At Top50, we thought it would be very insightful to visit with an actual ranch owner to understand more of what goes into making a guest ranch work, frustrations that go along with it, and people who stand out in their hearts. As leading family vacation ranch owners, Randy and Lisa George, co-owners of Latigo Ranch, Colorado, were kind enough to answer some questions we had. We hope this offers an understanding of who they are and what their ranch stands for!
Could you tell your visitors to Top50, what is your Guest ranch philosophy?
We want to offer our guests the opportunity to see what it is to live simply and live well, to experience the beauty of creation first hand, to slow down and breathe deeply. A dude ranch vacation is one of the most genuine family vacations available these days, and we strive to preserve that as a treasure. At Latigo, we encourage family participation and interaction in every activity. We want them to leave with family memories that will last a Lifetime.
As previous empoloyees of C Lazy U, what did you bring from C Lazy U?
During the 6 years that Randy was the general manager of the C Lazy U ranch, it was rated as a Mobil 5-diamond and AAA - star property. So, he learned much about hospitality, quality, and guest service in the context of a dude ranch experience. He also became familiar with the dude ranch associations and their value in marketing a dude ranch. It is also where Randy and Lisa met. So, the most important thing that they brought from C Lazy U was each other.
How have you improved on this?
We made a conscious decision to keep Latigo relatively small so that we could develop personal friendships with our guests. We also decided to keep the flavor of the ranch more homey than resort-like. And we were given a private copy of recipes that were the personal favorites of the long-time head chef at C Lazy U.
What are the most challenging obstacles in running a guest ranch?
The lack of cash flow is the biggest and most challenging obstacle in running our ranch. Effective marketing continues to be a tremendous challenge.
What is the most rewarding aspect of running your ranch?
We really enjoy seeing the way families bond through their experiences here. Our guests come out of hectic lifestyles, and the change of pace, relaxation, exposure to nature, experience of new adventures together, meeting new friends, etc has a profoundly positive impact on their lives. We are also energized by working with our 20 staff each summer. We enjoy being part of their lives, often at a crucial transitional time for them.
How do you/Lisa and your partners complement one another?
We have complimentary skills and interests. We focus on the foodservice, Jim on the horses and maintenance, and Kathie on the reservations and housekeeping. However, there is considerable overlap as we all do what we can to make the guest experience a wonderful one.
If you could change one thing about the guest ranching industry what would it be?
We would like to increase the number of guests who come to guest ranches. Our marketing efforts try to override the erroneous perception that most people have about dude ranch vacations as being embarrassingly corny. We don’t hope to see fundamental changes in our industry because we believe that what we do is what people need. We just need to get people to hunger for what we offer.
Can you tell us a fun/your favorite story/your most memorable moments that stands out in your mind in running your guest ranch?
We hired a 69 year old grandmother from South Carolina last summer to join our waitstaff crew. She has such a warm heart and a loving manner that everyone gravitates toward her. One of our families this summer had a 13 year old son with Down’s syndrome. Our special grandma just loved on him during the week, and they became buddies. He would bring her a bouquet of dandelions before dinner and she would just gush over them as if they’d been costly roses. On Saturday after lunch as the guests were saying their goodbyes to each other, we all watched our grandma say goodbye to her little buddy, and everyone’s eyes brimmed with tears as we watched them hug and promise to always remember each other. We knew we were in the presence of something very special.
To learn more about Latigo Ranch and their riding and hospitality program, please visit them at Top50 Ranches. Latigo Ranch is your ideal family ranch where their wranglers LOVE children. You'll even hear the wranglers asking to watch your children "off hours"! As a mother myself, you can't get better than that!