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!

Italian dressing & grilled romaine


1 oz.- balsamic vinegar

1 oz.- sherry vinegar

1 oz.- champagne vinegar

1 oz.- red wine vinegar

1 tbsp.- honey

1 tsp.- Dijon mustard

1 shallot- finely minced

3- cloves garlic minced

¼ – cup divina brand roasted tomatoes preserved in oil

2- tbsp- fresh basil

1- tbsp- fresh oregano

1 tsp.- Italian seasoning mix

8 oz. extra vigin olive oil

4 oz. – oil from preserved tomatoes

salt & pepper to taste

  1. Mix together all of the ingredients and let set for at least 2 hours for flavors to combine. Pulsing a few times in a blender works as well.
  2. Toss the romaine lettuce with the dressing and a little salt and pepper. Let stand for 10 minutes. Drain off excess dressing in a perforated pan, grill on a broiler cut side down, flip then remove from the grill after another 20 seconds.

I serve this salad with roman style grilled artichokes, pecorino cheese with truffles or tallegio and some sort of toasted nut. Candied pumpkin seeds have been my personal favorite and the tallegio would be my cheese of choice as well.

Empanada dough


4 ½ cups – All purpose flour

3 cups – Masa harina

1 tbsp. – baking powder

1 tbsp. – Salt

12 oz. – melted butter

1 ½ to 2 cups – water

  1. Mix together the flour, masa, baking powder and salt in a kitchen aid mixer
  2. Slowly add in the melted butter on medium speed and mix until fully incorporated.
  3. Add in the water until the dough pulls together but is not sticky.
  4. Divide the dough into 3rds and let rest at room temperature for about 10 minutes before shaping.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

From the bottomless cookie jar:

Makes: enough to feed a ranch


6 3/4 cups- all-purpose flour

3 tsp. – baking soda

3 tsp. – salt

1 ½ – lb. unsalted butter at room temp.

2 ¼ cups- granulated sugar

2 ¼ cups- light brown sugar

6- Eggs

3 tsp. vanilla

3 cup- semi-sweet chocolate chips

  1. Set an oven to 350 degrees F., and line a baking sheet with parchment.
  2. Cream together the butter and sugars until well blended and lightened in color.
  3. Add in the eggs and vanilla, and blend until fully incorporated.
  4. Mix together all the dry ingredients, and mix into the batter on low speed, then add in the chocolate chips.
  5. Make sure to cool down the batter for about an hour before scooping out and baking.
  6. To make the white chocolate chip macadamia replace the cup of chocolate with a cup of crushed macadamia and a cup of white chocolate chips.


Makes: ½ sheet tray


3 cups- all purpose flour

2 tsp. Baking powder

1 tsp. salt

¾ lb. butter

3 cups- brown sugar

4- Eggs

3 tsp. vanilla

2 cups- chocolate chips

1 cup- chopped pecans

  1. Let the butter set at room temperature for about a half hour, then cream it together with the sugar until it is light in color. Add in the eggs one at a time until it is fully incorporated along with the vanilla.
  2. Mix the dry ingredients into the mixture on slow speed, and then add in the chocolate chips, and pecans.
  3. Spread out the mixture on a well greased ½ sheet pan lined with parchment, and well greased.
  4. Bake at 350 degrees, until golden brown, then cool, cut, and enjoy.


Off season at the ranch

I got a laugh out of the staff room board yesterday morning (you may have to click on it to see it better).  In many ways it represented to me what off season means to many of us here.  During the guest season, we are happily totally immersed in taking care of all of our wonderful guests, and focused on what needs to be done each day.  Come off season, the pace slows down a bit for most around the ranch, and it becomes a time of projects and checking items off the to-do list.  Some of the projects are expected, some unexpected, like a water leak that interrupted Bill’s vacation plans (hence, the cussing).

The past couple weeks have been filled with beautiful weather, for the most part.  Every once in a while we would get a cruddy, rainy, snowy, sleety day.  But, other than that it was blue skies, mild temperatures and sunshine.  All of us have been soaking it up as much as we can, as we know it wont last.  Over the weekend, which most of us take off (except for a few who have to feed the horses still), and get to enjoy what it’s like for a weekend to be a weekend.  Naps were taken on the lawn in front of the bunkhouse, leaves were raked at my house, some of us squeezed in the last bike ride or hike of the season, and we all just enjoyed the beautiful days.  Now it’s gently snowing, and it’s time for a fire in the fireplace.

Speaking of fires in the fireplace, in a couple weeks, we’ll be hosting Jo and Javin’s wedding in front of the fire in the Great Room.  Whether it’s snowing or sunny, we’re excited for a wonderful day for the two of them.  Yes, photos will follow.

Dace has been busy working on finishing his hiring for the winter season.  Between all of his interviews, reference calls and my reservation calls and inquiries, yesterday the phone rang off the hook.  Both of us stopped and looked at each other at one point and laughed…..we thought off season was supposed to be relaxing!  But, it’s exciting to be putting together another great team for the winter season, and I’m excited to have so many great folks interested in joining us- whether that be this coming winter season for a Colorado winter resort experience, or next summer for a dude ranch vacation.  Both of them are filling up, so come on and join us if you haven’t made plans already!

Off to put another log on the fire.  It might be time for a hot chocolate break for the ones working outside in the snow today…..I can always be coerced into joining them for a little afternoon pick me up.

