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!

An autumn adventure and a office pass for the day

As if following the cues of the calendar, on the day that was marked as the first day of fall Mother Nature graced us with the bluest sky dotted with white, fluffy clouds, and the sun shone through the golden aspens leaves so they almost glowed.  On that same day the board that declares the state of the union at the ranch each day was tipping off on one side, the column marked “All-Day Cows” was filled with names, while the rest of the columns sat sadly vacant.

“Oh no!” said the wranglers.  “What shall we do with so many riders wanting to go out and find cows?” they asked.  Goose and Isaac looked blankly at them, trapped in their fishing waders and unable to trade them for jeans and boots.  Kelli moved from downward dog into warrior pose as if to fend off the suggesting looks that she might turn into a wrangler for the day.  And the housekeeping fairies (and ninja) stealthily slipped by the corral with their cleaning supplies in hand, avoiding eye contact with the desperate wranglers.

From the back office nook, a figure slowly emerged.  Who?  What?  Is that Steph reaching her hand out for the office pass?  With a quick change into one of Devyn’s plaid shirts, she throws on her hat, dusts off her chinks, and fills up her water bottles.  And that, folks, is how I got to go ride for cows on this most brilliant first day of fall.

My riding companions were cheerful, not realizing the relic of a wrangler they were heading out with for this ride.  But the day unfolded into an epic adventure riding through the hills, jumping over streams, navigating downed trees, and scaling the sides of mountains while rocks tumbled down into the ravine below.  It was epic.  Epic-ally void of any cows.  Not one.  Not even a sign of fresh cow poop.  Nada.  Zip. Zilch.

It turns out that our ride wasn’t the only one to have a gorgeous ride through the mountains only to strike out on rounding up cows.  One group did bring home 4 reluctant bovines.  Another saw plenty of cows, but couldn’t get a lick of them to cooperate, as they squirted off into the trees at the first sight of humanoids.  And one more saw nothing but tall grass, golden aspens, and gorgeous mountains.  Nonetheless the smiles were wide as the dinner bell rang tonight.  Because there is always tomorrow.  And, if you end up riding over hundreds and thousands of acres of mountains, rivers, and forests for the day without spotting a cow, it is still something to smile about.  Watch out cows…..we know you’re out there.  And, we know where you’re not now too!  We’re going to hunt you down, round you up, and bring you home.  But, that story will be someone else’s tomorrow as this rusty wrangler hangs up her office pass and goes back into the corner nook.

Happy trails to you, until I ride again.

How to have a stress-free Christmas Vacation

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

What does Christmas week at Vista Verde look like?

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

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

Chef’s Corner: Bison Short Ribs with Sweet Potato Gnocci

If you want a fun fall dish to impress all your friends, try this one from Chef Cholly!
Red Wine Marinade:

2 carrots

1 leek

1 yellow onion

1 small celery root

1 tablespoon salt

1 bottle (750mL) red wine

Method:

1. Clean and roughly chop the vegetables.
2. Cover with red wine and simmer for 4 minutes.
3. Remove from heat and cool together, then strain and discard vegetables and reserve liquid.

 

Marinated Short Ribs:

Red wine marinade (recipe above)

2 pounds boneless short rib

1 head garlic, halved

1 yellow onion, quartered

2 carrots, peeled

8 quarts beef stock, hot

1 rosemary sprig

2 tablespoons salt

Method:

1. Pour cold red wine marinade over the short ribs and let sit for 2 days, rotating meat twice a day.
2. After the second day, remove the beef from the marinade and place in a roasting pan with the garlic, onion, and carrots. Cover with hot beef bouillon; add rosemary and salt. Place a sheet of parchment paper over beef and weigh down slightly with a 10” plate. Place in a 250° F oven for eight hours.
3. Once beef is fork tender and almost breaking apart, remove from bouillon onto a draining rack. Save bouillon for a great soup or your next beef braising dinner.

