In the early days of dude ranching, the staffing model often looked like owners working 7 days a week all summer long, with a handful of college students coming in to spend their summer fixing fences, taking out trail rides, and cleaning cabins. As the industry has shifted to more complex operations staying open for more of the year, the model for staffing has changed a lot. Fast forward to 2023, and a ranch like Vista Verde has a full team of year-round leaders, each specializing in one area of the operation. Although Vista Verde is open for much of the year, we still operate in a seasonal model, so there are a summer seasonal crew and a winter seasonal crew, both led by the year-round leadership team. As the seasonal staff come and go, the year-round team tends to stick around a bit longer, but for many, Vista Verde is a stop along their career path where they develop leadership and professional skill. It’s been a while since we’ve highlighted some of the characters who keep Vista Verde on the right track, so here’s an update.
Ben- The man, the myth, the legend. If you’ve been to VVR you most likely know and love big Ben. He’s got a new puppy, is embracing empty nesting with his wife Holly, and has his hands full running the VVR team and overseeing the leadership team at our newish sister property Steamboat Lake Outpost.
Phil- What do engineering and dude ranching have in common? Not much really, but Phil transitioned out of the cerebral world of engineering rocket ship parts several years ago to step into the world of engineering experiences and relationships. He is the numbers guy (go figure) for both of our local businesses and also weighs in on the executive leadership team.
Jason- He was here, then gone, and now back. Jason worked as a ranch hand years ago at VVR before heading home to Indiana and marrying his VVR sweetheart Lauren. After a decade in the finance world, he pulled off his necktie last year so he and Lauren could come back to their VVR home in the Elk River Valley. Jason heads up the HR efforts for both businesses as well as wearing many hats on the executive team.
Mette- If you are lucky, you’ve spent some time on the trail with Mette, and if you’re even more lucky you got to be interviewed and hired by her for a job at VVR! While she still is a go-to when an extra guide is needed, Mette does spend more of her time finding just the right people to join the VVR staff each season. Hiring 50-70 staff per season is a huge job, and making sure they are the right people for the job is the gift Mette brings to the table.
Mandy- She’s the calming, mom-like presence that we all need. Mandy is the true epitome of wearing many hats. On any given day she might be teaching a lesson, taking the kids on an adventure, coaching a staff member on conflict resolution, or working on training protocols for the staff. Mandy is a critical part of the leadership team, but don’t forget that she is also the petting zoo boss and keeper of cute animals!
Nate- He’s always on the go and has been since he arrived at Vista Verde as a fresh young kid from Texas. Nate is married to his VVR sweetheart and pastry chef extraordinaire, Melissa, and they are always in search of the next big adventure. Nate is responsible for things that break and oversees the crew that fixes them, so you can imagine he is never bored. In between all that, he keeps the pastures green all summer and leads the cow gathers in the fall.
Bill- You’ll never miss him if you look for the big guy in overalls, but he can be a bit elusive. The longest tenured VVR staff member, Bill knows every nook and cranny of the physical plant of VVR. He oversees everything from keeping the spring flowing to making sure the log cabins are stained (cabins are oiled? Maybe the door hinges?). He’s a king of trivia and a master woodworker.
Devyn- Devyn is like Nate, a Swiss Army knife of VVR. She teaches yoga, sings in the band, and somewhere in between all that she oversees the sales and marketing portion of the ranch. She is the proud momma of Routty, one of the ranch pups, and you might be lucky enough to be greeted by him in the office when you arrive.
Roxy- This gal has some history at VVR and has had several iterations of her VVR story. She’s gone from being the staff manager in the late-90s to overseeing housekeeping during a brief sabbatical in 2018 to now being the one you want to talk to when you’re booking your stay. This gal has lived more lives than most and has the wisdom to go along with those experiences, so she’s a go-to for many seeking advice and perspective.
Jonathon- He’s got a big personality and the talent to back it up. As our Food & Beverage Director, Jonathon has his plate full (hah, get it?) with all that goes into creating a fine dining experience that offers something for every palate three times a day. Jonathan is another long-term player who stepped away from the ranch for a while, but the lure of the Yampa Valley pulled him back as the place where he wanted to raise his family.
Damon- With just the right mix of classy paired with a twinkle in his eye, Damon is Jonathon’s right-hand man, running the front of the house for dining at VVR. Here’s a guy who grew into adulthood right in front of us all–he came as a young guy looking for a new experience in life and he sure got that! Over the years he’s become a no-nonsense leader, a wine connoisseur, and a complete foodie while at the same time finding his future wife and being a role model for so many staff.
River- A girl who loves horses, she took the long path getting to know different areas of the ranch before stepping into the head wrangler role. River’s quiet demeanor shouldn’t be misinterpreted as laid back. She is all fire and passion and full of big ideas inside, and she is always looking for ways to care for the horses while providing a great horsemanship experience for our guests.
Abby- Here’s another one who came in as a youngster and has grown into a stellar leader at VVR. Abby joined us during her summer breaks while studying hospitality and marketing, and as soon as she graduated college, she showed up ready for a long-term role at the ranch. She was the first recipient of the Elk River Kipper Scholarship, and we are thrilled to see her growing as a leader leading the housekeeping department and overseeing the housekeeping “fairies.”
Jake- It takes a professional guide to understand how to provide a world-class outdoor experience, and Jake is just the guy to oversee the Adventure Center and the myriad activities that are based out of that log building. He’s spent years mastering the art of guiding, and now he gets to pass that wisdom along to the younger guides to help them develop their skills and oversee a program that is diverse both in the options available and in the skill levels of our guests.
Sarah- Having spent the past several years involved in different aspects of the ranch, Sarah steps in to run the youth programs this summer under Mandy’s tutelage. Her soft demeanor and kind heart will melt even the most aloof kiddos, and her passion for sharing the outdoor world with youngsters is contagious.
Well, that just skimmed the surface! We have close to 70 new and returning seasonal staff coming in to work under these leaders listed above, and we hope you get the chance to spend time with most of them! It’s the people who make VVR so special. While most come to the ranch for recreation, relaxation, and rejuvenation on their first visit, typically guests return for the relationships they form here.