Poblano butternut squash soup


1- Bunch celery

4-small carrots

1- Yellow onion

3- cloves garlic

1- butternut squash

3tbsp. olive oil

4 shallots- rough chop

3- poblano chilies roasted

½ cup- tequila

1-cup cream

Salt and pepper to taste

¼ cup- fresh cilantro

1-cup Cotija or parmesan cheese

1 gal- vegetable stock or water


1- Rough chop 1/2 celery, butternut squash, 2 carrots and toss with olive oil and salt and pepper. Roast off the vegetables in a 350 degree oven until lightly browned.

2- Meanwhile take the rest of the celery, carrots, onion, garlic and shallots, and process in a food processor until it is finely chopped. Sweat off the chopped vegetables in the olive oil until the onions turn translucent; add in the roasted peppers and cook for another two minutes. Deglaze the mix with tequilla, and add in the other roasted vegetables

3- Bring the mixture to a boil, adjusting the seasoning with salt and pepper. Simmer the mixture for about 30 minutes to an hour, and then puree it with an immersion blender. Add the cream to the mixture and simmer for another 10 minutes or so.

4- Add in the fresh cilantro and Cotija cheese.

5- Let the cheese melt slightly and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper as necessary. This soup can be frozen for an exrended period of time then thawed out and reheated.

Glam.com – October 2011

Bridle Party: Horsing Around at Vista Verde Ranch – Glam.com

By LAUREN BARTH 10.11.2011

I had never gotten on a horse before in my life. But after getting married in Beaver Creek, Colorado, my new husband and I started our all-American adventure in the sleepy city of Steamboat Springs, a quaint and charming town with lots of open land and a disproportionate population of horses. We had somehow wound up on very foreign territory at Vista Verde Ranch, a breathtaking and remote retreat where we were expected to ride and wrangle with the best of them. (When did I agree to this?) Good thing I’ve always had a soft spot for cowboy boots and hats. Hoist me up and let’s get saddled.

When I told friends we were honeymooning at a “luxury dude ranch,” most people were understandably skeptical. I’m not really known for my athleticism, I’m allergic to large, hairy animals (my husband aside), and I’ve never, ever expressed any interest in horseback riding – let alone dude ranching. Their concern was well justified. But luxury is something I am familiar with, and I held out hope that the two contradictory travel genres would cancel each other out and land me somewhere on middle ground.

Roughing It

Upon arrival, we were greeted by Stephanie, a genuine cowgirl training her horse and walking the grounds. She let us pet her kind-tempered companion and pointed us toward to our cottage where we’d be shacking up and playing house. “It’s our policy to leave everything unlocked around here so just walk right on in.” I laughed. Dan laughed… Oh, she was serious. Our rustic two-story home away from home was anything but rough. This country-cute cottage was cozy and inviting with an open kitchen, large living area, master bedroom, two additional bedrooms, and two bathrooms. (At least if any intruders did sneak into our lock-free cottage, they wouldn’t have to sleep in bed with us.) The wood-burning fireplace made for cuddly, warm nights and the private patio Jacuzzi was a happy surprise. There are no TVs, but since our days were packed with vigorous activities, and our nights were meant for romantic rendezvous*, the lack of television was a welcome change. (*Read: we were so whipped from riding horses, hiking, and biking, that we’d pass out cold at 8 pm sharp.)


Have I mentioned I’ve never gotten on a horse before? I’ll tell you one thing: it’s a lot higher up than it looks. I sadly swapped my straw hat for a hard helmet. Safety over style, my friends. The guests at Vista Verde – there were about 25 during our stay – generally stay at the ranch for about a week. It’s a comprehensive course, where one gradually learns the basic and not-so-basic skills of riding, and ultimately leaves an accomplished jockey. Dan and I, however, would only be there for two days. So we had to cram a week’s worth of training into 48 short hours. Thankfully, I had DB as my partner in crime. DB was the horse I was assigned to ride (not to be confused with Dan Boyce, my new husband). A sweet, gentle creature, my handsome horse was a total mush – much like my other DB (awwwww!). Dan, my Steamboat Dreamboat, riding Zip. After a few minutes atop my mild-mannered mustang, I felt completely at ease and surprisingly confident. I didn’t need to clutch the reins with all my strength or scream commands. DB and I could practically read each other’s minds; we were getting on like an old-married couple. (Apparently horses lick their lip when they feel good about mutual communication, and DB looked like a kid with an ice cream cone.) Our trainers taught us how to turn, trot, and maneuver, and in no time we were racing obstacle courses and galloping home. It was amazing. I was doing it! And if we had stuck around for the rest of the week, Dan and I would have learned to herd cattle with our fellow vacationers. (I’m still so jealous.) Guests are also encouraged to take advantage of other on-and-off property activities – like fly fishing, hiking, mountain biking, kayaking, and hot air ballooning. It’s a pretty spectacular destination for an action-packed (but admittedly exhausting) getaway.

Chow Down

Meal time at Vista Verde is an extraordinary experience. An all-inclusive, all-you-can-eat ranch, Vista Verde doesn’t want you to worry about expense, but rather enjoy the tasty morsels being served up morning, noon, and night. And after a busy morning “ranching,” the massive buffet-style lunch is a sight for sore eyes. There’s plenty to spare for seconds, and the comfort food couldn’t be any more comforting. After a nightly happy half-hour, communal dinners are served in the deluxe dining room. Dan and I were lucky to feast on the delicious food and toast to our successful days at a table with our friends including a few incredibly cool staff members. That’s probably the best part about Vista Verde — it really is a community. You meet new people and make new friends and laugh, learn, and embrace life together. It takes you on an emotional journey on and off the horse. It’s unlike any other experience. I was definitely disappointed when we had to turn in our saddles and part ways — and even sadder to say goodbye to DB. It turns out this city slicker has developed a love for life on the range. And my new cowboy boots are proof that you can take the girl out of Colorado, but you can’t take the Colorado out of the girl.

