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Christmas in Montana: A Few of Our Favorite Things…

Cream-colored ponies, crisp apple strudels and sleighbells may be a few of Maria Von Trapp’s favorite things, but they are also some of ours. While the first snowflakes fly at The Ranch, and we gear up for another season of all-inclusive skiing, we’re dreaming of our homestead for the holidays. In the spirit of the season, our Ranchers have shared a few of their favorite things about Christmas in Montana.

The fire roars in Granite Lodge’s Great Room during our Country Christmas holiday celebrations
Our Montana Christmas traditions include plenty of time by the fire in the Granite Lodge’s Great Room.



1.Montana is Christmas in a Snow Globe

“I love Christmastime in Montana, because aside from all the pines being dusted with snow and all the horses starting to look like teddy bears with their winter coats, it’s the time of the year my family all comes to town. My mom has a gift of making Christmas (no matter where we are) warm and cozy. It’s my favorite time of the year!” ~ Barn Manager Hailey Laird

Draft horse team Bob and Buster will start training to pull our sleigh soon
New draft horse team Bob and Buster will start training to pull our sleigh soon. Photo by Hailey Laird

I love Christmas in Montana because it is always a truly white Christmas. Growing up I didn’t have snowy Christmases, and living here I have one every year! Montana in her best winter white really gets you in the Christmas spirit! It’s a wonderful reason to warm up by a fire and drink hot cocoa with your friends and family.” ~ Recruitment & Training Manager Cat Johnson

Feet of snow creates heart shapes on top of the fences around The Ranch
Another reason we love The Ranch’s traditional jackleg fences – they turn to hearts when it snows.

I love Christmas in Montana because this whole valley truly feels like the inside of a snow globe. The trees are dusted with snow, there is a peaceful quiet that settles over everything, and the air always smells of wood fires and crisp air.” ~ Ranch Ambassador Supervisor Katie Acheson

winter and Christmas glamping at The Ranch at Rock Creek
Christmas glamping is available in our Sweet Grass and Trapper hybrid canvas cabins.

 


2. Montana is Rockwellian at Christmastime

“Juliette’s second Christmas was the snowiest Christmas I can remember, snow piled up on the 24th and it continued to fall all day on the 25th. The whole family went for the most beautiful cross country ski in the new snow towing Juliette in the Chariot. It seems the forests are the most peaceful on Christmas because it’s such a busy holiday that folks are not venturing out.  Juliette was bundled up in probably 12 layers so she slept the entire time, but we stopped for a quick fire and hot cider & aquavit by the frozen lake.  The snow was magical and Chef’s love peaceful holidays. We cross country ski every Christmas now; it’s our favorite.” ~ Executive Chef Josh Drage

Executive Chef Drage with daughter Juliette during Christmas
Executive Chef Josh Drage and his daughter Juliette Christmas tree hunting in Montana.

Christmas in Montana feels like a Norman Rockwell Christmas to me. Between celebrating the Granite County Festival of Trees with our community in the Buckle Barn to Yule Night in town, Philipsburg and The Ranch become magical. My first Christmas here we had light snow trickling down continuously all day creating a snow-globe like feel. In town every street lamp has beautiful bows. Montana creates the perfect Christmas.” ~ Guest Services Manager Linda Walser

17 Christmas trees lit up the Buckle Barn before the Festival of Trees gala auction
The annual Granite County Festival of Trees takes place in our Buckle Barn to benefit our local healthcare services.

“There’s no shortage of trees for the taking. For a $5.00 fee to the local Ranger District office, my partner Amy (AM Lead Line Cook) and I can venture out into the National Forests that surround the Ranch to find the perfect Charlie Brown tree and haul it back home for some real Yuletide cheer. It’s our favorite Christmas-time tradition in Montana.” ~ Dining Room Manager Leigh Dollard 

A couple harvest their perfect Christmas tree in Montana’s National Forests for a $5.00 fee
Amy and Leigh carry their harvested Christmas tree back home. 

 


3. Montana is a Winter Playground

“My favorite Christmas memories growing up in Montana have been centered around family and snow. I have one special memory of my sister and I waking up at 5 AM to find Red Flyer Runner sleds and sledding from sunrise to sunset on Christmas day. We would unwrap presents and be out the door to ice fish on Moose lake or Georgetown Lake. Now that I have a family of my own and a husband that lives to ski we have a new tradition of taking the kids skiing at Discovery. ” ~ Housekeeping Manager Stephanie Boutry

Young boy skiing on The Ranch’s local ski mountain on Christmas Day
Stephanie Boutry’s 2.5 year old son skiing at Discovery Ski Area.

We always seem to get a good snowfall in the weeks leading up to Christmas and the look on my girls’ faces when they wake up excited to make snow angels and a snowman is guaranteed to put the whole family in the Christmas spirit. ” ~ General Manager Jon Martin

The Ranch’s General Manager’s yard covered in snow
The view out General Manager Jon Martin’s backdoor. Photo by Brenda Martin.

