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!

The moose on the loose yesterday!

For those of you who follow us on Facebook, this is old news. But for the rest of you, I have to share the coolest experience we had just yesterday. Ben had been working away at his desk all morning and just felt the urge to step outside for some fresh air. It might have something to do with the insanely beautiful weather we’ve had this week, but I also had the urge to get outside so I was taking a lap around the ranch at the same time. I stopped by the Nordic center where Steve and Kelli are getting all the ski gear ready for the winter ranch season when Ben came hollering over the radio to look toward the Sunday pasture. Ben’s great timing put him looking right at a mama moose and her calf as they came through the pasture. The horses got all riled up, so they started running around, which made the moose a little nervous. With that, they jumped over the fence and headed towards the pond, right in front of the Lodge! We all watched as they ran through the compound, up behind the Zirkel cabin and then started making their way down the fence line to Coulton Creek. What a great moment! We have been seeing moose here for the past couple years, but not front and center like that. I wish I had a picture to share with you, but it all happened too fast for that. Thank you Mama moose and mooselina for the show! And great timing Ben!

Planning a winter vacation

Are you trying to find winter vacation ideas?  It can be hard to figure out what you really want for your vacation.

Here at Vista Verde Ranch, we offer a unique winter ranch experience.  While the images of cookouts and horseback riding through green meadows are memories of the past summer, we still maintain the feel and atmosphere of a ranch.  But, with the blanket of snow, we add a whole new selection of activities that get you out in the snow for a Colorado ski lodge feel.

Are you looking to spend all your time downhill skiing?  Then maybe you should stay slopeside in a resort town.  The downside of that experience is you do have to work through the crowds and planning of each meal, lessons, ski rentals, etc..  But many people enjoy the excitement of being right there for all the action and getting as much time on the mountain as possible.

If you are looking for more of an overall winter vacation idea, then something like a guest ranch or Colorado ski lodge is a great idea.  Of course I’m biased, but I think an all inclusive resort is great as it makes the planning and budgeting easy.  At a place like Vista Verde, you can pick and choose from a plentiful menu of options for activities each day.  If some in the family fall in love with horses and want to ride while others want to get out and snowshoe each day then you can do it.  Kids love sledding on a family snow vacation, and event he adults seem to enjoy it a bit.

Think about gear when you research your winter vacation ideas.  If you live in Florida and dont have any snow gear, you probably will need a packing list and do a little shopping.  You definitely need to be prepared for the weather.  With the right gear, it is comfortable to get outside and play in the snow.  And then you can come in and warm up by a cozy fire or in your bubbling hot tub!

Please let us know if you have any questions about planning a winter vacation.  They make for a great family snow vacation option, or a romantic winter vacation!

Time flies when you are at a Colorado Dude Ranch

Every season it seems like we live in a vortex of time. The pre-season preparations as we try to be one of the best dude ranches are frantic and exciting. Then we get going with the guests and the days just zoom by. Here we are in the second week of August already. The grass is just starting to turn a bit more golden and the kids head back to school in just a couple weeks.  Now we are looking at preparing for our adult only weeks. Where does it all go?

A good friend in the Colorado resort industry said something the other day that really rang true for me. He said, “I got a letter from someone who was here in June. It seemed like a year ago that they were here. But, here it is Thursday and it feels like the folks who came in on Sunday have only been here for a day.” How does time work that way? In the moment, it flies. But then looking back it feels like forever ago.

At our staff meeting on Sunday, Dace was having the staff think back to our orientation weeks. How long ago that seems that we were shoveling snow off the patio in preparation of our first cookouts of the summer. Getting to know each other and getting geared up and ready for the guests to arrive is a distant memory.

Now, some of our staff are starting to head back to school while the second wave of summer staff rolls in to fill their spots. The memories we’ve shared with all of you who have been here this summer are priceless. You have helped shape the lives of our crew and given each person a better understanding of human nature and how to serve others with all their heart.

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

Enjoy the last little bit of summer. Hug your kids a bit tighter as they get ready to go back to school. And give yourself some time to enjoy an evening on a deck, soaking up those longer daylight hours while they last!  We’ll be holding onto every little bit of summer that we can, treasuring each day to its fullest.  Because, oh so soon winter will be here and we’ll be flying through our Colorado ski lodge season!


Dude Ranch with a Pool?

Adding a swimming pool to our list of ranch amenities was not an easy decision here at Vista Verde Ranch.  We resisted it for years for a long time for many reasons.  Although a luxury ranch, we didn’t want our all inclusive dude ranch to feel too much like a resort.  We didn’t want a pool to detract from the unique activities for kids and teens, which is part of what makes this such an amazing family vacation.  And, we were cognisant of the fact that a pool in this climate will go unused for more of the year than it is actually utilized.  Because, when the snow hits and we turn into a Colorado ski lodge, a pool doesn’t fit in the picture.