 

Sweet potato Gnocchi

1 ½ pounds Roasted and Pureed sweet potato

6 ounces “00” Flour

1 egg

Method:

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil on the stove. Peel and Cut the sweet potatoes in half, season well and roast until tender.
2. Dry the sweet potatoes thoroughly and run through a food mill or potato ricer.
3. Sift the flour and incorporate with the egg into the sweet potato and taste for seasoning.
4. When the water has come to a boil, roll the dough out into a long cylinder about a half inch in diameter and with a knife cut one inch long pieces and plunge into boiling water until the gnocchi begin to float.
5. Skim the floating gnocchi off the water and into an ice bath to stop the cooking.
6. Drain all the gnocchi onto a towel to dry.
7. Heat a sauté pan on the stove, sauté the gnocchi in olive oil until crisp on all sides.
8. Serve.

Riding lessons before or after your ranch vacation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A few of our favorite things

Kelli and Steve are not only our ace guides and outdoor enthusiasts, but they are also our resident gear-heads.  Kelli recently put together a list of some gear that they are loving these days or is on their most wanted list.

The Salomon Quest Origins GTX hiking boot is a great Gore-Tex boot that gives support of a full hiking boot but feels as light weight as a running shoe.  Even though it only comes in Men’s sizes, both myself (Kelli) and Bridgette (Chef) have purchased them (as well as Steve) and love them. Just follow their size guide and the fit should be right on.

Rail Riders is a great company who boasts having the “Toughest Clothes on the Planet”! Although inspired from the sea, this clothing is great for all adventurous pursuits.  Steve and I are pretty keen on the Adventure Tops, so lightweight and breathable but great SPF protection for our aging skin J.  Steve also loves his Bushwacker Weather Pants.  Super tough, reinforced knees, butt, and back of ankles yet fashionable enough to host dinner at VVR!

As the mornings and evenings turn a bit cooler, Steve is turning to his Breakaway II Hoody from Ibex.  It’s a lightweight climawool™ softshell hybrid jacket ideal for aerobic pursuits in cooler weather.  A great transitional piece and I do believe it is on sale right now!

I have been hiking in Sierra Design’s Stretch Trail Pant on cooler days.  They are designed to wear with a pack, sporting a stretch knit waistband that feels like a pair of tights so there is no bulk under the waist strap.  I also like the water resistance patches on the knees and bottom.  Plus they are stretchy, so super comfy, and have a feminine fit.

The Salsa Bucksaw is redefining boundaries with its Fat Bike design and go anywhere attitude. Steve is loving its ability to be an all season bike.  Great for the shoulder seasons, riding in variable mud/snow mix without damaging trails. And its ability to float over obstacles and grip the trail with incredible traction in summer time fun.  It is on our wish/drool list!  For all our fellow bike geeks, you gotta check this one out!

Simple yoga poses to help you transition from “carefree summer days” to “school day routines”

By Kelli

Transitioning from impromptu BBQ’s with the neighbors, pool parties with the kids, and summer vacations to VVR, to homework, after school activities and the early morning hustle and bustle can be exhausting and give you a sense of chaos!  Change can be bumpy, so here are a few yoga poses to keep you grounded and help smooth out the transition to Fall.

“Easy” Pose

I put parenthesis around the word easy, because for some of us, sitting crossed legged is anything but easy.  If you happen to be one of these people, sitting on a blanket or cushion will help.

Begin by crossing the legs and feeling both “sit” bones connected to the ground, sit up tall so that you are not rounded through the low back, bring a gentle awareness to the core, and keep your shoulder blades down the back, chest open.

Hold the pose for several minutes, feeling grounded, following the breath. Better yet, take this pose to the yard and enjoy watching the leaves fall.  I love this pose! You can do it anywhere, like watching soccer practice, and no one even has to know you are “doing” yoga.

Warrior II

Practicing Warrior II pose not only stretches and strengthens the legs and shoulders but also increases stamina. And who couldn’t use more stamina!

  •  Place your feet three to four feet apart and raise your arms parallel to the floor with palms down.
  • Turn your right foot slightly in and your left foot out 90 degrees to the left so the toes are pointing away from your body. Align your left heel with the right.
  • Bend your left knee over the left ankle, causing the shin to be perpendicular to the floor. Bring your left thigh parallel to the floor, creating a 90- degree angle in your knee. Straighten your right leg and press your right heel out and down into the floor.
  • Stretch your arms out, keeping them parallel to the floor. Imagine you are increasing the space between your shoulder blades as you spread your arms. Turn your head to the left as you look out over the fingers of your left hand. Keep your spine straight and perpendicular to the floor.
  • Hold this pose for 30 seconds to one minute. When you are ready, come out of Warrior II Pose. Reverse your feet and repeat with the right side.

