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!

Visiting Colorado, one stop at a time


We had some suprising visitors stop by the other day to see our Colorado dude ranch.  It was in the whirlwind of a Sunday turnover, as we were getting ready for some new families to arrive, filled with anticipation and hoping they picked the best dude ranch.  All of us were running several directions at once.  Lucky for me, I was the one who took some time to show these gals around and hear about their traveling adventures.

Elaine and Marlene are two women with a strong travel bug.  When both of them got through raising children, and found more free time, they decided to team up and start traveling the world.  Their trips have been inspired by the book, “1000 Places to Visit Before You Die”.  Their stop by on Sunday was not just because they were enjoying a Steamboat Springs vacation, but because Vista Verde is part of this book.  Little did they know that they would be visiting a luxury dude ranch in Colorado when they first took on this epic journey!

I didn’t get a chance to spend a whole lot of time with these gals, but I was so taken by their travel stories that I took a picture of them in front of our Colorado lodge before they headed off to see the Zirkel Wilderness area, just up the road from the resort.

If you get a moment, check them out at Wild Women Wanderers.  It may inspire your next vacation!

Our 15 minutes of fame

Yesterday brought a little bit of the big city to Steamboat Springs and the ranch. A crew of about 25 people from Eddie Bauer rolled in at 7am to use the ranch for a catalog photo shoot. Luckily, we’re still holding on to winter at the ranch so there was enough snow in the meadows. We shuttled them around on snowmobiles to and from the Homestead cabin, as well as provided some horses who got to hang out with their Italian model. We even had Zag hooked up to the bobsled for one shot. The best part of the sleigh shot was that Jess was all set as the driver, but they didn’t want him in the shot (poor Jess) so he had to crouch down out of eyesight of the camera, but ready to jump on and drive in the event that Zag decided he needed to go somewhere. Luckily, it was such a nice, warm, sunny day that Zag quickly realized there was nowhere better to go and took a cat nap while the models did their best to look enthralled that they were about to go on a pretend sleigh ride, and photographers, make up artists and stylists hovered around them. The crew was the best we’ve ever worked with and were respectful of the ranch and very professional. It was a long day of shooting and Jess, Grahm, Rachel and Charlie all stuck it out from 6:30am until 7pm….but we had some fun laughs, enjoyed a gorgeous spring day, and shook up our routine a bit. We are a little worried that Zag might have a Diva complex though….. A Colorado sleigh ride, filled with Italian models.

The magic of a Colorado honeymoon

As I watch the honeymoon couples come through the ranch, it makes me excited about how we are helping start off a marriage.  Typically, they are exhausted when they walk in the door.  Months of planning, stress from the wedding and the emotional ride of committing your life to another person have overloaded them.  As they walk into the Lodge, you can see the tension still there.  It typically isn’t until the step foot into their Colorado honeymoon cabin that I see them start to take that deep breath.  We call it the Vista Verde sigh.  Letting it all go, leaving it all behind.

Once they have enjoyed a dinner with our other guests, gotten a chance to plan out their next day’s activities and have had a good night sleep in their romantic mountain getaway cabin, suddenly we are looking at new people.  They are now diving into the experience.  Sharing laughter and pushing their limits on a ski or horseback ride make them lighten up, have fun together, and seal the deal on leaving the rest behind.

A romantic Colorado getaway is all a couple needs to bring them closer together, make some lasting memories, and start them off right when they return home.  We love being a part of so many honeymoon vacations, and look forward to helping more couples start off their marriage the right way- with laugther and fun!

You know you’re spoiled when….

You know you’re spoiled when you get to go to work with your mom at the premier (sorry, the writer is biased) Colorado luxury guest ranch. Then, while she is busy with work, you get to go into the kitchen to make play-dough and Chef Rob happens to show up and helps you make gourmet play-dough, not just the regular old kind, in your own private cooking class. And then you get to color it and play with it and then put all your dishes in a special industrial sized dishwasher and watch it whoosh and make exciting noises before you head to the staff room to meet up with your mom for a hot lunch prepared by Chef Brandon. Oh, and the dessert today was Macerated berries with homemade Bundt cake. OK folks, it isn’t like this every day at the ranch during the off-season, but these cute girls scored this morning!
This afternoon? Maybe a quick horseback ride in the indoor arena, because it’s just a little chilly outside and we’re all kind of spoiled now with that arena!

Romance at Vista Verde Ranch


I just got some great photos from a wedding of former staff members, and it got me thinking.  There are so many couples who met at Vista Verde as staff, who have now turned into wonderful marriages.  What is it about this place?  Between romantic honeymoon vacations, surprise engagement getaways and couples rekindling the flame over long winter weekend stays, Vista Verde does seem to have something going on in the romantic destination department.  But, it doesn't stop with the guests coming to our luxury guest ranch.  In fact, there is a pretty big track record of this place being a meeting spot for young folks who work at the ranch, who find a spark here, and then go on to get married down the road.

