☰ Menu

Category: Careers

Gratitude and Respite | A Ranch-Wide Recharge

Unplugging During an Unprecedented Year in Travel

By Jon Martin, General Manager at The Ranch at Rock Creek

Thanksgiving is not a day of rest in the hospitality industry. This is when we work harder; it’s when we shine. This year we’re hoping to shine a little brighter because just a little over a week ago, our staff took a four-day vacation, including a blackout of all electronic communications. (Don’t worry, the herds were still fed and the pipes didn’t freeze, and we are grateful for the staff that ensured that).

Ranchers take a trip to the Washington Coast. Photo by Allison Beggs

The Spark

The blackout was like a long, deep breath of fresh air after one of the most challenging years in hospitality. Some might wonder if that is an exaggeration after 2020, and we can understand why. Closing during lock-down and reopening was challenging to be sure. But we slowed our pace, focused on the physical health of our patrons above all else in the face of a new hazard.

In early 2021, after our we became Sharecare Health Security Verified with Forbes Travel Guide and knew we could successfully operate with our safety measures. Our confidence was met by the confidence of travelers. We welcomed many new and return guests that were craving the kind of respite we can offer in our pristine wide-open spaces in Western Montana.

General Manager Jon Martin with wife Brenda on a trip to Denver during the blackout.

We heard time and again that people appreciated being able to travel here and disconnect. Meanwhile, the experiences we had with our travelers were deeper and more meaningful for us as well. People seemed to soak up the beauty of nature; the one-on-one-time spent by our guides and servers; the meticulousness of our housekeeping team; and the creativity of our chefs on a new level, and that helped us feel like a very valued part of our industry.

During this extraordinary time, precautions required us to double our efforts to protect our staff and guests. Working harder, covering shifts when people were exposed to Covid, and other knock-on effects of the pandemic required more from our staff. We could not be more grateful and impressed by how our staff executed their jobs, including receiving our eighth Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star award.

The Plan

Despite challenges, our entire team here at The Ranch at Rock Creek, ensured our success. They collectively worked harder than ever to maintain the reputation we have built for 11 years as a premier luxury guest ranch and provided each guest with a heartfelt, memorable experience. As we all know, our success as hospitality professionals is reliant on our ability to empathize with and put our guests’ enjoyment at the forefront of our minds. In order for our team to stay energized for the remainder of the year, I realized they would be well-served by some time off.

Reservations & Revenue Manager and Marketing Manager Josh and Tricia Erickson in Oregon.

We have often taken a short planning break before or after Thanksgiving in preparation of the holiday season. However, I felt a true blackout closure, which not only required everyone to be physically off, but I also forbade anyone from sending emails or having work related calls between employees (with emergencies being the only exception,) would provide more value to our employees. In today’s world even the dinging of our phones on our days off can weigh on our heads – as the perfectionists we all are.

The Adventure

Our staff was not just asked to stay off electronic communication, they were also asked to do something that they are passionate about or wanted to do and haven’t had a chance. For our Reservations and Revenue Manager and Marketing Manager (husband and wife) Josh and Tricia Erickson, this meant taking a long-overdue trip together.

“This 4-day opportunity to disconnect completely from our work allowed my wife and I the time to go explore the Oregon Coast together. This is something we had wanted to do for five years, and we were finally able to do it because of this. We came back more focused and energized and loved the chance to enjoy the part of the world we call home.” ~ Josh Erickson

Ranchers take a trip to Idaho. Photo by Blaine Perez

The 900 Forbes Travel Guide service standards require us to be interconnected in all we do. While the closure removed some of the workplace communication, many deepened their connections with each other on a personal level by adventuring in the West.

“This blackout was a blessing in disguise. I’ve made great friends I know I’ll still be in contact with after our time here is over together. A group of us went to Idaho. It was so much fun, just a great group of people, all with the same mind set of just enjoying life!~ Line Cook Blaine Perez

It is heartening to see our employees from the past 10 years at each other’s weddings, taking vacations, visiting each other across the world and still sharing photos of their time as Ranchers. There are few employees that work here who have not made a lifelong friend.

“With everyone having different work schedules at The Ranch, it can sometimes be difficult to find time to do things together. The blackout allowed us the opportunity to go on trips together and without having to worry about things going on at work in our absence. One of the reasons I came to The Ranch was to be able to explore new places, and during the blackout I was able to visit Washington for the first time with friends that I have made at The Ranch.” ~ Marketing Coordinator Allison Beggs

The Reflection

This time gave me a chance to reflect on what I learned as General Manager in 2020 and 2021. It made me think of the incredible difference it makes to be able to choose four consecutive days to close based on our mental health, rather than close for our safety during a lockdown in a pandemic. The importance of mental health in the service and hospitality industries is often overlooked. Since August 2020, a few months after reopening, we have provided free therapy sessions with a local therapist to those employees who wanted the option. While I realize that these measures are first steps to solving a much larger issue, this year has also served to reaffirm my staunch belief that our employees are our most valuable asset and we will continue to invest in them.

