Saddle up for five winter dude ranch rituals at Vista Verde Ranch | TheFencePost.com

Saddle up for five winter dude ranch rituals at Vista Verde Ranch

Rob Wilson Arvada, Colo.

Rob WilsonHorse feeding from the hay sled.

The mile-long driveway of Vista Verde Ranch in Clark, Colo., led us to a pleasant surprise.

At about 8,000 feet we found shirt-sleeve warmth and a handful of rituals you only get at a dude ranch in the winter.

Days begin with the first ritual – a breakfast timed for the late sunrise around 8:30 a.m. It is a good time to wander down to the dining tables and grab a good-sized cup of Kona coffee. Vista Verde ranchers eat big and fresh – oversized fresh fruit (blueberries and blackberries are the size of marbles), and a choice of three main dishes cooked to order. We settled on pancake stacks branded with VV, and smothered in warm maple syrup. Thick slices of chewy bacon, and a hefty helping of crunchy home fries on the side complete the meal.

It’s more than just eating. Breakfast is when the day is mapped out for us city slickers. Commitments are made – or not, depending on your mood and energy – for cross- country skiing, horseback riding, a sleigh ride, feeding the horses and snowshoeing.

Next up was feeding the horses. This second ritual began with harnessing up the horses up as a team, then linking them to the sleigh as the guests pile on with pitchforks and brooms. Huge black muscular beasts, slightly smaller than the Budweiser Clydesdales, drag the sleigh 400 yards or so to the waiting corral filled with more than 50 horses. They’ve been standing like statues for over 30 minutes, calmly awaiting the feed hay arriving.

The sleigh makes a wide circle around the corral as horses follow, cavort with excitement and snort their pleasure at finally being fed. It takes about 20 minutes to peel, throw and heave the hay off until the sleigh is empty. We got to feel like a real ranch hand, and it’s guaranteed to get you toasty warm.

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Afternoons are time for the outdoor rituals of getting into the snow. Whether it’s cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, or horseback riding, the trails are packed and groomed, ready to take you into solitude.

We chose snowshoeing – how hard can that be? The guy at the ski shack fit us exactly right, and introduced us to the sport with excellent instruction. If you already know what you are doing, grab the shoes and hit the trail.

Either way, it’s a ritual of selecting right-sized gear, putting it on, making sure you’re all adjusted and buckled in, zipped up tight – and then out the door. Convincing words of encouragement and technique pointers from the expert staff carry you out on the trail.

The same folks are awaiting your return, eager to hear about your experience. It’s a body-stretching, mind-clearing afternoon ritual, regardless of the shape you’re in. Two miles of snowshoe crunching is guaranteed to clear your head and your lungs. At least that’s what our huffing and puffing did for us. Just remember to pick those feet up high.

 After a brief nap back at the cabin, we wandered down to the cavernous post-and-beam lodge to check out the artful furnishings, and settle into deep leather seats for a bit of reading. All we were really doing was gearing up for the fourth ritual of the day – dinner.

It began at 6 p.m., with some fine wine selections from the cellar and a variety of cheeses, breads and crackers. The half-hour gathering was a time for getting acquainted with other guests before heading into the dining area.

There we were greeted with the surprise of the day, cuisine that makes your taste buds want to stand up and cheer. The presentations, from the appetizers to the dessert, would make the Iron Chef proud. The bison filet was buttery soft, and easily cut with a fork.

Excellent wines and friendly conversations made the 90-minute meal unhurried and relaxed. It was difficult to believe it was almost 8:30 p.m., and time for some cowboy singing in the lodge – the fifth and final ritual of the day.

The gang gathered around the super-sized fireplace with a crackling fire going as Dace, Ben and Charlie hammed it up big time with a mix of current and old-time western favorites. Our eyelids grew heavy as the clock moved towards 10.

We lit our path with flashlights and headed back to the cabins and the awaited snuggly beds, thick comforters and satiny sheets.

