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!

Our most favorite summer adventures

Much like our guests, all of us enjoy the around surrounding the ranch in different ways.  Here are a few of our favorite destinations and how we like to enjoy them:

Beka- Running the Zirkel Circle before coming into work at noon.

Devyn- Taking a horse on the “Long Steak Ride” trail.

Ben- Riding on horseback to Reed Creek to round-up cows in the fall.

Chol- An early morning lap around the Coulton Creek/Cutover trail loop.

JT- Fishing up on the North Fork in Diamond Park

Kelli- Heading out into the aspens for a yoga practice under the trees.

KP- Riding up to the Cliffs, and taking some time to enjoy the view.

Goldie- Anywhere that he can go explore with Erica!

There are so many other favorites, and some of us can’t even choose one as we love them all.  We look forward to sharing our favorite special places with you next time you’re at the ranch!


winter vacation overview

Star Telegram – July 2016

In an article titled Colorado’s guest ranches soothe tired dudes, writer Irene Middleman Thomas showcases a number of the best dude ranches in Colorado, and we were included in the list!  She mentions the summer program, but she spends a lot of time talking about how it’s unique that Vista Verde is open for winter vacationers as well as the traditional dude ranch summer season.  Read the article….

Dude Ranch Life: Nepotism at its best

If you look at our staff bios, you’ll start to notice a pattern.  There seem to be an unusual number of siblings and relatives working at the ranch this summer.  Bubba pointed this out to me the other day, and he is indeed correct!  Maybe it’s because the people who love working at the ranch want others to have the opportunity to have the same experience, and who better than those who you love the most?  Check out this roster of relatives and see how nepotism is alive and well at the VVR.  Of course, we think it’s pretty swell, as they have all earned the right to be here through a full interview process, and each day prove that they are of the caliber person we expect at the ranch.

  1. Bubba and Phil Veteto- Brothers, both working in the kitchen.  Bubba has been here for years, and this is Phil’s first season.  Good luck telling them apart at first glance.
  2. Isaac and Micah Ness- Brothers, Isaac is one of our senior fishing guides extraordinaire, while Micah is helping out in the kitchen for his first season.
  3. Brandon and Ben Martin- Let’s see…this one is tricky.  Brandon is Ben’s nephew, yet they are not too far apart in age.  This may have something to do with the enormous family they come from in Pennsylvania.  Brandon is the head of the fishing program and the ranch hands and part of the Farwell Mountain Boys.  Ben is our friendly and visionary GM and also one of the founding members of the Farwell Mountain Boys.  Haven’t heard of them?  You should.  They are a big deal.
  4. John and Jessie Thompson- Another kitchen brother combo.  John (JT) has been our Chef de Cuisine for years, and recently talked his little brother into coming out for the summer to help in the kitchen.
Gilpin lake engagement

Ranch Romance- Another engagement at the ranch

Those of you who have followed us over the years are well aware that Vista Verde seems to be the place to be for budding romances that turn into marital bliss.  Although this relationship didn’t start at the ranch, it involves someone who has been a staple at the ranch for years, and so we are excited to share the news of her engagement.

Beka began her dude ranch career back in 2009, when she was just a wee thing.  Over the years, she has held many roles at the ranch–from heading up the kids program to tending the gardens to leading hiking, biking, and ski tours all over the nearby mountains.  Currently, she is the one responsible for finding, sorting through, and selecting the amazing group of people who make up our staff each season.  It’s not small feat, and she does an amazing job at finding the right kind of people who make Vista Verde such a special place to be–whether as an employee or a guest.

An avid traveler her entire life, Beka has seen much of the world.  She relishes the off-season time-off to rack up the miles and explore new corners of the Earth.  A couple years ago, she and Shannon (former guide) packed up their packs and headed to Patagonia.  While trekking around that country, they met a number of interesting people.  One of those people was just a bit more interesting.  Michael was from Denmark, but he was employed by the military to patrol the coast of Greenland.  Oh, and did we mention he did that job via a dogsled?  Those of us who know Beka well knew that she might have finally met her match.  And, indeed she did.  Since that fateful meeting, there have been a number of long plane rides, amazing adventures, and plenty of Skype calls.  This summer Michael came to the Elk River Valley to spend a little more time living in the same town, er county, um state, ah country for more than two weeks.  That was all they both needed to know that this was meant to be, and just last month there was a hike to Gilpin Lake (still covered in snow), a proposal, and now a wedding coming soon!  Congrats to both of them, and we can’t wait to be a part of your next adventure as husband and wife!

dude ranch food- broccoli salad recipe

Chef’s Corner: Broccoli Salad

Here’s a perfect one for a backyard cookout or a weekend picnic.  It’s a favorite summer lunch dish at the ranch, when everyone comes in hungry from their adventures out on the trails.

