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!

What to wear for your winter vacation in Colorado?

 

Some of our guests coming to Vista Verde this winter are coming for their first ever winter vacation in the snow.  Although we send out a packing list, it can be a little daunting to understand how to dress for playing in the snow.  So, here are a couple tips to break it down for those “snow newbies”.

Layers, layers, layers.  Yep, that is really the key out here.  Because what is comfortable at 10am, might be too much clothing at noon.  They most important part of layering is to have the right materials.  You need to make sure that the base layer is not cotton, and is designed to wick moisture away from your body.  Wool is great, but there are plenty of synthetic fabrics that work well.  This link toChristy Sports page for base layers for women should help give you an idea of what works well.  You’ll want a top and bottoms (also known as “long johns” in the good ol’ days) to complete your base layer.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Examiner.com – June 2010

By Angele Sionna
Western US Travel Profiles: Vista Verde Guest Ranch

* Steve & Kelli King
* Adventure Center Manager/Ranch Support Manager
* Open since 1970’s
* P.O. Box 770465 Steamboat Springs, CO 80477
* 58000 Cowboy Way, Clark, CO 80428
* vistaverde.com
* www.facebook.com/vistaverderanch

Examiner: What makes your establishment unique?
Steve: We are a guest ranch that is open for summer and winter, offering not just horseback riding. In the winter, we have groomed nordic ski trails for both classic and skate skiing as well as snowshoeing, but we are most popular for our backcountry ski touring. We have been told by our guests that the backcountry guided skiing we do here is very hard to find anywhere else. Most people think of backcountry skiing as jumping off cornices in avalanche prone slopes. What we do is ski in the forests, on frozen rivers and meadows with your guide making the trail for you. Most often, we hardly ever see another soul out there, except for the occasional moose, elk or porcupine. We teach not only backcountry skiing skills such as the best way to get up when you fall in 3 feet of powder or how to begin a basic telemark turn, but also all about our environment, snow science and animal habitat in the winter.

Examiner: What is a little known factoid about your place?
Kelli: In the winter, about 55% of our guests are repeat customers and we have about 40% in the summer. We have some guests who have been coming for over 20 years!

Examiner: What is your specialty?
Steve: Diversity of activities and quality in each diverse activity we offer and our commitment to service. It sounds cliche but we really do go out of our way to make sure that each individual feels taken care of in all aspects of their stay from the housekeeping staff, ranch hands, guides, kitchen staff to management, it is what we pride ourselves in. Whether we are shoveling your deck, cleaning your cabins or guiding you on a backcountry ski tour, each and every employee takes it as their personal responsibility to make sure you are taken care of and cared for.

Examiner: What is your patrons’ favorite thing about your establishment? What’s your favorite?
Kelli: The staff. Of course they love the activities, the food and the accommodations but what really seals the deal is the staff. They make it all come alive and real, they make it homey and comfortable. They help the guests really connect with our place, so that they feel like VVR is a part of them. They know year after year that they will feel at ease here, know what to expect, it’s a slam dunk! Our favorite thing about VVR, besides getting to work with these passionate people, is getting the opportunity to be the conduit or catalyst for reconnecting our guests with our gorgeous and spectacular environment and reconnecting them with the 14 year old that resided in them (in us all!) and gets to come out and play! To guide them in doing an activity they might not otherwise do any other time of the year, in an environment so pristine and beautiful and to provide the appropriate terrain and level to do it so that they feel successful, alive and excited to do it again and again, that’s what we love about our job! In the recreation industry, we get to help people re-create themselves and reconnect.

Examiner: Anything new on the horizon that people can look forward to trying?
Steve: We are all very excited about our new indoor riding arena. In the past, we have always offered some trail riding in the winter but this year, we can now offer indoor riding and lessons too.

Examiner: What is the top thing you recommend visitors to your city do/see – besides your business, of course?
Kelli: If folks are at all into Alpine skiing, they can not pass up skiing Steamboat Springs well known ‘champagne powder”! A soak in the Strawberry Hotsprings is a great treat after a day of skiing and if you have kids, our daughter Maddie, who is 11, would recommend a trip to Fuzziwig’s, an awesome candy store in Steamboat. Favorite place for breakfast or lunch: Azteca, the breakfast burrito is huge and they even offer tofu! And if you must dine someplace other than VVR for dinner, Cafe Diva is wonderful!

Ciaobambino.com – September 2009

By Amie O’Shaughnessy, Editor of Ciaobambino

I recently interviewed a family that stayed at Vista Verde Guest Ranch outside of Steamboat Springs in Colorado for our family ranch vacation portfolio. You know you’ve found a gem when the first statement about a property is, “Vista Verde is the greatest vacation experience we’ve ever had.”

I get that. Our dude ranch experience at Smith Fork Ranch is one of my all-time favorite experiences too. What makes these ranch trips stand out is that you actually vacation. For me, this means enjoying an absolute break from the schedule and demands of day-to-day life (with or without kids). The beauty of ranch vacations is that you are active (not just sitting by a pool), but someone else does all the planning and it’s logistics free. Heaven!

The family I interviewed about Vista Verde loved the service level at the property. Dude ranches cater to groups at a time, so having a high service level is key to ensuring there is enough personalization that the experience meets your needs.

They also raved about the riding program. Most “real” dude ranches focus on horseback riding. A few things to note: 1) All programs have minimum age requirements. Riding is a great activity with school age kids and up. If you have younger children, ensure there are supervised activities for younger kids available or you won’t be riding either. 2) Horse quality is important. In the absence of a review that mentions this, check Trip Advisor for comments related the horse feedback.

See my post on how to choose the best ranch vacation for more tips on things to evaluate before making a decision on where to stay. Ranch vacations are not inexpensive—it’s worth doing an extra bit of homework to ensure you choose the right venue and destination.

Top 10 Family Resorts in the US

 

Thank you to Foxnews.com and Gayot for including us in this story!

Top 10 Family Resorts in the US

Geographically diverse, the U.S. offers an overwhelming range of destinations when it comes to planning family getaways. From Wild West ranches to laidback beaches to urban escapes, this list will help you hone in on a place for every interest. It also takes the adult factor into account. You may be a parent, but this is your vacation too, which means you want more than just water slides and bingo nights. What's wrong with a great wine list, spa treatments and golf for mom and dad, along with circus activities, scavenger hunts and fire truck rides for the kids? Understanding the needs of adults and children, these properties are not only for staying together, but for playing together — and apart — while on holiday.