Vista Verde Ranch Steamboat Springs, CA 80477 970-879-3858 https://www.vistaverde.com

Ranch Ramblings

We’ve officially closed out the summer dude ranch season, and the ranch has taken on a quiet mood this week.  Last week’s horsemanship clinic was wonderful.  We decided to rename it the Horsemanship retreat going forward, as it was more than just a clinic, and the quiet atmosphere of the ranch about to close down for the season gave it a retreat-like feel.  I received this great email from Jason after he returned home:

Subject: How to know vacation worked….

I got on the freeway this morning and needed to pass a car in front of me.  I shifted my hips in the seat, lifted my left leg slightly, and started to move my right leg in….when I tried to pizza box my hands over the steering wheel it occurred to me that the car wouldn’t pass like I wanted….

Many thanks to the team.  It’s always a good time.

Cheers, Jason

We also recently heard from a past guest who bought one of our mares, “Sally”, that she just won a dressage competition.  Way to go Wendy and Sally!  It’s pretty cool that we have horses that are quality enough to go from our dude ranch to the dressage arena.  It goes to show that a well put together horse with a good mind can go a lot of different directions.

Now it’s time to catch up on projects, the piles on our desks and to-do lists, as well as fit in a little time off.  Steve and Kelli are down in New Mexico camping and exploring.  The staff continue to trickle out of here, little goodbye notes left on the staff room white board one at a time.  And then there is a crew sticking around to help with chores and projects during the off season.  On Tuesday, we had a furniture moving party while there were still enough staff here to make it doable.   We cleared most of the furniture out of the Great room so we could be ready for Jo and Javin’s wedding here next month.  Hosting the wedding will put us all in the mindset of romantic winter vacations as we need to be ready for all the honeymooners coming this winter! Don’t worry, I’ve already had multiple requests for photos after the big day…we’ll share them!  I’m trying to avoid inhaling too many fumes from the Great Room today as Sarah and Melissa are in the middle of oiling the wood floor, taking  advantage of the room being empty.
The weather has been vacillating between gorgeous sunshine and snow and rain.  Today is a sunshine day, but cold this morning.  I took some photos the other day when it was snowing.  Although we’re not emotionally ready for the snow yet, it was beautiful.   I took a picture of these two aspens that day.  These trees are from Tyler and Johnny’s wedding here are the ranch years ago.  We planted them in their honor, and they remind me of the whole family every time I see them.  I took the pictures to send to them as it was just their anniversary.  Sadly, I just found out that Tyler’s step-dad Don just lost his heroic fight with cancer.  Don was an amazing person, a gentle and kind soul.  In the time I got to know him he was an inspiration for me with how he handled his disease and his love of life.  I will never forget a very memorable horseback ride we took together the last time he was here at the ranch.

Times like this make me realize how many memories this ranch holds for so many.  There have been so many people – guests and staff- who have come through the gates.  The countless life-long friendships, shared experiences, engagements and weddings, challenges and successes all make this ranch a rich place.

Ranchseeker.com – October 2011

Fun Winter Activites at a Dude Ranch

As the temperature starts to drop many of RanchSeeker’s dude ranches are gearing up for their winter season. Gone are long, hot sunny days paving the way for winter fun. There are many activities that you can still enjoy at a dude ranch during the cooler winter months. Different dude ranches offer different winter activities depending on location, ranch amenities and the size of the dude ranch. Below are just some of the fun activities that you can find on your next dude ranch vacation.

1)      Skiing & Snowboarding. Some dude ranches like, Vista Verde Guest Ranch, are located near world famous ski resorts. You can enjoy all the amenities of staying at a dude ranch and spend a few days hitting the slopes. Check with your ranch of choice, in advance, to see whether they can provide you with ski equipment and transportation to the mountain base.

Vista Verde Guest Ranch


2)      Cross Country Skiing & Snow Shoeing. At many dude ranches like, Ranch 4 Saisons, you can strap on a pair of snow shoes or cross country skis and head out to explore the snowy woods or meadows. A great way to spend the day outdoors and work up an appetite for a hearty dinner.

Ranch 4 Saisons


3)      Sleigh Rides. Various guest ranches, like Bar W, offer sleigh rides accompanied by hot chocolate and cozy blankets. It’s a special way to spend time with family and friends.


4)      Snowmobiling. Explore the back-country wilderness by snowmobile on your next winter dude ranch vacation. Western Pleasure Guest Ranch is just one guest ranch that offers a snowmobile package.


5)      Horseback riding. Winter horseback riding at a dude ranch is an unforgettable experience; one of the highlights of a winter ranch vacation when weather conditions permit.


6)      Dog-Sledding. Dog sledding is now being offered at some of the dude ranches and is a great opportunity to experience what can only be described as a truly one-of-a-kind adventure.


Bar W Guest Ranch

7)      Spa. For a truly relaxing winter-getaway many dude ranches offer spa treatments that you can enjoy in a winter setting.


Whatever you decide to do on your next dude ranch vacation RanchSeeker’s Dude Ranch Finder can help you find the ideal guest ranch.

Fall Fun at Vista Verde

We officially closed on Sunday, but do have a group of folks coming in today for a 4 day horsemanship clinic. In the days between the close of the regular season and this clinic, we took some time to regroup, process the season and have a little fun.

