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!

Madison.com – November 2010

A Ranch in Winter by Eileen Ogintz
Think four-wheel drive — on skis.

I’m floating over five feet of snow in the wilderness on skis that are slightly fatter than traditional cross-country skis.

This isn’t the kind of skiing where a snowcat takes you up a ski slope so you can ski down in deep powder as fast as you can. Nor is this the kind of backcountry experience my kids enjoy where you sling your skis on your back and hike up the mountain for the glory of skiing down — “working for your turns,” as they call it.

Vista Verde Ranch (www.vistaverde.com), 25 miles north of Steamboat Springs on some 560 pristine acres at 7,800 feet above sea level, is a place to literally slow down and enjoy the scenery from the back of a horse or on snowshoes or backcountry skis away from crowds and cars. It’s also a good place to introduce kids to snow, if you aren’t sure how they’ll take to a major ski resort like Steamboat (www.steamboat.com) an hour’s drive away.

Atlanta grandparents Bill and Sally Smith brought their daughter, son-in-law and three grandchildren from Atlanta for a few days for just that reason. They expected to go over to Steamboat to downhill ski part of the time, “But we never made it. We were having too much fun,” said Bill. “The kids loved every bit of it and didn’t want to leave,” he said, after the younger members of the family had departed.

Vista Verde Ranch has just nine well-appointed log cabins, each named for a surrounding mountain. Ours is called Farwell. (Think wood-burning stoves, oh-so-comfy beds with patchwork quilts, deck hot tubs and astounding mountain views.)

Of course, none of this comes cheap. Figure on more than $1,300 a night for a family of four all-inclusive, though there are much less expensive deals if you choose your dates wisely. (Come Jan. 2 to March 12 and pay regular rate for the first two guests and half off for additional ones.)

And if you don’t want all of the guided excursions, rates start at $195 a person, including meals, equipment and evening programs. At a major ski resort you could spend more without the personal attention. (Mention Taking the Kids and get an additional $50 off. The B&B rates work the same for the kids — first two people at rack rate, additional guests 1/2 off.)

There is room for just 45 guests; today there are just about 20 of us. There’s a new main log lodge with a huge fireplace that seems to invite you to stretch out on the big couches, as well as a new indoor arena — to help teach riding (there are 90 horses here). “It has gotten used 10 times more than we expected,” said Peggy Throgmartin, who, along with her husband, has owned the ranch for the last four years.

“This is my husband’s dream since he was seven,” said Peggy, adding that it took till they were in their 50s to make it happen — here at Vista Verde Ranch. Throgmartin, scion of an Indiana family business now in its fourth generation, and his wife searched all over the West for the right place to serve as a gathering place for their own three grown children. “We are a very close family and we wanted a place where the family would want to come. That was a big factor,” she said. “As soon as we drove up the driveway, we knew this was the place.”

The three young teens we’re traveling with were a bit more skeptical at first wondering if they’d be bored without downhill snow sports. I’m traveling with my cousins Carl and Dana Weinberg and their two kids, as well as another friend and her teenage son. We opted to try the ranch for a couple of days in the middle of a 10-day ski trip.

Maddie King, 11, whose parents oversee the activities, is convinced a kid would be crazy not to love the place. “It is a ball to get out in nature and have snow all over you,” she says. There’s nothing better either than having a snowcat pull you back up the hill you’ve just sledded down. Sledding, Maddie declares, is her favorite thing to do on the ranch.

True to her word, our teens perk up immediately. Because the ranch is all-inclusive, there are drinks and snacks in the cabin fridge — and the kids have their pick of activities, not to mention cookies. I love that for a few days, the only decisions we have to make is whether we want to ski or snowshoe or whether we want fish or lamb for dinner. (Or whether the kids want to eat with us or with the other kids.)

We spend the morning in the backcountry touring on skis, through the trees in the deep snow on National Forest land that surrounds the ranch. We end up at an ice cave built by local school children. So quiet! So beautiful!

“Nothing better than being outside on a day like this,” says our enthusiastic guide, Jeff Ballantyne, who spends summers fighting fires with the U.S. Forest Service. He gestures to the fresh snow, the quivering Aspens, the sun trying unsuccessfully to peak through the clouds as the snow continues to fall. There are 30 guest ranches in Colorado but Vista Verde is just one of a handful that is open in winter and summer. (For more information on ranches, visit www.duderanch.org).

One afternoon, we go out horseback riding — good thing we were dressed warmly. We take a tour of the ranch, past the original cabin built by homesteaders early on in the 20th century. It’s snowing gently; the air is cold and fresh. We’re limited to a narrow trail that the ranch staff has blown out for the horses, but I don’t mind the lazy pace. We mosey along happily.

The place forces you to get unplugged — there is Wi-Fi, but cell service is spotty. We go deep in the backcountry to snowshoe or ski where we won’t see another soul. Another plus: This is a safe place where kids can have some freedom and try new things — with or without their parents by their side.

The atmosphere is conducive to making new friends too, whether you’re nine or 49. All of the kids ate dinner together and then watched a movie while the adults shared a large table and an impressive meal that included tamales, guinea hen with rice pilaf, Napoleons filled with peanut butter pastry cream and an assortment of sorbets.