Broccoli Salad


2 heads of Broccoli, cut into bite sized pieces

½ pound bacon, cooked and chopped

1 small red onion, diced

¼ cup whole grain Dijon mustard

¼ cup granulated sugar

½ cup crème fraiche or sour cream

½ cup mayonnaise

1 ½ cup grated parmesan cheese

salt and pepper to taste



  1. In a small bowl, combine the mustard, mayo, crème fraiche, sugar and salt and pepper and whisk together.
  2. In a larger bowl, combine remaining ingredients with mustard/mayo mixture and taste for seasoning, adjust. Enjoy!
cowboy at dude ranch

Dude Ranch Poetry

This well-known poem, first published in 1917, recently came onto my radar, and I wanted to share it with all of you.  It sums up so much of why all of us at the ranch love this lifestyle and the people who make this place tick.

Out Where the West Begins- by Arthur Chapman

Out where the handclasp’s a little stronger,
Out where the smile dwells a little longer,

That’s where the West begins;
Out where the sun is a little brighter,
Where the snows that fall are a trifle whiter,
Where the bonds of home are a wee bit tighter,

That’s where the West begins.
Out where the skies are a trifle bluer,
Out where the friendship’s a little truer,

That’s where the West begins;
Out where a fresher breeze is blowing,
Where there’s laughter in every streamlet flowing,
Where there’s more of reaping and less of sowing,

That’s where the West begins.
Out where the world is in the making,
Where fewer hearts in despair are aching,

That’s where the West begins.
Where there’s more of singing and less of sighing,
Where there’s more of giving and less of buying,
Where a man makes a friend without half trying,

That’s where the West begins.
best dude ranch granola recipe

Chef’s Corner: VVR Granola

The VVR Granola is one of my favorites.  Mixed with some fresh berries and yogurt….what a great way to start the day!  Ben might disagree with me and opt for bacon, potatoes, and eggs, but if you’re looking for a little bit of a lighter breakfast–give this one a try!

Makes about 6 cups


5 cups rolled oats

1 ½ cups nuts (your favorite!)

¾ cups egg whites

6 Tablespoons honey or maple syrup

¼ cup wheat germ

¼ cup flax seed

1 Tablespoon vanilla

1 ½ teaspoon salt

2 cups dried fruit (we use blueberries)



  1. Combine egg whites, sweetener, wheat germ, flax seed, vanilla and salt in a large bowl and whip until frothy. Add the oats and nuts and combine until well coated. Spread onto a sheet pan and bake at 325 degrees F. for 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes.
  2. Remove from oven and cool completely.
  3. After cooled, stir in dried fruit.
  4. Can keep up to two weeks in an air tight container.
  5. Enjoy!!!!
family vacation Colorado

Men’s Journal- June 2016

Finding a vacation destination that Mom and Dad love that also works for the kids can be tricky.  Men’s Journal recently put together a list of 15 Family-Friendly Hotels Mom and Dad Will Love Too.  If you’re looking for a spot that works for the whole family, check out the article.  Or, better yet, just book your ranch vacation at Vista Verde!  Read the article….

Recommend – May 2016

Recommend is a magazine for travel agents, so they are always on the lookout for new ideas about destinations to share with folks in the travel business.  This month they featured All-Inclusive Retreats in the US, and included Vista Verde Ranch as one of their suggestions for a luxury dude ranch.  Read the article….

obstacle course

Dude Ranch Life: Dancing and history and Pilates, oh my!

With opening day nearing quickly, we are putting the finishing touches on all the old favorite aspects of the ranch, but also some “new and improved” features.  It’s an exciting time, and a little frantic.  The summer season of 2016 is going to be a launch pad for a few new activities and opportunities for our guests.  From the horse and bike-friendly obstacle course to the dance lessons, Pilates, history on wheels, and the new Confidence Course, there are a lot of new additions.

