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!

  • christmas cookies

Dude Ranch Life: Christmas Cheer at VVR

We hope you all are enjoying the holidays and sharing great moments with the people you love.  Here are the ranch we have been busy little elves as we hosted families from all over the world escaping to our winter wonderland for their family vacation.  The snow has been falling, the sleigh bells have been jingling, and the chefs have been cooking up a storm.  Christmas at a Colorado ranch is like living in a Norman Rockwell painting.

A few nights ago, Kelli hosted the Family Tree Decorating night.  Over a dozen little trees lined the Great Room hallway with one for each family.  Kelli laid out a spread of supplies and suggestions for creative ornaments and decorations, and then she turned the families loose on creating their masterpiece.

Yesterday was an epic production from the kitchen.  We treated our guests to breakfast in their cabins, with the guides and housekeepers delivering their meals so everyone could stay in their jammies and enjoy some family time on Christmas morning.  Then, as they headed out for adventures in the snow a entourage of elves set up the most amazing feast in the Lodge.  The chefs have been cooking nearly around the clock to prepare this feast, and there was a flurry of arranging furniture, decorating long tables, and making everything just perfect for the big feast.  Mid-day we all met up for mimosas and a Christmas blessing to all, followed by the most gorgeous and tasty meal.

The staff and the guests got cozy in the dining room with probably twice as many folks as we normally fit in there rubbing elbows and celebrating the camaraderie of the day.  We all finished the meal with way too many decadent desserts that Melissa and Annie prepared for us.  Following all that, most headed off for a nap or to the tubing party, as sleeping by the fire to sliding down a hill was about all anyone was up for at that point.

Today we are back to burning off all those calories while cross-country skiing through fresh snow and enjoying the memories of the white Christmas we were treated to yesterday.  Here’s to a wonderful holiday season and we hope you and yours are merry and well!

snowshoeing in Colorado

Dude Ranch Life: Keeping up with the Joneses Part II

On Monday we announced the exciting news of the new owners of Vista Verde.  So many of you sent nice words of encouragement to them, but some of you had that concern of, “What if they change the place we love?”  So, I thought it might be nice to speak to that from the perspective of someone who has been here for a long time and worked for more than one owner.

Over the past several months we have been getting to know them a little.  But this week we got a chance to really dive into learning about this amazing family.  Laura and Chris showed up late Wednesday night with 5 of their kids, and just left this afternoon to head back to Chicago to catch up with the rest of their family.  The days they were here were action-packed and every moment was well spent.  They got out on horseback, tubed with the kids, went into the back country on skis, sat through meetings with Ben, Charlie and yours truly, got trained on the behind the scenes workings, went snowshoeing (photo above is Laura coming down from Hinman Lake), hosted a staff Christmas party, and they visited with all the guests.   In addition to that, they got to experience what happens when things don’t work at the ranch.  The huge storm that just rolled through this area left much of Northwest Colorado without power for a period of time.  As we’re a little further down the line, it took a bit longer to get power back up.  Oh boy, it was an adventure.  From smoking out the Great room when we lit a fire (note to self…when the power is out the fan won’t work.  When the fan doesn’t work the smoke doesn’t go up the chimney), lighting lanterns as the sun went down, and at the same time dealing with the challenge of snow removal with this wet, heavy snow we got, it was a pretty realistic welcome to dude ranching.  Despite the amazing facilities, the great infrastructure, and the well-versed staff, the truth is when you have this many buildings, this much extreme weather, a staff of 60, and a herd of over 100 horses, there is always something exciting going on here!

Disclaimer from the PR department: These types of situations are far and few between.  This was a crazy day that will go down in history as the epic day that started the Winter 2016-17 season.  One for that book about dude ranching that we’ll write someday. 

Anyway, back to the message, which is after spending the past several days with Laura, Chris and their kids we are more than confident about the direction the ranch is headed, and the fun we’ll have with this family as the owners.  They are falling in love more and more with the ranch and can’t wait to be a part of everything that we’re doing.  We’ll see them off and on this winter while the kids are still in school, but then come summer Laura and the kids are planning on spending most of their time out here.  The coming months are going to be full of just getting to know how things work here, why we do what we do, and wrapping their heads around all that goes on behind the scenes.  And we’ll be running our programs like we always have so rest assured that the same team you’ve come to know will be here doing what we do, which is to constantly look at ways to make the guest experience better.

