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 Hour Well Spent

By Malori 

As I grudgingly dragged myself out of bed this morning and stumbled to the coffee pot at 6:00 am – that extra hour of sleep I lost felt like an eternity. However, once I gulped one cup of coffee down, the world seemed a little less harsh and I thought about the excitement the words “spring forward” denote.

We’re just a few months away from paddle boarding on the lake, hiking through wild flowers, and riding on trails no longer blanketed by snow. Our spring breakers are here this week, the temperatures are starting to warm up, and there’s a new anticipation in the air. An extra hour of daylight means one more hour to play outside – just enough time after work for a run on the tubing hill, a snowshoe to Hinman Lake, or maybe a skate ski. I guess an hour lost is a fair exchange for one more hour in the sun – now get outside and soak up that sun!

Story Ideas

A co-op blog by Steph and Malori

Every now and then we’ll brainstorm some fun story ideas to send along to our media partners.  It’s not that we expect them to pick up that exact story, but it can sometimes get a writer’s creative juices flowing.  Malori has been working on some fun ones this winter, and for grins I figured I’d share them with those of you who follow the Vista Verde story.

I love this first one.  It is a true story (Doug, you know we’re writing about you!) and it happens over an over each winter!

The Unlikely Winter Fan – 

So you think you hate winter? Are you sure?

It happened again. Another one of our guests confessed to being a lover of snow, cold and everything winter. He told us: when my wife suggested a winter vacation at a ranch – I told her that sounded like a miserable excuse for a vacation. But after the first morning of back-country skiing, followed by an afternoon horse clinic, he told us, “That was the best day of my life!” By day three he was planning his family’s return trip.  Why? Because he was unexpectedly introduced to a whole new world of experiences, adventure, challenges, and rewards he never even knew existed. So, how many people have been pleasantly surprised by their vacations? Perhaps a story about unlikely vacation fans could be a fun twist for readers.

Disconnect to Reconnect- 

Remembering the joy of a simple life

Ever have the desire to ditch the city, technology and the fast-paced life? How do you disconnect, but also reconnect with the stuff that really matters? Vista Verde guests end up disconnecting and reconnecting at the same time, thanks to a unique blend of personalized luxury and beautiful simplicity. For the luxury, envision deluxe mountain cabins, fluffy down comforters, a 1:1 staff to guest ratio, private hot tubs and an endless flow of wine. As for simplicity, there’s plenty of space each day to simply be present. Decisions are wonderfully rewarding:  Horseback riding or cooking class? Homemade butternut squash ravioli or bison short ribs with sweet potato gnocchi?  Engage in meaningful conversation with your spouse or read a book in while looking out over the pristine meadows?  Guests slow down and enjoy the moment.

As someone who spends her life squeezing in fitness and multi-tasking my life away, this one made me laugh:

The All-Inclusive Vacation Workout-

Be adventurous and get in shape – on a Vista Verde Ranch vacation

Vista Verde Ranch, located just outside of Steamboat Springs, CO, is an all-inclusive luxury resort. The vacation package includes lodging in a cozy log cabin, numerous activities, three gourmet meals a day, wine and micro brews, and an opportunity for the best full-body workout you can get while on vacation.

Day 1: Horseback Riding Day 1: Horseback Riding
Targeted Muscles: abs and legs Targeted Muscles: abs and legs
Day 2: Rock Climbing Day 2: Snowshoeing
Targeted Muscles: arms, chest, back, legs, abs Targeted Muscles: legs, glutes, abs
Day 3: Hiking Day 3: Back Country Skiing
Targeted Muscles: legs, glutes Targeted Muscles: legs, glutes, abs, arms
Day 4: Yoga Day 4: Yoga
Targeted Muscles: Full body, core focus Targeted Muscles: Full body, core focus
Day 5: Mountain Biking Day 5: Snow Biking
Targeted Muscles: legs, glutes, abs, upper body Targeted Muscles: legs, glutes, abs, upper body
Day 6: Paddle Boarding Day 6: Skate Skiing
Targeted Muscles: Full body, core focus Targeted Muscles: Full body, core focus
Day 7: Kayaking Day 7: Massage & Hot Tub
Targeted Muscles: chest, arms, shoulders, back Targeted Muscles: Rest and rejuvenate all your muscles!

Each day, refuel your body breakfast, lunch and dinner with Chef Cholly’s healthy gourmet options like an arugula, tomato and feta cheese omelet, lemon and almond kale salad, or fresh grilled salmon.  You come back from vacation recharged, refreshed, fitter and healthier – what a concept! 

This one was an spin-off from a kids program blog post I did last summer about my kids being filthy, sobbing messes at the end of each day here at the ranch..

A Playground without Fences-

Running wild and free in the Rocky Mountains

A filthy, sobbing child is the kind of child we can all hope for at the end of a good day.  Why? You may have seen it before: dirty tear streaks that leave tracks like war paint – evidence of a rewarding day spent playing, running, and jumping in the great outdoors. After a full day of horseback riding, panning for gold, and a low ropes course at Vista Verde, you will end up with a kid who is so exhausted she can barely make it through dinner.  But, what a great replacement for fenced yards, sanitized playrooms and recirculated air.  The kid’s program at Vista Verde will leave your child begging to be left behind with the kid’s supervisors, horses, and mountains they have come to love. Hey, you may be begging to be left behind too after breath-taking hikes, adventurous horseback rides, and a daily timeout from the kids.

A Vacation from Vacation

By Malori

As March approaches, so does the end to another winter season. For staff at Vista Verde, this means we start thinking about our own vacation time. The ranch closes for a few months while the snow turns into a sloppy, muddy mess – giving us the chance to pick our own adventure.

Beka and Megan are going to hike accross Spain on the Camino de Santiago. Nate and Brandon are getting EMT Certified. John and Carson are planning a cross country motorcycle trip to Alaska. Emily is taking a road trip of national parks and Cori is going on a mission trip to Brazil. Chef John T. is fishing, fishing, and more fishing. He’s going to cast a line in Miami, Saint Augustine, Charleston, Eugene, and northern California. Andrew is running a marathon and Dan, Shannan, and I are heading to Thailand for three weeks – that’s just to name a few trips people are going on! 

Two common traits among many of the staff here are a spirit of adventure and a heart for travel – the perfect combination for an eventful vacation!

Special offering: Guide Training

By Steph

Each season our guides go through an in-depth guide training to prepare for the season.  This training has been developed over the past 10 or so years to cover all aspects of taking guests out into the back country safely.  From understanding the dangers of the terrain to proper trip preparation, first aid to survival skills, this training will prepare anyone to head out safely into the back country.

Now, for the first time ever, we are offering this same training to our guests.  So, if you’ve ever felt like you’d like to feel a little more confident heading out on a hike or snow shoeing up a mountain, this training is for you!

Your days will be spent learning, practicing and training.  Your evenings will be spent enjoying a nice meal followed by the peace and quiet of the ranch as you reflect on all your learned that day.

March 16-20, 2014


The training is limited to 6 guests, so grab your spot quickly if interested!

Contact us at 800-526-7433 with any questions, or to make a reservation.

Where are they now?

By Steph

A while back I asked the question “Where are you now?” to our Vista Verde Ranch Alumni.  It was wonderful to hear back from so many former staff.  We’ve lost touch with a lot of folks, but are trying to get a group together to keep in touch better in the future.  So, if you’ve wondered where life has taken some of our great staff, read on.

If you are a former VVR staff and want to keep in touch with others, please leave a comment as to what you’re up to and I’ll add you to the Vista Verde Ranch Alumni list.

Erin Fellows- I am back in Austin, Tx and now the General Manager of a Bakery that just opened 2 months ago. I worked for a privately owned ice cream company called Amy’s Ice Creams for 5 years and last year they offered me the position as the General Manager of Baked by Amy’s. I credit Vista Verde so much for where I am today! Rob gave me a chance to learn in a real kitchen and I fell in love with a career I will enjoy for the rest of my life.

Lindsey Conklin- I saw your post on facebook! Thought I’d respond as I’d love to see what everyone’s been up to! I miss the Ranch, you, Ben, Melissa, and Charlie!!!! How are things going?  For now I’m living in New York City, writing for a blog called “The Gloss,” possibly going to grad school in the fall. (although a piece of me hates to leave NYC–I’ve fallen in love with this city!) Hope everyone’s doing well, would love to come back and visit at some point!