  • History on Wheels- Join Charlie for a drive around the Elk River Valley to learn some of the history and a lot of great anecdotes about the area surrounding the ranch.  Wait, yes, you did read that correctly. Charlie is hosting an activity.  Hold onto your hats–the Suburban is going to fill up quickly!
  • Pilates- This is one for the early birds who aren’t ready to sleep in and relax.  Devyn will lead an all-levels Pilates class early one morning for those looking to sneak in one more activity during their stay.  Get your core fired up and ready to go for the day!
  • River Read- This activity developed organically over the past couple years, and we decided to formalize it as an option.  If you have a friend or family member heading out to fish, and would like some time on the river, but have no interest in casting a line, then the River Read is for you!  We will have a nice outdoor chair for you, a cool drink, and a beautiful setting for you to relax, read, and watch the river roll by you.  You just need to provide the book.
  • Dance Lessons- You’ve asked, we are delivering.  Get some in-depth instruction prior to all the dancing that MIGHT ensue during the week.  We’ll teach some couples dances, some line dances, and who knows what else.  You’ll be ready to show off your new tricks at the Barn Dance or Music Night.
  • Confidence Course- As our old horse obstacle course started to fall apart, and our mountain bike skills park needed some TLC, an idea sprung.  Why not build one that can accommodate both bikers and horses!  Crazy, right?  We don’t think so.  As we speak we are moving rocks, chainsawing logs, and creating a playground for both bikers and horses to gain confidence and skills.  It doesn’t hurt that the location is in an idyllic setting right by the river and just a short ride from the ranch.  This will be a work in progress, and we look forward to adding to it as the summer goes on and in future years.
  • Round ’em Up- Our fall cattle round-up weeks might look a little different this year, as we have some new cows to work with.  The ones we’ve had the past several years are just a little too scrappy and wild, which made rounding them up so challenging that there were still some left out in the forest at the start of winter time.  Since that is not good for the cows, the forest, or a cattle rancher’s pocket book, we’re starting out this year with some cow-calf pairs.  Rounding up the gals may be a bit more tame, but should also be a lot more successful.  We’re also looking to plan a unique all-day ride during those fall cattle round-up weeks to get out and explore some new terrain.

Whew, it looks like those of you coming to the ranch this summer might want to extend your stay for an extra week.  So much to do and so little time!


Where are they now?

There have been a lot of amazing people who have called Vista Verde home for a season or two, or more.  It’s fun to look back on some of the folks who have worked at the ranch over the years, and see where they are now.

