By Angele Sionna
Western US Travel Profiles: Vista Verde Guest Ranch
* Steve & Kelli King
* Adventure Center Manager/Ranch Support Manager
* Open since 1970’s
* P.O. Box 770465 Steamboat Springs, CO 80477
* 58000 Cowboy Way, Clark, CO 80428
Examiner: What makes your establishment unique?
Steve: We are a guest ranch that is open for summer and winter, offering not just horseback riding. In the winter, we have groomed nordic ski trails for both classic and skate skiing as well as snowshoeing, but we are most popular for our backcountry ski touring. We have been told by our guests that the backcountry guided skiing we do here is very hard to find anywhere else. Most people think of backcountry skiing as jumping off cornices in avalanche prone slopes. What we do is ski in the forests, on frozen rivers and meadows with your guide making the trail for you. Most often, we hardly ever see another soul out there, except for the occasional moose, elk or porcupine. We teach not only backcountry skiing skills such as the best way to get up when you fall in 3 feet of powder or how to begin a basic telemark turn, but also all about our environment, snow science and animal habitat in the winter.
Examiner: What is a little known factoid about your place?
Kelli: In the winter, about 55% of our guests are repeat customers and we have about 40% in the summer. We have some guests who have been coming for over 20 years!
Examiner: What is your specialty?
Steve: Diversity of activities and quality in each diverse activity we offer and our commitment to service. It sounds cliche but we really do go out of our way to make sure that each individual feels taken care of in all aspects of their stay from the housekeeping staff, ranch hands, guides, kitchen staff to management, it is what we pride ourselves in. Whether we are shoveling your deck, cleaning your cabins or guiding you on a backcountry ski tour, each and every employee takes it as their personal responsibility to make sure you are taken care of and cared for.
Examiner: What is your patrons’ favorite thing about your establishment? What’s your favorite?
Kelli: The staff. Of course they love the activities, the food and the accommodations but what really seals the deal is the staff. They make it all come alive and real, they make it homey and comfortable. They help the guests really connect with our place, so that they feel like VVR is a part of them. They know year after year that they will feel at ease here, know what to expect, it’s a slam dunk! Our favorite thing about VVR, besides getting to work with these passionate people, is getting the opportunity to be the conduit or catalyst for reconnecting our guests with our gorgeous and spectacular environment and reconnecting them with the 14 year old that resided in them (in us all!) and gets to come out and play! To guide them in doing an activity they might not otherwise do any other time of the year, in an environment so pristine and beautiful and to provide the appropriate terrain and level to do it so that they feel successful, alive and excited to do it again and again, that’s what we love about our job! In the recreation industry, we get to help people re-create themselves and reconnect.
Examiner: Anything new on the horizon that people can look forward to trying?
Steve: We are all very excited about our new indoor riding arena. In the past, we have always offered some trail riding in the winter but this year, we can now offer indoor riding and lessons too.
Examiner: What is the top thing you recommend visitors to your city do/see – besides your business, of course?
Kelli: If folks are at all into Alpine skiing, they can not pass up skiing Steamboat Springs well known ‘champagne powder”! A soak in the Strawberry Hotsprings is a great treat after a day of skiing and if you have kids, our daughter Maddie, who is 11, would recommend a trip to Fuzziwig’s, an awesome candy store in Steamboat. Favorite place for breakfast or lunch: Azteca, the breakfast burrito is huge and they even offer tofu! And if you must dine someplace other than VVR for dinner, Cafe Diva is wonderful!