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!

Dude Ranch Vacations

Dude Ranch Vacations- Jamie Pearson wrote this great article on horse riding vacations after visiting Vista Verde Ranch in the summer.  Here, she gives some advice on dude ranches for families.

Five things to know before you go

I brought a lot of things with me to my Colorado dude ranch vacation last summer, such as jeans, boots, a brand new cowboy hat, and really, really high expectations.  With all that beautiful scenery and horsey fun, I just knew it was going to be the trip of a lifetime.  Luckily, I was right.

If you’re considering heading out west with your family this summer (and you totally should), here are a few things to know before you go.

1. Find the right ranch

I know you wish the ranch fairy would fly down and just tell you which ranch is perfect for your family.  I wished that too, but it didn’t happen.  So I made a list of all the things we wanted (not too many guests at a time, a high staff to guest ratio, riding clinics at no extra cost, luxury accommodations, and river rafting), and then researched until I was cross eyed.

After talking to some horsey friends and Googling myself silly, I chose Vista Verde Ranch in Steamboat Springs, Colorado.   If you don’t know a working ranch from a guest ranch and have no idea what you’re looking for in terms of amenities, I highly recommend you start with The Dude Rancher’s Association website.

Knowing your family helps.  If you have shy kids, don’t choose a ranch with mandatory separate kid and adult activities every day.  If you don’t care about anything but riding, don’t pay extra for activities you won’t try.

2.  Book the right week

Once you’ve decided on a ranch, the next step is choosing a week to book.  Weather is obviously a consideration and holiday weeks (such as July 4th) may cost more.  We went the third week in July and were lucky to be able to participate in a cattle drive.  Had we gone in June, it would have been too wet and boggy.

Also, call the ranch and ask who has already booked the week you’re considering.  Ideally you want there to be kids your kids’ ages.  I’d also recommend avoiding weeks with big family reunions—these groups tend to be very self contained, which limits socializing opportunities.

3.  Bring a sports bra

I won’t go into too much detail on this one, but suffice it to say there’s a lot of trotting and galloping at dude ranches.  Hours and hours of trotting and galloping, in fact.  And running around with your kids.  And mountain biking.  And rock climbing.  You get the point.

4.  Pack more clothes than you think you’ll need

I travel extensively, often, and all over the place with my kids and I flatter myself that I know how to pack.  I could have done a lot better on our dude ranch vacation, however.  Every time we stepped outside the door of our cabin, we got really, really dirty.  My husband and I could have used another two or three outfits each.  The kids were so perpetually filthy (and happy) that I’m not sure that would have helped.

Dinners were casual, but I wished I had cuter clothes.  Not to mention clothes that weren’t covered in dust and horse slobber.  Laundry service was convenient and inexpensive, but I wasn’t willing to part with my favorite jeans to have them washed.

If you choose a ranch in Colorado, throw in a rain jacket for everyone too.  It rained briefly (or threatened to) nearly every afternoon of our trip.

5. Don’t expect to relax too much

There are so many exciting things to do at dude ranches that it can be hard to relax.  I wasn’t able to just sit down with a book and read because I felt like I’d be missing something fun.  Worse, I felt like I’d be paying to miss something fun.

If you’re the kind of person who prefers to lounge around a pool or on a beach doing nothing for seven consecutive days, this might not be the right vacation for you.  There are evening activities too, like campfires, rodeos, and barn dances, so you won’t go to bed early very often.  Even the kids got a little worn out by the end of the week.

Coffee and Cards

To lighten the intensity of all the training and orientating the staff has been going through this past week, Dace brought them all into “the big city” last night for a little party at the Steaming Bean, a local coffee shop. We sipped lattes, shared stories, got crafty and competitive over card games and coloring books (hey, there’s a little kid in all of us) and had some great laughs. It was fun to see everyone away from the ranch letting loose a bit. Now back to the important things like how to properly polish the chrome on the sink, memorizing the names of the new horses, learning the best place to park at trailheads and of course, how to do dishes at a level that will keep even Rob happy!

The crew is coming together great and everyone is getting excited for our first guests to arrive. We are all hoping that the rain stops before they get here Sunday. It’s been great to get all this moisture, but enough is enough. As soon as the sun comes out for more than an hour at a time, the grass will grow faster than the horses can eat it down!

Wish us luck on opening day. We’re excited. We’re ready to roll.