Brittany Haile- That’s a great idea! I just moved to DC as you know and am doing special events with the American Heart Association

Lasha Halsey- I live in Fort Collins now. I am a yoga instructor at Raintree Athletic Club and also Om Ananda Yoga Studio. VVR is where I started teaching yoga, unproffesionally of course, with my fellow co-workers. But it’s where my teaching career started! I am a also a part-time nanny/household mananger for a wonderful family here with 2 kids; a 9 year old and 12 year old.  I spend a lot of time with other VVR folks here: JJ Fountain, AJ Fountain, Jamie Porter and Rob Panos. We have a wonderful little community here because of the friendships built while at the ranch. I love Fort Collins but also miss the ranch and plan to visit soon! Hope all is well. Sending my love!

Jenn Brouder- Great idea for the blog! Can’t wait to see where everyone is 🙂 I’m in my final semester at Elon University about to graduate with a degree in Human Services. I’d really love to pursue outdoor adventure therapy or recreation therapy! I send my love to everyone out there!

Emily Taylor- That is such a cool idea! I’m at Vanderbilt Law School- Nashville, TN- in my second semester, with an internship lined up for part of the summer at a small firm just north of Nashville. And, obviously, I’m constantly missing Colorado, looking for a way to get back as soon as possible! The pictures of the ranch all over my apartment don’t help me concentrate on my homework 🙂 Miss you!

Anita Olson- Okay I will tell you about me.  On Feb 1 I will be taking over as the Director of Keep Loup Basin Beautiful.  We are a non-profit organization that promotes waste reduction, recycling, litter prevention and beautification for several counties in central Nebraska.  I’m actually going to be working sometimes with your buddy Sarah Switzer.  However we still haven’t met in person even though we were supposed about three different times.  I live in Ericson with my mom (you don’t have to put that detail) and Pinky and Chico.  That’s about it.  I update the Keep Loup Basin Beautiful facebook page if you want to see what kinds of things we do.  How are things at Vista Verde?  I got to see Johanna, Beka and Terry at the stock show.  That was fun and it sounds like things are going really well.  Take care!

Rob Citto- My current job is Resident chef of a cooking school in Tallahassee Florida. I have two CBS appearances a month cooking on live TV. I am also writing a Food and Wine blog for the Tallahassee democrat. www.tallahassee.com/chefrob. I miss the ranch and Steamboat Springs. Keep in touch.

Sallie Hallmark-  I saw the “where are they now” page and thought I would just let you know. I am nowhere exciting in another country like several of my counterparts, lol, but I am back in Birmingham and am now the Director of Sales for the Aloft Birmingham Soho Square. (www.aloftbirminghamsohosquare.com). I miss y’all all the time, but it is an awesome job and it is great being back close to family and friends.

Liz Tripodi- Nate and I live in the Washington, D.C. area where I work as an attorney litigating mergers and acquisitions of public companies and Nate runs his whitewater kayak school, Potomac River Outfitters.  I am running a good bit and active with the DC Road Runners.  Nate remains very active in the paddling community teaching and volunteering with Team River Runner, an organization that helps wounded veterans.  We still keep in touch with Chol, and were fortunate enough to have him on our Grand Canyon trip a couple of years ago – 21 days of pure river bliss! We miss the Colorado winters (I miss the summers too) and being able to ski right out of our front door.  We hope to make it back out to Steamboat one of these days! Give my best to everyone!

Evan J. Younger- I’m responding to your post asking where people are.  I’m in Boston, MA working in corporate real estate for CBRE. I hope all is well with you and your family.

Evan Forsythe- Greetings from Tucson AZ!  I’m in my second year of a phD program at the University of Arizona. I study and research Genetics and Evolutionary Biology in plants (not fish?!?). Sending my love to the ranch!

Kelly Luce- Hey, Steph! Great idea. I’m in Austin, TX right now, doing a writing fellowship at UT. My first book came out in October. http://kellyluce.com/Kelly Luce | Author of Three Scenarios in Which Hana Sasaki Grows a Tail

Rucker Staggers- Hey Steph! After the ranch I drove to Auburn, Alabama and worked at a local auto shop before starting med school. I just finished my first semester as a first year medical student at UAB in Alabama. I am pretty sure I am the only one here who has driven a tractor or worn a cowboy hat

Grace Berryman- Hey Steph! Right now I’m in the national tour of The Phantom of the Opera understudying the role of Christine! Some of the guests Reid and I keep in touch with are coming to see the show in their respective cities! So fun to stay connected with them all as I travel the country!

Teresa Cristina- Yoooo! I’m in Sayulita, Mexico teaching first and second graders at a non-profit bilingual school with an ecological focus. Also, I’m trying to learn (rather unsuccessfully) to surf. Here’s my blog https://twonunsontherun.wordpress.com and the school website in case anyone wants to come volunteer and keep me companyhttp://www.colegiocostaverde.com/Joomla/ . I miss you ranchers somethin fierce!!! Hugs for the girls, please!

Bekah Chadwick- Rusty and I are in Rome, GA where he works as the Operations Manager at WinShape Wilderness. Rusty is also working on his Master’s in Management & Leadership. I was working for the WinShape Foundation but am now staying at home raising our 18 month old, Dawson.

Kelsey Detzner- I am in Denver, nannying and working on my MA in counseling ministries, but the end is in sight! One more semester + one outstanding summer class, and then job searching, possibly with a trip to the west coast after graduation!

Chelsea Kaufman- Hey Steph, great idea! I’m living in Carmel, IN and working in Sales as an Engineering Recruiter. I’m eager to read this blog and see where life has taken everyone so far. Hope all is well!

Nathan McClure- Cool idea Steph! I live in Augusta, GA and am finishing my 2nd year of med school. I also recently got married. Hope all is well at the ranch!

Dana Gingerich- Man, mine sounds boring compared to all of these!  I’m living in Arthur IL with my husband on our grain farm and I work at an agricultural software company doing grain customer support.

Ashley Gillespie- You know our story. Living in Clarkesville GA. Jonathon is the chef at Waterfall Country Club. I am a stay at home mama to our boys, Dylan – 4 and Wyatt – 15 months and do taxidermy when I have time.

Jess Decker- Hey Steph, I’m back in Tiger GA working in Gainesville for Kenworth as a mechanic. What I find interesting is how small this world really is. I’m not sure if Ashley and I know each other, but we live 20 mins apart.

Amber Ortiz- Proud Alum from over 10 years ago! Robert and I are no longer married but did have two amazing children together. Reid (whom I was pregnant with my last summer working there- morning sickness and puking while riding with guests is not fun but Jonathan Gillespie and Chol McGlynn let me eat ice cream whenever I wanted!) is turning 10 in March. Reyata will be 5 in June. Both Robert and I live in Iowa. He’s an Ag Teacher and I work at Coe College. Miss VVR and all my fellow Alums!

Janelle Erickson- Hi Steph and everyone! I just moved back to MN after a loooong time away. Most recently I was in Dubai for four years working as a Copywriter at the TBWA and Leo Burnett ad agencies. Just started at a new-ish agency in MN called Solve. They have some pretty cool clients. So keep an eye out for any Organic Valley, True Value or Bentley advertising, because I probably had a hand in creating them.

Casie Marie Barker- Hey Steph…life after the ranch actually brought me back to Carmel, IN to nanny for Peggy and Jerry’s son’s kids! What a small world! Hope to visit soon!

Alex Mabey- Heyyyyyy everyone! I’m living in WA right now, finishing school, planning a summer winery music tour on the east of the mountains, and finishing my third CD (coming out in April)!! Last summer I coordinated and lead wilderness trips for youth in Alaska and here’s my latest music video, shot in right Homer!http://vimeo.com/72533895 Looking forward to life after college and thankful to have had the break I did to go to cool places like VVR  So cool hearing what everyone is up to! xoxox
‘Cry For The Bird’ by Alex Mabey

Dan Croake- Hi Steph! Sang and taught for a few years after I left. Then decided I wanted to take care of people with voice problems and got my clinical degree in voice pathology. Stayed on to get my PhD at the University of Kentucky. Been an exciting year having some of my research published. Should be Dr. Croake in about 9 months.

Grahm Fulton- It’s fun to read what everyone is up to. Such a unique group of people! And we all have VVR in common! After leaving el rancho I pursued the grass fed cattle side of ranching. Interned for a summer in Nebraska at the Rusty Star (sorry Anita Olson, CO is where it’s at.) This past summer was up in MT at the J Bar L (if you’re in need of some tasty grass fed beef this is hands down the place to get it from, plus no minimum order!) Interned for a while back in CO at the Chico Basin Ranch. But for now hanging up the spurs and attempting to use my fine woodworking degree back in Denver.

