Category Archives: Meetings & Conventions

MONTANA TALKS MEETINGS AT IMEX AMERICA

In October, Western Montana’s Glacier Country along with our partners from Missoula, Kalispell and Whitefish had the privilege to exhibit at IMEX America—the largest trade show in the U.S. for meetings, corporate incentive travel, conventions and events—in Las Vegas, Nevada. We spent three days talking with meeting planners from around the world about opportunities to meet in Montana. Conversations spanned topics from airlift into Montana to types of meeting venues and activity offerings. For those meeting planners that did not attend IMEX or for those that didn’t make it by the Montana booth, here is a brief overview of what you will find if you host a meeting in Western Montana’s Glacier Country.

Western Montana ladies at IMEX America.

Western Montana ladies at IMEX America.

Corporate Incentive
At the top of many meeting planners lists were corporate incentive destination for their clients that offer sales incentive programs. Several had corporate clients that wanted experiential and activity-driven destinations as an alternative to the white sandy beaches that they had been going to for years. Montana guest ranches seemed to be a great fit for those planners, especially since Western Montana has properties that range from all-inclusive luxury ranches to rustic and authentic dude ranches to name a few, Flathead Lake Lodge, The Ranch at Rock Creek, The Resort at Paws Up and Triple Creek Ranch. Learn more about some of our guest ranch offerings here.

Howdy from Triple Creek Ranch.

Howdy from Triple Creek Ranch.

Association Meetings and Conventions
Planners at IMEX were pleasantly surprised to find that Western Montana has significant ballroom space at convention hotels located in our larger cities of Kalispell, Missoula and Whitefish. Missoula boasts the largest meeting space with 33,400 square feet at the University of Montana and 22,000 square feet at the largest convention hotel. Kalispell’s largest convention hotel offers 14,000 square feet of function space, while Whitefish has two convention hotels with roughly 11,000 square feet of space at both properties.

Beautiful ballroom space in Kalispell.

Beautiful ballroom space in Kalispell.

Board Retreats
When it comes to retreats, the lodging options in Montana are as unique and vast as the big blue sky. Choose from lakeside cabins, mountainside lodges, riverside hot springs resorts or quaint historic inns where you can hold your meeting in the morning and enjoy the great outdoors in the afternoon.

Historic Izaak Walton Inn near Glacier National Park.

Historic Izaak Walton Inn near Glacier National Park.

Team-building and Outdoor Adventure Opportunities
Montana offers unimaginable variety all four seasons of the year for team-building and outdoor adventures. One example is Whitefish Mountain Resort, where in the summer months Big Mountain provides opportunities for teamwork, team building and team bonding at the Aerial Adventure Park, an obstacle course that sits among the trees. Other options include group rafting trips that have meeting attendees paddling as a team as they maneuver the raft through the rapids on the Middle Fork of the Flathead River near Glacier National Park or the Alberton Gorge near Missoula. At Flathead Lake Lodge in Bigfork, team competitions take place with dummy steer roping, team roping, canoe racing and cocktail making.

Team-building fun at Whitefish Mountain Resort. Photo: Whitefish Mountain Resort

Team-building fun at Whitefish Mountain Resort. Photo: Whitefish Mountain Resort

Getting to Montana
With two airports serving both the northern tier—Glacier Park International (FCA)—and southern tier—Missoula International (MSO)—of Western Montana’s Glacier Country, getting here is easier than you think. Both airports have direct flights on major carriers including United, Delta, Alaska and Allegiant that arrive regularly from hub cities. Plus, it’s only 7 minutes from Missoula International Airport to downtown Missoula, while Whitefish and Kalispell are both located an easy 15 minutes from Glacier Park International Airport. Amtrak’s Empire Builder makes twice daily stops in Whitefish and other small communities in the northern tier of Glacier Country (read more about that here). And our well-maintained highway system, anchored by Interstate 90 and Highway 93, makes driving in Glacier Country easy.

Now that you’re pondering which clients would love Montana or which meeting would work best in Montana, remember that we are here to help make your next meeting a success under Montana’s big blue sky. And if you want more information about how to meet in Montana, sign up for our meeting planner newsletter here.

We look forward to having you meet in Montana,

DP

Guest Post: Winter in Montana – Board Room to Bucket List

Throughout my career, I have had the pleasure of producing hundreds of meetings and events in some of the world’s greatest destinations. While the purpose, scope and locations of these gatherings have varied, all of them were designed to inspire excellence, trust and community while nurturing new thinking about business relationships and value creation. More often than not, I aspired to showcase the event destination in a creative way, as we provided a unique and enriching experience for the attendees. As planners, we didn’t want to duplicate our company’s conference room in a different locale; we wanted to draw from the culture of the destination and inspire them through novel experiences, like skiing after a morning meeting or receiving a handmade box filled with local treats at turn down.

Taking in the view of Montana from the "top of the world" at The Ranch at Rock Creek.

Taking in the view of Montana from the “top of the world” at The Ranch at Rock Creek.

Throughout the last decade, my passion for event planning and marketing has continued to blossom because of that essential, powerful ingredient—experiential travel. After living and working in many US cities, I am grateful to call Montana my home, especially since Montana is a place where travelers are instantly captured by a sense of wonder. Montana, through my lens, is an extraordinary, transformative destination for everyone from homebodies to globetrotters; a place where bucket-list experiences are checked off left and right.

In my role as marketing director at a luxury guest ranch in Western Montana, I see the transformations happen on a daily basis. It’s magical when a guest fulfills a dream to learn how to fly-fish or discovers that unplugging in the wide-open spaces brings their family closer. There are many quiet and exhilarating moments to be relished when guests and staff find themselves bursting with appreciation of the beauty and peace of our American West at The Ranch at Rock Creek. 

Inside the main lodge at The Ranch at Rock Creek.

Inside the ranch’s main lodge.

The profound number of experiences to be discovered throughout every season is very meaningful for planners and hosts who aim to inspire their attendees with exceptional—even magical— company events. As the Montana winter approaches, here are some thoughts on why groups should consider the natural riches of the Treasure State for business retreats and meetings.

Winter at The Ranch at Rock Creek.

Winter at The Ranch at Rock Creek.

Limitless Outdoor Adventure
Not only is Montana stunningly beautiful when the snow falls, but it also offers a wide range of outdoor recreational opportunities. Among Montana’s diverse terrain are canopied forests and glistening meadows to explore by boot, snowshoe, ski, sleigh and snowmobile. I encourage planners to think about how wintertime outdoor recreation can bring attendees together to challenge themselves and each other. Our state boasts miles and miles of accessible cross-country skiing and snowmobiling trails. Some travelers are surprised to learn that Montana offers epic downhill skiing at world-class resorts and family-owned hidden gems—both with virtually no lift lines. We are partial to Discovery Ski Area just outside of Philipsburg, one of Montana’s most historic towns.

Skiing at Discovery Ski Area.

Skiing at Discovery Ski Area.