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

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


The Dangers of Dude Ranching

Most people enter the dude ranching business because they love people, horses, the outdoors, or just the Western way of life. Most don’t know that entering the business will have a profound impact on their lives.

It starts with finding out that the people you serve daily are really amazing folks. Wait a sec, suddenly you are becoming friends with those very people you take in as guests. And the staff you hire to make the dude ranch operation a success? Hey, you kind of like them too!

Here’s where the warning comes for those who consider the dude ranch business. Now that your friends with these folks, life becomes more meaningful. You are not just working at one of the best dude ranches, you find your self engaged in the guests’ lives. I think of the folks who I’ve cried for, wished for, and had heart ache for- Don, Guy, and Carol come to mind immediately. But I also think about those who joys I’ve been able to share. The new grand babies, new careers, new family ventures, marriages, beating the odds, and all those success that come in life. Long after guests leave from their Colorado summer vacations, we get to hear those updates and rejoice with our friends. The multiple invites to amazing places that all of us receive from grateful guests are overwhelming. I’ve whooped it up in Bermuda, Chelsea and Amanda just had a memorable dinner in London, Ben is looking forward to front row seats at a big game, Steve and Kelli had a heartwarming visit in Montana, and Dace has sat at too many dining room tables reconnecting with guests to mention. Mary, we will make it to Florida one day!

And then there’s the staff. Those pesky young people who you have to put up with in order to get the job done, right? Not at this Colorado dude ranch. I just reluctantly sent an RSVP to Gabriella to decline attending her wedding. We’ve been able to watch these great people go into the world and do powerful things, fall in love, start families, and continue to grow. The notes of thanks from past staff in all of our desk drawers keep each of us going on the tough days.  We’ve even had staff return to the ranch for a romantic honeymoon getaway.

Yes, it’s a rough job to work at a guest ranch, but we’ll take it a little longer. We hope to have many more of you cross our cattle guard as guests the first time, and drive across it on your way home as friends and family.


Blustery Conditions no match for inspiring Love

So I didn’t come up with that headline. AJ and Charlie came into the office at just the right time for me to ask, “How do I title this blog post?” and AJ came up with the winning entry. Doesn’t it sound like it came out of the Vista Verde Post?

We just married off another couple in Vista Verde style. The irony is that in my years of coordinating weddings at the ranch I have a 100% showing for perfect weather, until today. But isn’t it perfect that we have the new Great Room right on time?

Mary Kate is Ben’s niece and Ben officiated her marriage to Dustin. The week started off with beautiful weather, but as we got closer to wedding day, it began to deteriorate. This morning it was 37 degrees and overcast, and the sun never came out. But it didn’t matter to anyone attending…the ceremony was lovely in front of the big fireplace in the Great Room. The food was delicious and the dancing is still going strong.

Weddings are great. Vista Verde weddings are pretty special to all of us here. What an honor and what a gift to offer a new couple! Congratulations and best wishes to Mary Kate and Dustin!

Colorado’s Best Dude Ranches for Adults

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

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

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

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

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

Vista Verde Ranch, Steambat Springs

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

Smith Fork Ranch, Crawford

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

C Lazy U Ranch, Granby

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

Home Ranch, Steamboat Springs

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

4UR Ranch, Creede

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

Laramie River Dude Ranch, Glendevey

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

Lost Valley Dude and Guest Ranch, Sedalia

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

White water adventures at a Colorado Summer resort

By Krista Coy- Staff member at Vista Verde Ranch

Coming from the core of the corn belt in Indiana, it seems Colorado has it all from the golden-lit snow-capped mountains to the calm cool lakes. In particular, Steamboat aka Ski Town USA, is best known for its family snow vacations, but The Boat’s motto “Come for the winter and stay for the summer.”, suggests there is more to see in the “off” season.

I would have to agree this area is worth seeing in the summer. After all, the champagne powder snow has to melt which makes water sports an unavoidable part of Steamboat Spring’s culture.

This year the quick snow melt caused the waters to be roaring, which makes for a great excuse to take advantage of. I’m not brave (or niave) enough to take on the river waters on my own, so I jumped in on trips with the guests here at Vista Verde, an all inclusive dude ranch, on my days off.

