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!

Horsemanship retreat at Colorado’s Vista Verde Ranch

Join ranch trainer Terry Wegener and his crew for our annual Horsemanship Retreat in March.  The retreats have been very popular for guests looking for a more in-depth focus on their riding skills.  The retreat offers an intensive riding experience for intermediate riders.   Clinic numbers are limited to 12 participants to insure a more productive learning environment.  Or, if your better half wants to ride but you don’t, you can just relax and enjoy the Retreat part.  Hearty gourmet meals, beer and wine and airport transfers are all included in your stay.  Ride hard morning and afternoon, and then relax in your private hot tub or by your crackling fire at night.

March 17-21, 2013

Rate: $1,600/person or $1,100/person for the non-riders

Contact us at 800-526-7433 to book your spot.  Only two riding spots left!

Sugar’s Retirement

For those of you who remember Sugar, we thought you might enjoy this update from his retirement home that came over the holidays.  It’s fun to follow our horses throughout their lives.  We only wish we could know their stories before they come to be a part of the ranch! Thanks to Barbara for providing a wonderful, loving home for Sugar in his retirement years.

Dear Vista Verde Ranch Family,

Sugar and I would like to wish you all a very happy holiday.

A year ago October, I adopted Sugar when you were thinning the herd. My other horse had put me on the ground hard a couple of times and I was looking for something dependable. Rachel Ratkovich suggested Red or Sugar. I had my eye on Red as I have never wanted to deal with a gray/white horse. But… I brought Sugar to SPR.

I would like to say it was a match made in heaven but we have had our ups and downs…the main down was an eye ulcer that took 3 months of medication and dedication to heal. But in between arrival, confinement and now… have been great.

We don’t rodeo around… we walk and trot… by ourselves or with others. We played aena games last winter… he has a few age issues, doesn’t see distance too well, a leg catches now and then… but I have similar issues and understand.

When I got him he was pleasant and dependable… now he is a hoot. Makes everyone who deals with him smile. He gets 2 cookies when he comes in for his meal (nicker, nicker, nicker) and 2 for dessert (same response), he lives with his harem (4 mares, 2 are extra special), he talks to his harem, he is happy to see me, he is happy to go for a ride, he is happy to leave me. I think he is enjoying his semi-retirement.

I have enclosed some pictures… he with his girls, coming when he sees me, the girls welcoming him back, us out for a ride, the summer rainbow (honest I didn’t know it was there when I put the pink Swat in his ears but had to take the picture anyway) and center… Sugar himself. Good haircoat and weight.

Thanks again for offering your guys a new home instead of just shipping them off to who knows where. Thanks for having such a wonderful guy in your string.

If you have a chance to share this with those who worked with Sugar that would be great.

Again… The best to you and yours.

Sugar and Barbara

Rob, John and Alan’s back country adventure

Following the theme of fun staff adventures, Rob share this story with me recently.

By Rob Carter

On the morning of new years eve I awoke to an overcast, chilly, but beautiful winter day here at Vista Verde. After my customary mug of tea and some always-inspiring Aaron Copland to start the morning, I peered out of our window to see my friend and co-worker, Alan, walking down to wax his snowboard (as a southern transplant to Colorado, this time of year I’m accustomed to my neighbors sauntering around with their golf clubs, driving with the top down, and playing touch football in the yard). I greeted Alan with the usual “have you recovered from our ping pong match yesterday?”, and asked what his plans were for the day; the next thing I knew, I was sitting in a single-cab truck with John Isder, horseman extraordinaire, and Alan Czespenski, my table-tennis nemesis. Just like that, we were off on a snowshoeing/snowboarding back country adventure. After a strenuous snowshoe we found ourselves about a mile away from Little Agnes and right in the thick of some of what I’ll wager to be the most pristine powder on this side of the Mississippi River; Alan and John both started off the day with a jump off of a 15 foot cliff. I was struck by how far they flew and how softly they landed and said to myself, “well I can do that”. After taking several minutes to strap in my bindings (i.e. muster up the courage to take off), I found myself hurtling down a hill of fresh powder towards that rocky edge thinking about how nice it had been on top of the hill. As I approached to lip of the jump, I suddenly lost speed and ended up barely trickling over the edge; a 15 foot fall into 5 ft deep powder is actually kind of nice. Granted, I didn’t look very impressive on Alan’s GoPro, but fun was had by all nonetheless. The day only got better after those first few runs. We ended up snowshoeing (kudos to the guests and guides who get after it on snowshoes…what a workout!) up a good-sized hill and getting a long run in to end the day. Did I mention that the fun was just beginning? The transition from play to work, and back to play, here at VVR is incredibly seamless. We got back from our little expedition at around 3:50PM; just enough time to shower and get to work at 4:00! Upon arriving in the “office”, I was asked to help set up the dance floor for our new years bash, and spent the rest of the evening swinging in the New Year with our wonderful guests and staff. And to top it all off, there was a top-notch fireworks show administered by our Pyrotechnic Specialists (AKA: Carson Reese and his Ranch Hands). I’ve been blessed with a great life; loving family and friends, health, and the luck of having been born in the United States. However, I can say with conviction that my time at Vista Verde has introduced me to a new idea of ‘family’. I believe that I can speak for all of us here at VVR when I say that we love what we do. In a very real sense, we are a big family during our time working here together. However, that is an incomplete rendering of the picture of VVR as a whole. What really pulls it all together and makes this place so special in my mind is the fact that I can come from “play”, go to “work”, and all the while feel like the people I’m around are kin; the guests are always so friendly, curious about the ranch, and eager to share their lives with us. This is what pushes us to do our best for everyone at Vista Verde; guests and colleagues alike. This is also why I can call New Years Eve of 2012 the best one I’ve ever had. Whether for a snowy winter getaway or a sunny summer vacation, we look forward to spending time with you and your family here at Vista Verde!