To close, just some fun facts about the Jones:

  • They are a big sports family–runners, team sports, you name it.
  • Their youngest kids are 11 and the oldest is in college.
  • Yes, they have a 12 person passenger van they use when they are shuttling the whole crew around.
  • Chris has an unbelievable (we think photographic) memory, but he claims he doesn’t always remember names.
  • Laura mentors a group of young moms once a week.
  • Their kids are incredibly kind, respectful, fun, and game for anything.
  • The family loves to downhill ski, but just discovered backcountry skiing and are kind of addicted.



Keeping up with the Joneses

We are over-flowing with enthusiasm to introduce to all of you Laura and Chris Jones, and their wonderful family of eight children as the new owners of Vista Verde Ranch.

The Joneses connection to Steamboat began when Laura traveled to Steamboat as a little girl. The visits continued, and now whether it is skiing, riding, hiking, running, rafting, or simply pondering on the beauty of God’s spectacular creation, Steamboat is a second home to the Jones family.

The seeds of the idea of a ranch were planted about 10 years ago on one of the family’s many trips to the mountains. However, it wasn’t the right time and place until about two years ago when the Joneses visits to the Steamboat area became more and more frequent. As the dream of having something “special” continued to grow it took a unique turn with the possibility of being part of Vista Verde. This past year, the idea slowly got moved from the “dream” list to the “reality” list. After a lot of prayer and hard work to put the plan into place, today Laura and Chris officially take over the reins as ranch owners.

Please join us in welcoming Laura, Chris and their kids to the VVR family. All of us at the ranch are so energized by Laura and Chris’s excitement about the ranch that it feels like Santa arrived early this year. They have consistently expressed a commitment to continuing with the mission of the ranch while never losing sight of “betterness.” We are all so thankful for the leadership, vision, and support that we had from Peggy and Jerry Throgmartin, and we look forward to the coming years with this amazing family. So here we go!

Onward and upward, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all of you!

Ben, Steph, Charlie, and the VVR crew


“There are so many things that drew us to Vista Verde. There are countless first class features. The horses, the cabins, the food, and the various facilities are all top notch. However, what stood out to us the most were the people. The people are what makes Vista Verde such a special and a truly unique place. We were completely blown away that something like this could be a possibility. We feel so fortunate and thankful to be a part of this incredible and spectacular place.”

chocolate chip cookie recipe

Chef’s Corner: Chocolate Chip Cookies

The other day just for fun I put a photo of our cookie jar on Facebook to recognize National Cookie Day.  The response was trememdous, and there were requests for cookie recipes.  Since we already have our famous peanut butter cookie recipe posted, I asked the chefs for the next favorite recipe–their special chocolate chip cookies.

Chocolate Chip Cookie (makes approx. 40 cookies)

1/2 pound butter, soft
1/2 pound shortening
2 cup brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
18 ounces chocolate chips

1. Cream the butter and sugars with a mixer or by hand until smooth
2. add the egg and vanilla extract and scrape down the bowl, mix until incorporated, but do not over mix.
3. add the flour, salt and baking soda. Mix until just combined. Mix in the chocolate chips
4. Small ice cream scoop onto cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees, rotating after 5 minutes for a total of 10 minutes.


mares and foals at dude ranch

Dude Ranch Life: We’ve got babies coming!

Last week marked roughly the 60 day pregnancy check for our mares who were bred this past summer. Dr. Courtney Diehl came up with her ultrasound machine and checked each of the mares, and confirmed that they are all still in foal (aka expecting) and everyone is looking good!  June, Teletubby, Sugar and Oakley are all well on their way to motherhood.  We’re excited to have our first round of foals by our stallion Shaq due next spring.  We will even have a foal due in the summer, as Oakley took a little longer to get checked into foal this year!