With the unpredicitablity of mother nature, the rushing waters at over 3,600 cfs, gave us a unique experience on both the kayaking and rafting adventures. For kayaking we headed off with the great men at Mountain Sports Kayaking School. The class for beginners was a great way to get acquainted with the water and learning how to handle a kayak. We paddled and got instructions in a small pond before heading down the river to bear the high raging waters of the Yampa. We zipped through the waters in Steamboat in nearly half of the time a regular trip would take, but stopped in a few eddies to practice maneuvers and to chat about the area. Since we had the time, we played around a bit and tried paddling up stream. With every stroke it was a struggle to even keep up the pace to stay in the same spot which was enough to work up an appetite. Although there were a few close calls, luckily, we all stayed upright and got back just in time for lunch.

After my kayaking experience I wanted more and decided to head out the next week with the rafting group. Even a couple hours away on the Colorado River, the waters were still so high that our trip started a few miles down from its intended departure. Dana our guide couldn’t have been more entertaining as she pointed out an old covered wagon trail and took us off the beaten path to scope out dinosaur footprints.

With the high waters, some of the rapids were covered, but sitting in the front of the raft still proved to be a “swimmingly” good time. Not that any of us fell in, but it felt that way as the water crashed on our faces. Note to future rafters, never try to turn and have a conversation from the front of the boat or the tricksters in the raft may succeed in “drowning” out your conversation.

Thanks Krista for your story!  We look forward to hearing more about your adventures at our Colorado summer resort!


The Doors are Open!

We kept telling people all summer that the indoor arena would be ready to go by the time we have snow here. We didn’t really mean it needed to snow in September to prove that point! Nonetheless, we had our first snow yesterday (it’s gone already) and today used the indoor arena for the first time. They thought they signed up for a summer vacation, but it looks like they got a winter ranch vacation today!

Matt, Jamie and Bunky got to be the inaugural guests in the arena and everyone stayed a bit warmer than they did this morning on the breakfast ride. In fact, Matt and Jamie earn the tough guests of the year award for going on the ride at 7am this morning in 30 degree weather!! Apparently winter has decided to come a little early…but we’re hoping our nice fall weather returns soon.

After playing around with the clay and sand percentages for the footing in the arena for weeks, Terry seems to be pretty happy with how it’s turned out. But, as I’m writing this, I hear him on the radio, and it sounds like he’s back down there this afternoon tweaking a few things. Doesn’t he have some horses to train?

Cattle Round Up – the Ultimate Horseback Riding Vacation

Many of you have contacted us about our fall cattle round-up. For those who don’t know about it, I thought I’d give a run down of what those weeks look like at Vista Verde Ranch.

Although our first adult-only week is August 28-September 4, the cattle round-up weeks begin September 4 and run through October 2. These are still Sunday-Sunday stays like our regular summer season, and most of our regular activities are still offered like during our regular all inclusive dude ranch stays. But there is the added bonus of the cattle round-up option.

For those participating in the cattle round-up, we spend the first day or two in the arena in riding clinics. What does that mean? The trainers and wranglers will be getting you and your horse totally dialed in on how to work together as a team and how we want to work the cattle when we’re out on the trail. This will give you a definite edge in your riding ability, whether it’s your first time on a horse or you’ve been riding since you could walk. As we get into the week a little further, we’ll start heading out on the trail. This is not a City Slickers, camp out on the range kind of deal. Nope, we trailer the horses out to the 16,000 acres where the cattle are hiding. It really is like a game of hide and seek. Sometimes it’s more like playing hide and seek with my 5 year old…you almost have to pretend you don’t see them they are so easy to find. And some days it’s a lot of riding, riding, riding, over hills, through meadows around logs, and between bushes just to find nothing. If we find some, we gather them up and drive them to a holding area. If we don’t find them, we just enjoy the gorgeous Colorado fall weather and then come back to the ranch for dinner.

As a participant, it’s up to you as you how many days you want to go out on the round up. It’s hard riding and long days, so it’s fair game to take a day off and go fishing, go for a hike or just take a nap and relax by the pool. For those who want to ride, but don’t want to take part in the gather, we still do lead trail rides during that time, but not our regular clinics. It’s all part of your Colorado summer resort ranch experience.

A fair warning…the riding during the cattle round-up is definitely the most intense riding we do all year. You are riding very independently, the terrain is rugged and varied and we are not on trails much of the time. For a novice rider who is game for an adventure, it’s just fine. But if you are a timid or nervous rider, let’s talk first. We are safety conscious and are out to make this a great experience for all, but it is the real deal out there on our fall cattle round-up. Hopefully you all get a chance to join us at some point for this incredible horseback riding vacation. These 4 weeks at Vista Verde Ranch are really phenomenal!