Near Discovery is The Ranch at Rock Creek, where I hang my professional hat. Sitting on 6,600 awe-inspiring acres that become a group’s playground during the length of their stay, The Ranch at Rock Creek is an all-inclusive luxury guest ranch located halfway between Glacier and Yellowstone national parks in the heart of Western Montana. Our guests enjoy twice-daily guided seasonal adventures, while groups from around the world travel to our remote ranching valley to reconnect, team build and conduct business. Their professional pursuits are infused with experiences like horseback riding through a meadow and casting a fishing line for the big one on the banks of our pristine trout stream, Rock Creek (home to 2,000 fish per river mile).

Our robust outdoor activity program includes over 20 year-round activities, while in the winter guests venture out to snowshoe, cross-country ski, ice skate, horseback ride, target shoot, sled, play hockey or bundle up on a sleigh ride or snowcat trek.

Guests enjoy a snoscat tour.

Guests enjoy a snowcat tour.

When working with groups to plan their on-ranch activities, our on-site coordinators customize experiences to suit the needs of your attendees, which means a group could snowshoe to a remote creek-side location for a gourmet picnic lunch, brainstorm around the campfire after dinner or team up in a survivor-skills competition in the forest.

The perfect gathering place after dinner.

The perfect outdoor gathering place after dinner.

Enrichment Through the Land and Lifestyle
For those who enjoy the stories of the legendary West, Montana is the perfect stop. Big Sky Country honors its history through the celebration and preservation of our pioneer spirit and American Indian heritage, while ranches and farms remain strong cornerstones of the Montana landscape and lifestyle.

The chef prepares an outdoor lunch.

The chef prepares an outdoor lunch.

Throughout the state, travelers discover thriving farm-to-table culinary experiences, due to the many hard-working ranchers, farmers and purveyors that make their home here. Visitors to Montana often have the opportunity to embark on a new epicurean journey—tasting foods for the first time such as elk, venison, morel mushrooms and huckleberries. At The Ranch at Rock Creek, our Executive Chef Josh Drage and his team thoughtfully select meats, produce, dairy and delicacies from over 50 Montana purveyors as he serves the best of Montana ranch cuisine paired with regional wines and award-winning local brews, including Philipsburg Brewing Company.

On-site bartenders create Montana-inspired cocktails.

Cocktails feature handcrafted Montana spirits and local ingredients. 

Besides reaping the bounty of the land, Montana guests can immerse themselves in the richness of the region when they explore the national parks, dip into thermal hot springs and trek around ghost towns throughout the year.

Reconnect in Nature
During most winter days, the Montana sky is filled with bright sunshine and puffy white clouds, allowing you to see for miles and miles across the Northern Rocky Mountains. Across the ranges and lower hills and rivers, you may spot elk, deer, moose, bighorn sheep and bald eagles, while in our rivers and lakes you’ll find a diverse selection of fish. Like many corners of Western Montana, The Ranch at Rock Creek is nestled among several mountain ranges and wilderness areas, which means our ranch is free of light pollution and offers incredible opportunities to see Montana’s star-filled and immense sky.
Sidenote: Read more about ways to reconnect in nature in “Cross It Off Your Bucket List,” a blog we published earlier this year.

A serene setting at the ranch.

A serene setting at the ranch.

As many business executives are attached to devices, The Ranch at Rock Creek offers meeting attendees the chance to unplug and immerse themselves in natural surroundings and to become rejuvenated as they watch the moonlight bathing the glistening snow or a never-ending sea of stars after the fire goes out.

The Milky Way in Glacier National Park. Photo: GNP Flickr

The Milky Way in Glacier National Park. Photo: GNP Flickr

Montana Hospitality on a Cold Winter Night
When I moved to Montana, I had no idea how helpful and welcoming my neighbors would be. It’s true that the warmth of Montana hospitality shines as a standout feature of the travel experience. Around here, our team believes that our guests should feel as if they are being invited into the family home as they experience authentic Montana.

The inside of the Buckle Barn, a great meeting space at The Ranch at Rock Creek.

The inside of the Buckle Barn, a beautiful and comfortable meeting space at The Ranch at Rock Creek.

Executive meeting hosts can absolutely feel confident that their attendees will be made to feel welcome and comfortable in Big Sky Country. It may sound simple with no glitz or glitter, but after a day of team building in the outdoors, guests find great enjoyment gathering around a grand stone fireplace sharing stories and toasting with a Moscow mule. Plus, during winter months, many resorts—including ours— invite event planners to consider special offers to encourage corporate groups and help them experience the best winter has to offer in Western Montana.

If you are in search of new exhilarating adventures, warm hospitality and spectacular settings in the American West to complement your business meeting objectives, we hope to welcome you to the Treasure State very soon.

Happy trails and meet me in Montana,
Heather Rue

The author, Heather Rue

The author, Heather Rue

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About the author: Heather is the director of marketing at The Ranch at Rock Creek in Philipsburg, Montana where she leads the cross-channel marketing efforts to build awareness of and tell stories about The Ranch’s exceptional Montana travel experiences. She has produced hundreds of corporate, nonprofit and cause-marketing events and programs. Heather is active in her local community and is raising country kids, chickens and labs while soaking up all life in Montana has to offer. 

 

A MEETING PLANNER FAM TRIP THROUGH WESTERN MONTANA

We all know that the best—and quite frankly the only way—to really know if a destination is right for your next meeting, conference or corporate retreat is to experience it firsthand. With that in mind, last month Western Montana’s Glacier Country invited four professional meeting planners from around the U.S. to Montana for a familiarization (FAM) tour to visit our three anchor cities of Missoula, Kalispell and Whitefish, where we showcased meeting facilities, off-site venues, farm-to-fork offerings and authentic Montana experiences that seemed custom-made for meetings.

After flying into Missoula International Airport (MSO) the group took a scenic 30-minute drive to The Resort at Paws Up an authentic working cattle ranch and one of Western Montana’s luxury guest ranches. The ranch has varying accommodations from lavish guest homes to riverside glamping tents that include a camp butler who’s dedicated to your group’s needs. The glamping tents were a hit with the planners and we took a few minutes to relax around the fire along the Blackfoot River—one of Montana’s premiere blue-ribbon fly-fishing trout streams.

Relaxing around the campfire at Paws Up.

Relaxing around the campfire at Paws Up.

After the site tour we returned to Missoula, Montana’s second-largest city and cultural hub. We had a restful night’s sleep at the DoubleTree by Hilton (featuring 171 guest rooms and nearly 9,000 square feet of meeting space). The next day we met up with representatives from Destination Missoula—the official convention and visitors bureau—before visiting some of Missoula’s meeting and event spaces including Big Sky Brewery, The Wilma Theater, the Missoula Art Museum and one of downtown Missoula’s premiere restaurants, Plonk Wine Bar, where we dined in the elegant wine cellar. The Holiday Inn Missoula Downtown (featuring 200 guest rooms and 15,000 sq. feet of meeting space) is one of Missoula’s leading convention hotels and hosted us for the night before we departed for Bigfork the following morning.

Big Sky Brewery is the largest producer of craft beer in Montana.

Big Sky Brewery is the largest producer of craft beer in Montana.

The drive from Missoula to Bigfork north on Highway 93 happens to yield some of the most scenic vistas in Montana, including the National Bison Range and the Mission Mountain Range. With Montana’s fall colors on full display, the drive through the Jocko and Mission valleys was stunning.

