This week at the Ranch

Dude Ranch Life: Junecember

If you ask an old time rancher around the Steamboat Springs area about snow in the summer, they’ll laugh and tell you that it can snow every month of the year here in the mountains.  It’s one thing to hear that, but it’s another thing to be scraping off the windshield of your car on the summer solstice!  We tell our guests to pack for their vacation with lots of layers and to expect a range of temperatures and weather….but snow during your summer vacation?

Last week, the pattern of precipitation we’ve had so far this spring/summer was in the forecast and we were ready.  What we weren’t quite expecting was to wake up to snow on Friday, and have it keep falling all day long.  It wasn’t just a couple flakes like we’ve seen before.  It was a full on snowstorm!  Snow was piling up on the roofs, the railing, and the meadows.  Our hearty guests did a great job of embracing the fact that on the longest day of the year they were bundling up in whatever clothes we could dig up and going out to play in the snow.  Some of the teens made a snowman, and the ranch hands spent a good part of the day shaking the snow off the trees so we wouldn’t lose too many.  All those aspens are not designed to have leaves on them at the same time as snow so they were leaning over perilously!  The chefs switched gears from light outdoor lunch to a variety of grilled cheese and soups for lunch to warm everyone up, and we kept a fire in the fireplace going all day.  Of course, the horses weren’t too happy about this all as they have long ago shed their winter coats.  So, they all got a little extra alfalfa to keep their bodies firing up their internal heaters.

Here we are just a few days later enjoying summer weather with lunch out on the patio, smearing on the sunscreen as we strip down to short sleeves.  Go figure, and here’s to all those who come out to Vista Verde Ranch for a summer vacation embrace whatever weather shows up for us in these mountains!

Dude Ranch Life: Orientation 2019

It’s that time of year when the staff arrive at the ranch with so much enthusiasm that the ranch buzzes with energy each day.  Even some spring snowstorms haven’t dissuaded the crew’s excitement.  We fill up the days with talks, training, safety demos, practice meals, getting the cabins opened up, fixing fence, and then cap off most days with some sort of social event to build the community of the ranch staff.  It’s wonderful, overwhelming, exhausting, and so exhilarating all at the same time.

In the Lodge Chol’s kitchen crew is busy making sauces and stocks, finalizing menus, and cooking for the staff.  The server’s are learning the ropes of how we do things in our dining room, which is far different than any restaurant any of them have worked in before.  Devyn has the office crew busy getting the pre-arrival arrangements made with the guests, organizing and updating the back of house systems, and fielding questions from guests who are starting to anticipate their stays.

Out in the Adventure Center Ben Simms is working with the barn and kids crew to get all those folks on the same page for what being a VVR guide looks like and all that goes into guiding a trip at the ranch.  There is so much for all of them to absorb and learn!

Next door at the kid hut Mandy has her crew ready to install our new bouldering feature outside the kids hut, as well as making sure the goats show up in time for the season, and teaching the kids crew the ropes of the program.

Mary and Sam have the farriers working daily to get shoes on all the horses in time for opening day while also getting the horses and equipment ready to go and the wranglers dialed in on how to teach the VVR way.  In addition to that work, Sam from Sam’s Saddle Solutions has been back this year to do saddle fits for all the new horses.  We have invested in her program the past couple years and it has been priceless for the comfort of our horses and the safety of our riders.  Our horses are happier, have less injuries, no saddle sores, and are able to be kept in the riding string more consistently with a professional saddle fit.

Michael has the ranch hands fixing fence, moving the lawn and pool furniture back out from storage, building new hammock stands, putting the screen doors back on the cabins, and that’s just the start of the honey-do list.  Down in the housekeeping area Hannah has her crew working diligently to get the cabins opened in time for a photo crew to come and shoot 360 tours of each cabin and Lodge room.  Nothing like a deadline to pick up the pace!

Whew, I’m tired just thinking about all this!  For those of you coming the first week or two of the season, we hope you’re getting excited.  Our staff are counting the days until you arrive, and we hope you are as well.

This week at the Ranch: Meet the Chefs

We had two very talented Chef de Cuisines join us this spring, and Chef Chol has been busy getting them dialed into how we do things here at VVR and creating new menus so they are ready to go when our staff arrive for orientation. Meet David and Tanner:

David Lossing has been in love with cooking and all things culinary since the age of 16. Over the past 17 years in the business, he has found a way to incorporate his love of travel into his profession. At the age of 18, David traveled up to Alaska and worked his first National Park concession. Working there under the talented chef and sous-chef, he was able to learn a lot about seafood and North West cuisine. With a healthy appetite for travel, David has since worked in Sequoia National Park, Death Valley National Park, Olympic National Park, San Francisco, and the BWCA in northern Minnesota–his home state. The experience working in a multitude of kitchens under many different chefs and in many different situations has shaped him and set him up to take on the Chef de Cuisine role at VVR. David looks forward to hiking, fishing, camping, and working alongside the talented culinary team here at Vista Verde.