  1. Zac Dean was a wrangler from 1999 until early 2001, and was the head wrangler towards the end of his time at the ranch.  He lives in Alexander City, AL with his beautiful family.  With his wrangler days behind him, Zac spent 10 years in the private sector and is now a licensed land surveyor for the AL Department of Transportation.
  2. Jeff McClintic worked as a wrangler the summer of 2012.  He lives in Zionsville, IN, and is working at Traders Point Christian Church, pursuing ministry full time.  He and his wife are coming up on 3 years married with a 14-month-old little boy.
  3. Matt Moore wrangled for us the summer of 1998.  He’s been married now for 16 years, and lives with his wife, Kate, and their 4 kids in Springfield, OH.  Matt hasn’t strayed far from the world of horses as he has been running his own farrier service for 15 years now.  He says he’s starting to feel it (the farrier work), but we wonder if it’s the 4 kids!
  4. Rachel Daughenbaugh worked at the ranch from 2008 to 2010 as a wrangler (summer) and ranch hand & server (winter).  She is now married to Dr. Nate Daughenbaugh in Steamboat Springs, and they live on his family’s ranch. Nate and Rachel met at VVR when he was new to the practice and came out to vet a few VVR horses. She was the lucky wrangler who got to assist. After managing a boarding facility south of Steamboat, Rachel now works for Big Agnes in its marketing department.  In the photo is Bandit (gray), Rachel’s first wrangler horse. She later bought him from the ranch.
  5. Roxy Kestner, our infamous head housekeeper, was at the ranch from the winter of 1997 through the summer of 2000.  Roxy was an instrumental part of the VVR team and finished her time at the ranch as the staff manager.  She’s now living in Philadelphia, PA, and we just cringe for anyone who ever asks her to check if they cleaned something well enough….
  6. Lindsey Thorsen was a teen wrangler the summer of 2008.  Living in Muskegon, MI she is now working in marketing for ServiceMaster and coaches girl’s Varsity soccer.  Good thing she got all that experience with teenagers at the ranch!  Here she is with “the best horse ever: Chief.”
  7. Miles DeBardeleben, from Jackson, MS, was a ranch hand the winter of 2011/1012.  He is now finishing his first year of medical school at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. This summer he will be working in the Department of Surgery: Urologic Surgery.  As Miles put it, “That’s only because I can’t commit to and I’m too old for a full summer season at VVR.”
  8. Meredith Ozier settled down at the ranch from the winter of 1997 through the summer of 2000.  She began as a server under yours truly and finished her time as dining room manager.  Now living in Middletown Springs, VT, Meredith is a clinical mental health counselor/psychotherapist in private practice.  She specializes in working with trauma, PTSD, and mood disorders. Meredith has been working for herself for going on six years now, but recently picked up a small contract with the state of Vermont to do critical incident stress debriefing with police and first responders.
  9. Eliza and Brett Leeper are one of our ranch romance couples!  Eliza worked at the ranch from 2006 to 2007, and Brett worked at the ranch from 2005 to 2006. They met at Vista Verde during the summer of 2006.  Eliza worked in the dining room, then the Nordic center. Brett was a teen wrangler, ski guide, and ranch hand.  After 5 years of living in Steamboat, they moved to Vermont in 2011 and were married in 2013.  They are expecting their first baby in August!  Eliza works for Vermont Creamery (a goat cheese and butter company), and Brett runs a cross-country ski area in the winter (using all the grooming tips he got from Charlie Cammer!) and runs his own landscaping and property management business in the summer: Leeper’s Property Management.  Fun fact: Eliza is childhood friends with Chef Chol’s wife Alaya.  They worked at the ranch at the same time, and that is when Alaya and Chol first met as well!
  10. Beth Rogers Bundy, from Portland, OR, was at the ranch the summer of 1997 and the winter of 1999/2000.  She was a kid wrangler during the summer and a server during the winter.  The photo is on Diamond from summer 1997.  She is now married with two teenage stepdaughters and a 3-year-old son, and is an art teacher—looks like some of those kid wrangler skills are still at work!
  11. Brittany Haile worked at the ranch the summer of 2012 as a housekeeper.  She lives in San Diego and is a Marketing Coordinator at Qualcomm.  Brittany’s family has been coming to the ranch since she was a teenager, and recently built a beautiful ranch across the river!  So, we still see Brittany here at the ranch, as she likes to spend as much time as possible at Serenity Ranch hanging out with Sarge, a retired VVR horse.
  12. Scot Keck (aka Waldo) wrangled at the ranch the summers of 1997 and 1998.  He’s been married for almost 10 years and lives with his wife, Angela, and their two children in Leipsic, OH.  Scot has been a Value Stream Leader manufacturing IAMS and Eukanuba Pet foods for over 15 years now.
  13. Brad Leeper (yes, there is a connection to #6 above….he’s Brett’s brother!) came to the ranch for the summers of 2006 and 2007 as a teen wrangler.  He lives in Nappanee, IN where he and wife Brittany have one son, Weston, and are expecting another boy in August.  Brad owns Leeper Land Management, LLC, a company that restores conservation projects in the Midwest. Restoration projects consist of wetlands, prairie plantings, and reforestation.
  14. Robin and Aaron Christensen are another one of our ranch romances that have worked out pretty darn well.  They worked at Vista Verde from 1992 to 1998.  Robin was the staff manager (she hired yours truly, Steph Wilson) and Aaron was the business manager and ran the fly fishing program.  These days you can find them wrangling their 4 children while managing a dude ranch down in Creede, CO called 4UR Ranch.  No surprise for those who knew Aaron that 4UR is known for it’s excellent fishing program!
  15. Alan Czepinski had a variety of experiences at the ranch including being a barn hand, guide, and ranch hand the summers of 2011 and 2012 and the winter of 2013.  After he left the ranch, he started working as a Marine Field Geophysicist.  He enjoyed the international adventures and life experiences with this position.  Currently, he’s back in Texas, but is always looking for a chance to travel.  Alan recently put together a pretty amazing video of some of his travels. Check it out!
  16. Jennifer Stewart Boyle was a housekeeper and server the summer of 1998 and the spring of 1999.  These days she is living in Euless, TX (Dallas-Fort Worth) and is working as a Management Analyst for the U.S. Dept. Of Health and Human Services and raising a baseball-playing 7-year-old boy.   
  17. Janice Tatum spent the summers of 1998 and 1999 as a kid wrangler.  She and her family have lived all over the world, but are now in North Carolina where she is a Kid Wrangler to her own two children.  Her job du jour is a Technical Assistance Provider for a non-profit that helps rural folk with water issues.  Her photo is from back in the days at the ranch with her best VVR friend Alison Wade!
  18. Jo Stolzfus represents another one of our ranch romances still going strong.  She worked at the ranch from 2007 to 2011 in almost every area of the ranch.  Head housekeeper, head wrangler, you name it, she’s done it!  These days she and her husband Javin live just across the river, where she manages a horse ranch for a wonderful couple she met while at the ranch.  Javin is working for us again, and we love having them as part of our community.  Pictured with Jo is her VVR bestie, the fabulous Beka Adam.
Head Wrangler Sam

What makes a saddle fit, and why does that matter?

Sam, our Head Wrangler, is a wealth of knowledge in an area that isn’t on most people’s radar: Saddle Fitting.  Here, she shares some basic information about saddle fitting that gives a little insight into what goes on behind the scenes in the barn.

Have you ever been uncomfortable in a pair of shoes, or socks and shoes that don’t fit? Or for the avid hikers and campers, a heavy backpack that isn’t sitting in the right spot and makes you’re back sore? Well, that is exactly how a horse feels when their saddle or saddle pad doesn’t fit them well.