Our next stop on the FAM tour was Averill’s Flathead Lake Lodge. Family owned and operated for over 65 years, the 2,000-acre resort sits on the east shore of Flathead Lake—the largest freshwater lake in the West—where it offers both horse and water recreation, as well as accommodations that vary from small cabins to rustic lodges and 5,000 square feet of meeting space. While the resort hosts families for week-long vacations from mid-June through Labor Day, it can be reserved for groups the months of May, early June, September and October making it the ultimate spring or fall retreat destination.

Lunch at Flathead Lake Lodge.

Lunch at Flathead Lake Lodge.

Next on the itinerary and a highlight for the planners was a visit to Glacier National Park. Upon entering the park, we stopped for a photo at the Glacier Park sign, then continued on to Lake McDonald Lodge were we embarked on a boat cruise with Glacier Park Boat Company aboard the DeSmet on Lake McDonald. It was a perfect afternoon in Glacier National Park.

Welcome to Glacier National Park, ladies.

Welcome to Glacier National Park, ladies.

Having some fun on the DeSmet on Lake McDonald in Glacier National Park.

Having some fun on the DeSmet on Lake McDonald in Glacier National Park.

Discover Kalispell—the Kalispell Convention & Visitors Bureau—welcomed the planners with an insightful historical tour on the Montana Trolley, a service that’s used to transport groups on specialty tours and to events throughout the Flathead Valley. The trolley dropped us at the Conrad Mansion—once the home to Kalispell’s founder, Charles Conrad—for a tour and delicious dinner served on the mansion lawn, the perfect setting for off-site receptions.

Montana Trolley ride to dinner.

Montana Trolley ride to dinner.

Beautiful dinner at the Conrad Mansion in Kalispell.

Beautiful dinner at the Conrad Mansion in Kalispell.

Our overnight accommodations were at the conveniently located Red Lion Kalispell in the heart of downtown Kalispell (featuring 170 guest rooms and 12,000 square feet of flexible meeting space). After spending the morning on site tours of additional meeting options in Kalispell, we headed to the north end of Flathead Lake and climbed aboard the Far West for an excursion on Flathead Lake. The Far West is available for leisure tours daily throughout the summer and can be chartered for special events for up to 150 passengers.

Cruising with Far West on Flathead Lake.

Cruising with Far West on Flathead Lake.

Our final destination was the charming mountain town of Whitefish where we were greeted by Explore Whitefish—the Whitefish Convention and Visitors Bureau. Our first night in Whitefish we had dinner in the elegant wine room at Grouse Mountain Lodge. The next morning we visited the newest boutique property in downtown Whitefish—The Firebrand Hotel (featuring 86 guest rooms, a small meeting room and board room). The rest of the day was spent shopping on Central Avenue, looking at the team-building activity options at Whitefish Mountain Resort and lodging options on Big Mountain—including the option to buy out the mountainside Kandahar Lodge for groups of 10 to 50 in the spring and fall months.

The cozy mountainside Kandahar Lodge.

The cozy mountainside Kandahar Lodge.

Our final evening was spent sipping spirits at Whitefish’s newest distillery, Whitefish Handcrafted Spirits—perfect for receptions or cocktail hour—and dining at one of the local favorites, Ciao Mambo before heading to The Lodge at Whitefish Lake (featuring 101 guest rooms and 10,000+ square feet of meeting space) on the shore of Whitefish Lake for a restful night’s sleep.

Good morning from The Lodge at Whitefish Lake.

After a delightful breakfast, the planners departed Glacier Park International (FCA) (a 15-minute drive from downtown Whitefish) for home.

It was an action-packed week full of great food, fantastic venues, fun activities and lots of learning about Western Montana’s meeting options.

If you would like more information about Western Montana’s Glacier Country as a meetings destination (feel free to check out our week at #MeetInMontana on instagram and twitter) or are interested in participating in the next meeting planner FAM highlighting our three anchor cities of Missoula, Kalispell and Whitefish, drop me an email here.

Meet me in Montana,

DP

MEET WITH MONTANA AT IMEX AMERICA

For the third year in a row, Montana will be attending and exhibiting at IMEX America October 18 – 20, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. This year, the Montana booth will be bigger and better than ever as we welcome meeting planners to stop in booth 812 and learn more about Montana as a meeting destination. Whether you are looking for the perfect luxury guest ranch for a corporate incentive group, a large branded hotel with a ballroom and breakouts for the association conference or the mountainside hot springs resort for the board retreat, Montana has it all.

The perfect backdrop for a Montana dinner event.

The perfect backdrop for a Montana dinner event.

We invite meeting planners attending IMEX America to make an appointment with our booth representatives from Bozeman, Great Falls and Western Montana’s Glacier Country—including the cities of Kalispell, Missoula and Whitefish—to learn about the variety of meeting offerings in Montana. Without further ado, please meet the meetings experts from Montana that will be attending IMEX America.

Daryl Schliem, Bozeman CVB

Daryl Schliem, Bozeman CVB

Joining the Montana booth this year is Daryl Schliem, the President and CEO of the Bozeman Convention & Visitors Bureau. The hospitality options and outdoor activities that attract meeting planners to the Bozeman area include an abundance of recreation, resorts, shopping, museums, breweries and its close proximity to Yellowstone National Park. In town, you’ll find plenty of local flavor in Bozeman’s historic downtown shops, restaurants and galleries. From a casual boardroom meeting to the formal ballroom soirée, Bozeman has plenty of meeting and function space as well as over 2,500 guest rooms. Boasting the largest airport in Montana, Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport offers many direct flights to major cities in the U.S., making Bozeman the perfect mountain meeting setting, providing everything a group needs to get business done by day along with an exhilarating Montana experience waiting just outside the conference room door.

Rebecca Engum, Great Falls CVB

Rebecca Engum, Great Falls CVB

Rebecca Engum is the Executive Director at the Great Falls Convention & Visitors Bureau and will be joining the Montana booth to discuss the alluring landscapes, rugged independence and genuine experiences that create authentic Montana meeting memories in Great Falls. Offering top-notch meeting space along whttp://rebecca@visitgreatfalls.orgith quality accommodations, Great Falls—the third largest city in Montana—has additional highlights that include the C.M. Russell Museum, Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center, fine dining and one-of-a-kind outdoor adventures. With nearly 2,200 guest rooms available and more than 120,000 square feet of meeting and exhibit space, Great Falls can accommodate groups of more than 2,000 attendees and citywide events of up to 5,000 attendees.

Dawn Jackson, Discover Kalispell – Kalispell CVB

Dawn Jackson, Discover Kalispell – Kalispell CVB

Representing Discover Kalispell in the Montana booth again this year is Group Sales Manager, Dawn Jackson. As the gateway to Glacier National Park and Flathead Lake, Kalispell is in the middle of Montana’s most iconic natural places and the ideal environment to increase conference attendance and utilize the city’s venues and modern amenities to conduct effective business. With the addition of a new hotel in 2016, Kalispell offers 1,800 guest rooms and 56,000 square feet of meeting space for citywide groups of up to 4,000 attendees. Kalispell’s community is filled with unique shopping, cultural offerings, fine restaurants, wonderful events and welcoming smiles. Kalispell’s international airport, Glacier Park International, offers year-round direct flights to five major markets and additional seasonal directs to another five markets making access to Kalispell incredibly easy.