Roxy Kestner- Steph! This is the coolest idea! One of the (many) best things about working at VVR…I always have something interesting to talk about with random people. And they always think I must have lived the coolest life ever. And they are totally right!!

Dorit Iacobsohn- Steph, I love this idea! Very cool to see where everyone landed. I got my Masters in Social Work from UCLA and I’m now working on Hollywood at a social service organization that serves homeless individuals with mental illness & medical disabilities. I think about VVR all the time, it’s nice to keep connected

Lindsey Thorsen- Married and living in my home town of Muskegon MI. Working as a marketing manager for ServiceMaster.

Matt Moore-  I just finished looking at a bunch of old VVR pictures with three of my four kids! I am a professional Farrier (horseshoer) with my own business. I shoe mostly Western Pleasure Quarter horses and Paints. I shoe in Ohio, Mich., Texas, and Florida during the winter. I do have one barn full of polo ponies which are not always fun to shoe but is a great game to watch!

Snowshoe Magazine – February 2014

Romantic North American Getaways for Snowshoers

Written by Roger Lohr, XCSkiResorts.com
Published on 

Snowshoeing and cross-country (XC) skiing are some of the most romantic forms of recreation and Valentine’s Day is coming. So get away with your loved one(s) to a winter wonderland of memories for some outdoor recreation and pampering that you deserve.

The XCSkiResorts.com Top 10 features favorite romantic resorts across North America.

Read more to see Vista Verde’s inclusion in the story.

Chef’s Corner: “Rye-sotto” with Glazed Root Vegetables

“Rye-sotto” with Glazed Root Vegetables

Ingredients (for the “rye-sotto”):   

      1 yellow onion, peeled and diced

      4 cloves garlic minced

      4 tablespoons olive oil

      4 cups rye berries

      2 quarts vegetable stock

      Salt and pepper to taste

      3 ounces chevre


      This “rye-sotto” is obviously a play on words.  The technique used to make this dish is more like making a Pilaf than making a true risotto. Rye Berries will not release starch like Arborio or Carnaroli rice, and therefore the slow cooking while stirring constantly method is unnecessary here. I simply simmer the rye berries until tender and make it creamy by folding in the goat cheese.

1. Start to simmer the vegetable stock; meanwhile in a heavy-bottomed pot sauté the onion and garlic in the olive oil on medium heat until soft and translucent. Add the rye berries and stir to coat with the oil and to toast slightly; you do not want any color on the onions or garlic.

2. Add the vegetable stock to the rye berries, cover with a tight fitting lid or with foil, and simmer until the berries are tender, about one hour. Season with salt and pepper and set aside until ready to use.

Glazed Root Vegetables


     1 pound of carrots, peeled and cut into obliques

      1 pound of parsnips, peeled and cut into obliques

      1 pound of baby turnips, peeled and cut into obliques

      1 pound of beets, peeled and diced (keep beets separate)

      water to cover vegetables

      2 tablespoons of sugar

      2 bay leaves

      10 peppercorns

      4 springs of fresh thyme

      ¼ teaspoon salt


     If the beets are red beets, you will want to keep them separate from the other vegetables; otherwise they will stain them red (I also recommend latex/vinyl gloves to keep your hands from staining as well!)

1. In a large sauté pan add the vegetables and other ingredients and cover all with water about ¼ inch above the vegetables and set on medium heat to begin a simmer (do the beets in a separate pan).

2. Keep a close eye on the vegetables, and when they are just tender remove them from the liquid. Strain the liquid to remove the bay leaves, thyme, and peppercorns. Return the liquid to the stove and reduce until the liquid is almost evaporated. Toss the root vegetables in the pan to “glaze” them. Keep warm until ready to use.

Red Wine Reduction


      1 shallot, minced

      2 cloves garlic, minced

      2 tablespoons olive oil

      4 bunches thyme

      1 bay leaf

      1 750ml bottle red wine (cabernet, merlot, syrah)

      2 tablespoons honey

      salt and pepper to taste


      You will want to use a good bottle of wine for this; a sub-par wine will be sub-par in the sauce.

1. In a small sauce pan, heat the olive oil on medium low and sauté the shallot and garlic lightly. Add the red wine and the herbs and adjust to a low simmer until reduced by about half.

2. Strain the reduction and return to the pot. Add the honey and continue to reduce to a sauce consistency. Season to taste, and taste often to ensure the correct level of reduction; the sauce should be flavorful without being harsh. The honey softens the wine without too much sweetness and gives a nice sheen and color to the final sauce.

To Finish:

      The timing of this dish depends on the rye berries; once they are cooking begin the vegetables and red wine reduction as they can simmer while the berries cook and the dish can be finished once the berries are done. Toss the goat cheese in with the rye berries at the last minute and taste for seasoning before serving.

      Place the “rye-sotto” in a line down the near-center of the plate, then spoon the root vegetables at an askew angle, and drizzle the red wine reduction across the top. Enjoy.


Ranchseeker.com – January 2014

A Dude Ranch Valentine

January 28, 2014

For many couples, February 14th is a special day set aside to rekindle the spark of romance that flames a relationship. Whether a new couple, or long time soul mates, a romantic get away at a dude ranch can without a doubt be a memorable experience whereby you ignite not only campfire flames, but a passion for the life you share together.

There are several things to consider when selecting which dude ranch would be your perfect, romantic winter destination. With an abundance of options for accommodation styles, activity levels and particular interests you may have as a couple, you will need to do some research when planning.  Read more….

Confession: I might like winter

By Malori

Before I came to work at Vista Verde, I cringed at the mere thought of winter. The most common response I receive when I say that is, “Um, aren’t you from Colorado?” Yes. I am a Colorado native and I hate winter. Well, used to hate winter. Thanks to VVR, I may actually be warming up to winter – just a little.

I guess in some ways you can blame my distaste for winter on my gene pool. I generally blame all my “glitches” on my gene pool. My mom is a long time hater of wind, snow, ice and everything cold. Naturally, like her, I got cold easily which makes being out in the cold an unpleasant and usually brief experience. I went downhill skiing at least twice a year when I was younger, but I just never could get past the icy chill the trips up the lift left me with.

It wasn’t until I was introduced to back country skiing, snowshoeing, snow biking, and skate skiing that I decided: maybe winter isn’t so bad after all. All those activities actually keep me warm enough to stay outside, and in doing that, have open my eyes to how beautiful and fun winter is! Navigating through a silent snow covered forest is a magical experience – and riding a bike on snow, who would have thought!? Now, I find myself looking forward to the change of seasons and even feel a tinge of excitement when I see those snowflakes falling. I guess all I can say is, if you think you hate winter, give it another chance, coming from the CO girl who used to hate winter.

XC Ski Resorts – January 2014

Glide Your Way to Romance – Getaways for XC Skiers or Snowshoers!

By Roger Lohr

It has been said that cross country skiing and snowshoeing are some of the most romantic forms of recreation and Valentine’s Day is coming. So get away with your loved one to a winter wonderland of memories for some outdoor recreation and pampering that you deserve. The XCSkiResorts.com Top 10 features favorite romantic XC ski resorts across North America (in alphabetical order).  Read on….

Equitrekking – January 2014

Top Dude Ranches for Corporate Retreats & Team Building

January 11, 2014

Dude ranches are a great setting for corporate retreats, meetings and team building, whether you’re a small business, group of executives or larger corporation. Different ranches focus on varied activities to help colleagues excel as leaders and gel as workmates, ranging from the equestrian–– team penning, horseback riding, horse communication sessions and cattle drives–– to non-horsey outdoor adventures–– ropes courses, fishing, yoga, and survival skills.  Read more at Equitrekking.com.



Local’s Day at Vista Verde

By Steph

On Saturday, January 11 we will be welcoming into the ranch our local friends from the Steamboat Springs area for a day of fun at the ranch.  We’re hoping to get a good crowd to come out and play our trails, indulge in some great food and enjoy the ranch for the day.

The trails will be groomed for skiing, the snowshoe trails packed, and the sleigh ready for sleigh rides.  The chefs will have a mouth-watering lunch waiting in the Lodge for hungry skiers.  Brock from Orange Peel Bikes will have snow bikes for folks to try out.  Devyn (and maybe others?) will be singing and playing music in the Great room after lunch.

If you are in the area, come on over and join us for a fun day at Vista Verde!  $45/adult and $25/child 12 & under.  Reservations are required so please call 970-879-3858 or email reservations@vistaverde.com to book your spot.