CALIFORNIA
Ojai
Ojai Valley Inn & Spa 
Popular as a weekend spa and golf escape for Angelenos, the Ojai Valley Inn & Spa offers an ideal retreat for both adults and kids. Dating back to the 1920s, this sumptuous property features kid-oriented adult activities such as biking and fishing, as well as Camp Ojai (ages five to twelve), where offerings include animal yoga, Chumash rock painting (based on local Native American traditions) and history hikes. Teens also enjoy dedicated programs, ranging from Friday night "dive-in" movies at the kid's pool and Latin groove dance classes to tennis clinics, golf clinics and special spa treatments. Accommodations are residential in style, with comfy, contemporary ranch décor, and dining celebrates California produce and products. In short, this is the place to go when you want to combine luxury with an enriching experience for all ages. For more information, read a complete hotel review of Ojai Valley Inn & Spa

COLORADO
Steamboat Springs
Vista Verde 
You gotta love a place that boasts its own Kids Wranglers. No, these babysitters in boots don't round 'em up and rope 'em in. Instead, they teach horseback riding basics, host powwows in teepees and fill tiny bellies with nutritious food while you enjoy a wine tasting class or dinner by candlelight. From the welcoming day hayride to the marshmallow roast on the last night, Vista Verde's all-inclusive getaways are filled with traditional ranch activities and a few unusual extras, such as gold panning, hunting for animal tracks and fire truck rides — complete with sirens blaring — into town for hand-cranked ice cream. The ranch has separate programs for younger children and teens, so the older kids can play it cool while taking an adventure ride or embarking on an overnight campout. And if you'd like to come in the winter, kids will find just as much to do, with skiing, snowshoe outings and igloo building. Just outside Steamboat Springs, this working ranch offers lodge accommodation and private cabins with up to three bedrooms. For more information, visit VistaVerde.

FLORIDA
Orlando
Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge 
Antelopes, gazelles and giraffes, oh my! Leave it to Disney — creators of "The Lion King" — to bring the savannas of Africa to Orlando. Four tropical savannas, to be precise, separated by guest room wings. Make sure to ask for a room with a balcony overlooking the wildlife … and don't be surprised when a zebra or wildebeest strolls by (at a safe distance). African style pervades this resort and 43-acre wildlife preserve, from the thatched roofs to handcrafted artifacts to regional cuisines. Kids are invited to participate in cultural safaris, night vision animal viewing and junior research projects; as well, they can hit the waterslide at Uzima pool or check out the flamingos while they play at Hakuna Matata Playground. Adults who want a night out on their own can entrust kids aged three to twelve to Simba's Cubhouse, featuring supervised activities, Disney movies (big surprise) and dinner. Read a complete hotel review of Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge

HAWAII
Honolulu
Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach Resort & Spa 
Kids' clubs are an art form at luxury resorts in Hawaii, but the Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach Resort & Spa offers more than just a few youth-oriented activities. Everything about the property feels as if it was made to accommodate parents traveling with their offspring, from Atlantis submarine tours (check out the sunken coastal freighter and old passenger plane) to the Friday night fireworks show with hula dancing. This 22-acre beachfront "village" in Waikiki also offers more than a dozen restaurant options, daily wildlife feedings on the grounds and Camp Penguin for ages five to twelve. The half- and full-day programs (for a fee) include diversions such as supervised Hawaiian crafts, lei-making, Hawaiian storytelling and outside visits to places like the Waikiki Museum.

NEW YORK
New York City
Four Seasons Hotel New York 
We have always loved the Four Seasons hotel group for its efforts to pamper little ones. Call before you arrive, give the names and ages of your kids, and they will be welcomed with special amenities, appropriately sized robes, board games, coloring books, children's DVDs and complimentary toiletries (for babies). Kids' dishes are offered in the restaurant and on the room service menu, and the range of freebies is seemingly endless: childproofing, cribs and rollaways, Diaper Genies, bottle warmers and even strollers for perambulating Park and Madison Avenues. Take advantage of babysitting services while you hit the spa, and ask the concierge to help arrange carriage rides, museum tours and helicopter excursions. Best of all, there's no extra charge for kids seventeen and under to share a room with their folks. Read a complete hotel review of Four Seasons Hotel New York

NORTH CAROLINA 
Lake Toxaway 
Earthshine Mountain Lodge 
All-inclusive, Earthshine Mountain Lodge introduces kids and parents to an eclectic range of experiences. On Pioneer Mornings, you can apprentice in a blacksmith shop, press apple cider and make candles. And on Cherokee Mornings, you can learn the traditional ways of the Cherokee tribe, with activities that include making pottery and throwing tomahawks. Educational opportunities include the Destination 1840 immersion in living history, and Earth Explorers, where folktales become reality as kids discover their natural surroundings. Because the resort believes that family vacations are about more than just dropping your children off at the "kids' club" and then heading to the spa and golf course, activities here are made for the entire family — creek hikes, turtle tracking and zip-lining are just the beginning. There are even Hunger Games weekends for fans of the popular book. Storybook rooms are available in the hand-built cedar lodge, while the Sunrise Cottage offers a selection of larger family suites. For more information, visit Earthshinemtnlodge.com

ARIZONA
Scottsdale
Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Gainey Ranch 
With its scenic championship golf and pampering Spa Avania, this 27-acre Hyatt Regency knows how to meet adult needs. And if those adults happen to be traveling with their youngsters, they can rest assured that they can actually get some R&R while their offspring are entertained at Camp Hyatt Kachina (with two programs for ages three to five and six to twelve). Heavily influenced by Native American culture, the camp offers a wealth of activities, including arrowhead arts and crafts and Apache relay races, as well as desert scavenger hunts, mining at the Lost Dutchman's mine, cactus garden tours, Western sand art and Mexican bark painting. Enhancing the resort's draw for families even further is a 2.5-acre water playground with ten pools and a sand beach. For more information, visit Scottsdale.hyatt.com

PENNSYLVANIA
Hershey
The Hotel Hershey 
When it comes to product placement, it doesn't get more scrumptious than this. Willy Wonka, eat your heart out. Just one aspect of the Hershey, Pennsylvania experience, The Hotel Hershey pairs adult pastimes such as golf and spa treatments (chocolate-themed, of course) with the Cocoa Kids Club, a daily supervised program (for a fee) featuring tennis, basketball, swimming and arts and crafts. For guests thirteen to seventeen years of age, Club Adventure sessions include hiking and woodland exploration, team-building activities, skating and scavenger hunts. Nearby Hershey Park boasts eleven different roller coasters. And the hands-on, interactive Hershey's Chocolate World will tempt sweet tooths of all ages with an inside look at chocolate making: take a simulated ride through the Hershey's factory, create your own candy bar (including packaging) and save your appetite for a chocolate tasting adventure. Surprisingly — and pleasantly — the hotel itself avoids kitsch; Spanish in style, it was built in the 1930s (though it has been renovated and expanded) and is a member of Historic Hotels of America. For more information, visit Thehotelhershey.com

TEXAS
Austin
Barton Creek Resort & Spa 
From the Kids Club (six months to eight years) to Camp Barton (with no more than five kids per counselor), Barton Creek Resort & Spa will keep your offspring entertained. Swimming, nature trail hikes and scavenger hunts are just a few of the standard activities on offer, while fishing excursions and Friday Field Trips offer new experiences for young guests. During the summer, weeks at the camp are themed — for example, Buckaroo Blow-Out Week focuses on cowboy activities, while Party with the Planets Week gives kids the chance to discover the mysteries of outer space. Although this property has all of the expected kid-centric amenities, they have a hard time competing with the outdoor allure of this 4,000-acre Texas Hill Country resort. As for mom and dad, relaxation comes in many forms: unwind in the spa, play a round on the golf course or curl up with the kiddies for family movie night on weekend evenings. For more information, visit Bartoncreek.com