 


4. Montana is Full of Mother Nature’s Gifts

“I think my favorite thing about the winter time in Montana is the way the world around you forces you to SLOW DOWN. You can’t do anything faster than mother nature will allow.  During those shorter days you are forced to slow down in so many ways; as you drive slowly you notice the world around you, there is no hustle and bustle. You have to take coffee breaks at the shop to warm up and chat with the guys, and best of all you slow down to spend time with all the best people that decided to call this beautiful place home year round.” ~ Lead Wrangler Ariel Roselle

Wranglers drive a team of Belgian Draft horses as they pull our sleigh our winter wonderland
Sleigh rides often take place over the holiday season at The Ranch.

“I love how quiet it gets here on the creek when it snows..” ~ Activities Manager Kelsey Bruns

Photographer Martin Battilana captures a shot of winter fly fishing on Montana's Rock Creek
Our most avid anglers find winter the most peaceful time to fish Rock Creek.


5. Montana is Full of Unique Christmas Traditions

Driving my snowmobile to get groceries with the kids while the roads in Philipsburg are covered with snow is such a great memory for the kids every year.” ~ Reservations Manager Josh Erickson

boy eating snow at a hockey game
Josh Erickson’s son eats a big snowball during a hockey game at the rink in our hometown of Philipsburg, Montana.

“My favorite Christmas time in Montana is the smell…. Cutting down the tree,  the pine filling the house with joy, freshly baked bread, turkey slowly roasting in the oven, everyone bringing together their favorite dish, family getting together after a year of hard work and normal daily living to enjoy each other’s company.” ~ Assistant Housekeeping Manager Chrissy Gursky

fresh baked pastries in the Great Room are a morning tradition at The Ranch
Eating (too many) fresh baked pastries in the Great Room is one of our favorite traditions.

 



We can’t wait to welcome new guests to The Ranch this Christmas and help them create festive memories and traditions of their own. See our Christmas itinerary or view our Big Sky Love celebration over President’s Day Weekend. 

 

Sweet Life of Bees, Year Three

The Honey Flows with the First Snows

Join us as we follow our colleagues—the bees—through their third year homesteading in the Rock Creek Valley.  Read more about their first year and second year on The Ranch.  

by Kelsey Bruns, Beekeeper, Master Naturalist and Activities Manager

A jar of honey bottled on the day of our first fall snow

Keeping the Hives Alive

The end of the 2018 season was slightly anti-climactic. There were a few hive setbacks due to hive health and a less than optimal summer honey season. Knowing this, going into the winter season I had to have a different set of tactics to allow the hives to survive over the winter and have a new plan for the 2019 season.

Ranch Beekeeper Kelsey Bruns stands by her beehives after finding out they survived the cold Montana winter

While I took the hives to the Bitterroot last autumn, in the back of my mind I knew not all of them would survive. It is not unusual for an apiary to lose 30 percent of their hives over the winter. With this math I could be looking at losing two out of our five hives – not the greatest thoughts while driving my precious cargo over a mountain pass to their winter home.

Though losing hives over a winter has become more normal within the commercial industry, it is not ideal.

Like any agricultural job, beekeeping is controlled by the natural environment. Allowing Mother Nature to have control of your livelihood can be difficult to wrap your head around, but as any beekeeper would agree, they put their heart and soul into the bees.

Trials and tribulations often disappear when you are alongside the bees. For me, becoming a beekeeper has never been about making a paycheck or paying bills. Many would say, one becomes a beekeeper because of the love of it.

New Nucleus

Going into the winter season with my foreseen future of a few fatalities in our bee yard, I had to become proactive. In the spring I ordered three nucleus hives. Nucleus hives are six framed hives with bees, brood and a mated queen. These are ultimately a miniature version of our hives on property.

A moose drinks from Welcome Pond at The Ranch at Rock Creek in Montana
Photo by Beekeepr and Activites Manager Kelsey Bruns

They provide a new start for a hive or even just a boost for bee numbers to an already existing hive. Buying nucleus hives gives one hope and light to starting a season off on the right foot with strong and healthy hives. These particular nucleus hives originated from California, were driven to Washington where I purchased them, and then they took a long trip across several  state borders, before I gleefully accept them into our apiary.

Back on Track by Autumn Harvest

As with any living creature, travel can cause stresses. Unfortunately, one of the nucleus hives did not survive the trip, but the other two were able to keep our apiary on track. They helped replace two hives that did not survive the winter. Through all the organizing and work put into the hives this spring, we have five thriving hives going into our next winter which is so quickly approaching us here in Montana.

Jars of honey wait to be bottled before The Ranch's 2018 honey release

At the end of September we had our first snowstorm. It was also the day in which I bottled our 2018 honey. (We release one year after with harvest). It is light in color, and beautifully balanced in floral notes. Our limited 2018 crop was just released on October 11th during our western rendezvous during Autumn Harvest Weekend.

Jarred honey before our 2018 honey crop release

Ranch Cocktails | Making Haymakers while the Sun Shines

August is the beginning of harvest for most of our Western Montana purveyors. For the ranchers, it’s the end of a demanding haying season. The Ranch cultivates hay pastures during the summer to produce hay for the winter season.