The good news: We’ll work off the calories snowshoeing tomorrow. The other good news: The teens are smiling.

For more on Eileen’s winter Colorado adventure, read her trip diary at www.takingthekids.com and also follow “taking the kids” on www.twitter.com, where Eileen Ogintz welcomes your questions and comments.

Ramblings from around the Ranch

Exciting things are happening here this week. The cement was poured for the patio of the pool on Tuesday (at right), the cabinets are going into Big Agnes and Little Agnes, the carpet was laid in Sand and Saddle and the list goes on and on. Besides all the hustle and bustle of the construction we are all busy getting geared up for the winter season. Steve and Kelli are up in the Adventure Center today getting the skis and snowshoes out from summer storage. Terry and Reid are working on getting all the foals registered with the American Quarter Horse Association, so a little office time for them in between working horses. Ben and Nathan are shuttling our fleet of Ranch Suburbans in and out from Steamboat for servicing. And I kept Bill busy this morning picking out bedding ensembles for some updates in the cabins. He wasn’t thrilled to spend his time doing that, but the guy has great taste!

We all though the snow we got last week was the start of winter, but beautiful weather came back this week and we are once again enjoying sunshine and blue skies. Soon enough we’ll be covered with snow, so we’ll take this fall weather for a little longer. As long as we’re fully blanketed by mid-December for opening day of our winter guest ranch season, all of us are happy!

Spotlight on Christi Cline

Christi Cline is proof that every business needs a former kindergarten teacher to be successful. Don’t laugh, I am currently spending much time in awe of kindergarten teachers as my oldest is in the big K and I watch her teacher manage those children with amazement. Then I walk in the door at Vista Verde and see Christi managing all of us, and the guests with those same skills. Not only is Christi (known as CC to many of us) wonderful with people and a joy to be around, but she brings a creative energy to the ranch that Ben and I lack, and Dace doesn’t have the time to pursue. I was reminded of this last week after asking CC to take on the project of giving our massage rooms some TLC. It was a fine room, but a former office and had never been given the attention we give the rest of the facilities. So, CC went to Denver armed with a very small check and lots of creative inspiration. Then she spent a couple days with dining room manager and roommate Sallie (we all wear many hats, especially in the off season) sneaking up to the massage room and not letting any of us in to see the progress. This past Thursday was the unveiling and it was like being on HGTV to see the change! No pictures here, you’ll just have to come out and get a massage on your next dude ranch vacation to see for yourself!

All this makes a point that we would be lost without the creativity, energy and enthusiasm CC brings to her job as front desk manager. Yes, kindergarten children all over the place are missing out with her at the ranch. But we are enjoying having her here to herd us around like the children we often can be, and to keep us all in line.

Not to miss out on a little background, CC came to us from Prescott, Arizona where she grew up and spent several years teaching. She is the youngest of 4 girls, and is very close with all her sisters, nieces and nephews, and her parents. Just before joining us, she had spent time living and working in Mexico. She fearlessly heads up our front desk, helps Kelli manage the store and assists me in every possible way with the office and marketing side of running the ranch. My girls love spending time with their CC, and she gets a chance to spoil them a bit when she takes care of them from time to time.

So, raise a glass to CC and all that she brings to Vista Verde!

Baby Update

Several of you have asked for an update on the foals so I finally took some time to go down and shoot some photos of them yesterday. They aren’t little babies anymore! It was so much fun to love on them, hug them, kiss them and get followed around the pasture trying to get the photos. It’s not easy to shoot a foal when they want to be right next to you. All of them are so friendly from the guests working with them this summer. And they are calm and relaxed, so I know they will make great guest ranch horses in a couple years for all of you!

The foals get another month or so to grow, play and hang out with their moms. Then, sometime around Thanksgiving, they will be weaned from their moms and Terry will take them down to his ranch on the other side of the mountains where they will spend the winter where there is less snow as it is a little harder to feed a growing adolescent at our Colorado winter resort. All of the moms except Mary Jane are in foal again (horse term for pregnant) and will be expecting early next summer. Our new stallion Whiskey will be the proud papa of all the foals next year and we’re excited to see his first foals.

So, I have a little challenge for those of you. Can you match the foal to the mom? I’ll post the challenge on our Facebook page to see who gets it right first!

Snowshoe Magazine- October 2010

Adventure Guides for a Great Winter Snowshoe Experience
by Roger Lohr – XCSkiResorts.com

These days, snowshoeing is easy on packed and marked trails, but a lesser known secret about the winter ski experience is guided adventures in the backcountry.

Perhaps the term backcountry or adventure paints pictures of avalanches and extreme skiing movies. The fact is that this type of snowshoeing can mean anything from a quiet morning tromp through the woods, getting back in time for a bowl of hot soup in front of the fireplace, to a challenging all-day tramp to the top of the world. You can maneuver up hills and then swoosh back down, but if you don’t want any hills, you can snowshoe over frozen snow covered lakes, alongside rivers, or through meadows.

Guides can virtually hold you by the hand or offer a recommendation for a self-guided tour. They can suggest appropriate equipment and clothing to make it a more comfortable experience and they can offer ski instruction to a first-timer. Expect an experienced guide to help snowshoers master higher skill levels or lead those who are advanced on more extreme expeditions reaching new heights.