VERMONT
Highgate Springs 
The Tyler Place Family Resort 
Since 1933, Tyler Place Family Resort has been specializing in family vacations. Unlike many resorts that focus on the kindergarten and grade school crowds, this one caters to all ages, from newborns (musical games, bikes with baby seats, a fleet of strollers) to teens (water skiing, ropes courses, campouts). Those who came as kids when Tyler Place first opened now bring their great-grandchildren. It's hard to name an experience you won't find at this 165-acre lakefront property: it offers lake trampolines, circus activities, family field days and pontoon boat rides. There are special weekend and weeklong family retreats, and plenty of adult pursuits, like meditative yoga, pottery classes and Champagne cruises. With a picturesque setting on Lake Champlain, the resort features a selection of cottages and suites, all with separate parents' bedrooms. Though they're rustic rather than swanky, the accommodations are just right for a casual family escape. For more information, visit Tylerplace.com

MORE ON GAYOT.com

South Bay Magazine – June 2010

Totally Dude- Days and Nights on the Ranch
By Dianne Bates

It started in the middle of Jeff Bridges’ acceptance speech for Crazy Heart. Then I heard there was a remake of Big Valley in the works. A friend persuaded me to join efforts to save American wild mustangs from slaughter. I seemed to be nursing an inside longing to return from the blindingly instant world of tech relationships and business dealings to a simpler slower place.

I craved Western. I had to get off the speeding bandwagon and ride the horse.

I decided that a visit to the Alisal Guest Ranch and Resort near the über-Danish town of Solvang might provide a good transition from the city/hotel/spa/party scene I’d been covering to the laid-back land of open hills and sing-a-long sunsets. So what if they had a spa!

What to wear, what to wear…I stressed over the fact that Alisal’s dining room has a no-jeans policy. What the…? I packed an assortment of cowgirl-punk-business clothes and decided to figure it all out when I got to the ranch.

I breezed through the alpine architecture that is Solvang and, you betcha, soon passed Alisal’s expansive rural golf course and pulled into an oak-lined drive with lovely cottages on one side and a pasture on the other. A canoe was waiting for me at Alisal Lake. A very large canoe. Big enough for an entire tribe. A cold wind blew across the plains (sorry, I had to write that), and the lake was choppy, so I switched to a paddleboat and happily made it to the middle of the lake before my legs gave out. I rested for a bit, watching the tiny lake birds (whose numbers, I later learned, were being diminished by resident bald eagles). I peddled back to shore where several fishing families enjoyed my several attempts to dock and tie my boat.

My room was in a lovely duplex cottage on the stream. The clean and modern western accommodations included a wood-burning fireplace, and that suited me just fine. I headed to the dining room for dinner, striding into the bar in a long dark skirt, Levi’s jacket and eggplant cowboy boots. Oh, and a blue silk calico scarf by Single at my neck. I was Barbara Stanwyck.

Everyone else was dressed in business attire. Except for the staff, I was the only person thematically attired. Ouch. A glass of wine at the bar alleviated my fashion pain. In the Ranch Room, I enjoyed a luscious dinner of horseradish-encrusted salmon and greens, then strolled through the starry, dark bullfrog night to my room, wondering if ALL western-style dining rooms were required to hang red-checkered curtains.

There are no TVs or phones in the rooms so I built a fire, donned my P.J. Salvage stagecoach-and-cowboy jammies and poured myself a glass of 2003 Alisal Santa Barbara County Syrah. Produced by Lucas & Lewellyn winery, the lush 14.5% wine was a perfect finish to a long day. The full-bodied wine burst with a berry rush, and then revealed herbal notes. The long finish was velvety with hints of vanilla. Perfect.

It was never this good on the trail.

7:30 am. Too early, but I’m on a schedule. I threw on some jeans, a man-shirt by Fashion Week’s Seth Wellington, Levi’s jacket, boots and black bowler and headed to the barn for the breakfast trail ride. The corral was crowded with wranglers and families dressed in everything from English riding helmets to hoodies. I, of course, was the only one dressed like Butch Cassidy. It was refreshing to note that no one felt obligated to whip out an iPod.

We all rode in small groups along green trails and valleys filled with deer and cattle. The beautiful ranch was given to actor Leo Carrillo’s grandfather by the king of Spain and is currently used to fatten up cattle for market. I admit it made me a bit sad to see all those cows walking in lush open pastures, eating all that green grass, thinking they must be in heaven, unaware of their fate.
I hadn’t been on a horse in years. The horse knew it, I knew it, and my legs would know it the next day.

We arrived in a clearing where we were served a huge outdoor breakfast cooked on-site. Pancakes, eggs, bacon, sausage, fruit, biscuits and gravy, hash browns and various breads were piled on plates as cowboy poets and singers entertained the riders. Then another hour ride back. I was beginning to understand the logic of having a beautiful luxurious spa at the resort.

But I had to get home, so I bid the Alisal a fond farewell and headed into the sunset. Was it fun? Yeah, pardner. Real fun.

A few days later, when I got the full use of my legs back, I decided to get a refresher course on horsemanship. I’d seen the look in my mount’s eyes when I disembarked. It was sarcasm. I drove to the Palos Verdes Peninsula for a session at Cowboy Boot Camp. Jim Moore and his wife Lori Barnett own and operate two camps in California. The one in Rolling Hills Estates is located in a horse-owner community filled with miles of horse trails.

I felt Jim sizing me up as he introduced me to various horses. He stressed his emphasis on horsemanship and told me he often trains actors to ride for film and TV. His horse was a huge mustang, and he chose a smaller, older Arabian for me (go figure). As we hit the trail behind his house, he politely advised me about small things I’d forgotten: correct boot placement in the stirrups, posture, and the importance of communicating with your mount.

“Horses know they are just food for predators,” Moore told me. “You have to be in control so they feel safe.” By the end of the ride, I felt I’d regained my former skills as a horsewoman.

There are myriad ways to satiate your western self. Rancho Oso near Santa Barbara is a bit more rustic than the Alisal, and families can even sleep in covered wagons. Marble Mountain in northern California features white water rafting. Most ranches offer riding, fishing and family activities. Many have golf courses and spas. Ranches in Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico offer a change of vistas and different versions of cowboy food. If you’re a couch cowboy, there’s always the Autry Museum.

I wouldn’t advise a single person to visit a ranch with the hopes of meeting a potential date, though. Ranches appeal to groups and couples, and most of the horse wranglers and staff are married. I know this because I asked. All those single cowboys of my fantasies — Flint McCullough, Little Joe Cartwright, The Sundance Kid, and Wyatt Earp — returned to my memories. At least the married horse wranglers I met all politely and gentlemanly said, “Thank you, ma’am,” and I guess that will have to do.