The Ranch grows and harvests hay for our herd of longhorn cattle and horses
Photo by Robert Cole Photography

Former Barn Manager Kari Reasoner explained the importance of hay production in Granite County. “We have 74 horses and a small cattle herd. While we do produce some of our hay on property, we heavily rely on our wonderful neighbors to sell us a supply for the winter months. Small town living at its finest!”


Photo by Eric Bunting Photography


Hay is for Horses (and Cattle)

Horses on average will eat 2-2.5% of their body weight in roughage. This is strictly hay and is the basis of their diet. During the winter when our horses are not used as often, we only feed hay as a maintenance feed program, so an average 1,000 pound horse will eat 20-25 lbs. of hay each day. For our herd of 74 horses, that’s up to 675,250 lbs. of hay a year!


Photo by Eric Bunting Photography

The amounts produced are even more substantial for other hay operations in Granite County. One local ranch produces 2,500 round bales at 1,350 lbs. apiece. This results in over 3 million lbs. of hay produced in three short months. This amount is necessary for feeding large herds of cattle that eat 20 to 32 lbs. per day, with ever larger amounts for pregnant cattle to ensure good body condition and fetal health.

During the summer months when our guests are riding frequently and we are consistently working our horses, they require some additional supplement (just like athletes that are training for a game), so we created a feed program that tailors to each individual horse’s needs.


Photo by Eric Bunting Photography

We use two main types of grain, one geared toward active and young to middle-aged horses, and the other is geared towards our older horses. Through careful measurement and additional necessary supplement for a few specific horses, we do our best to keep their systems healthy and prolong their lives at the ranch as much as possible.


Photo by Eric Bunting Photography

Guests learn about horse health during special programming, such as Horsemanship 101 and Behind the Chutes.


Haymakers are for Humans

Meanwhile our culinary team produces ever-changing seasonal menus and artisan cocktails using local ingredients. Right now, our bartending team is preparing for our second annual Whiskey & Water Weekend next week – celebrating the water of life in our trout streams and in our snifters.

A fly fisherman walks home after spending a fall day on Rock Creek

To honor the height of haying season, they are producing a special switchel-inspired Haymaker’s Punch cocktail or mocktail. Thanks to bartender Lindsey for putting her magic touch on this recipe and sharing it with our community!

Homestead Haymaker’s Punch

“Haymaker’s Punch” or switchel was common in colonial America, where it was used to quench hay harvesters’ thirst during the hot, long hours in the fields. It’s generally made with water, apple cider vinegar, molasses and ginger. We regularly make switchel for our Granite Spa patrons. Bartender Lindsey pivoted from the classic Haymaker cocktail recipe and put her five-star touch on the traditional hydration punch recipe, which can be served with or without local whiskey.

Ingredients:
2 tsp. apple cider vinegar
3 tbsp. fresh ginger simple syrup (see below)
1.5 oz. Glacier Distilling Wheatfish single-malt whiskey
1.5 cups water
1/2 fresh lemon juiced

Method:
1. Make a ginger simple syrup.

Bring 3/4 cup of peeled fresh ginger, 1 cup of sugar, and 1 cup of water to a simmer in a small heavy saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring until sugar has dissolved, then gently simmer, uncovered, 30 minutes. Strain through a sieve, and then cool. Store for other uses in addition to the punch.

2. Add apple cider vinegar, ginger simple syrup, water and fresh lemon into a mixer. Shake well.

3. Strain into a Collins glass with ice.

4. Add whiskey. Stir. Garnish with a lemon round.


Photo by Eric Bunting Photography

Enjoy!



View our other cocktail recipes:

Grand Opening: The Nest at Rock Creek!

Family Ties

This Father’s Day we’re celebrating the Ranch dads that have chosen to live, work and raise their kids in the wide open spaces of Granite County. Families are an essential part of the genuine homestead hospitality that makes our property a home away from home for so many people.


Outside play is a big part of the Ranch experience for guests and staff children alike. Photo by Danielle Boutte Photography.

Ranching in rural Montana is by and large a family endeavor and Owner Jim Manley continued that idea, starting The Ranch at Rock Creek as his family retreat.

Hiring and Recruitment Manager Cat Johnson explained, “In an employee’s offer letter we welcome them to the “ranch family.” There are so many people here who are connected: husbands and wives, mothers and daughters, sisters-in-law, fathers and sons. All across The Ranch and the departments, there are family ties. So it genuinely is a ranch family.”

Living in a secluded location means that our Ranch families trade urban convenience for extraordinary beauty. In an attempt to improve access to childcare and career opportunities for our staff, Just one month ago we opened on-site childcare, dubbed The Nest at Rock Creek.

Hatching a Plan

General Manager Jon Martin and his wife Brenda came to Philipsburg in early 2018.  It also meant that due to the lack of childcare options in a town of just 900 people, that Brenda would stay home with the kids after 20 years of working in the hospitality industry as a spa director.

Moving from Southern California was a culture shock, but it was a net positive change for their family.