Colorado Ski Lodge

It’s funny to be thinking about skiing in Colorado when I just took a ride out yesterday through the lush aspen forest around the ranch.  But, it seems that a lot of folks are thinking about fun in the snow already.  We are getting calls and emails from all over the world- folks researching winter vacation ideas.

As we rejoice in the beauty of summer, I find myself having to dig deep to describe the ranch when it is covered in snow.  But, as I dig into that memory bank, magical images fill my head.  Snow covering the fences around the ranch, bare aspens csating dramatic shadows on the snow, muffled hoof beats from the horses frolicking, and squeals of joy as folks sled, ski and play around the ranch.

Yesterday, we had a visit from friends of ours who have only been to Vista Verde Ranch in the winter.  They were amazed to see all that is hidden below the snow.  I enjoyed reminiscing with Don about the carolling on the sleigh at Christmas, and all the fun we have in the snow with guests.

So, what is it like to stay at our Colorado Ski Lodge?  Peaceful, serene, breathtaking and personal.  We hope you feel like you’ve stayed with friends after you leave, because that is how we look at it.  We’ll play with you in the snow- skiing, snow shoeing, sledding, riding, going on the sleigh, and more.  We’ll kick up our feet and share some laughs and songs.  We’ll treat you to an amazing dining experience.  And then we’ll send you off to retire to your cozy and luxurious cabin….maybe you can even fit in a soak in the hot tub on your deck before heading to bed.  Whether it be a romantic mountain getaway, a family snow vacation or just a retreat from the world all by yourself, we’ll do our best to make it magical and memorable.

Off I go to head out into the sun and green grass.  But now I have visions of snowflakes in my head.  We hope to see you when the snow flies!

July 4 Holiday at a Colorado Guest Ranch

Yesterday was a fun day at the ranch. Ok, most days are pretty fun, but it’s always a bit more special to celebrate a ranch holiday.

The morning started out with our regular orientation ride, as one would expect with a horseback riding vacation. The guests got a chance to get to know their horses, learn a little more about where we’re going this week with their horsemanship skills, and get some basic tools for understanding how to communicate better with their horse.

Lunch was a festive affair with the Colorado Lodge decorated in red, white and blue. Compliments to the tireless Sarah and her crew for all their efforts to make it look so good!

After lunch out on the deck, we held the first ever Vista Verde Ranch egg toss competition. It was a fierce and messy battle, but one by one each team was eliminated. Some were a bit more messy on their exit than others. After finishing, the guys had to take it one step further, so both Dace and Ben had to take turns trying to lob an egg over the pond to Clay, who was part of the winning team. Hey, when else is it socially acceptable to throw raw eggs around?

Everyone headed out for a variety of activities- riding, biking, fishing, hiking…and even some just relaxing by the pool. We gathered up again at the corral later in the afternoon to paint the white horses with red and blue paint. The festivities capped off just before dinner with the star spangled stampede. Hard to describe the fun of this annual 4th of July event at the ranch, but everyone should have the chance to witness it at some point.

It’s great to be able to celebrate being an American while vacationing at a dude ranch. We wish you all a wonderful Independence Day, and continue to appreciate those who serve our country as they allow us to live here and share this place with others.


The Girls

Normally when I use the term, “the girls”, I am referring to my mini-me’s Maggie and Ella. But these days at the ranch that term is used for the gals out in the pasture- the new breeding stock for Vista Verde Ranch. The three young ones- Houston, Patty and Little Buck stuck around all summer learning the ropes of being ridden and how to behave to Terry’s standards. The older gals- Chex, Stella, Rachael, Mary Jane and Sally all headed off to meet the man of their dreams in hopes of having some cute little foals on the ground next spring. All of them just returned to the ranch and all but Sally came back in foal, so we’re hoping things continue well and we have 4 cute little babies before next summer. Along the way, we also picked up Gimlet, a little weanling (just left her mama for the big world) who will be worked into our herd as she grows up. This is one situation where being barefoot and pregnant is a pretty sweet life! Hopefully you get to meet these gals soon, they are as sweet as can be. And, even better, in a couple years you might be riding one of their kiddos.

Dude, Where’s my Ranch?

Dude, Where’s My Ranch? As seen in Macaroni Kid, by Joyce Shulman

The west is overflowing with guest ranches that range from uber-luxury to affordable.  Here are a few to check out.