After practicing your Warrior II pose, you will have the courage to face the challenges of the day, knowing you have grounded yourself in strength, flexibility, and stamina!

Mountain Pose

A truly easy pose to practice anywhere, and at any time.  Who hasn’t picked the “wrong” line at the grocery store, always when you are in a hurry to get somewhere else?  Instead of feeling anxious and impatient, surrender to the moment and use the time to bring a calm, unshakable steadiness to the moment.  Allowing you to let go of the anxiety and to respond with the fortitude of a mountain!

Stand with your feet at hip-width apart with equal weight on balls and heels.  Draw energy up the quads and bring awareness to the core. Draw shoulder blades down the back, feeling an open chest.  Practice a few deep breaths, especially if the shopper in front of you has just sent her kid to aisle 85 for a new carton of eggs!

Corpse Pose

Viewed as one of the most important poses in yoga, corpse pose rejuvenates and clears the mind providing you with the tools to deal with stress and emotions in your life. Practiced on a regular basis, its benefits are…

*Lowered blood pressure

*A decreased heart rate

*Slowed rate of respiration

*Decreased muscle tension

 

So the next time you need a “pick me up”, skip the cup of coffee and go lay in the backyard! Enjoy the cool grass, watch the clouds go by, and treat yourself to 10 minutes of relaxation.  You are worth it!

Enjoy the last few months of Fall before Mother Nature closes up shop and covers the ground with a blanket of snow!

Changing seasons at the ranch

Lately, the mornings have been just a tad bit cooler, and the grass touched with gold instead of green.  Fall is coming, and we can feel it in the air.  Last week marked the final week of family vacation times for the summer.  The kids are heading back to school, and the ranch has made the transition now to adult-only vacation weeks.  It’s always a bittersweet time of year.  A group of our key players from the summer season have headed back to college, and that always makes for a lot of teary goodbyes.  The ranch is not only more quiet with their departure, but also the sound of giggling children has gone away.  What a classic sound of summer, and one we love to hear.  But, with those shifts, we also welcome the start of our fall season.  The adult-only weeks are a blast.  Monday night was evidence of the fun to come with a rowdy (the good kind of rowdy) group of guests laughing and joking over dinner before moving into the Great room to play guitar, sing, and hang out with each other.  With these weeks, we also welcome cool weather, changing aspens, and the coming days of rounding of cows.  Those are some fun times– riding through the mountains as the leaves change from green to yellow to gold, red, and orange.  The air is crisp and more colorful than any time of the year.  For most of us here, this is our favorite time of the year.

Many of you are transitioning with children heading back to school, and we wish you all the best as you shift over from lazy summer days to organized sports, homework, tests, and early mornings.  Those of you without kids, we hope you’re finding a way to soak up the change of the seasons.  And, for those of you who live where the shift isn’t noticeable, come see us!  We’ll gladly share this amazing transition with you!

Canadian Traveller – August 2015

In this comprehensive round-up of Colorado dude ranches put together by Jennifer Larsen for Canadian Traveller Magazine, I picked up on a new phrase that I love.  Jennifer described our kids program as offering “supervised freedom”.  I love that, and may have to borrow that at some point!  On another note, I do always get a giggle out of being included in “round-up” articles.  Get it?  Dude ranch.  Round-up?

Read the article….

Chef’s Corner: Cornbread Panzanella Salad

Cornbread Panzanella Salad (makes 4 quarts)

Ingredients (corn bread): (by weight)

17 ounces eggs, beaten lightly

20 ounces sugar

22.5 ounces cornmeal

29 ounces flour

1 ounce baking powder

½ ounce salt

10 ounces vegetable oil

8.5 ounces unsalted butter, soft

1 ounce rosemary, chopped

42 ounces milk

Method;

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
2. In a mixing bowl with the whisk attachment, whip the eggs and sugar together until the ribbon stage (when the whisk is lifted out of the mixture it will leave a risen “ribbon” of batter on the surface before sinking back into the rest of the batter, about 5 minutes on high)
3. Mix together the dry ingredients and the other wet ingredients separately.
4. With a rubber spatula, Scrape down the bowl of the mixer with the eggs and sugar.
5. Alternate adding wet and dry ingredients until all ingredients are combined.
6. Spread batter onto a greased 18 inch x 12 inch baking pan and bake for 8 minutes, rotate pan and then an additional 8 minutes until a cake tester comes out clean.