Chef’s Corner: Kale Salad

Yep, kale is all the rage right now.  It’s one of the most talked about super foods, and everywhere you turn someone is trying to make it appeal to the masses one way or another.    Although kale does not do it for everyone, this salad has a really good shot at turning even the biggest critic into a mild fan.  After being asked for the recipe almost daily by our winter holiday guests, Chef Cholly figured it might be time to make the recipe a bit more publicly accessible.  Kale is one of the “it foods” these days because there are so many benefits to eating kale, so we hope you’ll try this easy recipe and enjoy it!

Kale Salad (Serves 4)


2 Bunches of Lacinata Kale, stemmed & thinly shredded

1 Gala Apple, thinly sliced

½ cup toasted and salted whole almonds

½ cup grated parmesan

4 ounces Fresh Lemon Juice

12 ounces pure olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste



  1. Place all ingredients in a large bowl, toss, season to taste, toss again, refrigerate until ready to use.

You’re in good hands at Vista Verde

By Malori 

I may be boasting a little, but I work with some pretty incredible people at Vista Verde. This season particularly, the staff stands out in reference to their first aid and emergency response qualifications. During winter orientation, we created a list for everyone to add their first aid training and certifications – that list is pretty impressive! Two of our staff members are Wilderness First Aid (WFA) Certified, eight are Wilderness Advance First Aid (WAFA) Certified, three are Wilderness First Responders (WFR), and we have one certified EMT.  Not to mention the 16 others who are CPR/First Aid Certified. That’s a lot of people with a lot of knowledge!

A WFR goes through 80 hours of intensive classroom and outdoor training to prepare them for emergency situations where 911 is not an option. WAFA requires 40 hours and WFA requires 16-20. That means collectively we have over 800 hours of training! As you can see from the list, almost every department has one person with advanced training. Although no one wants to be in an emergency situation, it’s encouraging to know you would be in the right hands if the circumstance did occur!

Ben Martin Wilderness First Responder (WFR) General Manager
Steve King Wilderness First Responder (WFR) Nordic/Adventure Center Manager
Dan Ford EMT , NREMT Culinary Clean-up
Shannon Balzer Wilderness First Responder (WFR) Guide
Heidi Waldbart Wilderness First Responder (WFR) Server
Kelli King Wilderness Advance First Aid (WAFA) Nordic/Adventure Center Manager
Brandon Martin Wilderness Advance First Aid (WAFA) Fly Fishing Manager, Guide
Steven “Bubba” Veteto Wilderness Advance First Aid (WAFA) Server, Fly Fishing Guide
Cholly McGlynn Wilderness Advance First Aid (WAFA) Executive Chef
John Thompson Wilderness Advance First Aid (WAFA) Chef de Cuisine
John Isder Wilderness Advance First Aid (WAFA) Head Wrangler
Annie Bolonigo Wilderness Advance First Aid (WAFA) Assistant Horse Trainer
Nathan Margason Wilderness Advance First Aid (WAFA) Guide
Beka Adam Wilderness First Aid (WFA) Human Resources & Activities Coordinator
Carson Reese Wilderness First Aid (WFA) Head Ranch Hand


Winter Specials

By Steph

The holiday whirlwind is coming to an end, and we are starting to peek into the New Year with anticipation of all that is ahead of us in 2014.  We kick off the year with the transition to adult-only times at the ranch.  Starting January 4 and continuing until just after Valentine’s Day, the ranch switches over to a playground for just adults.  This time is historically a mix of couples seeking romantic getaways, friends gathering up for an adventurous winter vacation and singles coming to enjoy the camaraderie of others and the comfort of a small and intimate setting.

During our adult-only vacation period, the annual Winter Carnival comes to Steamboat Springs.  To celebrate this event we are offering a special for Vista Verde guests to experience the long-standing Steamboat tradition of the Winter Carnival.  Join us at the ranch from Feb 5-8, 2014 and you can extend your stay a day.  We will set you up with a discounted hotel room for Saturday night right in Steamboat Springs.  This allows you to watch the famous street events on Saturday, the night show that evening and then more festivities on Sunday morning in charming Steamboat Springs. Included in your stay is a Winter Carnival admission button.

Shortly after the Winter Carnival will be Valentine’s Day.  This is a great time to whisk away your sweetheart to celebrate in a romantic winter wonderland. If you’d like to really woo your love we’ll start your Valentine’s Day off with breakfast in bed, followed by a day of as much outside activity as you desire. In the afternoon we’ll treat you to a private sleigh ride complete with hot toddies to keep you toasty warm. On Valentine’s Day evening the chefs will delight your taste buds with their popular aphrodisiac dinner. The rest is up to you to enjoy the serene setting, the cozy cabin and the bubbling hot tub with views of snow covered meadows and mountains.

Right after Valentine’s Day we switch back to family times at the ranch.  Whether it’s winter vacation veterans or those trying out snow for the first time, we specialize in fun in the snow!  And kids specialize in having more fun in snow than a puppy.  So, this year break away from the beach and hit the snow at Vista Verde. For those booking a 7-night family vacation between February 22-March 8, mom and dad will get a complementary massage.  An engaging kids program and a massage for mom and dad……it doesn’t get much more relaxing to be a parent on vacation than that!

Come experience Colorado in the winter at Vista Verde Ranch!  The setting is magical, the adventures await and the staff is ready to serve you with genuine Western hospitality.  Call us at 800-526-7433 to check availability.

Hey, that’s a lot of hay!

By Steph

One of the best gifts of ranching in the Steamboat Springs area is the abundant and rich grass that fills our valley floors each summer.  Because of this amazing feature of the area, most ranchers do not need to feed their cattle or horses during the summer as they get more than enough nutrition from the grass.  As the snow covers the valley and the mountains around the ranch, the horses start to wonder where did all that lush grass go?  And, where is my dinner?

Around the middle of August we start seeing the hay truck rolling up the driveway several times a day.  One of our local friends has fields and fields of grass that he watches and cares for until it’s just the right time to cut it each year.  As he cuts those hundreds of acres of grass hay, he starts delivering them to us one load at a time.  With a mix of big round bales, large square bales and smaller bales that can be tossed by a strong wrangler, we slowly accumulate all the hay that we’ll need for the winter months.

During the snowy winter months, we’ll feed the horses with the feed sleigh, just like the old timer ranchers did back when Vista Verde was homesteaded as a hay and cattle operation.  Each day the wranglers load up the sleigh with hay, hitch up the team and head out right around lunch time to spread cheer and joy throughout the winter pasture.  The horses know exactly what time feed-time is and start lining up at the gate about 11am.

As the snow starts to get melty in the late-spring, we switch over to feeding the large round bales with the tractor.  The amount we feed gets lower and lower as fresh, spring grass starts peeking through.  And, then it’s back to fields of green, lush grass and horses grazing each day in the pastures.  There’s a reason it’s called Vista Verde!

So, the question is, can you guess how many tons of hay we have to buy each year to sustain our herd of roughly 100 horses through the winter?  Submit your guess between now and Christmas.  The closest guess will get a little prize sent their way!

The Countdown

By Steph

The Christmas carols are playing, the servers and housekeepers are transforming the Great room for the holidays, the sleigh has been taken for a test ride, and Elizabeth has finished her amazing gingerbread village.  The new staff are busy learning the ins and outs of their jobs while the returning staff are tidying up the place, getting the ski trails ready, the horses prepped and the tubes blown up for some serious sledding.  With 4 days left until we open for the winter season, we are excited and ready to greet guests on Saturday afternoon!

In the midst of all this hubbub, we welcomed into the ranch family Eamon McGlynn this past weekend.  Alaya and Cholly are doing well and keeping all of us away from their new little boy.  We’re all trying to be respectful of their space right now, but are all itching to meet little Eamon.  The good thing about having a dude ranch baby is there is never a shortage of babysitters and baby holders.

In the coming days, we’ll be putting the final touches on the ranch and getting all our logistics in place to open up on Saturday.  Then, we’re off to the races for the holiday season.  We’ll be singing carols around the fireplace in the Great room, taking sleigh rides in fresh snow, skiing to forests of little Christmas trees, dancing our way into the New Year, and just enjoying the holiday season with laughter, cheer and grand adventures.  After the holidays, we’ll switch over to adult only stays, so things will quiet down a bit.  From early January until mid-February we’ll have guests coming to enjoy a winter vacation with the company of other adults.  Some make it a romantic getaway, some come for a quiet time by themselves, some grab the girlfriends for a girls getaway, and the reasons keep coming for why people come to Vista Verde for a winter getaway in the mountains.  We love to play in the snow, so we are looking forward to making some great memories with our guests this winter!

