|August 18, 2010|
The Ranch at Rock Creek in Montana
|By Deborah Ibsen,|
Odyssey Media Group
When I was a manager in the event industry, I attended (and worked) my share of incentive programs and executive off sites. Venue requirements were usually pretty predictable: a golf course, functional meeting space, a cocktail bar and access to a restaurant with reliable cuisine. We'd throw in wine tasting or a teambuilding event to encourage networking. The events usually garnered positive scores on post-event surveys and satisfied clients' objectives. However, in thinking back on them now, one thing strikes me: they all seem to have a certain sameness about them. And then I realized that if I felt this way, then it's likely the attendees did too. Sure, you have to make sure you cover the basics. But shouldn't the ultimate goal be to provide a unique meeting experience in an environment that inspires? After all, these are your key executives and top sales people we're talking about. And let's not forget why companies have incentive programs. It's not simply a reward for work well done; it is a powerful retention tool. All the more reason to break the mold and create an offsite experience that is remembered 10, even 20 years down the road.
So when we first heard about The Ranch at Rock Creek, we were intrigued. After all, it's not every day that you can literally saddle up to a bar. Yep, that's right - the bar stools in the Saloon are actual western saddles. Put your foot in the stirrup, swing your leg over, settle in and order a dry martini.
Debuting in May of 2010, the Ranch at Rock Creek is just an hour's drive from Butte or Missoula airports. Situated on 6600 acres of lush hay meadows and rolling foothills, it is a welcome contrast to the noise and congestion of city life and the day-to-day grind. This "big sky country" is an ideal environment for business colleagues to regroup, refresh, brainstorm and connect. Best of all, it delivers all that you'd expect from a classic Montana ranch experience, then takes it up a notch (or three) without losing the fun.
It appears that this less traditional approach to an offsite is catching on. "We are seeing more corporations booking this type of venue which offers an alternative to the traditional hotel meeting site. The relaxed atmosphere, picturesque setting and myriad of activities creates a bonding experience for all," said Amanda Sullivan, Assistant GM at The Ranch at Rock Creek.
The Ranch offers a variety of sleeping accommodations. The Granite Lodge functions as the home base and features a living room, restaurant, bar and nine suites. Scattered around the property are thirteen additional homes, cabins and luxury tents, all of various sizes:
- Five-bedroom Bear House
- Three-bedroom River House
- Four family tents
- Four single tents (sleeps two)
- Trapper deluxe tent
- Unique half tent/half cabin
- Bluebird cabin
In all, the ranch can accommodate up to 50 comfortably (double occupancy).
The Lodge and guest rooms feature traditional western décor; authentic antiques and original photographs are thoughtfully placed throughout. The end result is a comfortable, yet elegant environment that makes you feel like you're staying in a friend's home. None of the guest rooms have televisions, but all offer wireless access.
If you really feel the need to conduct business while your here, there are a few common (and uncommon) meeting spaces available to you depending upon the size of your group. The Saloon can host up to 120 people, with the theater offering full presentation capabilities. For smaller, informal gatherings, the living rooms in both the Bear and River house provide a casual, intimate meeting environment.
However, if you're at the Ranch in either the summer or early fall, you should definitely consider throwing a cocktail party at a spot on the property that is aptly named "Top of the World". With just a 10 minute ride up the mountain from the lodge, you'll find a relatively level vista point that will take your breath away: sweeping, 360 degree views of some of the most beautiful, awe-inspiring terrain in the United States.
The Ranch can also boast ownership of one of only six fully restored Wells Fargo stagecoaches in existence today. Guests can take a ride around the property in the coach and experience, first-hand, what was considered "luxury travel" only a century ago (it'll make you think twice about complaining about your middle seat on your flight home...).
