.

Now we just have to get the stragglers in and call it a year.  Fat happy cows and spunky, well fed calves are heading back to the Belton Livestock headquarters as I write this blog post.  Good job to all who came out to have some fun riding the land and rounding up cows!

Dude Ranch Life: When we say guest blogger, we really mean a guest blogging!

To start I should tell you how it came about that a guest is writing the VVR blog! I was talking to my friend Stephanie and saying how much we enjoyed her blogs, and when could we expect the next one?  As we know, Stephanie’s blogs are informative, amusing and beautifully written and must take time and inspiration to get out, but this time, like all writers, Stephanie was suffering writers block.  She asked me for some ideas, and while other guests nearby came up with several suggestions I suggested “why not get a guest to do a blog?” Stephanie grabbed hold of this idea and said “When do you think you can do it?”……well I was “strung up like a kipper” as we say in England, (Stephanie does have a slightly devious side to her,) so here goes.

My wife and I traveled 5500 miles to get here, suffering jet lag and aeroplane food and driving past many other dude ranches. So, we make a big effort to get here! This is our third time coming to VVR… and it is so worth it. Just for the record, in the past we have never been back to any holiday destination before, so why does VVR draw us back? Not just us but many other guests.  I decided I would attempt to find out what draws us all back.

Over lunch today I asked several people how many times they had been to VVR and why they keep coming back? Some, I asked, have been here over 10 times and many 8 or 9 times (good time to say that those on 9 get the 10th one free) so we are still “newbies ”

When asked why they keep coming back there were lots of different responses. Some say the horses, and indeed there is a horse for every standard of horsemanship from beginners to experienced riders.

But many people never ride a horse, and spend their time fishing, so for them its the fishing and the tales you hear over dinner each night tell of great fish caught and great fish lost all in stunning surroundings. I keep promising myself to go fishing but there is so much else going on. The hard thing at VVR is to make your choices each day.

And the hikers and bikers all talk enthusiastically about the excitement of their days, when we gather together for meals.

Which brings me onto another reason people keep coming back… the food. It is always superb, whether its breakfast out in a field or a gourmet dinner in the lodge you never hear any complaints. And, if you are gluten free, vegetarian or have any other dietary requirement they will always be able to provide for you.

With great activities and great food in beautiful surroundings you could not want for anything more. But, hold on a minute…the fun doesn’t stop there! Every evening there is some event taking place to continue the enjoyment. Line dancing, wine pairing, music night, horse shoe throwing etc with VVR personnel all on hand to make sure it all goes well. My particular favourite is line dancing, which is surprising as I cannot dance! but at VVR I can, as the song says when you get the chance to dance, dance.

When it all boils down to it its not just the horses, the setting, the fishing, climbing, hiking and bike riding, food, evening activities that make it extra special, great as they are, but it is the people. Not just the fine people who look after us, but the friendships that develop over the week keep many guests returning. Ben says in his introduction that it should be like coming back to your family. and, I think, that is why guests return to the ranch year after year, its coming home.

Happy holidays everyone!

Michael Kelleher

dude ranch wrangler

Dude Ranch Life: What’s happening at the Ranch

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged as I seem to just keep finding myself running here and there, and not planted down in front of my computer.  Go figure, it’s a ranch!  With the kids back in school and a few less guests because of that, it seems to feel a little more quiet this week.  If you haven’t been following where we are in the season, this week is the first of our adult-only weeks.  It really tends to feel like a big switch from one season to another.  The college-age staff are leaving and returning to their studies which includes most of the kid wrangler crew.  The “late-season” hires have or are arriving and getting dialed into their jobs for the fall season.  The schedule shifts a bit with no kids and shorter daylight hours.  For example, the breakfast ride turns into a brunch ride because while getting up early for a morning ride is lovely, no one really wants to ride in the dark and sit out at Homestead eating a breakfast while shivering at the same time.

Although we have lots of great staff who come and go here, every once in a while there is a departure that needs to be recognized.  This week seems a little more quiet with the absence of Troy Corless.  Troy has been a guest favorite for years, but we always tell our staff there comes a time when they’ve learned what they needed to learn here at the ranch and it’s time to fly.  Troy realized it was that time and he found an amazing opportunity that made it a no-brainer to stretch out those wings and head out.  He will be joining a very talented farrier in the east for an apprenticeship.  This is such a great opportunity for Troy, and we are so happy to see him go off to take the next step in his profession.  No doubt there were tears shed, but we’re also just so happy to see him looking to continue to grow and move up in the world.

I’m sure many of you watched the eclipse on Monday.  We had a fun time checking it out, even though we weren’t on the path of totality.  It was about 95% here, so we sent our morning ride out a bit early to make sure everyone could get back in time to put on their glasses and enjoy the show.