Equitrekking- December 2013

Four Great Vacations for Winter Horseback Riding in the Snow

December 6, 2013

It’s a dream for many… bounding through the snow on a horseback. While some ranches close during the winter, others are open for winter activities and guests can enjoy horseback riding through the snow. We’ve picked out four ranches in Montana and Colorado where you can horseback ride this winter.

Many dude ranches and guest ranches that offer horseback riding also offer other winter snow activities, including cross country skiing, ice skating, horse drawn sleigh rides and have downhill skiing nearby. Check out the below photos and get inspired to get outdoors in the crisp winter air for a horse ride.

#1 The Resort at Paws Up in Montana

The Resort at Paws Up is located just east of Missoula, Montana on a sprawling 37,000-acre working cattle ranch. This is a great destination for horseback riding in the snow for travelers who want to combine the great outdoors with gourmet food and luxury. This luxury guest ranch resort is complete with two restaurants, one of which was recently named “one of the 100 best wine restaurants” by Wine Enthusiast Magazine. Other winter fun activities include dog sledding, snowmobiling, cross-country skiing and nearby downhill skiing and snowboarding.
#2 Bar W Guest Ranch in Montana

Bar W Guest Ranch is a year-round ranch located in the resort area of Whitefish, home to the Whitefish Mountain Ski Resort. Guests can saddle up to ride horses in the snow and also enjoy sleigh ride dinners,  snow shoeing, ice skating, cross country skiing, snowmobiling, dog sledding and ice fishing. The ranch also square dances for those still looking to move after being outside all day and a hot tub for those who would rather soak after a day on the trails.

#3 The Home Ranch in Colorado

The Home Ranch in Clark, Colorado is a good fit for riders looking to combine winter riding with a luxury ranch vacation. This Relais & Chateaux dude ranch offers fine cuisine by executive chef Clyde Nelson and individual cabins decorated with antiques, plush down comforters, and wood-burning stoves. The ranch also runs daily shuttles to the slopes at Steamboat Ski Area for ski enthusiasts– packed lunch included– and offers backcountry skiing in the nearby Medicine Bow – Routt National Forest.
#4 Vista Verde Ranch in Colorado

Another Colorado option for those who want to be pampered, as well as play in the great outdoors is Vista Verde Ranch. This luxury ranch vacation destination in Steamboat Springs offers horseback riding for the whole family. Other winter activities include cross country skiing, snowshoeing, sleigh rides, wine tasting and cooking classes, yoga, snow biking and sledding. For those who want to focus on horseback riding, but also want time indoors, Vista Verde Ranch has a full-size heated Indoor riding arena.
Learn more about more great ranches for winter vacations in the Equitrekking Vacation Guide, an online guidebook focused on dude ranches, guest ranches and horseback riding vacations.

What’s a Trout to do?

By Brandon

It’s late November now at Vista Verde Ranch.  As I gaze through the window of the fly shop out across the open pasture snow is falling slowly…almost hypnotically.  The occasional whinny of a horse stands out in stark contrast to the otherwise still and silent ranch-scape.  While the winter-white scenery and tranquility never seem to lose their luster, these can be cold and lonely times for a fishing guide.  Okay, I’m being a bit melodramatic here, but even though I will soon be joyfully touring the backcountry on skis with our beloved winter guests, I find it hard to say goodbye to the warm summer days spent standing in the cool waters of the Elk River with guests casting to shy cutthroat trout.  So, here’s the segue into my intended topic…  As the snow grows deeper and temperatures fall and ice begins to form along the edges of the river, where do the trout go?  What do they eat?  Can they still be fooled with a fly?  If you were hoping for a shorter blog post, I’ll sum it up succinctly for you.

1) Not terribly far

2) Certain types of aquatic invertebrates, and

3) Yes (albeit with a somewhat more tedious approach).

For those still interested, please read on.

To properly understand a trout’s wintertime behavior, we must consider a few things.  Water temperature, water levels and flow rate, and insect activity all play into what trout are doing and where they go during winter months.  Allow me to first describe two different types of river systems found here and across the country; Freestone and Tail Water rivers.  Freestone rivers are classified as those which flow freely from source to confluence or termination without impediment from dams, reservoirs or other obstacles.  The Elk River, for example, is a “freestoner” as it flows unhindered from its genesis below the Zirkel Mountains to its confluence with the Yampa River.  The Yampa River, through Steamboat Springs, however, is a tail water since its flows and temperature are largely determined by releases beneath dams at both Stagecoach and Catamount Reservoirs.   Classic tail waters will generally experience less wintertime fluctuation in water temperature and flows due to the fact that they draw water from the bottom of a reservoir where the water is less affected by air temps and in a more consistent supply.  This creates a more consistent and stable aquatic environment for both the fish and the insects they eat.  Conversely, a freestone river is very much affected by ambient conditions and can often fluctuate broadly based on air temps, ground water supply, snowmelt and freezing.  For the sake of this blog, we’ll focus on how fish behave in a freestone river system.

For any of you with whom I’ve had the pleasure of fishing, we likely spoke about some of the key requirements of trout in order to better determine where they “hang out”.  Food concentration, protection, water temperature, and resting places are some of the most important.  The same needs hold true in the winter as in the spring, summer and fall with some changes to the individual importance of these requirements.

Food:  As I often say, “It all begins with the bugs”.  As water temps decrease, so do the activity levels of aquatic insects.  Where, in warmer months, we experience bountiful hatches of caddis flies, mayflies, stoneflies and midges, the winter months can seem almost devoid of any real “bug life”.  While this isn’t exactly the case, most species of aquatic insects do tend to hunker down a bit and await warmer water temperatures to pupate and eventually morph into winged adults.  With the exception of chironomids (midges), some small stoneflies, and even smaller mayfly species, much of the insect world takes a noted break during the winter.  So where does that leave our hungry fish?  Not to worry.  Trout, in particular, have a biological response to these conditions.  As water temperatures near the point where insect activity drops off, trout experience a sharp decrease in their metabolic rate, therefore requiring much less food to sustain life.  While they won’t likely experience much growth during this time, it allows them to hold out until the feeding season resumes in the spring.

Protection:  Just as in the summer, trout must be hyper vigilant of predation.  Larger fish, eagles, and predatory mammals are typically more than willing to make a meal out of vulnerable trout, especially in the winter when other food sources are less accessible.  Overhanging rocks and logs, ice shelves, submerged brush and vegetation all provide a level of protection for fish; however, deeper water often provides the best safeguard from overhead danger.  As water levels drop throughout the winter due to freezing and lack of runoff, trout may find it more difficult to locate deeper water and thus will need to relocate to sections with deeper pools.  This is often a reason for fish migrating downstream during the frozen months.

Water Temps:  Fish are cold blooded animals and therefore lack the internal mechanism to self-regulate their body temps.  They require their environment to be within a certain sustainable temperature range.  Trout thrive in water that is typically too cold for many other fish species, but they still have their limits.  The general temperature range for rainbow trout survivability is 35 – 75 degrees F.  however, optimum temps are somewhere between 50 and 68 degrees (cutthroat and brook trout prefer water slightly cooler and brown trout are comfortable in slightly warmer water).  While these numbers are a good guideline, it’s interesting to note that trout will often become conditioned to their home environment.  For example, it’s not uncommon to find fish doing quite well in the Elk River when the water temperature is only a degree or two above freezing.  When targeting trout in the winter, an excellent starting point to be on the lookout for is where a groundwater seep or spring enters the river.  Because spring water maintains consistent temperatures independent of the seasons, it can often be just the few degrees of warmth the trout are looking for.

Rest:  While resting places aren’t often included in the “must haves” section of a trout’s house hunting criteria, they become paramount to a trout’s survival during the winter.  As mentioned before, when a trout’s metabolic rate is greatly reduced it becomes crucial that the minimum amount of calories be expended in its day-to-day efforts.  Expending energy fighting the current in shallow and swift sections of river is far from a trout’s agenda during these cold times.  While in the summer fish can be found broadly distributed feeding across many areas of the current, it’s more common in the winter for fish to congregate in greater numbers in slower deeper water where the velocity of the current is diminished.  They are more concerned about conserving energy together than competing for food.

So, now that we understand just what it is that trout are seeking during this time of year we can better determine where they are, what they’re doing and whether or not they’re being forced elsewhere in the river system.  And, if still bound and determined, as I am, to brave the elements and cast a fly in the winter around here, just fish where the fish are and be accurate with your drift because trout will be far less willing to expend the energy to move toward your fly.  Also, if you’re fly fishing from atop the ice please check it first for stability.  Better yet, let us fit you for some skis and join in on an epic Colorado backcountry ski adventure!