Ingredients (salad):

1 red bell pepper, small diced

1 Yellow bell pepper, small diced

2 Poblano peppers, small diced

1 large red onion, small diced

1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved

6 cloves garlic, minced

12 green onions, sliced thinly

2 tblsp each fresh Parsley, Sage, Marjoram, chopped

½ cup sherry vinegar

¼ cup maple syrup

1 cup extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Method:

1. Cut the cooled cornbread into ½ inch squares and toast in the oven at 325 degrees F until brown and crouton-like, about 15 minutes.
2. Toss all ingredients in a large bowl and taste for seasoning.
3. Serve sooner rather than later.

If you ever wondered why dude ranches are different….

Often times we find ourselves trying to explain what makes a dude ranch vacation different than a resort or other destination.  It’s hard to explain how it is that we form relationships here, not just provide a great vacation experience.  Especially since we are offering a luxury ranch vacation it makes it even more weird to try to tell someone who is used to the Ritz Carlton or Four Seasons that yes, they are paying for very nice accommodations, deliciously prepared meals, and top-notch service.  But, what they’ll probably remember after returning home is the relationships.  It just starts sounding a little too much like Kumbaya.  Call it what you want, what makes a dude ranch vacation at Vista Verde different than a resort or luxury boutique property is the people.  We’re going to laugh a lot.  We’re probably going to tease you a bit.  You’ll probably tease us back.  You’re going to have fun with our people, and we’re going to have fun with you.  You’re going to learn about these amazing people we call staff, and want to keep in touch with them and follow where they go in their lives.  It’s not just that you’ll have amazing experiences with your own family or friends, but you’ll make new ones within the other guests and the staff.  Sound creepy?  Well, it’s not for everyone, but for those who try it out, it’s pretty amazing.

This past week, hiking & biking guide Chris upped the anty with his video antics.  After a beautiful hike up into the Zirkels, he and Lisa busted out this rap on camera.  To me, this video defines what makes a dude ranch vacation different.  You’ve got this classy lady who is lively and fun, but also always well put together and on top of her game jamming and rapping with Chris while her husband is completely immersed in his fishing experience on the lake.  They all got to know each other on the hike.  They shared some amazing experiences.  They took in some beautiful scenery.  But, more than anything, they just had fun together.  And that’s what we do.  You expect the luxurious cabins, the gourmet food, and the quality service.  What you don’t expect is rapping out in the wilderness with your guide.  For those of you coming later this summer, watch out for hikes with Chris.  You never know what will happen.

 

Chicago Wedding Guide – August 2015

We had a visit from Laura Wrasman from Chicago Wedding Guide last winter, and just the other day this gorgeous spread from the magazine showed up in our mailbox.  Laura wrote about Vista Verde Ranch as a great destination for a special and unique honeymoon.  We have always loved having people come to the ranch for a honeymoon vacation, as it is so much fun to watch them relax and bask in the post-wedding let-down.

Read the article…..

 

Landing a dude ranch job- Interview with Beka

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

Q) Where do most of the staff come from?

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

Q) How do you interview them?

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

Q) Do you recruit?

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

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

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

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

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

Q) When do you hire for each season?

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

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

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

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

 

Southern Bride- July 2015

Vista Verde is where the magic begins but never ends. As many couples and families do, you will find yourself wanting to plan an annual trip, perhaps every anniversary would be the perfect way to celebrate as a romantic getaway and even a place to bring the future family to start your own Vista Verde family tradition. Read more…..

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

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

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

Winter at it’s best

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

Christmas without the stress

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

New Years for a family

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

Kids and snow

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

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

 

The wacky world of housekeeping

By Steph

Each area of the ranch has it’s own quirks, but we recently decided that housekeeping is the most quirky of them all.  Maybe it’s the fact that if you’re doing a dirty job, you have to make it fun?  Or, maybe it’s that it’s a more behind the scenes job, so there isn’t as much interaction, and the housekeepers need to come up with something to spice things up?  Is that why every time Meesh calls up to the office to ask a question, she always uses a different accent?  Ok, in full disclosure, some of the office gals (ahem, that’s me) may reciprocate when they call down there too….just saying.  Regardless of the reason, there are some distinct housekeeping “isms” that make it a special part of the ranch.