Sunday night the staff hosted a VVR “Prom” in the Great room to celebrate the end of the season.   Some great outfits and hairdos were center stage of the evening.

Monday was the ever popular end of season meeting. Imagine a bunch of people who’s career objectives have been to not be in an office. Give them a summer of getting outside and playing in the backyard of Vista Verde. Now, try to pin them down for a full day of sitting in a chair and having meetings. Challenging, yes. But this is how we get all our info about what worked, what didn’t and what changes we need to make for next summer’s dude ranch season.

The following day, many of the crew took off and played. We had two trailer loads of staff head up to the high country for a staff ride. The goal was to gather up the straggler cows that weren’t brought in the past weeks. The crew did get another small group, but there are still plenty out there to bring back home before the winter season arrives.

While the crew was out playing, a posse of future wranglers showed up at the ranch. My youngest daughter’s pre-school class did a field trip to the ranch for the day. It was pretty humorous watching all these little kiddos take in the ranch setting. And it pretty well confirmed to me why our program works really well for kids 6 and up, but not so well for the younger ones. The kids were met at the Lodge by the hay wagon, with Jason and Nathan lending a hand to drive the team. We took them up to the arena where Sugar and Pinky, two of our most trustworthy “old guys” were waiting for a ride. Each kid got a turn to be led around the arena. Terry entertained the little ones by teaching them how to honk their saddle horns and laughing the whole time. After riding, they had a picnic on the patio and then headed back for nap. I was jealous at that point, thinking it might be nice to have my own personal nap time in the Great room. Ahhh, if I could be a pre-schooler all over again I would enjoy naps much more!

As we await the horsemanship clinic attendees this afternoon, there seems to be some weather rolling in. Hopefully the gorgeous weather we’ve had the past couple weeks will hold on a bit longer, but there is always the indoor arena if these clouds turn into something more serious.

The New West and the Old West

Vista Verde is a unique ranch in many ways.  We work really hard to provide amazing food and accommodations, service and hospitality.  But, when people ask me what makes us different, I often single out the diversity of activities.  There are so many great aspects of the ranch, and we are very multidimensional in our goals to make it the best dude ranch possible.  But, the diversity is indeed unique, and something we invest a lot of energy and resources in maintaining.  So, when Steve King brought this picture down to me after one of his bike rides the other day, I had to laugh at how it embodied so much of who we are as a dude ranch.  We seem to be a combination of the Old West, with horses and cowboys, with the New West, filled with mountain bikes and people seeking out a healthier lifestyle.

So, whether we bring the cows in on mountain bikes or by horseback, we’ll get those last ones in before the snow flies. Because, that is when those of us in the West put our skis on and go play!

Weeklywrinkle.com – September, 2011

Riding the Range- from the Weeklywrinkle.com

The movie “City Slickers” has a lot to answer for, encouraging a popular fantasy to leave it all behind, head for the old West and dress up in your chaps and cowboy hat to ride the range with your fellow cowboys and cowgirls. But whilst many so-called ranches have cashed in on the opportunity to provide a pale version of the real thing, we’ve discovered a colorado ranch which is a genuinely extraordinary experience.

Set at over 6,000 feet, deep in the Colorado Rockies, Vista Verde combines the rigours of real ranch life with an astonishing level of service and friendliness. As you drive through the gates for the first time you’re met on horseback by a western-clad cowgirl, welcoming you to the property and beginning what is a hugely impressive and constant ethos of personal care and friendliness.

Vista Verde is family run and never sets out to be Four Seasons luxury, but by combining authenticity and home comforts with an immaculately trained team of staff, they leave many luxury hotels in the dust beneath their hooves.

There are never more than 40-something guests at any one time and the expectation is that you’ll be an active member of the guest community – dining together and enjoying a dazzling array of activities during your week. But the community spirit isn’t overwhelming and you can always slip away to your comfortable cabin with its outdoor hot tub, or choose from many thousands of acres of stunning mountain scenery to go walking or biking.

Horses and ranching are the dominant themes – at least in the summer months. Vista Verde has an outstanding herd of horses for guests to ride and an expert team of wranglers on hand to guide you and take you out on the trail. The spiritual leader of the team is Terry Wegener, a compelling character who is a real-life horse whisperer.  In just a few days he will teach you things about horses and western riding that would normally take years. An enduring image is of our son and daughter being taught how to make their horses follow them anywhere without a lead rein or any physical contact – truly extraordinary.

At the start of the week you’re matched with your horse – you’re given your own personal trusty steed for the duration of your stay. Many first-time riders have come with trepidation and been out riding the range within a day – the horses and wranglers are that well trained.

Each day you have the choice of a ride into the mountains, more formal schooling in their wonderful indoor and outdoor arenas, or a non-riding activity such as fly fishing, mountain biking or hiking. As with the riding, expert guides are on hand for every activity, providing you with really memorable (if slightly scary, in the case of mountain biking) experiences!

As the week progresses, riders are introduced to the fine art of cattle ranching in preparation for the final day, when you’re all let loose in the mountains to round up real cows usually found in really tricky places. The ranching lessons are truly hilarious, with teams of guests desperately trying to steer their horses towards uncooperative cows whilst screaming ‘Getooorn cow!’ (The key is apparently to let your horse nibble the cows’ bottom…)

Ranch cuisine is provided by a wonderful team of chefs, who can alternate between haute cuisine dinners and delicious ‘cookout’ breakfasts, lunches and dinners created in mountain camp areas dotting the landscape. After a day out riding, appetites are huge and diets forgotten. Magically, few put on weight and many lose a few pounds.