To start off, we should all send a huge congratulations to Stacy and Daniel Knapp, whose wedding this past weekend was beautiful.  The two of them worked at our Colorado dude ranch a while back. What was fun to hear about is that there were several other Vista Verde alumni included in their wedding.  Jess, Kimmie, Cliff and Lindsey were all in attendance, and a very special part of the event.  We wish all the best to the Knapp's in their marriage, and hope the Vista Verde magic continues to make it a wonderful relationship.

So, be careful if you choose to come to Vista Verde.  If you weren't looking for a romantic resort getaway, you might just end up with one.  If you work at the ranch, you just might end up with a spouse down the road.  If you come to the ranch as a guest, there is a good chance you will find the spark rekindled with your loved one.  And, if your boyfriend brings you on a trip here…..watch out for those romantic rides up to the Cliffs.  You might find something sparkly on your finger by the time you get back to the ranch.  

Off Season Adventures

Although we don’t have any guests around right now, the ranch is nothing but quiet these days. The off-season is a time for knocking out projects on the to-do list, cleaning up from the winter, gearing up for the summer, and taking a little time off too.

This year, the off-season at our Colorado ranch began with a Wilderness First Aid training for many of our staff. It was an intense 4 days of training, but well worth it. You hate to think about the worst case scenarios, but it’s important to do that so if it ever happens we are prepared. With that done, we can focus on the best case scenarios and how to make the summer full of those! Before the winter season leaves our memory for too long we will have our End of Season meeting to talk through what worked and what needs tweaking. It’s that never ending quest for “betterness” (a Vista Verde made-up word) that keeps us all fired up and looking ahead. In addition to that meeting, Dace and I spent a couple days earlier this week in Denver at the Colorado Dude Ranch Association’s spring meeting. It’s always fun to get around other ranchers, share ideas and learn new tips and tricks. We had a cool experience this time of having one of our former guests come as a speaker on Labor Law. Not the most exciting topic, but Matt gave a lot of the ranchers much to think about and some really good tips for making sure we’re doing things the right way. It was also a pretty intense meeting for me as I am serving as President of the Association this year, so I had to be on my game and lead the group.

So between meetings, trainings, getting the Nordic center turned over into the Adventure Center, doing inventory in Fancy’s Merchantile, starting to work with some of the younger ranch horses who need tune-ups and keeping up with the recent snowfall (we thought it was spring?), it’s not exactly quiet around Vista Verde these days!

Steamboat Springs Vacations

Summer has arrived in Steamboat Springs and people are enjoying their vacations all over town.  Just north of Steamboat Springs, at Vista Verde Guest Ranch, we are enjoying having a full house of guests who have chosen a family dude ranch vacation.

Last week was our opening week, and it was a blast.  We had a great group of guests.  Some were families with kids, coming for a great family dude ranch vacation.  Some were younger couples, coming for a romantic all-inclusive resort ranch experience.  In fact, one of the guests chose Vista Verde as the spot to propose to his girlfriend.  She is actually a former staff member, so it was especially special to be able to be a part of their romantic mountain getaway when it turned into a proposal.

Now we are in our second week, and have a great group of people from all over the world.  There is even a family from Tasmania, although they have lived all over the world.  We also have a former state department diplomat who’s stories of his world travels completely entrance both me and Ben at lunch the other day.  It is the best to be at a dude ranch and be able to meet all these amazing people!

We’ll be heading into Steamboat Springs with all our guests for a little pro-rodeo action on Friday night.  There we will meet up with the rest of the folks enjoying a Steamboat Springs vacation.  In the meantime, we’ll stay north of town in our more remote setting, and keep having adventures in the mountains with our guests!

Spring training faux pas

One of the things many of us love about living in the Colorado Rockies is the seasons. Growing up in California, this was a fairly novel concept to me when I moved here in 1997. Among other things, what I have come to love about the seasons is that we get to shake up our recreational approach at least twice a year. Right now, we are in the transition from winter activities like skiing and snowshoeing to summer activities like biking and running. The hiking trails wont be ready for a while, but I did see that Steve and Kelli had their bikes out the other day now that the roads are clear of snow. But, the challenge with switching activities is that sometimes our bodies rebel a little when we’re thrown into a different type of movement suddenly. Yes, we are sympathetic to what you feel when you come here on vacation…we go through it too. Now, we should be a bit wiser after all these years, but both Kelli and I ran (no pun intended) into the same faux pas this past week. The inaugural run of the year. The sun is shining, the birds are singing and it just feels so good to be out running again. So good, in fact, that we both ran just a little too long. And oh boy, the next morning…..it hurt to get out of bed.