My own cross country ski vacation day

By Reid

Days off here at Vista Verde Ranch are the staff’s chance to get out and enjoy the beauty we have all around us! I personally love to get out on the perfectly manicured track for some skate skiing with my dog, Dodger. It’s good exercise for the body, and does wonders for the soul. Here are a few shots from my ski this morning!

Starting out through the Homestead pasture gate.

Gotta love the fresh corduroy.

Swing by the homestead cabin for a look…on a sunny day like today, no fire is needed! By this time I’m toasty warm from burning calories!

Enjoying the view of Wapiti mountain…if I’m super ambitions, later today, maybe I’ll grab some snowshoes and try to summit! We’ll see if Dodger is up for it.

Over the river….…

and through the woods…

My favorite spot along the trail! Does it get much better than this?

Almost home! waving hi to the wranglers as they load up some bales to feed the horses in the barn.

Hungry horses await at the end of my ski…beauty surrounds me! EWF! We’re tired!

And that is a good start to a beautiful day! It’s like my own cross country ski vacation, just for a day.  Some good cardio, quality time with the Pup, and a scenic wonderland to play in! Wish you were here at this winter vacation getaway dream!

Come visit us soon, at Vista Verde Ranch!

Reid Morgan
Head Wrangler

Waking up from the holidays, in

What, did someone just say that it’s 2013?  When did that happen?

The holiday vacation time at Vista Verde is a complete whirlwind.  We start December pouring into our staff, and getting them geared up to open for our winter season.  That, in itself, is a whirlwind of activity and excitement.  Once they are all ready to roll, we open the doors and meet our first guests.  And, suddenly, I realized it’s January 4.

How lucky are we to have spent the past 3 weeks entertaining some of the most wonderful people, who chose Vista Verde for their family holiday?  Some have celebrated with us before, some were here for their first time.  Regardless, it was a wonderful group of folks from all over the world.  During Christmas-time, we decorated trees, caroled, and ate like you can’t believe.  Luckily, between skiing, tubing, snow shoeing and more activities, everyone was burning off a high number of calories daily in order to make room for those stupendous meals. As we got closer to New Years, we prepared for a festive night.  A wine dinner, a barn party, a square dance, the boot drop and the ranch hand’s firework extravaganza made it a spectacular night.  Although we had a great time with the guests, I do think Carson and Rucker might have had the best night of their lives out in the Sunday pasture lighting off fireworks.  Apparently, we could have skipped paying them all winter and just let them do more of that.

On top of all those festivities, action and adventure, I decided to launched a winter vacation giveaway.  It came to me in the middle of the night and I figured, no time better than the present.  Did I have any idea of the response we would get?  NO.  It has been humbling to read the entries so far.  And, it reminds me daily of the greatness of people.  I wish we could give a vacation to each of these wonderfully deserving folks.  If you get a chance to read some of the entries for our winter vacation giveaway, you might be inspired by them as well.  We’ll be madly trying to pick one of them for the winner on Sunday, January 6, so stay tuned.

Here is to a wonderful 2013!  May it be filled with love, laughter, health and some fun.

So, bring us some figgy pudding….

By Steph

Christmas at Vista Verde is a magical time.  Even after all these years, I am still taken by how much holidays at the ranch feels like a Norman Rockwell painting.  Whether is the family-decorated trees in the Lodge, or the screams of laughter as children (of all ages) zip down the tubing hill, it just feels like how Christmas should be.

Each year on Christmas Eve, I get the joy of leading our guests on a caroling expedition.  We ride from the Lodge to the Homestead cabin on the big sleigh, caroling all the way.  Out at Homestead, Rucker met us with a warm fire, mulled wine, hot chocolate and roasted chestnuts.  Yep, it is totally cliche, but I can never help but do the Christmas Song (hum to yourself, “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire…”)while we’re out there.

As we come back from the cabin, and round the bend to see the ranch compound, the lights of the cabins and Lodge glitter like little stars. It is such a peaceful and memorable moment for me, year after year.  We pulled up to the Lodge this year singing, “We wish you a Merry Christmas” and while thinking about figgy pudding we decided to surprise the Chefs.  Jumping off the sleigh, we all ran to the back door of the kitchen and did a quick rendition.  “So bring us some figgy pudding, so bring us some figgy pudding, so bring us some figgy pudding, and bring it right now”.  Next thing we know, Chef Cholly is running away and comes back with- you guessed it- figgy pudding, as you can see in this photo that Kristin captured!  Only at Vista Verde.

We had a wonderfully festive day yesterday, and hope you did as well.  Even if you weren’t surrounded by fluffy white snow and jingling bells, we do hope you were surrounded by love and laughter.

What to wear for your winter vacation in Colorado?