Tanner Price is a Colorado native coming back home to land in the mountains. He has spent nearly 15 years in professional kitchens learning and exploring a multitude of concepts. Tanner’s true love for food began when he became a saucier at the age of 17, making 36 sauces or soups per week. This introduction to the culinary arts lent itself to the discovery of many international cuisines. Anthony Bourdain has been a great influence of his and, as a writer, traveler, and chef, Tanner strives to explore, dream, and discover BIG. Tanner recollects an Italian food guide once telling him, “There are two types of people in the world, family and those we haven’t eaten with yet”. In that spirit he looks forward to creating, cooking, and becoming part of the family here at Vista Verde. Make sure to ask him about his involvement in Camp to Belong, a passion of his.

This week at the Ranch: Father’s Day Gift Guide

When you live out in the mountains, giving Dad a tie for Father’s Day just doesn’t work. So, we thought we’d put together a gift guide for those of you who want to give Dad something that speaks more to his outdoorsman side. Here’s what we’re giving our dads this year:

Buff: From the fishing guides to the ski guides, anyone who spends time outdoors summer or winter can appreciate a good-looking Buff. They come in so many different colors and patterns that you’re bound to find one that fits Dad’s personality. A Buff is great for pesky bugs, sun protection, or warmth.

Beer: Chol recommends Great Divide Brewing Company’s “Roadie Grapefruit Radler,” an easy-drinking, citrusy, and refreshing ale, not high in alcohol and a perfect accompaniment to your sack lunch on the river while fly fishing.

Leatherman: Another gift that works for all kinds of guys from ranch hands to wranglers, these handy multi-tools are so practical, fun, and just plain cool.

Smartwool or Darn Tough socks: There’s a little debate here as to which sock is the better product. Many of us lean towards Smartwool as the company is local and they have so much more than just socks. But Darn Tough socks are exactly what their name says—they last forever! Put the dress socks and white cotton socks aside and get Dad a pair of quality technical socks for hiking, biking, skiing, and more.

Tender belly bacon: Nothing says “I love you, Dad” like a Bacon of the Month club membership from Tender Belly bacon. You don’t have to wait until your next VVR vacation to enjoy this decadent bacon.

More than anything, spend time with Dad.  That is the best gift any of us can give our dads.  Happy Father’s Day!

Dude Ranch Life: Kids Unplugged

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

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

Dude Ranch Life: Chef’s Corner

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

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

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

Dude Ranch Life: Simms’ Summits

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

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

Dude Ranch Life: Yogis in the Woods

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

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

Dude Ranch Life: Teaching and Whip Cracking

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

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

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

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

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

Dude Ranch Life: The Vendors Behind the Scenes

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

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

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

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

Dude Ranch Life: Sitting around the pool eating bon bons

There is a joke between me and some fellow dude ranchers about how everyone thinks in the off-season we sit around the pool and eat bon bons.  Ok, first of all, that would be a little cold right now.  But what do we do when the ranch is closed?

If you would ask Bill, it’s all about removing, tightening, replacing, and repairing.  Those cabins need a lot of love, and let’s just say his favorite day isn’t hairball day.

Up at the barn, the past week was spent focusing on growth.  Although we spend a lot of time in clinics during the season, that’s when we’re sharing our knowledge with the guests.  The off-season is a time for us to learn more, try out new things, and expand our teaching toolbox.  We packed in 3 different clinics with 3 different horse trainers last week, and I must say it felt a little like drinking out of a fire hydrant.  But, it was a blast getting together and learning from these talented trainers and playing with some of our horses.  We even got a first ride on Wingo during one of the sessions!

Speaking of growth, in between booking reservations and answering questions Devyn has immersed herself in an intense yoga teacher training this fall to layer onto her previous training.  She’s been at the studio in Steamboat almost every day, and doing a ton of work to growing as a teacher.

And that’s not the only learning that’s happening.  Right now Ben is at a Wilderness First Responder course getting his credentials updated and Ted attended a similar course the previous weekend.

To help get the word out about our winter vacation packages Catherine, Isaac, and I went to the Mountain Time Expo in Dallas a few weeks ago, and got to meet a ton of folks from the Dallas area who are interested in outdoor adventure vacations.  With direct flights to Steamboat from Dallas during the winter months it’s an easy trip to get to Vista Verde.

As I write this, Zach is interviewing another staff candidate.  Between interviews, calling references, and making the hires, he’s a busy guy filling up our winter season with some great folks in addition to those returning in December.

The laundry machines don’t get much of a break during the off-season, and Hannah is making sure they keep going as she wraps up the deep clean of all the cabins and rooms.