So, let’s test out your best guesses at a little matching game about some of these “isms”.

How did you do?  Post your answers on our Facebook page, and the housekeepers will do an interpretive dance in your honor next Tuesday to the song of your choice!

And, we want to give a huge shout out to our amazing “housekeeping fairies”, and Trevor too!  Without the hard work of Meesh, Grace, Kami, Shawnta, Gracie, Trevor, and Anna, we would have a mess on our hands.  Sure, the wranglers and guides get all the credit for fun adventures, and the chefs get all the credit for great food, and Ben gets credit for playing his banjo.  But it’s the housekeepers that create the first impression for our guests as they walk into their rooms, and keep everything looking good throughout their stay.  Hats off to this silly and humble group of people who take every spec of dust and stray water spot seriously!

Catching up with the foals

By Steph

The little ones are growing up so fast!  And that means it’s time for an update on our 2015 foals.

Redd – He was our first foal to arrive out of a new mare named June.  Although Redd isn’t a ranch-bred colt, he’s quickly made himself a part of the family.  His newborn chestnut coat is shedding out to reveal a gorgeous red roan color, just like his mama.  June is a tall mare, and Redd looks like he will carry on that trait with substantial stature and a lot of height.  He was the resident punk in his first month, but has settled down and become a chill dude, bordering on lazy.  We’re ok with that, as punks don’t fit in well in our herd, but relaxed and sturdy horses are what we’re looking for in our riding horses.

Wesson- Our of Reyn (aka “Tubby”), this cute little bay colt loves to be scratched and petted, as you can see by this photo of him and George.  He’s got quite the build with a JLo style caboose that will serve him well as he grows up and climbs the surrounding mountains.  Wesson started out as a scared little guy– in fact he double barrel kicked Mandy when he was 2 days old as he was so afraid of people.  Now he is turning out to be laid back and super friendly, and gets plenty of attention as a result of that new and improved attitude.

Remy “Remington”- This spunky and fun little girl is out of one of our favorite broodmares, MJ.  MJ consistently produces great foals, and Remy is no exception.  Remy is a people loving filly who is sweet and friendly to all.  She is very feminine, but seems to have no troubles keeping up with the boys.  She has big, kind, and calm eyes that are a telling sign that she’ll make a great ranch horse as she grows up.  Remy was the star of one of the videos we posted this spring, bravely crossing the creek for the first time.  If you haven’t watched it, you’ve got to check it out.

Wrangler- His beautiful coloring makes this colt stand out from a distance.  Another one of Sassy’s dun colts, Wrangler is a full brother to Levi, one of the guest favorites from last year.  He’s a shy and sensitive little guy, but is coming around as he gets older and gets handled by all our guests more and more.  Wrangler and his mama Sassy were purchased by one of our guests this past winter, along with big brother Levi, and will be heading to Texas in the fall to their new home.  We’ll miss these beautifully colored foals, but have some great up and coming broodmares we’re excited to have in the herd in foal for next year.

Chef’s Corner: Kelli Balls

This recipe is named after Kelli, our fearless mountain biking and hiking guide. She loves these little snacks and doesn’t ever head out on the trail without them. Before you go out to conquer your next adventure, be sure to take the time to make these little power-packed energy balls. They’re delicious and provide the perfect boost of energy after a long day on the trail!

Ingredients:

2 cups oats

½ cup wheat germ

1 cup wheat bran

¾-1 cup peanut butter

1 cup dried fruit (chopped dates or currants are great options)

1-1 ½ cups honey (go on the low side if you want them less sweet, high side if you want more sweet)

1-2 cups chocolate chips (same as above, base your measurement on your preference for sweetness)

Procedure:
1. Combine oats, germ, bran, fruit and peanut butter in mixing bowl
2. Start adding honey in stages until you reach proper consistency, tacky but not too sticky
3. Add chocolate
4. Scoop with small scoop and roll in oat powder
5. Freeze

The top 3 list of bikes and hikes around Vista Verde Ranch

By Steph

Dude ranches and horses go hand in hand, but at Vista Verde we also have another side to the ranch.  We call it the New West.  Horses are the Old West, and we put a lot of effort into making that an amazing program for our guests.  But, we also put a lot of thought and effort into crafting our New West programs to have an equal impact on our guest experience.  This week, we have been shining the social media spotlight on two of our New West programs–the hiking and mountain biking programs, so no better time to share some of our favorite hikes and mountain bike rides.

