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Category: Winter


Master Naturalists: Golden Eagle Rescue


In 2017, The Ranch started its Master Naturalist program to better explain the beauty of our exceptionally diverse eco-system. In 2018, it expanded to include National Geographic’s Year of the Bird, and in 2019 we’ve added the Rock Creek Field Guide (e-mail) and special classes like our Christmas week Lewis & Clark Corps of Discovery Skills Class.

What we didn’t know is that our Montana master naturalists would play an even more active part in helping our eco-system. Read about the rescue, recovery and release of a golden eagle. At the end, you’ll find two important ways you can help raptors in the wild today.


The Rescue

On October 12, 2019, Ranch Master Naturalist and Activities Manager Kelsey Bruns spotted an injured golden eagle on a blind curve on the Skalkaho Road near The Ranch. The golden eagle was on her back when she found her, so she wrapped some clothing over her to be able to hold her wings together. She then, rolled her over, picked her up and took her to the side of the road. Kelsey placed her clothing over her head so that she couldn’t see and was less likely to get spooked and fly away.

Wild Skies Raptor Centers Jesse Varnado holds the rescued golden eagle
Rescued golden eagle, held by Wild Skies Raptor Center’s Jesse Varnado. Photo by Activities Director Patrick Little.

Kelsey reported it to the Wild Skies Raptor Center in Potomac, Montana. The Wild Skies Raptor Center is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to providing rescue, rehabilitation, and release of injured raptors in Western Montana. They promote wildlife conservation through on and off-site education programs with live raptors.

“I will forever be in awe that I touched something so wild and free. I am grateful I was able to help such an absolutely stunning creature return to her home.” ~ Master Naturalist Kelsey Bruns

Kelsey, Activities Director Patrick Little and Guide Madi King, all Montana Master Naturalists, helped Wild Skies Raptor Center’s Jesse Varnado secure the golden eagle for x-rays. Patrick captured the rescue on camera. Watch the video of Jesse holding her.


This young golden eagle has a 7 ft. wingspan. Hatch-year eagles have a little bit longer flight and tail feathers than adults. Photo by Activities Director Patrick Little. 

It was determined that the golden eagle’s injuries were likely sustained in a car collision on the blind curve. Although roadkill and other carrion often serves as part of Montana raptors’ diets, living near roadways can also endanger the eagles.

Jesse determined that the 10 lb. young female sustained a pelvic fracture and head trauma due to the collision. She was transported to Potomac, Montana to recover.


The Recovery

Due to their hollow bones, birds like eagles are prone to blood clots when they are healing. The Wild Skies Raptor Center created a treatment program to give her the best possible chance of recovery. The first week of her treatment involved supportive care and containment in order to administer fluids, pain management and adequate nutrition. 


Photo courtesy of Jesse Varnado.

During the second week she was moved outside to move around on her own for two weeks. She dined on venison, rats, rabbit and Guinea pigs.

Once she reached the top perch, Wild Skies started conditioning her for release. During the last two weeks, they exercised her two to three times daily and she was allowed to eat all she wanted. Wild Skies has a permit to collect roadkill to feed the raptors at the center – sticking to a similar diet that they would have in the wild.

“Like most Golden Eagles I’ve worked with over the years, it was an absolute pleasure and an honor to provide her with the time and care she needed to recover.” ~Brooke Tanner, Executive Director of Wild Skies Raptor Center

She was found at 10 lbs. and released at 12 lbs., ready for her return to the Rock Creek area.


Photo courtesy of Jesse Varnado.


The Release

After five weeks of successful recovery, the golden girl was ready to be released. Although she was found near The Ranch, she was released on the mountains at The Ranch, likely part of her previous territory. Watch the video of her release taken by Guide Madi King here.


Releasing the Golden Eagle. Photo courtesy of  Jesse Varnado. 

As a younger female, the raptor center and The Ranch hope she will survive, stay in the area and raise young along Rock Creek. Although mortality is quite high for hatch-year raptors, this center works hard to give raptors a second chance.

She will give back to the team who helped her over the coming year. She was fitted with a GPS satellite transmitter that will help the Wild Skies Raptor Center gather information about migratory, feeding and other behaviors.


Notice the GPS satellite transmitter on the released golden eagle’s back. Photo by Activities Manager Kelsey Bruns.

