What’s Happening on the Ranch?

There’s always something happening at Vista Verde Ranch. Foals are born, new recipes are created, or the wranglers are playing tricks on each other. Come here to read the latest news!

Shape Magazine- December 2015

First Shape Magazine included us in an article about 7 reasons to take a real winter vacation, and just days later we find an article in Shape about romantic getaways that includes the ranch.  They sure are showing us some love these days!  If you’re looking to plan a romantic vacation there are some great ideas in this article, including Vista Verde!  Read the article….

A winter cattle round up

So, that’s not something you see very often at Vista Verde.  The ranch covered in a blanket of snow and horseback riders herding a bunch of cows coming up the driveway.  Well, for the second year running this has been our reality.  During our fall round up in September, the goal is to get all the cows in before the snow flies.  But, the past two years, our riders haven’t been able to get them all in as the cows have been pretty “dodgy”, to put it gently.  So, when the snow covers up the grass it makes it a bit easier to lure them in.  The other day some were spotted by the South Fork trail head.  Ben and a couple others met up with the Bobcat and a truck full of hay.  With the hay, they were able to lure about 25 cows over to an enclosed field.  The next day, the wranglers saddled up and headed out to herd them up to the round pen, where it would be easier to load them into a trailer.  The snow was falling and the wind was blowing, so it was a job for the hearty.  Without too much trouble, they got the job done, and the cows are now back down at the Belton’s ranch, where they were supposed to be back at the end of September.

Just another day at the ranch.  You never know what will happen next around here!

Steamboat Magazine- Winter 2015

So, this article isn’t exactly about the ranch, but I couldn’t help but share it as it highlights one of our amazing staff members.  Bridgette wasn’t always a chef, and working in our kitchen has actually been a reprieve from a very impressive international endeavor.  The folks at Steamboat magazine met Bridgette last winter while doing a photo shoot, and were so intrigued by her story that they feature her in this winter’s issue.  Read the article….

USA Today – December 2015

It seems that this is the season for winter vacation articles, as we are getting notices every day of a new article that includes Vista Verde.  We’ll take it!  Most recently USA Today showcases a list of guest ranches to visit in the winter.  There are some great options out there, and we’re flattered to be included in this top 10 list.  Read the article…..

Chef’s Corner: Butternut Squash – Brown Butter Ravioli

When you’re playing like a dog outside on a cold and blustery day, a recipe like this just warms you up, especially if you’re sitting at a table next to a crackling fire.  Enjoy!

Ingredients:
Pasta:
4 cups “00” flour (Caputo is a good brand you can order on amazon.com)
8 egg yolks
2 eggs
Filling:
1 large butternut squash, halved and seeded
2 Tblsp. olive oil
2 Tblsp. Mascarpone cheese
2 ounces brown butter
Heavy cream to desired consistency
Salt and pepper to taste
The Rest:
1 shallot, sliced into rings and roasted
8 fried sage leaves

Procedure:
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. In a kitchen aid mixer with paddle attachment, combine the flour and the eggs until well combined. You want the dough to be stiff so that it doesn’t stick when rolling out. You do want it to come together as a smooth ball of dough though. Add more egg if you need to get it to this stage, but the dough should not be wet. Err on the side of too dry.
2. Wrap the dough well and let it rest at least 30 minutes before rolling out.
3. Meanwhile, place the butternut squash halves on a sheet pan and drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and roast in the oven until the flesh is soft. Allow to cool slightly and peel while warm. Reserve some roasted squash for dicing and finishing the dish.
4. In the hopper of a blender or food processor, add the roasted squash, mascarpone cheese and brown butter and blend. The mixture will be dry and tough to move in the blender, add enough cream to get the mixture to move and puree until the right consistency is reached, similar to freshly whipped cream, but more dense. Season the puree with salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate the puree until cool.
5. Set up your pasta machine (or you can roll by hand for a more rustic version) and begin rolling the pasta on setting 10. Continue to move down in settings while rolling the dough through until you reach setting 2.
6. Measure 13 inch pieces and cut, dust with flour to prevent sticking to each other and layer in a container until ready to use the pasta.
7. Lay the “top half” of the pasta over the ravioli mold and create the space for the ravioli filling. Fill the space you have just created with the pasta filling, spritz the dough with water so that the pasta will seal and fold the other half of dough up and over. Roll over the ravioli mold to cut out the individual ravioli and layer on a bed of semolina flour or cornmeal to keep from sticking.
8. When ready to cook the pasta, have a pot of salted water boiling on the stove, add the pasta for about a minute until cooked. Fresh pasta does not take as long to cook as dry pasta.
9. To finish the dish, warm the remaining ounce of brown butter in a sauté pan, toss with the remaining squash and the shallot. drain the ravioli into the sauté pan while adding a splash of the pasta water, the starch in the water will help to thicken the pan sauce. Toss all until coated with pan sauce, divide between 4 plates and garnish with fried sage. (Fried sage may seem unnecessary for the dish, but it does add a layer of texture, fragrance and taste to the dish).