Our top 3 hikes at Vista Verde

1) Zirkel Circle- This is the coup de gras hike in the Mt. Zirkel Wilderness Area.  It’s a long one, and requires a higher level of fitness, a backpack filled with water, and a packed lunch.  This hike takes you along a roaring creek with log crossings, past two serene alpine lakes (Gilpin and Gold), and up into the rocky peaks of the Zirkel Wilderness Area.

2) Hahn’s Peak- Another one of our epics, this hike takes you climbing up through the wildflowers to the rocky peak of this perfectly peaked mountain.  Upon arriving at the top, the 360 panorama that goes from Steamboat Springs to the Wyoming border is breathtaking, as is the climb to the top!

3) Gilpin Falls- For those not up for the above two epic hikes, Gilpin falls is a perfect way to go.  Meandering through lush wildflowers and along a roaring creek, you end up at a beautiful spot with a private waterfall all to yourself.  This is a favorite for families wanting to hike together, or those looking for a more mellow stroll through the Rocky Mountains.

Our top 3 mountain bike rides at Vista Verde

1) Burn Ridge- This is the perfect ride for guests who want the thrill of single track riding, but don’t have the fitness to climb, climb, climb.  The trail is somewhat technical in places, but also offers rolling cross country terrain in other spots.  A river crossing towards the latter part of the ride makes for a refreshing way to reward yourself for the pedaling!

2) Steamboat Lake- For those who want to give single track riding a try, but are new to the sport, the trail around Steamboat Lake is a perfect way to start out.  Amazing panoramas will force you to stop and take in the view, and the coolness of the lake is tempting on a hot day.  The trail is mild enough that you don’t have to have a high fitness level, but you can get your heart beating a bit, and the wildflowers in the early summer are delightful.

3) Skills Park- Now, this isn’t really a trail, but an afternoon in the skills park is a must do if you want to explore the sport of mountain biking during your vacation.  Take a short ride with one of our talented guides over to the skills park, and spend a couple hours playing around on the obstacles.  Our guides will teach you how to approach and ride obstacles, while they spot you and help you try out your new skills.

We hope you’ll come hike or bike with us at some point!  Our backyard is so beautiful, and we love to share it with others.

Chef’s Corner: Peanut Butter Cookies

Peanut butter cookies (gluten free): (makes about 45 cookies)

 

Ingredients:

3 pounds peanut butter

2 pounds, 10 ounces granulated sugar

6 eggs

 

Procedure:

  1. Cream together the sugar and peanut butter until smooth.
  2. Add the eggs and combine until incorporated, do not over-mix.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Using an ice cream scoop of about 2 ounces, drop the cookie dough onto a baking sheet.  Create cross marks with a fork dipped in granulated sugar. Bake on middle rack for five minutes, rotate baking sheet front to back and bake an additional five minutes.

10 reasons why it’s great to be a Vista Verde kid

By Steph

This week the kids program has taken over our social media accounts.  During this time we thought it might be fun to blog about out why it’s so great to be a VVR kid.  As my own kids have jumped head first into the kids program the past few years, I’ve been able to see the value of the kids program here from a mom’s point of view.  And, if I was a fan before having kids, as a mom I may now be the kids program’s #1 fan.

Here are our top 10 reasons why we all wish we could be a kid on a dude ranch vacation at Vista Verde:

1) Freedom- When else do kids get to run free without any worry or restraint?  Most parents don’t even know where their kids are when they are here, and they are perfectly comfortable with them out roaming the ranch!  This may sound crazy to you, but it happens, and it happens within the first few hours of arrival.  You see, here at the ranch it’s safe, fun, and that freedom fuels their independent spirits.

2) Role Models- This is coming first hand from a mom who is picky about who her kids look up to as role models.  The VVR staff are the kind of people I want my kids to look up to, emulate, and admire.  They are top notch people, with good values, and a true desire to care for others.  It’s pretty common that even the most clingy kid, or the one who never likes a kids program, will be begging to head off to go find the kid wranglers to join the program for the day.  We have had to tell kids that no, they can’t go wake up a kid wrangler early in the morning.  These super heroes need sleep to keep up with the kids all day!