Brenda said, “People ask me, ‘Why do you love it here?’ My kids get to grow up in these wide-open spaces. They get to see animals that lots of kids have never seen. They go to a forest preschool in town. It can be hard to transition to a place where everyone knows everyone else, but I know that this is the kind of town where if my kids step off the sidewalk, 10 people are going to grab her. People don’t look past you.”

General Manager Jon Martin and his family with wrangler Jamie
The Martin family after a Tuesday summer rodeo. 

Staying at home was a change the Martin family was able to make, but they soon saw that other employee families and single-parent households needed more childcare options to maintain their careers and provide for their families.

The Nest at Rock Creek

The Nest is designed in the spirit of our Little Grizzlies Kids Club, but tailored for kids aged eight weeks to five years old. (During the summer break, it will welcome kids up to 12 year of age). Play in nature is an essential part of every day, except in extreme weather conditions.


Nest children found an actual nest in the first few weeks of opening The Nest at Rock Creek.

In addition to time in nature, the curriculum is designed to be well-rounded, preparing them for school. The tenants of the curriculum also include art, fine motor skills, gross motor skills, science and sensory play, math and dramatic play.

Infants have their own rooms and each infant has a dedicated teacher, so that diaper changing and feeding schedules are never confused.

Ranch employees pay $25 per day for the first child and $15 per day for the second, which covers a portion of the expense for this program. The remainder is covered by The Ranch as a benefit to employees. Included in the price is breakfast, lunch and a morning and afternoon snack — all made by our Relais & Châteaux kitchen.

Full-fledged Benefit

Behind the scenes, The Nest was built to cater to the idiosyncrasies of the hospitality industry. Instead of strict monthly schedules and pre-payments that many daycares require, we’ve chosen to remain as flexible as our employees need to be. Parents don’t need to commit to a schedule, because hospitality schedules change week to week. Parents can also cancel by 9AM on the day their child is scheduled to be in The Nest. This means if parents are called off their shift, they can cancel without being charged for the day.


A Nest participant practices weighing and measuring food during a “Farmer’s Market” activity.

The Nest is open during holidays, when most of our staff is on-hand to execute special events.

Nursing mothers are welcome to come to breastfeed in The Nest in a dedicated space during their break or lunchtime, and parents are welcome to visit during their break times. Before Father’s Day, Ranch dads were asked to come talk to the kids about what they do.

Jon and Brenda recognized that if their previous employers had offered on-site childcare, they would have been more likely to continue their careers at those hotels. Though we all make sacrifices to live in this pristine beauty, choosing between a career and high-quality childcare was not one Jon wanted his employees to make.

General Manager Jon Martin says, “Not only do we take care of the families that come here to visit, but we need to take care of the families that work here.”

Women account for 51% of our staff. Access to affordable childcare will aid female staff in developing their careers and combat gender wage gaps caused by time out of the workplace. Marketing Specialist Tricia Erickson is one of the Ranch employees using this new benefit.

She says, “Rural Montana is exactly where my husband Josh, the revenue manager, and I want to raise my children, but being in a remote location has challenges like finding available childcare. I am incredibly grateful for The Ranch’s leadership seeing the value of investing in quality childcare. My two kids now get to ride to work with mom and dad and learn about animals, take nature walks and play with their best friends. As a working mom of young children, I am relieved that my life has much more balance now. I can still do the job that I love while knowing my kids are getting world-class care within walking distance from my office.”


A Father’s Day project at The Nest.

Happy Father’s Day from The Ranch!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sustaining Five-Stars & the Future by Eliminating Single-Use Plastics

As we approach 10 years as a property, sustainability is on our minds. We occupy a remote corner of the world, and keeping consistently high standards in the sticks, so to speak, is a challenge. This is why we’re especially pleased that we’ve earned the Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star award for the sixth consecutive year! 

A rainbow arches over the Rock Creek valley, home to The Ranch at Rock Creek

Sustaining our Forbes Travel Guide Five Stars

We’re in such exceptional company with other Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star winners like The Broadmoor who has sustained their Five-Star designation for 59 years.

“We’re honored to be recognized once again with the prestigious Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star award. The team at The Ranch at Rock Creek sets out each day to ensure our guests are treated to memorable, luxury experiences. We are so glad to be affiliated with Forbes Travel Guide which shares our passion for genuine luxury hospitality.

Being out here where we are, there’s a certain responsibility and it just feels wrong having plastic out here. We’re at the headwaters of Rock Creek. Being at the headwaters, I think there’s a mental but real responsibility that anything we do, it affects everyone who’s downstream of us.”

~ General Manager Jon Martin, Quote from interview with the Missoula Current

Sustaining Our Environment

Every year that we’ve garnered this incredible award, we’ve taken a moment on the blog to look back at one of the things that is a cornerstone of who we are and how our incredible staff goes above and beyond to maintain this high quality of service. This year, we are looking toward the future and how we can sustain our FTG stars and our natural environment in the long term.

A springtime scene in the Rock Creek Valley with green grass, mountains and stormy skies

It’s no secret that we value our environment. We employ Master Naturalists, we keep bees and Chef Drage is committed to an always farm-to-table dining experience. Since we joined the National Geographic Unique Lodges of the World (as the only US charter member) in 2015, we’ve created new sustainability initiatives every year, like river clean-ups, reducing plastic waste and supporting local vendors in the Mercantile.