So, let this be your warning…don’t make the same mistake we made if you are emerging from hibernation, or just getting out for the first time with the nice spring weather. We’ll beat you up sufficiently when you come to the ranch for vacation. Until then, let your body ease into the activities. And maybe you can even do a little training to get ready for your trip so it doesn’t shock your body so much! I’ll pick Steve and Kelli’s brains for some ideas on how to train for biking, hiking and riding….even when you don’t have a horse at your front door. Maybe Kelli will pay attention to those same tips on her next run. I’ll try to as well.

Happy trails for now!

The reason I love booking Honeymoon Vacations

Melissa booked a reservation yesterday for a honeymoon vacation in the winter.  The winter season is my favorite time for honeymooners.  It's just perfect when the ranch is covered in snow and we are adults only.  That magic combination happens for most of January and the first half of February.

Maybe it's just because I love the mountains, and find the winter season to be magical.  But, to escape to the Colorado Rockies after the hustle and bustle of wedding planning seems just perfect to me.  For a honeymoon in Colorado, you want a secluded, special cabin.  Snow falling outside is nice.  A bubbling hot tub on the deck is pretty cool, especially after sitting in front of a roaring fire inside.  Also, have a vacation that is all-inclusive so you dont have to worry about pulling out your wallet and going over budget makes things easy for a young couple.  Lastly, with so many activities and fun things to do, couples can get out and laugh and learn together, before retreating to their romantic mountain getaway cabin.  

But, what Melissa and I talked about loving the most in booking honeymoon getaways is talking to the bride or groom on the phone.  There is so much anticipation in booking their vacation.  They are nervous making these big plans.  They want it to be just perfect, as this is such a special experience.  But, who knows?  When you look at a website, will it really be like what it says?  Where the fun is for us is reveling in their anxiety and excitement, knowing that this is a perfect spot for what they want.  The feeling Melissa had yesterday was the same one I've experience time and time again after booking a honeymoon vacation couple.  Excited for the couple and energized by knowing we are going to give them an amazing experience.

So, if you are looking for a romantic honeymoon getaway, give us a call.  We'll let you know why we think Vista Verde is a good fit for you!

Saying Goodbye

Our winter season here in Colorado has come to an end. Each year around February 1, I wonder why are we closing a month earlier than the Steamboat Ski Resort? For Vista Verde, the spring break crowd has never been a big one, and our bookings just slow down in March enough that it doesn’t make sense to stay open. One of these days we may make the push for it and see if we can fill up our cabins all the way through March. But for now, the season comes to an end this week.

The close of each season is always a little bittersweet. On one hand the seasonality of this business is fun for us “lifers” who are here for the long haul. It’s nice to have your year ebb and flow and as much as we enjoy the guests, we also enjoy the quiet nature of off-season. Project time. But for the staff who come and go throughout the years, the end of the season can mark a goodbye. This spring we have one really poignant goodbye. Those of you who have been here in the past several years will have known Bekah from either the dining room or housekeeping. After running the dining room, Bekah wanted a change of pace and moved into running our housekeeping department this past year. Not only has Bekah had her hand in both of these departments and done both great, but she’s been involved in so many other aspects around the ranch. Her passion for guest ranching and the Vista Verde approach towards betterness has always shown through. Although we’re sad to see Bekah go, we’re excited for her next step in life. For those of you who might not have known, Bekah is heading to Tenessee to put the final touches on her wedding to former head wrangler Rusty. They’ll be married later next month, and we wish them both the very best. Who knows, maybe this couple will find their way back to Colorado one day. The pull of ranch life is pretty strong! Thanks Bekah for all you’ve done. You’ll be missed.

A Simple Guide to Dude Ranch staff

If you want to provide the best dude ranch vacation to your guests, you have to start with the best dude ranch staff.  Yesterday marked the start of our orientation weeks, and we are already off to the races on getting our crews dialed in on how to do their jobs with excellence!

Typically, the first day of orientation involves this map.  Each staff member gets up and introduces themselves before planting a push pin on the map to show their hometown.  Part of what makes this a great dude ranch vacation experience is the fact that these talented people come from all over the country. This year, it was all USA, but some years we have folks from outside of the country.

Now, it’s time to work on learning the ins and outs of their departments.

The wranglers need to learn all the horses, their personalities, how we want to teach folks and where to take them on their riding holidays.

The housekeepers need to learn the level of cleanliness we expect for making our romantic cabins (hey, you can have romance whether you’re on a honeymoon or a family vacation) spotless and shiny.

The servers need to learn the proper serving style for a ranch that is luxurious, but still ranchy and friendly.

The guides need to learn where to take guests when they want to bike, hike or fish….because our all inclusive ranch resort is more than just a dude ranch.

The list goes on as each crew learns what it takes to try to provide the best dude ranch vacation out there!