The past couple years I have immersed myself in research and learning more about this topic.  Everyone has different opinions on it, but more and more veterinarians are getting educated on proper saddle fit, and they are doing more studies and analyses to get scientific evidence on how to make horses more comfortable while we ride them. There are even certified saddle fitters and ergonomists!

Saddles are made with a base structure, called a “tree”.  This tree can be made out of wood (typically), and sometimes fiberglass.  Its purpose is to evenly distribute the weight of the rider over the horses back (on the proper saddle support area) and it keeps the saddle up off of the spinal cord and spinal ligaments.  However, the tree must properly fit the contour of the horse’s back, or it can create unwanted pressure points.  The anatomy of the horse proves where the saddle should sit.  The tree should not sit on top or too far forward, or the shoulder (scapula) cannot extend properly for full motion.  This causes the horse to compensate in other areas, creating pain and pressure points, unexplained lameness, kissing spine, and irritable behavior.  Moving down the back, if the gullet (space down the length of the saddle that keeps it off the spine) is too narrow or sits on the spine, the horse cannot properly lift its back, ribs and engage its hindquarters.  Most likely he will compensate by hollowing his back and raising his head, and putting more weight on the front end (which none of us want as that makes for an uncomfortable ride as well as leads to injury in the front legs).  At the end of the saddle support area, the tree cannot extend past the last rib. After the last rib are the lumbar (of the spine), and they have no support. Saddles that are too long can cause back soreness.

The tree and the gullet width are two very important parts.  The whole construction is important of the saddle, for English and western both.  Stirrup bars, girth placement are also important parts of saddle fitting.  When fitting a saddle, even weight distribution should be felt along the underside of the saddle.  Under a trained eye, you can take your hand and run it underneath the saddle and see if there are any points where there is a lot of pressure (remember this all should be done without a saddle pad).  Most commonly, you’ll see what we call “bridging”, which is high amounts of pressure at the front and the back of the saddle, leaving little or no weight distribution in the middle (where most of it should be anyway). You’ll see this a lot with sway backed horses, or horses with high withers.

Why should this all matter to riders?  It is important because it affects our horses behavior and long term physical health.  Saddles that are not fitted properly can cause extreme pain, and with some horses you would never know until it is too late.  If your horse has unexplained lameness, white spots on the withers, bad behavior, is “cinchy”, won’t stand still to be saddled and/or mounted, then saddle fit should be considered.

Saddle pads are a huge industry. You pay anywhere from $30 to $400+ for a saddle pad that may not even help the saddle fit.  The saddle must fit without a pad, so you would want as thin a pad as possible to not interfere with the saddle fit.  Sometimes (for sway backed horses for example), a thicker pad can help.  But, if you have pressure points, a thicker pad (which most think will eliminate the pressure points), actually makes it worse.  That is the most basic explanation for saddle pads – that is a whole other topic for the next time Steph bugs me to write a post for her!

At Vista Verde, we are spending a lot of time this Spring focusing on fitting the right saddles to each horse.  It is a time consuming process, but a great learning experience for all involved.  These horses take such good care of us, and it is our responsibility to take care of them and make them comfortable.

Interested in learning more?  Here are some Facebook pages that are great resources:

Schleese Saddlery Service

Saddlefit 4 Life

Fit Right Saddle Solutions




ranch waffle recipe

Recipe: Cheddar Cheese-Chive Waffles

Are you looking for something a bit different to jazz up your weekend breakfast?  Our ranch chefs recommend this recipe for Cheddar Cheese-Chive Waffles (makes 8 waffles).


1½ cups all-purpose flour

½ cup rye flour

1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese

1/3 cup minced fresh chives

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon grated nutmeg

¼ teaspoon salt

2 large eggs, separated

1½ cups buttermilk

½ cup whole milk

2 ounces unsalted butter, melted


  1. Preheat waffle iron.
  2. Mix together the flours, cheese, chives, baking powder, soda, nutmeg and salt into a large bowl.
  3. In a separate bowl whip the egg whites to soft, glossy peaks.
  4. In another bowl whisk together the egg yolks, buttermilk, milk and melted butter.
  5. Add the buttermilk mixture to the dry ingredients and combine. Fold in the egg whites until incorporated.
  6. Make waffles!
US Foods delivery truck at luxury dude ranch Vista Verde

Dude Ranch Life: Like an oasis in the desert

The past month has been a bleak one for those of us so spoiled by the ranch chefs the rest of the year.  Gone were the fresh fruit bowls, the pastries, the hearty lunches on a cold, wet day, and the steaming platters of freshly prepared dinner time meals.   Woe is us.  We get it.  Life isn’t so bad here.  But, nonetheless, the sight of the US Foods truck backing up to the kitchen receiving doors was a sight for sore eyes yesterday.  As were the white chef coats Cholly and JT put back on as they opened up the kitchen for the season.  There was definitely some rejoicing going on all around the ranch with the handful of staff who are slogging out these rainy, snowy spring days in anticipation of sunshine and green grass to come.