WAY… OUT WEST
Well, technically east, for us Californians, still 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 to Vista Verde once told them, “We were treated like royalty, but made to feel like family.” The facilities are rustic yet romantic, the setting breathtaking. Hosting no more than 40 folks at a time, the atmosphere is intimate and accommodating, the staff a joy to interact with. Check out the property in the glorious white winter, riding-friendly summer, or my favorite, autumn, when Steamboat Springs’ explode in seasonal color. You just don’t get that same experience in the Sunshine State. www.vistaverde.com.

This week at the Ranch

By Front Desk Manager Christi Cline-
The countdown to opening day is on and finishing touches are being made at our Colorado guest ranch. Here’s a recap on the past twenty four hours here at Vista Verde. Yesterday morning our staff saddled up for a mock breakfast ride. This was partly to give practice to the servers, chefs and wranglers, but it was definitely time for staff bonding, laughs and a chance to snap some gorgeous morning pictures atop Indian Hill. Nothing is more spectacular than a Colorado mountain sunrise. The storm clouds started to build a bit, but the morning sprinkles didn’t scare off our riders. We made it back in time for more staff meetings and department time. Terry Wegener, our horse trainer thought the storm might initiate a delivery down in our mare barn in the evening…and his predictions were right! While our staff was having game night at The Steaming Bean coffee house in Steamboat Springs, Nicky, our assistant horse trainer and wrangler, delivered a colt at approximately 7:30 p.m.. She went to check on Rachel (the mare) and had a feeling that things were about to get exciting. The delivery was a quick one, between quiet peeks into her stall and excited calls to Terry, who is in Scottsdale Arizona judging a horse show, Nicky was coached through her first delivery! Sallie was videoing and helping relay messages from Terry the whole time. The baby colt and mare are healthy, happy and doing well. At first we thought we was sorrel in color, but in daylight now we see that he is a red roan and has a unique blaze in the shape of a bird. Names are in the mix as of yet, but Gus is high on the list, coming from Lonesome Dove.


Guaranteed there will be more exciting news in the next few days as we get ready to open our doors Sunday to our first summer guests. Today, staff are working on trails for biking, hiking and riding. Tonight we’re having a barn dance to learn the Salty Dog Rag, our staff dance and my personal favorite! Tomorrow, they’ll be busy with more meetings and working with their managers. We will keep you in the loop through our Ranch Facebook page. For our summer guests we are ready and excited, so hurry up and get here! For those of you who haven’t booked your summer family vacation yet, check back soon as Stephanie will be putting up some special offerings to fill the last cabins.

Carrot and Ginger Soup with Coconut Milk

From Chef Matt’s recipe book, enjoy!

Ingredients:
1- Bunch celery
4- Carrots
2 tbsp. minced ginger
1- Yellow onion
3 tbsp. olive oil
4 shallots- rough chop
3 tbsp. sesame oil
¼ cup- rice wine
½ cup- sake
2- 8 oz. cans coconut milk
Salt and pepper to taste
¼ cup- fresh cilantro
1 cup- green onion tops
1 gal- vegetable stock or water

1- Rough chop 1/2 celery and 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, and shallots, and process in a food processor until it is finely chopped. Sweat off the chopped vegetables in the olive oil and sesame oil until the onions turn translucent; add in the roasted vegetables and cook for another two minutes. Deglaze the mix with the rice wine and sake, and add in the ginger, and veg. stock.
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. Strain the soup through a medium strainer, and return to the stove.
4- Bring the mix to a boil again, and thicken it with a cornstarch or arrowroot slurry if needed. Pour in the coconut milk, green onion, and cilantro, then adjust the seasoning and serve.

Familiar Faces, New Faces

With the arrival of the staff over the weekend culminating with our Welcome dinner Monday night, orientation has been going at high speed this week at Vista Verde. There are some very familiar faces from past seasons such as Mandy, Lindsey, Amanda, David, Nate and sisters Leslie and Grace. And then a great mix of new staff who are excited to learn the ropes and looking forward to our first guests on June 6. On today’s schedule, Sallie is giving her intro to the dining room policies, followed by Grahm’s Fly Fishing program overview, then all guides and wranglers have a guide training by Steve and Kelli while the others go to their appropriate departments for training. With the beautiful weather we’ve been having, I’m sure everyone will enjoy lunch out by the pond like they did yesterday.

Stay tuned in the next couple days as we start updating the Staff profiles on the website so you may learn more about all these great folks.

In other ranch news, we will be posting last minute specials on our Facebook page if we have cancellations or spaces still to fill, so join up if you want to have access to those specials!

Spotlight on the Queen of Clean

Denise Nickerson joined us this year in a full time capacity at the ranch, running our housekeeping department. We’ve worked with Denise on a part time level for the past couple years, but this spring she decided to take the jump and move to the ranch.

Denise grew up along the coast of Rhode Island, spending many summers on the beach. Her riding arena were the beaches and the many trails that ran through the wooded country sides. She studied art and business in college and still continues to work mostly in pencil but also colored pencil and watercolor. Denise loves hiking, horseback riding, and is always looking for wildlife and wildflowers. Gardening is also another favorite pastime. She spent close to twenty years as a landscape gardener back East before moving back to Colorado. Back to Colorado? After high school, Denise moved out West, but then found herself back on the East Coast until recently. Her 23 year old son Clint also lives out here in the Steamboat Springs area, so she enjoys being close to him.

Knowing Denise’s reputation as a cleaning machine, and her enthusiasm for the ranch and what we’re doing for guests made her a perfect fit to come on board. We’re enjoying having her around and look forward to introducing those of you coming this summer to our newest member of the management team!

From www.Associatedcontent.com May 25, 2010

Thanks to Kyle Menssen and the Associatedcontent.com for their nice review:

Review of Vista Verde Ranch and Resort in Steamboat Springs, Colorado

Colorado has a lot of beautiful scenery and outdoor activities. One place that offers plenty of both along with a great place to stay is Vista Verde. This resort is located in Steamboat Streams, Colorado.

Vista Verde is a combination of a ranch and a resort. Guests have the choice of staying in their own cabin or in a room in the lodge. This is an all inclusive resort and the traditional rates are for a full weeklong stay, although they do offer shorter stays. The minimum is three days. All meals are included in their rates along with a variety of activities. They are open June through September for Summer and mid-December through early March for Winter. The rates and activities for the two seasons are very different, so it is best to discuss them separately.

Summer rates for a weeklong stay run between $2,900 to $3,600 for a cabin and $2,700 to $2,900 for a lodge room depending on when you stay. The rates are per person, although they deduct $700 for children. Shorter summer stays are offered September 12 through September 26. The rates for these are $399 per night for a cabin and $379 for a lodge room. These rates pay for a lot of activities.

Vista Verde offers various activities during the summer. Horseback riding is one of the main activities with each guest being paired with a horse that suits his personality and ability. Basic and advance trail rides, informative classes, individual lessons, and an offered all day ride with a picnic are all activities that you may do with your horse. Those that enjoy the water may participate in rafting and kayaking trips. There is also a photography tour and outdoor yoga classes offered. Those that are in the mood to stay indoors for awhile might enjoy the cooking class or wine tasting. Some of the other summer activities include mountain biking, hiking, fly fishing, and rock climbing. There are also some optional activities that are not included in the rates such as a hot air balloon ride, golf, and getting a massage.