Vista Verde can either be a family experience of a memorable adult holiday. During the summer the ranch is a haven for children and teens – separate programmes are run for under twelves and teenagers which guarantee that your offspring will magically disappear and only sporadically reappear at times to ride with you or recount breathless tales of forest sleep outs and hair-raising rodeos. The team in charge of the children and teens are truly the best in the business – young and endlessly enthusiastic whilst being true friends and older siblings to the kids. Outside holiday time the ranch is a more grown-up affair – a great time to go is September, when the cattle really do need to be brought down from the mountains in readiness for the Winter. Vista Verde is equally magic in the Winter – enormous quantities of pristine powder snow provide an opportunity for really amazing ski touring through the national park which surrounds the property.

The multi-talented staff are brought together at the end of each week to perform irritatingly good renditions of country and western favourites on a final cook out evening which, for many guests, is a properly tear-jerking experience. If you leave behind the cynicism and turmoil of modern living and embrace the world of Vista Verde and its wonderful staff, you will have a life-affirming and truly memorable experience.

The summer season winds down to a close

To update you all on where we are in our summer season, this is our final cattle round up week, and also our final week of the season.  We have had 4 total weeks of rounding up cattle, and have brought in about 250 so far, so there is still some work to be done this week.  While not all the guests participate in the cattle round up, we have had a lot of folks heading out to ride the back country and find those critters.    The first week was the most successful, as we got the cows who seemed to be the most willing to be rounded up and brought back to the ranch.  The second week was the week of weather, with rain, drizzle, fog, but still some sunshine in there.  That was a hearty and willing group of guests who laughed their way through the weather and brought sunshine to our lives!  Last week it seems like fall officially hit us.  The colors started to change, the air got a bit more crisp and it finally felt like September is suppose to feel around Steamboat.  This week is a continuation of that great weather, and we are gearing up with our cattle clinics today, and will start looking for more cows tomorrow.

Sunday is our official closing day, but we are going to sneak in a quick horsemanship clinic next week for a couple days.  The staff will be heading out for off-season adventures or moving on to their next step in life.  Those of us considered “lifers” will be getting together to look back on the season, make plans on how to improve what we’re doing here, and look forward to gearing up for the winter season.  And, of course, even though we live in vacation paradise…we’ll probably be taking a little time to get out of town for some time off.  Oh, and we have a wedding to throw in November…I’ll be posting all sorts of photos of Johanna and Javins’ wedding on November 12, in the Great room!

Moonlight Hike

By guest blogger, John Hill

Last Sunday a group of Vista Verde Ranch staff did a full moon hike to summit Hahn’s Peak. The moonlight negated any need for headlamps, yet the multitudes of rock pieces made the last stretch of the ascent fairly difficult. Without shelter of trees at the top, the wind picked up quite a bit so we took shelter in the abandoned tower at the summit. Trey brought his ukulele to play a few tunes while the group was huddling in the cover of the tower. After quickly posing for a group shot at the top of the mountain everyone headed back down. The staff members from left to right in the group picture: John Hill (Pool Manager), Kathy (Server), Jason (Ranch Hand), Jess (Wrangler), Trey (Fly Fishing Guide), Jami (Housekeeper).

Waking Up

I received this wonderful essay written by guest Katie.  What nice writing.  I hope you got an A for this essay Katie!

Waking Up

As I doze I slowly become aware that I am no longer in Edinburgh, I know this because the quilt under my fingers is soft but unnecessary; warm air washes over me like an ocean. The tangy scent of wood surrounds me, a prominent smells of horse also wafts through the room. I can hear horses as well, nickering softly in the distance. Grasses sigh and a bird begins to sing. The melody of bird, horse and forest fully awaken me.

I open my eyes and take in my surroundings. The soft quilt I feel is large and old, hanging off the side of the wooden double bed. I roll over and see a large window letting soft sunlight filter through as there are no curtains to obstruct the light. The window is triangular and its frame is made of wood; I notice that wood is a main material in this room, as if every piece of furniture is made from the nearby forest that I can see through the window.

This room is large and has a sloping roof; I bend over as to not bang my head as I get up to inspect the window and what lies beyond more thoroughly. What I see is a sight that stirs excitement and happiness within me, Vista Verde Ranch sprawls out beneath my window. I see a large aspen forest to my left in which deer roam freely, not fearful of hunters or bears. To my right is a large field of glistening horses munching on the rich, green grass that sprouts beneath their feet. A bubbling stream runs alongside the house, a fairytale-style bridge crosses it and a path continues down to a huge, homely, wooden lodge that has too many windows for me to count.

I turn back towards my room, the sun sends hot rays on to my back but cool, blue air makes the temperature perfect for shorts and T-shirts. Other members of my family begin to wake up; my mum and dad stir downstairs in the master bedroom. A quiet giggle comes from the room next to mine; separated by a wooden partition, my brother and sister must already be awake. They are excited as I am for the day ahead.

I notice the cowboy boots on the floor and an old pair of jeans resting on an ancient chair. Memories come flooding back as I remember days of riding and making loads of new friends, I remember a birthday I spent here and evenings spent in the Jacuzzi outside. I grow more and more excited with every memory. I dress quickly, pulling on the old jeans and a shirt that will protect my skin from the burning sun that is now rising above the valley. Just before I pull on some socks I notice the soft and luxuriously deep carpet that covers the floor, it tickles my toes and pampers my feet. I notice the high quality of it; little luxuries like this cover the house and make my stay even better.