Makes 24 ravioli

Equitrekking – December 2015

With the Christmas season right upon us, this article titled “Ranches to Visit for the Holiday Season” was very timely.  Christmas is such a festive time at the ranch with all the holiday traditions such as the Family tree decorations night, the caroling, and the big Christmas day feast.  And of course we ring in the New Year with a boot stomping dance right in the Great Room.  It wouldn’t be right without a little do-si-do on New Year’s Eve!  Read the article…..

Dallas Morning News – November 2015

We weren’t expecting this article, but our friend and writer Dan Leeth surprised me the other day with a link to the Dallas Morning News and a great article he wrote about his visit in the winter to the ranch.  It’s a really nice article, and I’m in love with the main photo he took from his cabin deck.  The timing is perfect as we are just about ready to open for the winter season, and are gearing up for guests to arrive for a winter vacation in Colorado!  Read more….

Dude Ranch Life: Off-season comes to an end

With our winter staff rolling into the ranch this week, and orientation kicking off into high speed, the off-season has officially come to an end.  The ranch doesn’t open it’s doors for guests for a little while still, but the pace and activity level is at full throttle again.

During the last few weeks of off-season, those of us at the ranch have been busy getting the finishing touches on our many projects.  One of the exciting ones we have on the front burner right now is gearing up for a full remodel of our duplex to make it guest ready for next summer.  The other day Bill, Ben, and I spent the whole day at the interior decorator’s shop picking out tile, carpet, counter tops, fireplace stone, and more.  Now, you have to understand that none of us relish in this, especially Ben.  But, we gutted it out under the amazing guidance of Yvonne, and came up with some great picks.  The North Fork and South Fork units are going to be gorgeous and have a serene views of the Winter horse pasture.

In other exciting off-season news, Bill has been moving into his new house.  It’s been on his radar for years to move off the ranch and buy a home of his own, and he took the plunge this fall.  After over 20 years of living on the ranch, he’s finding all sorts of treasures as he packs up!

During a moment of weakness, Ben got talked into joining the board of the Colorado Dude and Guest Ranch Association.  He’ll be heading to meetings throughout the year to help the board oversee the marketing, policies, and direction of the association, which is made up of about 30 ranches in Colorado.  It’s a great organization that encourages industry cooperation, and we’re proud to have Ben serving on the board.

Beka is a blur today as she gets ready for all our staff to arrive.  Grace put the finishing touches on the staff housing in anticipation of the staff coming in today.  The chefs are prepping dinner for our Welcome Dinner, and we’re having our first manager meeting of the season to regroup and get everyone back together again.

To top it all off, we got another 3 inches of snow last night, and there is more coming tonight.  It’s beginning to look a lot like Winter around here!

LiveOutdoors.com – December 2015

The folks at Live Outdoors got us excited about the start of our winter season in this article about the ranch and Steamboat winter vacations.  Vicki Cinebell writes about all the fun there is to have at the ranch in the winter, and also spends some time encouraging the idea of heading into the Steamboat Ski Resort for downhill skiing or snowboarding during your winter holiday at the ranch.  Read more……

What is Backcountry Skiing, and can I do it?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dude Ranch Life: A different kind of guest

We normally roll out the red carpet for our guests, and look forward to introducing new folks to the ranch.  This week, there was a surprising new group who showed up unexpectedly for a little ranch vacation.  Sheep!