By Steph

Some of our guests coming to Vista Verde this winter are coming for their first ever winter vacation in the snow.  Although we send out a packing list, it can be a little daunting to understand how to dress for playing in the snow.  So, here are a couple tips to break it down for those “snow newbies”.
Layers, layers, layers.  Yep, that is really the key out here.  Because what is comfortable at 10am, might be too much clothing at noon.  They most important part of layering is to have the right materials.  You need to make sure that the base layer is not cotton, and is designed to wick moisture away from your body.  Wool is great, but there are plenty of synthetic fabrics that work well.  This link to Christy Sports page for base layers for women should help give you an idea of what works well.  You’ll want a top and bottoms (also known as “long johns” in the good ol’ days) to complete your base layer.

Next up, a middle layer.  I like a good, basic fleece top.  But, a good wool sweater will do the trick too.

Lastly, you’ll want your outer layer.  Waterproof is a must, as even though our snow is dry and fluffy out here, if you spend a lot of time getting personal with the snow (falling down) then you’ll be thanking that outer layer for keeping your dry and warm.  Need a better visual?  Here is a link to Christy Sports jackets for women.   And this link will give you an idea of what works for pants.   Sorry guys, I gave links to women’s wear as that is typically who is doing the shopping!

Now, keep in mind that I am gearing this list towards those who are coming for the full winter vacation experience.  For those of you wanting to focus more on the cross country skiing and snowshoeing, a lighter outer layer will be better.  When you do those activities, you get pretty warm and a heavy outer layer will be too much.  While we do sell some shell pants and jackets for these type of activities in our Nordic center, here is an example of one of the jackets we have carried in our shop.

For footwear, the best bet is a sturdy snow boot.  You can use them for most of the activities here, and then for skiing we have the boots for that.  I am a fan of Sorels, but there are plenty of other options out there as you can see in this link.  Make sure you give your great boots a chance to work with wool socks, and not cotton.

Lastly, don’t forget a warm pair of gloves (or mittens) that are waterproof, a warm wool or fleece type hat and your sunglasses and sunscreen.  Check out this page for winter accessories.

It seems like a lot, but all of this gear will make your winter vacation so much more enjoyable!  With the right gear, it’s never too cold out in the snow.

Snow biking!

Yesterday we had our inaugural snowbike trip.  It was the Aussies who decided to give it a whirl with Steve and Brandon.  After getting all geared up, they toured around the ranch, then down to the river and back.  It was a first for them, and we had tons of fresh powder for them to enjoy on the bikes.

So, if you thought to yourself, “Self, I would never think about snow biking on my winter vacation” then you might want to rethink it.  Our guests had a ball, and have some great stories to add to their tales of their family snow vacation at Vista Verde.  There are not many places you can go for a winter vacation and come back with tales of biking through fresh powder!

3 days to go!

By Steph

The winter vacation season officially begins on Saturday, and we are coming down to the wire on our orientation.  The staff have learned the ropes, gotten to know each other, and the snow has finally decided to stick around for a while.

Orientation weeks are always a whirlwind of excitement and anticipation.  Training  each crew on their roles reminds us all of the immense details involved in our day to day operation.  With so many return staff members, it has been a lighter orientation time.  But many of them have switched roles and haven’t been here in winter, so it’s still a good learning curve.
In between the teaching and training, we have also managed to have a little fun.  Last Friday the whole crew made their way into the nearby resort town of Steamboat Springs for a night of cosmic bowling.  White lights, strobes, music, it was a lot of fun.  Once again, Melissa showed us that she is a secretive hidden weapon as she produced the top score of the night.  She may fly a little below the radar, but that girl can do anything!  Nathan, an avid bowler, now has to sharpen his skills before their next standoff.
This week has been the week of “mocks”.  Mock meals were on Tuesday, where the staff played guest and gave the kitchen and dining room crews a chance to run through a full day of guest meals.  Yummy…..  Then, yesterday, the guides got to flex their muscles and take their pretend guests out on horseback rides, skis and sleigh rides.  At this point, we are all ready to settle in for our own winter vacation as it seems like fun!

The verdict?  We’re ready.  A few last preparations today and tomorrow and we’ll be waiting anxiously for the first group of guests to walk through the doors of the lodge.

10 days and counting

By Steph
Orientation week officially kicked off yesterday as we begin our countdown to opening day for our winter season.  As our first guests are getting their bags packed for their winter vacation in Colorado, we are meticulously going down the list of all the details we need to have in place for the season.  As we do each season, we started orientation with introductions.  There aren’t as many new faces this season, as so many of our summer staff came back for the winter.  But, there were a handful of folks who we were all meeting for the first time.  One of the traditions at Vista Verde is putting your pin on the map each season.  It’s a fun way to see where everyone is from originally.

After introductions, we moved into a brief history talk by Steve, which was informative for all, especially since Steve claims to make up half of it.  Jokes aside, as Bill and I stood there listening, we both commented about how we learned something new about the history of the dude ranch.  Even old dogs can learn new tricks.  I’m talking about Bill, of course.
Steve then took the crew on a walk around the ranch compound, and then they were back into the Great Room to hear us breakdown the mission of our operation.  With the foundation laid of who we all are, how the ranch came to be what it is today, and why we are doing what we are doing, we moved into the more detailed aspect of training.  Each crew broke off and starting learning the ropes of what they’ll be doing every day during this coming season.  So much to learn, and 10 days to go!

