Sometimes we are lucky enough in our lives to run a Relais & Châteaux affiliated guest ranch along the continental divide in the Colorado Rockies. If so lucky, we live and work on one of Nature’s most beautiful stages with some of the most talented and dedicated employees one will ever meet.
Our staff is made of wonderful individuals who attend to amazingly specific details like repairing an in-room guest safe door lock at midnight and arriving at work before 5 a.m. to make specially requested menus and baked goods for breakfast.
Of course, clearing snow from guest vehicles, fixing flat tires, preparing meals, cleaning guest rooms every day, caring for 90 horses on 5,000 acres and leading horseback rides that can truly set the soul free are all de rigueur in this world.
It isn’t because it is an easy post, as there is certainly plenty of work and stress along with myriad moving parts among rapidly changing micro-priorities. The days can seem very short as the team arrives early each day and will leave after dinner only when the dining room has been set for breakfast.
At this level of hospitality, there is far more to remember than simply each guest’s name. Flight arrival times for transportation, pre-purchase of rare and specialty foods, beverages and amenities, knowledge of guest allergies (i.e., feathers, cleaning products, nuts, etc.) along with all manner of dining and amenity preferences are only the beginning of the list.
In short, every member of the team must anticipate, respond to and resolve each and every guest request–unless their responding could be considered illegal, immoral or unsafe. Consider then the breadth of possible requests that remain, such as organizing an impromptu helicopter tour or an all-day backcountry hike in the nearby Zirkel Wilderness.
There is without a doubt a very long list of joys concomitant with serving in such a unique place. When I consider the amazing people we’ve met, the finest foods, flavors and beverages we have enjoyed and the worldly perspectives and contacts we have made, our cup has certainly runneth over.
Running a guest ranch here is to actually live and breathe in the West’s wide-open spaces we have come to love. We will always consider it a great honor to get to know the rare individuals who come to the ranch and those who stayed on to make their homes in this remote and pristine ranching community. These neighbors, guests, and staff members have enriched our lives by their kindness, by their joy and friendship. They have forever imprinted themselves in our hearts.
Challenges out here are plenty though. How much I have appreciated the cheerful colleagues who handle them gracefully while retaining their wonderful senses of humor and focus after working 70 hours or more week after week. There were moments of anguish and tears to be sure, mostly the result of someone really caring about their responsibilities, and not wanting to let you down.
We saw first-hand the wonderful impact a guest ranch vacation has on a person, and on a family. There were occasional tears too from young guests who really hated saying goodbye after their weeklong stay. You see, they came to know their horse and wrangler, our kids’ counselors, guides and staff as their friends after so many wonderful moments together.
Some of the great joy we felt was in welcoming those former children now as adults, who returned to the ranch for the first time with their new young families. A wonderful cycle continues.
I suspect this may have been my life’s last opportunity to manage such a special guest ranch, but who knows? Maybe my friend, Gene Kilgore, the leading authority on western guest ranches has a different idea?
What an interesting chapter it has been, as we count our blessings and reflect back on this time in our lives.
Sometimes we are lucky indeed.