Adventure guides can plan your trip to match your skill level and desired intensity. The value of a guide is that your comfort level is increased multifold. That is because the experienced guide knows about trail and terrain selection to fit the snowshoer’s level; he or she knows technique tips to help successfully crossing terrain in different types of snow conditions. Most of all, the guide will give you personal attention and help you to avoid backcountry calamity.

A resort vacation is great, but while you’re there take half a day to snowshoe off into the untouched powder where the snow is fresh and fluffy. The pace might be like a long hiking trip – where you can hustle along if you’re looking for a killer workout, or just take your time and enjoy the scenery. Most guides love to talk, too. So, expect some gab about local historical, geological or interpretive to provide a more informative and interesting experience.

Guide services to backcountry adventures on XCSkiResorts.com include Vista Verde Ranch in Colorado.

Real Weddings- October 2010

From Real Weddings Magazine

Mini-Moon: Vista Verde Ranch – by Darren Elms

Ready for a little romance way out West? Well, technically it’s east, for us Californians, but you can’t get more authentic than Colorado’s Vista Verde Ranch.

YES, it’s a luxury ranch, and you get to sleep indoors, but as a guest of Vista Verde once told them, “We were treated like royalty, but made to feel like family.”

Check out the property year round, but especially in autumn when Steamboat Springs explodes in seasonal color. You just don’t get that same experience in the Golden State.

Recommended Resort: Vista Verde Ranch. The facilities are rustic yet romantic, the setting breathtaking. Hosting no more than 40 folks at a time, the atmosphere is intimate and accommodating, and the staff is a joy to interact with.

The quiet, luxurious cabins are all standalone units, not duplexes, and range from one to three bedrooms and one to three bathrooms with living rooms, wood stoves and private hot tubs out on the deck. The spacious lodge rooms are very convenient and have sitting areas, balconies and gorgeous mountain views.

Check In: Vista Verde Ranch in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. 800-526-RIDE, vistaverde.com

Check Out: The Culinary Adventures. These weekly classes are held most of the season and offer a new kitchen challenge each session. Designed for skilled chefs, those who have trouble boiling water and everyone in between, there’s always something fun and new to be learned in the kitchen. Also, be sure to stop in to one of their wine tastings and pick up a whole new wine vocabulary along with techniques for picking the best bottles.

Don’t Miss: The horses. These creatures are the heart and soul of the ranch, offering talented instructors and first class facilities for a truly special experience. There’s nothing like saddling up and heading out to the breathtaking natural beauty that surrounds the ranch. For beginning riders, they provide training everyday and teach the various aspects of horsemanship. Rides happen in the mornings and afternoons, with day treks that stop for a picnic lunch at destinations like Pearl Lake or Elk River. Even if you travel in the snowy winter months, you can enjoy a ride in a full-sized indoor arena.

4H Fundraiser with Brenn Hill- by Dace Starkweather

We had a gorgeous weekend for our 4-H fund raiser ride with country musician, Brenn Hill. The temps have been hanging out in the 70’s and the aspen leaves have hung on during our Indian summer. We had a blast as Jo and I took out a crew of local folks out for three hours horseback, along with Brenn. We meandered up past the aspen shelf on the Nature Trail, around Hinman Lake and then out to the Cliffs to kick back and check out views of the Agnes’ in their aspen splendor. On the way home coming down through Coulton Canyon, we saw a robust buck with enormous antlers checking us out from within the shadows of some blue spruce. It was fun to get to know some of our Routt County neighbors.

Once we returned to the lodge, Pat had an awesome lunch for us down on the patio. After eating, Brenn played a personal concert for everyone in the Great Room. He’s a talented musician whose soothing voice is able to capture the life of the cowboy through the poetic imagery of his words. It’s been fun to get to befriend Brenn and Casey over the last couple of years. We saddled up on Sunday morning and went out to look for some strays. (Bruce, if you’re reading this, we didn’t find anything, but we saw some gorgeous country!!) If you want to check out any of Brenn’s music, head over to www.brennhill.com Happy Trails! –Dace

New Pony, New Homes, New Off-Season Office

The first week of our fall off-season brings lots of emotion, changes and new beginnings. We are sad to see the summer season come to a close, but are filled with excitement starting to plan for the winter and even next summer! Projects are in full swing, with several cabin remodels, an addition to our mare barn and finding new homes for our lovable little “oldies.” During my morning walk I ran into Terry, Jo and Nicky….I quickly fell in love with our new mare, Sunday. She arrived at the ranch yesterday from North Dakota and is closely related to our mare Mary Jane. We will work with her all winter and will add her to our breeding program; she has great confirmation and good blood lines.

Other barn news, Jo is in the process of finding new homes for our oldies. Blue will be going to Denver to a therapeutic riding center. He is calm, loving and will the perfect addition for them. He is part of my off-season office…this morning I got to answer phones during my “blog bareback photo shoot,” you gotta love the informality of off-season at a guest ranch. After being here for a little more than a year, I still wake up every day amazed that this is my job. Walking to work past the gorgeous gold aspens, having my morning coffee on Blue, and yesterday going for summer season recap ride with Steph. Life on a luxury guest ranch doesn’t get much better!

By Guest Blogger and Front Desk Mgr. Christi Cline (With help from Head Wrangler Johanna Stouder!)