Have you planned your winter vacation to Colorado yet?  It’s going to be a great season here at Vista Verde….we can just feel it in the air.

The Jolly Vista Verde Elves

By Steph
Some folks call our fabulous housekeepers “fairies” as they flit in and out without anyone knowing, cleaning up messes and tidying up our guests homes.  But, we have another set of magical creatures at the ranch.  The Ranch hand “elves”.  These guys come this time of year, and don’t always flit in quite as discreetly as the housekeeping fairies, but still leave magical surprises behind.   In October, you may have seen a picture of the elves delivering the sleigh to the Great room.  This week they were delivering a Santa hat to our favorite moose, as well as a few other fun chores while the scaffolding was laid out.  Dusting beams, replacing light bulbs, all in a days work for a ranch hand elf leading into the holidays.  Carson, Gov and Rob make for great elves….now they just need little hats and funny boots.

As we get closer to opening day of our winter season, when folks come in for a Colorado holiday vacation or just fun in the snow with their family and other loved ones, more and more elves will be delivering surprises.  Christmas trees, garland, lights and more festive fun.

We hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday.  If you follow us regularly, you may have noticed we went silent for a while there.  I had all intentions of writing some updates while I was away, but seemed to get too distracted going for walks in the redwoods in Northern California with my family.  Banana slugs, redwood cones, huge fall leaves were all part of our fun.  Thankfully, Nathan and Rucker were willing to stay behind and hold down the fort at the ranch.  Although the phones and emails can follow us wherever we go, the horses don’t take a vacation, so someone has to stay behind.  Steve and Kelli hosted them for Thanksgiving dinner, so they still got to enjoy some time with good friends and yummy food.

Next week we start orientation for our new staff, and gear up for the season.  We’ll keep you posted as we get ready to open for the winter vacation season.  Please do your snow dances!  It’s come and gone, but we’re ready for more now.

Off season ramblings from the ranch

By Steph

This past week has been one of comings and goings.  The numbers at the ranch keep dwindling, as we get closer to Thanksgiving.  Alaya and Cholly have headed East to visit family, Reid has hit the road for a while, and a whole slew of us are packing our bags in the coming days to head out and celebrate one of the few holidays we have during the off-season at our Colorado ranch.

Earlier in the week Ben, Charlie and I hopped in the trucks to go to a dude ranch meeting at Sylvan Dale Ranch, near Loveland, Colorado.  It is always great to get together with other folks in the dude ranch business, and to share our joys and challenges as well as learn some new tricks.  Many of these folks have become dear friends over the years, so it’s as much a dude ranch reunion as it is a learning setting.  Although some of the topics may make you chuckle, some are a little less exciting….can we say Labor law and Liability in advertising are not speaker topics that one looks forward to, but know it is a must listen?

We returned to a winter wonderland scene, and found Steve and Kelli strapping on their skis yesterday for the first tour up Coulton Road.  There isn’t quite enough snow for skiing in the meadows yet, but they had fun sliding for the first time this season.  Keep doing your snow dances so it keeps coming!

We’re only a month away from opening up for our winter season.  We kick off with a lot of families coming for their snow vacation, and then move into the adult only times in early January.  Keep those times in mind for your romantic getaway, as Vista Verde is a great spot for not just honeymooners, but those honeymooning for their 30th time!  And, know that even though we are full for Christmas and New Years vacations, if you are looking to bring your kids to the snow, we still have room for the President’s Day weekend and for those who have spring breaks earlier in March.

Come join us for some winter fun!

Chicago Tribune- October 2012

By Eileen Ogintz, Tribune Media Services

It is dumping snow and we’re at 9,400 feet. But that’s not stopping us from taking a little walk in the woods.

No worries. We’ve got snowshoes strapped to our boots, the right waterproof clothes and we’re still smiling from the amazing lunch we devoured after our trek up about two miles to the Pine Creek Cook House (http://www.pinecreekcookhouse.com/) in the middle of the White River National Forest about 11 miles outside of Aspen, Co. (http://www.aspenchamber.org/).

“Weekends this place is packed with kids,” said Christopher Keating, the general manager and executive chef and himself the dad of a 9-year-old son.

You can snowshoe as we did or cross-country ski (there are more than 30 km of groomed trails for all levels and a place to rent gear) or take a sleigh ride led by giant Clydesdale horses. Come for lunch or dinner, wearing a headlamp on the trail. In winter, kids can sled outside.

But the highlight — after the snowshoe in the wilderness — is the food — Pine Creek Smoked trout, wild game Momos (Nepalese dumplings), grilled hearts of romaine Caesar, grilled Quail salad, wild mushroom and spinach crepes, Colorado elk bratwurst, a smoked trout melt on sourdough and buffalo tenderloin.

All that locally sourced food might encourage the kids to try a small portion of something new. How about butternut squash ravioli or buffalo tenderloin?

Honestly, it was one of the best meals I’ve ever had in ski country — all the better because I had to “earn my lunch,” as my daughters would say, snowshoeing up to the beautiful restaurant with the giant picture windows.

Of course, you don’t need a gourmet meal to enjoy snowshoeing. It’s fun to take a sandwich and hot cider with you in your backpack; it’s fun just to get out and enjoy the back-country landscape away from the hustle and bustle of a snow sports resort. I try to take a day off from skiing each trip just for the experience.