Once you're done taking care of business, the resort offers a wide variety of activities that allow your executives to unwind or reconnect with colleagues:
- Fly Fishing: Guided or unguided tours of four miles of private water on Rock Creek. Six stocked ponds are also available for casting lessons. In addition, all day fishing trips to Big Hole, Clark Fork, Bitterroot and Blackfoot Rivers can be arranged.
- Horseback Riding: Trail rides through 6600 acres of lush meadows and timbered ridges. Team activities include barrel racing, lassoing or penning.
- Sporting Clays: A number of courses are available, including high crossing shots and simulated rabbit targets.
- Archery: Includes a basic target range. Or, for a more authentic experience, there's the Sporting Course. Trek through the forest and shoot at 3-D targets of deer, elk, bear, wild boar and big horn sheep.
- Mountain Biking: The Trail system is virtually endless and, with elevation and flat meadows, there is a trail for every level of biker.
Other outdoor team activities include hiking, wild life viewing and even paintball. In the winter, downhill skiing is only 30 minutes away at Discovery Basin. Horseback riding is also offered in the winter months, as is cross country skiing, sporting clays, snowshoeing, sleigh rides, ice skating, sledding and snowmobiling.
After a long day out on the range, or for those who want to just relax and unwind, the Ranch offers a 2,000 sq ft, full service spa. There are five treatment rooms and services include massages, hair and nails, facials, waxing and body wraps.
For evening entertainment and parties, the Saloon is a great place to kick back, have a drink and play all those games that you loved as a kid. There is a state-of-the-art, four-lane bowling alley, two pools tables, shuffleboard, ping-pong, darts and karaoke. In the back of the saloon is a screening area that's ideal for viewing sporting events or movies.
No review of a MICE venue would be complete without discussing the food. Executive Chef Josh Drage's talents are nothing short of genius. The cuisine is what you'd want and expect on a western ranch: classic comfort food. But Josh's magic lies in taking simple dishes and elevating them to a whole new level. I hesitate to use the word "gourmet" here, as it can carry overtones of excessive refinement or complexity. That's not the case. Josh and his team pride themselves on finding the freshest seasonal, organic vegetables and meats from local farms and ranches. Everything is made from scratch, and the result is honest food with delicate, balanced flavors. During our five days at The Ranch, we experienced one dish after the other that we quickly proclaimed as "the best ever": the best cioppino we ever ate, best rib eye with homemade gnocchi, best salad dressing (poppy seed mint) and best ever homemade chocolate cookie. Even something as simple as bacon and eggs left us counting the hours until lunch was served.
For more information on The Ranch at Rock Creek, visit their website at www.theranchatrockcreek.com or contact Amanda Sullivan, Director of Sales and Marketing at 877.786.1545.
THE RANCH AT ROCK CREEK-ACCOMMODATIONS
The Granite Lodge
- Main Level Gun Suites: These high ceiling suites are located on the ground level of the lodge and are design-inspired by the great old railroad hotels at the turn of the century.
- Upstairs Horse Suites: These rooms offer ultimate comfort with a charming Western horse theme.
- Upstairs Gun Suites - These are elegantly furnished rooms, inspired by the classic guns that helped win the West.
The Bear House
The luxurious Bear House is located just beyond the pool, behind the Granite Lodge. The Main room is centered around the grand fireplace and offers a study room just off of the kitchen.
- Master Suite
- Two Queen Bedrooms
- One Double Bedroom
- Two Twin Bedrooms
- Full Kitchen
- Hot Tub
- Laundry Room
The River House
The River House sits in an aspen grove along the banks of Rock Creek, across the road from The Granite Lodge in a very private location.
- Master Bedroom
- Two Queen Bedrooms
- Full Kitchen
- Private Riverside Dining
- Laundry Room
Yards from Rock Creek, these accommodations offer the best way to feel a part of nature. They are individually furnished in a rustic camp style, but offer private baths, comfortable beds and luxurious bedding, and the murmur of the river running just outside your front door.
