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!

Unlikely Friends

By Steph

Going down to the mare barn to visit the mares and foals is always a great time.  But this year there has been an extra special source of fun down there.  It’s an unlikely friendship between Bandit the cat and the foals.  I saw it first this spring, when we had only two foals on the groud, and many more to go.  But, as the other foals have arrived and settled into the herd, we’re learning that Bandit is not exclusive in his friendship with the foals.  He likes them all!

Now, let me explain, this is not just a cat that likes to sit on the fence near the foals.  This cat gets in there and loves on these foals like you can’t imagine!  His first pick is a snoozing foal as that makes for the best cuddling.  Even better is when he can roll around and get some nuzzles as that gets all those itchy spots on his back.

Believe it or not, the foals love him!  They follow him around, nuzzle him, snuggle with him and even sometimes nibble on him.  They do draw the line when he starts to knead with his claws too much.  Who wouldn’t?

Come join us for a ranch vacation and you can join the foal clinic and see Bandit in action!

 

Spotlight On – Cori Webb

By Steph

If you’ve been following the ranch on our various social media outlets, you’ve already met Cori Webb via her photography.  I figured it was time to officially introduce her so people could know the person behind the lens.

Cori is originally from Indiana, and attended Indiana University to study elementary education before making Vista Verde her home.  She is in her 5th season working at the ranch and has a wide variety of experience from working as a kid supervisor, housekeeper, teen wrangler, and my favorite spot for her in the front office (Cori would disagree as she prefers to be outside, but we’d have her back any day!).

So, how does Cori end up with all these phenomenal photos?  She isn’t a trained photographer, but has always been drawn to the camera and capturing moments around her.  Cori’s interest was piqued after a photography class in high school, and she has been shooting ever since.  Being at the ranch, she mostly takes photos of the natural world, but she would really like to spend some more time taking photos of people going forward.  She loves children, so maybe there’s a future in family photo shoots?  Possibly as a side gig as her main focus is elementary education.

As with any great VVR staff who settles at the ranch for a while, and much to our chagrin, Cori’s time is coming to move on in life.  After this summer she will be heading down the mountain and giving city life a try in Denver.  She’s hoping to find a teaching job there so she can start applying her talents with children in the classroom.

When asked what she would miss most about the ranch, Cori answers, “”There are so many incredible aspects to the ranch, but the community is definitely what I’m going to miss the most. This place has become home over the last few years.

It’s been a gift for us to have Cori as part of the family all these years.  On top of her great contributions to the guest experience, and our staff community, we’ve been able to share the beauty of the ranch with so many people through her photos.  We hope you enjoy her photos throughout this summer!

Equitrekking.com – July 2014

Western Horsemanship and Riding Clinics

July 5, 2014

Looking to expand your western riding skills and natural horsemanship knowledge? Here’s a look at three educational opportunities for riders who want to try something new and improve their riding.

by Jocelyn Pierce

Riders of all levels can benefit from additional training and instruction to improve riding technique. Whether you’re a developed western rider determined to hone in on specialized skills, an English rider wanting to try to a new discipline, or a beginner, there are countless educational programs available. We look at Vista Verde Guest Ranch, The Home Ranch, and Horse Show by Appointment–all fun, comprehensive, and quality programs suitable for any rider.

Vista Verde Guest Ranch

Vista Verde Ranch Guest Ranch offers clinics and horseback riding daily and also hosts an annual Horsemanship Retreat. Located in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, Vista Verde’s riding program is a well-rounded educational experience that will leave guests with expanded horsemanship knowledge.   Read more….

Chef’s Corner: Blueberry Cornmeal Upside-down Cake

Blueberry Cornmeal Upside-down cake (2 – 9” cast iron pans)

Ingredients (cake batter):

      1 ½ cups cornmeal

      3 cups flour

      1 tablespoon baking powder

      1 teaspoon salt

      1 pound butter, soft

      3 cups granulated sugar

      8 eggs, room temperature

      1 tablespoon vanilla extract

      1 ½ cups sour cream

Procedure (cake batter):

      1. Mix together the dry ingredients and set aside.

      2. In the Hobart mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until smooth.

      3. Add eggs one at a time, scraping down the bowl after each addition.

      4. Add the vanilla and sour cream and combine until smooth.

      5. Add the dry ingredients and combine until incorporated. Set aside. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Ingredients (Berries):

      4 ounces butter, divided

      1 cup brown sugar, divided

      6 cups fresh blueberries, divided

Procedure (berries):

1.  Melt half the butter in each of the cast iron pans, add the brown sugar and cook until it bubbles together.

2.  Divide the blueberries into each pan and remove from the stove. Top with half of the cornmeal batter and place on a sheet pan and then in the preheated oven for 45-50 minutes.

3. Allow to cool slightly for about 15 minutes, run a knife around the outer edge and invert the cake onto a cutting board for slicing. Top with vanilla whipped cream.

Loving the summer, but thinking of fall

By Steph

Five weeks into our summer season we are loving the sunny days, the green mountains, the wildflowers and the many adventures on the trail.  But, as we look forward and prepare for what’s to come, our thoughts are also turning to the fall, and even the winter.

The end of August brings the start of our adult-only weeks.  It’s such a fun time!  Four of those weeks are cattle round-up weeks, as we bring in the cows from the forest before the weather turns.  Then, in October we move into the option of shorter stays.  Guests can either join us for our Sunday-Sunday stays, or come for a little shorter version of the dude ranch week with a Sunday-Thursday or Thursday-Sunday option.  This is a great time to enjoy the seasonal transition as the valley prepares for the coming winter.

October is also a great time for business retreats.  If you’ve ever thought of planning a retreat at a ranch, this is a great time to take advantage of our lower fall rates and bring your group together at Vista Verde.

Although much of the fall is full at this point, there is still space during the first few weeks in October.  Come out and join us for a little fall fun in the Rocky Mountains!

Foxnews.com – June 2014

American’s Most Family Friendly Resorts- Foxnews.com, June 23, 2014

Planning a getaway that the whole family will love?

Young kids want to play, teens want to hang, and parents probably just want to relax. But these top U.S. destinations have something for everyone. From awesome pool to unique activities, kids and adults can keep busy on their own- and once in a while come together as a family.  Read on….

Winter Vacations at Vista Verde

by Steph

The other evening, I got to enjoy a wonderful dinner with some of our guests.  The evening was a stitch with the guests firing questions at me, left and right.  They told me at the end that I passed my annual job review, and I could come back to work the next day.  Phew.

But, during the conversation, one question stood out to me (ok, besides the “brilliant” marketing ideas we were passing around such as adding cow tipping, among other things).  The question was, “What would it look like for me to come here with my family during the winter?”  The point of the question was that guest said when he found our website, he saw that we offer winter stays as well.  But, although he could imagine the summer vacation concept he couldn’t really wrap his head around what a winter vacation at Vista Verde would be like for his family.  So, I began to paint the picture.  Here’s how it went.