In Stowe, Vt., at the Trapp Family Lodge (www.trappfamily.com) my guide was Kristina von Trapp Frame, granddaughter of Maria von Trapp, the young Austrian novitiate-turned governess-turned wife made famous by Julie Andrews in the 1965 film “The Sound of Music.” Maria’s youngest son and Kristina’s dad, Johannes von Trapp, opened the first cross-country ski center in North America here more than 40 years ago and these days, plenty of families on snowshoes and cross-country skis, take advantage of 100 km of groomed and back-country trails.

Not only is snowshoeing or cross-country skiing good exercise and a lot cheaper than downhill skiing, it’s a lot of fun with kids, says von Trapp Frame, who gets out with her kids often, listening for different birds (was that a woodpecker?), looking for animal tracks in the snow (squirrel or deer?) and stopping for a snack on a conveniently placed bench (M&Ms anyone?). The sport has grown so popular with snow-loving families that Tubbs Snowshoes now offers a huge assortment of snowshoes for kids (http://tubbssnowshoes.com/snowshoes?use=kids) and until Oct. 29 is inviting schools and nonprofits to enter an essay contest to encourage kids and teens to get outdoors in winter. Winners could win snowshoes for theirentire class.

Jim Kravitz, the chief naturalist at the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies (www.aspennature.org) and the father of two young sons, explains that, like naturalist-led hikes, snowshoe walks are a great way to help visitors — kids and adults — delve a little deeper into the winter environment — learning about mountain ecology, avalanches and wildlife in winter. ACES, in fact, offers snowshoe tours every day in winter at the top of Aspen Mountain, as well as Snowmass Mountain, that include snowshoe gear and instruction. (Visitwww.aspennature.org for more information.)

Snowshoe tours are offered at many snow sports resorts around the country from Maine to California, as well as at Yellowstone National Park, where we came face to face with a huge buffalo and snow-shoed right by Old Faithful. (Read what I wrote about our snowshoe in Yellowstone).

You can snowshoe at Grand Teton National Park too; Since Jackson Hole Mountain Resort (www.jacksonhole.com) is only one mile from Grand Teton National Park, their Mountain Sports School is a licensed concessionaire of the park and provides guided snowshoe tours at the base of the Tetons.

Snowshoe at dude ranches, too, like the C Lazy U Ranch (www.clazyu.com) or Vista Verde Ranch (www.vistaverde.com) in Colorado, while in New Hampshire, the Appalachian Mountain Club (www.outdoors.org) offers a variety of winter family adventures that include snowshoe tours led by experienced guides; you can even snowshoe to a back-country mountain hut for an overnight with adventurous teens.

Snowshoeing is also a great way to get the non-skiers in your group outside to play in the snow, whether at home in winter climes or at a snow resort. That’s what we did in Aspen when we took my sister-in-law who lives in Southern California out on her first-ever snowshoe. (The prospect of a gourmet lunch certainly helped entice her!) It’s not difficult, doesn’t require a lot of gear (you can rent snowshoes and even winter boots) and is fun whether you are six, 16 or 60. (You can make it as easy or as challenging as you like.)

In Aspen, we even learned a little history along the way. The 10th Mountain Division of the U.S. Army trained here outside Aspen before they went to Italy in World War II. There are still 30 back-country huts (http://www.huts.org/) in the national forest where you can spend the night.

Did I mention the bona-fide ghost town? In the mid-1800s there were some 2,000 people living and mining in the town of Ashcroft. Today, we snowshoe past about a half-dozen wooden buildings still standing from that era.

As the snow falls, we make our way along snow-covered Castle Creek, past quivering Aspens and giant Blue Spruce and Douglas Fir, all covered with fresh snow.

Thanks to all the exercise, we don’t feel the least bit guilty about the scrumptious desserts at lunch — brownie pie, bourbon pecan pie and apple crisp — topped with ice cream, of course.

It was one of those rare winter days that I didn’t want to end. None of us did. We were the last snowshoers back.

(For more Taking the Kids, visit www.takingthekids.com and also follow @TakingtheKids, where Eileen Ogintz welcomes your questions and comments. Look for Eileen’s newly published “Kid’s Guide to Orlando” and “Kid’s Guide to NYC,” available on www.amazon.comand in major bookstores.)

Outside Magazine – November 2012

 

Thank you to  for being included in this article.  Go Steamboat!

Steamboat’s ski-school staff is basically a roster of former Olympians: Billy Kidd, Deb Armstrong, Nelson Carmichael, and Caroline Lalive all work here, as do Aussie and Kiwi champions and six members of the PSIA-AASI national team.

Within the past couple of years, the four terrain parks got new trails and many of the 18 lifts were treated to major upgrades—the most recently built ones run on solar and wind power. They unload atop 165 trails, onto which 354 annual snow inches fall, creating 10 percent of powder days per season. Of the 3,668 vertical feet descending 2,965 skiable acres, just 14 percent of the terrain is designated for beginners; the rest is pretty evenly split between blues and blacks. For riders, a freestyle park-and-pipe clinic is helpful for bagging tricks.

Bear, a safety dog, helps make sure that things are copacetic, as does the ski patrol’s more than 100 members. The nearest hospital is less than a mile from the hill and a team of 12 doctors share on-call duty for the resort throughout the winter.