Now it’s time for the mares to relax, get their nails done, and eat plenty of high quality feed.  Not a bad life, eh?

family winter vacations

Insider tips for dressing your kids for a winter vacation

Gearing up your kids for a winter vacation can be daunting, but we’re sharing some insider tips from Steamboat parents, who know a thing or two about getting their kids out in the snow. You can also check out our Pinterest board that has more ideas for dressing your kids for winter.

Terri Goforth (mom of Caley, 8)- Hand and foot warmers are a must. Whether skiing or sledding or snowmobiling….these items are a definite must-have item for Caley. We actually put the foot warmers on the top of her toes so when putting on her boots, they don’t slip off or get bunched up.

Jessica Spear (mom of Shea, 8 and Sloan, 10)- On those days when motivation is low to go out in the snow, warm pajamas work great under snow suits, and it helps our family to have some sweet treats in our pockets to keep spirits high.

Wes Fountain (dad of Olivia, 8 and Jonah, 12)- Put the mittens on first, then the jacket, then grab a roll of duct tape and seal the jacket over the mittens. That will give you hours of fun without snow going down into their mittens or sleeves.

Kelly Bastone (mom of Simone, 5)- We’re fans of loooong gauntlets on gloves and high boots. A lot of snow boots are ankle models, you know. Snow invariably gets in the cuffs, because pants ride up, etc. Bogs are nice and high, and keep ankles covered even when pant cuffs ride up a bit. Long cuffs on mitts are great too, when we can find models that have them.

We’re also experimenting with the two-glove system that a lot of adults like. Kid wears a thin glove underneath a big, fluffy mitt. Kid can remove the mitt for something requiring dexterity, and put the mitt back on for warmth. It’s not a perfect solution, and not great for many hours in the snow because eventually the mitt gets damp, and doesn’t stay warm. But it does seem to keep her fingers warmer for an hour or two.

And I don’t think we ever go out without a tin of Dermatone. It’s a great emergency layer for cheeks and noses, and our kid definitely tolerates ointment better than a big bulky mask or scarf over her face, blocking her mouth/nose breathing.

Monica Niedermeier (mom of Tomas, 12)- Jackets with clips for mittens are a must, as are snow boots with a tall shaft. Get their snowpants a little long and make sure to look for ones that have a tight cuff or built in gator, so they stay on over the boots. No one likes snow in their boots!

These folks spend a lot of time with their kids out in the snow in the winter months, so these are tried and true suggestions! Give them a try and always feel free to call us with questions as you gear up for your winter vacation.

a romantic winter vacation

Romancing the Snow

It’s the antithesis of sitting on a beach with an umbrella drink in hand. But it turns out that not everyone wants that kind of vacation. We hear from couples all the time who want to have some adventure, experience new things together, meet other interesting people, yet still fit some romance into the equation. Wintertime at Vista Verde does just that. Imagine getting the blood flowing on a ski tour over a frozen lake or giggling like children as you tube down the hill before heading into your private cabin, building a crackling fire, and enjoying a glass of wine in the hot tub (fine print: we are not encouraging drinking and hot tubbing…that is totally your decision folks) while you watch the horses frolic in the snow. Mix that alone time with some great conversation over a fabulous dinner and a cozy down comforter waiting for you to curl up in bed at the end of the day. It’s not for everyone, but I’ll take that over the beach chair and umbrella drink any day. Here is what some folks have said on Tripadvisor following their honeymoons or just a romantic escape during our adult-only times.
Honeymoon review

Adult-only couple review

Honeymoon review

Dude Ranch Life: Out in the community

With all of us settled into the off-season, and catching up with our lives, I’m finding out a bit more about what some of our key players are doing when they aren’t at the ranch.  And, it’s kind of fun to see the different ways some of these folks are plugged into the Clark and Steamboat communities.

