KMSB "Fox-11 Forum," Sunday, 6/12/11, 7:30 AM

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By Bryce Potter By Bryce Potter

Host Bob Lee interviews Russell True, owner of Tucson’s White Stallion Dude Ranch, and a member of the AZ Dude Ranch Association, which was formed to help introduce to the public guest ranches that meet specific high standards. 

True says all Association members are committed to preserving the tradition of Western hospitality. He says the ranches range from the more traditional smaller, remote ranches, where horseback riding and ranching are the primary focus, to larger resort-style guest ranches, with all the amenities.  He says one thing they must have in common is they  must be horse oriented.  He says horses must be available to accommodate wranglers and guests who choose to ride, and western riding instruction must be available.  

True says while dude ranches in Arizona once numbered over 200 in the 1950’s and 60’s, their numbers have dwindled to a handful in recent years due to urban development and changing interests in our culture.  He says dude ranch operators have adapted to include activities and amenities to appeal to a wider audience.  He says WiFi is available on most ranches, but not in the guest rooms. To help visitors kick their technology habits, he says many ranches offer riding instruction for those new to horseback riding, swimming pools and hot tubs, kid’s programs, and hiking, and fishing.  

True says following the October 2008 economic crash many ranches dropped minimum stays from 6 nights to 4 nights and even 3 nights when it worked.  He says for most ranches, business in 2009 was off 15-40% compared to 20-25% the prior year.  He says that for the most part mirrored the 08/09 season.  He says ranches say this year is similar to 09/10.  He says the traditional core business of ranches was families but now it’s mostly singles and couples. He says
European visitors are still pretty much at the same levels as always.   He says it’s hard to predict if things will return to before crash status or if the dude ranch business will be permanently different.