The Best Dude Ranches

I was at a Colorado Dude Ranch Association meeting yesterday and we were discussing how some ranches use the term Best Dude Ranch to describe themselves.  It was a hot topic, as many dude ranchers are quite offended by others using that term.  It got me thinking though.  What makes a dude ranch the best dude ranch?  Is there such a thing?

In my mind, no one can claim to be the best dude ranch, but we all want to be it anyway.  Most ranches in the Association are great, and provide an amazing all inclusive Colorado vacation.  And most of them are dude ranches for families, only a few are just for adults.  Many of the ranches do have adult only times, like we do at Vista Verde.  These are great opportunities for romantic mountain getaways for for those looking for a Colorado honeymoon.

Some of the ranches are more rustic, some mid-range, and some are luxury ranches like Vista Verde.  We all have our "thing", but that doesn’t necessarily make one ranch better than the other.  Luxury doesn’t make Vista Verde the best dude ranch, it just differentiates us. 

So, as you plan your horse riding vacation, keep in mind what matters to you the most.  If you are looking for a real working ranch experience, then the most luxurious horse ranch vacation wont be the best ranch for you.  There are so many great options in the Colorado Dude Ranch Association that I’m sure there is a ranch that becomes the best dude ranch for everyone out there.  And if you are looking for a luxury ranch experience with a diverse selection of activities, a great setting and fabulous people, hopefully Vista Verde will be the best dude ranch for you!

Staff and Stuff

We’re in the heart of orientation week and the level of energy at the ranch is at a high. Dace has given his talk about the mission statement. Ben has given his talk about the realities of living, working, eating and playing with the same people all summer long and how to foster a positive community spirit through it all. Bill did his vehicle orientation. The new staff have been paired with returners to learn the ropes of dish duty. Oh, the glamour of ranch work! Now we are into more of what we call “department time”. That’s when each crew gets to really learn the ropes of their specific jobs. The kids wranglers were out practicing the riding orientation yesterday while the housekeepers were spring cleaning one of the cabins. With all this work, we also find time to fit in some fun social events. Game night in front of the fire in the Great Room was Tuesday night instead of a hike because it rained. And last night it was Barn dance practice. Yee-haw!

In the midst of all this, we also are seeing the final touches coming together around the ranch. The new patio dining area was cleaned up of equipment and debris yesterday so now we can see what it really is going to look like. Wow, no one is going to want to ever go inside! There’s a cool new walkway over the creek to a fire pit by the pond. The pond was expanded a bit and has now filled up again (thanks to said rain). It’s just blissful to sit out there and watch the reflection of the mountains on the water.

Well, the crew is showing up for breakfast now so it’s time to go get to know some of the newbies a bit better. Lots of names to learn, hometowns to remember and stories to unfold!

Mud Season

When it’s not quite still winter, and not quite yet summer here at Vsta Verde Ranch, we don’t refer to it as Spring but call it by another name.  Mud Season.  During this time most of the Steamboat Springs resorts close down because of Mud Season. 

Most years, it’s just an affectionate term that we use as we slop through the melting snow and ensuing mud underneath, trying to be diligent about wiping off our boots before coming inside.  Because most years the sun is shining, the birds are singing and you can almost feel the grass pushing with all it’s might to explode up out of it’s dormancy.  You just know that great Colorado summer vacations are about to begin.

However, this year, it doesn’t seem to be such a laughing matter.  The birds are still singing, those little optimists.  But the sun has hardly been shining.  Rain, snow, sleet and various other forms of precipitation keep lingering.  And it’s becoming all that anyone talks about these days.  At this point, we could have been offering some great cross country skiing in Colorado way into April.

Yesterday, I had to drive over for my final board meeting (we take the summer off as everyone is too busy to meet) of the Colorado Dude Ranch Association- an association of the best dude ranches in Colorado.  What is normally a picturesque drive, with majestic mountains peaks still covered in snow, but green meadows busting with young grass and baby calves was replaces by a slow slog through a blizzard in four wheel drive.  

Those poor little calves out there don’t know any different.  But, as soon as spring finally decides to join us, and stay, the valleys are going to explode with vegetation and those little birds are going to have something to sing about for sure.  Heck, you might just hear me singing at that point! 

The Big Move, Part II

Today is the day! The design crew got started around 8am and are cranking away getting all the furniture moved into the Great Room. The rugs are down and much of the furniture is in the building. Right now they are placing the different pieces in their spots. The elk head is looking down from his perch, peering into my new office. A little unnerving yes, but we’ll get to be friends soon. I might need to name him. After they have all the furniture in place the crew will start hanging art. Oh, I just saw the refinished dining room chairs coming in. Same chairs, just a new look! I’m hoping that any minute someone will step in for my personal makeover! Ahh, a girl can at least dream.