Now, we are doubling down on sustainability. In 2019, we will eliminate single-use plastics.

Eliminating Single-Use Plastics

Eliminating single-use plastics isn’t a decision we made lightly. It presents an operational challenge to our organization and to our employees. It is difficult, but worthwhile.

“We approach our interactions with guests with a “do whatever it takes” attitude. That same mindset is required for responsible stewardship of our ranch lands. Sustainability efforts require a tremendous investment in both time and money. But everyone at The Ranch, from owner to seasonal worker, understands that the time we take with eco-conscious best practices now is an investment in the resilience of our 6,600 acres that will benefit both us and future generations.” ~ Director of Operations Justin Robbins

One of the things we love about our home state, Montana, is that it’s a little behind the times. Most of the time, this means that once we arrive home – 75 minutes from the nearest city – there is no light pollution to obscure the stars. Asking our guests to walk or ride bikes on property means there isn’t significant traffic or petroleum fumes. However, this low population density also means our state lacks a recycling industry and there are some things we just can’t buy from local vendors.

Last year, our county (like many counties across the country), responding to China’s change in recycling imports by cutting out plastic recycling. There are only a few metals that can be recycled in Granite County. While we’ve continued to recycle what we could, it was obvious that a change had to come from within in order to be sustainable to our environment and keep plastics out of landfills and our beloved Rock Creek.


Our 2019 Earth Day Initiatives

By Earth Day, we have introduced the following major initiatives, in addition to a number of smaller initiatives, in order to eliminate single-use plastics.

1. Eliminating Single-Use Plastic Bottles

Our Rod & Gun Club has been committed to providing refillable options for several years, in the form of Kleen Kanteens, but eliminating water bottles completely requires a more robust plan to ensure we are maintaining accessibility to water throughout a guests’ stay. We are at the top of the Rock Creek watershed, which means that our property receives pure, clean, mineral-rich water! We’re calling on this wonderful natural resource to provide our guests with the clean, cool water they need. In order to ensure its quality, we work with WGM Group in Missoula to ensure that all mineral and chemical levels are safe in our water with monthly tests across our property.

In addition to Kleen Kanteens for activity use, guests will receive two refillable Stanley thermoses that they can bring home or leave here. (We also rewarded our Ranch employees who helped us earn our Five-Stars with a thermos this spring). We have filling stations in our Ranch hubs, like the Granite Lodge, Buckle Barn, Blue Canteen, Buckle Barn and Rod & Gun Club.

Guests at The Ranch at Rock Creek receive a Stanley Thermos to use during their stay and take home to eliminate single-use plastics

Accommodations are stocked with sanitized glass bottles that have been filled with pure Ranch water and sealed with a 100% cellulose seal. A sparkling filling station in our kitchen will allows us to replace bottles of pre-packaged sparkling water throughout The Ranch. Guests who want a more traditionally sealed bottle of water to take with them on adventures will also have access to refillable aluminum water bottles provided by Montana Silver Springs, a Philipsburg-based company.

Co-owner of Philipsburg Brewing Company, Nolan Smith, also purchased Granite Water Works, a bottling plant with access to a freshwater springs, that they could use in their beer, but which they could also use to bottle water. This year, they launched Montana Silver Springs, one of only two companies using Alumi-tek bottles to bottle water in the United States.

“Montana has a really hard time recycling plastic. 10% of our plastic is recycled. 90% of our aluminum is recycled. If you put one of these aluminum bottles in our recycling chain, within 40 days it could be a bottle again.” ~ Nolan Smith.

These practices will reduce our plastic consumption, but also ensure that guests’ hiking, horseback riding, skiing or fly fishing adventures are happy and healthy – with plenty of water to make up for lost sweat.

2. Eliminating Single-Use Toiletry Bottles

Like most hotels, we’ve used single use amenity bottles in our accommodations, replacing them with each guest. Now, we will be using glass etched and reusable plastic, specially chosen to remain sanitary for guests.

We’ve always wanted our toiletries to evoke Montana’s intoxicating aromas in accommodations and bathrooms. Our signature scents include mountain juniper and mountain sage, two plants that are part of the experience of The Ranch, whether you are horseback riding through sagebrush flats, or trekking through juniper bushes on our 3-D archery course.

Our exclusive skin care line was developed by Body Bliss, a Sedona, Arizona-based line. Body Bliss uses no artificial fragrances and their products contain no paraben preservatives, no mineral oils, no harsh laureth and lauryl sulfate cleansers, no phthalates and no formaldehyde donors. They rely on the finest natural and sustainable botanical raw materials to ensure a therapeutic benefit. 

3. Eliminating Small Plastic Items.

Plastic straws are among the top 10 debris items in our oceans, and 90% of all trash floating in the ocean’s is comprised of plastic. Around 44% of all seabirds and mammals have ingested plastic.

For over a year, plastic straws have only been available upon request, but before Earth Day, we replaced them with hay straws, which are made from wheat. Hay Straws are natural, compostable, gluten-free, and do not get soggy in hot or cold drinks! They will be available in dining locations if guests re- quest a straw.