Vista Verde Ranch in Steamboat Springs, Colorado is a small luxury ranch with beautiful facilities and accommodations.  An extensive family program is coupled with an effort to maintain its down-to-earth, warm and friendly vibe. With only about 40 guests at a time, Vista Verde strives to provide a personal and tailored experience for its guests. With a new pool, a mountain setting and lots of other activities, like most guest ranches, the horses are at the center. “Everyone is matched with an appropriate horse for the week and for many that results in a sad farewell at the end of their stay,” says the Resort.  We can imagine.  The fun for the kids extends beyond the riding program, with treasure hunts, pow wows, campfires, boat races, gold panning and a ride on a fire truck to the local store for ice cream help to round out the week. Their teen program is a nod to the reality that teens need their own space to explore at their own pace.  Of course, adventure for the entire family the experience together abounds, with family horseback riding, hiking, mountain biking, fly fishing, rock climbing and more.  Vista Verde looks to us like one to check out.

The Vee Bar Ranch near Laramie, Wyoming is a family-friendly ranch that emphasizes horseback riding, but that is only the beginning of this Wyoming family vacation. The ranch activities include hiking, fishing, river tubing, trap shooting, camping, herding cattle, hayrides and more.  A historical setting at the base of the Snowy Range Mountains, the Vee Bar ranch prides itself on providing True Western Hospitality. Vacation activities center around western horseback riding and the Vee Bar claims one of the best horseback riding programs to be found at any guest ranch and offers a range of riding experiences … from the meadows to riding across the top of Sheep Mountain in the Medicine Bow National Forest. Children six and older are eligible for horseback riding activities with parents or other children. All children can work on their horsemanship skills by competing in the gymkhana or moving cattle while receiving pointers and coaching from family-friendly wranglers.

Harmel’s Ranch Resort near Almont, Colorado delivers family fun at affordable prices in a superb location, near Crested Butte and Gunnison. This family dude ranch has been operating since 1958 and brings a touch of old world style to everything they do.  No fancy-schmancy accommodations, just cozy cabins and tons of action and fun … horseback riding, fly-fishing, white water rafting, evening hay rides and more.  Their overnight ride to high camp, junior wrangler program and weekly steak/crab cookout have gotten two thumbs up from loyal guests.  Unlike many guest ranches, Harmel’s gives families the flexibility to arrive any day of the week and to stay as long as they wish.  And, for those of us who hate to leave our dogs behind, Harmel’s is pet friendly (though there are breed restrictions, so be sure to check their website).

Grilled Salad?

Rob decided to use one of the busiest nights of the week to try out a fun new dish. When he told me about it this morning, I thought it would be fun to share it with all of you.

Flash Grilled Hearts of Romaine (Grilled you ask? Yes, he took the hearts of Romaine, tossed them in extra virgin olive oil and then seared them on the grill for about 5 seconds on each side) topped with
Autumn spice rubbed New Zealand venison carpaccio.
Then he drizzled a pumpkin aioli around the plate,
and served it with a whole wheat beer crostini
Oh yeah, and he drizzled an anchovie & basil dressing on top, then topped that with fresh shaved Parmesan cheese.

So, with a crowd of guests giving rave reviews, he decided that experimenting is fun. Tonight’s appetizer looks like it will be pan seared jumbo scallops with a chardonnay and lime saffron sauce, topped with a Parmesan and tomato foam. And why am I going home to eat Mac and Cheese with my kids?????

5 Fun and Fantastic Resorts for Families

5 Fun and Fantastic Resorts for Families – as seen in Health News by Kayt Sukel.  We appreciate the mention of a family guest ranch in the story!

Trying to figure out where to take the family on your next trip?  Here are five of Travel Savvy Mom’s favorite family-oriented resorts.

Walt Disney World Resorts. Even though I harbor a bit of an allergy to pixie dust, I must admit that Disney knows how to do family travel. And they do it well. Whether you are staying at a Disney branded property in Florida, Hawaii, France or California—or taking one of their fantastic cruises—you can expect good food, attention to detail and plenty of activities that the whole family will love.

Dreams Resorts. Offering resorts in Mexico and the Dominican Republic, don’t call Dreams an all-inclusive—it doesn’t quite fit. Their unlimited luxury concept is all-inclusive the way it was meant to be. And quite a dream for families looking for a great beach vacation. You can eat and drink excellent fare (no starchy buffets or well drinks here!) when you want and how you want on the property without worrying about your kids losing paper wristbands. Dreams also allows kids under 12 to stay (and eat) for free. With beautiful grounds, gorgeous white sand beaches and fun amenities, it’s a place that the whole family will want to keep coming back to.

Vedema Resort. They said Santorini, arguably one of the most beautiful Greek Islands, wasn’t for families. They said there was nothing for you there. Obviously, they didn’t know about Vedema Resort. This beautiful property is modeled after a small, whitewashed Greek village. Surrounded by vineyards in the middle of the island, it offers only suite-type rooms and plenty of space for your kids to run around when they’re not splashing in the pool.