3) Confidence- Want to see a shy kid come out of their shell, open up, and blossom?  Bring them to a dude ranch, put them on a kind horse, with caring and thoughtful instruction, send them out into the woods, and let them ride, ride, ride.  Then, fill their days with a loving group of people, lots of dirt, and outdoor activities.  It’s a good chance you won’t recognize the kid who leaves at the end of the week, even after you scrub off the dirt.  They’ll be covered in a layer of self-confidence, pride, and accomplishment.

4) Compassion- Whether it’s the tough kid who knows it all or the shy kid who doesn’t believe in themselves.  Learning to handle a 1,000 animal, with it’s own thoughts and opinions teaches a kid compassion.  They learn they can’t jerk on the reins when they get frustrated.  They can’t yell at the horse when it won’t do what they want.  They have to stay calm, be consistent, assertive, and kind to get results on a horse.   Kids learn it’s not all about themselves, and sometimes one has to put another’s needs ahead of their own.  And when they do that, amazing things happen in their relationship with their horse, which carries on into their relationships with others.

5) Dirt & Fresh air- Kids need dirt.  Dirt likes kids.  We have a lot of dirt here.  That’s a good thing.  We also have a lot of fresh air.  The kids are out in it all day long, and much of the evening.  Oh, and did we mention there are no TV’s in the cabins and rooms, and also you can’t stream videos or games?  Crazy thing is, the kids don’t seem to even miss it during their ranch vacation!

6) Fish- Think your kid doesn’t have much patience?  Just wait until you see them out on the pond with their little fishing rods for hours on end, just waiting for that first bite.  It’s always amazing to me how long the kids will stand there, willing those fish to bite.  The fishing rods and the stocked pond are a kid magnet.  We go through them like they are water, as the kids break them daily.  But, it’s a worthwhile investment in the kids.  What a great lesson for them to wait, keep casting, wait, keep casting, and then BAM!  They catch their first fish!

7) Mom gets a vacation- Ok, so this one isn’t as much about the kids as it is about moms (and dads too).  With such an engaging kids program and knowing that the kids are safe as they roam around, moms get a vacation while they are here.  No worrying about what to do to keep everyone entertained.  No worrying about what to feed everyone, or organizing the day.  Chances are your kids will up before you, get dressed by themselves, and head out the door before you’ve even had your first cup of coffee.  You do need to make sure they have sunscreen on, but other than that, relax and enjoy a breath of that fresh mountain air.  We’ve got the rest covered for you.

8) Experiences- During a week at Vista Verde, your kids will get the chance to ride horses, play with foals, ride on an antique fire truck, “gold” pan, learn about bugs, ride mountain bikes, catch a fish, rock climb, square dance, find wildflowers on a hike, and all that without us even mentioning the pool where you expected you’d find your kids most of the time.  They may have a few minutes at some point to jump in, but they are going to be busy with all these other amazing experiences!

9) Connection- So, does it sound like with all that running around freely, and an engaging kids program, that you’ll never see your kids?  For some, this can be true, if that is what they choose.  But for families who want to spend time with their kids, you get them without all the distractions of the real world.  You get to walk through the woods with your kid, talking or just soaking up the silence.  You get to share new experiences together, laugh a lot, and enjoy the little person they are becoming.  Those are priceless moments and lifetime memories.

10) Tears- My kids cry a lot.  Too much.  It makes me crazy.  But, the tears that kids express on Sunday as they leave the ranch fill my heart.  I’ll take those tears any day.  Kids cry a lot on Sunday.  They don’t want to leave their horse.  They don’t want to leave their friends.  They don’t want to leave the staff.  They don’t want to leave the ranch.  Did we mention our Rebooking Special?  Another time…..

Chef’s Corner: Creek Side Trout

Cooking trout stream side (or lakeside) is easy to do if you plan ahead and bring the right equipment and ingredients.

Although our fishing program is catch and release only, if you find yourself with some fresh trout here is a great recipe!