Winter vacations at Vista Verde are magical.  That’s the best word I can use to describe them.  The snow is piled up as high as the fences, which muffles all the noise and looks like a sea of marshmallows.  When it’s a snowy day, flakes fall gently out of the sky- sometimes huge fluffy flakes, sometimes small tiny specks.  On the bluebird sky days, the snow sparkles like a field of diamonds and the sun warms us all as we play outside.

For the romantics, a winter vacation at Vista Verde is like none other.  Ok, no itsy bitsy string bikinis here.  But, imagine a cozy cabin with a fire roaring inside.  The hot tub bubbles on the deck, waiting for you to come out and sit under the stars.  No TV, no phone, no distractions from the one you love.  Reading by the fire, chatting in the hot tub….it’s up to you.

For families, I firmly believe there is no better place to introduce kids to snow.  Unlike the big ski resorts, there are no lines here.  No crowds.  No hassle of renting gear, figuring out ski schools, finding your kids, hauling your wet and tired kid all the way across a mountain to get back to your condo, dealing with the neighbors who are staying up all night partying.  Out here it’s quiet, quaint and comfortable.  Kids can experience all sorts of different snow based activities.  If they get cold, it’s just a hop over to the cabin to change clothes and warm up.  Someone is always looking out for them with our small community atmosphere.  It’s easy, safe and fun.  And every kid needs to experience the joy of snow at least once while they are still young enough to want to make snow angels.

What do you do?  Are there enough activities?  Well, give back country skiing a try, or take a skate ski lesson.  If that seems like too much technique (it’s not, we promise even a total novice can do it) then let our guides take you out on a back country snowshoe.  Ride a horse in the snow.  Take a horsemanship clinic in the heated indoor arena.  Go for a sleigh ride.  We have the one horse open sleigh….it doesn’t get any more classic than that.  Help us feed our herd of horses the old fashioned way on the big sleigh pulled by the draft horse team.  Step inside for a wine tasting or a cooking class.  Stretch out with some yoga.  Learn the finer points of using your camera in our photography workshop.  Tube!  We’ll pull you up the hill with snowmobiles and then you can fly back down on a big, cushy snow tube.  If that’s not enough, head into Steamboat for dogsledding or snow mobiling, or even downhill skiing.  Trust us, there is plenty to do in between those amazing meals.

If you’ve ever wanted to experience a classic winter resort, it’s time to try Vista Verde Ranch in the winter!  As much as I’m loving the summer season right now, thinking about winter gets me excited to bundle up and go out to play in the snow.  Soon enough we’ll be enjoying the winter wonderland again.

Where’s Willie?

By Steph

There’s a little game we play with the kids who come to Vista Verde Ranch.  It involves a moose name Willie and some bedtime snacks.  You see, each evening the housekeeping fairies visit the cabins and leave a little something for mom and dad, along with a snack for the kids.  The snack is guarded by Willie the Moose.  However, most nights Willie gets a little sneaky and hides with the snack.  All good and fun, right?

Well, not always.  Yesterday, housekeeping fairy Emily was stumped when she came by to clean up one of the cabins in the morning.  She couldn’t find Willie.  He was missing.  If you’ve been following us for a while, you may be aware of the Willie the Moose book, and may even have your own copy.  If you’ve read the book, you know that Willie is a funny critter so maybe it’s not a surprise that he went hiding. (If you don’t have the book, pardon the shameless plug but you can buy one now!)

If you know housekeeping fairy Emily, you may also know that she is a wee bit vertically challenged, so it’s no surprise that it took her a while to find Willie.  As you can see, he went for a bit of a climb overnight.  But, fear not, he has been rescued and returned to his happy place in the cabin.  However, let us just say it now to Jack and Austin.  Game on.  Good luck finding your snack tonight!

 

All-American food for an All-American Vacation, but with a luxurious twist

By John, with some input from Steph, and excerpts from product sites

The other day, Chef John showed up in my office beaming with excitement to share a slice of “ham”.  I put that in quotes, because that’s what I thought it was.  After a 5 minute enthusiastic explanation, I realized this isn’t just “ham”.  So, I asked John to give me a little more info on some of the other things like “ham” that he’s excited about in the kitchen for this summer.  As you can see, Chef John does not lack enthusiasm for amazing culinary products (catch him talking fishing and you’ll find this extends to his life as an angler).  Here’s what he has to say about where he and Chef Cholly are taking things this summer:

This season, instead of looking for inspiration from across the world, we decided to look right in our backyard to see what small and specialty producers are doing close to home. The cooking techniques and products that we are using are specific to regions of the states that are known for their unique contributions to the culinary world. Also we are featuring local, organic and heirloom varieties whenever possible, this includes meats and dairy with no antibiotics or growth hormones.  Here is some info on a few of the products we’re excited to be serving our guests at Vista Verde: 

Edward’s family hams in Virginia

Developed as an All-American alternative to Europe’s dry-cured hams, Edwards Surryano Ham is crafted from rare heritage breed hogs. The purebred Berkshires are pasture-raised to create perfectly marbled meat. Hand-cured, hickory-smoked and aged, the unforgettable rich flavor matches and surpasses anything from across the pond.

Hams from S. Wallace Edwards & Sons in Surry, Virginia, are prepared in the true Virginia Tradition.

Long before the first settlers arrived at Jamestown in 1607, the Native Americans had been curing venison and fish, plentiful in forest and rivers.

The taste of the salt-cured and smoked meat was different from the sun-dried method the settlers knew in their native England.

The settlers soon brought hogs which were left to forage New World vegetation including nuts and acorns. By 1608, the colonists were keeping their hogs on an island five miles below the Jamestown settlement. The island soon became known as Hog Island, as it is today over three centuries later. In 1652, Surry County was formed encompassing Hog Island and much other land across the James River from Jamestown.

These early colonists soon developed a process of smoking pork over hickory and oak fires, after rubbing it with salt obtained from evaporating seawater, then allowing the meat to stand for a period of time. The salt preserved the meat, the smoking and aging enhanced the flavor.

When other crops failed or tobacco prices fell, there were always hams to trade; thus, Virginia hams were exported to England from Surry.

For generations, ham curing has been a seasonal event for Virginia farmers. Hogs were killed in the winter and their meat packed in salt while the weather was cool enough to keep it from spoiling. The meat then was rinsed and hung to dry and smoke during the remaining cool months. With luck, it would endure the high temperatures of summer age.

In 1926, S. Wallace Edwards, the young captain of the Jamestown-Surry ferry began selling ham sandwiches to his passengers. The ham had been cured by him as on the family farm according to those time tested methods.

Soon demand became great enough that S. Wallace Edwards began curing hams on a full time basis, distributing them to country stores and fine hotels, and shipping them throughout the country and overseas.

S. Wallace Edwards & Sons remains a family operation in Surry County not far from Jamestown where Native Americans taught the settlers to cure meat. Today’s facilities simulate the seasons without sacrificing the care and attention that result in that unique flavor of Virginia hams.

In the time-honored style of the Native Americans, settlers and farmers before them, S. Wallace Edwards & Sons processes each ham by hand as it goes through the stages of curing.