Honeymoon at a Dude Ranch?

Yes!  These days, we are seeing more and more folks coming to Vista Verde Ranch for their honeymoon.  The cliche beach vacation is just so…..well, cliche.  Coming to a guest ranch is a different and fun way to have a romantic honeymoon getaway with shared experiences that will last long past the pina colada getting warm. 

What is it like to spend your honeymoon at Vista Verde Ranch? 

When you arrive, tired and worn out from the planning and stress of your wedding, the first thing you will find is a welcoming and accommodating staff, waiting to take care of your every need.  Then, you’ll step into your Colorado honeymoon cabin and instantly feel at home.  The ecclectic mix of log and antique furniture along with Western art makes each cabin unique and incredibly cozy.  The hot tub sitting out on the deck of your cabin will beckon you to soak and reflect on the huge day you just went through, marrying this person who sits next to you now.  In the winter, you may be looking out at a snow filled landscape as the bright sun shines down, or the stars twinkle in the night sky.  Or, if it’s snowing, all you’ll see are big, fluffy white snowflakes.  Peaceful?  Oh, yes.  And I forgot to mention the cozy wood burning stove, for those nights when you want to watch the snowflakes from inside your cabin.

As you make your way over to the Main Lodge of our luxury dude ranch for your first dinner, you’ll revel in the serenity of the ranch at night.  The talented Chefs will have prepared a delectable dinner for you to enjoy by yourselves at a private table, or in the company of intersting and adventurous guests from all over the world.  

Waking up on your first morning, you’ll find the caring and fun loving staff in the dining room to serve you a hearty breakfast before heading out for your first adventure.  You and your spouse will deepen your relationship as you learn more about each other trying new activites and experience the beauty of the natural setting of our romantic resort.  There are so many options to choose from that you might just try different activities each day, or fall in love with one and never turn back. 

By the time you leave to head back home and your new life as a married couple, you will have memories that stay with you for years.  In fact, we often hear from couples who honeymooned here years ago wanting to now bring their families back to see the place where they first vacationed as a married couple. 

Bottom line, we’ll take care of you on your honemoon getaway at Vista Verde.  You’ll enjoy having the luxury dude ranch become like a second home, and surprise yourself in how much you enjoy getting to know all the folks at Vista Verde Ranch. 

The big move, part I

So far, we have 3 of the 4 new offices moved into. Ben was the first to jump on the moving bandwagon and was moved in by early this week. Yesterday was a big push to get Rob and Teresa moved into the new Kitchen office, and I got moved into my new one down by the front desk. After all these years of wondering if someone is wandering around downstairs looking for help, I will finally be where I should be and we will finally have an official front desk! I’ve got to admit, I’m going to miss the fun of sharing an office with Ben. We’ve had some fun! But we’ll probably both be a little more efficient without someone sitting right there, bouncing ideas off each other and getting distracted in the process. Next up is Dace’s office move, but we are waiting until he gets back from Santa Fe and Scottsdale to move him. He was traveling with Peggy and the designer the past couple days looking for some artwork for all these new spaces we have to decorate! You might even see a Dace Starkweather original hanging somewhere in the Lodge this summer! Didn’t know he was such an artsy kind of guy? Hey, we all have our surprises.

In the process of all this moving, we’ve come across some pretty funny stuff such as VHS tapes full of teen videos from past summers, Mobil 4 star plaques that we just couldn’t get rid of, years after Mobil decided to stop rating guest ranches, old flip charts with notes from staff orientation, and the most random assortment of single gloves.

While all this moving was going on, the chefs were also moving their stuff back into the new and improved kitchen. It was fun to watch these guys who are usually focused on creativity and food to be moving heavy equipment and using tools. They did all right! However, there seem to be some sizing snafoos with the dish washing area, so Rob was at his wits end as Bill and a couple others tried to figure out how to make it all work.

The next big step is the mega-moving party happening sometime around the 27th. The designer and his team will pull an all-nighter while they move in the furniture, arrange it all, adjust lights and artwork and fixtures. We should be on TLC!

Hopefully it will all be in place by the time the staff show up on June 1. The clock is ticking!


As written for Weeklywrinkle.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Name: The Bakers
City: London
State: UK

Wild Yoga!