- Four Family Tents
- Four Standard Tents
Trapper Tent Cabin
Trapper is a very secluded tent/cabin located on Rock Creek complete with a large deck, hot tub and fire pit. The deck is the perfect place from which to watch wildlife and birds. A tented breezeway leads to a heated kitchenette with refrigerator, ice machine and wine cooler. The bathroom offers a rain shower and river rock floor surrounded by artful etched glass windows looking over the creek. An open-floorplan bedroom with queen size bed and gas fireplace round out this truly unique space.
THE RANCH AT ROCK CREEK /ACTIVITIES
- Ranch guests can explore nearly four miles of private water on Rock Creek, either guided or unguided.
- Additionally, six stocked fishing ponds are available for learning how to cast.
- There is a ranch-wide policy of catch and release
- Guests can also choose to go on all-day fishing trips to Big Hole, Clark Fork, Bitterroot or Blackfoot Rivers
- Wranglers will take guests exploring over 6,600 acres of lush meadows and timbered ridges.
- Guests can take a two-hour sunset trail ride, learn to barrel race, or test their cowboying skills at team penning.
- A number of courses are available, including high crossing shots and simulated rabbit targets.
- The Ranch is home to a number of wildlife species, including elk, deer, moose, coyotes, mountain goats and bears.
- Bird species, such as bald eagles, redtail hawks and great blue herons are seen often as well.
- Guests interested in photography can arrange early-morning viewing safaris with the staff.
- Although not a typical Ranch activity, the four-lane bowling alley located in the Silver Dollar Saloon is the perfect way to entertain guests.
- The bowling alley features a rustic Western theme, custom RC balls, shoes, and state-of-the-art equipment.
- A pool table, game room and Karaoke sound system help round out this very unique and entertaining part of The Ranch.
- The basic target range, located on a gentle prairie slope with sweeping vistas of the southern horizon, is the perfect place to build your comfort level with a bow, learn the fundamentals and watch your arrow fly.
- Also available to guests is the Sporting Course, which simulates a hunting environment by using 3-D targets of deer, elk, bear, wild boar and bighorn sheep.
- Guided or unguided, The Ranch at Rock Creek has over 6,600 acres of private land to explore by foot.
- Picnic lunches, backpacks, maps, guide books and binoculars are all at your disposal.
- The trail system at The Ranch is practically endless, and given the combination of good elevation and flat meadows, there is a trail for every experience level.
- The Activities Staff will gauge guests' experience level, fit them to a bike and help create the perfect trip.
Fun for the whole family! Guests are taken to a low alpine area above the ranch and the Activity Staff will assist with setting the stage for capture the flag! Fatigues and protective gear is provided.
- The Ranch often hosts a campfire under the big Montana sky, complete with tale-telling, s'mores and songs.
- Ranch guests can enjoy visiting the nearby town of Philipsburg, with its sloping main street, charming shops, and interesting architecture.
- The region also boasts dozens of other appealing sites, including ghost towns, gem mining, live theatre, shops, rodeos, parades, festivals, historical sites, battlefields, museums and more.
- Float and wade trips on Rock Creek are also available, as well as trips down the fabled Big Hole, Clark Fork or Bitterroot Rivers.
- Guests can also hike to the summit of Mount Warren, or drive over the rough-and-scenic Skalkaho Pass Road.
- Discovery Basin, an alpine ski destination just 30 minutes from The Ranch, offers guests a grand introduction to Montana's cold smoke powder, lack of crowds and stunning backdrops. With its summit at 8,100 feet above sea level, this mountain's 2,100 acres, 1,670 feet of vertical drop and wide range of terrain will appeal to all skill levels.
- On the ranch, guest can experience horseback rides through the snow, cross country skiing on groomed trails, snowshoeing, sleigh rides, ice skating on the Ranch ponds, sledding and more.
- The Ranch SnoCat and snowmobiles will help guests access untracked powder on the ranch for backcountry skiing at its finest.