FamilySkiTrips.com – September 2010

Yet another top ten, this time the Top XC Ski Resorts for Families. Thanks to FamilySkiTrips.com for including Vista Verde Ranch in their picks.

Top XC Ski Resorts for Families

Plan to gather up the kids and head to the hills during the school breaks next winter. No need to head to warmer climes – winter can be snowy, yet mild, and perfect for a family vacation with plenty of activities such as cross-country (xc) skiing and snowshoeing.

According to our experts at XCSkiResorts.com, the nation’s top xc ski resorts are exceedingly family-friendly with lots to enjoy together both on the snow and off. What families want and need is exactly what an cross-country ski vacation delivers: multi-generational participation, quality time, and shared memories.

Cross Country skiing for families. There are special touches such as talent shows, treasure hunts, child-friendly classes, and family style meals to help your xc ski vacation become the perfect memorable getaway with your loved ones. Families can find resorts that offer the perfect combination of carefree atmosphere and picture-perfect views together with beautiful lodging, family dining, and expertly groomed trails and learn how they can enjoy the winter outdoors together. Perhaps a family staying at the alpine slopes might want to spend part of a day of their vacation on the xc ski trails for a change of pace.

Vista Verde Ranch in Steamboat Springs, Colorado – Here’s the best of both worlds with backcountry guided xc skiing in addition to groomed trails. They have programs to engage kids and teens, sleigh rides, cooking classes and evening entertainment. The indoor riding arena offers horseback riding and lessons as another option for something different at Steamboat.

Gayot.com- September 2010

I got an email the other day congratulating us for once again earning the designation of Gayot’s Top Ten Ranches for the year. I’m not sure what we did to earn this designation, but appreciate them including our dude ranch in the list! For the most part their list includes only one ranch per Western State, so Vista Verde was the only Colorado dude ranch on the list. Many thanks to the Gayot staff for including Vista Verde!

Here’s the excerpt:
At the Vista Verde Ranch, a working hay and cattle property that encompasses more than 500 acres of forest, meadow and pasture in Rocky Mountain high country, there is an opportunity to go beyond the basics of horseback riding. Specialized clinics focus on balance and rhythm, driving and the art of horse whispering. Of particular note are the cattle drive weeks offered throughout the year: After getting comfortable with your horse through trail rides, arena sessions and a special horsemanship clinic, you will have the chance to herd cows down the Elk River Valley. Although the log cabins look rough and tumble from the outside, they are subtly sophisticated where it counts, with lodgepole pine beds, antiques and western art. Each also has its own hot tub on the deck.

Fall around the Ranch

The aspens are changing, the sky is blue, the scrub oak red, and it’s just breathtaking here at Vista Verde right now. That comes from someone who looks at this view every day, and right now I’m nearly driving off the road at times because I’m too busy rubbernecking a stand of glowing aspens. Something about the sunlight this time of year only amplifies the beauty of the whole valley, the mountains, and the trees.

Last week was our first cattle gather week, and we had some really successful days and some more challenging days. Those little cows are good at hiding, and who wouldn’t be on 16,000 acres? But with persistent guests and hard riding, we did find a good number of them and brought them back to the ranch. This week we have a big group of guests gathering, so we’re hoping that by splitting up and being a little more savvy on the timing of our searches, we’ll get the rest before Sunday. Otherwise, it’s going to be up to us to get the rest as we close this weekend. Yowzer, I can’t believe it’s the end of the dude ranch season already here at Vista Verde!!

Sallie took some great photos when she went running the other day. Yep, for those of you who recognize the area, she was actually running up and around Hinman lake. Go Sallie, Go!

Well, the sun is beginning to rise on another gorgeous day. We’re looking forward to celebrating two birthdays today at the ranch (what are the odds of that? Happy Birthday Jinnie and Anne Marie) and this whole week we are enjoying having Bruce and Sandy here for their 10th stay. For those not in the know, that means their dude ranch stay is FREE!

Spotlight on Sallie Hallmark

It’s been a while since we’ve done a staff spotlight but when I sat down to do one today, I knew exactly who I wanted to put in the spotlight this time. Sallie Hallmark joined us almost a year ago to oversee the front of the house in the dining room. Having grown up in Birmingham, AL, it was fun for us to watch Sallie’s amazement at the winter season at Vista Verde. She embraced the season fully and was skiing, snowshoeing, sledding and riding horses in the snow from the very beginning.

Before coming to Vista Verde, Sallie worked in her family’s general construction company after finishing school at Florida State with a degree in Entrepreneurship and Small Business Management. She was ready for an adventure, so she packed up her home and said goodbye to her family to come out and explore the West. Sallie’s great smile and spunk have been a fun part of the ranch experience this past year. She isn’t afraid to speak her mind and keep things lively in our weekly manager meetings. Most of all, Sallie says she enjoys meeting new people and hearing their stories. She is committed to making their dude ranch vacation their best vacation experience.

After experiencing both winter and summer at Vista Verde, we’re excited for her to be able to see the beauty of fall at the ranch. Thanks for all you do Sallie!

Christmas in September?

No, we’re not decorating the place for the Christmas vacation time right now. We’re actually enjoying some fabulous fall weather, our first of four adult-only weeks, and looking forward to the fall cattle gather weeks coming soon.