Colorado Horsemanship Clinic

Last week was a fun week here at Vista Verde. It started off with a 5 day horsemanship clinic for overnight guests and finished with a one day Reining and Ranch versatility clinic for locals.

What is the difference? Well, they are very similar in many ways, but also very different. Obviously the 5 day horsemanship clinic gave a chance to spend more time focusing on more topics. One afternoon was all about conformation and understanding how the build of the horse affects their performance and what you can expect from them. Another session Terry focused on locomotion from the rear, in other words, how to make your horse move better by powering their energy from their back end for better performance. Of course, he spent some time working on the riders and their balance and breathing and how the horse recognizes subtle changes in both. We found that it was so engaging for the guests that even those who really wanted to pull away at least one day to go skiing couldn’t do it. In fact, Chris and Laura were rumored to be getting up early each day to go out and snowshoe at 7am so they could get outside, but not miss a moment of the clinic. That’s dedication!

For the Sunday Reining and Ranch Versatility clinic, we had a nice turnout. This group was here to pick Terry’s brains on how to better prepare their own horses for competition in these division. Some of the riders had younger horses, and some were riding more seasoned and well trained horses. Terry had this group fine tuning their stops and turns as well as spending a fair amount of time finding the perfect seat so they can sit quietly and effectively.

For those who haven’t spent time with Terry or another horse trainer, this stuff may all be almost laughable. However, once you dip your toe in the water (or should I say hoof? Sorry…had to..) it is really amazing stuff. The subtleties that horses pick up on in our movement and communications to them make a huge difference in how they respond to you. And learning to move the horse in different ways like moving their shoulders independently from their haunches to learning how to soften their mouths makes a huge difference in the enjoyment of the ride. A well trained horses is like driving a Mercedes. A poorly trained, unresponsive, dull horse is like…well, I won’t sabotage anyone here but it’s kind of like a car with a stuck gas pedal…nuff said. We’re shooting for Mercedes….the 4 wheel drive kind here. And by teaching our guests how to ride better and how to train our horses, we are getting there!

Get fit for your Horseback Riding Holiday this summer!


Our friends at Top50Ranches posted this on their blog, and we thought it would be helpful for all our guests getting ready for a horseback riding holiday at Vista Verde this summer!

Horseback riding seems like such an elegant sport that it can easily fool people into thinking that getting on a horse’s back and maneuvering an animal more than five times your weight is child’s play. It’s not. And if you’re thinking of taking a horseback riding holiday then you need to get ready for the physical demands that come with it!

Like all other sports, horseback riding holidays require that you train your body, paying particular attention to leg and core exercises. If you’re going to be able to control that horse with precision, you’re going to have to get those leg and core muscles at their best.

Some leg exercises for horseback riding

Stirrup Stretch 
The stirrup stretch is great for improving posture and balance, two things you will need on your horseback riding holiday.
Walk up to any kind of stairs you have access to do this exercise. Stand on the first step and hold on to the railing for support. Slowly stretch up until you are balancing only on the balls of your feet. Then slowly stretch back down, lowering your heels until you start feeling a stretch in your calf area. Hold for 10 seconds.
Advanced move: Add difficulty to this stretch by letting go of the railing and just balancing on your feet. You can also increase the length of time you’re on the balls of your feet slowly. Aim for two seconds first and then increase that to five and so on.

Wall Stirrup Stretch
A variation of the stirrup stretch, this exercise will simply call for any wall you can find.
Put your foot up a wall at about half or three-fourths of the position it would be if you were in your stirrups. Lift your foot up as if it were in a stirrup and hold for three seconds. Release the stretch and repeat five times.
Advanced move: As you are able to do more, increase the period of time you have your foot up.

Thigh Squeeze
This exercise trains your inner thigh muscles so you can easily hang on to a horse using your thighs.
Get a beach ball or any kind of plastic or rubber ball you can find, as long as it is at least 12 inches in diameter. Sit on a stable chair, ensuring that you’re in a position wherein your knees make right angles to the floor. Move over to the edge of the chair so that you are sitting on your butt. Make sure your thighs are completely off the chair and place your beach ball between your knees. Squeeze the ball and hold for 15 seconds. Release. Do this several times a day.
Advanced move: Each day, increase the number of seconds you are holding the beach ball during the squeeze.

Some core exercises for horseback riding

Sit-ups are traditional but they are still effective for building core muscles if you do them regularly.
Advanced moves: Get a better core workout by an exercise ball while doing sit-ups and its variations.

Plank exercises
The plank is a yoga move but it is very effective in building core muscles and stabilizing your center of gravity.
Assume a push-up position, but lean on your forearms instead of supporting your body with your hands. Push up with your core muscles, ensuring that only your forearms and the balls of your feet are touching the floor. Hold this position for 15 seconds and repeat about 15 times throughout the day.