In about 14 days the new staff will roll in along with the returners who have been away while we were closed down.  By then hopefully the snow will finally be gone, the mud drying up, and we’ll get to work training and setting up for the summer season.  Between now and the start of orientation we have a lot of work to do!  Tomorrow is moving day, as we start moving furniture into the newly renovated duplex units.  We are so excited to kick off the summer season with those units almost fully booked.  They are turning out even better than we envisioned!

So, bring on the sunshine and bring on the hustle and bustle to get everything done in the next couple weeks.  But, most importantly, bring on the food!

spring snow in Colorado

Dude Ranch Life: April showers bring May flowers

You know the proverb “March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb?” Well, we all decided, as it was dumping snow during the final days of April, that whoever came up with that didn’t live up here in the mountains of Colorado.  This spring has been one of snow, snow, and more snow, mixed in with a little rain.  While there have been beautiful days mixed in there, we all feel a little trapped in an eternal winter.  In fact, Bill just finished his charting for the month of April and his records show that we had more snow in April than we did in February!  Granted, February was a lighter snowfall month for us this past winter, but based on his records we had 20 inches of snow in February and 24 inches of snow in April.  And that April snow?  It’s wet, wet, wet, so there is a lot of moisture in those 24 inches.

Hopefully what this means is that the grass will be brilliantly green, and the wildflowers will be exploding all over the valley and mountains this summer.  Until then, if any of you have an extra room in a warm, sunny climate, and maybe even a sandy beach, there is a good chance one of us might show up on your doorstep pretty soon.  Because with a big weekend storm to close out the month of April, it seems like April is going out like a lion!  To heck with March, we’re just hoping the lambs show up in May!

steamboat winter vacation

5 Night Winter Steamboat experience

Here is an itinerary we put together for a 5-night stay that gives you a taste of Steamboat and the ranch experience.  There is a lot packed into this one!

Day 1 (Thursday)

  • Arrive to Steamboat Springs and check into the Steamboat Grand.
  • Go check out the ski area, get your rentals ready to go at Christy Sports, and then stop by the Truffle Pig for a happy hour cocktail.
  • Grab a shuttle to downtown Steamboat Springs and head over to Carl’s Tavern for a nice, but casual dinner. Stretch your legs a bit after a day of travel by walking over to Ciao Gelato before heading home to bed!

Day 2 (Friday)

  • Wake up and grab a quick, hearty breakfast at Paramount. Spend the day downhill skiing at Steamboat Spring’s famous Mt. Werner.  Enjoy long runs, fast chair lifts, and that Colorado champagne powder.  Lunch stop?  The Four Points Lodge has amazing food and a great view of the valley below.
  • After a day of skiing, what’s better than soaking your muscles in hot water? Take a shuttle up to Strawberry Hot Springs.  Enjoy multiples levels of pools with different temperatures, beautiful grounds, and all beneath the open Colorado Sky.  If you want to enjoy the views, head up there before dark and then treat yourself to dinner afterwards at Café Diva.  Make sure to make your reservations far in advance as they book up early!


Day 3 (Saturday)

  • Take your time checking out and stop by Creekside Café (a local’s and Vista Verde staff favorite) for the best breakfast in town.
  • After breakfast, take time to check out the town! Visit the shops and take a stroll down the Yampa River Core Trail.  You might even see some ski jumpers flying off the jumps over at Howelsen Hill from the trail!
  • After exploring town, it’s time to head to Vista Verde Ranch. Check in is at 4 o’clock, but if you get in earlier, you are more than welcome to explore the ranch or relax in our Great Room until your private cabin is available.
  • After settling into your cabin, unpacking, and getting the lay of the land, come on down to the Lodge for our Happy Half Hour (we’re too busy having fun outside to make it an hour!). Grab a glass of wine or craft beer and meet the other individuals staying on the ranch.  After Happy Half Hour, stroll into the dining room to enjoy an outstanding, elegant formal dinner (don’t worry – this doesn’t mean it requires formal attire – you can be as comfortable and casual as you’d like!) filled with fabulous appetizers, entrees, and a dessert that have been personally crafted by our chefs.
  • After dinner, wander back to your cabin under the light of the stars and enjoy your private hot tub or snuggle up by the wood burning stove to relax before your adventures the next day!