But our thoughts are starting to turn towards Christmas and New Years vacation experience. It’s this time of year that we start lining up the details of the holidays, including the trees in the picture. Charlie ordered the live trees this week so we’ll have one for each family to decorate in the Main Lodge. And the phone has been ringing off the hook with potential guests looking into planning their family Christmas vacation. It seems odd to be thinking about the ranch covered in snow when there is still so much grass out there, but ’tis the season!

If you’ve ever considered trying a Vista Verde winter ranch stay, we do still have space during the holidays. The snow is sparkly, the jingle bells ringing on the sleigh and Mom can actually relax for once with the cooking, cleaning and entertaining taken care of for her!

Vista Verde Superwomen

Each summer, we have to wonderful opportunity to host families from the University of Michigan Pediatric Cancer Center. It’s an amazing week for all of us, and we do our best to make it an amazing week for all the families in their journey to our Colorado ranch resort.

One of the joys of this relationship with UM is that we have gotten to know several of their staff very well over the years. These three gals come out each year to help organize the logistics and help with the families during their stay. They are all true superwomen and are amazing in all they give to the families during this week, as well as their roles in their lives back at home in Michigan.

We were laughing at the three musketeers as they lined up the other day watching us walk by. So we pulled Judy, Debra and Sheila in to sit below their ranch alter ego’s.

We couldn’t do this week without the tireless efforts of these three gals. I can easily speak for all the families here this year and past that these gals are so appreciated and their efforts have been life changing. We get a week to try to make a difference in the families lives, they do it day in and day out.

Go Blue!

Snowshoe Magazine – August 18, 2010

Snowshoe Magazine – The Top 10 Resorts for Love on Snowshoes

by Roger Lohr – XCSkiResorts.com

It is a perfect romantic setting. The day spent in the great outdoors, the fireplace flickering, meals eaten by candlelight, a snowy panorama stretching in the moonlight and a sleigh outside the restaurant. It’s romantic and perfect for Valentine’s Day or any day.

It is and can be found at winter destination resorts across North America, according to the experts who regularly update XCSkiResorts.com, the country’s most extensive cross country ski and snowshoe destination website. Add in the thrill of exploring together down snowy trails, and a snowshoe vacation becomes the perfect getaway with your sweetheart, Valentine’s Day or not.

These resorts offer the perfect combination of dreamlike atmosphere and picture-perfect views together with beautiful lodging, cozy dining, and picturesque trails where couples can enjoy the winter outdoors together.

The XCSkiResorts.com Top 10 features favorite romantic resorts across North America listed in alphabetical order.

Callaghan Country at Whistler, British Columbia, is a secluded lodge where up to eight couples can enjoy 8,000 acres of wilderness with 36 feet of guaranteed snow without high altitude problems. No roads, no signs, no power lines. Just pure high-alpine terrain.

Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, in Alberta, is a graceful timbered resort in a fairytale setting – surrounded by snowy peaks, nestled beside its own mountain lake, with a panorama of the Victoria Glacier. Hundreds of kilometers of trails lead right from the door of the Chateau.

Garland Resort in Lewiston, Michigan, is an AAA Four-Diamond resort oozing with rustic elegance in the heart of the Midwest, where 65 kilometers of trails combined with gourmet meals to create a winter wonderland sure to melt any snowshoer’s heart.

Lone Mountain Ranch at Big Sky, Montana, visit nearby magical Yellowstone National Park or check out 75 kilometers of prepared trails. Lovers can stay in their own private log cabin. The main lodge serves great cuisine, has massage services and an impeccable staff.

Mohonk Mountain House in New Paltz, New York, is a Victorian castle set spectacularly on Lake Mohonk only a one-hour drive from the city. Fifty kilometers of trails, skis and snowshoes are included in the stay. An enticing couples massage and partner massage instruction will add to a couple’s pleasure long after the vacation.

Mt. Washington Hotel at Bretton Woods, in New Hampshire, is a step back in time to ornate elegance. The impeccable service, period rooms, dining accompanied by strings and unsurpassed views in New England makes this difficult to surpass for the perfect romantic weekend.

Mountain Top Inn in Chittenden, Vermont, is buried in the Green Mountains. Dream in rough hewn timber beds. Enjoy gourmet meals where your crystal glistens in the firelight. Snowshoe or ski on the 85-kilometer groomed trail network right from the door.

Royal Gorge in Soda Springs, California, has the largest trail network in the U.S. The majestic Sierra Nevadas surround the remote 1920s Rainbow Lodge. This is ideal for romance with a massive stone fireplace and fine French cuisine.

Sun Mountain Lodge in Winthrop, Washington, has a 360-degree view of the Cascades. Choose a view room or lakeside cabin. Snowshoe or ski on 160 kilometers of trails. Enjoy the extensive wine cellar, gourmet meals and full-service spa (try the Double Decadence spa treatment).

Vista Verde Ranch in Steamboat Springs, Colorado
, is surrounded by the Rocky Mountains. In their own words they are “kick-back-‘n-relax, taste-tantalizing, mouth-watering kind of place.” Couples can get away from the everyday grind and enjoy groomed trails, backcountry, plus horseback riding.

XCSkiResorts.com is the most comprehensive website focused on winter destination resorts in North America.