The transmitter is designed to fall off, but the center is hoping it will stay attached for approximately one year. This is the first time they have every placed a transmitter on a rehabbed bird! Our golden girl is helping make raptor history, and helping this incredible organization learn how to better care for Montana’s rescued birds.



The Two Best Ways to Protect Raptors

Approximately 70-80% of raptors don’t make it past their first year of life. This doesn’t stop the Wild Skies Raptor Center from working hard to increase their odds. Helping a potential breeding female can have a positive impact on raptor populations, which face lead poisoning, vehicle collisions, electrocutions, intentional shootings, trap-related injuries and wind turbine collisions.

According to Executive Director Brooke Tanner, these are the best ways you can help raptors in the wild and after they are rescued:

  1. Switch to non-lead ammunition when hunting. This reduces the incidence of lead poisoning in the raptor population. When lead ammunition is used and birds are hit but not harvested, raptors eat the injured birds, resulting in lead poisoning. The center sees birds die of acute lead poisoning all too often. Read more here
  2. Donate to the Wild Skies Raptor Center’s Giving Tuesday or ongoing donation programs to directly fund more raptor rescues! Donate here.


Read More about The Ranch at Rock Creek’s recent sustainability efforts:

Protecting Rock Creek with Trout Unlimited

How to Bird Your World for the Year of the Bird

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

Category: Winter


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. 

 

Category: Winter


A Joyful Kickoff to the Season of Giving

Giving Thanks

Before thanks have even been given in the traditional American way, we’re giving thanks to our community through a local tradition. This Friday and Saturday, we will host the 4th annual Granite County Festival of Trees in our bedecked Buckle Barn. Though Santa doesn’t make his appearance for another month and a half, it’s fair to say our elves are busy as ever preparing for this charity event. Read on to garner the recipe for our Bar Manager’s wassail-worthy mulled wine. 

17 Christmas trees lit up the Buckle Barn before the Festival of Trees gala auction
“It’s a Wonderful Life” plays in the Buckle Barn before the 2015 Festival of Trees Gala Auction.

Joy in Montana, Joy to the World

The Granite County Festival of Trees is the only major fundraiser for the local non-profit organization, the Granite County Medical Foundation. Since the event’s inception, The Ranch has been a sponsor, and for the last three years we’ve served as angel sponsor and host. The first year, the event raised over $10,000 and last year’s event it raised $35,000 for local health projects.

The outside view of the Buckle Barn after the 2015 Granite County Festival of Trees
Peeking into the windows of the Buckle Barn before the 2015 Gala Auction. 

These projects have ranged from buying new beds for the long-term care and acute care patients at our local medical center to supplying AEDs to local law enforcement vehicles and to helping provide car seat checks and bike helmets to the area’s youth. When you live in a remote mountain environment, you truly appreciate emergency and preventive health services that help your staff, family, friends and neighbors.


Mercantile artisan, Pat Siler of Philipsburg’s Back Creek Pottery, created commemorative ornaments for the event. 

In addition to the Festival of Trees, The Ranch also hosts our hometown’s Granite High School prom and supports a long list of charity projects throughout the year. We believe one of the most important parts of our commitment to sustainability is giving back to local organizations and supporting local businesses and artisans.

“Our whole Ranch team truly enjoys helping to produce this community event. We are proud of our angel sponsorship and look forward to our participation every year. Our group coordinators and culinary team are very talented and create memorable family reunions, corporate retreats and weddings throughout the year. But this greatly anticipated event is extra special because it brings our community together for a wonderful cause and represents the official start to The Ranch’s holiday season celebrations.” ~Steve Shotsberger, General Manager

We are happy to be recognized for our giving and sustainability initiatives through our National Geographic Unique Lodges of the World affiliation, but these charity projects also signify a personal connection to many of our employees, who volunteer their time to serve on local non-profit boards, volunteer for projects and even work as Ski Patrol or volunteer fire fighters to ensure the safety and health of local residents. Read more…

Category: Winter


Announcing Exclusive, Inclusive Downhill Skiing at The Ranch

Now is the time to dream of the next blissful getaway that takes advantage of all a season can offer. We’re thrilled to announce that a winter stay at The Ranch will now include virtually every way to delight in Montana’s snowy splendor. We’ve just added downhill skiing and snowboarding excursions to our list of over a dozen fully inclusive winter activities!