Day 4 (Sunday)

  • Wake up to the horses nickering and the snow plows working, and head down to the Lodge where the coffee is brewing and the bacon sizzling.
  • After breakfast, start your ranch vacation adventures off with and introduction to classic skiing. You will meet with our guides, go over all there is you need to know about skiing, and then head out onto any of our 20 km of private ski tracks to practice technique, or into the backcountry with a guide!
  • After an active morning and a delicious lunch joined by the Vista Verde staff, spend the afternoon riding a horse on a snow covered trail. Enjoy this beautiful loop around the ranch property and take in the exciting experience of riding a horse in the snow.  And a bonus – the horse you ride will be yours for the duration of your stay!
  • After the trail ride, hop onto the feed sleigh and help the wranglers feed our Vista Verde herd. The sleigh is pulled by our team, two Belgian brothers named Kenai and Sitka.  Enjoy the lap around our Winter Pasture and watch the horses as they interact while eating.
  • Following a full day of adventures, head back to your cozy cabin and hot tub as the sun sets or relax before another wonderful dinner paired with the perfect glass of wine.


Day 5 (Monday)

  • After a delicious breakfast, try out the horsemanship clinic with your horse you rode the day before. Learn the details and intricacies of working with a horse, both on the ground and in the saddle.  Lead by one of our talented horse trainers, the horsemanship clinic is a great way to learn all that it takes to find a connection with the horse you are riding
  • Come back after riding for a hearty lunch cooked to order and prepare for your afternoon! A quick post-lunch nap refreshed you to jump on the back of the snowmobile to head up to the tubing hill.  An hour of exhilarating rides up and down the hill is capped off with a private sleigh ride—the perfect way to wrap up an active day.
  • Finish the day off with a casual BBQ dinner where you enjoy the company of the staff and any children staying for the week. After a lively dinner, head up to our barn for the barn dance!  Learn to square dance, line dance, and partner dance with other guests and our staff.  It is a great way to get your country western moves on!


Day 6 (Tuesday)

  • Your last morning at the ranch has arrived, and you know that all of the Vista Verde crew are sad to see you go! But you have just had the most incredible winter vacation, experiencing much of what Steamboat Springs and a winter guest ranch vacation has to offer!  You will be missed at Vista Verde, and we will be counting down the days until we get to see you here again!  Because there is so much you didn’t get a chance to fit in during this stay!  Dogsledding, cooking classes, snowmobiling, ranch yoga, perfecting your technique on back country skis, tasting wines with the ranch chefs, and more!  Come back and enjoy this Western town and lifestyle soon!
new horses at Colorado dude ranch

Dude Ranch Life: A horse shopping spree

Each year, as we retire some horses and others are purchased, we need to replenish our herd to be ready for our dude ranch season in the summer.  Typically this takes the form of going to sales in the spring, and hoping that they horses we picked will be as good when they get back to the ranch.  This year, we decided to try a different approach.  All fall and winter, Sam and KP have been scouring the classifieds, Craigslist, special horse for sale pages on Facebook, and spreading the word through local horse connections.  They’ve put in a lot of miles on the road–going to see horses, try them out, get to know their history, and making purchases.  All in all, since last fall they have brought home 16 new horses!  It’s been a lot of work, but we’re all hopeful that the success rate for the horses working out for our needs will be much higher than past years due to this more in-depth purchasing process.

So, here’s who we have new to the team:

  • Betty- She’s a sweet and sassy Appaloosa mare with a hysterical Mohawk.  We’ve already used her this winter for both kids and adults, so she’s a perfect, versatile horse.
  • Turtle- This guy is one of those priceless horses.  His beautiful sorrel color is contrasted with four white socks and a big bold blaze.  He’ll be one of our go-to kid horses as he is steady and safe.
  • Dollar- A stocky, little buckskin with a white snip.  We’re looking forward to seeing who matches up best with him.
  • Chip- Sam describes him as “gritty.” He came from a feedlot where he’s worked hard dragging cows and keeping order.  This little sorrel was painfully thin when we bought him, so he’s been on the VVR weight gain program and is doing really well now.
  • Sadie- A beautiful gray mare, she came as a two-fer with her son last fall.  It’s going to take a little time for her to settle in, but she’s solid and gorgeous and we’re looking forward to putting some miles on her.
  • Bugs- This is Sadie’s son, and he is a spitting image of her.  Sam says he’s still figuring things out at the ranch, so he might be one we work with for the first couple weeks of our season before we start using him for guests.
  • Blondie- Of course this is a palomino paint mare with that name!  Her four white socks and petite frame make her a standout.  She’s an old pro at giving kids riding lessons, so she will be great for kids and her slight build will make her a match for small adults as well.
  • Belle- She’s black, she’s sweet, and she is ready to be a kind babysitter for the kiddos.
  • Brother- This guy must have some Warmblood in his breeding as he is a tall drink of water.  His solid build and kind temperament will make him a great steed for larger riders.
  • Peso- A big bay, this guy is going to take a little more time to work into the VVR lifestyle.  KP has been working with him, and will probably spend more time on him this summer– settling him and tuning him up until he’s ready to get out with our guests.
  • Montana- This big, gray gelding has a colorful history.  He was trained to do cowboy mounted shooting, but he just wasn’t fast enough to make the cut.  So, just know that nothing can phase this guy!
  • Willow- Another beauty, this sweet mare is a gruella, which is a beautiful coloring that isn’t very common. She had a good little injury on her hip that we’ve been nursing, and she’s healing up really well, so she’ll be ready for the summer season.
  • Polly- This gal got her name from her unique brand with a P in it.  A well-proportioned sorrel mare, she has given riding lessons to kids in the past, so there’s a good chance we’ll put some kiddos on her this summer.
  • Bear- He reminds us all of Nacho, so we’re hoping he’ll be a perfect replacement for that old guy as he heads towards retirement.  This half-draft is big, bay, stocky, and laid back.
  • Jasper- Another half-draft, this one is a black beauty.  His beautiful, long forelock makes me think of the kind of horse you’d see in a jousting match.  But this guy would rather meander on the trail than charge down a lane carrying an armored knight.
  • Millie- There will always be the one KP falls in love with, and this is the one.  She’s a super sweet bay mare who is ready to go….that is if you can get KP to share her!