Mary Holmes, Destination Missoula – Missoula CVB

Mary Holmes, Destination Missoula – Missoula CVB

Serving as the Director of Sales and Services for Destination Missoula, Mary Holmes will be back to talk about meetings in Missoula again this year. Missoula is the second largest city and cultural hub of Montana as it provides the perfect blend of business and pleasure for meeting attendees with outdoor adventure, abundant nightlife, unexpected sophistication and a thriving food scene. Whether the meeting is an intimate corporate retreat or a large association conference, Missoula has something for everyone. With nearly 170,000 square feet of meeting space and 3,400 guest rooms at hotels for every budget level, Missoula is a great destination for meetings up to 2,000 attendees or citywide events for up to 5,000 attendees. Plus, direct flights arrive into Missoula International Airport from 12 major U.S. markets.

Jessica Downing, Explore Whitefish – Whitefish CVB

Jessica Downing, Explore Whitefish – Whitefish CVB

As the Marketing Coordinator for Explore Whitefish, Jessica Downing focuses on group travel and will be joining the Montana booth this year. Whitefish creates lasting impressions and earns rave reviews for meetings, events and corporate retreats. With the addition of two new hotels in 2016 and more than 700 guest rooms and 46,000 square feet of meeting space, Whitefish is perfect for groups up to 300 attendees and citywide events of 1,500 attendees. Plus, Whitefish has a unique combination of breathtaking scenery, year-round recreational pursuits and a vibrant town that offers diverse accommodations and outstanding hospitality. An added bonus: getting to Whitefish is easy. Amtrak’s Empire Builder makes daily stops in Whitefish from both Seattle/Portland and Chicago, while direct flights arrive regularly into nearby Glacier Park International Airport.

Debbie Picard, Western Montana’s Glacier Country

Debbie Picard, Western Montana’s Glacier Country

The final member of the Montana booth at IMEX America will be Debbie Picard, Tourism Sales Manager for Western Montana’s Glacier Country. Debbie works closely with the three regional CVBs of Missoula, Kalispell and Whitefish along with other meeting venues in Western Montana outside of these three hub cities. Within the western region of Montana is an array of properties that are well-equipped to host meetings and conventions of various sizes, including small events, incentive travel, corporate retreats and large conferences. These properties include luxury guest ranches, hot springs resorts and mountainside lodges. And when you combine these meetings offerings with two international airports, shoulder season prices and team-building activities, it’s easy to see why meeting planners are taking a look at Western Montana as a meetings destination.

If you’re coming to IMEX America 2016, let us know. We’d love to meet with you and talk meetings in Montana.

A few things to keep in mind for IMEX:

*To meet with Montana’s Glacier Country, and the CVB’s in Kalispell, Missoula and Whitefish, make an appointment with Western Montana’s Glacier Country. The four Western Montana representatives will be sharing each 20-minute appointment session throughout the show (think of it as a one-stop Western Montana appointment stop).

*Bozeman and Great Falls are taking separate appointments.

*If you can’t meet with us during the pre-scheduled appointment times at IMEX, feel free to stop by booth 812 anyway. We welcome drop-ins and will be hosting daily giveaways.

And if you’re a meeting planner not attending IMEX America, we’d still love to help you plan your Montana meeting. All of the contacts listed above are happy to help you find the perfect fit for your meeting needs.

For more information on meeting facilities in Western Montana, visit our Glacier Country meetings website. Or, if you need help locating the perfect destination for your meeting in Montana, drop me a line; I’m always here to help.

Meet in Montana,

DP

ADDING THE ULTIMATE OUTDOOR ADVENTURE TO A MEETING IN MONTANA

Meeting planners often contemplate how to boost attendance at their next association meeting or add an element of intrigue to an upcoming corporate retreat, while attendees look forward to visiting a destination that they’ve never been to or taking part in an exciting outdoor experience or activity that is part of the conference program. The anticipation of these activities builds excitement and can revive and rejuvenate attendees after days of early wake-up calls and spending long hours sitting indoors with back-to-back sessions. As a bonus, it allows them to see and enjoy the surrounding landscape the host community has to offer. And if there’s one thing Montana can deliver, it’s an ultimate outdoor adventure.

Adding an outdoor adventure to your next meeting agenda in Western Montana’s Glacier Country is easy when you utilize Montana’s most notable and stunning adventure assets–rivers, mountains and lakes—along with the services of professional guides and outfitters. Whether the group wants to take a trail ride by horseback near Kalispell (read more about meetings in Kalispell here) or a mountain biking excursion in Whitefish, float the Alberton Gorge near Missoula (learn more about meeting in Missoula here) or take a guided hike through Glacier National Park, Western Montana has professional, experienced and well-equipped guides to make group adventures easy, safe, educational and a whole lot of fun.

Ready to ride. (Photo credit: Triple Creek Ranch)

Ready to ride. (Photo credit: Triple Creek Ranch)

Rivers:
Glacier Country is home to some famous rivers­­–the Blackfoot, Bitterroot, Clark Fork and Flathead to name just a few–for both water recreation and fishing. From calm scenic floats to an exhilarating spring whitewater adventure, Montana’s rivers can accommodate. A unique feature added to the Clark Fork River—that runs through the city of Missoula—is a man-made whitewater play area called Brennan’s Wave, for adventurers to try their hand at kayaking or wave surfing on a river.

Brennan’s Wave in downtown Missoula.

Brennan’s Wave in downtown Missoula.

Guided river raft trip. (Photo credit: Glacier Guides, Inc. and Montana Raft Company)

Guided river raft trip. (Photo credit: Glacier Guides, Inc. and Montana Raft Company)

Fly-fishing on blue-ribbon trout streams and rivers in Montana was made famous by the movie A River Runs Through It. For groups looking to learn how to fly-fish or even those with experience, hiring a guide that knows the prime fishing holes and the right fly to use on any given day, can make the adventure a true success.

Guided fly-fishing lessons on the Bitterroot River.

Guided fly-fishing lessons on the Bitterroot River.

Mountains:
Western Montana is located in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, which does have its benefits when it comes to winter recreation. Winter snow brings ample accumulations to Glacier County’s six downhill ski and snowboard destinations, along with scenic cross-country skiing and snowshoeing opportunities. For groups that are ultra-adventurous, enlist a guide for a snowmobiling or dog sledding adventure. Plan a winter experience for your meeting attendees with a guided adventure into Glacier National Park with Glacier Adventure Guides.

Snowshoeing in Glacier National Park

Snowshoeing in Glacier National Park.

From late spring through late fall, easily accessible trail systems abound in Western Montana for exceptional mountain biking. There are multiple mountain bike rental facilities and guide services that can have the bikes ready and waiting for groups to arrive, jump on and hit the trails.

Biking one of the many trails in Glacier County.

Biking one of the many trails in Glacier County.

Western Montana is known as a hiker’s paradise. From renowned trails in the Bitterroot Valley to over 700 miles of hiking trails in Glacier National Park, it’s best to use a guide’s expertise to determine your groups ability and to make sure the hike is enjoyed by all participants. In addition, for groups planning a hike in Glacier National Park, Glacier Guides (the concessioner for all hikes in the park) can plan a customized excursion just for your group of meeting attendees.

Hiking in the Bitterroot National Forest.