If your visit will take place during the winter season the rates run from $325 to $525 for a cabin and $295 to $495 for a lodge room again depending on when you go. These rates are per person and per day and there is a three day minimum. If you have more than two guests, each additional guest can deduct $100 per night off of their price.

Horseback riding is still part of the Vista Verde experience in Winter, although the trails are not as long and are limited to a walk. Visitors may also enjoy a horse drawn sleigh ride. Skiing is also one of the activities offered whether one needs beginning lessons or is experienced. Snowshoeing is also a fun winter activity offered at Vista Verde. Some of the other activities offered are indoor yoga, a photography ski, cooking classes, wine tasting, sledding, and a night ski. There are also multiple optional activities, although these cost extra. Some of these are dog sledding, snowmobiling, ice climbing, and more.

Vista Verde offers activities that everyone can enjoy especially if they love the outdoors. Fun activities along with beautiful scenery make this a great place for couples, families, or individuals. Visitors that are interested in how the ranch works are even welcome to follow along or help with the daily chores such as collecting chicken eggs, feeding the animals, or herding cattle. I would highly recommend giving this unique resort a try.

Steve’s Mountain Biking Adventure

Steve packed up the truck with bikes, grabbed guides Cliff and Brandon and a bunch of 8th graders from the North Routt Charter School to head to Moab last week. The trip was a graduation trip for the 8th graders, and the guides led the adventure. Camping in the desert, biking each day, and learning what it’s like to hang out with a bunch of 14 year olds made for some pretty great stories and memories for the kids, but maybe more for Steve and the guys. And it gave Steve, Cliff and Brandon a chance to get their bike legs warmed up so they are ready to ride with you this summer!
Are you ready for your mountain biking vacation? Or, are you more interested in the horses? Then you’ll enjoy meeting our newest ranch foal, born to Chex over the weekend. He’s a cutie! With Oakley (Emmy’s filly born a few weeks ago) and Ace, pictured here, we are now halfway through our foaling cycle. Still to come are Teletubby and Rachel, and we’re thinking we may get one more from Mary Jane. The vet checked her and said she wasn’t in foal, but she sure if gaining weight just like a momma-to-be is supposed to gain!

Sherman’s Travel- April, 2010

Top 10 Family ResortsSherman’s Travel

By ShermansTravel Editorial Staff

Waterslides are great, sure, but today’s family resorts are going above and beyond when it comes to entertaining kids

* 1. Astronomy at Hyatt Regency Maui
* 2. Cook at The Essex Resort
* 3. Dolphin Encounter at Hawks Cay
* 4. Golf at Kiawah Island Golf Resort
* 5. Horseback Ride at Vista Verde Ranch
* 6. Nature Adventure at Enchantment Resort
* 7. Sail at Pink Shell Beach Resort & Spa
* 8. Surf at Hotel del Coronado
* 9. Tennis at Horseshoe Bay Resort
* 10. Water Sports at Madden’s on Gull Lake

Long gone are the days when a Griswold-esque family vacation was anyone’s idea of fun. Today, modern families require a particular set of leisurely pursuits – and family resorts across the country are pulling out all the stops to offer such fine recreation. On top of the typical smorgasbord of family amenities – day camps, cool pools, kids’ meals – our 10 favorite family resorts offer something different: pioneering learning programs. Yes, we’ve said it. Learning really is fun at these family resorts, where kids can hone in on their latest obsession be it tennis or sailing, learn a new craft like surfing or waterskiing, pick up a few pointers in the kitchen at a cooking school, or star gaze with skill after an intriguing 101 in astronomy. Formulated to engage and inspire, these innovative resort programs span the U.S., from Florida to Vermont, Texas to Minnesota, San Diego to Maui, and provide the winning formula (instruction, encouragement, and rewarding hands-on activities) for a satisfying summer vacation. Plus, the experience and knowhow will last long after your family heads home. Check out our Top 10 Family Resorts Slideshow for a sneak peak at these fun, kid-friendly resorts.

Horseback Ride at Vista Verde Ranch

Vista Verde’s dedicated kids and teens programs ensure guests of all ages get the most out of their dude ranch experience (www.vistaverde.com). Upon arrival at the ranch-style resort – nestled amid green pastures, tall Pines, and duck ponds in Colorado’s lush Elk River Valley – each kid, teen, and adult is paired with a horse that is theirs for the week. Once in the saddle, kids spend the first day in the corral with the “kid wranglers” learning how to ride before heading out onto the trails, while teens have separate trail rides and a weekly campout. Half-day rides for all guests leave most mornings and afternoons with groups divided by age and ability. Back at the ranch, little cowboys and ‘gals enjoy boat races, treasure hunts, and hayrides. The key word at this family resort is flexibility and kids always have the option of doing their own thing (under ranch staff supervision) or joining their parents for family rides and other activities like guided hikes, mountain biking, river rafting, outdoor yoga, rock climbing, or shopping in nearby Steamboat Springs. Everything is included and nothing is mandatory; the staff comes around each evening to find out what guests want to do the following day. Rustic-luxe accommodations comprise rooms in the main lodge and 1- to 3-bedroom private cabins, all of which are furnished with western art and handmade furniture; cabins each have a patio with hot tub.
Summer all-inclusive weekly rates start at $2,700 for adults and $2,000 for kids (ages 6–11) for June 6–27 and August 15–September 12, and $3,400 for adults and $2,700 for kids June 27–August 15. www.vistaverde.com

Chef Robert’s much loved 7 Layer Bars

(1 * 8”x12”x2” pan)

Ingredients:

1. 1 cup unsalted butter, soft
2. 2 cups light brown sugar, firmly packed
3. 2 eggs
4. 2 tsp. vanilla extract
5. 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
6. 1 tsp. baking soda
7. 1 tsp. salt
8. 3 cups dry oatmeal
9. 12 ounces chocolate chips
10. 11 ounces sweetened condensed milk

Procedure:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. In an electric mixer, cream the butter and brown sugar until smooth.
3. Add the eggs and vanilla and combine.
4. Sift together the dry ingredients (except oatmeal) and add to egg and butter mixture, mix until just combined.
5. Add oatmeal and combine, do not over mix.
6. Line a 8”x12”x2” cake pan with foil and press approximately 2/3 of the mixture into the bottom of pan.
7. Combine the chocolate chips and condensed milk and pour over crust.
8. Top with remaining crust mixture, press down and bake at 350 for 30 minutes.
9. Remove from oven and cool on a rack until completely cool.

American Cowboy, May 2010

The Best Ranch Vacations of the West
American Cowboy Magazine– Mark Bedor

Not just for dudes any more, the modern-day guest ranch puts you to work. Stays are akin to wrangler apprenticeships. And though we all know that food tastes better after a day on the trail, what cowboy doesn’t appreciate a chef-prepared meal—or a hot tub, for that matter? Here are 23 of our favorite ranches from across the West and beyond.