Sunrise awakened us for the next day of rituals as we rolled out of bed, eager to do it all again. 

For more information please visit http://www.VistaVerde.com.

The mile-long driveway of Vista Verde Ranch in Clark, Colo., led us to a pleasant surprise.

At about 8,000 feet we found shirt-sleeve warmth and a handful of rituals you only get at a dude ranch in the winter.

Days begin with the first ritual – a breakfast timed for the late sunrise around 8:30 a.m. It is a good time to wander down to the dining tables and grab a good-sized cup of Kona coffee. Vista Verde ranchers eat big and fresh – oversized fresh fruit (blueberries and blackberries are the size of marbles), and a choice of three main dishes cooked to order. We settled on pancake stacks branded with VV, and smothered in warm maple syrup. Thick slices of chewy bacon, and a hefty helping of crunchy home fries on the side complete the meal.

It’s more than just eating. Breakfast is when the day is mapped out for us city slickers. Commitments are made – or not, depending on your mood and energy – for cross- country skiing, horseback riding, a sleigh ride, feeding the horses and snowshoeing.

Next up was feeding the horses. This second ritual began with harnessing up the horses up as a team, then linking them to the sleigh as the guests pile on with pitchforks and brooms. Huge black muscular beasts, slightly smaller than the Budweiser Clydesdales, drag the sleigh 400 yards or so to the waiting corral filled with more than 50 horses. They’ve been standing like statues for over 30 minutes, calmly awaiting the feed hay arriving.

The sleigh makes a wide circle around the corral as horses follow, cavort with excitement and snort their pleasure at finally being fed. It takes about 20 minutes to peel, throw and heave the hay off until the sleigh is empty. We got to feel like a real ranch hand, and it’s guaranteed to get you toasty warm.

Afternoons are time for the outdoor rituals of getting into the snow. Whether it’s cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, or horseback riding, the trails are packed and groomed, ready to take you into solitude.

We chose snowshoeing – how hard can that be? The guy at the ski shack fit us exactly right, and introduced us to the sport with excellent instruction. If you already know what you are doing, grab the shoes and hit the trail.

Either way, it’s a ritual of selecting right-sized gear, putting it on, making sure you’re all adjusted and buckled in, zipped up tight – and then out the door. Convincing words of encouragement and technique pointers from the expert staff carry you out on the trail.

The same folks are awaiting your return, eager to hear about your experience. It’s a body-stretching, mind-clearing afternoon ritual, regardless of the shape you’re in. Two miles of snowshoe crunching is guaranteed to clear your head and your lungs. At least that’s what our huffing and puffing did for us. Just remember to pick those feet up high.

 After a brief nap back at the cabin, we wandered down to the cavernous post-and-beam lodge to check out the artful furnishings, and settle into deep leather seats for a bit of reading. All we were really doing was gearing up for the fourth ritual of the day – dinner.

It began at 6 p.m., with some fine wine selections from the cellar and a variety of cheeses, breads and crackers. The half-hour gathering was a time for getting acquainted with other guests before heading into the dining area.

There we were greeted with the surprise of the day, cuisine that makes your taste buds want to stand up and cheer. The presentations, from the appetizers to the dessert, would make the Iron Chef proud. The bison filet was buttery soft, and easily cut with a fork.

Excellent wines and friendly conversations made the 90-minute meal unhurried and relaxed. It was difficult to believe it was almost 8:30 p.m., and time for some cowboy singing in the lodge – the fifth and final ritual of the day.

The gang gathered around the super-sized fireplace with a crackling fire going as Dace, Ben and Charlie hammed it up big time with a mix of current and old-time western favorites. Our eyelids grew heavy as the clock moved towards 10.

We lit our path with flashlights and headed back to the cabins and the awaited snuggly beds, thick comforters and satiny sheets.

Sunrise awakened us for the next day of rituals as we rolled out of bed, eager to do it all again. 

For more information please visit http://www.VistaVerde.com.