I know that today will be filled to the brim with horse riding, mountain biking, hiking, excellent food and crazy friends; today I could go to a horse clinic to bond with my horse or herd cattle, just like a cowboy, I could cycle to the ice cream parlour or go for an all day ride, there are endless possibilities! But that’s just the beauty of this place, everyday is a new adventure.

The Vista Verde sigh

Guests Kim and Mark were talking about the Vista Verde sigh the other day.  What is that?  It’s that really big sigh you let out at some point soon after arrival.  The one that cues you that you are finally on vacation in Colorado.  The one that lets you know you have left reality behind.  The one that makes you start feeling your body come alive, your mind become peaceful, and your adventures begin.

For some, this sigh comes as soon as they walk in the front door into the Great Room.  For some, it’s after unpacking bags.  For others it’s that first glass of wine, sitting around the campfire after dinner.  And for others, it’s not until the first couple rides, hikes or bikes, or after catching that first fish.

When do you have your Vista Verde sigh?  Once you are back home, can you remember how that sigh felt and revisit it during a stressful day?

Wish I was here

You know the postcards that read, “Wish you were here”?  Well, I got a photo yesterday that made me wish I was there!  Guides Beka and Lindsay took guests John and Astri up to summit Little Agnes last week, and sent me this photo to share the gorgeous view.  Wow, I could take just getting planted down there for a couple hours, soaking in the panorama.  The photo is taken from the top of Little Agnes, looking over toward Big Agnes and overlooking Mica Lake.  I realize that the view I see right here at the ranch isn’t too shabby, so I’m not complaining.  But, the Zirkel Wilderness takes spectacular to another level.

Just the other day, I was talking with a friend in Steamboat who has traveled a lot over her years.  She told me this summer she and her husband just stayed put.  Instead of going to Switzerland to hike, they took their backpacks and went up to the Zirkels and camped.  Her point was, “Why do we leave this place to go see other beautiful places when this is our backyard?”  Great question.  Then, I ran into guest Jeff in town….he had come back to mountain bike for a couple days after having a ball biking the trails around Steamboat with Steve earlier in the summer.  I was giving him a trail suggestion and he asked if that was my favorite ride, do I ride it a lot.  Yes, it is a spectacular ride, but no, I don’t ride it a lot.  All these folks are coming here for dude ranch vacations, hiking vacations and mountain biking vacations, and I dont seem to find the time to get out and enjoy what’s right in front of my nose!

All of this has made me decide to change things a bit.  Instead of leaving town when I have time to get away, I’m going to go deeper into the areas that are right here.  I’m going to take a day to hike the Zirkel Circle instead of going to a yoga retreat in Boulder.  I’m going to camp up by one of those gorgeous lakes instead of leaving town to stay at a hotel.  And, yes, I am going to find time to sneak out of the office in the next couple weeks to chase cows with the guests like Ben, Dace and Charlie have been trying to convince me to do.  There.  I wrote it down, so now I have to do it.

So, if you call to make a reservation and I’m not available…..I’ll get back to you as soon as I wipe the dirt off my feet and come inside.  Summer is fleeting, spectacular and worth taking the time to relish!  If you haven’t found time to treat yourself to summer yet, please make some time for it before it goes away.  In fact, come on out here and play with us!  There is still space for the September 25-October 2 week, and we also have a few spots for Terry’s horsemanship clinic October 5-9.

Barn Dance Ben

Last night was the last night of barn dances before we head into our adult only weeks. All summer long, kids have stomped it up on the dance floor with Barn Dance Ben calling the dances.  Whether it was the younger ones laughing and dancing with their mom or dad, or a terrified teen being lured out on the dance floor by one of the staff members, we enjoyed having families together for some old fashion fun.

Those of you here in past years may have remembered Barn Dance Bob.  Well, with a little teasing, prodding and encouraging, Ben decided to take on the barn dance calling this year so we could keep it a little more, ummmm, updated and personal.  Thus the new moniker of Barn Dance Ben.  Dace stepped in a bit too….shall we can him Dancing Dace?

With this last week of kids at the barn dance, we move into a new stage of the summer.  Come Sunday, there might not be quite as much giggling, but we will have a houseful of folks here to explore the ranch without children.  Next Tuesday night we’ll be kicking up our heels without little ones underfoot.  That may make the dance a bit more lively, but we challenge to adults to laugh as much, dance as much and live as large as the kids have done this summer.  Barn Dance Ben, it’s up to you to get those folks dancing!  Can he do it?

More Adult Weeks in September!

A while back, we added an extra adult only week at the end of our season.  But, I haven’t been great about getting the word out there so there are still a few cabins open for that week.  If any of you are looking for great fall foliage, fun in the mountains and some great R&R there is still time to plan your trip!

The week we added is September 25-October 2, 2011.  As mentioned above, it is an adult only week.  These are great weeks for romantic getaways, or a girlfriend getaway.  And, of course, a dude ranch is always a great spot for a single traveler as there are so many great people to spend time with, while also getting some quiet time for yourself.

The September 25 week will be the 4th of our series of cattle round up weeks.  As we will have been gathering cows up for 3 weeks prior, this will be a week of searching for strays.  That means lots of bush whacking while riding the amazing country side all day long, looking for sneakiest of them all…the ones who have evaded us previously.  The aspens are usually beautiful at that time and the air crisp.