The sheep were spotted off and on for a couple days earlier in the week just down the road.  Then, mid-week, they decided to make their presence official as they headed up the driveway.  Troy saddled up Caddy and rounded them up the other morning.  We’ve had to do some searching to try to figure out who they belong to: lots of phone calls, asking around at the Clark Store, and networking with other ranchers.  Finally, the owner was located and he’s coming to pick them up in the next couple days.  In the meantime, they are fun little pets to have hanging around and are providing a real shock for our horses.  They can’t quite figure out what these weird smelling animals are doing in their round pen!

It just goes to show that every day is a new adventure here at Vista Verde, and we love a good adventure.

Dude Ranch Life: Off-season projects

‘Tis the season.  For us, that means it’s time to get busy working on projects around the ranch.  It’s hard to tear the place up too much when there are guests here, so when the ranch is closed down, our work ramps up.  And there is always a lot to do!

Right now Bill is busy in the cabins, fixing all the little bumps and bruises that occur over the course of the season.  Banged up baseboard heaters, holes poked in screens, dings on the walls, and nicks on the furniture.  Later today I’ll do a walk-through to make a list of all the window coverings that need to be replaced or fixed.  The non-washable items are all at the dry cleaners, and new towels have been ordered.

Moving down to the Lodge, we tore out all the dining room carpet in anticipation of the arrival of our new carpet.  It was just time, as the old carpet wasn’t going to make it another season.  And, when I say “we” tore out the carpet, I should clarify.  Meagan and Devyn took office breaks last week and got their hands dirty ripping up the old carpet and pad.  Those two can do a lot more than just have a nice voice on the phones, you know!

Up in the barn, Nate has been working hard on the improved barn loft.  He has had help from “little” Ben, Tim, and Troy, as he encloses, insulates, and winterizes the barn loft this fall.  We’re excited to finally have a space to hold barn dances in the winter, as well as be able to spread out a bit for yoga classes in the colder months and when the weather doesn’t allow for outdoor yoga.  An official name for the new and improved Barn Loft is still undecided, but we can work on that as the snow piles up.

When Nate isn’t up in the loft, he’s multi-tasking by working on our new fitness room.  Now, we know that most of our guests never even touch the fitness center, and why would they when there are miles of trails to explore with amazing scenery and natural intervals?  But, for those who want to hit the elliptical or treadmill, we are moving the equipment to an air-conditioned spot near the Machine Shed.  This will allow us to move forward with adding a new unit for our guests.  Named North Fork and South Fork, these two duplex units will be ready for Summer 2016, and will be ready to accommodate smaller families by Summer 2016.

Lastly, Charlie and Ben took on the project of getting the ranch hands an official headquarters, where they can check in on any office work as well as hang their wet and dirty gear to dry in between shifts.  It’s not glamorous, but it gives them a home base to meet up and plan out their days.

So many projects, and so little time.  The beautiful weather made it a lot easier to work on these projects, but the snow rolling in now will scoot us along a little quicker to get them finished!  Because ’tis the season for snow to start piling up too.

 

Dude Ranch life: Off-season shenanigans

Chefs John (JT) and Cholly came back all excited from a “field trip” to Yampa Valley Farms.  Armed with photos and talking my ear off about the experience, he agreed to share their story with all of you.

As chefs, today was a very special day. We were able to find a totally unique product that is not only amazingly delicious and beautiful, but also local! Minimizing our carbon footprint is something we continuously strive to do by sourcing as local as possible from producers who share similar values.

We had the good fortune to meet with Josh Kilbane of Yampa Valley Farms. Josh is raising the most beautiful pork product we have ever seen. It was a breath of fresh air to see a farm of free-ranged pigs not confined to a concrete slab. The pigs are fed fresh prep scrap from local restaurants, as well as beets and turnips grown on the farm to encourage routing and self-feeding. Also, with two ponds on the lot we had a chance to see the pigs swim and wallow. Josh has made a special cross breed of Berkshire pig and Mangilitaz “Wooly Pig” to create what he calls the Colorado Mountain Pig. This cross allows the pig to be durable enough for the harsh environment of Northern Colorado. All the pork from Yampa Valley Farms is hormone and antibiotic free, as well as sustainably farmed and produced. The Berkshire pork, prized for juiciness, flavor and tenderness, is pink-hued and heavily marbled. Its high fat content makes it suitable for long cooking and high-temperature cooking. The Mangalitsa pork is exceptionally juicy, tender, and marbled, but with a darker red meat and larger more even fat cap making it perfect for charcuterie. Be on the lookout for the “Waygu of Pork” featured on our menus in the seasons to come.