Some cardiovascular and weight exercises for horseback riding

Additionally, you will need to have good endurance for long/fast rides on horseback riding holidays, so prepare with some cardio and some high-rep, low-weight weightlifting as well.

For cardio Feel free to mix it up between jogging, stairs / stepmill, elliptical training, and cycling.
For weights Keep it light with high reps (such as 12-20), but don’t forget to do the important “compound movements” such as bench press, lateral pulldowns, squats, deadlifts, assisted dips, upright dumbbell military presses, lunges, and some bonus movements for your calves, triceps, and biceps. And don’t forget to get an occasional rest day after hard workouts –  you don’t need to work out 7 days a week!

It’s also about diet – Whey Protein Supplementation can help

After you work out, you might think you can and should eat anything in the house. This is a horrible misconception – your post-workout meal is the most important! Immediately after you work out, you want fast-digesting protein and carbohydrates so that you can fuel your broken-down muscle’s immediately!

For this, try our favorite whey protein, MTS “Machine” Whey. This is a whey protein powder made by bodybuilder Marc Lobliner. Whey is the fastest-digesting protein, which is what you want after working out. In fact, MTS Whey is of such a high quality that it received NSF Certification, meaning that it is guaranteed not to have any contaminants and is proven safe for athletes who are under stringent drug tests. However, the deal and flavor still cannot be beat! As a bonus, this is about 25% less money than what you’ll pay at the local store – and that’s after shipping.

This guest post was written by Mike at Whey Protein Labs. You can read more about the best whey protein athttp://www.wheyproteinlabs.com/best-whey-protein, and see a full diet and training plan on the right hand side of the page as well.

The art of grooming, and we’re not talking hair

Most mornings in the winter you’ll see our Bombardier MP+ out grooming the ski trails, piloted by Charlie Cammer. Although we don’t get Charlie out on skis much, he fully understands what makes a ski trail ideal and takes great pride in laying down the perfect courderoy for our cross-country skiers. On mornings like today, Charlie enjoys watching the sun come up from the comfort of his cab, music playing and the view not so shabby.

For anyone who has spent some time with Charlie, it’s no surprise that he is really the guy running the show behind the scenes here at Vista Verde.

Charlie grew up in Catskill Mountains in New York being put to work by his parents running a boarding house, or what we might call a bed and breakfast these days. When he was 25 he headed out West and ended up in Steamboat Springs. He spent his first summer driving a delivery truck for a lumber company. Later he managed a 1,200 acre cattle ranch while raising 3 kids, 2 of whom returned to Steamboat after their schooling and 1 who is currently in school after 2 tours of duty as an Apache helicopter mechanic.

In 1999 Charlie joined us at the ranch to oversee what we officially like to call, Everything Outside. Well, over the years, Everything Outside has turned into Mostly Everything. On any given day, you’ll find Charlie coordinating the driving schedule, planning staff outings, developing new programs for guest activities or mentoring his ranch hand crew, in addition to coaching many of our managers through their days. In addition to being a great rancher and seeing the big picture of what we’re doing here at Vista Verde, Charlie understands hospitality, and we all would be lost without him here at Vista Verde Ranch.

In his rare time off, Charlie has spent a lot of time building houses with his wife Barb. His most recent project is his timber frame house up by Hahn’s Peak, nestled in an idyllic grove of aspens overlooking Farwell Mountain, Big Agnes and the Continental Divide. He claims that he’s not sure which is better, the sunsets or the sunrises. What we can guarantee is that he saw a spectacular sunset this morning while grooming in the Bombardier!

Spotlight on Rob Citto and the kitchen crew

It only takes being around Chef Rob Citto for a little while to know that he is from New York, Staten Island to be exact. No cowboy twang and Stetson hat for this chef! Rob graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park and from there spent his time working as a chef at a fishing lodge in Alaska, on a boat in Panama and a club in Seattle, amongst other exciting locations. All of these destinations had a similar outdoor theme which appealed to Rob and part of why a works for him. An avid fisherman, hiker and fanatic softball team leader, Rob enjoys his time outside of the kitchen as much as in the kitchen.

When asked about why he is at Vista Verde Rob responded, “Vista Verde is not just a ranch, it is a place where people come to heal, or get away from the “real world”. I love looking at the mountains every day, watching the sunset and sunrise and seeing a new guest’s eyes widen when they see the ranch for the first time. I also love when a guest tells me they gained a bunch of weight. It means I’m doing my job well. I always try to come up with new dishes and ideas every season so there’s a new twist to our return guest’s home away from home.”

Rob has a fabulous crew working with him in the kitchen too. Matt, Patrick and Emmy work right by Rob’s side each day, turning out fun and creative meals that walk the line between ranchy and fancy. And, they have a little fun at the same time!