Many days of cool “hickory” smoked are required to give these hams their rich mahogany color. They are then allowed to hang undisturbed for “aging” until they develop that real Virginia flavor. The very finest hams are selected and hand-rubbed with salt. They remain in the curing room under controlled temperature until the desired amount of salt has been absorbed. Excess salt is removed by washing and the hams are then pepper-coated and ready for hanging in the smokehouse.

Uncooked hams are ready to ship at this point others may go through a cooking process in the ham kitchen. These are submerged in water and slowly simmered until they are fully cooked and ready to be served.

We’re also bringing in heirloom and organic grains and legumes from Anson mills in south Carolina

Anson Mills founder and visionary Glenn Roberts grew up in San Diego, California, the son of a professional singer and photographer, and an erstwhile Southern belle from Edisto, South Carolina who became an accomplished scratch cook and occasional restaurateur. Glenn was a restless, deeply curious boy, who, by all accounts, required steady discipline to stay out of mischief. His mother tried to tame him by putting him to work on weekends as a busboy in her restaurant. His father taught him to fly an Aeronca Champ when he was just eight years old, using pillows to prop him up and two-by-fours wired to the rudder pedals. Both parents required their children to have musical training: Glenn studied French horn throughout his boyhood and adolescence, performing first in the San Diego Youth Symphony, and later occupying fourth chair in the San Diego Symphony. None of this, however, prevented Glenn from pursuing his real passion (and every parent’s nightmare): chemistry experiments. Working with explosive gas for a national science contest, Glenn blew the door off his parents’ garage on one occasion and decimated his mother’s kitchen on another. (The experiments earned him second place in the contest; the damages earned him a whipping.)

At 17, Glenn entered the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on a music and science scholarship and graduated four years later. A conventional life track, however, was too narrow to contain his energies: he joined the Air Force to feed his love of supersonic jets and flying and later sailed around the world on private yachts as a navigator and a mate (becoming, in the process, absorbed by indigenous foods of the tropical environment and the agriculture that accompanied them). He took up riding and dressage. He drove long-haul trucks.

Somewhere along the road of diversionary adventure, Glenn’s overarching interests distilled into the study of architectural history and the history of food. Settling down into a suit and proper shoes, he backed into historic property restoration from the kitchen door, working on space design and adaptive reuse in Virginia, the Carolinas, and Georgia. His geographic area ultimately narrowed to South Carolina where Glenn took on broader aspects of redesign projects, carrying those through to the hiring of chefs and marketing staff, and to the planning and execution of celebratory dinners at projects’ end. The menus he helped plan were intended to offer period-authentic dishes. But the ingredients didn’t exist: they were extinct. Local growers did not produce them and would not be persuaded to try. In particular, grains of the era like Carolina Gold rice, lynchpin of the Antebellum cuisine of South Carolina, were nearly impossible to source.

Glenn’s career epiphany came on a hot summer afternoon in the kitchen of an historic Charleston property. An elaborate rice dinner was just hours away, and the solitary source on earth for Carolina Gold rice at that time—a grower in Savannah—had delivered his product earlier in the day. When the chef opened the bag to cook the rice, the grains were writhing with weevils. Picking through the rice was laborious and time was of the essence. At 7 o’clock in the evening, Glenn found himself at a prep table with two dishwashers, sweating in his suit and tie, and rousting weevils from Carolina Gold, the dinner swirling by without him. He thought of his mother’s cooking when he was a boy. He looked at the lousy rice. He vowed to put Carolina Gold into serious production so this would never happen again.

For the next several years, between projects, Glenn grew small-plot Carolina Gold in Charleston and worked with a rice geneticist in Texas to reinvigorate the seed, which, through neglect and inactivity, had begun to display characteristics of its sister rice, Carolina White. To support his experiments in Carolina Gold, whose resurrection now represented for Glenn an all-consuming preoccupation (his mother, after all, was Geechee, a person who eats rice every day), he began to research other regional heirloom grains of the era that he could throw into production more quickly.

The research began with corn. In 1995, Glenn explored rural back roads looking for the famous white Carolina mill corn that was revered in Antebellum plantation inventories and recipes for its high mineral and floral characteristics and its creamy mouthfeel. He found this corn in a bootlegger’s field near Dillon, South Carolina in 1997, and planted and harvested his own first crop of 30 acres in 1998. Known as Carolina Gourdseed White, the single-family hand-select dated back to the late 1600s.

Glenn passed the Gourdseed grits around to chefs in Charleston and Atlanta, and they all went crazy.

The discovery of Carolina Gourdseed White, and of other nearly extinct varieties of Southern mill corn, fueled Glenn’s efforts to preserve nutrition and flavor in heirloom corn. But he knew the corn would have to be milled as carefully as it was grown.

Returning to historic documents, Glenn read about an heirloom that had been bred to blow down in late fall for hand harvest under snow in deep winter. The corn, an 1850 yellow dent of Appalachian provenance called John Haulk, was known to have made the “finest cornbread and mush.” The fact that it was milled under freezing conditions after full field ripening and drying puzzled Glenn until he froze and milled his own Gourdseed White. The flavors of the cold-milled corn were stunning. With this experiment, Glenn “rediscovered” cold milling and, in so doing, found a way to offset the heat damage grains experience between two stones. He also found a perfect place to store his seed corn: in the freezer.

At this point Glenn possessed a fully realized, madly ambitious plan: to make Carolina Gold rice a viable Southern crop, and to grow, harvest, and mill other nearly extinct varieties of heirloom corn and wheat organically. By doing this, Glenn hoped to re-create ingredients of the Antebellum Southern larder, ingredients that had vanished over time. Grits, cornmeal, Carolina Gold rice, graham and biscuit flour—these ingredients, all milled fresh daily for the table, had helped create a celebrated regional cuisine and America’s first cuisine: the Carolina Rice Kitchen.

Never one for half measures, Glenn, in 1998, sold his worldly possessions, tossed his business cards, and began living out of his car. He rented a sprawling metal warehouse behind a car wash in Columbia, South Carolina and bought four native granite stone mills. Anson Mills was born.

By 2000, Glenn had his first real harvest of Carolina Gold rice, as well as 10 varieties of heirloom Southern dent corns. He was milling grits for chefs in Georgia and the Carolinas. Word got around. A handful of ingredient-conscious chefs across the country began to use Anson Mills products and promote them vigorously to their colleagues. The circle widened.

In 2001, sustained by the success of Anson Mills’ early efforts, Glenn was able to take on full production of certified organic Carolina Gold rice and a “Thirteen Colony” wheat called Red May.

In 2004, Glenn found a complementary match for his drive and detail awareness in the diminutive personage of Kay Rentschler, a former chef and then freelance journalist for the New York Times dining section, as well other New York publications. On assignment for the Times to report on Glenn’s grits, Kay asked more questions and pursued the acquisition of information like few others he had known. Her Times article on Anson Mills, “A Grits Revival with the Flavor of the Old South,” brought such attention to the company that Glenn promptly fell in love. He married Kay, but could not keep her in the South. He’s not complaining: you can’t have everything.