With the start of the adult-only season we’re kicking off the wine pairing dinners again.  Friday nights will be a bit more noisy here I suspect, but they are always a great time with so many interesting dishes paired with tasty wines.  Also in a couple weeks we’ll start heading out with our guests to round-up the cows.  These weeks always lead to great stories of adventures on the trail–it’s such a splendid way to take in the fall colors and ride some beautiful country!

The office crew is shifting their attention over to winter with Zach getting the winter staff finalized and Devyn and the gals taking calls daily for winter reservations.  It’s funny to be talking about the ranch covered in snow when we’re still outside in our short sleeves soaking up the summer rays, but it won’t be long before the snow starts falling and our winter wonderland returns.  Until then, we’ll take every moment of time out on the dirt, crisp mornings and warm days, and the rustling of aspen leaves in the breeze.

dude ranch foal

News from the Nursery

The foals are growing and getting used to being handled and loved by our guests each week.  As we watch them lounge in the sunshine, frolic in the green grass, and stretch their legs running around the pastures, we’re getting to know their personalities and helping them get used to dude ranch life.  Here’s a quick update on the sweet things from wrangler Liz B.

dude ranch foalPaisley
Born: 4/24/17
Sire: Shaq “Gray Stik”
Dam: Teletubby “Reynyday Whoaman”

Paisley is Shaq’s first foal to be born here at VVR! Shaq is our current resident stud here at the ranch, and we have been anticipating watching this beautiful filly learn and grow to see if she will have the calm, sweet, curious disposition both of her parents have.  Like most gray horses, Paisley was born a darker bay color, but is starting to slowly gray out, just like her father, and displays a star matching that of her mother Teletubby. Paisley is extremely friendly and has a big, sweet personality. She is naturally curious and brave with new interactions and absolutely loves her weekly foal watch visits, where she gets to interact with guests. She especially loves getting pets and scratches from the kids that are more her size! Teletubby is back in foal to Shaq, so we look forward to a full sibling to Paisley in May 2018.

colt at luxury guest ranchMemphis
Born: 5/8/17
Sire: Shaq : “Gray Stik”
Dam: June “Frostys Red Baron”

Memphis is Shaq’s first colt to be born here at VVR. Memphis was born with a lighter red sorrel coloring, but with time is also starting to show some of his Sire’s gray coloring. Memphis definitely has the energy and athleticism of his father. Three days after his birth, he was already zipping around the pasture with the cutest little lope. Memphis is a little bit more timid than Paisley when it comes to interacting with people, but he gets more and more comfortable with people each day. He is a very sweet colt, and we are very excited to see his potential. June will be having another Shaq baby May 2018, so we look forward to seeing what this two produce next year!

foals on summer vacationApache
Born: April 2017
Dam: Ginger

Apache and his mom Ginger came to us from our cattle partner Matt Belton. Apache came to us at about one month of age and is growing fast. Apache is a cute little black colt with two white socks and the sweetest little face. Apache is by far one of the most curious, kind foals within the group of four foals we have this year. He’s inquisitive and quite independent of his mom at a very young age. He loves people and getting scratches and rubs in all his itchy spots! This young colt is very brave and seems to be a fast learner. His relaxed, carefree personality helps settle his mom, who can sometimes be nervous and very protective of him.

colt at family guest ranchHoulihan
Born: March 2017
Dam: Big Momma “Zans Rainy Gal”

Houlihan and Big Momma came to us from a horse sale in CO this last spring, and we are lucky to have them. Houlihan is a gregarious, friendly colt who gets his calm disposition and size from his beautiful, big-boned gray momma. Houlihan has great conformation, and his dark coat is already starting to gray out, so we’ll have another gray colt. He is extremely friendly and loves people. Big Momma is also currently pregnant with Shaq’s baby, who is due around next May/June 2018.  With her easy personality and great size, we think the combination of those two horses will produce an amazing guest ranch horse.


hiking vacation in Colorado

Dude Ranch Life: How do they all have so much energy?

Maybe it’s that I’m not 23 anymore, or maybe it’s just because our staff are just that adventurous.  But, this morning it hit me that our staff are moonlighting (sometimes quite literally) in some pretty amazing athletic endeavors.  Why did this hit me this morning?  Well, Beka and I went for an early morning run, which was amazing and beautiful and fulfilling for this busy mom who is psyched when she fits in a 4 mile run.  However, you must please note that Beka was merely warming up for a full day of guiding and anticipating that she would be leading a hike on the Zirkel Circle.  You know, that silly little 11 mile hike into the Zirkel Wilderness.  While we were out running, we saw footprints on the trail.  Beka’s guess was that those footprints belonged to Shannon.  She had invited Shannon to join us on our run but Shannon opted out.  She was hoping to get a longer run in that morning…..before she also guided an all-day hiking trip.  Ummmm…..ok.

