When Stern Bloom Media partners David Bloom and Michael Stern take a break from the year-round heat of Miami, they pack up their ski gear and go west—this time, to Vista Verde near Steamboat Springs.
When the words “snow”, “mountains” and “Colorado” came out of Michael’s mouth, I thought, cool, you want to go skiing? But, when more words came, words like, horses, stables, and dude ranch—a flood of not-so-enticing images flashed through my mind: leathery-skinned cowboys, smelly horses, cold baked beans and freezing our butts off by the campfire in the middle of winter. No thanks!
He argued that this would be an adventure, an opportunity most people would never have. Plus, he added, what if you could enjoy the best of both worlds? What if we go downhill skiing for a few days and then spend a few more days at the dude ranch? He then directed me to some online reviews about this dude ranch (which turned-out not to be a dude ranch at all, but rather a luxury ranch resort) known as Vista Verde, near Steamboat Springs, Colorado.
I spent the next 10 minutes reading the reviews, 100 percent of which were positive. Endorsements such as Trip Advisor’s Certificate of Excellence, a Fodor’s Choice designation and the AAA Four Diamond Resort award only fueled my enthusiasm and intrigued me further. Vista Verde is an all-inclusive, year-round destination that caters to families, singles, couples, groups and clubs. I went from intrigued to excited in no time, so we switched gears and launched into the planning phase of our trip.
We decided to fly directly into Steamboat Springs’ Hayden Yampa Valley Airport (this proved to be a sound decision, because the alternative was to fly into Denver and drive four-plus hours to the property). We would then go straight into Steamboat Springs for a few days of downhill skiing, then head over to Vista Verde for another three days of serious outdoor adventures before returning home (there’s a limit to how much independence our loving wives allow us to enjoy at any given time). Once our bags were packed, we headed to Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, where we boarded a Southwest flight to Denver International; from there, we flew into Hayden Yampa Valley Airport, which is about 30 minutes away from Steamboat Springs. As promised, the good people of Vista Verde picked us up from the airport and drove us to our hotel in Steamboat Springs. (We stayed at the Steamboat Grand, which was right across the street from the ski lift. For more information visit steamboatgrand.com.)
After two fantastic days of skiing at Steamboat Springs, we were collected by the friendly people at Vista Verde in their SUV and driven to the ranch about 45 minutes away, pretty much in the middle of nowhere. But, what Michael and I came to learn very quickly is that this is exactly the point: to get away from the stresses of everyday life. A certain metamorphosis began the moment we crossed the threshold. For one, it’s a spectacle of natural beauty. Nestled at the base of the mountain, it encompasses over 560 acres in Clark County. And, because Vista Verde is a working ranch, there were beautiful horses everywhere. This place is so far removed from the big city that we were literally forced to unplug. Between limited cell phone and Internet access, and being connected to Mother Nature in such a pure way, it compelled us to relax and connect with the world in the way that it was probably originally intended by the higher powers.
We made it to the main house, where we were greeted warmly by our first names as if we were family, and that’s also how we were treated by everyone—not just staff, but also our fellow guests—throughout our stay. Our greeter took us on a tour of the ranch, which was somewhat of a surreal experience in that we didn’t see a single person on the duration of the tour even though the ranch can host up to 40 guests at any given time. Where was everybody? What had we signed up for? Well, something that called up memories of sleep-away camp as a kid, where the idea is to keep guests busy with planned activities throughout the day. Of course, all the guests were busy participating in one of Vista Verde’s many activities which range from horseback riding, cross-country skiing, yoga, photography, dog sledding, snowshoeing, backcountry skiing, sleigh rides, sledding and much more.
After our tour, we checked into our cabin, we expected a lot of wood and basic amenities. Well, there was a lot of wood, but the amenities were anything but basic. This place was nicer than most luxury hotel rooms. Inside were top-of-the-line appliances, high-quality furniture, a fridge stocked with beer, wine and snacks; we also had our own private hot tub overlooking the horse pasture. It felt like home, but nicer. The staff makes you feel so comfortable, it’s easy to forget where you are, and personal touches are everywhere—when you get a Vista Verde logo branded into your pancakes, you know they are all about exceeding the guests’ expectations. Speaking of food, the private chef cooks everything from scratch, and just as you expect and hope for on such a sojourn—but not necessarily from an all-inclusive experience—the offerings were all topnotch. It’s authentic western hospitality combined with the lodging industry’s highest standards at its finest—and oh yes, you get to go skiing. For more information about Vista Verde Guest Ranch, as well as its summer activities, visit vistaverde.com.