Today, in addition to its collection of native heirloom grains, Anson Mills grows Japanese buckwheat, French oats and Mediterranean wheat, and Italian farro. Kay creates period-authentic recipes, catalogues the history and virtues of the ingredients and dishes alike, and is the photographer for ansonmills.com.

Glenn continues to be restless and deeply curious. He works tirelessly to manage his old grains, the land, and their growers, as well as chefs and retail customers. It’s a relentless effort. But only rarely must he wear a suit.

We also have tender bellly bacon and breakfast sausage and other heritage pork products

Entrepreneurial fires burned in both Erik and Shannon, along with a broad set of professional skills and most importantly, a love for good, pure, clean food and making the simple things extraordinary.

In 2010 they joined forces and started Tender Belly. An immediate hit, the lure of TASTY BACON and other outstanding PORK PRODUCTS was too good for chefs to pass up.

Now Erik and Shannon would like to offer a taste of Tender Belly to individuals like you, OUR FELLOW PORK LOVERS. we understand that anything good takes time and commitment. FINE PORK can only make its way to your table after the utmost care and devotion to the well-being of the animal. The animals live a stress-free life with plenty of open space to roam and exercise. This freedom promotes exquisite intramuscular marbling you can’t achieve any other way.

We also understand that the choice of diet influences the taste of what ends up on your plate; that is why they’re fed an all-natural 100% vegetarian diet.

Dedication to all these aspects is why TENDER BELLY PORK PRODUCTS are the finest and most mouthwatering on the market.

 

Go Time! Dude Ranch style

By Steph

The staff are all here now.  The guests have booked their stays.  The snow has melted (well, except for some up on the top of the Zirkels).  The grass and wildflowers have re-appeared.  The bikes have been tuned up.  In fact, so have the horses….teeth floated, feet trimmed, vaccinated, and first rides out of the way.  The chefs have practiced their meals.  The staff have walked through mock rides, mock meals, mock dances, mock everythings.   It’s time to open!

Sunday afternoon marks the first time we’ll have guests coming up the drive for the summer dude ranch season. We’re ready to kick off the season with a great group of guests, an excited staff and lots of fresh air and sunshine.

So, what have we been doing to prepare for these folks to come in and enjoy a great family vacation?

We devote two full weeks to training our staff and preparing for the summer season.  The first week is spent focusing on the nuts and bolts of each department and establishing the culture of the ranch.  The second week is the practice week, when we reinforce what they’ve learned and put it into play.  Mixed in with all of this is some serious prep work.  After a huge winter, there are a ton of fences to fix.  The tack needs to be cleaned and oiled.  The cabins need to be deep cleaned and polished up so they are ready for Sunday.  The constructions projects need to be finished up (we upgraded the Hinman cabin flooring this spring and Bill did a remodel on the bunkhouse).  Every spring we have to clear the down trees, so the wrangler and guide crew were out clearing trails on Wednesday.  Staff photos are taken and new bios are written.  The list goes on and on.

I did a “walk-about” this morning to check in on everyone.  I kept hearing, “We’re ready, we just need to open now.”  So, how about this?  Let’s do it!  Bring on Summer, as Olaf would say.

In search of inspiring photos from summer vacations at Vista Verde

By Steph

After pouring through all our photos in search of one to use for our new note cards, we realized we needed something fresh and inspiring.

Do you have an amazing photo from your summer vacation at Vista Verde Ranch?  Are you willing to share it?  If so, we’d love to consider it!  We will have a box of note cards customized and printed for you if we select your photo for our cards.

Here are the many ways you can submit a photo:

1) Post it on our Facebook page.

2) Tweet it to us @vistaverderanch

3) Create a Pinterest board with you photos you want considered and email the url to reservations@vistaverde.com.

4) @mention us on Instagram @vistaverderanch

5) Email the photo to reservations@vistaverde.com

Submit your photo by the end of Memorial Day weekend (close of day, May 26, 2014) and then we’ll pick the finalists and post them on Facebook for some voting action.

Keep in mind that we will need a high resolution image for the final product, so if yours is selected we will reach out to you to get that version.

Thank you, and we look forward to seeing your photos!

Day Dreaming of your Vista Verde vacation?

By Kelli

Make it productive by doing these simple exercises to get your body ready too!

While at your desk…

Sit Tall

One of the best things you can do for your body is to sit properly throughout your day.  Sit at the edge of your chair with your feet flat on the floor.  Lengthen your spine, gently pulling in your lower abs to support the low back so that your spine is in a neutral position (keeping the natural curve to your spine).  Pull your shoulders back gently with shoulder blades down the back.  Try to maintain this position for several minutes or until your muscles start to fatigue.  Picture yourself in the saddle; building postural strength will help prevent back fatigue/pain while riding, using the natural curve of the spine as a shock absorber.

Calf Raise/Hip Stretch

You get two for the price of one with this exercise! Once again, sit at the edge of your chair with your feet flat on the floor.  Cross your right leg on top of the left so that your right ankle is resting on your left thigh, just above the knee.  Ahh, a great stretch for your right hip!  Maintaining that position, push your left toes down into the floor so that your left heel lifts up off the floor, engaging your left calf muscle.  Raise and lower several times until you feel slight fatigue in the left calf muscle.  Repeat on the other side. Building calf strength will help you hike up those mountains and hip flexibility will be a bonus in all your activities at the ranch, even barn dance!

Chair Slides

This exercise only works if you have an office chair with wheels.  Sit on the end of your chair with your feet flat on the floor, knees bent.  Sit up tall and hold on to each side of your chair with your hands.  Push the chair backwards so that your legs start to straighten out in front of you but your feet remain on the floor.  Next pull the chair forward so that you are back where you began.  When pushing and pulling back and forth, keep your core engaged yet stay tall in your seat.  A great glute and hamstring workout to prepare for that push/pull on those bike pedals.

 

Ball Squeeze

Do you have an extra ball lying around the house?  Take it to work with you and get those adductors (inner thigh muscles) ready for riding!  A 4” ball is ideal but anything close to that will work.  Place the ball between the knees and keep the feet flat on the floor.  You can squeeze the ball and release several times or squeeze and hold the squeeze for several seconds, then release.  As always, sit with great posture and keep your core slightly engaged while squeezing.  Believe it or not, this exercise will make you a better communicator with your horse (not sure how it works with spouses!)  Slight leg movements and pressure applied with the thighs tell your horse what you want them to do!

Chair Twists

Twisting is a great way to loosen up the torso and squeeze out tension in the body.  Plus, it just feels great after sitting at your desk for long periods.  It is very important to always lengthen the spine before twisting it, so start off by sitting tall.  Keep your feet flat on the floor and start the twist from your belly. As you start to twist to the right, place your left hand on the outside of your right knee and allow your  torso and shoulders to follow the twist.  If your right hand reaches the back seat of your chair, you can grab a hold, but don’t force the twist by pulling yourself further with your right hand.  Just let the twist happen naturally.  Make sure to keep yourself tall throughout the whole twist, not collapsing as you twist.  Hold the twist for a few breathes, then slowly unwind from the twist.  Repeat on the other side.  Practicing the twist will help you be more flexible in the saddle, allowing you to chat with the “Dude” behind you on the trail, not to mention enjoying the beautiful 360 view!