Hiking in the Bitterroot National Forest.

Oftentimes groups come to Montana and want to “cowboy or cowgirl up” on horseback to explore the region. Western Montana has numerous options for both the novice and experienced riders when it comes to enjoying the area on horseback. Plus, some of the best views of the region come from riding the ridgelines.

Trail ride in the Salish Mountains outside of Kalispell.

Trail ride in the Salish Mountains outside of Kalispell.

Lakes:
Like the incredible rivers in Western Montana’s Glacier Country, the lakes are pretty spectacular as well, offering year-round recreation. Some of the most notable lakes are Lake Como, Lake Koocanusa, Seeley Lake, Whitefish Lake, Lake McDonald and Flathead Lake–the largest freshwater lake in the West.

It’s easy to book a sailing trip or charter a larger boat for a lunch or dinner cruise on Flathead Lake. Groups can opt for a wooden boat excursion on Lake McDonald in Glacier National Park or enlist a guide for a group lesson on stand-up paddle boards on Whitefish Lake.

Sunset cruise on Flathead Lake.

Dinner cruise on Flathead Lake. (Photo credit: Far West Boat Tours)

Wood boat excursion on Lake McDonald. (Photo credit: Glacier Park Boat Company)

Wood boat excursion on Lake McDonald. (Photo credit: Glacier Park Boat Company)

Kayaking and canoeing can be done on both lakes and rivers in Western Montana.  Some sections of rivers provide calm and uncrowded paddling while other parts require excellent paddling skills. Hiring a guide that knows the waterways well is always in the group’s best interest.

*Not only do professional guides and outfitters know the rules and regulations for the mountains, tribal lands, wilderness areas and waterways in Montana, they can assist with the right permits, licenses and equipment needed to make your meeting excursions trouble free and memorable.

For more information on meeting facilities in Western Montana, visit our Glacier Country meetings website. Or, if you’re looking for more information on adding an outdoor adventure to your Western Montana meeting, drop me a line; I’m always here to help.

Meet in Montana,

DP

Guest Post: Top 5 Off-Site Activities for Meetings in Whitefish, Montana

As a meeting planner, you know that the most memorable and productive part of any meeting can take place outside of the meeting room. Here in Whitefish, Montana, our specialty is distinctive meeting locations for small groups and corporate retreats, as well as plentiful off-site  opportunities for team bonding and team building that are guaranteed to help your attendees make the most of their meeting in Montana, while solidifying relationships as they enjoy their time in the Rocky Mountains.

Central Avenue in downtown Whitefish.

Central Avenue in downtown Whitefish.

To help make your meeting or retreat memorable, I’ve compiled a list of the top 5 group activities in Whitefish, Montana.  

1) Made in Montana tours
Whitefish is a tight-knit community that embodies locally grown values and offerings, including farm-to-table restaurants and made in Montana beer. Introduce meeting attendees to the flavors of Whitefish through tours that include a local brewery, coffee shop and farm. Taste Montana at Great Northern Brewery Company on a brewery tour, followed by a reception on the brewery floor. Public tours take place at 3 p.m., Monday through Friday, in the summer months. However, groups can schedule tours and special tastings directly with the brewery at any time. Or consider a look behind-the-scenes on a coffee roasting and cupping tour at Montana Coffee Traders. Roasting tours are offered daily at 10 a.m., but groups are encouraged to call ahead to schedule a private tour. Incorporate Montana agriculture with a farm tour at Purple Frog Gardens. Spring planting season and fall harvest are good times to experience life on the farm, or if you’re looking to add a volunteer element to your meeting, Purple Frog Gardens welcome visitors every Wednesday morning during during the summer months.

Coffee roasting at Montana Coffee Traders.

Coffee roasting at Montana Coffee Traders.

2) A boat cruise on Whitefish Lake 
Ideal for a pre-dinner cocktail reception, have your meeting attendees hop on board the historic Lady of the Lake wooden boat at the Lodge at Whitefish Lake for an evening tour of the pristine glacier-carved Whitefish Lake. End the night with dinner on the deck of the Boat Club, the lodge’s on-site restaurant.

The view from the lake.

The view from the lake.

3) Scenic lift at Whitefish Mountain Resort
For some of the most stunning views in the state, plan to ride the Big Mountain Express open chair or gondola to the summit of Whitefish Mountain Resort, complete with sweeping views of Glacier National Park, the Canadian Rockies and the Flathead Valley. Have lunch at the Summit House, Montana’s only mountain-top restaurant, or have a catered dinner as the lights of the valley twinkle below you. If the group is a little more adventuresome, build teamwork and have fun in the Aerial Adventure Park, an “obstacle course in the sky.” If your meeting is here in the winter months, consider hitting Whitefish Mountain Resort’s  3,000 acres of terrain for world-class skiing and snowboarding that’s great for groups with varied abilities. The scenic lift and Aerial Adventure Park are open from late June through September, while ski season runs from December through early April.

The Aerial Adventure Park at Whitefish Mountain Resort.

The Aerial Adventure Park at Whitefish Mountain Resort.

4) Art gallery tour
Experience the thriving art community of Whitefish anytime of year with a self-guided walking tour through specialty art galleries and shops that showcase local, regional and national fine art. Browse handcrafted jewelry (made with Montana Yogo Sapphires) at Stephen Isley Jewelry and fine pottery at Whitefish Pottery & Stillwater Gallery. Have a painting party at the Stumptown Art Studio where participants can paint their own pottery, create mosaics or do glass fusing. The Whitefish Gallery Guide is available for free (contact Explore Whitefish for copies) and contains a map and brief description of each art gallery location.

Locally made mugs at Whitefish Pottery.

Locally made mugs at Whitefish Pottery.

5) Horseback, wagon and sleigh rides at  Bar W Guest Ranch
Enjoy western hospitality at Bar W Guest Ranch with guided horseback trail rides (starting in late spring) or take a wagon ride and finish with a campfire cookout. In the winter, take a horse-drawn sleigh ride through the pristine ranch followed by a home-cooked chili dinner in the ranch’s cozy lodge. Groups can also experience barrel racing, archery or even host a hoedown with live music and square dancing.

A group enjoys a horse-drawn wagon ride at Bar W Guest Ranch.

Enjoying a horse-drawn wagon ride at Bar W Guest Ranch.

For meeting and event planners who are hosting meetings in Whitefish, our community is home to nearly 800 guest rooms and more than 46,000 square feet of meeting space. From smaller inns like Kandahar Lodge on Big Mountain (perfect for an intimate board retreat) to the full-service capabilities of Grouse Mountain Lodge, your meeting attendees are sure to enjoy Whitefish’s friendly hospitality, complemented by comfortable accommodations. Plus, with so many lodging options, groups can utilize multiple properties for larger meetings.

Another bonus: getting here is easy. Whitefish is one of the closest mountain towns to a major airport. Glacier Park International Airport (FCA) is only 15 minutes from downtown Whitefish, with daily direct flights on major airlines from Denver, Salt Lake City, Seattle and Minneapolis, while seasonal flights arrive from Chicago, Oakland, Las Vegas and Portland, OR. Whitefish is also located on Amtrak’s Empire Builder line between Chicago and Seattle, with trains arriving twice daily.