We all have our “thing” that we’re into. At Vista Verde, many of us find our “thing” to be related to outdoor recreation. Rob loves fishing. Steve loves mountain biking. Dace and Ben love anything related to horses. The list goes on and on. But every once in a while one of us will find something to love that doesn’t involve being outside, even though that’s where we would all prefer to spend our free time. Kelli became involved in teaching yoga a couple years ago and I discovered the benefits of yoga for my aching lower back (aching at far too young of an age) during that time as well. As much as we try to convince the guys that they’ve got to give it a try, we just haven’t gotten there yet….and as much as we both love yoga, there is that side that yearns to be outside rather than in a room sweating it out. Kelli tried teaching yoga for our guests the past couple summers early in the morning on the fountain deck or in the kids cabin. But it was too cold, or not the right space, or not the right time for many. So, when Kelli came up with the idea of wild yoga, she nailed it. We have noticed that our guests have a hard time missing out on anything. You all seem to want to pack in as much as you can. In fact often times we have to encourage you to take a little time to just relax. It is vacation after all! But, with the mindset that no one wants to miss an activity, and the fact that we would rather be outside in our beautiful surroundings, Kelli will be offering Wild Yoga this summer. What’s that, you ask? Put on your hiking shoes and hike with Kelli or hop on a horse and ride with me out to a fabulously scenic spot where Kelli will lead a yoga practice in the quivering aspens (talk about taking tree pose literally). It’s the best of both worlds! This week we scoped out the perfect spot for the destination and are going to start working the area to smooth out the ground and get the area ready. I can’t wait! Maybe we’ll even be able to drag one of the guys out every now and then.

Romantic Winter Vacations

Looking for a new romantic vacation idea? Get over lace, chintz and potpourri. A great romantic resort getaway features lots of shared activity outdoors that sparks lots of shared activity indoors.

That’s the experience of couples who visit Vista Verde Ranch, near Steamboat Springs, Colorado. After a day spent skiing, riding, sledding, snowshoeing or dog sledding, there’s nothing as tantalizing as returning to your private deluxe cabin and slipping into a steaming, secluded hot tub with your significant other. A gourmet, candlelit dinner and an impossibly star-filled sky add a dreamy finish to the day.

The small guest capacity at our ranch allows us to provide top notch service and an intimate setting. You can choose to enjoy a plethora of activities, or just relax and take in the peaceful setting.  With over 600 acres, and surrounded by millions of acres in the Routt National Forest, you wont see any crowds here, and the only traffic jam is that of the horses lining up to be fed each day.

Our staff go out of their way to accommodate your wishes, the Chefs prepare delightful options at each meal, and the snow is pristine outside, just ready for you to put on your jacket and come out to play.

Just fly into the Steamboat/Hayden (HDN) airport in the winter, and we’ll pick you up and whisk you away to the ranch.

We have seen more and more guests at our luxury dude ranch looking for a unique way to reconnect and enjoy a romantic resort getaway that leaves lasting memories.  Grab your sweetheart, and come join us at Vista Verde Ranch for a winter stay!

Ranch vs. Resort

There are a broad range of dude ranches in Colorado as well as a broad range of Colorado resorts. The meaning of dude ranch, guest ranch or resort depends on who you ask. Some think a dude ranch is more rustic and a guest ranch is more upscale. Some thing a dude ranch is more of a working ranch while a guest ranch has other activities. Some think a resort should have nothing to do with dirt and animals and be more like Disney, while others think of a resort as a rustic non-hotel-like experience. At Vista Verde, we could be called a dude ranch, a guest ranch or even a ranch resort. We’re a working ranch in the sense that we have a herd of 80 horses who we keep year ’round, feeding them by irrigated hay meadows in the summer and by throwing stored hay off a sleigh pulled by a team of draft horses in the winter. We have acreage to maintain, fences to build and land to preserve. We’re a resort ranch in the sense that we have a diverse offering of activities besides just riding, and not all our staff wear cowboy hats for their specialties. We could also be called a luxury ranch by the upscale accommodations and high quality food. Whatever you like to call us, we hope those who are looking for a classy yet casual, adventurous yet safe, and remote yet accessible vacation experience will find their way to Vista Verde Ranch. It’s a place where relationships are built and renewed, memories are made and time slows down. Call us whatever you want, but when you’re here we hope you call it home.

What Does All-Inclusive mean when it comes to vacations?

Many luxury guest ranches, resorts and even cruise lines promote themselves as all-inclusive vacations.  But, what I have found is that many of them aren’t really all-inclusive. 