This conversation led to further ones with other staff about their epic outings recently.  The same energizer bunny Shannon joined Molly and Max H. earlier this week on a 21 mile/11 hour hike into the Zirkels.  The highlight of the hike was getting up on top of Flattop Mountain.

Oh, and then there was the climb up Wapiti Mountain with Maggie A., Jonah S, Shannon (do you see a pattern her?) and Molly that started at sunset and got back well after the full moon was way up in the sky.

Well, I can’t forget to mention the gallant attempt to climb Farwell Mountain by Nolan and Max.  Perhaps they didn’t make it all the way, but the scratches and bruises they brought back proved their pioneer spirit.

Of course, what better way to celebrate kid wrangler Max K.’s birthday than a sunrise hike up Hahn’s Peak with a whole crew of friends?

For creative adventures, the award goes to Jason and Sarah who are attempting to climb every mountain or visit every lake that one of our cabins are named after….each Sunday they tackle another one.

There was that night that Jonah J. hiked up to the top of Wapiti at 9pm, camped out, and was back at work by 7:30am.

Needless to say, our crew is making the most of their time off, and somehow they still have the energy to whip up amazing dishes, wash those dirty dishes, wrangle the horses and kids, and lead more wild adventures out into the mountains with our guests.

Anyone up for a walk around the block?

dude ranch owners at Vista Verde

Dude Ranch Life: Special Visitors

Recently we had some special visitors come up to the ranch.  Does the name Tufly ring a bell for any of you?  If not, here’s a clue: the Tufly family owned Vista Verde from the late 1920’s until the 1970’s.  Their boys grew up on the ranch, so we were thrilled when Elvin and Roy came by to visit with their wives Carolyn and Delene.  It was great timing, as they not only got to spend some time at the ranch and share stories of growing up at Vista Verde, but they also got to meet Chris and Laura who own the ranch now.

The guys had us totally entertained hearing about the trouble they got into as boys growing up on the ranch as well as what life was like at Vista Verde in those days.  They used to close the ranch down in the winter, and ski in throughout the winter to shovel snow off the roofs of the buildings.  Such a different lifestyle than what we have today!

It’s amazing how many people’s lives Vista Verde has touched in the past, and how many it continues to touch as a guest ranch today.  We’re all pretty lucky to call it home for even a week at a time!

animals and kids at a family dude ranch vacation

Dude Ranch Life: Angels among us

On the very first day of my kids’ summer vacation we discovered that my daughter’s old faithful horse has some really serious health issues.  Given that having a horse is an integral part of my summer childcare plan, this put us in a bind.  Yes, we have plenty of horses here at the ranch, but they all have a job to do during the summer!  So I’ve been madly hunting for a great horse for my kid.  In that search, I have been reminded that it is a special creature who weighs 1,000 pounds and gently takes care of our children.  It’s never far from my thoughts or those of all our wranglers as they work with our herd, but this situation has put it really high on my radar right now.  We truly live among angels with these horses, and even the dogs and cats, here at the ranch who so patiently care for our little people.

No horse is perfect, just like none of us are–ok, maybe some of you have achieved perfection, but I’m far from it!  However, as I watch these animals who are so powerful stand patiently while little girls braid their manes, or small children pull on their mouths with no awareness of the discomfort they are causing the animal, or a group of kids lie down and surround a young colt, leaving it with no escape when he is wired to always have an out from prey, I see little angel wings sprouting.  So, parents, please remember when your kid complains that her horse eats grass to much, or that when he wants to trot or lope the horse doesn’t do it without a lot of kicking, or whatever other imperfections arise, that these creatures are taking care of your babies and keeping them safe.  I’ve been shopping for a replacement horse who is safe and kind, willing and sure-footed, calm and gentle, and they are not abundantly available.  So, I am treasuring the ones we do have here at the ranch.  Because we are surrounded by angels here, and luckily the kids who come here (and my kids are included in that thankfully) get to spend time riding around on winged horses without even knowing it!  Bet you never imagined when you booked your family vacation here at the ranch that you were also booking time with an angel?

dude ranch staff on bikes

Dude Ranch Life: Orientation week

It’s been a whirlwind of excitement and learning this week at the ranch.  You know that saying about drinking out of a firehose?  That is pretty much how our staff feel at this point.  They arrived Monday, and we kicked off our orientation time with a welcome dinner Monday night.  First thing Tuesday morning there were introductions and then we jumped right into laying out the ranch mission, touring the new staff around the ranch, and getting paperwork filled out.  Then if was off to their individual departments.  We’ve been busy from sunrise to sunset and everyone is ready for a well-deserved day off tomorrow!  Following a great suggestion by longtime guest Bruce G., I asked a couple of the new staff to share their experiences with our followers on social media.  Here’s what they’ve been experiencing so far this week. First up, meet Catherine:

Day 1:
Hi, I’m Catherine,
I’m from Charlotte, North Carolina.
I am so excited to spend my first season at Vista Verde Ranch as a Horse Wrangler.
Follow me on my journey over the next few weeks as I learn all the ends and outs of this beautiful place.