Spring in the Rockies

Spring has spring in full force here in Colorado.  We are busy getting ready to open for the dude ranch season on June 3.  Between foals being born, grass sprouting, aspens starting to bud and flowers peeking out here and there, it definitely feels like spring is in the air.

The snow is melting off the highest peaks now, and the combination of the last white snow with the fresh green grass is stunning.  We are putting the finishing touches on our summer program before guests show up for a ranch holiday.

Our staff arrive in a couple weeks, and then we will begin orientation.  They will learn the ins and outs of what it takes to try to provide the best possible dude ranch vacation for our guests.  It’s an intense time, but fun.  Then, the guests arrive on June 3, and we will be off to the races.

For those looking ahead, come September, we do start offering our adult only vacation packages.  During that month, the ranch becomes a great spot for those seeking an all-inclusive ranch resort vacation for adults only. Most of our regular activities are still offered, and we also have our cattle round up going on from September 2-30.  The cattle round up takes our regular horseback riding vacation to a new level with lots of adventurous riding and a real job to get done on horseback.

We hope to have you join us this summer!  Until then, we are having a ball watching spring progress here in the Colorado Rockies.

Lighting the Olympic Torch

Obviously this blog is usually about what is going on at Vista Verde Ranch. But today, I felt compelled to send a little shout out to Steamboat Springs, or what we affectionately call “the Big City”.

You can’t miss the energy and the excitement of the upcoming Olympic Games here in. I’m not sure of the exact count of Steamboat athletes going to the games, but am very tuned into one particular sport in the games that most of us here are going to be watching closely. The Nordic Combined team will be largely made up of athletes who came from Steamboat. Our friends Todd Lodwick and Johnny Spillane will be leading the team with Bill Demong who didn’t grow up here, but has spent much of his Ski Team career based in Steamboat. These three guys are joined by two other younger athletes, one of them who is also from here. Having so many Steamboat athletes on this team is not all that unusual. What’s most exciting about this is that this year the Nordic Combined Team stands a very good chance at collecting a medal. Both Todd, Johnny and Bill have collected medals at the World Championships in the past couple years, and have been doing very well in World Cup competitions all season long. They all have remarkable stories of resilience, comebacks and dedication.

So, as we head into the Opening Ceremonies of the Vancouver games, keep an eye out for our boys. They’ll be competing first on Sunday, February 14 and then have two more events later on in the games. If you want to follow them at all, both have Facebook pages as well as Johnny’s wife has a blog you can follow. Good luck guys!

Colorado Romantic Resorts

Colorado is a great place for romantic getaways, whether it’s a honeymoon, anniversary celebration or just a getaway with your sweetheart.  Some like to come in the summer, when the weather is mild, and the outdoors are so accessible.  At Vista Verde, September is a great month for romantic getaways, when the ranch is adults only.  But, we also get requests for stays eariler in the summer.  I always warn the guests that there will be lots of kids around, but that typically isn’t a big issue.  Because we have such a great kids program at our all-inclusive Colorado ranch and resort, the kids are often times out of sight of the couples.  And, because our activities are set up with very individualized attention, it’s not like the romantic getaway couple is out on a ride with a bunch of 10 year olds.

Winter is another great option for romantic vacations.  Because the ranch offers shorter stay options in the winter, it is both more affordable for young honeymoon vacationers and more attainable for those with busy schedules.  And, there is nothing like snuggling up by a roaring fire in your private cabin or going for a romantic sleigh ride while the snow gently falls outside.

There are plenty of other great options for romantic Colorado getaways, from mountain cabins to big ski resorts.  Let us know of some of your favorites!

A Simple Guide to summer family vacation

As the summer dude ranch season is only a month away, we are spending a lot of time putting the finishing touches on our preparations for our family dude ranch times.  It makes me think about what makes a great summer family vacation.

1) Unplugging- part of what makes a family vacation at Vista Verde, whether it’s in summer of during winter for a family snow vacation, is that you get to unplug.  Cell service is spotty, and internet is only available in the cabins and Lodge.  You have to put down your Iphone, turn off your laptop, and texting….what’s that when you are out on a horse?  All of this unplugging allows you to plug into the most important part of your life….your family.

2) Experiences- there is something about shared experiences that makes great memories.  Laughing together while trying something new, experiencing the thrill of accomplishing a feat you didn’t think was doable, and being able to talk about those times around the dinner table that night and for years after.  Photos are great, but experiences are better.  At our luxury Colorado dude ranch, there are so many experiences to be shared.

3) Quiet time- although the experiences at an all-inclusive Colorado resort like Vista Verde are wild and fun, the quiet time is what brings a sense of peace.  Sitting around a campfire with your kids, laughing, talking, and then just enjoying the stillness changes everyone.  You can reflect, you can appreciate each other, the moment, and take a deep breath.

