By EILEEN OGINTZ
VISTA VERDE GUEST RANCH, CO – (Day One) — First lesson: learning how to get back up on your feet. That’s because I’ve barely gone 100 yards when I’m on my backside.
I’m on cross country skis for perhaps the second time in my life at Vista Verde Guest Ranch surrounded by snow covered meadows and peaks.
Vista Verde Ranch, about 25 miles north of Steamboat Springs, is about as opposite a downhill mountain resort as possible. Set on 540 acres in the middle of Colorado’s Routt National Forest, this is the place to come to explore the wilderness on cross-country skis, horseback, fat bikes or snowshoes away from the crowds. There are just nine will appointed cabins — each with their own hot tubs —
and three lodge rooms.
We’ve come on a family trip with my husband, brother in law, sister in law, and nephew and my son, both of whom are in their early thirties. After four days of downhill skiing, we all were ready for a change of pace—and the chance to learn a new sport.
Today, my son Matt and nephew Chris went off snowmobiling in the backcountry while my husband and I went out with guide Kelly King cross country skiing on a track in the snow. Other guests went out in the backcountry on cross-country skis hoping to see a moose. My brother in law and sister in law drove into Steamboat Springs where the town’s annual winter carnival was getting underway.
In the morning, the guys had gone tubing (nice to be brought up the hill each run by a snow mobile pulling a sleigh!) while I did yoga.
When there are kids in house ages six and older, there is sledding, sleigh rides, kids’ movie night and more.
There is a large indoor riding arena for more intensive clinics in winter as well as summer.
“People may come in the summer thinking they want to ride every day but then they realize they don’t,” said Kelly King, adding that everyone in a family may not have equal enthusiasm for horses. So in the summer, besides horseback riding, there’s hiking, mountain biking, fly fishing, rock climbing, paddle boarding, rafting, photography workshops, yoga, cooking classes and for the kids, campfires, panning for gold, treasure hunts and more.
I love that the biggest decision I have to make is what I want to do in the morning or after lunch. I love that we just show up for delicious meals — no shopping, cooking or cleaning up. Besides freshly baked banana muffins this morning, there were omelets cooked to order, fresh biscuits and gravy, honey wheat pancakes and waffles.
Lunch included grilled cheese sandwiches (with gruyere cheese), home made tomato soup, chicken legs and meatloaf and several varieties of salad. Dinners are a three-course candlelit affair paired with wine.
“There’s no need to get out your wallet from the time you come to when you leave,” said one appreciative return guest who has already booked the same week next winter.
Even the ranch hands that help us into our cabin with our bags won’t take tips.