Whether in the backcountry or on the icy river, I hope to see you soon up here at VVR!

Preparing for winter

By Steph

This past weekend was a flurry of preparing for winter in my house.  We’ve already pulled out the snow clothes long ago, as we’ve been getting snow off and on since October.  This weekend was more of putting the final touches on so we’re ready to go when ski season begins at the Steamboat ski resort.  First up was going to the local showing of Warren Miller’s Ticket to Ride movie.  This used to be a rite of passage for me and my friends growing up.  It was a time to really start anticipating the upcoming ski season, and get excited for the snow to come.  I haven’t been to one of those shows in years, and this marked the first (hopefully annual) Wilson family excursion to the movie. Our girls loved it, and were dancing in their seats to the music and were laughing at the funny ski scenes.

Later in the weekend we picked up our ski passes at the Steamboat resort ticket office.  Passed around our necks, we then headed to buy helmets for both kids at the Christy Sports ski shop up at Gondola Square.  They have been a partner of the ranches for a couple years, and provide our guests who want to go skiing at the resort with a great rental and retail experience.  It was nice to experience their top-notch service myself, and reminded me why we send our guests their way.

So, the kids are all set.  We’re ready for winter.  In fact, they’ve already put their cross country skis on and cruised around our yard, making jumps, falling down, rolling around.  Kid are like puppies in the snow.

That was a long opener to talking about gearing up for your winter family vacation, but while I was preparing my family for winter this weekend, I was also fielding phone calls from families looking at coming to Vista Verde for their winter vacation.  One family from Florida asked the question that so many ask, “What gear do we need?”  It is a bit of a mind boggle when you live in flip flops and t-shirts for most of the year.  So, here is one mom’s thoughts on what you need to make your kids comfortable during their winter vacation at Vista Verde:

  • Snowpants- for kids, get some bib type overall snow pants.  Put it this way, when kids roll around in the snow, bibs will keep the snow from going down their pants.  Nuff said.
  • Boots- this is the area to spend a little more money to get them warm and waterproof boots.  They’ll be in them day and night, so this is important.
  • Jacket- If you have a good water-resistant jacket already, you can always layer underneath it to keep your kid warm.
  • Long underwear- Cotton is bad in the cold weather.  So, get wool (we love Smartwool) or some sort of wicking/breathable synthetic long underwear.  This will keep your little critter toasty and warm.
  • Fleece- Almost everyone has a fleece sweatshirt.  This is great for the layer that goes on top of the long underwear.
  • Socks- Invest in 3-4 pairs of good wool socks.  Nothing beats wool in the snow!
  • Gloves- You will not regret getting a warm and waterproof pair of gloves for you kiddo.  I prefer mittens as they keep their little fingers warmer.  They even make some that go a little ways up the arm, so you can keep the snow out again.  Kids get into the snow (literally) more than we do as adults, so being able to tuck the mittens in under their jacket, or having a long sleeve on the mittens so they go up their arm a bit will help keep their hands warm and dry.
  • Hat- Don’t need to get fancy here.  Just a nice, warm hat to keep their little head warm. Oh, and bring some sunglasses too!

With all that, you’re pretty well set.  If there isn’t a ski shop near you, this stuff can all be found online at places like REI (they had a pair of kids snowpants on sale for $39.99 today!) or LL Bean.  Or, you can check out our local friends at Christy Sports.  Remember, you can do laundry while you’re here, and things also dry out really fast in our dry climate.  If your kid went really crazy in the snow that day and got their boots wet, just put them by the heater at night, and they’ll be dry in the morning.

If you’re thinking about planning your winter vacation at Vista Verde, just give us a call and we can help give you more winter vacation planning tips!  800-526-7433.

Closed for the off-season but we’re still busy!

By Steph

Often times when I tell people we are closed for the off-season, they ask me what I’m going to do with all my free time.  Well, even though we’re not open for guests to come stay at the ranch, it doesn’t mean we’re not busy.  In fact, for certain folks at the ranch this is the busiest time of the year.  Bill, who oversees all our buildings, vehicles and water system has a list so long he barely found time to take off for a little vacation.  Down at the barn, the wranglers are working busily, trying to get as many colts started as possible and working on the 2 and 3 year olds to get them polished up with their training.  In the office, we are still busy booking reservations, getting all the logistics of the winter season in place and have just finished hiring the last of the winter staff.

I took a little walk around the ranch just now so I could catch up with what everyone is doing and how things are coming along.  For those of you who have been following the progression of the season, you may be shocked to know that almost all that snow we had last week has melted.  So, now it’s a bit of a muddy mess.  That’s the story this time of year: snow comes and then it melts, then it comes in again, then it melts.  Hence, why we close down.  Last week I was skiing, and this week I brought my running shoes back out.

On my little walkabout, I first ran into Charlie and Brandon.  They spent last week demo’ing the deteriorating deck of the Adventure Center in a blizzard.  This week they’ve been enjoying the sunshine as they rebuild the decking.  They had the music playing in between the noise of the saws, drills, hammers, etc…

Next up was a stop by the bunkhouse, where Bill and Bubba are preparing for a remodel.  Right now they are just hauling out furniture to empty the place out.  In the coming weeks they will be re-doing the layout of the downstairs and adding a set of stairs to get up to the bunks.  We will all miss the days of climbing up the ladder to go to bed…..well, maybe someone will miss those days, or not.

After the bunkhouse, I headed down to the indoor arena.  I didn’t stop by the housekeeping area to say hi to Devyn, as I had just seen her earlier.  She is back here between trips and catching up on some of her to-do list.  The machine shed was pretty quiet as Carson is off for a bit, and Nathan and KP were up at the barn doing some cleaning.

Once in the indoor arena, I saw John and Annie riding Cali and Reyna.  Both of those fillies are coming along really well and look great.  John and Annie shared that they have really enjoyed spending some time this off-season hauling a few horses to a local horse trainer friend of ours to ride with him.  They’ve picked up a ton of new ideas and had fun getting a different perspective from his training philosophy.  As much as we all know Terry is loaded with knowledge, it is great to get a different point of view in horse training.

As I headed back down to the Lodge, I saw the carpet cleaners making their way down cabin row.  This week they are cleaning all the carpets so we can go into the winter season with everything spic and span!  Back at the Lodge Melissa and Malori were busy in the office, working on their many projects.  Melissa has been fielding phone calls all day long about our winter season.  People are definitely thinking winter right now and are asking a lot of questions about what we do and when they can come to the ranch.

And Ben?  Well, he’s just sitting around by the pool eating bon-bons.  Actually, I suspect he would be thrilled to take a break from budgets and insurance policies to sit by a freezing cold pool right now.

So, yes, there is definitely still activity going on here at Vista Verde during the off-season.  It may be a little more quiet around here right now, but once the snow sticks and we have our winter wonderland in place for all of you we’ll be ready!

Houston Chronicle- November 2013

Choose your own adventure at these snowy U.S. ski destinations
By Jody Schmal | November 7, 2013

As ski season kicks into high gear this month, powder fanatics will be snapping on their skis and boards and checking their pack lists.

Whether you’re looking for a first-time family vacation, a romantic getaway or a thriving après-ski scene, here are the latest happenings at some of the most Houstonian-savvy spots in the United States this season:


WHAT’S NEW: In family-friendly Snowmass, there are 230-plus new acres of ski-able terrain, along with the recently completed Elk Camp Lodge, a LEED-certified $13 million on-mountain restaurant and coffee shop.

Meanwhile, Aspen’s Highlands Mountain has 20 acres of new gladed terrain, and also is appealing to families with its Perfect Holiday package deal, where kids age 12 and under can ski, stay and eat free (with purchase of an adult lift ticket) over the Christmas holiday, Dec. 20-25. Must be booked by Nov. 15.

For the fancier sort, two of Aspen’s most beloved and iconic high-end hotels – the Little Nell and Hotel Jerome – have fresh upgrades. The ski-in/ski-out Little Nell has new VIP suites designed by Holly Hunt, and the resort’s Element 47 fine-dining restaurant opens this month on the base of Aspen Mountain.

The 93-room Jerome, with its historic J-Bar and rustic-chic décor, is offering several packages, such as the Peak Performance Ski Retreat (available Jan. 5-March 31, from $685 per night). With a three-night minimum stay, it includes ski equipment rental from Gorsuch, daily lift tickets for two and breakfast. Order up the private bath service from the Jerome’s new Auberge spa: a therapist visits your room to draw you a bath (with your choice of salts or argan oil) and leaves behind a fruit plate and wine.

DETAILS: Season opens Nov. 28; stayaspensnowmass.com.