4) Relationships- building relationships with others helps build realtionships with each other.  Vista Verde is a dude ranch for families, and that means we all become family.  As you watch your kids build relationships with the staff and other guests, you get to enjoy watching those relationships grow.  At the same time, your relationship will grow with your kids as you sit around the table with other families and the staff.  Your kids will learn about you, and you will learn about your kids.

So, don’t wait.  Plan your summer family vacation today!  Whether you come to Vista Verde, or end up at another of the great Colorado dude ranches, you can’t go wrong.

Spotlight on Kelli King

A while ago, a couple of our guests suggested that I highlight some of our staff on the blog. I’ve been gathering info on the key players to get the Spotlight series started. I was going to take bribes on who I showcased first, but after getting some fabulous pictures of Kelli recently, I couldn’t resist to showcase her!

Kelli King grew up in Ohio and completed her undergraduate degree in Exercise Physiology at Kent State University. While working as a fitness specialist for a corporate wellness facility she met Steve and they were married in 1994 in Breckenridge, Colorado. They had moved there just a few years before on a whim to explore the West based on a recommendation from a couple who they met camping in Alaska while traveling the country. After 7 years in Breckenridge, and a brand new baby, Steve and Kelli picked up and moved to the Steamboat Springs area when Steve began running our ski program in the winter of 1999. Kelli stayed at home with their daughter Maddie until she realized that she needed some more social stimulation and started job sharing as a guide with her husband.

It didn’t take us long to recognize Kelli’s talents, and as Maddie began pre-school, there was more of an opportunity for both Steve and Kelli to work full time at the ranch. Kelli took over our kid’s program and brought to it the understanding of children that only a mom can offer. She spent that past 8 years guiding ski tours in the winter and molding the kids program to her vision the rest of the time and has now handed off the day to day oversight to others in order to pursue her passion for guiding full time. As she is also a Yoga Fit instructor you can always twist Kelli’s arm to lead a ranch yoga class as well.

When Kelli isn’t at the ranch, she can be found practicing yoga, spending time with her parents and brother who all now live in Colorado, camping with Steve and Maddie and working on their home near the ranch.

I’ll finish each spotlight with a direct quote. I asked Kelli what working at Vista Verde means to her.
“Having the opportunity to work with my husband and getting to bring my daughter to work and have her interact with not only the high quality of young staff that work here but get to meet people form all over the world, as well as learn from passionate individuals like Terry (Horses) and Dace (Hospitality). She gets a rare opportunity to really understand what her parents “do for a living” as well as participate in the amazing activities on the Ranch. I get an opportunity to work with passionate people doing what they love and for owners who really do care about you, as a person and your family. They not only want you to succeed at your job but they want you to success, period. Personally, I get the opportunity to be the conduit for connecting people to nature and to that 14 year old inside all of us. I get to work at what I love to do (playing in nature) and I get to meet very interesting people and share and connect with them.”

Dude ranches are great for families

I’m getting so many calls these days from people looking for great dude ranches for families.  This is not a new concept, as families have been traveling to dude ranches for generations.  But, it’s especially valuable in today’s fast-paced world and families going several different directions at once.

Why is a dude ranch so great for a family vacation?

First of all, a dude ranch vacation allows a family to slow down and unplug.  Most of the best dude ranches are located in remote spots where cell phones don’t work well, and wireless hot spots are not at the corner coffee shop.  Some dude ranches, like Vista Verde, do have wi-fi, but it is limited to the cabins and Lodge area.  What does this do for a family?  It allows the family to actually focus on each other, the conversation, the laughter and the relationships.  Sharing tales of adventures on the trail that day brings a family back together.

The slower pace of life on a dude ranch also helps a family relax, recharge, and enjoy each other’s company.  Fathers and daughters can learn to fish together.  Sons and mothers can round up cows together.  Families can share experiences that they will remember, rather than in a whirlwind of forgettable moments.

Another reason why dude ranches are great for family vacations is that the kids will be happy, so mom and dad can be happy.  We see so many kids cry as they leave the ranch at the end of the week.  That tells us they have connected.  Connected with the place, the people, the animals and the experience.  The ranch experience will stay with them long after they return to baseball practice and music lessons.

So, pack the bags, round up your family, and plan a vacation of a lifetime at a great Colorado dude ranch.  Whether you want a luxury dude ranch like Vista Verde, or a more rustic experience, it will be one to remember.



Lunch at the Homestead Cabin

Every Thursday during the winter ranch season, we go out to the Homestead cabin for lunch. It’s a pretty low key lunch, but it’s just fun to be out there in that beautiful setting, and an adventure to get out to the cabin. Today we had guests walk , snowshoe, ski , snowmobile and even take the sleigh out there. Jo will probably knock me out for putting this close-up picture of her front and center on the blog, but she just looked so great driving her team in her beautiful red sleigh! The sun came out right as we got to the cabin, and it was downright balmy as we came out of the cabin to make our way home.