Staff members on the Washington coast. Photo by Allison Beggs

Thank you to our return and future guests for responding to those emails and messages about our blackout with kindness and patience. Thank you for allowing our team to have those four days to rest and recharge. Our staff fished, traveled, hiked, spent time with loved ones, cracked open books and binged watched TV shows. This team that gives their all so that guests can leave their cares behind, got to savor the same feeling together.

We are recharged, reinvigorated and ready to deliver an amazing holiday season to each and every one of our guests who chose The Ranch at Rock Creek. Thank you to all our guests who put their trust in us. If you’re not here with us this weekend, we hope you have a recuperative rest over the long weekend and give yourself a chance to disconnect, like we did.


Category: Careers

The Staff at Rock Creek: 2019 Employees of the Year

If you’ve been to The Ranch, seen our TripAdvisor reviews or even wandered onto our Instagram profile, you’ll know, our staff is what gives us our Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star shine.

According to General Manager Jon Martin, “Not a day goes by that I don’t hear from our guests that the people are what make this place spectacular. Even in an incredible setting, the staff is always what makes our guests return.”

At our Ranch Christmas party this week, the votes were counted and our employees of the year were announced. Though every staff member at The Ranch works in concert to exceed our guests’ expectations, Jon took a moment to explain the invaluable contributions made by this year’s award winners.

Ellie, Cat and Chuck, The Ranch at Rock Creek's Employees of the Year, stand with General Manager Jon Martin
Left to Right: Ellie Walsh, General Manager Jon Martin, Cat Johnson and Chuck Gursky. Read more…

Category: Careers

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…

Category: Careers

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 – Flint’s Forest Rangers 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 Flint’s Forest Rangers 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…

Category: Careers

5 Unique Jobs at Montana’s Own Forbes Travel Guide 5-Star Ranch

Working at the world’s first Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star guest ranch requires a special type of person. Our jobs require people who are highly social, working with The Ranch team and guests day-after-day, and thriving in a secluded outdoor environment.

The Ranch at Rock Creek lies just off a dirt road 75 miles from the nearest city. The people who make our ranch thrive are mountain souls and adventurers who value living beyond the hustle and bustle of city life. At the same time, they are professionals with the capacity to meet hundreds of Forbes Travel Guide standards (we’re judged on 800) on a daily basis.

Executive Chef Josh Drage and Executive Sous Chef Ben Miller bike back to the Granite Lodge with fresh herbs from their garden
Executive Chef Josh Drage and Executive Sous Chef Ben Miller ride from the herb garden to the kitchen.

Unconventional Jobs For Adventurous Souls

Even the more well-known hospitality jobs that we fill, such as Housekeeping Manager, Bellman or Front Desk Agent, aren’t run-of-the-mill. The environment and experiential nature of The Ranch means that jobs are anything but ordinary — just ask the Front Desk Agent who had to keep tabs on a mother moose and baby when they settled down for a morning snack in front of the Granite Lodge this fall.

The people who love, live and work at The Ranch are unique, but the careers and seasonal jobs we offer also follow suit. We are featuring some of those jobs that may sound unconventional, but are essential in keeping our 6,600 acres working as an experiential travel destination and working cattle ranch. Read more…

Category: Careers

Montana Moments: Photo Essay by Server & Photographer Willie MacDade

As the seasons change and the holidays approach, we are reminded that a photograph of the exact same spot in the summer looks entirely different in the spring, fall and winter. But, things don’t only change season to season; they change moment to moment. The serenity of a flowing stream may be interrupted by an eagle swooping down to catch a fish, or a cow and calf moose might decide they want to try glamping (Watch a recent guest’s video of a moose sighting).

Four seasons on Rock Creek, Four Montana Moments
Four Seasons on Rock Creek. Fall Photo by IG user @mpbroderick; Winter Photo by The Spa at Rock Creek Massage Therapist Lindsay Roberts; Spring Photo by Jose Villa Photography; Summer Photo by Robert Cole Photography.

Our Favorite Montana Moments

This changeability is why we love the Montana Office of Tourism’s “#montanamoment” hashtag. We’re grateful to guests and staff members who share their pictures with us on social media or by email, so we can see the wild beauty of our home through their eyes. This week, we are pleased to bring you a new perspective from one of our Ranchers. Willie MacDade joined us last May and has seized every spare moment to explore our landscape and wider Montana. In many ways, seasonal employees experience Montana in a similar way to first-time guests; they are let loose on 6,600 acres of secluded wilderness and are given dozens of ways to explore it. If you’re inspired by Willie’s travels, we invite you to peruse the Indulgent Frontiersman special for an intriguing take on winter exploration.

Life as a Rancher with Willie MacDade

When I graduated college last May, I had no plans of working on a guest ranch. I did not know what my immediate future had in store for me. I did not know a place like The Ranch at Rock Creek even existed.

Photographer and Server Willie MacDade wades into Rock Creek for a self-portrait
Hey there! My name is Willie and I am a server and photographer at The Ranch.

Read more…

Category: Careers

Behind the Scenes: Relais & Châteaux Film Starring Ranch Staff

New Relais & Châteaux Film

We’re pleased to announce that Relais & Châteaux has just released a new film depicting what it’s like to work for this exceptional association of unique boutique hotels. The film urges strong hospitality candidates to come forward and make their mark on the luxury travel industry just as Relais & Châteaux did 60 years ago.

Read more…