If the idea of sitting on a horse all day doesn’t appeal to you at all, bear in mind that the bikes are still tuned and ready to go, the fishing rods trembling at thrill of fall fishing, and the hiking trails spectacular in the fall glory.  Great food awaits you at the Lodge each evening, and a hot tub bubbling on your deck.

If you are interested in joining us for our final week of the season, give Stephanie a shout at 800-526-7433 or reservations@vistaverde.com.  And, although we are technically closing on October 2, we will be offering our Horsemanship clinic October 5-9 with ranch trainer Terry Wegener.  There’s still time to play!

Away.com – August 9, 2011

Vista Verde Guest Ranch – by Kara Williams for Away.com

Wide-open meadows, thick pine forest, pretty aspen groves, and looming mountains… welcome to nature on steroids at Vista Verde, a luxury, all-inclusive guest ranch near Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Vista Verde may be a dude ranch, but this property offers so much more than just horseback riding. Think gourmet meals, whitewater-rafting and fly-fishing trips, mountain biking, a plethora of kids’ activities, and, yes, trail rides for every equestrian—whether you and your children have never been on a horse or you ride regularly.

Vista Verde is open year-round. Winter brings opportunities for cross-country or backcountry skiing, snowshoeing, and sledding. The ranch is adjacent to north Colorado’s Routt National Forest, so there are miles and miles for exploration—on horseback or on foot. The ranch’s proximity to Steamboat Springs means you can also easily downhill ski on world-class slopes or go on dogsledding or snowmobiling excursions. Transport to the ski town is included in the price of your vacation. A small property, Vista Verde only hosts up to 40 guests at one time, so it’s easy to get to know other visiting families over the course of a week—the standard length of stay. Similarly, some families form strong bonds with the on-site wranglers and the kitchen and childcare staff; even at the ranch’s busiest times, the staff-to-guest ratio is 1:1.Vista Verde recommends that visiting children are ages six or older to make the most of the excellent outdoor offerings at the ranch; if you have younger ones, just chat with the friendly reservation staff to see if Vista Verde is a good match for you. The ranch can be flexible, for sure, due in part to its small size.

How time flies when you are on a dude ranch!

Every summer, every winter, it seems like we live in a vortex of time. The pre-season preparations are frantic and exciting. Then we get going with the guests and the days just zoom by. Here we are in the second week of August already. The grass is just starting to turn a bit more golden than green.  The kids head back to school in just a couple weeks, and thus we’re looking at preparing for our adult only weeks. Where does it all go? A good friend in the luxury dude ranch business said something the other day that really rang true for me. He said, “I got a letter from a guest who was here in June. It seemed like a year ago that they were here. But, here it is Thursday and it feels like the guests who came in on Sunday have only been here for a day.” How does time work that way? In the moment, it flies. But then looking back it feels like forever ago.

At our staff meeting on Sunday, Dace was having the staff think back to our orientation weeks. How long ago that seems that we were shoveling snow off the patio in preparation of our first cookouts of the summer. Getting to know each other and getting geared up and ready for the guests to arrive is a distant memory. Now, some of our staff are starting to head back to school while the second round of summer staff rolls in to fill their spots. The memories we’ve shared with all of you who have been here this summer are priceless. You have helped shape the lives of our crew and given each person a better understanding of human nature and how to serve others with all their heart.

And, as fast as the days fly by for all of us, we still have more to look forward to. Personally, I’m getting so excited for the fall. September is my favorite time of year. We’ll have some great friends from Michigan coming out in a couple weeks, then the adults come in with the freedom that goes along with traveling without children. We’ll kick up our heels with them, chase some cows, sing around the fire and continue to create memories…all the while trying to hold onto each day as it flies by.

Enjoy the last little bit of summer. Hug your kids a bit tighter as they get ready to go back to school. And give yourself some time to enjoy an evening on a deck, soaking up those longer daylight hours while they last!

Love and Vista Verde

Something was a little more sparkly in the barn this week.  What was it you ask?  New saddles?  Polished spurs?  Someone cleaned the water trough?  No, no, no.  It was a shiny new diamond ring.  Yes folks, Javin did it.  He asked Jo to marry him.  The fact that we’ve all kind of been waiting for this to happen doesn’t in one bit take away from the excitement and joy for the two of them.  Thrilled would be an understatement. Jo had two new horses to try out last week, and so she and Javin took an evening ride up past Hinman Lake to test them out.  No one really knows if the horses passed the test, as we were all a bit too excited congratulating them and admiring the new ring.  So, if you’re wondering why Javin has a spring in his step and Jo can’t wipe that gorgeous smile off her face, now you know.  Congratulations to Jo and Javin!  We were rooting for you, and will continue to root for you!

Swimming at a Dude Ranch

Adding a pool to our list of amenities was not an easy decision here at Vista Verde.  We resisted it for years for many reasons.  We didn’t want our dude ranch, although a luxury ranch, to feel too much like a resort.  We didn’t want a pool to detract from the amazing activities for kids and teens, which is part of what makes this such an amazing family vacation.  And, we were cognisant of the fact that a pool in this climate will go unused for more of the year than it is actually utilized.

So, after much planning and debate, the pool was added last fall and finished up this spring.  There was much speculation about how it would play out to have a pool.  Would we regret adding it?  Would it be worthwhile?  After more than 7 weeks of our summer dude ranch season I can confidently say, “Yes, it was the right choice”.  The pool has been a great addition.  It has helped get folks here who wouldn’t have considered us if we didn’t have a pool.  Although, most of them have found out that it really doesn’t matter if we have a pool or not as they are too busy having fun with our large selection of activities.  But, it has been a real bonus on warm afternoons before dinnertime when it feels good to just cool off a bit after an adventure out on the trail.