Skiers ride the lifts at Discovery Ski Area. The hill is known for beautiful slopes and no lift lines.
The Anaconda-Pintler mountain range provides an epic backdrop for skiing at 8,158 feet. 


Downhill Skiing, Complimentary Nights & More

Winter guests will now enjoy reduced all-inclusive rates, airport transfers from three local airports, all meals and premium beverages, twice-daily on-Ranch activities, plus excursions to our local ski mountain, Discovery Ski Area.

What’s more, winter guests staying three nights at The Ranch will receive a complimentary fourth night! Winter travelers can also take advantage of one of three winter special offers that includes over $800 in added value and allows them to discover new curated adventures, like a romantic winter getaway, a frontier-inspired legendary adventure or a luxury spa and nature retreat.


Effortless Winter Planning

We offer curated adventures to channel inspiring, even transformative, experiences within our long list of experiential travel options. However, a stay at The Ranch is the anti-thesis of a pre-packaged holiday or a crowded ski vacation. These additions are incorporated into individual customized itineraries that reflect a guest’s desires for relaxation or adventure.

A snowboarder enjoys a sunny day on the slopes at Discovery Ski Area
Discovery boasts an annual snowfall of approx. 215 inches. There are eight lifts, runs for all skill levels and a terrain park. 

Guests will find themselves savoring a relaxed setting where their chosen daily activities seamlessly combine with exceptional dining experiences on thousands of acres of unspoiled snowy terrain.

General Manager Steve Shotsberger noted, “The aim of our all-inclusive rates and these curated winter offers is to provide an expertly planned, enriching winter getaway that is unequaled in the luxury world. We encourage our guests to have higher expectations of what they can experience on their next winter vacation. They are invited to soak up the beauty of our pristine natural setting through new and inspiring winter sports while experiencing warm hospitality and excellent service.”


Eagle’s Perch is a two-story luxury log home in a pristine winter setting along Rock Creek.  Read more…

Category: Winter


Pet-Friendly Hotels Earn Four Paws Up (& a Tail) | Zeus the Dog’s Travel Blog

A Doggone Good Time at The Ranch at Rock Creek

Zeus the dog reviews The Ranch at Rock Creek compared to other pet-friendly hotels.

Striving for Pet-Friendly Perfection

This week we welcome Zeus, an imposing and good-natured Leonberger dog, and his better (human) half, Katie Jackson. A native of rural Montana, Katie has lived in urban areas and traveled all over the world writing for U.S. News & World Report, FoxNews.com, OutsideOnline, USA Today, The Active Times and Yahoo Travel. When Katie recently visited The Ranch, she brought Zeus and they tackled the fresh powder together, researching our Indulgent Frontiersman special offer. We are proud to be a pet-friendly hotel, and accommodate adventurous canines year-round. Read Katie’s article about learning to be a Five-Star Frontiersman, or stay right here and read Zeus’ take on pet-friendly hotels and life as a Rancher.



Sunday 7 a.m.


Writer Katie Jackson at the rimfire range during her stay at The Ranch. 

Her bags are packed. Again. She’s always leaving. Even though she doesn’t kennel me when she travels, I can’t help but throw myself a puppy pity party. I have a serious case of FOMO—fear of missing out. Yes, dogs suffer from it too.

Some people argue I’m a pony. Weighing in at 150 lbs., I can’t argue with them. I’m a big boy. I tell myself my size is why she never takes me on her trips. But I’m not sure if it’s true. I heard from the gossipy golden retriever next door that pet-friendly hotels are rare. When the wise old poodle around the block confirmed it, I knew it wasn’t just hearsay.

She usually stays at fancy hotels, so I’m surprised to see her cowboy boots piled next to her bags. Curiosity may have killed the cat, but I still go over to investigate. Upon further examination I discover an even more startling find. My leash is dangling from the exterior pocket of her duffle bag and my bag of dog food peeking out of the main compartment.

My blood begins to boil. Is she seeing another dog? And letting it wear my leash and eat my food? How rude!

Read more…

Category: Winter


Wedding in a Winter Wonderland at Laurie Arons’ Masterclass

As the forecast hints of snow, we’re starting to think about our exciting winter season. This year we’re offering three new special offers for leisure travelers. However, we don’t want to ignore a very special kind of travel to The Ranch—destination weddings.