Camel Pose

No camels on the ranch, just horses. We are borrowing this pose from yoga class, as it is a great chest opener, something everyone who sits at a desk can benefit from.  Once again, sit near the edge of your chair, with feet flat, and posture tall.  Place your fists behind each glute and draw your elbows towards each other, shoulder blades coming together too.  Lift your chest up towards the ceiling, lengthening the spine, keeping the neck in line with the spine.  Breathe into the stretch, holding it for a few seconds, then releasing. Repeat several times during the day, each time imagining all those stars you will be able to see from your hot tub at night.

 

So enjoy your productive day dreaming and before you know it, you will be here, fit and ready to take on all the exciting activities at VVR.  We look forward to seeing you soon!

Turning up the heat- 17 days until the dude ranch season starts

By Steph

The hush that settled in over the ranch back at the end of March is about to be blown up with the energy, excitement and enthusiasm of an incoming crew of new staff, as well as some great returners.  During the off-season, the seasonal staff headed out for their down-time, and those of us who stick around year round got out our oh-too-long to-do lists and started plugging away at them in the quiet of an empty dude ranch.  For some of us it was a peaceful time of knocking out one project after another.  For some (ok, mainly Bill) it is a frantic scramble of trying to get all the projects done that can only be done when we are closed.  But, all that is wrapping up as we prepare for the start of our orientation weeks.

You see, we take training our staff very seriously.  We invest two solid weeks into infusing the culture of the ranch into them, teaching them the ins and outs of their jobs, building a sense of community between all of them, and helping them wrap their heads around why we take all the little details so seriously.  It’s a fun 2 weeks, but an intense 2 weeks.

Beka and Ben have spent the past couple weeks finalizing the housing list, pouring over the timing of the orientation schedule, and then panicking and finding new staff members when they get that dreaded call, “I’m not going to be able to make it out there to work after all.”  Now, the arrivals are plugged into our calendars, Devyn is getting all the staff housing tidied up and ready (some spaces a bit more frantically as she waits for Bill to put the finishing touches on his bunkhouse remodel), and we’re all realizing that we have only about 3 more days to finish crossing projects off our to-do lists before they get put away for the summer.

If you are coming out to visit this summer, our promise to you is that we will pour everything we can into these amazing young people coming to work at our ranch, so that they can do their best guiding, helping, caring for and serving you on your vacation.  We’ll leave it to them to share their talent, humor, intellect and varied backgrounds with you around the dinner table and on the trail.  In the next week we’ll be updating the staff bios on the website so you can learn more about all these great people.

If you don’t have plans to visit this summer, keep in mind we’ve had a couple cancellations in June.  So, it may not be too late to schedule an amazing dude ranch vacation.  Just 17 days and we’ll be ready to share our beautiful backyard with you!  Give Malori or Steph a call at 800-526-7433 for more information on openings.

About.com – May 2014

America’s Best All-Inclusive Resorts for Families

By 

Dude ranches virtually always offer all-inclusive pricing, and Vista Verde Guest Ranchin Steamboat Springs is one of the most family-friendly around. Rates include accommodations in private cabins or lodge rooms, all meals and beverages, and activities that range from horseback riding and mountain biking to fly-fishing and river rafting. In the evenings, there are just-for-fun rodeos that kids will love.   Read on

Colorado Spring fever

By Steph

It’s a well documented medical condition that occurs in Steamboat once or twice a year.  Doctors are stumped as to how to vaccinate for this problem, yet they find that the symptoms come on strong and fast.  It’s called Coloritis Springius Feverium, casually known to physicians as CSF or Colorado Spring Fever.  A huge case has hit the ranch this past week.  It’s still spring break time at the ranch, as we wait for the snow to melt and the trails to dry out.  We had a bout of the fever about a month ago, when the sun came out, the snow started to melt quickly, and the birds began singing.  But it cleared out when the snow and cold weather returned, only to come back even stronger this past weekend.

Symptoms are quite similar among patients and range from inability to sit at a desk for an extended period of time, extreme giddiness, waking up early, and sore facial muscles from excessive smiling.  We had the vet up the other day for some horses, and she did a quick examination on our many patients (come on, she’s medically trained one way or another) and she prescribed a simple treatment plan.  Get outside and play!

So, we did.  Brandon went fishing, while Beka and I were on a road bike ride yesterday, Steve and Kelli passed us with their mountain bikes loaded on the 4-runner.  Maybe they were headed to lower elevation and dry trails?  Cori and Mandy rode Scotch and Whiskey Girl up the nature trail, Charlie seems to keep finding “projects” he needs to go check on all over the ranch, and Alaya and Cholly have little Eamon snugged up in the front pack for miles and miles of walking.  And Ben and Holly have been keeping busy cleaning out their garage.  What?  I know, to each their own.

Although we are following the Dr.’s orders quite vigilantly, we are not seeing a drop in our symptoms.  In fact, it seems that the elation levels are only rising.  But, you know what?  That’s just fine with us!!

Word has it that cruddy weather is sneaking back in later this week.  After the high (ok, we don’t need any wise jokes about Colorado’s new laws) of the past 6 days, there may actually need to be some interventions going on for those of us crashing down off that high.  It will just give us some time to dream of the coming months and miles and miles of trails waiting for us to take you out and play.  26 days until we open!

 

Staff Spotlight on Malori- Working at a Dude Ranch

By Steph

It’s been a while since I did a spotlight on one of our staff, and with a handful of staff stepping up into manager roles this spring, I thought it would be perfect to highlight some of these great folks.  This week, meet Malori Plush.

Many of you who have been at the ranch in the past couple years have already met Malori.  Born and raised in Colorado Springs, CO, Malori joined us back in 2012 as a server in the dining room.  She has since helped out in many areas around the ranch before stepping into the role of Front Desk Manager.  She is taking on overseeing all the Front Office staff, operations as well as being the main gal in charge of reservations.  So, chances are that if you call the ranch, you’ll talk to her!

Malori graduated from the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs with a Bachelor of Science in Business with an emphasis in International Business, and a minor in Spanish.

Before coming to Vista Verde she worked as an Economic Development Intern at the Mayor’s Office in Colorado Springs. She did lots of national research on small business sustainability and filled in as the Mayor’s  secretary. Just before her internship ended the Waldo Canyon Fire started in Colorado Springs, she was given the hefty role of managing the 5 City Twitter accounts (Mayor, Sheriff, Fire Dept. etc.) and collect volunteer hours for FEMA.  After the fire ended, she directly assisted the City Event Planner to coordinate the Waldo Canyon Fire Heroes Celebration (over 400 attendees). That may have been what peaked her interest in event planning, which is on her radar to pursue as she moves forward in life.

It seems to be a combination of things that led Malori to Vista Verde.  In her words, “learning about small business sustainability made me want to work for a small business, I enjoy coordinating and working with other people, and I love the mountains.”

Malori has a pretty good case of “wanderlust” – she has traveled to 8 different countries so far (Morocco, Switzerland, Thailand…), and many more to go.  She loves fly fishing, country two step and swing dancing, hiking, volleyball, sushi and micro brews.