Vista Verde Guest Ranch. What family doesn’t want the opportunity to unleash their inner cowboy? There are plenty of dude ranches peppering the Colorado countryside, but Vista Verde Ranch in Steamboat Springs offers an all-inclusive deal and an activity list that will make your kids giddy with anticipation. Participate in a cattle drive one day and then do some rock climbing the next. And the kids-only programs will make you a little giddy, too.

Mohonk Mountain House. This incredible resort in New Pfalz, New York has remained a favorite for families for decades—and you’ll see why as soon as it comes into view. The spectacular (yet somewhat crazy) collection of buildings and grounds are second only to the service, food and amenities on offer. There is plenty here for the whole family whether you like to hike, bike, swim or play a little golf.

Losing Jake

Yesterday was a sad day at the ranch. We lost our friend Jake. For those of you who have played with and loved Jake over the years, you know what a special dog he was for all of us at VVR.
Jake started his career at Vista Verde years and years ago when he would meet our skiers and join our trips up the South Fork Trailhead. He lived with his “dad” down the road, but couldn’t resist an adventure when he saw the VVR suburbans pass his house in the winter. Not long after that, he began to follow the ski trips back to the ranch for a visit. We kept hauling Jake back home at the end of the day at that point. But, after a couple years of this, and having it turn into a summer and winter routine, we just stopped taking him home. This all seemed to work for Jake’s owner who, in turn, just began to come to the ranch to visit Jake. Over the past several years Jake had some really good friends and guardians. For a while there he was Austin’s shadow, then he began spending the night at Dace’s house and following the ranch hands around during the day. He was always up for a ride in the work truck, and even knew how to find his way in for a rest on the seats when no one was around. And Jake seemed to know what day of the week it was as he was always ready to catch a ride up to Steak Ride for a little adventure away from the ranch on Saturday nights. His forays into the backcountry became fewer and fewer this past year and he began to spend more time lounging around the ranch, but he was still always ready to jump in the pond for a stick. In fact, Dace had to limit the kids and their stick throwing because Jake wouldn’t know when to stop and then would be so stiff at night that he couldn’t move!
So, with great sadness the crew at the ranch said goodbye to Jake yesterday afternoon and we found a special place to bury him right here at VVR.

Rocking out in the Barn

Things were jamming in the barn at our All-inclusive Colorado resort this week. No, it wasn’t the staff orientation, or getting the new horses ready for our summer dude ranch season. It was a real life group of rock stars (although they may not like me referring to them that way!). Through a connection with one of the band members, we agreed to host the band Dispatch as they prepped for their upcoming tour, which begins at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Denver this Friday. The staff and horses have been able to enjoy listening to the group practice, and get to know the guys and their crew. As a thank you, and special treat for the staff, the band gave tickets to our crew so most of our crew will be able to attend one of the shows this weekend.

In addition, the band members made a trip to the North Routt Charter School to meet with the kids, talk a bit about music and play a few songs for them. Maybe a few of these kids will pick up an instrument as a result of this inspiration!

Are any of you diehard Dispatch fans? Check out their Facebook page for more info. And we’ll keep the rockin’ atmosphere going on at the barn long after they leave our luxury dude ranch.


Getting out of the Office

I usually try to set aside some time on Thursday to blog. It’s a great day for me as I don’t have the kids with me and can catch up on the gossip at the ranch to get an idea for a blog topic, as well as have at least 20 minutes to sit down and write something, uninterrupted. But yesterday I was handed a hall pass from the office, and just never made it back in! Sorry to anyone who was actually trying to get a hold of me but I was having too much fun!

After having Cara and Beka help me all summer in the office, I felt like it was time to do something fun with them that didn’t involve a phone, computer, or inventory from the store. So we grabbed some horses and headed out to the South Fork Trail. It’s a bit of a long ride to try to fit in before lunch, but neither had been out there and I wanted to show them how beautiful it is. And we had a great time. It’s amazing how you can get to know someone in 2 hours when you’re sitting on a horse just chatting away. We had a great time revisiting the summer so far, finding out what their highlights have been, what their challenges have been and what they have taken away from this experience. If only I could have time to do something like this with each staff member and every guests. But, I suppose someone has to stick around to answer emails, phones and figure out how to fill up the ranch!

We got back from our ride just before lunch and I moved right into sitting down with one of our guests who is the editor of Southern Bride. She was asking me all sorts of questions about weddings at the ranch, something we don’t do a lot of but do have the ability to do now and then. It was fun to reminisce about some of the great weddings we’re had here (no, not just mine).