Why I love September

In all reality, there is no best time at our dude ranch.  However, I find myself over and over telling people who are looking at coming to Vista Verde in September that it is my favorite month.  I recently added this photo to our Facebook page, and it brought it all back to me.  This photo, by guest Bette Levine, captures the essense of fall at our all-inclusive Colorado resort ranch.

In September, the ranch switches over to adults only.  I love kids.  I have 2 of my own.  But, I love, love, love the adult only times so much.  Between the friends gathering, the couples coming for a romantic mountain getaway and the single guests coming to find camraderie amongst others, it has such a great vibe.

As this photo captures for me, the air is a bit more crisp and clear.  It almost sparkles.  The colors are rich with the angle of the sun just right.  It’s cool and fresh.  It’s just breathtaking.

I love cross country skiing at our resort, and the winter vacation season in general.  I love our summer dude ranch season too.  Heck, I even love off-season, when the weather isn’t so good, and no one is traveling here for a ranch holiday.  But, September…..ahhhh, September, is just so amazing.

If you haven’t experienced it before, make plans.  Pack your bags.  Come to Colorado for a September visit.  Hey, I know of a great all-inclusive resort that might even have some space for your romantic getaway or gathering with good friends!

Dude Ranch gifts

On a regular basis, we have experiences at our all inclusive ranch resort that are unbelievable.  Here’s an example.  None of us went into the dude ranch business to make money.  We’re all here because we love taking care of people, playing in the outdoors and living this life.  Having said all that, we are still running a business, and there are real transactions that take place.  Each day this winter, we have checked out guests as they wrap up their winter getaway, and they pay for their time at the ranch.  After having paid for their ranch vacation, you would think guests would see it as a fair transaction.  But, this is when the surprise happens.  

Suddenly, we start receiving gifts of all types.  Maybe it's a card or an email saying thank you.   Or, it might be one of those amazing dude ranch reviews on Tripadvisor.  Or, a Facebook post saying thanks for their romantic honeymoon vacation.  Then, we get photos sent to us- amazing photos from their many adventures.  Sometimes, it’s even a gift, some sort of goody, or a phone call saying they miss the ranch.  As the recipient, there are not enough thanks for all those kinds of gifts.  Not only do we get to play with fun people in the outdoors, share stories, learn about their worlds and enjoy them at their happiest time.  We get paid for it, and then we get thanked too.  

The past couple weeks, I have been overwhelmed with emails filled with photos and words of thanks.  Cards have shown up on my desk.  I’ve picked up presents at the post office for staff, and found little goodies left for the crew in the staff room.  The Facebook posts and the Tripadvisor reviews are enough to make my heart beam with pride.  How lucky are we to be able to call this place home, and get thanked for doing what we love every day?  So lucky, it’s unbelievable.

The rewards of Guest Ranching

As much as we all love what we do here in the world of guest ranching, there are times when we need a reminder of how we are contributing to make this world a better place. I just had one of those reminders today.
I talk and email with people every day about coming out to the ranch. Some already know they want to come and just need to make the reservation. Some have done extensive research on the best Colorado dude ranches and ask a million well-educated questions. Some are just sniffing the whole idea out. I try to give them a realistic view on the ranch and hopefully convince them it’s the right place for them if it’s a match. But I’ve never been very good at the hard sell. It’s just not my style. However, this fall I had a situation that I stepped up to with a hard sell. I had a family who was interested in coming for a winter stay, but were pretty hesitant about the price. I recognize that our prices are high, but also fully understand the value in what we offer guests. And I also see what it costs for us to do what we’re doing here. It’s tough because I believe that once guests are here, they see the value, but it’s sometimes hard to get that across beforehand. Anyway, I digress. Something about this family just seemed like a great fit for the ranch. I could tell that this was the place for them, and that they would really enjoy being at Vista Verde. So I made it my mission to convince them that it was worth every penny. I went hard sell and did everything I could to make them see that it would be worth their money. And it worked! They came! Little did I know, but as their story unfolded and we got to know them, there were so many more reasons that this trip was really important to them. We loved them and they were beaming the whole time. So, how does this tie into the title of this post? Because I just got a thank you note from mom. To quote part of her note, “Because of you my family had the best family vacation that we have every had. Vista Verde was everything you said it was plus much more, many, much, many more. Thank you for a lifetime of wonderful memories and we can’t wait to see y’all again” Wow. That was a priceless reminder of what we are doing here on a larger scale. Ok, so that’s my touchy feely post for the month. Thank you Christy. And if you’re the next person who calls and isn’t sure about this place, watch out. I may have to bring out the hard sell.