To cook the trout you will need fire, either from a camp stove or campfire. You will also need a pan to fry the trout in. (Foil would work in a pinch, but tends to steam the fish rather than put a crisp skin on it.)
Ingredients:

1 stick of butter

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup fine cornmeal

1 closeable plastic bag for flours

1 lemon

Salt and black pepper

Equipment:

Camp stove or campfire
1 light weight (titanium) camping fry pan
Matches or lighter
Utensils for turning and eating the trout

Procedure:

1. Catch delicious trout and clean the fish by slicing open the belly and removing the entrails. Rinse with stream water.
2. Heat the fry pan over the fire/stove, melt the half the butter until bubbling (save half butter for next batch).
3. Season the trout with salt and pepper and dredge trout in the flour/cornmeal mixture in the bag (like shake-n-bake).
4. Fry the trout in the butter. The butter will brown a bit, but this is what you want! Fry on one side about 5 minutes, then turn the trout and fry another 5 minutes and check for doneness.
5. Slice the lemon in half and squeeze a little juice onto the finished trout, and season again with salt and pepper. Yum!

The time you’ll want to fry the trout will vary depending on the size of the fish. Personally, I like to keep small brook trout, they taste best, cook up quickly, and you only need a few to make a good meal. If you’re working with a14 inch rainbow, you may need to be cut into smaller pieces or cook it longer.

Fresh, wild Rocky Mountain trout is a rare treat that is best enjoyed out of doors and with just enough seasoning to highlight the fish’s delicate flavor. What better way to enjoy it than near the sounds of water, taking in the crisp mountain air?

California Wedding Day – June 2015

Honeymoon Getaway at Vista Verde Ranch

By Erin Moriarty

Only the most adventurous (or wannabe adventurous) couples will enjoy Vista Verde Ranch’s fresh take on honeymooning. No, you won’t be lounging on a beach with the salty sea air, but after a day of horseback riding and snowshoeing in the tucked-away Colorado wilderness, you’ll be happy to lounge in your private cabin or personal hot tub with a beer in hand, looking out over the snow-capped mountain.  Read more…..

Getting Buggy

By Goose

Bugs, bugs, bugs, we love scotch, wait I mean bugs.  The opening of the ranch, or as I call it the fly fishing ranch went pretty much as usual. Junior and I spent our best pre-season hours pulling last fall’s leafs out of the pond.  Now this may sound like a boring task, but to Isaac and me this is almost as much fun as fishing.  At any given time during that time you would have seen one of us digging though a pile of half decomposed leafs, with a big smile.  While new staff members looked at us like we had some serious issues, in our defense we are not crazy.  Ok that part is still open to debate. Whatever–bugs rule our world.  Why?  No bugs = no trout.  The amount of aquatic life in our little pond was overwhelmingly exciting.  Note to self; not everyone is excited to see a leach, and I next year I probably shouldn’t take them into the Great Room.

We found leaches by the pound, enough scuds to feed a small army, damsels, dragon flies, and several bugs yet to be identified. We did accomplish our ultimate goal.  Yes we have goals other than hooking bucket-loads of fish on the line (although that one is at the top of the list).  I had heard about a specific bug–a bug I had never seen.  And we found one, actually we found two.  So at this time I would like to announce the fly shops pet and new mascot King George.  George is a mammoth diving beetle, and he is cooler than a polar bear’s toe nails.  They are considered to have one of the most painful insect bites, and have been known to chew through aluminum cans.  They feed on snakes, frogs, fish, well anything that gets too close.  As mentioned earlier we had two, but King George got hungry.  Finding George went something like this, “We #%!@#&! found one!”  A nanosecond of a fishing guide victory dance, and then we began the domestication process.  We built him a habitat and started to work on basic commands like sit and stay, but he seems rather independent.  So, at this point, he just spends his idle time floating around in a jar, watching our anglers come and go throughout the day.  Because every fly shop needs a pet mammoth diving beetle, and now we have King George.

Well the sun is out, the birds are chirping, who am I trying to fool–we all know that I have other priorities than writing a blog for Steph.  The fish are eating I gotta go. Peace, love and bent rods.

Goose Out

Equitrekking – June 2015

3 Great Dude Ranches for American Quarter Horses

By Darley Newman

Strong, fast and versatile, American Quarter Horses are a favorite breed both in the USA and increasingly by horse lovers around the world. It’s not surprising that travelers seeking time with these loveable, loyal horses seek out ranches that both breed, train and let you ride them. Below are three top dude ranches that also breed Quarter horses, giving guests the chance to see adorable foals, but also ride the trails on a Quarter horse. Read more….