As soon as lunch wrapped up, I jumped into my funny yoga/cowgirl outfit and headed out with Kim and Brittany to our Wild yoga site. Less than 5 minutes into the ride we were turned around by a mega storm. After hiding out under the eaves of the barn for about 15 minutes and watching the torrential rain pour off the roof, we hopped back on and headed out in the beautiful, post-rain sunshine. Kelli led all of us through a very nice yoga practice in a field of amazing wildflowers while the aspen leaves fluttered above us and the clouds rolled through the blue sky. It was divine.

As soon as we returned to the ranch I ranch down to the Lodge, packed up my computer and zipped off to get the kids from daycare before they kicked them out on the street. All of us here at the ranch know we have a great job, but some days it feels like it’s a joke that we’re getting paid to do this! Yesterday was one of those for me. I hope you all had a great week, and will update you on more ranch details next Thursday…..

By the way, pictures to follow of the wild yoga when I get them loaded!

We’ll be ready for the winter in plenty of time!

As the summer rolls along, we’ve been keeping our eye on the upcoming winter season. Sounds a little crazy to say that when it’s just barely August 1, but that is indeed what we’re doing. You see, to be ready for the winter this year means having the new indoor riding arena completely ready to go by October when the weather might start hitting here in the Rockies. This project has taken a little longer than anticipated but we always had our eye on the main goal, which was to be able to offer winter riding and to be able to keep spending as much time training the new young horses and tuning up the ones in the guest string. And we’re excited that we’re hearing it should all be ready in about 4 weeks. So, as we run around in short sleeves and cowboy hats this summer, we’re watching the project coming together way out in the Lower Pasture. The carpenters are doing some finish work right now on the exterior trim and also on the inside of the arena. Hey, it’s an arena, but it doesn’t hurt if it’s a pretty one!

Until then, we’re enjoying being on horseback in the outdoor arena and on the trails in this fabulous weather we’re having this week….a cool breeze blowing through the aspens.

And Steve and Chris are biking their tails off trying to keep up with guest Rob this week. After a summer of lots of intense mountain biking, I actually think they are going to be perfectly happy to pack the bikes up and leave the use of the indoor arena to the horses!

adults week Fall of 2012

My husband Rich and I have decided to start our bucket list now, we have been motivated by losing several close friends to unexpected ravages of cancers and heart attacks. While we have our good health and energy we chose my first bucket list item, a beautiful luxury dude ranch. My goals were to ride every day if I could, learn how to lasso, and herd cattle. All my expectations were met and so much more. Well…..the lasso was not exactly mastered, David said all I needed was practice and since I was so close and seemed to be having a great time David decided I should take the lasso home. It is a piece of Vista Verde memories I get to look at every day with a smile and a warm feeling that Rich and I will return, you can be sure I’ll bring it back to show David how well I’m doing and ask him to show me how he jumps through that lasso.

Name: Denise Horne-Kaplan
City: Roaring Gap
State: North Carolina

Cute kid and a special deal

This past week has reminded us how lucky we are to have so many loyal guests who we get to call friends. And with all the activities going in so many different directions, we’re also just impressed by the adventurous spirit of our guests.

I didn’t have any picture perfect moments this week, probably because I was a bit distracted with so many great guests, but I did get a few minutes to have Leslie take a quick picture of Maggie trying out our new pony Shamrock. She is so stinking cute you just can believe it. Not only has Maggie tried her, but Maddie was on her first, then Jack and Annie. She may become the ranch kids’ pony but I don’t know if we’ll be able to keep the guests from her. Shamrock came through a connection of Terry’s who just needed to find a good home for this little 16 year old Welsh pony. She’s done all sorts of arena riding over the years and is picture perfect under saddle. We’ll try her out on the trails and see how it goes in the big bad world of the Rocky Mountains!

On another note, if you know of anyone planning last minute travel this summer, we have a deal for them! Check out our specials page for more info about the last two weeks in August.

9 Wild West Dude Ranches

As seen in The Daily Meal
9 Wild West Dude Ranches – by Nicole Campoy-Leffler

Spurs and all, these are more than just your average horseback riding adventure

In this digital modern age, John Wayne’s dusty Wild West seems a novel, old fashioned place. And while the Gold Rush may be over, it’s comforting to note that this gun-slinging, iPhone-less cowboy lifestyle is still alive and well on dude ranches across the U.S.

More than just tumbleweeds and cowboy hats, these dude ranches have amenities that would spoil even the toughest ranch hand. Swimming pools, live country music, wine cellars, and river rafting trips are all becoming dude ranch standard with fine dining, lavish spa treatments, and tennis courts rounding out some of the more luxurious offerings. Central California’s Alisal Ranch, for example, asks guests to “dress” for dinner and boasts a wine club with three levels of membership.