Total peak-season staffers number almost 1,700. Among them are ski valets who will, upon request, come to your hotel room to fit you into gear. Lodging options here include the big, middle-of-the-road Steamboat Grand; One Steamboat Place, a slopeside collection of private residences; and the rustic-chic Vista Verde Guest Ranch, a AAA 4-Diamond lodge that’s happy to coordinate experiences like backcountry skiing, snowshoeing, and dog sledding. There’s also a KOA open to RVs.

Off-hill recreational options are many and varied—in fact, this is the category in which Steamboat scores highest. There’s a tube park, an ice arena, natural hot springs, a bowling alley, a movie theater, helicopter tours, ice climbing, a bungee trampoline, and much more. If you’re just looking for a good meal, Café Diva is popular; for something to drink, head to Tugboat Saloon or Tap House. The new, heated promenade at Gondola Square has lovely water features to play in, courtesy of the daylighted Burgess Creek.

Environmentally, Steamboat is mostly good, but the proposed Pioneer Ridge expansion would impinge upon 162 open-space acres. However, the resort gets credit for working to improve nesting habitat for migratory birds, and for having a zero-waste initiative that’s on track toward its goal: Thanks to much recycling and composting, 80 percent of Steamboat’s trash got diverted from the landfill. Free shuttles and buses have, the resort estimates, negated 1.2 million driving miles last year alone.

From February 6 to 10, the 100th annual Winter Carnival happens on Main Street, featuring a parade on skis and a nighttime light show. In early January is MusicFest, and mid-April brings the Cardboard Classic and its races in zany homemade sleds.

CONTACT: (877) 783-2628, steamboat.com
SEASON: Late November to mid-April
TICKETS: General: $99 (reduced-price half-day tickets offered; discounts offered to military personnel), children $60, ages 65 and older: $67, ages 4 and younger: free

Fodors Choice Award- 2012

Fodor’s, the leading name in travel guides for over 75 years, today announced that Vista Verde Ranch has been recognized as a 2012 Fodor’s Choice selection. This distinction designates Vista Verde Ranch as a leader in its field for service, quality, and value in the 2012 year.

The editors and experts of Fodor’s have been selecting only the top fifteen percent of their listed properties and activities as Fodor’s Choice award recipients since 1988. Every year, Fodor’s writers experience, examine and evaluate thousands of hotels, restaurants and attractions in their travels across the globe. While every business included in a Fodor’s guide is deemed worth a traveler’s time, only those offering a truly remarkable experience are given the Fodor’s Choice designation.

For more than 75 years Fodor’s has presented travelers with the very top recommendations from hidden-away restaurants to can’t-miss museums, to make sure they’re making the most of their travels. The 2012 Fodor’s Choice recipients are the best of the best, providing a remarkable experience in their price range or category.

As a 2012 Fodor’s Choice property Vista Verde will receive special recognition in the next Fodor’s guidebook to this area and on www.Fodors.com.

About Fodor’s Travel

Fodor’s Travel, a division of Random House, Inc., is one of the world’s leading providers of travel information. Covering over 7,500 worldwide destinations, Fodor’s guidebooks and website, Fodors.com, have provided the most up-to-date, accurate information for travelers since 1936. Written by a vast team of global correspondents, Fodor’s provides travelers with engagingly written, locally reported, and absolutely indispensable travel guidance. Visit www.Fodors.com.

Ice Castles in Steamboat Springs

by Alaya

Have you ever heard of “farming” ice?

I hadn’t either until reading a recent article in the local paper but growing icicles is a part of the process that Brent Christiansen and his team use to build winter ice castles, and this winter they’re building one in Steamboat Springs!

As if the snow-covered mountains were not magical enough on their own, this new attraction will be a real treat for those coming through Steamboat this winter. A unique experience bound to be majestic, romantic, and a dang good photo op (next year’s holiday portrait, perhaps?) – after all, how often do you find yourself exploring an ice castle?! If you’re already planning a stay with us this winter, you may want to add a visit to the ice castle to your itinerary.

“The Ice Castle in Steamboat will include three tiers of frozen towers and tunnels creating an organic and ever-evolving labyrinth landscape complete with a castle throne perfect for capturing that stunning photo. The icy towers that make up the interior of the castle create a look similar to glaciers transporting guests to a winter fantasy land that is only limited by their imagination.”

Sounds magical to me!

You can read more about the castles here:

http://www.icecastles.com/steamboat-springs/

The Vista Verde Hunger Games

By Steph

We all get pretty spoiled throughout the year, having a kitchen full of Chefs who prepare us hot meals several times a day. Yes, we do all work hard, but the perks are pretty nice. However, there is a time of year, when we get a little reminder to not take those perks for granted. During November, and again for a month in the spring, the kitchen shuts down completely, and the chefs take off for a well-deserved break. For those of us sticking around still during the off-season, the ranch can feel either eerily quiet, or blissfully peaceful. That just depends on the personality. I have noticed over the years that the old farts like me (yes, you’re old when you’re over 35 at Vista Verde), tend to enjoy the peace and quiet. No distractions, getting things done on the to-do list, and just a great change of pace. The younger members of the crew miss the social interactions, the camaraderie and the pack of friends to enjoy in the evenings. But, the off-season at Vista Verde is very short-lived, and so whether one likes the quiet or not, it is a good change of pace for all of us.

