VISTA VERDE RANCH, CO. Families find their way to Vista Verde for many different reasons. Some come because they want a family vacation where they can share experiences together. Others are time crunched and want to fit in an adventurous vacation for mom and dad while also knowing their kids are having fun. And others want to marry the two and have a little bit of both. With an engaging kids program summer and winter, and a specialized teen program in the summer, families can try out adventures together, or split up and take advantage of those programs to know their kids are having the time of their life while mom and and dad have a little fun. Regardless of what appeals to them about the ranch, most families choose Vista Verde because of the diversity of activities, luxurious accommodations, high level of service, food that walks the line between ranchy and fancy, and a beautiful, remote setting in the Colorado Rockies.
Summer time at the ranch is all about an authentic Western experience. We combine the best of “Old West” and “New West” with the variety of activities offered to our guests.
For those looking for “Old West”, they can immerse themselves in the cowboy lifestyle. Riding horses is much more than just a boring trail ride here at Vista Verde. The horse program is designed to educate and enlighten riders—from introducing a rank novice to the depth of horsemanship skills to challenging the more advance riders. The foundation is laid with well-trained horses, some of whom are bred and raised here at the ranch. From there, the wranglers kick off the guests’ stay with an in-depth orientation that lays out the main principals of the ranch’s training philosophy, and gives the guests a feel for how much they can dive into really understanding horsemanship if their interest has been piqued. From there guests can choose to just enjoy the scenery on trail rides that vary from relaxing walk-abouts to rigorous “bushwacking” outings or they can dive into cattle work, and a variety of clinics back at the ranch to round out the learning, and the fun. Most new guests are surprised by the depth of the horse program, and how much more they learned than they expected prior to their vacation.
Although many guests enjoy spending all their time on horseback, most are looking for a little more variety in their vacation. This is where the “New West” experiences enter the equation. All guided by highly trained professionals who specialize in their chosen sport, the options for guests are overwhelming for some, as there is no way to fit it all into one week! One day might bring a mountain biking skills clinic where the guests learn to ride obstacles on high-end dual suspension bikes in the morning, followed by a scenic wildflower walk to a high alpine lake. Some prefer to drop a line in one of the nearby rivers with a fly fishing guide, or learn the art of the cast on the ranch’s stocked pond. Others will head out to an aspen grove for “Wild Yoga”, while others might give rock climbing a try, or hop on a paddleboard on a hot afternoon at one of the nearby lakes. Some folks wear themselves out and find the cooking class, wine tasting, or photography workshop an appealing option to give their sore muscles a break. And, when all is said and done, a soak in the hot tub followed by a nap is pretty inviting.
Many of these activities can be enjoyed by families together, or the kids can head off with the kids program (typically the kid’s preference, despite the parent’s pleas for family time) and enjoy wild West adventures with engaging and enthusiastic kid wranglers. My kids join the kids program every week of the summer, and they never get tired of the fun activities from zip lining to riding horses to panning for gold. And, as a mom, I never get tired of the great role models that our staff are for the kids and teens. It’s pretty typical for the kids to be bawling as they leave the ranch, say good bye to their horse and their newly found friends. Those are good tears to have, as they mean it was a really impactful vacation.
Come winter time, the ranch turns into Vista Blanca. The blanket of snow creates a magical winter wonderland, and the “New West” activities turn into Nordic inspired adventures. Backcountry skiing is one of the hallmark activities of the winter season, with guides taking guests all over in the National forest, exploring frozen lakes, enchanted forests, and hidden meadows of sparkly snow. Alternatively, guests who want to burn calories can snowshoe either in the backcountry or on ranch trails or classic or skate ski on the ranch’s groomed trails. For those wanting to stay inside, the above mentioned culinary options are still available each week, as is yoga, Pilates, a beer tasting, and dance lessons.
In the vein of “Old West” guests can enjoy the heated indoor arena to continue to improve their riding skills with daily horsemanship clinics as well as horse training demonstrations and foal handling clinics. Bundling up and riding around the ranch with the snow crunching under the horses feet is a special experience, as is a classic sleigh ride—complete with jingling bells. A family sleigh ride is always a memorable event!
Just like the summer, families are welcome to try most of the adventures together, but also have the opportunity for the kids to take part in the kids program. Tubing is one of the most popular events, with snowmobiles pulling everyone back up the hill before they whoosh down to the bottom again. We get the kids out on horseback, and they usually help feed the herd of horses from the big feed sleigh every day as well.
During both the summer and winter seasons, evenings alternate between a casual family-style meal where the guests and staff all mingle together and share stories from their day’s adventures. Then, on other nights the adults get to enjoy a quiet, multi-course formal dinner while the kids devour their Dine-n-Dash and goof off with the kid wranglers. This gives a balance between time as a family and time for mom and dad to enjoy a beautiful meal, a nice glass of wine, and adult conversation.
Back in their cabins that the guests call home for the week, the housekeeping fairies tidy up each day and leave little surprises each evening during turndown service. A bubbling hot tub sits on the deck of each cabin, and the units are all spacious and comfortable for a family. Ranging from one to four bedroom, the cabins are rustic on the outside and anything but on the inside. Italian linens, robes, a refrigerator stocked with drinks and some snacks, a wood burning stove ready to light, and local soaps and amenities make the guests’ homes cozy and comfortable.
One of the biggest drivers for all of us who work at the ranch is making this more than just a vacation. We hope to inspire guests to renew relationships, make shifts in their lives, and revive their faith in the young people of our world through their interactions with our staff. There is a lot of energy poured into creating a healthy and growth-focused community here for our staff, and we want the guests to experience how amazing these young people are and get to know them during their stay. We say that they come here the first time for the amenities, the recreation, and the views, but they come back for the relationships. I believe that’s why there are so many tears at the end of a week!
For some quick facts, summer stays are all week-long stays (Sunday-Sunday) while the winter season has the option for stays as short as 3 nights (except during the Christmas and New Year’s holidays). There are also adult-only times during the fall and winter season, so those are great times for mom and dad to sneak away for a romantic getaway. Summer runs from the first weekend in June through mid-October and winter runs from mid-December until late-March. We close for the times in between as it can get a bit mucky around here as the snow accumulates in the fall and then melts away in the spring.