Ranch at Rock Creek guests enjoy cowboy coffee cooked over a Montana campfire

We are also moving away from pre-packaged coffee and creamer in our accommodations. Glass bottles will contain fresh cream, milk or other guest requests. Not only will this be better for the environment, but our guests will enjoy a better quality of coffee during their stay since we will rely more on our vendors like Black Coffee Roasting Company out of Missoula, Montana.

Sometimes the devil is in the details. We’ve had to reach outside our states boundaries to source the smaller single-use plastic items in our organization. We have a team devoted to finding other single-use plastics and replacing them with alternatives. Their dedication and hard work over the past few months has turned our New Year’s resolution to a reality.

Protecting our Treasure State

As we celebrate eliminating single-use plastics this Earth Day, we look forward to establishing new partnerships and new goals that keep Montana’s future in mind.

Rivers and streams cover more than 169,829 miles in the state of Montana, of which 388 miles are designated as Wild & Scenic rivers (rivers with outstanding natural, cultural & recreational values). Rock Creek River holds the Blue Ribbon River designation which is only given to waterways with excellent water quality & quantity, great water accessibility, natural reproduction capacity for fish species, good angling pressure, and specific species of fish occurring naturally. The Ranch at Rock Creek has private access to 4 pristine miles of Rock Creek!

Travelers enjoy four miles of private access to Rock Creek during a fly fishing vacation

We believe commitment to our guests and our environment goes hand in hand. Thanks to all our guests and our community who’ve given us the opportunity to do what we do for almost 10 years.

It’s time to reduce our impact on our natural world, in gratitude for the incredible, inspiring impact it has on us.



Read about our past Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star Awards:

World’s First Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star Ranch

Glamping Under the Five Stars

Lasso the Stars: Inclusivity, Culture & Wild Luxury

Celebrating Five-Years as a Family-Friendly Forbes Five-Star

Big Sky Love

We love having a hand in life-changing moments – whether it’s riding a horse for the first time or saying, “I do” surrounded by falling aspen leaves. This past holiday season, we had a chance to welcome two incredible people to our banks and get to know them during an important time in their relationship. Katie and Erik were kind enough to share their story with us and our community. We are honored to be a part of their very special “cowboy Christmas.” 


A Match Made in Miami

We met about a year ago. It was Christmas 2017 and we attended a mutual friend’s wedding in Miami. Erik is a Miami born and raised man and I’m an NYC girl. We met and danced the night away. While we both were there to celebrate the love of a friend, we had no idea what an impact that night would have on our lives…

Though we sent a few messages after the wedding and discussed a possible meeting in the spring, as often happens, our lives got busy over the holidays. It wasn’t until two months later that Erik reached out to me. It was a simple text about an amazing grilled cheese sandwich he’d just had.  He remembered I love grilled cheese sandwiches and he thought of me and wanted to say, “Hi.”


A grilled cheese in the Granite Lodge. We always knew that cheese had the power to bring people closer together!

That simple message sparked everything to proceed. We couldn’t talk enough, and I never wanted our conversations to end. Over the phone, we solidified our love for each other. Though we’d only shared a few dances in a room full of people, we took the time to get to know, understand and love each other. It was like being “pen pals,” an old school term, but very powerful in today’s modern world. It’s amazing to have the chance to get to know someone from afar.


A Long Distance Love Story

After a few conversation about seeing each other, I just knew I couldn’t wait to see him and booked a trip to Miami in March. From that trip on, we had to be together. Though long distance is hard, we didn’t care. We were going to make it work.

We promised to be very present in each other’s lives even from a far. We also agreed to see each other about every two weeks and we did. There wasn’t anything that could stop us. I’m not sure either of us believed in the adage, “once you know, you know,” but we were both so sure this was IT.

Fast forward – In September, I moved to Miami. The first challenge was blending our fur baby family. I had one dog and he had three dogs and a cat. We ended up getting a new puppy together, as well. All of a sudden we became a family of 8! There were definitely times of adjustment, but nothing we couldn’t conquer with love. 

We decided pretty early on in the relationship that we wanted to have a Cowboy Christmas, and that’s where The Ranch comes into play. We researched A LOT of places and this one seemed the best and something we had to do. Needless to say, we were beyond impressed and in love with The Ranch at Rock Creek. Little did I know how much The Ranch would become a part of our love story.


A Mile-High Milestone

It was our fourth day there and we went on our second horseback ride of the week. Chelsea took us out again and all seemed ‘typical’ until we walked up to a very romantic setting on the creek. It was a fire pit, wooden benches, blankets, flowers and champagne. Chelsea sold it to us as a new romance package they were testing out. (Those who know me know I’m so gullible.)

I started to take video/photos of the beautiful set up and as I turned around, my life forever changed. He was telling me how much I meant to him and how much he loved me as he was bending down on one knee. I kind of froze in excitement and said, “YES!” The easiest ‘yes’ I’ve ever said in my life.