We hope you get the chance to meet Malori this summer.  She’s a great part of our team, and we’re excited to help her grow in her new role!

Savvysassymom.com – April 2014

Why every family needs a dude ranch vacation

By Susan Tucker

My family and I recently enjoyed an amazing few days away just outside of Steamboat Springs in Colorado at the Vista Verde Guest Ranch, and while there I discovered why a dude ranch vacation is the ultimate family vacation. You too can experience life like a cowboy this summer by taking a family vacation at a working, dude or luxury ranch, so you can disconnect, reconnect and connect with nature.

Here are my top reasons why a dude ranch family vacation is a must and what type could be best for yours.

Read on….

How to find the best dude ranch horses

By Steph

I giggled a bit at the title of this blog post.  If anyone could truly answer that, they’d be worth a lot.  Or at least they’d have a lot of dude ranchers for friends.  Every dude ranch owner that I know struggles with this- finding great horses for their guests to enjoy.  You see, every year we have to retire some horses as they can’t keep going at the pace we go at in the mountains and need a little more leisurely lifestyle.  Then, there are the horses that just don’t cut it.  They might be great horses, but they are horses who need a single owner and not different riders each week.  When all is said and done, we end up needing new horses every year.  And, there lies the challenge.

Buying horses is an art.  First you have to consider age and training.  Some really young horses are calm and collected, but many are still a little “green” as we call them.  For our guests, we want horses who are trustworthy and safe first.  But, we don’t want horses that are too old as we need them to be able to handle the many miles we put on out on the trail.  We pride ourselves in taking care of our horses with healthy feed, monitoring them for needed rest, proper hoof care and vet care.  But, even with all that, our horses need to be like a strong athlete and able to perform to the task.  Next up is size and confirmation.  Put into car terms, if they are built well, they will run longer and with fewer trips to the mechanic’s shop.  Finally, how are they trained, and what is their temperament?  Are they kind?  Are they responsive?  Do they have enough good training to be soft, supple and easy to cue?  Will they overreact to a scary situation or stay cool and calm?

Ok, so we’ve laid out the criteria, but it’s not like there is a superstore of horses out there and you just go and pick them out.  We go to sales, we watch the classifieds, we spread the word among our horse friends, and then we drive around and try out a lot of frogs before we find our princes.  And, once we find them, we have to bring them back to the ranch and get to know them.  Sometimes we find out that our prince wasn’t as much of a prince as we thought on first glance….so then we have to find a better fit for them with someone else.

All said, it’s a process that requires long hours in the truck, a critical eye and a sense of understanding a horse’s heart.  Ben, Nate and Mandy are spending their spring doing just this.  So far, we’ve found 3 who we think will be keepers.  They are settling into their new home and we’re getting to know them.  As you can see by the fact that he hopped on with no halter or bridle or saddle, Nate is pretty confident this guy, “Dusty”, will work out well.

Wish us well in the shopping process.  If you’re coming for a dude ranch vacation this summer, maybe you’ll get to try out one of these new rides!

Spring break adventures

By Steph

Typically when we close down for the spring break at Vista Verde, it’s because all that amazing snow that Colorado is known for needs to melt away, which leads to a lot of mud.  This year, the memo seems to have missed the mountains, as we’ve been getting more days of snow than sun in April.  We could have stayed open another month, and still be hosting families coming for spring break vacations!  But, hindsight is 20-20, of course.  So, we’re making the best of it and trying to enjoy these fun spring conditions while the ranch is closed down.

There are several special times that happen throughout the spring in the mountains of Colorado.  One of them is a small window of time when fly fishing the rivers is prime.  It comes right in between the end of winter and spring.  Brandon will be writing about that in an upcoming installment of The Fly.  The other is crust skiing season.  This “season” can come and go throughout the spring, depending on the conditions.  We had those perfect conditions for our spring break week earlier in March.  And, after weeks of fresh snow, we just hit those conditions again today.

Perfect spring crust skiing conditions arrive when the snow base is still deep but the spring sun has been beating on the top layer of snow for a day or two.  Then, if you get a hard freeze overnight, the snow forms a perfect firm crust that you can walk on, bike on or ski on.  No grooming equipment needed to pack down the snow, you just go wherever you want.

This morning I anticipated those conditions and grabbed my skis as I headed out the door to the Lodge.  After getting a few things done in the office, waiting for the sun to peek over the Continental Divide, I put on my boots, hopped over the fence (it’s easy as it’s only peeking out about 4 inches above the snow) and hit the meadows.

Skating around the ranch property on the crust allows for you to go almost anywhere.  I was in the meadows, playing slalom with the aspens, and dodging willows.  Then I crossed a snow bridge over the creek, hopped a few more fences and ended up enjoying the sun breaking over the mountain as I headed toward Indian Hill.  You can ski fast and far without much effort on the crust.

I didn’t see much wildlife, but there were a lot of tracks, and I was being watched at one point by a large winged friend (couldn’t tell what kind of hawk it was).  Otherwise, it was perfectly silent and I glided across the snow.

Although we’re all dreaming of summer days right now, we would be foolish to not seize the moment to enjoy these experiences during our spring break!  You never know what and when the right conditions will apply, but if you want to explore the idea of having a spring break vacation while we’re open in March next year, maybe we’ll get you out crust skiing!

How to pick the right dude ranch vacation

By Steph

With summer quickly approaching, many people are planning their dude ranch vacations now.  Many are surprised to find out that they are behind the 8-ball as most dude ranches tend to fill up quickly and often by spring are very full.  With the availability at dude ranches waning and the pressure on, here are some tips on how to pick the best dude ranch vacation:

1) Start early- so you’re only planning your trip in April this year.  Don’t give up.  There are still some good dude ranches with availability.  Find one, grab it and enjoy.  And then start planning your next trip so you can book it in the fall!

2) Start with what kind of ranch you want.  There are many different kinds of ranches, and from the Dude Rancher’s Association blog, I pulled this breakdown:

  • “WORKING DUDE RANCH
    These are working cattle or sheep operations. Your horseback riding adventures will be determined by the ranch’s livestock and the work related to them. Be prepared to experience these activities first hand.
  • DUDE RANCH
    Horseback riding is central to these ranches. The cowboy in you will experience Western riding and a variety of outdoor activities.
  • RESORT DUDE RANCH
    Horseback riding is featured, and these ranches offer an array of diverse activities and onsite facilities. These are apt to be the larger ranches.”

I would add to this the question of do you want a more luxury experience or a more rustic experience, or something in the middle? Dude ranches ranges from the bare-boned experience you may remember from “City Slickers” to luxury dude ranches that offer fine linens and gourmet meals.  Where do you fall in that spectrum?  This choice will point you towards either more luxurious accommodations and meals that are like what you find at a fine restaurant or rustic and quaint log cabins and simple meals, or somewhere in between.  Your answer to this question will also slide you one way or another along the price point spectrum.

3) What kind of activities do you want?  Are you looking for a ride, ride, ride experience or do you want to try a little bit of everything?  Some of the best dude ranches offer only riding and some of them offer a full range of activities.