Another exciting off-season project we started today is to “research” some beers for the new Colorado beer tasting being offered once a week this winter for a low impact, high flavor afternoon activity. It’s a tough job to go and explore breweries, sample beers, and come up with the perfect selections, but we’re willing to put in the hard work!  Just another day in the off-season shenanigans of a dude ranch chef.

Dude Ranch Life: Happy trails, but not goodbye

The end of the season is always a bit bittersweet for most of us.  We’ve been working hard for a long period of time, and the break is exciting.  But, for some of the staff, it also means goodbye.  Since most of us (ok, so that’s me) don’t like goodbyes, we tend to subscribe to the happy trails, until we meet again theory.

There are some amazing staff members who were with us this summer (and some longer than that) who are moving onto their next step in life.  Katie and Michelle in the barn, Sarah, Shawnta, Trevor (Trev-bot!), and Kami in housekeeping, Chelsea, Olya, Kaitlyn and Mary Frances in the dining room, Ranch hands Gabe, Ted, both Dans, and the always laughing Matthew, Aaron who quietly washed dishes all summer, and Canipe and Rachel who have prepared countless meals in the kitchen.  All of these folks are the sugar and spice that made this summer so special.  Notably to me, my dear Talitha who came in with a smile and the willingness to run the dining room for the summer, and did her job with grace, confidence, and ease.  And then our sweet, sweet Melanie (photo above) who’s “I’m on it, and I’ll make it happen” attitude made us all happy to arrive in the office each day.  Her cautious enthusiasm to take on the day to day management of our social media platforms for the season was a gift to me, and a fun exercise in collaboration.  And lively Miss Mandy who’s love for the horses is as infectious as her laughter, which could be heard across the ranch.

As those of us who are here for the long run recharge our batteries and gear up for the winter season, we thank all the staff who threw themselves into helping us connect heart with home.  For the ones who are coming back for the winter, we look forward to seeing you after your break.  And for the ones moving on, we thank you for your hard work, dedication, and commitment to this funny and wonderful community we all love so much.  It’s been a pleasure having you all as part of the Vista Verde family, and I speak for all of us when I say thank you, and we can’t wait to see what your futures hold!

Dude ranch life: One last ride

Sunday, October 18 marked closing day for the season, and it was a flurry of activity.  Our last guests checked out after breakfast, and then we had a chore list a mile long.  From deep cleaning the kitchen to moving all the picnic tables into storage to taking screens off all the windows, there wasn’t a lack of jobs for anyone!

As those chores were wrapped up, the staff moved on to cleaning up and moving out of their homes.  Some of them will stick around for much of the off-season as there are projects to finish before winter, horses to feed and train, and the office doesn’t shut down when we’re closed.  But some are moving onto the next step in their life, and some are just heading off for a break before the winter season.  The office crew had struggled to find a time to do any sort of get together over the course of the summer, so we took advantage of this quiet afternoon to grab some horses and head out for one last ride.

Mother Nature did a grand job of providing us with spectacular weather right up to closing day.  Although it was much appreciated, we never expect that.  October can be the most beautiful month, but we can also get plenty of weather.  Well, she timed it well as around mid-day the first rain started to roll in, and it was off an on all afternoon.  That didn’t stop us on our ride.  We just put on the big, yellow slickers and kept going!  The company was wonderful and the scenery was gorgeous.

Now it’s time to start gearing up for winter.  Nate and a small crew are working on the barn loft to winterize it so we can have barn dances in the winter.  Yes, you heard that right Wanda!  Kelli will also be able to accommodate larger yoga classes with the loft being enclosed and heated.  And there are plenty of other uses for that area that we’ll work in over time.  KP, Sam, and the wranglers are preparing some horses for a sale we’re having this weekend.  We’re hoping to find forever homes for some of our four-legged staff members who aren’t a great fit for dude ranch life.  Beka is busying wrapping up all the hiring for the winter season.  And Meagan and Devyn are rounding up the reservations for the Christmas break as well as other winter stays.  Ben, Charlie and myself?  Oh, we’re just kicking back eating bon bons by the pool.  Or, put otherwise dealing with the exciting back end parts of the business like insurance, credit card fees, website maintenance, and financial statements.  Yee haw!