We enjoyed the champagne and went back to the Granite Lodge to celebrate. The staff had turned the Great Room into a beautiful setting for two where we could enjoy our engagement and each other.  The rest of the night was a wonderful blur. Wine/bourbon tasting, chef’s tasting menu, bowling, and we were able to share our joy with some of our favorite staff. 

We will forever and always love The Ranch at Rock Creek. It’s was the perfect place to begin our engagement and we couldn’t be happier with where life has taken us. Onto the next adventure! We just closed on our first house and I started a new job. So many things are ahead of us and we are beyond excited. One thing we know is that we will be back and can’t wait to visit our spot on the creek.

Much love-
Katie and Erik 



See how we plan weddings, elopements and other milestones in our unique setting and with Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star service. Get inspired for Valentine’s Day with a sample romantic itinerary.

Top Rancher Captures of 2018

If you already follow The Ranch on Instagram, you may already know that every Thursday a Rancher takes the helm of our account to tell their story. Ranch Life Takeovers are an opportunity to hear from people who are the heart and soul of The Ranch. Instagram was created for smart phones—to help us all channel creativity as we document our day-to-day life. Though we like a little #tbt during our takeovers, our Ranch Instagram is a snapshot of what’s going on from moment to moment at one of the most luxurious hotels in the world. Here are some of the most-loved Rancher photos of 2018.

Click on the photo to see the full-sized photo or watch the video.


1. Moose Family at Bluebird Cabin
by Christopher Peden @christopher_peden10

https://www.instagram.com/p/Bo6sSWSnzs-/

In fall of 2018, we almost started calling it our “moostagram” account because we were able to share images of these imposing and fascinating creatures almost every week. Driver Christopher Peden caught this “family” between Bluebird Cabin and our Historic Barn. While mother and calf looked for food, a young bull was hoping for a little fall romance. Swipe to view more images of this group of ungulates.


2. The First Snow
by Yoga Instructor Leigh Dollard @leigh_yoginandi & Marketing Specialist Tricia Erickson

https://www.instagram.com/p/BoIbgP6Hs2-/

Our Ranchers were out in force as the first snowflakes made their way into the Rock Creek Valley. Though it was September 24th, our first snow had actually come almost two weeks earlier in 2017. They melted quickly, but everyone was very excited that winter was coming.


3. Please Never Leave, Autumn
by Master Naturalist & Lead Little Grizzlies Coordinator Kelsey Bruns @kmadelynbruns

https://www.instagram.com/p/BpPoOsnHagh/

Despite the winter excitement, almost a month later, we were sad to see fall on it’s way out. These cottonwoods near Anaconda made our Master Naturalist Kelsey Bruns plead with fall to stay a little longer. The whole world turns golden and its hard to come in for the night. Read more…

Destination Archery: Lead Guide Quinn Wilson & Our ‘Sleeper Hit’ Sport

Behind-the-Scenes with Lead Archery Guide Quinn Wilson

One could say Quinn Wilson’s passion is archery, but that would be an understatement.


Quinn Wilson instructing on a course he designed.

Quinn’s first experience with a bow and arrow during Boy Scouts has blossomed into a career. Like many of our employees and most of our guests, he traveled the world before landing at The Ranch.

A Historic Past

Quinn first sought a degree in pre-modern history. One of his first jobs our of school was as an experimental archeologist. The practical application of his job was rebuilding artifacts, and using them to see how they work. He would rebuild bows and arrows to the specifications of historical methods. This fascinating glimpse into history also reignited his love of archery.


Quinn has shot a bow in USA, Egypt, UAE, Greece, Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Austria, Germany, Iceland, Canada, Ecuador and Columbia.

While some people count the countries they’ve visited, Quinn counts the countries where he’s put his archery talents to good use. After two years working as a retail archery technician in downtown Seattle, he took a year abroad to practice his favorite sport around the world. He is proud to have shot a bow in 13 countries worldwide – a number that will no doubt grow throughout his life.

Through travel, Quinn has been introduced to new cultures and new forms of archery. Each culture with a history of bow sports, lays claim to their own unique traditions. His experiences led him throughout Europe as an archery tournament organizer, mounted (horseback) archery student, archery instructor, 3D course designer, and a traditional bow maker.

Mustang Trainer Ryon practices mounted archery on Noble1. Wrangling is a non-traditional hospitality career.
Quinn has been instructing our Mustang Trainer Ryon Mendoza in mounted archery. Photo by Quinn Wilson. Read more…

A Bounty of Thanks

Thanksgiving is a busy time in the hospitality world. When most people clock off for the long weekend, we ramp up festivities with the families who’ve chosen to celebrate here. It’s an honor to be a home away from home for guests on a day that means so much to so many. We understand why; it’s a holiday that indulges in kin, community and gratitude, as well as incredible food.

Our General Manager Jon Martin shared what he’s grateful for this year, and we think it’s a list that ought to be shared with our wider community. Thank you all for being a part of our extended Ranch family – for sharing your stories, for your kindred appreciation of horses and wildlife, for showing a little love and generally for just being social with us, a group of people tucked into a remote corner of Montana who share a passion for adventure, ranch culture and hospitality. We hope you enjoy Jon’s words and, most of all, we hope you have an incredible Thanksgiving.