4) Kids.  Do you have ’em?  Don’t like ’em?  If no, then you may want to find a ranch that doesn’t cater to families.  Or, many ranches offer times during their season when they are adult-only.  At Vista Verde, we set aside September and October for adult-only ranch vacations.

5) Kids.  Have ’em, like ’em?  If yes, then you get to decide how you want to play out your family vacation.  Do you want to spend all your time with them?  Do you want to have some times when the kids are watched?  Are you hoping to show up on Sunday and not see your kids until the following Sunday?  Each dude ranch with a kids program sets up theirs up differently.  Decide what feels right to you and then look for a ranch that meets that desire.  At Vista Verde, we try to hit it in the middle with an active and engaging kids program, some dinners set aside for just the adults, but then also a lot of opportunities for families to be together and create memories.  Also, pay attention to age minimums.  Ranches are usually best suited for kids 6 and up, but some do have programs for the little ones.

7) How is the riding program?  Do you just want to sit on a horse and enjoy the scenery or is this a learning vacation for you.  The best dude ranches have a lot of learning to their riding programs, but maybe you don’t want that?  Do they offer clinics or instruction?  How big are the trail rides?  How often do you ride?  Again, taken from the Dude Rancher’s Association blog:

“Choose the riding environment that appeals to you; open meadows, prairies, mountain trails or southwestern desert. The location of the ranch determines the terrain.

Then, choose the type of riding you’d like; working livestock, cattle drives, pack trips, team penning and arena games or daily trail rides.”

8) Size- Do you want to be in a very intimate setting with only a dozen other people, or do you want a larger feel?  Smaller ranches (20 guests) are indeed more intimate.  Larger ranches (80-100 guests) are less personal but there are a lot of people to meet and enjoy.  And the mid-size ranches (~40-50 guests) kind of hit it in the middle.  Still personal, but a variety of people to meet and get to know during the course of your stay.  Because you will.  Dude ranches are not the place for an anonymous vacation, but you very well will develop relationships that last for years and years.  And dude ranch guests are usually really interesting, adventurous and fun people.

9) Reviews- Check Tripadvisor reviews of dude ranches.  Ask your friends if they’ve ever been to one.  You’ll get pointed to the best dude ranch vacation through those avenues.

10) Last, but most important.  Trust your gut.  I just heard a story on the radio (yep, I do still listen to the radio when I drive) about how a group of people who are given some basic facts about world events do a better job predicting what will happen than an expert who has access to all the classified information.  It reminded me how I tell potential guests to just trust their gut when choosing.  Yes, it can be overwhelming to choose a dude ranch vacation.  But, once you’ve narrowed it down to your top 5, just trust your gut on your pick.  The truth is, you’ll probably have a great time at any of the ranches on that list.

Now pack your bags and enjoy!  If you want more info on what to do if you chose Vista Verde and then found out we are full, check out this post on planning your dude ranch vacation.

Spring in Colorado- Great wine and beer recommendations

As Cholly heads out with Alaya and Eamon to visit family for their spring break, he left us with a couple great recommendations for spring time sips.  Not to alienate the beer or wine drinkers, he is sharing one of each.  Cheers!

 New Belgium Spring Blonde Belgian Style Ale

Light copper-colored with a tall, white head, the Spring Blonde has a nose of lemon peel, fresh baked bread (my favorite aroma), black pepper, cloves and a hint of apple and pear. The taste of this medium-bodied ale starts with a bit of malty sweetness that transitions into a dry, lightly bitter finish. It is a light and refreshing, but still slightly malty brew perfect for the changing season that is spring.

2013 Arnot-Roberts, Touriga Nacional Rosé, Luchsinger Vineyard, CA 

Named Winemaker of the Year for 2012 by the San Francisco Chronicle, Arnot-Roberts (pronounced AR-NOT; it’s Scottish, not French) has made a delicious rosé from the Touriga Nacional grape, indigenous to Portugal’s Douro Valley. With a nose of strawberry, watermelon and rose water that immediately captivates you and a taste that matches with bright, under-ripe berry tartness, herbal spiciness, and a long finish, this medium-bodied wine is not a sweet rosé – the Arnot-Roberts shines more like a Provencal-style wine with intense complexity and vivid acidity for a mouth-watering, refreshing and thirst quenching quaff that one could enjoy on a warm day on the patio or porch.

The best part is that both of these selections pair well with the same foods enabling you to serve them both at the same cookout or dinner party. They are lovely with steamed mussels, grilled lobster tail, salmon and even some lightly gamy meats such as venison and wild boar, even slightly spicy dishes match well with these refreshing choices.

Spring Break in Colorado

By Steph

Spring has arrived at Vista Verde Ranch, and we’re all enjoying a little break between our winter season and the start of summer.  Although there is still a lot of snow on the ground, there is also a lot of mud starting to creep up around the ranch.  Our version of spring break in Colorado means early morning crust skate skiing and snowbiking, long walks down the driveway (it’s the only place that isn’t muddy or slushy right now), riding the young horses as much as we can in the arena, but also introducing them to strolls down the driveway, and road biking.  Or, if you ask Ben, it might just mean turning on the big screen to March Madness.  Either way, we’re enjoying the sunshine, the birds singing the the sound of slushy snow.

After having so many people request for us to stay open a bit later for spring break vacations, we decided to add another week next winter.  So, for those of you who’s spring break schedules allow, we’ll be open until March 21 in 2015.  Spring break getaways at Vista Verde are a little different than the rest of the winter.  Typically the weather is warmer, the snow is melting and mud boots are handy during the warm afternoons on the walkways and driveway.  But, with that warm weather there are some fun opportunities.  Slush skiing in the afternoon.  Crust skate skiing in the morning.  Snow biking on the crust is the best (I’m sneaking out soon for a quick ride) and there is something super fun about being on a ski with short sleeve shirts.  Give us a call if you’re interested in making a spring break trip to Colorado next year!

Oh, is that a chickadee I hear?  Must mean the sun is coming up and it’s time for me to hop on that bike.

VanessaJackmanPhotography.com – March 2014

Weekend Life….Vista Verde Ranch, Steamboat Springs, Colorado

Over the next few days we throw ourselves into ranch activities. Cross-country skiing on groomed trails, tobogganing (I start off nervously – wearing my yaktrax for extra grip – and by the end am taking a flying leap before hurtling down the slope, face covered in snow and laughing wildly), a horsemanship clinic, backcountry skiing, and a snowy horse ride. My favorite? Backcountry skiing. Before we head out into the wilderness, Steve and Kelli, our wonderful guides, kit us out with skis, boots and poles and ask about our expectations, experience, likes and dislikes. I sense that skiing in a remote forest in deep, untracked powder is as much about the spiritual as the physical. With Steve’s words of wisdom spurring us on “Nobody grooms as good as mother nature” and “We are human beings, not human doings”, we set off with Steve andKelli’s adorable lab, Rosie, leading the way. As Rosie bounds ahead of us – four legs are better than two skis it seems – her black face sprinkled with snow, we are soon deep in a pine forest where the only sounds are the swoosh of our skis (and the rustle of my pants!) and Steve and Kelli’s enthusiastic encouragement. It is magical. And although I fall, feel frustrated(mostly trying to master uphill!) and am exhausted by the end, we both agree that it is the highlight of our stay at Vista Verde Ranch.