Recently, “Grandpa” Charlie was elected to the North Routt Pre-School board of directors.  It’s a great fit as we (all of us at the ranch) are involved with their big Spring Fling fundraisers.  Beka, who loves kids, helps out with the Kids church at the North Routt Community Church, and just this past weekend was a volunteer at the Kids Fall Festival in Clark.  Chef Chol is involved in the Backcountry hunter and anglers fundraiser as a guest chef.  Devyn, KP, and Brandon all help out with the music at the North Routt Community Church on Sundays.  Ben dug out his track cleats to be a volunteer track coach for the high school team (he was once a hurdler, can you believe it!?).  And Steph runs the Steamboat Marketing Collective with meetings each month to present and discuss hot topics in marketing.  Any volunteers for a guest presenter next time you’re in town?


Although much of our time is taken at the ranch, it’s nice to help out in the community around us!


cross country ski vacation

Dude Ranch Life: Gearing up for skiing this winter!

You know that saying all dressed up and no where to go?  Well, we’re kind of living that right now in the context of all ready to ski, but no snow to ski on yet.  See, this past spring we sold off our backcountry ski and boot inventory in preparation for switching over to a new ski and boot set up this winter.  We had our old fleet for a while, and the company who made the boots we used was no longer going to be making those boots.  So, with all that, it made for logical timing to start clean.  We had a big sale right when we closed and cleared out the fleet and then went to work finding the right replacement equipment.

Alpina turned out to be our answer, and just the other day the crates of Alpina Discovery BC skis, Alpina Montana boots, and Rottefella bindings arrived.  Beka got them all unloaded, and in the next few weeks she, Nate, Steve, and Kelli will be drilling and mounting bindings.  It’s pretty fun to see a whole pile of shiny new skis and beautiful boots (that, by the way, are super comfortable!).

So, give us a couple more weeks to enjoy getting out to hike on the trails, but then you can start your snow dances.  We’ll be ready for the ranch to switch over from Vista Verde to Vista Blanca, and we’ll be even more excited to try out the new gear.  Hopefully you can come out this winter and ski with us and try it out yourself!

staff at a luxury dude ranch

Dude Ranch Life: Wrapping up and Moving on

There is one thing we can always count on at the ranch and that is we have the most amazing people come through our doors who call the ranch home for a period of time in their life.  But, along with that guarantee is the guarantee that at some point many of these folks move on to their next step in life.  As we end the summer (fall at this point) season, we are having some sad farewells.  At the very same time, Beka is busy lining up the next generation of fabulous ranch staff to come in for the upcoming winter season.

There are many great folks who are packing up this weekend to head off as we close for the season, but here are a few notable ones who have had a great impact on the VVR community.

Erica and John (JT) Thompson, as well as baby Althea and Goldie the dog are moving to Florida to be closer to family with their own growing family.  Erica has been the constant in the kids program for years now–pouring her love of children and leadership skills into heading up the program and helping make each child’s vacation memorable.  Anyone who has eaten at the ranch can appreciate JT’s contribution as Chef de Cuisine.  He and Cholly have been the most amazing match of personalities and skills in the kitchen, and their partnership has been a key to the success of our dining experience.  Both leave big shoes to fill, but we have some amazing folks who are ready to step in and move forward.

Small but mighty, our little Sam is hanging up her spurs and heading off to pursue the next step in her life.  She will still be pretty close by, we hope, so we’re looking forward to hearing her stories of life in the “real world” when she stops by to visit.  Sam has been an instrumental part of our wrangler staff, and took over the reins of running the barn this year, and lead the charge to step up our game on training and setting protocols for proper saddle fitting, which is key to the horses well being.  We think the horses will miss her as much as we do!

And the list goes on…..Anna’s style will be missed heading up the dining room, and Grace who ran housekeeping is heading off to plan her wedding with fellow staff member Christian.  Mary, otherwise known as little Miss Sunshine, who has worn almost every hat at the ranch.  Rachel who has guided the Zirkel Circle what feels like a million times (but who can get tired of that hike?) as well as led the team of those who wrangle kids.  Then there is Tim, Tay-Po, Alexis, Hannah, Tom, Johnny, and Emily.

We thank these folks, along with the ones who have just made VVR a brief stop on their life journey.  It takes an amazing team of people committed to excellence in service to make the ranch what it is today.  It’s been a joy to work with all of these fine folks, and we wish them the best in their next ventures.  There are only a few moments to pause and wipe away the tears before we jump right back in to developing the next generation of VVR leaders.  It’s exciting to have new people to help grow and teach them the VVR way!

luxury ranch corn chowder recipe

Chef’s Corner: Corn Chowder

There’s a chill in the air, and a hearty soup is just the ticket on a cold day…..especially if you can eat it while sitting in front of a roaring fire with great friends!