At Vista Verde Ranch, we have chosen to truly be an all inclusive Colorado vacation, and not nickel and dime our guests. 

What does that mean?  When you make a reservation for your ranch holiday at Vista Verde Ranch, you will know what the trip is going to cost you, and there won’t be any surprises.

Included in your luxury dude ranch vacation at Vista Verde Ranch are meals, beverages, activities, guides and equipment.

What do other so-called all inclusive Colorado vacation destinations charge you for that we don’t?
Wireless internet
Airport transfers
Beer and wine
Fly fishing licences
Equipment rentals
Lessons, instruction or clinics
Mini bar

Having said all that, and in the essence of fairness, there are some extra charges that we don’t feel right building into the price for all guests.  In the summer, those would be spa treatments and hot air ballooning. 

So, do your research.  Ask a lot of questions.  It can be overwhelming with all the choices and every dude ranch being so different.  I’ve even had guests put together grids to try to figure out which ranch is right for them.  Please know that we are always happy to answer any questions and help you find the right all inclusive Colorado vacation for you!

Chaos, Organized?

We have been trying to keep you all updated with the construction of the Great Room addition to the Main Lodge. But, while that has been going on, we’ve mentioned the indoor arena as well as a few other smaller projects. As I walked around this morning, capturing photos of everything happening around the ranch on this beautiful day, I realized that I should give you all a real feel for the scene. Maybe it’s because it’s all coming together finally and the pieces are falling into place. Or maybe it’s just because the weather is now allowing us to get some of the projects really going. Once you read this list, you’ll understand why Ben and Dace have a glazed look on their faces most days and why I’m working from home as much as possible! Don’t worry, these projects are all nearing completion and are on schedule to be done June 1. Here’s the list:
1) Great Room addition to the Main Lodge– you’ve all heard about this one, but it is looking REALLY good right now.
2) Outdoor kitchen and dining area– brick oven, major grilling space, patio seating right next to the….
3) Enlarged Lake Suzanne– ok, so we needed some dirt to build terrain around the Indoor riding arena (next up) so we decided to make the pond a bit larger so people aren’t hooking each other as they practice their casting.
4) Indoor Riding Arena– you may wonder why I haven’t written much about it. Well, not to knock Californians (I’m one!) but these guys were a little sensitive to working in our winter weather and seemed to take more snow days than work days. But a few pointed words from key people (aka, they guy writing the checks) has gotten them to pick up the pace just a tad, and buy a few pairs of mittens and hats to keep them going. Although it will be enclosed by summer, it wont be ready to use for riding until later in the season, but the point of the arena is really for winter riding more than summer riding and for the summer we’ll have….
5) Outdoor riding arena– this isn’t quite as exciting but the fencing needed to be replaced since we’ve had too many steers jump out during team penning so there is now new fencing and a nice chaparral gate to boot.
6) Staff housing– we needed to finish building out a couple staff rooms in the Parlor. So, since we had NOTHING else going on, we figured we’d that knocked out this spring.
7) Sand bathroom– you may have read about this surprise remodel early in the spring after a water leak ruined the floor. Bill has the tile and granite in, the walls painted and now the plumbing and light fixtures are going in tomorrow.
8 ) Corral space– remember that old hay barn that fell down last winter. Well, we’re taking advantage of that space to expand our holding pen for the horses, so dirt is being moved, rock walls built and fences will go up next.
9) Generator– I know, this really gets you going. But, look at the bright side (pardon the electricity pun) that now if the power goes out we’ll still have lights and water. What can I say, it’s the little details that make this place so great.
10) Revised pathways to cabin– we’ve been eyeballing this for a while and are finally doing it (again, since we have NOTHING else to do). The new pathway system will give each cabin more privacy as the main walkway will be moved to the other side of the stream.
11) Yes, there is a #11. The Dining room, Kitchen and Staff room remodel. Hey, it’s kind of like painting a house. Once you get started, it just seems so easy to add another room, and then another, and then another.

This may seem daunting to you, but with the exception of the Arena, it’s all on track to be done before any of you show up for the summer. The landscapers are coming next week to get the outside areas looking spiffy, lay sod, plant trees, arrange rocks, you name it.

It’s exciting to start seeing all these projects come together and be almost done. But, in the meantime, it’s a bit of a zoo around here!

With all that news of chaos, Kelli and I are going to go out and scout a good spot for our Wild Yoga….details to follow.