Anyway, back to the whole hot meal waiting for you idea…..Chef David decided to have a little fun as he and Cholly we closing down the kitchen. Last week, during one of the final meals, this message showed up on the white board in the staff room. No, no, don’t worry about any of us. I’m sure we’ll all make it. But, we….are….just…so….hungry! Brown bag lunch, anyone?

Planning for your Winter Vacation just got easier!

By Steph

Vista Verde Ranch and Christy Sports are working together to make your winter vacation planning a bit easier.  Christy Sports at Gondola Square has been selected for an exclusive partnership for our ranch guests.  As a guest of Vista Verde, you will have access to special pricing on downhill ski rentals as well as clothing for your winter vacation in Colorado.

The Christy Sports location we have partnered with is located right at the base of the gondola at the Steamboat Ski Resort.  This makes picking up your gear and returning it easy and convenient.  The shop has been awarded SKI magazine’s “North America’s Top Shop” award for 4 of the past 6 years.  That is a pretty amazing feat, and we felt they deliver a quality experience that we want our guests to experience at the ranch, and off the ranch.

If you have already booked your winter vacation at the ranch, we will be sending more information as we finalize arrangements and get closer to your arrival.  For those still thinking about booking a winter ranch vacation, know that we are working to make your planning easier!

First Snow: It’s a Winter Wonderland!

by Alaya

The first real snow of the season is always exciting. Overnight, as if by magic, the world outside the window is radically transformed into a magical playground. No wonder winter has been deemed a “wonderland.”

Every winter, the first snow brings the same renewed sense of excitement, wonder and play. Nevermind that this is the first taste of the long, cold season ahead. All of that is erased by pure beauty, a world stilled: tucked-in by a blanket of snow.

Looking out the window, our minds immediately conjure up the possibilities: sledding, skiing, building snowmen, making snow angels, or even starting the occasional snowball fight! And then there are the things we do when not out in the snow:

snuggling with a good book and a cup of cocoa by the fire, writing long letters to good friends, decorating our homes for the holiday season to come… The cold weather outside draws us back into the fire within our own hearts.

And so it is with this sense of warmth and wonder that we experience another year’s first snow here at Vista Verde. Here’s to the season ahead!

Introducing Amanda and David Gillie!

This past weekend we celebrated the marriage of Amanda and David.  Amanda is Ben and Holly’s daughter, who has worked at the ranch during the summer months for many years.  David and Amanda are high school sweethearts, and David gladly joined Amanda at the ranch each summer, and quickly became part of the family.  Ben had the privilege and responsibility of officiating the ceremony….no pressure there.

It was a beautiful day filled with love and much celebration.  The couple now plans to settle down in Denver.  Chances are, we’ll be seeing them a fair amount at the ranch.  I have a good feeling the call of the horse will lure David to the mountains, and the call of family will lure Amanda right along with him.

Congratulations from all of us at Vista Verde.  We wish you a beautiful and blessed life together!

Chef’s Corner: Pumpkin Cheesecake [Recipe]

by Alaya

There is just something about fall that says, “Bring on the pumpkins!” Muffins, pies, lattes… it’s seems everywhere you go, you find this autumnal squash.

And I guess we’re no different here at VVR. As a treat for the few staff who are still here, Chef Chol recently made his delicious Pumpkin Cheesecake. (His recipe is shared below!)

After dinner, we gathered cozy by the fire, chatting and enjoying this seasonal dessert.

A clever alternative to the classic pumpkin pie, this cheesecake is hearty, without being too rich. It is sweet, with classic pumpkin-paired spices. (Goes great with a cup of coffee or homemade chai.) Chol served it to us with leftover caramel sauce and a dollop of whipped cream. Delicious!

 

Pumpkin Cheesecake
Makes one 10″ round cake

 

Ingredients (For Crust)

  • 1-1/4 cups toasted pecans
  • 1/4 cup panko bread crumb
  • 2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. melted butter

 

Ingredients (For Batter)

  •  36 ounces cream cheese
  • 9 ounces brown sugar
  • 6 ounces granulated sugar
  • 5 large eggs + 1 yolk
  • 1/4 cup + 3 Tblsp. all purpose flour
  • 1 1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 2 Tblsp. Brandy
  • 18 ounces pumpkin (canned or cooked)

 

Procedure

  1.  In a food processor, combine all crust ingredients and pulse until crumbs and nuts are fine and it all comes together.
  2. Press crust into the bottom of a 10 inch spring form pan lined with parchment paper.
  3. Wrap the spring form pan in a double layer of aluminum foil, bake the crust  at 325 degrees F for 5 minutes, let cool and chill in refrigerator until batter is prepared.
  4. In the bowl of a kitchen aid mixer (or in a mixing bowl with a hand held mixer) combine the cream cheese and the sugar and blend until smooth.
  5. Add the eggs and yolk one at a time, scraping down the bowl after each addition, and blend until incorporated.
  6. Add the flour, spices, brandy and pumpkin and mix until just combined (but do not over mix).
  7. Pour the batter into the spring form pan, place the spring form into a roasting pan and fill the roasting pan with warm water half way up the side of the spring form pan (hence the double layer of aluminum foil), place the roasting pan in the oven and bake for 1 hour, 15 minutes (or until the cheesecake is set). If the top of the cheesecake becomes too dark, cover loosely with a sheet of foil to prevent further browning.
  8. Remove the cheesecake from the oven, remove from the water bath (roasting pan) and place on the counter-top with a large mixing bowl turned over top to allow the cheesecake to cool slowly (if the cake cools too quickly, the top will tend to crack).
  9. After cooling for one hour, place the cheesecake in the refrigerator for another four hours to allow the cheesecake to fully cool and set up.
  10. Remove the cheesecake from the spring form pan, slice and serve with caramel sauce, whipped cream, pumpkinseed or pecan brittle, or all of the above.
  11. Enjoy!