Corn Chowder (makes 2 gallons)


4 ounces unsalted butter

1 ½ pound of bacon diced

2 large yellow onions, diced

4 carrots, peeled and diced

4 ribs of celery, cleaned and diced

15 small red potatoes, cleaned and diced

8 garlic cloves, minced

4 cups of corn kernels

1 cup all purpose flour

1 gallon whole milk

1 quart heavy cream

2 bay leaves

salt and pepper to taste

¼ cup chopped parsley



  • In a large, heavy-bottomed pot melt butter and render bacon until crisp
  • Add onions, carrot, celery, garlic and corn and sauté until soft
  • Add flour and combine
  • Add milk, bay leaf and potatoes and simmer for forty-five minutes on medium-low heat while stirring to thicken
  • Season to taste and add parsley and serve

Chef’s tip:

When corn is in season, I’ll use whole ears (about 4-6 ears), cut the kernals off and throw the cobs in the chowder and then scrape the cobs into the chowder!

Packing for your ranch vacation

Packing for your Vista Verde vacation can be a challenge, especially given the airlines weight restrictions on bags.  We try to help by having an in-depth packing list, and are more than happy to dole out advice over the phone or email.  But there is no way to get around the fact that there are potentially a lot of costume changes when you come here and want to try it all!

There are a couple ways we can help though!  Did you know that we are more than happy to receive a box of your gear that you ship ahead of time, and have it waiting for you in your cabin when you arrive?  We’ll even ship it home for you at the end of your stay.  And, if you’ve caught the VVR bug, and know you’re going to be coming back, we can even store some of those items that you’ll never wear at home.  We’ll package up your boots and hats and put them in a marked container to wait for your return.  No charge, just one way we try to help make this Western lifestyle a little more accessible for you!

Contact one of us at the Front Desk if you have questions, or want to make arrangements for storing your gear at the ranch next time you visit!

fall vacation in Colorado

Itinerary for enjoying the fall colors on your way to the ranch

The aspens are bursting with color, and we’re all trying to freeze time so we can enjoy this amazing moment a bit longer.  It’s such a fleeting time of year–autumn in Colorado.  The air is crisp, the skies perfectly blue in contrast to the big, puffy, white clouds….and then there are the aspens, the auburn ferns, the red berry bushes and scrub oak, and the golden grass.  It’s truly breathtaking.

So, why not extend your visit to Colorado just a bit and take in some of these amazing colors with fabulous views on your way to or from the ranch?  It’s a must do in my book!  There are so many beautiful spots, but here are a couple recommendations for leaf peeping drives:

  1. If you’re flying into Denver and are tight on time, how about taking a few extra hours and driving the long way through Rocky Mountain National Park?  Lots of aspens, most likely elk and other wildlife sighting, and the see-forever view at the top of the Continental Divide.  Pack a lunch and stop for a short hike on one of their many trails if you have a little extra time, or just stop when you get over the pass in Grand Lake for lunch before you head on towards Steamboat Springs and the ranch.
  2. Maybe you were able to fly in a couple days early to Denver, and you have some more time to go explore?  Then you should head up towards Vail on I-70, then turn off and go down past Leadville, over to Aspen, through Glenwood Springs, and then north on Hwy 131 to Steamboat Springs.  Stay the night in the cute town of Frisco, then a night in Aspen, but make sure to make some time to enjoy the hot springs in Glenwood Springs.
  3. Now, for those of you who are going to fly right into Steamboat Springs, how about renting a car and taking a day trip into the Flattops?  There is a gorgeous and remote drive from Steamboat to Craig, down to Meeker, and then into the Flattops.  You’ll come out in Yampa and head back up to Steamboat Springs.  This drive can be done in about 4-6 hours, depending on how many photo ops you stop for along the way.