Waking Up

This wonderful essay was written by guest Katie after returning to school this fall. I thought it was so beautifully written that I wanted to share it with everyone.

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

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

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

I turn back towards my room, the sun sends hot rays on to my back but cool, blue air makes the temperature perfect for shorts and T-shirts. Other members of my family begin to wake up; my mum and dad stir downstairs in the master bedroom. A quiet giggle comes from the room next to mine; separated by a wooden partition, my brother and sister must already be awake. They are excited as I am for the day ahead.
I notice the cowboy boots on the floor and an old pair of jeans resting on an ancient chair. Memories come flooding back as I remember days of riding and making loads of new friends, I remember a birthday I spent here and evenings spent in the Jacuzzi outside. I grow more and more excited with every memory. I dress quickly, pulling on the old jeans and a shirt that will protect my skin from the burning sun that is now rising above the valley. Just before I pull on some socks I notice the soft and luxuriously deep carpet that covers the floor, it tickles my toes and pampers my feet. I notice the high quality of it; little luxuries like this cover the house and make my stay even better.

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

Name: Katie from Edinburgh

Moose Encounter

Just imagine that you are this guy who owns a really cool ranch in Colorado. You’ve come out to visit for the weekend and are enjoying a beautiful spring morning outside on the deck with your dogs. As you brush these beautiful white dogs, who on this day have decided to stay close by and not run away like they always do, you hear some noise coming from around the corner of the garage. Before your eyes appears a large bull moose. Your beautiful white dogs, who are not always the most intelligent animals, decide that now is the time to show the world that they are in charge. The take off with their powerful barks and begin to chase this enormous bull moose. Did we mention his enormous racks that could squash a small child? Before you even get a chance to put down your cup of coffee, the dogs are off, chasing the moose down the driveway. You watch in amazement until the moose stops, turns around, and decides that he no longer wants to play this game. Now the beautiful white dogs are stumped on what to do next. They figure it out pretty quickly as they are charged by the moose. Next thing you know, the dogs are hightailing it back up your driveway, headed right towards you and the door. The moose is not far behind. As he approaches the front door, he stops and gives one final head butt in the direction of your beautiful white dogs. Then, with the air of victory, he casually turns around and heads back down the driveway. With a courtesy look left and then look right, he crosses the road and heads toward the river.

And with that you think to yourself, wow, this ranch life is pretty exciting!

As far as we know, the moose carried on with his day, possibly with a slight spring in his step. The dogs have not run off in the past two days and seem to be quite content to just bark at coyotes from the safety of the deck.

Thank you notes

Thank you Chris for this touching note. He also took some amazing shots of the horses running in one morning.

Good afternoon from hot and humid South Florida! I really wanted to reach out to you and your staff to express my heartfelt thanks for our vacation of a lifetime! After 14 years of working in police work, I have never experienced a family vacation close to our Vista Verde Ranch visit. I truly hope that my family’s sincerity in our expressions and words communicated our feelings about our stay. The week brought our family closer, and also allowed me to be reminded of the important things in life; family and friends.

Trisha and I honestly felt a connection with you and your staff, which we will cherish for a very long time. Our children have slept with the pictures of their assigned horses nightly, and can’t seem to allow themselves to move on! I am having as much of a problem settling back into my “real life” as the rest of the family. Heading to a baseball tournament tonight and basketball games this weekend! Back to the craziness!
We hope that our family has the opportunity to travel back to Vista Verde next summer and seasons to follow. I will send a link to some photographs that we took of the staff and our family. The pictures really don’t depict the amount of joy the people of Vista Verde Ranch passed along to our family, but I hope they are a small window into the wonderful week we enjoyed. Feel free to pass the link onto anyone on your staff, as they can download them for their enjoyment.

Thank you once again for enriching our lives, and we hope to foster further relationships with you all in the future! If you or any of the staff wish to keep in touch or want to drop us a line, my contact information is below. Take care and please don’t change a thing!!!!!!

Name: Chris
City: Davis
State: Florida

Where’s the Door?

I drove into the ranch this morning and couldn’t find the front door. Yes, you read that right. The front door isn’t there anymore. In the midst of all our upgrades and additions, what used to be the front entry is now part of the expanded kitchen and dishroom area. The new main entrance will take guests into the Great room, past the Front desk. From there, you will walk down the rock hallway into the dining room. If you’re confused at this point, don’t worry. So was I as I tried to find a way into my office! You’ll just have to come out when it’s done and see it for yourself. Although we’re definitely in the heart of the mess of construction, it is REALLY exciting to see it all coming together. Hopefully you’ll get a chance to see it for yourself, rather than just on my posts!