WHAT’S NEW: It’s an exciting year for Breck. The resort is adding more than 543 acres to its famous landscape with Peak 6, one of the most notable Colorado ski area expansions in years.

Peak 6 includes 400 acres of lift-served terrain and 143 acres of hike-to terrain, representing a 23 percent increase in the resort’s skiable acreage. With that comes two new lifts, three new bowls – including the first above-treeline intermediate bowl – and 10 new cut trails.

To check out the fresh terrain in high style, book a condo at the luxe ski-in/ski-out One Ski Hill Place at the base of Peak 8, steps from the BreckConnect Gondola, which easily transports you to Peak 7, fairly easily to Peak 6, and into the charming town of Breckenridge. Added bonus of staying here: an on-site bowling alley.

DETAILS: Now open; breckenridge.com.

Copper Mountain

WHAT’S NEW: Families and high-alpine fans will love Copper this season. For starters, Camp Woodward, a nearly 20,000-square-foot ski, snowboard bike and skateboard park recently underwent a $500,000 renovation. All synthetic snow surfaces have been replaced with surfaces designed for wheels, and there’s a new beginner foam pit with 2- and 4-foot jumps, a pump track designed for the development of park skills and new programming to bridge the gap and yield results on snow. Fun for kids and adults, you may even rub elbows with a would-be Olympian in training through mid-December, prior to the U.S. Freeskiing Grand Prix taking place at Cooper Dec. 16-21.

On the mountain, high-alpine enthusiasts will be happy to know there’s a new direct lift to the stellar skiing and riding in Spaulding Bowl, Upper Enchanted Forest and Copper Bowl.

There’s also a new on-mountain audio intelligence app call Sherpa, which tells you what you’re near, where to go and what to do when you get there. It’s locals-only, insider information, available for the first time to everyone on the mountain. Sherpa taps into the knowledge of lifelong employees, ski patrol and local experts and makes that wisdom available to anyone with a smartphone.

DETAILS: Now open; coppercolorado.com.

Crested Butte

WHAT’S NEW: To improve the on-mountain trails for skiers and snowboarders, Crested Butte Mountain Resort has removed trees for tree skiing aficionados, between the current trails of Double Top and Black Eagle.

There also are three new kid-specific trails in the Painter Boy area, along with interactive play and learning activities and areas. During the holidays, families of four can get four nights’ lodging at the Grand Lodge and three nights skiing in Crested Butte for $999 if they book the Grandest Christmas Package.

Another resort option is the Nordic Inn, Gunnison County’s longest operating lodge, which is enjoying a total interior and exterior renovation. Steps from the Mount Crested Butte ski-area base, local owners bought property last year and have updated all 28 guest rooms, common spaces and the on-property mountain chalet in a Colorado-classic-meets-contemporary style. Stay four nights and get the fifth one free if you book before Nov. 20. High-roller with a large crew? Check out Scarp Ridge Lodge, a two-year-old, seven-bedroom property in downtown Crested Butte that comes with a personal chef and expert guides.

After dark, hit the newly redone historic saloon and gaming hall Kochevar’s, or grab a slice and some wings at the relocated but still hip Secret Stash, housed in an old county store building downtown.

DETAILS: Season opens Nov. 27; skicb.com.

Jackson Hole

WHAT’S NEW: With new nonstop flights on United Express this winter, it’s never been easier for Houstonians to visit Jackson Hole. Especially since upscale resorts in the area offering so many enticing reasons to stay.

The Four Seasons Resort and Residences has a new Michael Mina restaurant called the Handle Bar, beckoning with pub grub – think Wagyu burgers – and a selection of local beers, artisan cocktails and whiskey. There’s also the resort’s Haute Route Ski Experience deal ($1,399 per night for double occupancy, valid Jan. 30-Feb. 4): a five-night, four-day package that includes ski instruction – from experts who have inside knowledge on the best tracks and hidden stashes for novice to advanced skiers at Jackson Hole Mountain resort – along with plenty of other perks such as breakfast, a special wild game cooking session and cocktails at Handle Bar.

In Teton Village, Teton Mountain Lodge & Spa is known for its slope-side location and 12,000-square-foot, three-story Solitude Spa with indoor and outdoor swimming pools and an oversize rooftop hot tub. Well, the resort has a new restaurant, Spur Restaurant & Bar, with locavore-savvy executive chef Kevin Humphreys serving up home-style cuisine such as Snake River Farms pork tenderloin. Plus, ladies might be interested in taking advantage of the fit-for-all-levels Elevate Women’s Ski Camp Jan. 13-17, which includes four days of instruction from professional skiers Crystal Wright (Freeski World Tour Champion) and Jess McMillan, après ski meals and Pilates classes to stretch and strengthen worn ski legs.

DETAILS: Season opens Nov. 28; jacksonhole.com.

Steamboat Springs

WHAT’S NEW: In addition to updating its snow-making capabilities and working on a $1 million night skiing project, December marks the debut of the multimillion-dollar Four Points Lodge, arguably Steamboat’s most significant on-mountain improvement in a decade.

Located in the Storm Peak/Four Points area of the mountain, the 13,000-square-foot, two-level structure includes a 200-seat dining room, a casual lunchroom with healthy options downstairs, a 35-seat bar, an outdoor barbecue grill, flat screen televisions and retail space. At 9,700 feet up, expect stunning panoramic views of the Yampa Valley, too. Go on a Friday or Saturday night and take a climate-controlled Snowcat Taxi up the mountain for a Northern Italian dinner.

Meanwhile, the ski-in/ski-out Sheraton Steamboat Resort and Villas unveils its roughly $9 million remodel this month, including the completion of 56 new luxury suites. Another nice lodging option is Vista Verde Ranch, which is offering its Winter Carnival package ($2,755 for two) Feb. 5-8. It includes three nights at ranch in a fancy cabin plus one night at the Sheraton, along with meals, booze, guides, equipment, activities and transfers.

And mark your calendars for the ever-popular 40th annual cowboy downhill event in Steamboat Jan. 20, during which – you guessed it – rodeo cowboys race down the mountain.

DETAILS: Season opens Nov. 27; steamboat.com.

Vail/Beaver Creek

WHAT’S NEW: In addition to United nonstop flights from Houston to Eagle Airport, accessing Vail’s 5,289 acres of skiable terrain is even easier now with the introduction of two new chairlifts. There’s the new six-passenger lift replacing Vail’s highly-utilized and recognizable Mountaintop Express Lift (No. 4), thus increasing capacity and reducing lines. There also is the high-speed Gondola One with heated cabins and free WiFi for a comfortable and quick seven-and-a-half-minute trek up the mountain.

High-end properties also are debuting new looks and amenities. The Ritz-Carlton Residences (both ownership and rentals) is rolling out its new Lionshead Collection of designer abodes by Colorado designers such as Eddy Doumas. In nearby Beaver Creek, the Ritz-Carlton Bachelor Gulch recently completed a $15 million remodel. Book a room for four nights in the posh Club Level through Dec. 31 and receive the fifth night free.

Also in Beaver Creek, the 17,000-square-foot, on-mountain restaurant named Talons has joined the scene. An upscale cafeteria setting with a barn-recalling facade, it has 500 indoor seats on two levels and 250 outdoor seats, with dishes such as a Colorado lamb burger, homemade soups, carved meats and thin pizza. Anticipate an indoor/ outdoor bar and an outdoor smokehouse, as well.

DETAILS: Season opens Nov. 22; vail.com.

Winter Park

WHAT’S NEW: Winter Park’s talked-about, 48-passenger “Cirque Sled” is a snowcat ride that will provide adventurous skiers and snowboarders easier access to the Vasquez Cirque, where 1,332 acres of off-piste terrain awaits. Passes cost just $10 and are valid for unlimited rides all season long. Open last year, the Coca-Cola Tubing Hill is also getting buzz, with its four banked lanes, as is the hot-chocolate-serving Hill House cafe nearby.

Though many opt to simply commute from Denver (67 miles away) or from another resort, the Zephyr Mountain Lodge comprises 230 one- to three-bedroom condos a mere 110 feet from the Zephyr Express Lift. In addition to hot tubs and fireplaces, it’s close to a number of dining options. Deals through April 20 include 15-percent off one-night stays, and 3rd night free packages.

DETAILS: Season opens Nov. 13; winterparkresort.com.

More Information


The Colorado Gems card costs only $20, and it allows skiers and boarders to get two-for-one full-day lift tickets at eight participating under-the-radar resorts across the state.