We’ve had the privilege to work with Laurie Arons, one of the world’s premier wedding planners, for the past two years. Laurie has been featured on Vogue’s “The Ultimate Wedding Planner Master List,” and we have the pictures to prove that she deserves her title as a “master.” In 2015, we did a Q&A with Laurie after her spring Wedding Planner Masterclass. This week, we welcome her as a guest blogger as she showcases her experiences at the 2016 winter Wedding Planner Masterclass. 



Planning the Ultimate Winter Wedding by Laurie Arons

As a wedding planner, I’ve long been inspired by the beauty of winter weddings—so cozy, intimate and romantic.

Masterclass attendees enjoy a farm-to-table feast during their winter wedding welcome dinner
Masterclass attendees enjoy a farm-to-table welcome dinner in the Blue Canteen. Photo by Jose Villa.

The past two winters I’ve spent at The Ranch at Rock Creek opened my eyes to the potential of a winter affair where guests get to snuggle by the fire and warm their hearts when it’s cold outside.

Guests to The Ranch at Rock Creek can enjoy a roaring fire in the Sweet Grass glamping cabinSweet Grass Canvas Cabin – A three-room glamping tent open year-round. Photo by Jose Villa. 

Read more…

Category: Winter


Supporting Discovery Ski Area, Our Best-Kept Secret

Sunday, April 8th marked the close of a memorable, powdery snow season at Discovery Mountain. Winter refuses to be ushered out without a fight, so late spring skiing was some of the best we’ve ever had. This year, our guests enjoyed all-inclusive downhill skiing and snowboarding throughout the winter, meaning we spent a lot of time on our wonderful local hill.

In 2014, National Geographic chose Philipsburg as one of the Best Secret Ski Towns in North America. We are inclined to agree, although it’s anything but secret in Western Montana.

Enjoy free downhill skiing at Discovery ski area when you travel to The Ranch at Rock Creek

Read more…

Category: Winter


Cross It Off Your Bucket List

10 Dreams Turned Reality at The Ranch

Every vacation is a chance to fulfill a lifelong dream. Here are 10 classic bucket list adventures that The Ranch at Rock Creek fulfills each year.

1. Become a Horseback Rider.

Notice, we didn’t say, “go horseback riding.” The Ranch teaches horsemanship, so you can go from being a greenhorn to a rider during a week’s vacation. The Ranch’s equestrian program is a customized, robust experience, with guests deciding how far they want to take their riding skills. When English riders arrive at The Ranch, they leave with new skills and appreciation for a different world.

Horseback riding is one bucket list adventure you can have at The Ranch at Rock Creek

You can learn how to saddle and care for a horse before your first trail ride. In the next several days, you may summit higher terrain and start roping. After the better part of a week, you might be comfortable enough in the saddle to learn pole bending or barrel racing in the rodeo arena. See a 4-day sample equestrian itinerary for a taste of this adventure.

Read more…

Category: Winter


Silver Dollar Saloon: Val-Gal-Pal-entine’s Cocktails

DSC00533

Welcome to the Silver Dollar Saloon

As Valentine’s Day approaches, our bartenders in the Saloon and Great Room aren’t content to just chill the champagne in anticipation of the celebration. They have been busy creating a seasonal cocktail menu that will give guests a taste of winter in Montana with Big Sky spirits and local ingredients. Just like Chef Drage’s menus, the cocktail menus change frequently, highlighting the holidays and activities that we enjoy. Read more…

Category: Winter


Finding Winter Wellness in the Wild

Why a Winter Vacation Might Be Better Than a Resolution

Each year, the scientific evidence mounts suggesting the health and wellness benefits of spending time outdoors. The rise of technology has beckoned us inside, where we stay for more of the day than we may realize. The Harvard School of Public Health recently suggested adults spend as little as five percent of their day outdoors. As our perspectives have become more global, we’ve been slowly allowing our phones, tablets and computers become our windows to the world.

The Rock Creek bridge under a dusting of new snow.

In the winter, it’s even more noticeable. When the weather gets cold, we hibernate. A little rest is great for the body and mind, but we also run the risk of changing our habits to be more insular, inside-oriented and sedentary. As we write this on a computer and you read this on a device, we’re mindful that the Internet is our best friend and worst enemy in the fight for wellness. Read more…