Sunrise never looks so fine as from the back of a horse, whether I’m at a ranch in the Arizona desert or the Rocky Mountains or the wide open Plains. And there’s just something about the satisfaction of a hearty breakfast at a rustic lodge or around a blazing campfire that makes early morning light come alive across unspoiled country. When I swing into the saddle on a well-trained horse for a day of adventure and spectacular scenery, I forget that I ever had a desk job.

Originated by enterprising ranchers looking to make an extra buck off East Coast greenhorns, the dude ranch is a Western tradition that has continued evolving into a 21st-century mainstay. Horsemanship and great trail rides have always been a premium, yet service and amenities (or lack thereof) are much improved. Living like a cowboy for a spell—whether you choose a ranch with a Michelin-rated chef from New York or a rough, overnight cattle drive—will remind you of the finer things in life. The creak of the saddle, the cry of a hawk, and the clip clop of hooves cleanse the harried soul.

And a week spent with horses, and without TVs or cell phones, brings people together like nothing else—especially families. The simple pleasures of hours on the trail, cookouts under the stars, and two-stepping at a barn dance put the real focus on the family.

Vista Verde Ranch
Steamboat Springs, Colorado
800-526-7433
Why go: Whether it’s the five-star food (Sample dessert: Mexican molten cake topped with homemade dulce de leche ice cream and rum-caramel sauce), the brand-new lodge with its huge fireplace, timbers, and picture windows, or the 600-thread count sheets on custom log beds, the goal of co-manager Ben Martin is to instill “the wow factor.” This fall Vista Verde is launching an intensive weeklong cattle gather tailored for serious riders (and those who want to be). The new indoor riding arena has also been a huge hit.
The riding: The big buckskin I rode here was the fastest horse I’d ever been on. My wife loved her gentler mount, Sugar, and the ranch-riding clinic taught us to do “diagonals” for the first time. We learned to drive the wagon team as well, which was a kick. I really enjoyed the long hours in the saddle through the colors of the Routt National Forest.
Price: $3,400–$3,600, one-week minimum
Guest total: 40

A Little Off Season Fun…What We’ve Been Up To!

Even though we’ve been closed for two months now, there have been a lot of projects and excitement going on at the ranch. Having just got back from a month off I was surprised to see all the improvements…AND meet the newest ranch additions! Ben and Holly have a new and oh so cute golden retriever puppy, named Copper. He is playful and already getting into the groove of being a ranch dog, with a little help from his big brother Cody.
Down in our mare barn, Emmy delivered a precious new filly last Saturday. Many of you may be following our “mare news” on Vista Verde’s Facebook page. Trust me when I say, this may be the cutest horse you’ve ever seen. With the birth of Emmy’s baby, which is waiting to be named officially, we are expecting another foal any day now. We will be sure to keep you in the dude ranch family loop!

Springtime cleaning this off-season has been accompanied by lots of new construction projects. Grahm our part-time wood worker and expert fly fisher completed a new gate this April that opens to winter pasture. He did a wonderful job and from the looks of it I think the horses are enjoying it as well. Steve has shown us that his skills stretch far beyond the trails with the completion of the new “King Team” office. It extends from the Nordic/Adventure Center and was built using recycled materials. From their new office to the kitchen, our luxury Colorado ranch in the mountains really is going green. Chef Rob is excited to introduce organic meats and produce from local Northwestern Colorado farms. More information will be shared in future blogs and during your summer stay here with us.

By Our Front Desk Mgr and Guest Blogger Christi Cline

Introducing Poncho and Lefty

The past year has been a bit of a challenge for the ranch and our draft horse teams. Sadly, we lost Zig during the summer of 2009. Zig was part of our Percheron team, and his buddy Zag was left with an empty harness next to him after Zig passed. With draft horse teams, it can be hard to pair up horses who haven’t grown up together and learned to pull together. We gave it a shot with another draft horse named Whopper, but he and Zag weren’t a good match. So we bought a young team named Ben and Jerry, hoping they could work into being our rising stars. Well, the stars didn’t rise quite the way we wanted, and they didn’t have quite the right mindset for what we wanted in a team. We did successfully pair up young Ben with Zag this past winter, and it was a great learning experience for Ben to learn from an old-timer like Zag. But, as Zag is aging and having a harder time with the hard work of pulling the feed sleigh every day, we realized that we needed to find a pair that could step into the role right away and being in our starting line-up. So, with that, we introduce Poncho and Lefty. These guys come from a nearby rancher who didn’t need a team anymore, much like Zig and Zag when we first got them. They’ve done it all and we’re excited to start working with them to see how they do for Vista Verde. The team just got here last week, so they are still settling in and are a little nervous, as many horses tend to be when placed into a new setting. We’ll let them get comfortable with their setting and then hitch them up and see how it goes. Right now, they are living up at the barn with the ponies- Shamrock and Morris, who are not exactly intimidating pasture partners as you can see in this picture.
We are looking forward to introducing all the kids coming to our Colorado dude ranch this summer to Poncho and Lefty for the hay wagon ride we take out each Sunday evening. By the way, any guesses on who goes on the left side when hitched up?

Cattle Gather Week

I am excited. Ben, Dace and I just met with Christy and Matt Belton the other day to go over the schedule for our cattle gather weeks in September. And, hold onto your hats, it’s gonna be fun. This is a new relationship between Vista Verde and the Beltons, and the goal is to help each other manage a herd of 1,000 head of cattle on a National Forest land lease.

Here’s how it’s going to work. Throughout the summer, we will be helping check the herd, and keep them somewhat corralled into the parts of the forest where we want them. The lease is a total of 16,000 acres. Yes, you read that correctly. And it’s not all fenced, so there is the chance that the cows can just keep wandering all the way to Dome mountain if we don’t check them and move them to the right areas frequently. So, twist our arms, we’ll be taking all-day rides throughout the summer out to help make that happen.

The real excitement begins in mid-September with our cattle gather weeks. During both the week of September 12-19 and 19-26 we will be driving them all down to holding pens for them to be loaded and shipped. The first couple days of each week will be spent at the ranch taking part in clinics and in-depth instruction so everyone is on the same page with their horses and how we want to work the cows. Mid-week, we’ll head out for several very intensive days of riding in the forest, trying to find all the cows and driving them to the holding areas. These riding days are not for the faint of heart, it will be intensive days in the saddle, and you will love your hot tub when you get back to the ranch. I’m guessing our massage therapist will be in demand at the end of the week! We will be offering all our regular activities, so if you want to just come and experience the beauty of fall at the ranch, you can still do that. We hope to have some of you come ride with us! Give Stephanie a call at 800-526-7433 or reservations@vistaverde.com if you want more information.

Easy Chocolate Truffles

One of the most requested recipes from our kitchen is for the Chocolate Truffles. Chef Matt makes these often times to use for pairing with some of the red wines during his weekly wine tasting.

Ingredients:

* 2/3 cup heavy cream
* 2 Tbs. honey
* 9 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
* 2 Tbs. liquor of your choice (optional)
* Cocoa powder or powdered sugar for dusting

Method:

1. In sauce pan over low heat bring cream and honey to boil.

2. Whilst cream is heating place the chocolate in a food processor. If you do not have one, simply add chocolate to boiling cream and stir until smooth.