The Western-authentic Gem resorts are: Arapahoe Basin, Eldora Mountain Resort, Loveland Ski Area, Monarch Mountain, Powderhorn Resort, Ski Cooper, Ski Granby Ranch and Sunlight Mountain Resort.

Each Gems Card – only 5,000 are available – is good for one use per resort, per season, and they expire at the end of April. Card holders also have access to special flash deals, or promotions offered by each spot throughout the season.

For more information and to purchase, visit coloradoski.com/gems.


Chef’s Corner: Turkey Brine

With Thanksgiving right around the corner, Chef Chol thought it would be perfect timing to share his recipe for turkey brine.  Enjoy!

VVR Turkey Brine (for one 15-18 pound Turkey)


          1 Gallon Apple juice

          1 Gallon Water

          1 ½ Pounds Kosher salt

          12 ounces dark brown sugar

          4 cinnamon sticks

          5 cloves

          2 bay leaves

          3 star anise

          ¼ cup pickling spice


  1. Combine all ingredients in a large pot and simmer for 5 minutes.
  2. Cool in the refrigerator overnight. (Alternatively, you could simmer the ingredients without the water and pour over 8 ¼ pounds of ice, and you could use the brine almost immediately)
  3. Brine Turkey 12-15 hours before roasting and refrigerate.

To Roast the Turkey:

  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Remove the turkey from the brine, rinse the turkey and pat dry with paper towels, inside and out.
  2. Rub the turkey with soft butter, inside and out, and place breast side down on a “V” rack in a roasting pan (this allows the breast to remain moist) and roast for 30 minutes at 400 degrees. After 30 minutes, turn the oven down to 325 degrees F.
  3. One hour before turkey is done (an unstuffed turkey will take about 15 minutes per pound at 325 degrees F), flip the bird to breast side up (using wads of paper towel usually works) and roast until internal temperature of the thick part of the leg reads 165 degrees F. Let the bird rest 30 minutes before carving.

A horse with great heart

By Steph

We have had a lot of very special horses here at Vista Verde.  The best ones are ones we can trust with the many kids who come to the ranch to be cowboys and cowgirls.  Every once in a while we get one of those horses who just rises above the rest.

Pinky is one of those extra special loves.  Not only has Pinky been here forever, but he has been a super rock star horse for all of those years.  He didn’t need time to settle down and mellow out.  He was just great from the get-go.  Over the years, Pinky has been a care-giver for hundreds of kids.  As a mom and a horsewoman, I can tell you there is no price tag high enough for a horse who will be trustworthy with your kids, responsive to their confusing signals and tolerant of their erratic behavior.  My daughter fell in love with Pinky several years ago.  Riding him a few weeks ago she was frustrated that he wouldn’t canter.  What she couldn’t understand is that although Pinky’s days of going fast are long behind him, he is perfect in every way.  He carries her safely.  He doesn’t stop and eat grass along the way (most horses can’t resist that amazing grass out here!), he stops, go’s and turns when she asks him.  He doesn’t spook at ANYTHING.  He’s patient, kind and caring.  Heck, this is a horse who has spent every week of his life the past 10 summers getting swarmed by a group of kids with paint on their hands as they paint Pinky.

In the past couple years, as he aged, he was used a little more lightly and just for the kids who weren’t going to ride too hard.  It’s taken a lot of grain and extra care to keep him going through recent winters.  With another winter looming we felt that it was time to help find Pinky a place to live out his years with a little less effort.  So, as of this past weekend, Pinky has headed off to Nebraska to live with former staff member Anita.  He will be used for an occasional pony ride, but will mostly live a life of leisure going forward.

For all those little people who have love Pinky, and all those parents who have trusted Pinky with their kid’s well-being, we send him off with a huge fan following and a bucket load of carrots, hugs and kisses.

Lakeside News – October 2013

Vanderford’s Travel Column

By Bill Vanderford

The cow all the guests at the Vista Verde Ranch had named “Diabolical” had his vicious-looking eyes piercing into mine as he made an instant pirouette, but my anticipation was way ahead of him! Even before his athletic move, I had jerked my horse Gunnar’s head in the right direction and slapped him with the reins to cut off the bad cow. That turned him back toward one of the best cowboys in the West … Terry Wegener, where he would have no escape!Vista Verde Ranch is the best of the west

Terry and I had cut this bad boy out of a herd of Texas cows to teach him a lesson and make him behave. We ran him to the middle of a corral about the size of a football field with Terry and his prize horse, Gun Shy Gangster (better known as Gunny) on one side and me and Gunnar on the other. In order to wear the cow down, we cut him off at every angle to keep him between us until his tongue was hanging out. In retrospect, I labeled our efforts … Cow Soccer!

No doubt riding and learning about horses and cows is one of the main reasons that people visit dude ranches in Colorado, but Vista Verde Ranch offers so much more. They truly make an extra effort to let you experience everything that they offer, but will go out of their way to see that all of your other requests are satisfied. Much of the staff is comprised of seasonal young people from all over the country who are checked thoroughly … including a personal visit from General Manager, Ben Martin. Therefore, the youngsters and the permanent staff all have a zest for life, love to engage with guests in conversation or ranch experiences, and have the best attitudes I have ever seen in all my days of traveling the world!

Though I have ridden horses off and on since my childhood, I learned more about them during my week at Vista Verde than I could have imagined. Just being around Terry Wegener is an education in the mannerisms and psychology of horses. He and his wife are also involved in the training and riding of the Denver Broncos horse Thunder at the football games.

The horse program at Vista Verde Ranch is top of the line when compared to any other in the West … partly because of the very large heated indoor riding area. This venue allows Terry and other trainers like Annie Bolognino from Montana and Nicky Throgmartin  from Indiana to work with the younger horses and give special Horsemanship Clinics for guests regardless of the weather.

The Mare Barn also gives the breeding stock a quiet place away from the central ranch to deliver and raise the foals. Though Terry is in charge of the breeding and horse sales, Annie and Nicky primarily work with the younger horses and share this experience with guests of the ranch. Because Vista Verde Ranch is located in the National Forest and has access to the wild and beautiful Mt. Zirkel Wilderness Area, horseback riding and hiking trails are numerous, adventuresome and breathtaking! You can even ride your horse to a hidden sanctuary among colorful Aspen trees to partake in Wild Yoga with expert instructor Kelli King.

I found the fly fishing and guides at the ranch to be knowledgeable, personable and quite talented in the numerous waters available to anglers visiting Vista Verde. The possibilities range from small creeks to rivers to still water lakes and from very simple fishing to extremely difficult. Rainbow, Cutthroat, Brook and Brown Trout are always possible catches as well as Mountain Whitefish and Grayling.

A true hero from the US Army’s Special Forces, Brandon Martin, is the Director of the Fly Fishing Program and a pleasure to be with anytime. His expert fly fishing partner in the program is Bubba Veteto from Colorado who loves to hang out with the chefs in the kitchen when he’s not guiding guests.

It would take a book to relate all there is to see and enjoy at Vista Verde Ranch near the famous ski resort village of Steamboat Springs, CO. One of the most important things to know is that any visit to this ranch is All-Inclusive … and they live by that even to the point of free pick up and delivery to the airport that is nearly an hours drive from the ranch.

The Lodge and Cabin rooms are authentic log structures with all the comforts seen in other fine resorts with one exception … no TVs in the rooms. The diverse cuisine created by top chefs can range from simple barbecue to intricate gourmet meals with many different wines. Summer activities include numerous horse-related opportunities, barn dancing, fly or spin fishing, mountain biking, hiking, yoga, cooking classes, wine tasting classes, rock climbing, rafting, local shopping tours, and photography just to name a few.

There’s probably not a bad time of year to visit Vista Verde Ranch, but I feel that I hit it at the most opportune moment for the best photography in the early fall. At the beginning of the week, the weather was like summer with midday temperatures reaching into the high 60s and falling to the 40s at night. Soon the mercury began to fall, and all the bright gold Aspen trees changed in two days. During the last part of the week, we were blessed with a blanket of more than a foot of powdery snow. It was the perfect time to experience the gorgeous metamorphosis that occurs annually in the mountains and valleys of Northwestern Colorado.

In my opinion and that of other guests, this is the best, most diverse, and client friendly working ranch in the Western USA. However, it is very busy throughout the year, so reservations in advance are necessary for couples or families. For more information or bookings, go to the Vista Verde website (www.vistaverde.com) or call them toll-free at: 800-526-7433.

Just one week in the early fall was a revelation to me of this part of Colorado and gave me a taste of summer, fall and winter on a ranch. Now, my dream is to return one day to experience the winter ski season when the ranch is all decked out for a Cowboy Christmas.