"Luxury and Dude Ranches Do Mix"
--a guest article by Tony Conboy III
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, CO – Fine dining, luxury accommodations, all the horseback riding you desire and a family vacation that will never be forgotten are all on the agenda at Vista Verde Ranch, the nation’s premier luxury “dude ranch.”
If you don’t normally use the words “luxurious” and “dude ranch” in the same sentence, toss out all preconceived notions of a dude ranch and be prepared to be pampered and entertained by a hand picked staff that will work to satisfy not only your every request, but the wishes of your children as well.
The 500-acre ranch, which sits at an altitude of 7,500 feet, is located about 25 minutes outside of Steamboat. It borders thousands of acres of National Forest land providing for spectacular views of the Colorado Mountains.
The typical week long programs don’t come cheap; a week in the summer can be as high as $5,300 per week, per person. Shorter stays are available during winter months at a much lower cost. Don’t let the prices, however, scare you. Vista Verde is an all inclusive dude ranch vacation; everything is covered including daily horseback riding, mountain biking, fly fishing, whitewater rafting and rock climbing – on real rocks – not imitation climbing walls!
Lodging and Meals
Your cozy cabin is stocked with your favorite alcoholic and non alcoholic beverages and dinners such as pan seared Scottish salmon with blistered asparagus are accompanied by your choice of beverage including fine wines, again at no extra cost.
Unlike many other dude ranches, there is no “mess hall” or group dining atmosphere; you enjoy your dinner at a table with a server and cloth table linens. For children, there is the optional nightly “dine and dash” dinner, where the wranglers serve pizza, hamburgers and other favorites for the teen and preteen crowd.
The week goes quickly, as the ranch hands work to build an individual program centered on riding, for each guest and their children. Whether you are an accomplished rider or have never saddled up, Vista Verde has the riding program for you.
Some choose to get in as much riding time as possible; others want to explore the local flora and fauna on a hike with one of the ranch’s experts. If you’ve never tried your hand at mountain biking or fly fishing, there are experts available in these areas as well who will gladly show the ropes to the neophyte or the seasoned expert. As I mentioned, all equipment is provided from the bikes to the fishing rods so there are is no excuse to not get out and enjoy the crisp Colorado air.
During the summer, most of the week-long programs are centered on families with children. A wrangler at the Ranch explained their philosophy: if the children aren’t happy, the parents won’t be happy.
Wranglers are ranch hands that work in the children’s program. Their main purpose is to keep the kids, which are grouped according to age, entertained. I felt completely at ease for the periods my daughter was off riding horses with other kids or when she was zip lining at the ranch’s outdoor adventure facility. In fact, my daughter and the friends she made seemed at times to forget that their parents were on vacation with them.
At Vista Verde you slowly begin decompressing from the stress of the daily grind. With no televisions or internet in your cabin, and virtually no cell phone service because of its remote location, you begin to lose touch with the outside world – which is a good thing!
The nightly optional activities included everything from a hay ride to a square dance. The vacation ends with the campfire sing along, causing nearly all of the teens and children to tear up at the realization that their week as a cowboy or cowgirl was over. Vista Verde Ranch provided a respite from the ordinary and created family memories that will never be erased.
For more information see www.vistaverde.com.
Tony Conboy III is a Florida-based family travel writer who stayed at Vista Verde as a guest of the ranch.
Check prices for Vista Verde Guest Ranch, at Kayak.com