For those of you who have been wondering about it, here are some pictures finally.  We hope you get a chance to enjoy it this summer!  If not this year, come visit us next year for a wonderful dude ranch vacation!

Colorado.com – July 2011

Get a Sitter: Colorado’s Dude and Guest Ranches without the kids

Colorado’s dude and guest ranches are known for amazing family vacations, but they also make for incredible couples getaways. Most of the state’s ranches offer adult-only weeks, usually in the fall, when the pace slows a bit, the menus are a little more gourmet and guests can be found canoodling in front of glowing fires set amid spectacular mountain backdrops.

These all-inclusive retreats welcome you to take part in as many — or as few — ranch activities as you’d like, including hikes, trail rides, cattle drives, fishing excursions and boating, all of which can be tailored to all abilities.

Many ranches also throw in unexpected luxuries like spa treatments, yoga sessions and cooking classes. All of them have incredible home-cooked meals, serene settings and hospitality you can’t stop talking about (we’re serious about this one — read any online review of these ranches to see people expound on this subject).

Although a week is the standard ranch stay, ensuring guests are really able to unplug and savor ranch life, these adults-only periods are a bit more flexible. Some even open their lodges and cabins to overnight travelers when they’re not booked up, featuring B&B services and a la carte activities.

Below is a sampling of the amenities that will appeal to couples looking for romance and relaxation. Visit the Colorado Dude & Guest Ranch Association for more comprehensive listings.

Smith Fork Ranch, Crawford

This Gunnison National Forest ranch ranks among the best in the delicious meal category (though couples massages and guided adventures for two amp up the three-night Romantic Mountain Getaway package). Shade-tree picnics, a world-class wine cellar and private candle-light dinners focus on farm-to-table cuisine, with many of the ingredients harvested from the ranch’s own garden.

C Lazy U Ranch, Granby

For couples who aren’t on the same page when it comes to communing with nature, C Lazy U has the perfect solution: For one night of your trip, they’ll arrange a “luxury campout.” A ranch hand will guide you to a campsite with large cozy tent (with a king-size bed inside!), s’mores kit, firepit and other delights. Back at the ranch, deluxe rooms have a stocked mini-bar, plush robes, fresh-fruit baskets and options like jetted tubs and fireplaces.

Home Ranch, Steamboat Springs

A prestigious Relais & Châteaux property, Home Ranch offers two-night stays for adults each October. Live music, roaring campfires, fall-color hikes or horseback rides, and Orvis-endorsed fly-fishing on a private section of the Elk River keep guests busy — even as the in-ranch chef’s haute mountain cuisine tempts them to loiter around the dining room.

4UR Ranch, Creede

4UR sets itself apart from the outset with one major amenity: Its very own natural hot  springs. Those who can find their way out of the mineral water and into the elegant accommodations will also enjoy a cozy little bar and an Adirondack-style porch perfect for stargazing. Seven miles of Rio Grande fishing, long trail rides and food and wine from a Cordon Bleu-trained chef aren’t so bad either. Two adults-only weeks are offered each summer.

Vista Verde Ranch, Clark

Toward the end of September, Vista Verde hosts an adults-only cattle gather, which is a remarkable experience on its own, but becomes even more so amid changing leaves and crisp fall air. You’ll definitely feel you’ve earned the hot-tub soak and three-course dinners that follow. Cooking classes and wine tasting are just a few of the off-horse activities to choose from.

Laramie River Dude Ranch, Glendevey

This ranch also has a perfect-for-couples fall cattle drive; this one ambles through a secluded river valley. Additionally, Laramie River has a naturalist program to help visitors explore the area through wildflower hikes, birdwatchng, stargazing, orienteering and more. Three-, four- or seven-night adults-only stays are available in September.

Lost Valley Dude and Guest Ranch, Sedalia

Lost Valley refers to its accommodations as “Levi luxurious with cattle baron comforts.” The cabins, complete with stone fireplaces and porches with lounge swings, are nestled in the pines overlooking the valley. Adults-only weeks in September and October feature cattle drives and rides through golden aspen stands and a long list of activities that can be totally ignored by those who prefer to just laze around this peaceful ranch.

Grilled Romaine Salad

It’s summertime and we’ve been loving this salad!  Bring back a little bit of your Colorado ranch vacation with this salad and a nice glass of wine on a warm evening.

1 oz.- balsamice vinegar
1 oz.- sherry vinegar
1 oz.- champagne vinegar
1 oz.- red wine vinegar
1 tbsp.- honey
1 tsp.- Dijon mustard
1 shallot- finely minced
3- cloves garlic minced
¼ – cup divina brand roasted tomatoes preserved in oil
2- tbsp- fresh basil
1- tbsp- fresh oregano
1 tsp.- Italian seasoning mix
8 oz. extra vigin olive oil
4 oz. – oil from preserved tomatoes
salt & pepper to taste
1. Mix together all of the ingredients and let set for at least 2 hours for flavors to combine. Pulsing a few times in a blender works as well.
2. Toss the romaine lettuce with the dressing and a little salt and pepper. Let stand for 10 minutes. Drain off excess dressing in a perforated pan, grill on a broiler cut side down, flip then remove from the grill after another 20 seconds.

I serve this salad with roman style grilled artichokes, Pecorino cheese with truffles or tallegio and some sort of toasted nut. Candied pumpkin seeds have been my personal; favorite and the tallegio would be my cheese of choice as well.