There are some other great ideas for fall foliage drives, as well as hot springs stops in Colorado on the Colorado Tourism Office website.  Enjoy the colors as you scope out the many gorgeous vistas in Colorado.  We’ll provide you with many more while you’re at the ranch, but when in Colorado in the fall, take the extra time to soak up the beauty!

The VVR Love Factory

A new name for the ranch has recently been put out there–The Love Factory.  Once again, Vista Verde has turned out another round of engagements.  Of course, it may have something to do with the age of our staff and the fact that we hire individuals who share a love of adventure, the outdoors, and serving others.  But, we’d like to think there’s just something in the air here at VVR!

Grace and Christian met last winter, when Christian came in as a new ranch hand who found himself stopping by the housekeeping world headquarters often to just check in and see if the housekeepers, particularly the head housekeeper, needed anything.  After dating all winter, taking a whirlwind spring road trip (the ultimate test of a budding relationship in my estimation), and then exploring the long term realities of their relationship this summer, Christian popped the question a few weeks ago up on top of Mt. Evans.  No surprise that Grace said yes!  Next up is a move to Georgia to get some time dating in the “real world,” before their May wedding.

On the heels of Grace and Christian’s engagement, a sparkly ring showed up on the hand of Melissa, our amazing pastry chef.  After waltzing into the ranch last year, and capturing the heart of our loyal Nathan, the two of them are headed down the aisle this fall.  There may not be two people more perfect for each other, and their relationship is a great testament to having patience and waiting for the right person to come along.  No matter what pursuit these two follow, they both give it their all and don’t quit until the job is done.  Nate has finally met his match in finding Melissa, and we’re thrilled, both for them and that we hope that means we’ll have an endless supply of pastries for several years to come!

Next up is Beka and Michael’s wedding in two weeks, which will be an intimate, casual wedding with a backdrop of golden aspens and brilliant fall colors.  If you’ve ever needed a shot in your arm to remind you of young love and a romantic recharge, just come to Vista Verde, otherwise known as the Love Factory!

luxury ranch cooking-braised short ribs recipe

Chef’s Corner: Braised Short Ribs

Just in time for the weather to start cooling down and the leaves to start turning golden, this recipe will set you up for a perfect autumn dinner!

Braised Short Ribs Fettucine with Parsnips, Arugula and Parmesan

Red Wine Marinade

2 carrots

1 leek

1 yellow onion

1 small celery root

1 tablespoon salt

1 bottle (750mL) red wine


  1. Clean and roughly chop the vegetables.
  2. Cover with red wine and simmer for 4 minutes.
  3. Remove from heat and cool together, then strain and discard vegetables and reserve liquid.


Marinated Short Ribs

Red wine marinade (recipe above)

2 pounds boneless short rib

1 head garlic, halved

1 yellow onion, quartered

2 carrots, peeled

8 quarts beef stock, hot

1 rosemary sprig

2 tablespoons salt


  1. Pour cold red wine marinade over the short ribs and let sit for 2 days, rotating meat twice a day.
  2. After the second day, remove the beef from the marinade and place in a roasting pan with the garlic, onion, and carrots.  Cover with hot beef stock; add rosemary and salt.  Place a sheet of parchment paper over beef and weigh down slightly with a 10” plate.  Place in a 250° F oven for eight hours.
  1. Once beef is fork tender and almost breaking apart, remove from stock onto a draining rack. Pull the beef into shreds when cool enough to handle.


Roasted Parsnips

2 pounds parsnips

2 tablespoons olive oil

salt and pepper to taste


  1. Peel and cut the parsnips into oblique shapes, roughly the same size for even cooking, toss in a bowl with the olive oil and season with salt and pepper and roast in a 400 degree F. oven until a little brown and tender. Remove from oven and set aside.

To Assemble:

  1. Bring a large pot of salted, cold water to a boil on the stove and cook fettuccine until tender 8-10 minutes.
  2. When the fettuccine is tender, drain and place in a large bowl, add the short rib meat, roasted parsnips and stock and toss until combined.
  3. Divide pasta in serving sizes, distribute among plates, top with fresh arugula and shaved Parmesan cheese. Serve.