Wow, you sure clean up nicely Sally

By Steph
In a blog post a while back, I mentioned that one of our guests, Wendy, bought a horse from us several years ago.  Sally, the horse, was a sharp looking dude ranch horse.  She traded her Western look for a much more sophisticated English style upon her move to the South.  Recently, we received this fun update about a horse show that she and Wendy competed in, and won a first place ribbon and a second place ribbon.  Sally and Wendy have also been practicing for a drill team presentation, but missed being able to perform due to bad weather.

It just goes to show that a girl from a dude ranch can clean up pretty well.  Hmmm….I may have to take that to heart as I head out for some off-season adventures in the big city.

Off-Season Hobbies

by Alaya

It’s hard to believe that the 2012 summer season has come and gone. What a whirlwind!

We officially closed up shop on Saturday, and won’t open our doors to guests again until December 15. Of course, as Stephanie mentioned in her previous post, there is still plenty to be done. But even for those of us who will be around between now and December, work (and life) takes on a whole different pace.

Our seasons are busy, and while we love a little down time, those of us who like to “go go go” find we need something to keep us occupied in the off-season.

Whether here or away, it is not uncommon for our folks to use this time to take up a new project or hobby.

In talking to my fellow staff about their off season plans, I’m reminded once again of what’s so special about the staff here at Vista Verde. Plans are varied and interesting and include salsa dancing, drawing, leather work, construction & remodel projects, piano, travel, a new language… the whole gamut. Once again I impressed by the variety of skills, talents and the level of passion my co-workers have. I look forward to seeing everyone in December to hear about their off-season adventures.

As for myself, I just bought myself a new uke to play with. Hopefully I’ll have a few songs under my belt by the time our winter season begins.

October at Vista Verde

So, the dude ranch season ended September 30, and many assume we all pack up and take off for the Bahamas, or something like that.  Although the thought of that is kind of attractive with a weather forecast of snow this weekend, there are no umbrella drinks in my future, or others here at the ranch.

Right after we close each season, we have the pleasure of sitting down in the Great room for two solid days, and break down the season step by step.  The theme of our end of season meetings is “what worked and what didn’t”.  Note the sarcasm in my use of the word pleasure, as getting a dozen people who are used to being outside all day and on the go at all times to sit down in meetings for two full days is not exactly an easy feat.  There is a lot of squirming, and a lot of gazing out the window at the fabulous view, and maybe even a bit of day dreaming.  But, it is a very effective time as we can map out what we need to do in order to make the next year even better.  We take the feedback we received from all of  you, the input from staff, and the experience we all have to look at whether everything we are doing is making this the best dude ranch experience we can possibly provide to our guests as well as the best work experience for our staff.

Following that, many of the crew took a 3 day break, while a few of us continued on the meeting track with some long range planning and strategy sessions.  We had staff head out all over the state of Colorado, as well as some even going further on their adventures.  We all reconvened at the ranch on Sunday, in time to check in a business retreat group.  Some meetings, a lot of fun later, they headed out this morning and we have our second round of business retreats here having meetings in the Great room this morning.  On Saturday, we will officially close the doors and most of the staff will head down the road for their next adventure in life, or just a break before the winter.

With the ranch moving towards off-season, those of us who are sticking around will be getting to those hefty to-do lists, and tackling them before we start ramping up for the winter season.  More to follow in the coming weeks on what people are working on during this time.  For me?  An email newsletter should be coming in a couple weeks.  Setting up the outfitters for the winter so we have plans in place for dogsledding, massages, etc… Updating the website.  Getting all the winter guest information in place so we’re ready with schedules, program information, etc…  And the list goes on.  Luckily, much of it can be done inside as the weather may turn cruddy pretty soon here.  Don’t start your snow dances yet, but it’s not far away.

Elk at Vista Verde

by Alaya

It’s amazing how quiet this ranch gets at the end of the season. Evenings around here are always tranquil, but without guests  this place starts to feel like a ghost town. This has been especially true the past few days, as staff have scattered to their various adventures for a three-day weekend.

However, for several evenings in a row, we’ve had a distinct sound cut through the silence. Starting in the final weeks of September, each night we would hear the bugle of a elk bull calling to his herd of cows. Early in the mornings, and just after dusk the sound pierces the air: one part majestic, and three parts primal. It’s like no sound I’ve ever heard before. Even being woken by the sound in the early hours of the morning, rather than be frustrated (as is my usual reaction to an early wake-up call), I would smile to myself,  exciting to know how close they are!

One evening, Chol spotted the cows in the Winter Pasture with the horses, and later caught sight of the bull rubbing his antlers against an aspen under the light of the full moon. How’s that for romantic imagery?

Sometimes I forget that we’re tucked right up against national forest land, wilderness and wildlife all around us. When they come to visit, it is a wonderful reminder of the full majesty of this place.

For more info on elk, check out the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation: http://www.rmef.org/ElkFacts.aspx