Thanksgiving is a day of enjoying a great meal with family and friends while reflecting on the things in our lives we are grateful for. For me this is an easy list to fill.  I am thankful for the opportunity to lead such an amazing property in one of the most beautiful areas in the world. 


Photo by Caleb Jordan Lee.

I am thankful for our owner Jim Manley who had the passion to embrace, enhance and share the magic of this late 19th century ranch

A Ranch wrangler drives a historic Wells Fargo stagecoach during Thanksgiving travel dates

I am thankful for the thousands of times I’ve gotten to watch my two daughters see a new animal, watch a rodeo, ride a horse and experience something for the first time. 


Jon’s daughters Blayne and Jules living at The Ranch.

I am thankful for my wife Brenda who believed me when I told her living 90 miles from the closest Starbucks was worth it. 


Jon Martin with wife Brenda, daughters Blayne and Jules, along with Wrangler Jamie Wines.

I am thankful for every conversation I’ve had with our guests this year who couldn’t stop sharing their experiences with me and raving about the employees who made it even better. 

Three riders gallop through the hills of Southwestern Montana during a trail ride at The Ranch at Rock Creek

I am thankful for the amazing community of Philipsburg and Granite County, whose residents are integral to our success. Go Titans!! 

A sunset view of Historic Philipsburg's Broadway Street by Michael Chilcoat
A sunset view of Historic Philipsburg’s Broadway Street by Michael Chilcoat.

I am thankful for the local purveyors who provide us with quality produce, meat and dairy products to deliver excellent cuisine to our guests.

Cast iron seared ribeye steaks from local purveyor Yellowstone grass-fed beef  

Last but not least I am thankful for the amazing team here who not only take such great care of our guests but have taught me how to fly fish, ride a horse, brand a calf, shoot a shotgun and rope a steer among many other things.


The 2018 Ranch rodeo team.

Most of them will be away from families working today to help ensure our guests have a memorable time with theirs. In every sense of the word, thank you, Ranchers!

~General Manager Jon Martin

Adventure in Hospitality

Ranch Life Behind-The-Scenes

A job at The Ranch at Rock Creek is not your average 9-to-5 job. In fact, it’s far from the average hospitality job. Last year, we wrote about the unique careers we offer, but this year we want to highlight the exceptional people in those positions who earn us the rave reviews on TripAdvisor.

Each person who works here – from local residents to college students on summer break to exchange workers from foreign countries  – has an adventurous spirit. Most hiring managers at the most luxurious hotels in the world probably don’t include this in their job prerequisites. (Thanks to Forbes Travel Guide for their inclusion in the Forbes Verified List!)

A Rancher tests his skills on our high ropes course.

An adventurous spirit is the common thread that brings our employees to The Ranch, and it’s also what makes them stay or return. These Ranchers thrive both professionally and personally in a place where they can gain experience meeting Forbes Travel Guide and Relais & Châteaux standards and where they can also step out their front door and absorb the bliss of wild Montana.


1.    Brianna Stroebe – Little Grizzlies Guide

Though we hire staff from all over the country and world, our native Montanans convey a sense of pride about their home state. Brianna Stroebe is a ray of Big Sky sunshine – an imperative trait for someone who guides for our Little Grizzlies Kids Club. Brianna enjoys her summers working in the hospitality industry, but this experience is preparing her for a career in secondary education. While she spends the school year studying in Montana, she plans to return next summer to continue working as a guide for our youngest of guests.


Brianna Stroebe hiking in the mountains near Philipsburg.

Much of her family lives in our hometown of Philipsburg, so every season she returns allows her to come  back home and do something she loves. A summer at The Ranch gives her the chance to catch up with friends at the local coffee shop and work toward her ultimate goal of teaching future adventurers.

Brianna says the best part of her job is “being able to cultivate and witness an ‘a-ha’ moment.”

We may not have big city lights, but we do have access to incredible wonders. Many kids have never seen a moose, played in a mountain-fed creek or skipped stones on a pond. She loves to share her home with children from all over the world.

2.     Ryon Mendoza – Wrangler

For some, The Ranch is a place to follow their passion. Ryon Mendoza knew early on that his work would be with horses. He pursued an associate’s degree in farrier science and wilderness horsemanship, which set him on a path to global adventure. First he was a pack horse guide in Alaska for five months. Then, he worked briefly as a wrangler at an Arizona dude ranch, before learning to train horses in Brazil and Costa Rica.


Ryon Mendoza training the mustang Noble1 to do mounted archery. Photo Courtesy of Ranch Archery Guide & Photographer Quinn Wilson.

At The Ranch, Ryon is a horse wrangler , but he’s also developing a new program for the barn, called Mission Mustang. Read more about his mission on our Autumn Harvest highlights blog. What he enjoys most about his job here is the ability to explore and pursue your passions. We’re delighted when staff take the reins on new guest programming and sustainability initiatives. Growth is something that is important to Ryon. It may be one of the reasons why he is so excellent with the mustang.

“One must have the ability to transform with the horse. You ask them to change their lives, you must be willing to do the same.”

Read more…