Exquisite. Like a six-sided snowflake, each nook and cranny is unlike any other in the world. And the experience of being a guest? It’s a blizzard of beauty. Triple Creek Ranch is one of the most coveted luxury Relais & Châteaux resorts in North America but for locals, it’s a glittering, polished gemstone sitting in our backyard.
“The gasp” is a commonality on the grounds of Triple Creek Ranch, especially when out-of-state or cross-pond guests ask where I’m traveling from, to which my answer is: here. Montanans, whether natives or transplants, are a different breed. We are gritty like sandpaper, unafraid of having to work hard to make something really shine, whether it be a career or just the chance we have to call this place home. And we’re refined, particular, and maybe—arguably—high maintenance when it comes to simplicity. We get agitated when things are too embellished, and it makes sense—who would we be if we were trying to upstage the surrounding beauty or worse yet, too rushed to notice it? Impressing the Montanan with a luxury resort is a daunting feat, an uphill climb in our ski climbing skins. But there I was, mouth agape, marveling at each enchanting detail alongside my pardner-in-adventure and Montana native, Erika Spaulding.
It’s safe to say that being a guest at this Montana hideaway is a tale of decadence and dare I say, magic? Luxury accommodations come with these sublime staples: high thread count sheets, an in-shower steamer, fool-proof fireplace, and a roomy hot tub under a gentle yet persistent snowfall. But it’s the unexpected details, like your cabin being tidied up while you’re indulging in another round of fine dining, or having your porch swept off before wanting to take a dip in the jacuzzi that really make you feel taken care of. Resting—even for those who are hard at play or work—comes easy here with the second-to-none team making the impossible possible. The secret ingredient at Triple Creek Ranch is undoubtedly its employees.
Patty the bartender has the pleasure of greeting most guests in the Rooftop Lounge while they’re still in their arrival stupor—eyes scanning the impressive art that’s hung or situated tastefully throughout the Main Lodge, feet shuffling from one art piece to another before ponying up to the bar for another work of art: a seasonal signature cocktail. Other guests join the conversation and, before long, we’re seeing those same faces at dinner and again at breakfast. There’s an undeniable intimacy that exists at Triple Creek Ranch that’s hard to find at other resorts. It’s a closeness that’s, well, very Montanan.
Outside lends a paradise in any season but winter is pristine with its clean, sharp beauty. Every hill and building is draped in a thick blanket of snow and the horses are ready to welcome us aboard. Their careful trudging along the narrow trail is rhythmic and reassuring that this age-old way of traversing the mountainside is, indeed, for everyone, despite age or experience level. This vantage point is unmatched, inimitable, as the leather squeaks with our movements. Grouse, elk, mule deer, and the occasional out-of-hibernation bear are residents of these deeply powered ravines and the hush that falls over such a place is music in itself. The peacefulness of the serene setting of sky-tall Ponderosas brings out a communal calm in us all.
But of course, for a more engine purring-type venture, snowmobiling is an indulgent off-ranch opportunity to get even more immersed in the bounty of the Bitterroot Mountains. Bitterroot Adventures, a tour and rental shop, is swollen with simplistic charm. Mike and David fit each of us with a helmet and anything else we might want—90s bomber jackets, snow pants, hats, gloves, face masks. The more the merrier, especially when motoring out into the wilderness with wind nipping at our extremities. They ready our sleds and give us the rundown, and just as the cold sets in on our faces and limbs, it’s time to stop for hot dogs over an open flame in a white-out meadow where the snow and sky are hardly distinguishable from each other. It’s a snowglobe paradise.
Snow biking, snow shoeing, cross-country skiing, and downhill skiing constitues just a short list of the many outdoor activities that are available during this cold smoke season. But, to tell you the truth, it’s the little in-between, indoor moments where real memories are made. Being shuttled from one excursion to another doesn’t seem romantic or thrilling in the least, and some may even consider it an inconvenience at first glance, but any good Montanan knows that knocking elbows with a stranger from a different corner of the globe breeds small world connection.
“He’s worked for my ex-husband!” a woman shrieks while dismounting a fuzzy palomino at the Rider’s Roost. Her wrangler, Ben Hopper, laughs in shock and amusement as he unbridles his string of horses. He’s from Louisiana and his guest is from Puerto Rico. Yet somehow, some way, this mountainside retreat has brought them together and reminded us that connection is the throbbing heart of all experience. Furthermore, at the Main Lodge in the Activities Center, a man cranes his neck over a Stave Wooden Jigsaw Puzzle—talk about an experience. These puzzles are mesmerizing, infuriatingly clever, and challenging works of art that inspire even the most unlikely of friends to work together at fitting another piece. And we learn, about fifteen minutes into the multi-hour puzzle building, that this man seated at the puzzle board is the owner of Triple Creek Ranch. Together, we shut the place down with vacuums buzzing overhead in the dining room after another delectable five-course meal.
In the evening, after either a day of outdoor play or in-house leisure (I suggest a fair share of both), it’s only right to treat yourself to a steaming shower followed by a glass of wine in front of a crackling fireplace. Unwind, unplug, uncork, in that order. The leather sofa hugs me in all the right places and the surrounding trees fade into a deep, darkened forest beyond the picture windows. The forest's tranquility feels as absorbent as the complimentary lotions and potions. This cabin feels like home to all the senses.
Stay, Play, & Feast
Triple Creek Ranch offers legendary hospitality and an enchanted view of our backyard of Western Montana. Enjoy an all-inclusive vacation experience all throughout the year or for special programming such as Vintner Weekends, Artist Workshop Weekends, and holidays, among many other opportunities.
Triple Creek Ranch in Darby, Montana