Rumor has it we have an El Nino headed out way, which means lots of snow!  So, we’ll hopefully open up in mid-December to a gorgeous white blanket of snow and a lot of excited guests.  We hope you can be one of them.

Herd Dispersal Sale

Toward the end of each season we go through our horse roster and identify horses that aren’t the best fit for our herd.  There are various reasons a horse doesn’t work out for our herd.  Some horses need a one person home, rather than having different riders each week.  Some aren’t physically built to hold up to the hard riding we do here, and we don’t want to hurt them by trying to make it work.  Some need a more experienced rider consistently, which is tough as not all of our guests have much riding experience.  Some just need to have a retirement home as they’ve worked hard for us, but now need a more quiet life.  With that, we have 8 horses we are trying to find homes for this fall.

On Friday and Saturday, October 23 and 24 we will have the horses available to view and try out for any potential buyers.  The Brand Inspector will not be available on the day of the sale, so horses may be picked up after they are inspected with purchaser’s information Tuesday, October 27.

Here is the rundown of who is being offered in the sale.

Cisco– 9 yo Dun Gelding, 16h. He is big and well built but needs a job.  Cisco is not the best to shoe.  Experienced rider. $1,100

Johnny– 17 yo Sorrel Gelding, 15h. He is a nice friendly gelding, any level rider can ride him, but he’s best suited for intermediate to advanced riders. Slight stifle issue, but he’s ok to use for light work. $900

Gus– 9 yo Red Dun Gelding, 15h. Gus is a smart and athletic gelding who needs a job.  He’s suited for an intermediate to advanced rider only, and he is great on trails. $900

Kapua– 7 yo Red Roan Mare, 15h. She is a very beautiful and athletic mare, and needs to be put to work.  Kapua is good on trails, and she is smart but not always willing so she needs an experienced rider. $1,200

Cali Girl– 5 yo Chestnut Mare, 14h.  She is a smart and athletic small mare. Cali will watch a cow and would make a great cow horse or reining prospect. She is great in the arena. Intermediate to advanced rider. $2,200

Riena– 4 yo Bay Mare, 14.2h. Riena would make a nice reining or western pleasure prospect. She has a slight hock issues so she’s not suited for heavy duty use. $2,200

Sparky– 19 Grey Gelding, 14.2h.  Sparky is cute and stocky with a lot of go so he needs a strong rider who can contain him.  He’s ok on trails but will jump things instead of step over. He’s great in the arena and can go English or western. $800

Arrow– 25 yo Grey Gelding, 16h.  Arrow has been one of our great kid horses, but he has asthma and needs a retirement home.  He would be great for a little girl that would just want to love on a horse or a pasture buddy. Free to good home.

If you have questions about any of these horses, please fill out the Contact Us form and KP will follow up with you.

Denver Life – October 2015

As Kristin Miller from Denver Life Magazine puts it, “There’s ‘no roughing’ it at Vista Verde Ranch,” and she goes on to explain why in this article.  She also writes about “the fact that this luxury dude ranch has a high percentage of repeat guests who often book their future stays a year or more in advance? That speaks volumes about just how special it is.”  Read the article…..

Ranchseeker.com – September 2015

Just as guests were getting ready for the wine tasting, this article popped up on Ranchseeker.com about wine tasting at dude ranches.  What ironic timing!  Our weekly wine tasting is a really popular event, especially for those who are worn out and ready to relax a bit.  Sipping wines with Chef Cholly is a perfect way to spend an afternoon when you’re worn out, and want to explore the world of wines.  And, it always ends up with lots of laughter.  Ashlie at Ranchseeker explores two ranches that offer wine tastings in her article.

Read the article…..

FoxNews.com – September 2015

The wonderful folks at Gayot.com included Vista Verde on their list of Top 5 Wild West Ranches in America.  And then Fox News picked up the story.  Knowing that they are picking from the best dude ranches in the US, we don’t take it lightly that we made the list.  It’s quite an honor, and we’ll keep working hard to live up to the honor!

Read the article…..