3. Once the cream comes to a boil, turn on the food processor and add the cream in a steady stream until chocolate is smooth.

4. Pour into a bowl and refrigerate until set.

5. Line a cookie sheet with wax paper or foil and scoop mixture with a 1″ ice cream scoop or teaspoon. Form ball shapes and chill until firm. 1-2 hours.

6. Roll truffles in cocoa or powdered sugar until well coated, crushed pistachios, pecans or melted chocolate can also be used. Refrigerate for 2 weeks or freeze for 2 months.

Smarter Traveler- May 2010

Vista Verde Ranch was included in a list of Family Vacation ideas in celebration of Mother’s Day on the Smarter Traveler website. This article also appeared on CNN.com.

By Eileen Ogintz-Memorable Mother’s Day Vacation Ideas

We moms all know the dirty little secret of family vacations.

No, I’m not talking about the piles of laundry when we get home, though that’s certainly no fun. I’m talking about how moms whisper on the beach, around the pool, and on line at theme parks, that family vacations are really no vacations at all for them, especially when young kids are part of the equation.
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“Many moms say they need a vacation after the vacation,” says Suzy Stauffer, founder of Beyond the Bus Stop, an online support network for moms. “Moms need a break for sure!”

“It’s a lovely vacation for everyone. But me,” Jenn Belden, a mom of a young son and daughter, wrote in an email about her family’s annual trip to the Outer Banks. “I still cook, wash up, do laundry, shop for groceries, often for extended family. There is no rest!”

And on vacation, just like at home, guess who is mediating squabbles, planning activities, navigating unfamiliar turf, keeping kids safe, searching for that missing bathing suit top, a washing machine, or new batteries, treating minor illnesses and injuries, and making sure there’s enough milk for breakfast?

Whenever possible, I go for a condo with a washer or a wash-and-fold place. I can tell you from personal experience, moms are concierge and activity planner whether the kids are three, 13, or 23.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not taking anything away from dads who do their share and then some on vacation—including my own husband who likes nothing more than whipping up a big breakfast for the gang at a vacation condo or cabin and then leading them all on some expedition. It’s just that moms typically are the planners, the packers—and the worriers. Still, a lot of moms will agree that those rare isn’t-life-with-these-kids-wonderful moments on vacation are worth the effort—as long as you’re not too tired to enjoy them.

“Enjoy seeing the trip through the kids eyes,” says Suzy Stuffer, “and then plan a Mom-only trip as a reward for all of your hard work!”

Certainly there are plenty of Mom trips to choose from. I’ve got one planned to Provincetown on Cape Cod with my three oldest friends. We’re staying at a B&B that doesn’t welcome young children.

You can opt for a pricier trip, such as the Sex and the Big Apple Core package that includes hotel, passes to a Sex and the City Tour, and a DVD of the first movie, starting at $215 for two. The Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay just introduced a girlfriends’ getaway where you can borrow yoga mats for in-room yoga. The package comes complete with spa privileges and food credits. The Marquis los Cabos promises complimentary mani-pedis, an anti-aging breakfast, and a spa scrub during the month of May. Adventures in Good Company arranges women-only adventure trips.

That’s not to say a family vacation can’t be enjoyable for mom, too—at least part of the time. Ithaca, New York, dad Bruce Stoff emailed me that “a little break goes a long way on vacation,”—at least it did when he took his daughter to the Smithsonian for an hour while his wife “relaxed amid the Renoirs” at the National Gallery.

“Plan for a break for mom,” suggests Allison Valdes, Georgia resident and the mom of two boys, including one with special challenges. Valdes is such an expert on trips to Walt Disney World that she is a member of the Disney Moms Panel. “It is always understood that when we visit Orlando, I get at least half a day to go to Downtown Disney by myself and no one gets upset because they know in advance I’m doing it. I get my mommy break having a little less guilt.”

It can help — especially single moms– to invite grandparents or extended family along — assuming that won’t cause you more stress. Nancy Schretter, founder of Family Travel Network adds that you’re also guaranteed a break if you take a vacation with a family with kids close to the same age as yours—and agree ahead of time to share some babysitting. Share a condo and you’ll cut vacation costs significantly too. Check websites such as VRBO and ResortQuest.

Bring your favorite sitter — or niece or nephew and let them chase the toddlers down the beach and sit in the room while the baby naps, moms suggest. Hire a sitter for a few hours each day. At the very least, look for a place that has a terrace or balcony to hang out on while the children nap or are down for the night, adds Corinne McDermott, founder of Have Baby Will Travel, which includes an online store for baby travel gear.

Then there are the all-inclusives including cruise lines (some, such as Disney and Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas even have nurseries at sea) and resorts like Beaches, Club Med Club Med, and others, that schedule age-appropriate programming from morning until night. The Bahamas megaresort Atlantis is even offering special Lego Camps this summer and The Resort at Pelican Hill in Newport Beach, California, offers a new Summer Culinary Academy for parents, while kids are entertained in Camp Pelican.

If your kids love horses or the outdoors, consider a dude ranch like Vista Verde Ranch in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, where we spent a blissful few days. Or try out a family camp; search the American Camp Association website for ideas.

Be forewarned that you may get more of a break than you bargained for if your kids—especially tweens and teens—prefer the organized activities to hanging out with you. Or you may not get a break at all if the kids balk at participating—think the preschooler uncomfortable in unfamiliar turf, and the grade-schooler who thinks the activities, no matter how spectacular, are “lame.”

At the very least, let the kids (and dad) be in charge of a couple of meals—from shopping to cooking to cleaning up—and create an itinerary that includes some “mom” time. Can you think of a better Mother’s Day present?

Most important, let go of the guilt! It’s your vacation too.

Baby any day and a new horse

For a while there, it seemed like winter at the ranch would never leave. But, even though we’re still getting some snow here and there, it is melting away faster than it’s falling these days. We’re down to bare grown right in most places right around the ranch buildings, and the fences out in the pastures are finally fully exposed. On a sunny day like today, it feels like spring should feel. And with spring in the air, we’re getting ready for the first foal to arrive….any day now.
In the meantime, a crew from the ranch headed down to the Legends of Ranching horse sale at Colorado State University this past weekend. We were taking bets on how full the trailer would be on the way home. Apparently the recession has ended in the horse world as the prices were much, much higher this year than last. Because the horses were going for a fair bit, we only ended up with one little filly. She’s a cutie though, and is getting used to her new home. She is a 2 year old, so will take some training before we start using her for riding. She may be one who is rotated between the broodmare herd and the riding herd over the years. SCR Badger Pep is her registered name, and her nickname is still to be determined. She’s a sweetheart!

Your first winter snow vacation

So, you’re a bona fide beach lover.  But, there is this lingering curiosity about what it would be like to take a vacation in the snow.  Whether it’s a family snow vacation you’re considering or a romantic winter getaway, it can be a little daunting to figure out how to tackle that kind of trip for the first time.  How about a little help?