Whether you’re a seasoned horseback rider or got inspired by watching Rio Grande, the activities and itineraries available at each dude ranch can be tailor-made to fit your every whim. Wyoming’s storied A Bar A Ranch offers everything from fly fishing to skeet shooting and from horseback riding to golfing, ensuring you’ll earn your stripes in no time. And nothing goes with saddling up better than a fresh, epicurean meal.

Montana’s Triple Creek Ranch offers mahi mahi ceviche and braised Guinea fowl and organic chicken with seasonal vegetables and rice in their main dining room while Colorado’s Vista Verde Ranch has scheduled seasonal wine tastings and cooking classes throughout the year.

Harking back to the old West, these ranches let you get a taste of ranch life without actually making you wake up to do farm work at 5 a.m. Here are nine great ranches worth visiting all across the U.S.; go for the horseback riding vacations, stay for the food.

Colorado’s Vista Verde Ranch seems like it was made for the food-loving rancher. With cooking classes and wine tasting events, the ranch’s other activities like mountain biking, horseback riding, snowshoeing, and rock climbing are an added bonus. Changing based on the season, the ranch’s culinary adventures take place all throughout the property from hearty breakfasts (like honey wheat pancakes with caramelized apples on top) to outdoor grilling and from a quick lunch between activities to tasting the ranch’s inspiring wine collection.

Thank you Nicole for including us as one of the best dude ranches in your article!  We are so proud of our all-inclusive Colorado resort and love introducing new people to Vista Verde Ranch.

Give us a call at 800-526-7433 for information or reservations!

Ranch News

With many of us squeezing in vacation time the past couple weeks, it’s been pretty quiet around the Steamboat Springs resort town and our ranch.  This week the long term crew begins to roll back in.  Ben is the last one to arrive back, hot off the beaches of Mexico where he and Holly snuck away for a little romantic getaway.  Our pre-season kick-off meeting with all the managers will be this Thursday, and then we’ll all go running with our to-do lists.  As we race around getting ready for the staff to arrive, and the ensuing orientation weeks, we’re anxiously watching the sun melt the snow.  It turns out we have had a blockbuster, off the charts winter.  The news is saying that the Steamboat Springs resorts area has set an all-time record for the Colorado mountain resorts.  In April, we got 27 days of snow.  Too bad the Steamboat Ski Area didn’t extend it’s winter vacation season!  So, the hiking guides may be doing their training on snowshoes as we wait for the snow pack around our dude ranch to melt away prior to opening day.  We’re going to have some fun adventures with snow still up in the high country.  It will be like no summer I’ve ever seen.  I bet we’ll be able to find snow up at the highest peaks in August…so get ready for snowball fights on your all-day hike if you are coming out to Vista Verde for your Colorado summer vacation!

With the sun shining and the birds singing, we are also enjoying other new life….BABIES!  The Elk River Valley is dotted with baby cows, running and frolicking with their friends.  And we have had our first foal of the year.  Rachel gave us a Cinco de Mayo filly, a little bay with a white star.  She is so adorable and so sweet.  I believe Charlie won the bet on when that first foal would come.  No surprise there.  

For those of you coming this summer for a ranch holiday, we look forward to a full house of interesting and lively guests at our dude ranch.  For those still thinking about coming, we are down to the wire with one cabin open in early June, and then a couple spots later in September during our adult only weeks.  That’s a great time for a romantic mountain getaway!

Come on sunshine, melt it away!  We dont want to be cross country skiing in Colorado this summer!

Rows of bread

Dace and I walked into the kitchen this morning to see Rob working away at his new pastry section. Lined up on the counter next to it were rows and rows of fresh baked bread. I’m one of those people who, before working here, considered bread to be the kind of food product that you buy in a store. No one actually makes it from scratch do they? Well, I’ve learned that not only do a lot of people make it from scratch but that there is a complete art to bread making. Ever since his class in bread making this spring, Rob has been spending all his free time (yes, the guy comes in late at night and on his day off to do this) tinkering with his recipes and perfecting his ideal breads. If you ask me, they all taste pretty darn good. But he’s still not quite satisfied. Then, in case that isn’t enough of a challenge for him, he’s now talking about homemade pretzels, homemade donuts, and more. Dude, give yourself a break. Go fishing. Take a little time off!

On another note….as we head into our second week of guests we want to send a big Happy Father’s Day out to all the dads out there who can’t be here to celebrate Father’s Day in ranch style. We’ll raise a glass of beer to each of you tonight and knaw on some prime rib at dinner (Steve will taste some tender salmon instead) and wish you all a happy Father’s Day!