A note from our Publisher, Sonja Babich.
Winter Honeymoon Getaway: Colorado's Vista Verde Ranch
Calling all adventuresome couples! Vista Verde Guest Ranch in Steamboat Springs, Colorado is ready for you!
Only the most adventurous (or wannabe adventurous) couples will enjoy Vista Verde Ranch’s fresh take on honeymooning. No, you won’t be lounging on a beach with the salty sea air, but after a day of horseback riding and snowshoeing in the tucked-away Colorado wilderness, you’ll be happy to lounge in your private cabin or personal hot tub with a beer in hand, looking out over the snow-capped mountain.
I was never more relaxed (or sore) after my weekend at this beautiful luxury dude ranch but what I got out of my trip was an odd sense of accomplishment, not something I usually associate with vacation. Instead of lounging by the pool, I went cross-country skiing.
Vista Verde Ranch doesn’t have white sand beaches where you’ll sip strawberry daiquiris all week. Instead, it has one horse open sleigh rides, wine tasting and cooking classes with the amazing resident chef, photography workshops so you can hone your skills in the ranch’s remote beauty, horseback riding and training, and yoga (perhaps not stretching is where I went wrong…). All of these amazing activities are included in your stay, but if you’re looking for more adventure, you can easily find it at Vista Verde.
30 minutes outside of the ranch, you can spend a day skiing or snowboarding at the renowned Steamboat Springs ski area. Local outfitters will take Vista Verde guests dog sledding, snowmobiling, ice climbing, powder cat skiing, or hot air ballooning at an extra cost. And if you’re like me, using muscles you forgot or didn’t know you had, you’ll definitely want to reserve yourself an afternoon massage from a trained therapist that visits the ranch during the week.
Each morning, you can enjoy a continental breakfast or order something made to order from their menu (like sourdough French toast with raspberry currant), and trust me, portions aren’t stingy. Casual lunches and dinners with the staff are buffet style, but don’t let that sway your thinking about what you’re in store for. Our first night, we were welcomed to King Crab legs and BBQ that actually made me question my allegiance to Kansas City-style pulled pork and brisket.
Formal dinners offer a more traditional dining experience — a sit-down with wine pairings and expertly crafted appetizers and entrees. After every meal, we felt like we should be dropping hundreds of dollars for the feast we just gorged ourselves on, but nope, three filling, delicious meals a day come included at Vista Verde.
The real reason Vista Verde Ranch sets itself apart from other ranch resorts is the people. The staff is unlike any I’ve encountered elsewhere. It constantly felt like you were among friends, despite only knowing these people for a few days. At other resorts, a conversation with staff members might seem forced or phony, but not at Vista Verde Ranch.
When I first arrived, every staff member greeted us as if we had been long-time friends that missed the last few reunion trips. I have to admit, a part of me thought it was because a few staff members knew I was the enemy (i.e., a writer getting a free trip), but when I saw other guests hugging the staff, telling them about how their kids are doing in school, asking questions about the staff’s lives, and making plans for next year’s getaway … it became abundantly clear I was not the exception, but simply the rule.
Management has done an excellent job of insulating its community with genuine and kind staff members that not only want to teach you how to ride a horse and backcountry ski, but will also spend time with you as a friend, not a guest. We enjoyed the staff so much that we actually missed the casual meals where we could spend more time with them (a sentiment shared by several other guests as well). When we left, I was the person hugging staff members as we said our goodbyes, and I promise you will be, too.
It felt like summer camp. Except, not the kind that smelled like bug spray and reminded me of tick removal. It was the adult’s version of camp — wonderfully out of bounds and a fresh reminder that worlds (great ones with so many activities) exist outside of our iPhones and Facebook accounts. Other campers, er… guests made it hard to leave the ranch because we enjoyed spending our days with them. Between them and the staff, it felt like a home away from home, just like how camp used to be when I was a kid, except with more wine and better food.
With a maximum occupancy of 50 guests, and after talking to some Ranch staff, full-blown weddings and ceremonies at the Vista Verde can be difficult. If you want to elope with a few friends or just your significant other, Vista Verde would be the place to say your I dos. But a snowy stay seems like the cure for the common honeymoon, and one your Cabo-bound friends will surely be jealous of.
After your action-packed days, you’ll be ready to hit the hay at 9:00pm. Or, you know, do other things that Honeymooners do…
Accommodation was provided by Vista Verde Ranch.
All photos courtesy of Vista Verde Ranch.