For more information on meeting in Whitefish, visit www.explorewhitefish.com.

Meet me in Montana,
Jessica Downing

The author, Jessica Downing

The author, Jessica Downing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About the author: Jessica is the marketing coordinator for Explore Whitefish—the Whitefish Convention and Visitors Bureau—focusing on content marketing and group travel. She can also be found extolling the virtues of riding a bike any given day of the year.

4 Ways to Experience Western Montana’s Breweries

While Montana is known for its stunning scenery, it’s also becoming a popular craft beer destination. More than 20 breweries in Glacier Country are serving up Montana-inspired beer by the names of Cold Smoke ®, Yaak Attack, Dry Fly, Face Plant, Moose Drool and Clothing Optional, visitors to our region are certain to discover plenty of palette-pleasing malted beverages that perfectly capture Montana’s many flavors and diverse offerings. Plus, each brewery in Big Sky Country is committed to using Montana-grown ingredients like malted grains, as well as huckleberries and honey.

GCT_Kettlehouse Tasting Room

A visit to brewery taprooms and brew pubs are a great way for individuals and groups to taste the flavors of Montana, as well as mingle with the locals. And in Western Montana’s Glacier Country, there are four distinct and fun ways to experience breweries.

1) Guided brewery bus tours

Brewery bus tours are a fun, affordable and safe way to experience multiple breweries and pubs in one day. This is a great way for a few people or a group up to 12 to ride in comfort on a guided bus tour to Montana breweries to taste award-winning beer. Tap Room Tours, located in Missoula, has scheduled and custom tours (group rates available) throughout Missoula and the Bitterroot Valley. These guided bus tours allow riders to take in the beauty of the Bitterroot Valley while making stops at breweries in the valley’s charming small towns of Lolo, Stevensville, Hamilton and Darby.

Some tours also include distilleries, providing attendees the option to taste locally made whiskey, gin and vodka.

GCT_Kettlehouse Tap IMG_9048

2) Group bicycle tours

For your clients who are looking to do something fun and out of the ordinary, group bicycle tours are the perfect activity. Thirst Gear operates a 15-person bicycle where the riders provide the pedal power that leads the bike-like vehicle to the best breweries and watering holes in downtown Missoula. Custom tours are available.

Pedal powered beer tour.

Pedal powered beer tour.

3) Brewfests

A favorite activity for locals and visitors alike is attending a festival or brewfest. During Western Montana’s warm season, it is not hard to find special events celebrating seasons, holidays and locally grown or homemade food/beverages, artisan wares and crafts. These events are highly recommended, as they often serve a selection of craft brews. Brewfests, in particular, have many breweries serving on-site, allowing your clients to hop from tent to tent and taste a variety of Montana beer along the way.

Visitors can find festivals and brewfests year-round in Western Montana: Winter Brewfest (Missoula), Tamarack Festival and Brewfest (Seeley Lake), Bitterroot Brewfest (Hamilton), Bigfork Brewfest (Bigfork), Montana Brewers Fall Festival (Kalispell) and Summer S.N.O.W. Bus Brewfest (Whitefish).

Microbrews, music and fun.

Microbrews, music and fun.

Visit Glacier Country’s event calendar for more information.

4) Self-guided brewery tour

For clientele that want to meander and explore along the way, self-guided tours are the way to go. The Montana Brewers Association Trail Map is a great online tool and lets users add stops to an itinerary as a resource. Clients and FIT travelers can open the map on their mobile device or print their route and take it along with them.

An anchor of downtown Whitefish - Great Northern Brewery.

An anchor of downtown Whitefish – Great Northern Brewery.

To add to the fun, we recommend buying a Montana Brewery Passport that’s available at the each of Montana’s craft breweries or can be purchased online, making it an interesting way to track which one visitors experience by having the passport stamped.

IMG_1160

Always remind your clients to be safe – drink responsibly and have a designated driver for a self-guided tour.

Notable information:

If you are not a beer enthusiast but you really like the atmosphere, breweries in Montana have delicious homemade non-alcoholic beverages like flavored soda, ginger ale and root beer. My favorite is Kalispell Brewing Company root beer.

Huckleberry soda at Lolo Peak Brewery.

Huckleberry soda at Lolo Peak Brewery.

Flights (also known as samplers) are small samples of several beers and are very popular if you are unsure which beverage to order.

IMG_7302

Many breweries love to share their story and offer guided tours to groups.

Montana’s breweries are legally allowed to be open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and each consumer is limited to 48 ounces in a single day.

Visit our webpage or contact Debbie Picard, Tourism Sales Manager, for a complete list of breweries in the Glacier Country region to help plan your itinerary.

Cheers to beer!

RF

Guest Post: Unplug Your Meeting in Western Montana

Meetings are meetings: typically you spend a significant amount of time inside a hotel convention center with run-of-the-mill meals and not a lot of activity. Well, not anymore. Meet Montana’s most undiscovered and off-the-grid meeting location: Glacier Park Lodge

Glacier Park Lodge in East Glacier Park, Montana.

The grounds and exterior of Glacier Park Lodge.

Built in 1912, Glacier Park Lodge is located in East Glacier Park, Montana, just outside Glacier National Park. The historic property features 160+ guest rooms, an expansive lobby, wood-burning fireplace, three spacious meeting rooms and an on-site restaurant and bar. Outside, you’ll find lush gardens, a 9-hole golf course, swimming pool and a covered deck perfect for watching the Montana sunset.

If you’re looking for a quiet destination to help eliminate everyday distractions for meeting attendees, Glacier Park Lodge is a prime corporate retreat location. At your Montana meeting, you’ll be trading modern conveniences (there are no TVs in the rooms and limited cell phone service) for incredible team-building opportunities and brainstorming sessions.

The lobby in Glacier Park Lodge.

The lobby in Glacier Park Lodge.

And while this location definitely takes you off-the-grid, Glacier Park Lodge still provides the space you need to meet in both boardroom and classroom settings. Each of our three meeting rooms (ranging from a small boardroom that can accommodate corporate groups of 25 people to a large space that has room for up to 150 people in a classroom setting) are home to interesting Montana history—including an indoor pool and casino.

When you’re ready to take your groups outside, the lawn at Glacier Park Lodge is perfect for team-building exercises, friendly games of soccer or volleyball. It’s also a great location for a tented cocktail reception or dinner under the stars and the watchful eye of Dancing Lady Mountain.

The back lawn at Glacier Park Lodge in East Glacier Park, Montana.

The back lawn at Glacier Park Lodge.

After your meetings, there are endless Montana activities for your group to enjoy. The Two Medicine Valley of Glacier National Park is just 15 minutes away and offers a wide variety of hiking trails, boat tours and picnic area. You can also book a red bus tour to take in the beauty of the Crown of the Continent from an iconic, roll-back top bus.

Taking in the view at Two Medicine.

Two Medicine in Glacier National Park.

The view of Two Medicine from Looking Glass Highway and a red bus tour.

The view of Two Medicine from a red bus tour on Looking Glass Highway.

After collaborating with your team and spending time in this grand historic lodge, you’ll return from your unplugged meeting refreshed and prepared to tackle your company’s goals.