Spring Fever

Stubborn yet glorious fifty degree weather.  Muddy pathways.  A lively gushing river.  And horse manure land mines defrosting all over the winter pasture… smells like Spring is in the air – that's the best at a dude ranch in Colorado! 

…And a great hush fell over the crowd as the last of the our dude ranch guests said their goodbyes and waved us into our off season.   Another successful winter!   A sense of accomplishment stirred in our spirits as we immediately launched into spring cleaning mode, giving a spotless shine to the kitchen, dining room, lodge, and all the cabins.   This was followed by a surge of spring fever that gave way to a delightful bike ride down to the river. 

Practically overnight, the Nordic center, which has been a hub for cross country ski vacations all winter,  has transitioned from a Skiers Paradise to a Biking Utopia.  Walls lined with mountain bikes add a fresh new feel to the place and enhance the expectation that any day now we will all be able to see what is hidden underneath the snow… perhaps a lake, a stone pathway, a road less traveled by, or a personal item that fell out of someone’s pocket only to get dogpiled by pounds and pounds of winter resort snow. 

Though, whatever the melting snow uncovers, I will be thrilled to see any color other than white!   Snow is fun but when the weather is this nice my North Carolina roots cause me to ache for the blossoming pink & white cherry blossoms that splash the East Coast this time of year!   Though I know better then to expect mud season to produce such delicate blossoms this early on when history proves we may still have a snow fall yet to come. 

But no matter,  l am bubbling over with excitement at the thought of biking down our driveway to the rushing river at the fork in the road, and seeing wildlife trickling in from who know where they’ve been hiding all winter!   And once again my gleeful grin returns at the thought less work and more play–my very own ranch holiday!

Destruction and Construction

While the innards of the Dining room, Kitchen and Staff room are being ripped apart and put back together, the construction on the New Lodge and Indoor Arena are chugging along. Closing down for the season along with the beautiful weather have helped the process along. This week, all the windows and doors in the “old” Lodge were pulled out and replaced while walls are being shifted and spaces reinvented. While that is happening, the drywall work was finished in the “new” Lodge and the siding is almost completely up. In addition, the stone work in the breezeway and on the fireplace is almost done as of today. The place is starting to look like a real Lodge. So, although the mud is thick and the sun is melting the snow rapidly, we’re tromping on with our mud boots and keeping our eye on the target so we can get it all done in time!


The First Day of the Rest of Our Lives

Guest Post

My birthday started out like any other day except that I found a unexpected surprise awaiting me in the barn stall, beneath my apartment in the Indoor Arena—a cream colored newly born foal!   MJ gave birth in the middle of the night two weeks ago and produced a beautiful baby girl, named Bailey, that now shares the same birthday as me.  Who knew that a Dude ranch could produce such lovely surprises!

The other day I watched MJ and her baby prance out from their stall and run circles around the arena.  Or rather, I watched the gangly little foal run circles around her mom and rear up on her hind legs playfully showing off for us. Talk about spirit!   It was incredible to watch Bailey discover what her legs could do.  To her it was the first day of the rest of her life and she was delighted to live it.

Then when I got down to her eye level she poked her nose in and out at me like I was the most curious thing she had ever smelled.   Her actions invited me in.  I got to brush her face and pet her soft darling nose as she continued to sniff me out.

I’ve never been around a baby foal before but it left an impression on me.  I may be past my twenties but after watching that foal kick and run I realize I have not reached my limitations yet!   I still have a spirit that can kick.  And I still have skills and things I’m learning about myself that are like muscles I have yet to try out.  So why not go out swinging fearlessly like the newborn did/  Or why not try out who I am all over again, testing what I can do, and how far I can run.   I am reminded that there is thrill and adventure in self-discovery.

Many times we forget that the door to our seemingly caged in life is actually wide open.  There is freedom there that we forget about, which gives us permission to try new things and get out from the boundaries of familiarity for a little adventure and self-discovery.   The first day of the rest of our life happens everyday.  So why not embrace our freedom and go out into it swinging and let the thrill of self-discovery once again paint our faces with childlike wonder!