Chol seemed pretty happy to spend a chunk of his time a few weeks ago trying out new wines with a revolving door of wine reps coming to visit him.  Now the boxes of wine are showing up, so you’ll all get to enjoy the rewards of his extensive research….sigh, what a tough job.

There is just so much that happens behind the scenes and during the off-season it’s all behind the scenes!  In between this work, many folks are finding some time to visit family and enjoy a little R&R.  We pour our hearts into providing our guests with an amazing vacation experience, so it’s nice for us to enjoy being on the other side of the equation as a visitor elsewhere.

Pretty soon the staff will arrive for orientation and then we’ll be getting ready for our guests to arrive for their winter vacations.  We’re on the #CountdowntoWinter!

 

Dude Ranch Life: Keeping Cozy All Winter

When the temperatures drop to single digits, and the snow is piled high, guests often ask us why our horses don’t wear blankets. It’s hard to believe, but actually it’s healthier for our horses to go au naturale. Horses have a natural rhythm that follows the seasons and allows them to live comfortably in winter weather. As the daylight hours get shorter in the fall, they start growing their winter coats. These coats are designed to spring up when it gets cold, which makes their coat work like the down coat you put on before you head out into the snow.

In addition to their warm coats, part of what helps horses keep warm is a simple calculation of calories in vs calories out. During the colder months, the average horse needs about 25% higher energy intake. Each day as we feed the horses in the winter, we consider the temperatures and the forecast for that night’s low temperature. Doing some simple math that takes into account our horses’ average weights, their overall condition, and the number in the herd, we know how much hay to put out for our furry friends, so they can keep eating to stay warm. Horses will actually produce heat as they eat, so we feed them enough so they can keep eating all night long.

All said, we pay close attention to our horses all winter long to make sure they stay happy, healthy, and comfortable. Staying committed to letting them live a more natural lifestyle helps reduce their stress and well as illness. The best part is to watch the horses follow the cycle of the weather out in their wintery pasture. When there is a big storm with snow and wind, they will all bunch up next to each other, turn their tails to the wind, and keep each other warm. On a super cold morning, they tend to stay very still. As the sun comes up and starts creating some heat on their backs, they tend to get a little frisky. And, when the afternoon sun is at its peak, it’s naptime, and you’ll often see half the herd sprawled out looking almost dead as they soak up the rays.

If you’d like to learn more, check out this article from Horse Illustrated Magazine and also one from TheHorse.com.

So, bring your coziest jacket when you come visit this winter, but rest assured knowing our horses are cozy and happy.

New Programs for Winter Vacation Guests

Every year we look for ways to freshen up our programs and add value for our guests. This year we have two activities we’re excited to add to our winter program. Following in the footsteps of the ever-popular Wild Yoga in the summer, where we ride horses out to an aspen grove for an all-levels yoga class, we are adding Snoga. Never fear, we are not going to try to make you all try to practice yoga out in the snow in freezing temps! Instead, Devyn will guide guests on snowshoes for a short hike in the snow out to the Homestead cabin, where a cozy fire and yoga mats will be ready to go for an all-levels yoga class. Following the class and a cup of tea, we’ll all bundle back up for the snowshoe hike home.

If you’re looking to get outside, but don’t want to exert much energy, give Ice Fishing a try this winter. Instead of closing the fly shop for the winter, Isaac has geared it up with all the equipment needed to head out onto a frozen lake for ice fishing with our guests. It’s a great way to see some beautiful winter scenery, and after a short walk on the ice out to a heated shelter, you can either drill your own fishing hole, or watch the pro do it. Then grab one of the comfortable chairs, pour yourself a hot cup of cocoa or coffee, and watch the fish come up to your line through an underwater camera.

Dude Ranch Life- Saying Goodbye

The end of every season is a time of transition for our staff. Our seasonal crew members who will be returning the next season either head off to visit family or go explore the world. Other seasonal staff members move on to their next venture. And then we have the natural flow of ranch leaders who take their careers to the next stage. This fall we say goodbye to some amazing people, while we look forward to meeting the new crew in December. With a staff of 70, it’s hard to single out anyone, but those who have been with us for a while or have played critical roles come to mind. Natalie, Kylie, and Courtney have all worn many hats at the ranch over the past several seasons and always made the job fun. Natalie will be meeting up with Ben Yoder Henley in Minnesota, Courtney is heading back to school, and Kylie has booked herself a one-way ticket to New Zealand! Maggie has been Devyn’s right-hand in the office, and she was responsible for bringing Mat to the ranch as well. They head off to Florida where Maggie just accepted the career job she’s been working towards, and Mat will put his teaching degree to work. Emily ran the dining room with humor and a commitment to excellence, and she’s heading back to Texas where it doesn’t snow for 6 months at a time. Liz has helped care for the horses so well and is now taking what she learned at the ranch and will expand on that by being a vet tech in Steamboat. Roxy worked at the ranch 20 years ago, and when she was looking to make a major life change, she came back to the ranch to help her get that started. She provided so much more than just running housekeeping like the pro she is, and we’re keeping our fingers crossed that she’ll return to VVR after a stint in Uganda with the Peace Corps. Lastly, KP has made the tough decision to pursue his cowboy dreams and will be moving down the road to a cattle operation to be a cowman. We will sure miss his musical talent and amazing horsemanship skills. There are always so many goodbyes at the end of each season, but it’s our business model to get exceptional people to come to the ranch to learn to become better leaders so they can go off into the world and pay it forward. That is what makes the goodbyes happy ones instead of sad ones. We wish these folks, and the many others who have made VVR their home this year, all the best and look forward to hearing how they are becoming strong leaders in the world!