For more information or to work with me on planning your meeting at Glacier Park Lodge, visit Glacier Park Inc

See you off-the-grid,
Rebecca Baker

The author, Rebecca Baker

The author, Rebecca Baker

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About the author: As the marketing and public relations manager for Glacier Park, Inc., Rebecca oversees a comprehensive marketing and communication strategy that supports all of GPI’s lodging properties.

About Glacier Park Inc.: Headquartered in Montana’s Glacier Country, Glacier Park Inc. owns and operates seven lodging properties in and around Glacier National Park, including Glacier Park Lodge, St. Mary Lodge & Resort, Grouse Mountain Lodge, Motel Lake McDonald, West Glacier Motel & Cabins, Apgar Village Lodge and The Prince of Wales Hotel in Waterton Lakes National Park.

Guest Post: Top 5 Reasons to Host a Meeting in Kalispell

With Glacier National Park and Flathead Lake as its backyard, Kalispell, Montana is most well-known for easy access to vast spectacular unspoiled nature. But as the anchor of the Flathead Valley, Kalispell is more than that. Meeting and conference planners are pleasantly surprised at Kalispell’s level of services and amenities, quality of meeting facilities and welcoming community. If you’re looking to plan a meeting that’s productive and offers meaningful experiences and team building in a beautiful setting, Kalispell is the perfect destination.

The view of Kalispell from Lone Pine State Park: Photo: Chuck Haney

Kalispell from Lone Pine State Park. Photo: Chuck Haney

While still a fairly unknown meetings destination, there are several reasons why Kalispell is a great city to hold your next event.

1) Warm and inviting Kalispell hotels and meeting properties
Our hotels radiate a cozy Montana-style feeling with warm hospitality that makes guests feel welcome. Plus, with inviting fireplaces, rustic wood decor and historic photos that take attendees on a stroll through Kalispell’s history, meeting attendees will experience a slice of authentic Montana. For premiere meeting properties with ample event space and a variety of breakout rooms, both Hilton Garden Inn and Red Lion Hotel Kalispell are able to host larger groups of 400+. Or if you’re looking for a property to accommodate smaller groups (while still providing a high level of service and variety of catering options), Homewood Suites and Hampton Inn Kalispell are both great options. Meanwhile, located in the heart of downtown and only a block from the Red Lion, the Kalispell Grand Hotel is a great option for meeting attendees who are looking to stay in a charming, historic property.

Stonework and a fireplace welcome guests to Kalispell's Hilton Garden Inn.

A fireplace welcome guests to Kalispell’s Hilton Garden Inn.

2) It’s easier to get here than you think
Located a few minutes from downtown Kalispell, Glacier Park International Airport is serviced by  Delta, Alaska, United and Allegiant, with daily non-stop flights from Seattle, Minneapolis, Denver and Salt Lake City, as well as seasonal  flights from Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta and San Francisco. Plus, many of the meeting properties in Kalispell offer complimentary shuttle service from the airport to their properties and there are several car rental companies that service the airport, making it for your meeting and conference attendees to rent a car and explore this corner of Montana. Another transportation option: Amtrak’s Empire Builder travels through Montana’s northern tier and makes daily stops in Whitefish (20 minutes from Kalispell) and West Glacier (45 minutes from Kalispell).

3) Numerous off-the-clock offerings
As the hub of Montana’s Flathead Valley, Kalispell is a bustling city with numerous activities and attractions in and around downtown. For meeting attendees with free time, easily accessible in-town attractions include Kalispell Brewing Company (be sure to check out their rooftop patio), Norm’s News for an old-fashioned soda or stop into Hop’s Downtown Grill for a locally raised yak or bison burger.

If you plan to include some sightseeing and exploring as part of your meeting schedule, consider setting aside some time to visit Glacier National Park. Located a 45-minute drive from Kalispell, the park is open year-round.. During late spring, summer and early fall, take your group to the Crown of the Continent for an interpretive red bus tour. Each red bus seats up to 17 people and provides meeting attendees a true once-in-a-lifetime experience. An added bonus: buses can be chartered for your group.

A red bus in Glacier National Park.

A red bus in Glacier National Park.

A bit closer to Kalispell, introduce meeting attendees to a taste of the west with a trip to Artemis Acres for cowboy barbecue, horseback trial rides, storytelling or a wagon ride. Or consider a group trip to Flathead Lake—the largest freshwater lake in the West—upon the Far West. Additional area attractions include Whitefish Mountain Resort for zip lining, Walk in the Treetops or a scenic lift to the summit of Big Mountain (all of which are great team building activities), whitewater rafting on the Middle Fork of the Flathead River or, during the winter, taking a guided snowmobiling tour on nearby trails. To keep the team building aspect going, consider taking a trolley to transport your group in and around Kalispell.

A trolley is a great transportation option for groups in Kalispell.

A trolley is a great transportation option for groups in Kalispell.

4. Unique meeting venues and reception spaces
Take your meeting attendees off-site for a cocktail hour at one of the Kalispell area’s cool venues. For a distinctive setting, host a reception at the Museum at Central School or on the beautifully landscaped lawn at Conrad Mansion Museum, home of the Kalispell’s founder William Conrad. For a behind-the-scenes glimpse into a Montana brewery, take a tour at Kalispell Brewing Company. Located in the heart of downtown in historic building, today the brewmaster brews beer like Two Ski Brewski Pils, Snowslip Stout or Rope Tow Pale Ale.

The lush grounds at the Conrad Mansion Museum.

The lush grounds at the Conrad Mansion Museum.

A perfect complement to an off-site cocktail reception: mouth-watering and distinctly Montana food, libations and desserts. Enjoy a farm-to-table dinner between the hops and under the canopy at Purple Frog Gardens or try one of our most notable indulgences at Sweet Peaks Ice Cream. Montana flavors include huckleberry, Flathead honey and lavender ice cream.

5. Hands-on support from the Kalispell Convention & Visitors Bureau 
In Kalispell, one of the elements of meeting planning we provide is giving you local, hands-on support for assisting with site selection, site tours and activity suggestions. We’re happy to work with you and provide support during the entire planning process. Plus, we have an arsenal of professionals who we partner with and trust to ensure your Montana meeting goes smooth.  If you’re considering a meeting in Kalispell, let me know and I’d be happy to personally set up a customized “FAM” trip just for you.

Here’s to meeting you in Kalispell,
Dawn Jackson

The author, Dawn Jackson

The author, Dawn Jackson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About the author: Dawn is the Group Sales Manager for the Kalispell Convention & Visitors Bureau, where she works with meetings, conventions and group business.

MONTANA GUEST RANCHES MAKE THE PERFECT CORPORATE INCENTIVE VACATION

Over the last few years, the trend of companies investing again in incentive travel programs for their top producing associates has been on the rise. In most cases, companies are looking for the one-of-a-kind experience that will engage and encourage year-long motivation. When it comes to selecting the next destination for your corporate incentive program, look no further than Western Montana’s Glacier Country. Home to four of the finest guest ranches in the West—with each catering to couples, groups or families—Western Montana can deliver an experiential vacation of a lifetime for your team.

The Ranch at Rock Creek and the big sky of Montana

The Ranch at Rock Creek and the big sky of Montana.