Planning a honeymoon?

So you’re happily engaged, busy planning a wedding, and then your fiance drops the bomb on you–it’s your job to plan the honeymoon!  We get so many honeymooners here at Vista Verde, and we love having them at the ranch celebrating their new life together.  But, we’ve also been on the phone with enough folks who are nervously trying to find the perfect honeymoon getaway that we sympathize with the pressure that goes along with planning this big getaway!

Of course, we think Vista Verde is a perfect honeymoon option for couples looking for adventure, ease of access, and simplified planning.  The opportunity for adventurous days are abundant here at the ranch!  With multiple direct flights coming into the Steamboat airport (in the winter) getting here is pretty straightforward, and our all-inclusive pricing makes planning and budgeting a no-brainer.  Top that all with a secluded setting, gorgeous views, a private and luxurious cabin–complete with a bubbling hot tub on the deck, and meals that range from ranchy to fancy.  Adventure, romance, and relaxation are all wrapped up into one ranch honeymoon.

We hope you end up choosing Vista Verde for your honeymoon, but even if not, please check out this great article titled Honeymoon Planning Tips for Grooms written by Susan Breslow Sardone.  Susan is an expert in honeymoons and romantic getaways, and she has some seriously fabulous tips here in this article.

Good luck with the planning, and have a great time on your honeymoon!

top us all inclusive family vacations

Family Travel Network- April 2016

All-inclusive vacations are all the rage it seems these days.  People used to think you had to travel out of the country to find an all-inclusive vacation option, but it is getting on their radar more and more that there are great options right here in the US.  Historically, dude ranches were the original all-inclusive vacation for domestic travelers.  In this article by the Family Travel Network, the Top US All-Inclusive Family Vacations are highlighted, and they included Vista Verde!  Read the article….

dude ranch life off season adventures

Dude Ranch Life: Off-season shenanigans

While the snow is trying to melt away, despite concerted efforts by Mother Nature to remind us every few days that no, winter isn’t quite over, the ranch is down to a skeleton crew.  Where did everyone go?  Everywhere!  Some of our seasonal staff headed off to their next adventures in life, while others are playing in between the seasons.  There are road trippers, campers, world explorers, and those who went home to earn some extra income while the ranch is shut down for a bit.  Those of us who spend the full year at the ranch are also taking advantage of the chance to sneak away for a while.  Right now baby Althea has packed up her parents to spend some time on the beaches of Florida.  After a winter of snowsuits and mittens, she’s happy to dig her feet in the sand!  Chol is off living the life of a celebrity chef in Montana, cooking at a big fundraiser for the Back Country Hunters and Anglers.  Charlie will be heading out on a Western road trip later this month, and the ranch office gals ditched the office last week to embrace winter one last time on a hut trip near the Nokhu Crags.  There is a slight chance that I am writing this blog post looking out over the redwood covered foothills of Northern California following a long run in the woods…..but that may or may not be true.

While the phones still ring, the emails still come in, the horses must be fed, the mares watched for foals to arrive, construction crews need to be overseen, and off-season projects nag us all, it’s a much anticipated break in the action and a great time to regroup, prepare, and gear up for the summer season.

For all our great staff who are out on other adventures right now, please comment with updates of what you’re doing, the sights you’ve seen, and the exploring that is happening during this spring!