Don’t panic, we haven’t added a new, crazy sport to our menu of activities. But maybe we should? Adventure Center director Steve King treated himself to a new toy for his….umm, 30th, birthday. After spending so many years guiding and riding 2 wheel mountain bikes, he thought he’d challenge himself to learn how to ride a unicycle. Since this birthday, he just hasn’t found the time to learn to ride it, but his daughter Maddie decided to play around with it this summer. We’ve watched her give it a try here and there, but she hadn’t quite mastered it until yesterday. It turns out one of our guests used to do a lot of unicycle riding so he saw Maddie goofing off and came over to give her a few tips. No more than a few minutes later, Maddie got it!

After watching Maddie grow up at the ranch over the years, it was so much fun to watch her take this new step, and even more fun to watch papa bear Steve look on with pride and excitement. Mom Kelli missed the moment, but I’m sure Maddie showed off to her later.

So, stay tuned…..who knows if in a couple years we might have a new program led by Maddie King herself. Mountain biking on unicyles. Wow, that might be a niche market.

Bring the Talent

Talents here at the ranch go far beyond their respective departments. This is evident in our team of housekeepers who have ingeniously remixed Wagon Wheel this summer by using a washboard and other musical instruments. One of the most interesting and talented quartets we have here at Vista Verde is our staff band who have coined themselves the “Farwell Mountain Boys.” This mountain boy band is made up of our two General Managers, Ben and Dace, along with Terry Wegener our resident horse trainer and one of our awesome wranglers, Reid Morgan. They became famous this summer with their rendition of The Gambler and Cowboy Logic, my personal favorite! Those of you who have visited the ranch this summer have seen the Morgan family talents. Leslie, Grace, and Reid definitely have the talent in their genes. You can see a video of one of their songs on our Facebook page. Grace, a musical theater major at University of Michigan added a Broadway number to our Saturday night Campfire, Dace and Grace (quite the duo), sing Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better. It’s gotten quite the response this summer! A long-time favorite for both guests and staff alike is their duet Stuff That Works that remains on the set list. For anyone looking to fulfill their dreams of working on a luxury guest ranch in Colorado, I hope you bring the talent!

By, Guest Blogger and Front Desk Manager Christi Cline

Touring Colorado

I have had the pleasure of serving on the board of the Colorado Dude and Guest Ranch Association for the past 7 years. One of the parts of that job that is really fun is inspecting other ranches. Each member ranch is inspected every 3 years and then any ranches that want to join get a fairly in-depth inspection.

I’ve done one member ranch inspection already this summer and took Bill along with me as he had never been to any other ranches. It was fun to have him along for that visit and we enjoyed sharing our thoughts on that Colorado ranch on our drive home. This week I had to go visit two ranches who are applying for membership in the Colorado Dude and Guest Ranch Association. It was a whirlwind tour through several counties to get to these two ranches and spend some time getting to know them. The biggest treat for me was I got to spend the night at one of them and enjoyed a nice dinner with their guests and manager. It reminded me how fun it is to be a guest! I love the Steamboat area and our landscape here, but it is refreshing to be reminded of the diversity in Colorado. I went from the most extreme mountain passes with craggy rocks and snowcapped peaks to the farmland of Colorado, home of fresh peaches and cherries, then back over another pass with a lush forest and multiple lakes off of every turn in the road, then into the rocky, dry high desert with sagebrush and amazing rock formations, and finally back home to beautiful Steamboat Springs and my favorite ranch, Vista Verde. Hey, there’s a reason I’m still here after all these years. It was great to catch up with our guests again this morning and find out what adventures they’ve had the past couple days. There’s never a dull moment and it sounds like there have been memories made for everyone, and still more to come!

Farewell to Chef Rob

Life doesn’t always turn out as expected, and this summer has been that for Chef Rob. After spending some time with his family this spring he realized that those times with his folks are becoming more and more precious. After pondering the idea of moving closer to home, he surprised himself by deciding that it might not be that bad of an idea to leave the Rocky Mountains. He was even more surprised when a friend contacted him, asking him to consider moving back for a Chef job very close to his parent’s home.

Although we’re going to miss Rob and his culinary contributions to the ranch, we’re excited for him in his next venture.

Rob will be handing off his role in the Vista Verde kitchen to Chef Matt, and Chef Pat will be stepping into Matt’s role for the rest of the summer. Both have been here for a long time so it’s a fairly easy transition.

We’re glad to have been a stop in Rob’s adventures in life. The stories and memories will last long past his final fabulous meal.

Spotlight on Terry Wegener

Our horse trainer Terry Wegener has spent much of his life on Colorado ranches, but originally hails from Wisconsin. Terry fell in love with horses at a very young age, and his father sent him to work on a race horse farm with hopes of “getting it out of his system”. Anyone with a horse crazy child will tell you, in hindsight, that horses never leave the system. As an 8 year old, Terry was exercising racehorses and even rode in some races. In an effort to do what his parents wanted him to do, Terry attended University of Wisconsin and received a degree in Education. After two weeks of his first teaching job, Terry threw in the towel and returned to the race horse world. At that time he had a friend who put him in touch with a guest ranch in Colorado and next thing Terry was working at that guest ranch and stayed for 7 years. During that time Terry became involved in the cow horse world and began training under Monty Foreman.