Triple Creek Ranch: A member of the prestigious Relais & Chateaux properties (an exclusive collection of 500 of the world’s finest hotels and gourmet restaurants), Triple Creek Ranch sits amongst the pine trees in the Bitterroot Mountain Range in Darby, Montana. Located about an hour’s drive south of Missoula through the beautiful Bitterroot Valley, the 26,000-acre all-inclusive ranch caters to adults (all guests must be at least 16 years old) and features accommodations from private one-bedroom log cabins to luxury ranch homes. The lodge is adorned with an impressive western art collection and the restaurant—under the direction of Executive Chef Jake Leatherman—serves the freshest cuisine along with the world’s finest wines. Guests can choose from on-site and off-ranch activities that include:

  • On-site activities: horseback riding, hiking, tennis, panning for sapphires, archery or relaxing by the pool
  • Off-ranch adventures: fly-fishing or a scenic float on the Bitterroot River or a guided ATV tour
  • Winter activities: snowshoeing, cross-country, alpine skiing or a guided snowmobiling excursion

Awards: Triple Creek Ranch was recently named the best hotel in the world by Business Insider and voted the top hotel in the world by readers of Travel + Leisure magazine for 2014.

Entrance to the lodge at Triple Creek Ranch.

Entrance to the lodge at Triple Creek Ranch.

An evening of fireside entertainment.

An evening of fireside entertainment.

Memories captured at Triple Creek Ranch.

Memories captured at Triple Creek Ranch.

The Resort at Paws Up: Guests will be greeted for an unforgettable stay and experience at The Resort at Paws Up, a family friendly authentic working cattle ranch. Located in Greenough, Montana, Paws Up offers a luxury stay on 37,000 acres in the Blackfoot Valley. Accommodations vary from a ranch house to lavish guest homes along with riverside glamping camps that offer the utmost in luxury tent camping along the Blackfoot River—one of Montana’s premiere blue-ribbon fly-fishing trout streams and made famous in the movie A River Runs Through It.  As Western Montana’s largest guest ranch, The Resort at Paws Up staff will work with planners to create an outstanding incentive program to motivate, inspire and reward individuals (along with their families) or groups of up to 200 people. Activities include:

  • Year-round all-inclusive activities: fitness center, hiking trails, geocaching, fishing equipment, mountain biking, all on-property sports and pony rides
  • A-la-carte activities: archery, skeet shooting, ATV tours, riding lessons, fly-fishing, trail rides, hot air ballooning, rappelling, whitewater rafting and Spa Town
  • Winter: dogsledding, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, tubing and ice skating

Awards: in the Condé Nast Traveler Reader’s Choice Awards, The Resort at Paws Up was ranked 2nd of the top 20 resorts in the West, 5th in the top 25 resorts in the U.S. and 15th in the top 100 hotels & resorts in the world.

One of the luxury tent accommodations at Cliffside Camp along the Blackfoot River.

One of the luxury tent accommodations at Cliffside Camp along the Blackfoot River.

Beautiful interiors in one of the wilderness homes.

Beautiful interiors in one of the wilderness homes.

Gourmet chuckwagon cookout.

Gourmet chuckwagon cookout.

The Ranch at Rock Creek: If you want your top producers to feel like celebrities, send them to the world’s only five-star guest ranch where staff member will greet them by name throughout their stay. Located outside the cute Montana town of Philipsburg, The Ranch at Rock Creek is a family friendly ranch resort and a member of the prestigious Relais & Chateaux properties. It is the ultimate in all-inclusive luxury and experiences, offering 29 one-of-a-kind accommodations with 38 private bedrooms. Guests can choose to stay in one of the nine suites in the Granite Lodge, glamping cabins, the historic refurbished barn or one of a host of luxury guest homes. The Silver Dollar Saloon offers nightly entertainment including shuffleboard, billiards, table tennis, karaoke, a four-lane bowling alley and a private movie theater. Over 20 activities are offered daily on the ranch’s 6,600 acres.

  • Daily activity offerings: horseback riding, fly-fishing, shooting and archery, ropes course, mountain biking, hiking, geocaching and Little Grizzlies Kids Club, as well as a weekly old-fashioned rodeo
  • Relaxation offerings: Bikini Beach, pool, hot tub and luxury spa treatments at Granite Spa
  • Winter experiences: snowmobiling (including all-inclusive equipment, gear and guide), snow cat tours, sleigh rides, ice skating and sledding, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing

Awards: the only Forbes five-star ranch resort in the world.

Refurbished barn with luxury accommodations.

Refurbished barn with luxury accommodations.

Saddle up at the Silver Dollar Saloon.

Saddle up at the Silver Dollar Saloon.

Good old-fashioned barn dance.

Good old-fashioned barn dance.

Averill’s Flathead Lake Lodge: For the ultimate in traditional family dude ranch vacations, Averill’s Flathead Lake Lodge is one of the best. Family owned and operated for over 65 years, visitors will feel like a member of the Averill family at week’s end. Only 35 miles from Glacier National Park, the resort sits on the shore of Flathead Lake—the largest freshwater lake in the West—in Bigfork, Montana, on 2,000 acres and offers both horse and water recreation for the entire family. Accommodations have a rustic and cozy ambience with traditional log furnishings and country quilts adorning the beds, giving them a real old west cowboy feel. Cabins range from one to three bedrooms and are nestled in the pines. They also have a historic log lodge, complete with a rock fireplace and central lobby. The ranch can accommodate up to 120 guests at a time, with all incoming guests arriving on Sunday in the summer months for a full week worth of adventure, while length of stay for incentive group packages in the spring and fall can be negotiated. Some of the activity options include:

  • Horseback programs: trail rides, riding lessons, roping, team penning and rodeo
  • Flathead Lake water activities: sailing, lake cruises, stand-up paddle boards, kayaks, canoes and fishing
  • On-ranch activities: bike rentals, basketball and tennis courts, beach volleyball and lakeside swimming pool
  • Kids programs: arts and crafts, scavenger hunts, laser tag, junior wrangler and overnight tipi camping

Awards: voted one of the top 50 family vacations by Home and Garden magazine.

Historic Flathead Lake Lodge. Photos courtesy of Flathead Lake Lodge

Historic Flathead Lake Lodge. Photos courtesy of Flathead Lake Lodge

Happy horses after a hard day’s work.

Happy horses after a hard day’s work.

Sailing on Flathead Lake.

Sailing on Flathead Lake.

When you’re working with one of Montana’s guest ranches, here are a few things to note:

*Be sure to ask if shuttle transportation is included in the rates from local airports whether flying commercial or into private local airstrips. Triple Creek Ranch, The Resort at Paws Up and The Ranch at Rock Creek are all serviced by Missoula International Airport (MSO), while Averill’s Flathead Lake Lodge is serviced by Glacier Park International Airport (FCA).

*During the busy summer season, most guest ranches have a four-night minimum stay requirement. Averill’s Flathead Lake Lodge requires a week’s stay during the summer months, while spring, fall and winter stay lengths can be negotiated.

*All-inclusive is for most on-site activities, meals and beverages. Some seasonal amenities or off-property excursions are at additional costs or offered as an al-a-carte menu. Be sure to ask the ranch for specifics.

For more information on these guest ranches and others in our region or to explore other incentive options in Western Montana, visit our Glacier Country Meetings website or drop me a line; I’m always here to help.

Meet in Montana,

DP