The transition of the Seasons

As we see the end of our summer season our thoughts turn towards winter.  We have had some light snow on the higher peaks, which is a gorgeous contrast to the colorful aspens that have been filling up our valley the past several weeks.  We’re at the tail end of the foliage season, but there is still some gorgeous color out there on the mountain sides.

This week is a week of celebration.  We have four honeymoon couples, two couples celebrating anniversaries, a couple birthday celebrations and a graduation celebration as well.  Ironic as I just came back from a marketing workshop in Denver last week where they mentioned that one of the top travel trends is celebration trips.  Guess that’s true!  What an honor to have so many people choosing Vista Verde as their place to celebrate these momentous life events!

With the changing of the seasons, we’re gearing up more and more for winter.  Planning the schedules for our winter vacation guests, and mapping out orientation for our winter staff.  We have some fun ideas planned for the winter that we’ll share in our next enewsletter, as well as the favorites that make coming to the ranch in the winter such a special experience.

As the aspens leaves let go and the snow begins to fall, we bundle up, light fires in the fireplace more frequently, and get ready for winter wonderland adventures!

Awards and Nominations

This has been a summer of awards and nominations. We recently learned that we were included in the Wine Spectator Restaurant Awards for 2018. This award recognizes the comprehensive cellar wine list that Chef Chol has put together over the past several years, and it is a huge recognition. We were also nominated in the Best Family Resort category from the USA Reader’s Choice awards. This award includes daily voting until August 6, so if you get a chance we’d appreciate your vote!

Dude Ranch Staff- What are they up to now?

I recently heard something about one of our former staff that made me wonder about what amazing things our alum are up to these days.  After putting out the feelers, I’ve heard from a bunch of them and thought it would be fun to share what ventures they have going on with all of you.

Taylor Porter invites you to stop at Seedstack Brewery if you are coming through Denver on your way to the ranch to enjoy a pint of Czech or German brew.

Looking for something sweet in Austin, TX?  Erin Stanley manages a bakery and product evolution at Amy’s Ice Creams.

Need a laugh?  If you go through Indianapolis, IN, make a night at ComedySportz, but first check to make sure Ben Rockey will be on the roster!

For those of you with your own horse, Sam Papalimu has her own business now for saddle fit evaluations and sells a line of adjustable western saddles.  Happy horse, happy ride.

Passing through Holland, MI and need a snack.  Stop by Albert K’s Lakeside Cafe and say hi to Jackie Rowland.

Planning a retreat for your colleagues?  Check out WinShape Teams, where Rusty Chadwick is Assistant Director.

Maybe you’re planning a fishing trip up in Montana?  Then you need to call David Bower and schedule a guided trip through Bighorn Angler in Fort Smith and get out on the Bighorn River.

Redecorating?  Natalie Muir has her own interior design company in Utah called Vanderbilt Interiors.

Matt Moore was a wrangler back in the late-90’s, and continued his involvement with horses by becoming a very talented and successful farrier in Ohio.

Before you head to the comedy show in Indianapolis, go get your hair done at Bobby Cooper Salon and ask for Anna Mowery.

If you need a true athlete who understands aches and pains, then give massage therapist Amber Henline a visit at Performance Theraputics in Cedar Rapids, IA.

When you need a vet you can trust in Oregon, look up Crystalin Murray Christensen in McMinnville.

While not working his day job or chasing around his kids, Scot Keck has managed to find time to set up a boutique shop making really interesting items out of salvaged wood.  Check out his wares on Instagram.

Hungry while in Florida?  Definitely make the trip to Osprey Tacos in St. Augustine to say hi to Chef JT and Erica, and see how little Althea is growing up!

Finally, she created beautiful note cards while at the ranch, so no surprise that Beth Bundy has made that her profession.

So much of the mission of the ranch is to pay it forward by giving our young staff the skills they need to go out into the world and be successful leaders in whatever path they choose.  It’s fun to see what these folks are up to, and look forward to hearing stories of connections made following this post!

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.