Terry’s pursuit of the world of horses was sidetracked by a 3 year bout with cancer. Despite the grim outcome doctors anticipated, he was still able to persuade his love interest to marry him. Close to 15 years later, Terry and Annie are still enjoying their unexpected time together and living life to the fullest. Sharing a training venture in the Denver area, they have trained top level horses and both are active judges. Terry has trained World Champion AQHA reining horses, National Champion Arabian horses in reining and cow horse competition and multiple Regional Champions. He’s also coached amateur riders and their horses to World Championships and the NRHA Amateur Horse of the Year. In addition to winning all these awards Terry is also a NRHA, AQHA and IAHA judge and still judges several shows a year.

Terry has taken a step back from the show world at Vista Verde. He spends most of his time training our young horses, overseeing the breeding program and leading clinics for our guests. His love of horses and enthusiasm for the theories and techniques for becoming a better horse person are infectious. In the years to come we will have more horses available for sale- whether to head into the show ring or someone’s backyard. With Terry’s oversight we’re breeding solid minded, well conformed and kind Quarter horses. The string of 6 or so broodmares crossed with our two stallions will allow us to continue putting better and better horses into our riding string.

The Vista Verde riding program continues to improve under Terry’s leadership and with the help of his Assistant trainer Nicky and Head Wrangler Johanna. If you are looking to improve your riding skills, we would love to have you come join us for one of the Ranch Versatility Horsemanship clinics. We host them several times a year.

Board meetings by the Pond

Yesterday afternoon we had our manager meeting out by the pond. It was a little distracting with the sound of the creek running out from the pond so everyone had to speak up just a bit to be heard. And the wind every once in a while blew through and rustled our papers. Oh, and at one point when they ran the horses out to pasture we lost a little focus while all of us watched the show. And after sitting through two other meetings leading up to the manager meeting, I was getting a little uncomfortable sitting in that lounge chair. But otherwise, it was OK. I supposed I could be sitting in some board room with the sound of traffic outside, but I’ll take this board meeting setting any day. And you can too! With our increased space from the Great Room addition last year, better internet service with the T1 line, and the addition of the indoor arena for team building events both summer and winter we are set up to host more meeting groups and business retreats at the ranch. Give me (Stephanie) a call or email if you’re interested in finding out more about meetings at the ranch.

On another note, we took our staff photo yesterday. It’s amazing to see how many people it takes to provide the experience we offer at Vista Verde. It’s a great crew this summer. If you haven’t had a chance to meet them yet, I hope you get to still this summer.

Mystery Bike

The other day I walked in on Steve building a bike for someone very special to the ranch. Just for fun, I took a picture and posted it on our Facebook page asking people to guess for whom this bike is being built. I have a pretty strong feeling no one would guess. And I was right…which for me is unusual. 🙂

The answer pretty well sums up Vista Verde and how we somehow find a way to combine the Old West with the New West. The Old West is cowboys and horses, cattle and campfires. The New West is mountain biking and rock climbing, elegantly prepared Bison and hot tubs under the stars. So, picture a weathered cowboy who spends his days on horseback when not shoeing horses. His hat could tells stories, but he’s also realizing that his body needs a way to stay fit without taking such a beating. The answer? Orval Bedell. Yep, you read it right. For those of you who haven’t met Orval, he’s been involved at the ranch longer than I’ve been alive. Orval grew up in the area, skiing down Seedhouse Road to go to school. He’s trained horses, led clinics at the ranch and put shoes on every one of our horses. This spring Orval watched Steve testing out one of his new mountain bikes and next thing I saw was Steve giving Orval a biking lesson. And this week Art the UPS driver delivered Orval’s new bike. Old West and New West…..there is such a thing as a combination. This might just be the best one I have ever seen to date. Happy Trails Orval! Are you ready for your mountain biking vacation?

Article from About.com about Luxury Guest Ranch



Vista Verde Ranch, Colorado

By , About.com Guide

This luxury guest ranch near Steamboat Springs ski resort welcomes families year-round. Price includes gourmet meals, snacks, beverages (including beer and wine), evening entertainment, airport transfers, gratuities for staff, horseriding and many other outdoors activities. Accommodation-only rates are also available, whereby guests can pay for activities a la carte.

Families can stay in a lodge room or a luxury log cabin; the cabins are standalone units and have up to three bedrooms, with a woodstove and a private hot tub on the deck; fridges are stocked with complimentary beverages. Be prepared to relax and disconnect: there are no phones or tvs in the rooms. (Complimentary wireless is available, though.)

For evening meals, parents can opt for family-style dining, or indulge in a candlelight dinner while the young’uns have their own kid-friendly meal.

The ranch also has a kid’s hut play zone, a Great Room (photo above) with a nightly fire in winter months, and an indoor riding arena. Vista Verde has received a AAA Four Diamond Award.

Seasonal Activities

The all-inclusive rates at Vista Verde offer lots of outdoors fun that families can sample as much or as little as they like. In summer this include horseback riding, clinics with horse trainers and wranglers, guided hikes, guided mountain biking on trails or in a terrain park, use of bikes, guided fly fishing with gear, rock-climbing, river rafting and kayaking, a photography workshop, cooking classes, kids and teens programs, transport to Steamboat, and evening entertainment such as barn dances.* Guests can also enjoy the ranch’s swimming pool.

