Horseride at Vista Verde Ranch

DAY 6 — Ever since they were a young married couple in Indianapolis, Peggy and Jerry Throgmartin talked about buying a ranch.

“This is my husband’s dream since he was seven, said Peggy Throgmartin. It took till the couple was in their fifties to make it happen—here at Vista Verde Ranch ( about 25 miles north of Steamboat Springs.

Throgmartin, scion of a family business now with their son in its fourth generation, and his wife, the mom of three kids now ranging from 31 to mid twenties, bought Vista Verde ranch in 2006 and have poured money into the place–building a spectacular log lodge for a gathering place. “That was part of the dream,” Peggy Throgmartin explained. “This is a very relational place to get to know everyone else.”

And they built a huge indoor arena to be able to continue their riding lessons in the winter.” It has gotten used 10 times more than we expected,” she offered after a sumptuous lunch—everything from homemade split pea and butternut squash soup, sandwich and salad bar fixings to gourmet offerings like grilled vegetable polenta lasagna and shrimp pot pie with homemade sage biscuit lid. Yum! It was especially welcome after a morning spent in the back country touring on skis, through the trees, making trails in more than three feet of snow and ending at an ice cave built by local school children. So quiet! So beautiful! We are on National Forest land that surrounds this expansive 560-acre ranch.

The couple had searched all over the West for the right place. “We are a very close family and we wanted a place where the family would want to come. That was a big factor,” she said. “As soon as we drove up the driveway, we knew this was the place. “

Certainly the staff seems to love the place. Our guides this morning on our back country touring expedition on skis are 22 year old AJ  Fountain who just graduated from Indiana University and 26 year –old Jeff Ballantyne, who spends summers fighting fires with the Forest Service. “Nothing better than being outside on a day like this,” he says, gesturing to the fresh snow, the Aspens, the sun trying unsuccessfully to peak through the clouds as the snow keeps falling, the silence of the back country.

It seems to suit many kinds of travelers—families who come for week-long stays in the summer, couples who come for long weekends during “adult only” times and families who want to experience snow for the first time. Atlanta grandparents Bill and Sally Smith brought their daughter, son in law and three grandchildren from Atlanta for a few days for just that reason.  The expected to go over to Steamboat to downhill ski part of the time, “But we never made it—we were having too much fun,” said Bill Smith. “The kids loved every bit of it and didn’t want to leave, he said after the younger members of the family had left.   

“We wanted to show them an entirely different place and they had a blast. We’ll be back.”

And 11 year old Maddie King, whose parents oversee the activities here, has a message for kids who think they’ll be bored without downhill skiing and snowboarding: “It is a ball to get out in  nature and have snow all over you!”

There’s nothing better either than having a snow cat pull you back up the hill you’ve just sledded down. Sledding, she declares, is her favorite thing to do on the ranch.

After our morning back country touring, we spent an hour this afternoon on horses—good thing we were dressed warm—touring the ranch, past the original cabin that the homesteaders built here early in the 20th Century.   It’s snowing gently; the air is cold and fresh. I’m actually comfortable on my horse “Mosey”.

The 14 year old and thirteen year old boys opted for riding in the indoor arena where they thought they could go faster—we’re limited to a trail that the staff has blown out so the horses can walk. We mosey along happily.

Now as I write this I’m sitting on a couch in our cabin in front of a wood stove nursing a glass of wine. The kids are in the cabin next door.

The hot tub on our deck is calling me.