Today, we were completely immersed in the vision and mission behind what we are doing here at the ranch. Whether learning about values like compassion and leadership, or meeting those that are the heartbeat of the ranch; This place has already stolen my heart.

However, the day wasn’t all meetings. The wranglers spent the day exploring the acres of the ranch on horseback and meeting a few of the horses. Here are a few pictures from today’s adventure!

Day 2

Hey Y’all it’s Catherine!
Today was such a blast. It was the most beautiful weather we’ve had all week. Summer is definitely here. We spent the morning practicing all different types of first aid emergency scenarios. From practicing what to do about back injuries, making slings, or walking through head to toe checks, all of our first aid training was reinforced with live scenarios.

This afternoon the wrangler department saddled up and had our first clinic with the head trainer KP. Y’all, KP knows his stuff. He is such a wealth of knowledge on all things horsemanship. I learned so much in one short hour, and I’ve been riding my whole life. Today was full of reminders of how much of a gift this summer will be.
Also, I’ve been taking some spins on the Cruiser Bikes. It’s definitely going to be a favorite aspect of after work activities! So. much. fun.

Day 3

Hey y’all,
Big things are happening here at the ranch. Today was spent with everyone really diving into getting the ranch prepped for guests. Wranglers were mending fences and placing gates, guides were building paddle board trailers, and kids supervisors went on an orientation
horseback ride. It was a busy day, and most people were outside working all around. The energy was high, and it really feels like we’ve gotten into a steady rhythm with our departments. I’ve found that my favorite parts of the day are meals when we all gather together in the staff room and share conversations across tables. I also love department time. We get to bond with our team and focus on what we really love to do at the ranch. For me, it’s horses.

Counting down the days until we get to meet you all!

Day 4
Hi friends,
Today was filled with a lot of “first times.” We de wormed the mares and the yearlings, had our first “run out” to the back pasture, and had our first barn dance! There’s nothing quiet as exciting as chasing a heard of galloping horses through a pasture and herding them in the right direction. Also, I learned that head wrangler Ben Yoder-Henley and head trainer KP have some serious dance moves. Everyday the ranch has more and more to offer!

And now it’s Day 5 and Catherine and the rest of the crew are working with the housekeepers to learn the ins and outs of Sunday turnovers. Because, here at the ranch, everyone jumps in on Sundays to help get the cabins cleaned for the next group of guests!

Next we introduce you to Mackenzie:
My name is Mackenzie and I am beyond stoked to be a server at VVR this season! I’m originally from a suburb close to Chicago, and can’t wait for this change of pace in the mountains! Follow my staff orientation over the next 2 weeks to see a glimpse of what goes into prepping to serve our amazing guests! Day 1 consisted of stellar talks about the ranch, it’s mission, and what it means to be a part of the family here. I’m feeling truly honored to have this opportunity. The entire staff has already learned so much, and of course we continued the fun after training with bike rides and staff yoga!

Day 2- The ranch staff spent the entire morning soaking up information about first aid. We then practiced mock first-aid scenarios around the ranch!
In the afternoon, the waitstaff toured and explored the in’s and out’s of the kitchen. We also began to learn a bit about breakfast service and practiced carrying plates (current drop count: 0)! As you can see from the picture, it was a tough view to commute to work today, and an even tougher view to study our server book in our cabins! What a great second day for the waitstaff.

Howdy from day 3! All of the waitstaff just happened to show up in matching outfits today- wow we must ALREADY be stellar as a team! (Ok..maybe we planned it…) Today we had a birthday in our department of one of our wonderful returning staff, Terrence! What better way to celebrate than singing happy birthday to him as he walks in the staff room rubbing his eyes at 7am?!
Today the servers gained a wealth of knowledge from our lead server, Lisa, as well as birthday boy Terrence. We ran through a fake breakfast service- between the four of us “newbies” we probably asked a grand total of 1 million questions to make sure we’re the best we can be! Next, we learned how to set the table for formal dinner service. Lisa surprised us at the end of the day by telling us we will be riding tomorrow as a department! We couldn’t be more excited, bring on day 4!

Stay tuned, as we’ll keep you updated on the adventures of Catherine and Mackenzie as they navigate their way to opening day. We’re in the final countdown!

meeting at a dude ranch

Dude Ranch Life: Gearing up for the summer season

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

Where to start……in no particular order

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

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

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

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

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

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