In winter, rates include guided backcountry skiing, snowshoe tours and cross-country trails, as well as the gear you’ll need for these activities. Winter also offers sledding, horseback rides, sleigh rides, a photography workshop, cooking classes, teen programs during holidays, and evening entertainment. Transportation is provided to and from Steamboat for ski days. Guests can also pay extra for dog sledding, snowmobiling, ice climbing, and massage treatments.

The holiday season is a top time to visit. Before Christmas, each family has its own tree in the lodge to decorate. Families can also try seasonal activities such as making decorations, and take a horse drawn sleigh ride to go caroling.

Kids and Teen Programs

Naturally, horse-riding is a primary focus for all ages, and kids are matched to an appropriate horse for the week. For other fun, “kid wranglers” take kids age 6 to 11 to treasure hunts, powwows in the tepee, boat races in the creek, gold-panning in the river, fishing, campfires… Meanwhile, teens age 12 and up have a separate program, with movie night, adventure rides, and other activities.

Randomness from a busy week at the Ranch

It’s amazing how quickly time flies once we get into our summer season at Vista Verde. There is just so much going on each day and people going in so many different directions. This is so much more than a guest ranch…we toy with calling it an Adventure Ranch with the hiking, biking, rock climbing and all the other activities in addition to great riding. The energy is contagious! I just realized how long it’s been since I’ve blogged. I have a spotlight on Terry in the works, but it isn’t ready. So, until I can slow him down from spending all day in clinics and lessons, you’ll have to settle for a little monologue on my view of the ranch lately.

We are into our third week of the summer guest ranch season, and so far they have been full of wonderful people and some great memories. I had a really fun day last Thursday as I rounded up a crew to help me get the Wild Yoga location all set up for our first class. The crew ended up being an all girl team of Kid Supervisors. Despite the heavy lifting, the crazy Gator ride up the hill, and the trudge through grass, bogs and across streams to the Wild Yoga location, the girls did great and were laughing the whole time. And that afternoon Kelli and I got to lead our first Wild Yoga practice of the season with a full class of fun guests. It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it!
Another highlight for me last week was watching Nicky and Reid halter breaking the 4 foals. Those little babies are smart and strong, and aren’t all that sure that they want to be trained yet! But they are so cute and kissable. I keep threatening that if Little Joe (my favorite) is missing one day, there’s a good chance he’s hidden in my house somewhere.

We’re getting more and more calls about our Cattle Gather weeks in September. Charlie led the inaugural all-day ride up in that section of the forest last week and everyone had a ball. It’s a huge area, some with trails, but mostly a lot of exploring and finding gorgeous views. We’ll head up there with some of our all-day rides all summer to check on the cows and make sure they are staying in the right area. That will help us keep tabs on them so when we lead the gather in the fall, we’ll have an idea of where to find them in order to push them to lower pastures for the winter.

As I headed to the Post Office this morning to get the mail, I spotted a Moots Cycles (really amazing high end Steamboat bike company) van following some guy through town. I crossed paths with them as I came out from getting the mail and asked what was going on. They were following Erik Lobeck as he made his way out of Steamboat Springs on the Tour Divide Race, riding a Moots bike. This guy is amazing…read his story and that of the Tour Divide on the Moots blog. Steamboat Springs is such a diverse town in the sense that it has such strong ranching and rodeo ties but also is home to outdoor adventurers and several well-renowned outdoor outfitters (Smartwool, Big Agnes, Moots, Kent Erickson).

So there is the randomness from the Ranch. We’re loving our guests so far this summer and look forward to seeing those of you coming out soon. Hopefully we can meet some of those who haven’t made it yet. There’s still space in early July!!!! Call me, let’s get you out to Colorado this summer.

Away.com – June 2010

Top Ten Dude Ranches by Gigi Ragland

Our ten favorite dude ranches that offer a week of all-inclusive horseback riding (and other fun outdoors activities), gourmet dining, and a genuine Western experience for the whole crew.

9. Vista Verde Ranch, Luxury Guest Dude Ranch
Clark, Colorado
A stone’s throw from Steamboat Springs, enveloped by towering peaks along the Continental Divide, sits a 1930s cattle ranch tucked away in the Elk River Valley. Original owners, Hollis and Jean Tufly, dubbed it Vista Verde Ranch, translated as “the green view.” During summer, every color of green dots the ranch, from the forest of pines to the mountain meadows surrounding it. The luxury guest ranch is known for attention to detail. At breakfast in the main lodge, guests are greeted by guides and asked what kind of activity they would like to do that day and are offered choices based on their responses. The ranch has a 1:1 guide to guest ratio even at its busiest times. The folks at Vista Verde have thought of everything. There is even a rack of cowboy boots for guests to use for horseback riding (kid sizes, too) if they didn’t bring their own. The ranch offers an extensive riding program for adults and little buckaroos to improve horsemanship skills in addition to trail rides of the Routt National Forest. Foodies will enjoy gourmet dinners, cooking classes, and wine tasting events. And for those who want to round out their round-up of activities, they can head over to the Adventure Center for hiking, yoga, rock climbing, or mountain-biking on full-suspension bikes.