Read the full article….

And that’s a wrap- our winter season comes to an end

By Steph

After breakfast this morning, our last guests of the season will check out and head home.  We closed out the winter season with a fabulous final day yesterday.  The 12 guests attending the horsemanship clinic rode hard, laughed a lot and finished strong.  The energy in the indoor arena was wonderful when I went down to watch them ride yesterday.  There were four wranglers in there teaching, each sharing their own perspective on horsemanship and helping give tips to the guests as they tried out complicated maneuvers with their horses.  Nate, Mandy, John and Terry were instructing and helping our guests understand the nuances of how they were using their bodies to send cues to their horses.  It was fun to watch Terry and John relish in their last time teaching at the ranch before they both head off for their next adventures in life.  And it was great to see Mandy and Nate step up to the plate and establish themselves as talented teachers with their own style, preparing to step into their new roles as trainer and head wrangler at Vista Verde.

In the afternoon, Melissa and I walked over to the other side of the river to celebrate the graduation of our first “class” of guest guides.  In our inaugural Guide Training for Guests we had 3 guests try out the course.  It was everything I could have imagined and better.  Steve, Kelli and Brandon put together an amazing, information packed course for these guests to learn how to head out into the backcountry safely.  Anyone who likes to hike, fish, bike, ski, snowshoe, you name it…..should take this course.  Our guests learned about the dangers, reading the land, navigating, first aid and safety, proper dress, shelter building, and the list goes on.  I enjoyed hearing them share their new knowledge and realization that they can’t believe they used to go out without all this information before.   Congrats to the class of 2014, and happy trails.

Today brings a flurry of cleaning, closing down cabins, deep cleaning the kitchen, putting away the skis, and wrapping up the winter season.  Tomorrow we’ll get the key players to sit down and hash out all the ins and outs of this past winter, what worked, what didn’t, what changes do we want to make next year.  Friday night the staff will come over to my house for dinner before heading off to watch KP and Bubba dance in tights (ok, that’s just our joke….they’ll be in their cowboy boots and jeans we hope) at the annual Steamboat Dance Showcase.  Then many of the staff will be loading up their cars or hopping on planes to head off to vacation or their next step in life.  A small group of us stick around in the off-season and start hitting our to-do lists.  Mine’s a mile long, and I’m looking forward to some quiet days of catching up, but also sneaking out to play a bit.  I’ve got my eye on a little mare down in the barn and there’s still some snow out there to enjoy before it melts away completely.

Thank you to all the wonderful people who made this past winter season at Vista Verde so fun.  We loved watching families try out a snow vacation for the first time.  The honeymooners here on a snowy honeymoon were sweet and fun.  The couples rekindling the romance, the singles coming to share their experience with friends, the girlfriend getaways, and all the other ways people found to experience Vista Verde in the winter made this a memorable and action packed season.  Thanks for playing with all of us at the ranch this past winter.

Changing of the guards

By Steph

At the end of every season, we say goodbye to a number of our wonderful staff who came to the ranch for a season (or more) and are now moving on to their next adventure in life.  It’s always a mix of sadness to see them go, but excitement for their next steps in life and continued growth.  And then we start looking forward to the new arrivals to come in time to prepare for our next season.  That is the life cycle of a seasonal business.  There are a few of us who stick around to become what we call “lifers”, but that is only a select few who are in a place in life to be here for the long term.

This spring we say goodbye to some really outstanding members of the Vista Verde team, who have made a commitment of leading one or more of the departments at the ranch.  Closest to my heart is Melissa, who has been my life saver in the office the past 2 years.  She has run the office with grace and ease, overseeing all the reservations, communications with our guests and the many logistics that need to be managed to keep the ranch running smoothly.  She moves on to explore new career options in Austin, TX.  Another one near and dear is Jess, our amazing red-headed, wine-serving, white table cloth slinging dining room manager.   After several years with us at the ranch, Jess will be heading off to further her education with a dual masters degree in teaching and fine arts & creative writing in Spokane, WA.

The kids will be crying when they learn that Carson has finally decided to move onto his next venture.  He started as our ace dishwasher, then became a ranch hand, then managed our kids program before finishing out his time at Vista Verde managing the ranch hand department.  But, the kids always remember and know Carson as “the funny guy” and the one who they vied for his attention.  Carson will be jumping on a motorcycle with John I., and heading to Kodiak Island, AK to hop aboard a fishing boat for the summer.  They were looking for a new experience, and they definitely found one!  That leads us to sending off John I., our ace wrangler with the big smile.  He’s trained our horses, been the farrier for our horses, led the wrangling crew the past 2 seasons, and played a role in the Farwell Mountain Boys band, always with that great big smile on his face.

After spending 4 years in the kitchen, most recently as our Sous Chef, Vinny is packing his bags and getting behind the steering wheel for an epic road trip around the Western US.  Having grown up in Steamboat Springs, he’s excited to be touring and exploring, looking for a new place to call home and further his culinary experience.

Lastly, we send off the ever charismatic and entertaining Terry.  He’s headed to the warmer weather of Texas to dip his toe back into the waters of the show horse world.  Terry’s been an integral part of our team for the past 6 years helping us grow our breeding program, and he has taught so many people the finer points of horsemanship.  And, he’s never been at a loss for words, jokes or stories.  We will miss his laughter and love of horses, but know he’ll be bringing a lot of joy to folks in Texas.

Along with these great folks who have contributed to the “betterness” of Vista Verde in so many ways, we say goodbye to some of the great people who made Vista Verde their home recently.  Maureen, Heidi, Annie, Maddie, BMac, and Steve J.  It’s always a blast sharing this place with new people, watching them grow over the course of the seasons and then sending them off with our best wishes for new adventures.

Although sad to say goodbye, all of us here embrace the excitement and enthusiasm the new managers bring to the place.  Malori has been training all winter to step into Melissa’s role in the front office.  Bubba will be handling the fine china and taking over managing the dining room crew.  Brandon will be picking up the reigns to lead the ranch hand crew (don’t worry, he’ll still be guiding fishing trips this summer!), and Nathan and Mandy will be teaming up to oversee the horse program.  These folks have all put in their time learning the ropes, understanding our business and are now ready to step up in their responsibilities.  We’re revamping our clinics, adding new ones, making plans for the next breeding season and lining up the young horses to get a great base of training this summer so they can start moving into the riding herd soon.  Pretty soon some of these young horses who our guests enjoyed as foals will be steady trail steeds, ready to take you out into the mountains of Colorado.

With our heartfelt thanks for their contributions to the ranch we send off these folks to leave their mark in other places, and can’t wait to hear the tales of their new lives in the real world.  And we look forward to the excitement, new ideas and energy that our incoming managers bring to their roles for the upcoming summer dude ranch season.  Let’s Ride!