First off, you need to decide how you want to experience the snow.  If the idea of shooshing down the slopes and enjoy apres ski drinks at the bar sounds appealing, you definitely need to consider a ski resort vacation.  Of course we’re biased, but the Steamboat Ski Resort would be our pick, among all the great ski resorts in the country.  I have always been biased to finding a hotel or condo right on the slopes, so you can walk out your condo door and put your skis on right away.  But, there are plenty of places that offer shuttle services too, so don’t be put off by a little distance from the ticket office.  If you are downhill skiing for the first time, I have one and only one suggestion.  Get lessons.  Pay the extra to have an instructor show you the ropes.  It is too frustrating, and you are spending too much money on this vacation already, not to go the extra mile to do it right.

If the crowds and social scene of a big ski resort aren’t up your alley, what are your options?  You could just rent a small cabin in the woods somewhere with snow and have a DIY snow vacation.  Buy a cheap sled for the kids, bring along some hot chocolate, and enjoy.  Or, you can visit a cross country ski lodge.  There is some great cross country skiing in Colorado, but there are also nice ski lodges in the other Western states as well as the East Coast.  Some are more geared toward family snow vacation, and some just for hard cord cross country skiers.

Of course, I left my personal favorite option for the finale.  A winter guest ranch!  It is the best of both worlds for a winter vacation idea.  You get the snow, the beautiful Lodge, the great meals, the beautiful vistas, the warm Western hospitality, all wrapped up in an all inclusive package.  All you need to do is get to the airport, and we take it from there.  No rental car, shuttle services, or bellhops to tip.  At Vista Verde, we will pick you up from the Steamboat airport and whisk you off to the ranch with a friendly driver.  Once at the ranch, you can choose daily from a diverse offering of activities.  No planning ahead of time, calling around for the best options, or finding the lines too long.  Snowshoe, sled, horseback ride, sleigh ride, you name it….we’ll provide you a personalized and unique experience.  Meals are all included, as is beer and wine.  So, once again, no reservations, long waits or planning needed.  Just show up at mealtime, and we’ll take it from there.  If you have kids, it’s a great option for introducing them to the snow as your cabin is right there to go back to for dry clothes or to take a break.  Honeymooners find it a unique option as the planning is easy, the setting romantic, and the service top notch.

Whatever path you choose, we hope you’ll give it a try.  Winter is fun, especially when you dont have to worry about shovelling your driveway!  Come see why we love winter vacations at Vista Verde Ranch!

Spotlight on Dace Starkweather

Many of you have gotten to know Dace in your time at the Ranch. Officially, he’s the General Manager who focuses on the staffing side of the business. Unofficially, he’s the do it all guy. Both at the ranch and on his off time, Dace is a guy with surprising skills and interests.

Raised on a farm in rural Illinois, but just an hour or so from Chicago, Dace had an innate love for nature and solitude, but a taste for culture and the arts. He grew up with 2 younger sisters and 2 older brothers, and stays close to all of them to this day. In fact, Dace is the proud and fun-loving uncle of 8 nieces and nephews with another arriving soon.

After leaving Illinois to attend college at CU Boulder, Dace essentially never looked back. He discovered guest ranches in Colorado as a wrangler during his summer breaks and that relationship extended well past graduation as he helped manage and run a well established Colorado guest ranch for years.

Next up, Dace attended Biola University in California for his Masters in Organizational Leadership while also working at the Disney Grand California, for a different angle into the world of hospitality. It was shortly after that Dace ended up learning about the opportunity to come be General Manager at Vista Verde Ranch. He and Ben both interviewed for the job and agreed that it would best be approached by them sharing the role and each having their own focus.

Where things get interesting about Dace is to understand the various layers of his passions. An avid sports fan, Dace is currently rooting for the Chicago Black hawks to make their first run at the Stanley Cup. But, taking a break from that, he moves into his studio upstairs (pictured) to work on some of his paintings that he is considering submitting for an art show this Spring. You’ll not only find a guitar in Dace’s office for singing around the campfire, but he plays often at home. Time away from the ranch has taken Dace to China to be a speaker on hospitality, to visit family and explore places like Mackinaw Island, Puerto Rico and the southern states.

Right now Dace is finishing up the hiring for the summer season. He has all positions filled except for the last fishing guide. I’m sure he’ll be celebrating when he fills that last spot! We hope you get to meet Dace if you haven’t already. And if you have, know that he’ll be waiting by the campfire with his guitar for you next time you’re out this way.

A honeymoon story from the past

I met a gentleman the other day who had spent his honeymoon at Vista Verde 51 years ago.  He came for a visit with his great friend, Elvin Tufly, who family owned the ranch from the 30's to the 70's.  It was great to visit with Elvin's family and friend, and hear stories from days gone.  

A Colorado honeymoon 51 years ago was probably a lot different than the romantic honeymoon getaways we are providing guests these days!  There weren't bubbling hot tubs, luxury cabin, gourmet meals and guides waiting to take the couple out into the mountains to play.  But, the same serene vistas and peacefull quiet provided the young couple a chance to relax and enjoy the beauty of the ranch.

What a great treat to meet these folks, hear their stories, and imagine what life was like at our special Colorado dude ranch just 50 years ago.  

Round Bellies

I went to visit the broodmares yesterday down at the mare barn. They are getting big round bellies, with the babies expected to begin arriving in early May. Chex and Teletubby were outside and were pretty hard to get a picture of as they just wanted to follow me around and see what I had in my hands. They are such sweet girls, and we’re hoping their foals get their pretty looks and kind personalities. It was a cold and snowy day yesterday, but they were still happy to be outside of their stalls getting fresh air. Today is going to be a better day for sunbathing, which is one of the broodmares favorite past times. Our spring newsletter is going out this week with some more information on who is expecting babies, so stay tuned. And you can count on cute baby pictures here on the blog and on our Facebook page as soon as they arrive! Did you also see that we were included in Sherman’s Travel as one of 10.

Summer Staff

Dace is busy putting the final touches on the roster for our summer staff. It hasn’t been too tough of a job this spring considering about 75% of the crew are returning staff so he hasn’t had to vet too many new applicants. So, who, you ask, is coming back? Here’s the quick rundown:
Kitchen– Chefs Matt and Pat will be back at it with Rob.
Dining room– Sallie is staying on to oversee the servers and to see what the ranch looks like without snow.
Kids and Teens– Ready? Mandy, Amanda, Chelsea, Lindsey, Grace and Jen.
Housekeepers– Teresa tried to leave, but couldn’t do it, and Amber is sticking around to see what’s under all that snow.
Wranglers– Johanna, Terry and Nicky of course. Then, Rachel is back in the saddle along with Nate, David, Amanda and Leslie.
Ranch Hands– Jess and Javin are tipping the scales to become lifers. Daniel (from winter) and Stephanie (from last summer) jump into the ranch hand crew this summer.
Fly fishing– Grahm is another one who can’t get rid of us.
Guides– Joining Steve and Kelli will be two return staff members, but new to the guide program- Bekah and Cliff. They are already starting some bike training with a spring trip to Moab!
Office– Christi sticks around for another season to keep Dace, Ben and Steph lined out. Thank goodness!

So there’s your sneak preview. If you want to know more, you’ll have to book a stay so you can get the full staff story and visit with all these incredible people!