End of the Season Party

As our last guests checked out yesterday, the demolition party began. While adding on to the Main Lodge, we also are giving the dining room a facelift, and re-arranging the kitchen and office space. So, within hours of the final departure of the season pictures had been removed from walls, wallpaper pulled down, trim removed, doors taken away and everyone had a blast doing it with the country music cranking and lots of laughs. As you can see in the picture Jerry, Bill and Ben seemed to have the most fun doing the demolition- boys will be boys. Tomorrow we’ll move all the tables and chairs to storage for the spring and empty out the kitchen so they can get some major work done in there as well. The carpets come up next week and then we’re off to the races. Dace has relocated his office to his house over by the Sunday pasture. I’ve moved much of the equipment to my home office and Ben is going to stay it out upstairs until his new office is ready in the new Lodge addition.

We followed up the demolition party with a thank you dinner and party for all our staff. It was nice to close off the season giving our appreciation for all that the team brought to the ranch experience. And we got to hear some pretty fun stories in the process. The party closed down with a great slide show put together by Rusty. It really captured how much more there is to working at VVR than just a job. Now many of the crew are heading off to their next adventures in life, and some will be coming back for the summer. We thank this amazing crew and hope you get to cross paths with some of them in the future!

Horeback Riding the Relational way

Guest Post

I never got to interact with horses growing up, so for all I knew they were like any other pet– intriguing at first but tend to lose their shiny-new-toy sparkle as owners forget to invest relationally as life gets busy.

My interaction with horses started over a year ago when I had the opportunity to take my first horseback riding lessons for 6 weeks at a local farm near my house.  During the class I learned how to brush,  bridle, and saddle a horse.  And, once on the horse, I learned how to stop and go, go faster, and move a little to the right or left.  I enjoyed the class because it was new and fun.  But now that I’m on staff at one of the best dude ranches in the West, and have taken a number of horse clinics in the new indoor arena, I realize in retrospect that my previous horse training was very superficicial.  It taught me some of the mechanics of riding but nothing about horse itself or what I’m communicating to the horse with my body language.

I’m realizing now that horseback riding is as much about being relational with the horse and as it is about learning proper technique.  Seeking to understand the personality and the stregnths & weeknesses of the horse being rode, while respecting how intelligent the horse actually is, allows the rider to effectively communicate what is required of the horse.  When both rider and horse understand one another you not only get an enjoyable ride, but you also experience relationship, which triggers an unexpected sense of satification in both the horse and rider.  The horse expresses this enjoyment by licking or smaking his lips together
a number of times.

I’ve only participated in 5 horse clinics now, and I’m not only having fun, I’m also thrilled with the understanding of what my body langauge is speaking to the horse which is allowing me to make the horse walk backward, spin in circles, walk sideways, and bring the horse to a sudden stop while in the middle of a canter.   It’s all very exciting to me and I officially denounce my assumption about horses being like every other pet.  They are most definitely not!  They are very intriguing creatures who are extremely smart, sensitive, and extraordinarily relational if you take a little time to get to know them.

Last but not least, I’ve come to agree with our wranglers here: if you treat a horse like an emotionally sensitive woman you will go far with the horse and have and exceptional horseback riding vacation!

A real Romantic Vacation!

Valentine’s Day is always a romantic day at Vista Verde, but this year it was even more than normal. Former staff member Ben Gammie brought his girlfriend Brooke out for a couple nights. On Valentine’s Day, our crew of cupids set up the Homestead cabin with rose petals, champagne, strawberries dipped in chocolate and a roaring fire. Ben and Brooke went out for an innocent sleigh ride but then Brooke was surprised when they were just dropped off at the Homestead cabin. Inside she found the surprise also included a sparkling ring and a nervous Ben. For those of you wondering, she said yes! Congratulations and best wishes to the happy couple.

Winter Horseback Riding, here we come!

I’ve been trying to keep you all updated on what’s going on with the Lodge addition, but haven’t given you an update on the indoor riding arena. That’s partly because there wasn’t a whole lot to look at until recently. There was a lot of dirt being moved, and a lot of steel supports being buried in the ground. But we now are starting to see the skeleton of the arena coming together. Each day a few more steel support beams are put into place. It’s fun to ski by the worksite and see it taking shape. This is one doozy of a riding arena. We’ll be able to host the Steamboat Pro Rodeo series if they ever decide to have a winter version! While I usually take the winter off from riding, except for a few jaunts on the snowy horse trails, I think next winter may be a bit different. We’re looking into hosting some special clinics as well as just being able to offer more time on horseback whether it be taking a lesson or playing with cows. For now, we’re still enjoying the horse rides around the ranch when not skiing, snowshoeing or sledding!