The Ranch at Rock Creek Earns 9th Consecutive 5-Star Award

Living out in the wild, it’s easy to disconnect from the buzz of modern life. But every year when we learn we’ve won another Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star, we feel connected to all the hotels who’ve faced all the challenges of the year and achieved the apex of service standards in the hospitality industry. As we think about the meaning of our 9th consecutive five-star award, we want to congratulate our fellow star winners across the globe, and especially each and every member of The Ranch at Rock Creek family.

COVID has brought many challenges to our industry. However, this team was purposeful in their efforts to stay the course, never cut corners, and provide the level of service that The Ranch at Rock Creek is known for. This team worked the hardest they ever have, and they did it with a smile to provide that respite for our guests during challenging times.

~ Jeremy Belnap, General Manager

Work Here, Work Happy Finalist in the Best-of-the-Year Awards

This year’s award comes with the dual honor of being chosen as a finalist for the Forbes Travel Guide’s Best-of-the-Year Awards accolade “Work Here, Work Happy.” Forbes Travel Guide selects its finalists from hotels, restaurants, spas or brands that have implemented creative ways to attract and retain staff. Most businesses, let alone most hotels, have struggled to be fully staffed in the past few years as they provide a COVID-19 safe workplace. People across the country reevaluated how they wanted to work and live.

Ranch at Rock Creek staff photo

The Ranch at Rock Creek Staff gathered at our 2022 Ranch Olympics

This time of great change at work mirrored a time of great change in travel. More than ever, people were breaking away from normal routine, in search of more meaningful interactions with their families and their environment. While many industries could offer remote work, Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star service is in-person, attentive, and built on meaningful connections. Work from home is not an option in hospitality. At The Ranch at Rock Creek, we offer something a little different, work from the wild.

The Ranch at Rock Creek's hiking trails lead to stunning meadows, peaks and forests
The Ranch at Rock Creek nestled between the John Long, Sapphire and Pintler mountain ranges.

Working Happy at The Ranch at Rock Creek

How does one work happy? There are as many answers to that question as there are people, but it was our Executive Committee’s job to try to improve the overall happiness of our staff in ways that would be meaningful. Assistant General Manager Linda Walser explained several ways we approached this question:

This year we raised our minimum wage to help address the increased cost of living. We provide free housing for all staff living on property and for the full-time staff members who have chosen to live off-property we implemented a housing stipend to offset the cost of living. We recognize that money isn’t the only answer, but part of the equation. We wanted to encourage our staff to prioritize their mental health and give them a safe space to talk through the challenges that they face. We scheduled a licensed therapist to provide on-Ranch monthly therapy sessions, free of cost to our staff. We also had a mandatory recovery blackout before the holidays. We did not allow our staff to work, but encouraged them to get out and do something they enjoy.

Group hiking on a trail

Other benefits include staff activities and instruction so that employees can make the most of our epic location; ski passes for full-time staff; a staff bike program, shuttles and two daily meals; EMT and other training opportunities; Ranch family meals, and more. Learn more about staff perks here.

I think now more than ever, people really appreciate the ability to be happy with what they do for a living. Working for The Ranch at Rock Creek for the past year has given me that. The drive delivers stunning views of Big Sky Country and an abundance of wildlife. I’m greeted by my smiling coworkers and friends. A warm work environment paired with the ability to help guests make their Montana getaway dreams come true has created the perfect work environment for me.

~ Kelsey Shaver, Reservations Agent

It’s our employees that execute up to 900 service standards daily, so it’s only right that they help answer this question in their own words.

Location, Location, Location

Perhaps the biggest initial draw to The Ranch is its breathtaking, remote location. People looking for a change can trade car horns for pronghorns.

A moose drinks from Welcome Pond at The Ranch at Rock Creek in Montana
A bull moose dines on aquatic plants at Welcome Pond. Photo by Kelsey McGlothlin.

I moved out from the Chicago area two years ago without ever even being to Montana, and a big reason I took such a large step outside of my comfort zone was because of the first impression I got of The Ranch and the people who worked there. It definitely took some adjusting to rural life, but the scenery is unmatched and in my opinion some of the most beautiful landscapes in North America. I hope to spend many more fun-filled seasons here at The Ranch!

~ Michael Novak, HR Associate

The staff who work here possess an adventurous spirit. They live next to a Blue Ribbon trout stream and many hike to and from work. For workers who join us for our peak season from May through September, they can spend the long days enjoying mile-high views, easy access to camping on their days off and the chance to learn lifelong hobbies. For those who stay year-round, they live 30 minutes from a ski hill that’s considered by National Geographic as one of the Best-Kept Secrets in North America, and those with families can raise their kids closer to nature, with on-site childcare provided by The Nest at Rock Creek.

Wranglers on their horses

I moved to Montana to work at The Ranch at Rock Creek because the people seem genuinely happy to be here. It’s encouraged to enjoy your surroundings (what isn’t to love about the nature that surrounds us here?) and I would have the opportunity to not only excel at my job but in the industry too.

~ Brooke Hudsmith, Front Office Manager

Ranch Community, Ranch Family

Another benefit is living and working with people who value living a wilder life out West. Lifelong friendships are forged on hikes to Top of the World, camping trips, float trips and nights around the campfires at staff housing.

The Ranch's staff housing is nestled in the Montana wilderness, just a short walk or ride from the Granite Lodge.
Staff housing sits near Blue Ribbon Rock Creek and just below Top of the World peak

Living in staff housing has allowed me to form great friendships, and at the end of the day it feels like I’m part of a big family. I am very grateful for my time here at The Ranch at Rock Creek. I believe it is also such a happy place to work because of our leaders, our managers. They truly care and go the extra mile for us.

~ Liana Day, Room Attendant

Our staff excel at anticipating guests’ needs, and this may be because they also looked for a place to get away, find respite and relax in the middle of nowhere before they applied to The Ranch.

Lead AM Cook Aidan Garison came to The Ranch from North Carolina after working in a pizza restaurant. He loved the willingness of his managers and co-workers to teach him new methods as a line cook. After a few months, he was cooking outside on cast-iron Dutch ovens and was promoted to Lead AM Cook. He invited several of his best friends to come out and work with him.

Cowboy Breakfast at Piney Pond
Lead AM Cook Aidan Garison cooks a a Dutch oven Cowboy Breakfast.

It’s a place where your hard work pays off. The guests are receptive and friendly, saying this is one of the best breakfasts they’ve ever had, while they eat outside next to a pond in the middle of Montana. The staff accepted me and guided me, which gave me an incentive to work harder. Managers are receptive to personal requests. There are a lot of jobs where there are no exceptions and that’s not how it is here.

~ Aidan Garison

Passion Inspires Happy Work

Owner Jim Manley is passionate about providing the best ranch experience in the world, after he searched the American West for 20 years to find the perfect ranch for his family.

Women collect drinks from a small cart
Passion projects are part of The Ranch, including converting this old horse trailer into a mobile bar.

The Ranch has also retained many of its leaders. Executive Chef Josh Drage, Activities Director Patrick Little, Kitchen Manager Kelly Fernatt and Maintenance Lead Mike O’Dell have all worked at The Ranch since the beginning 12 years ago. Housekeeping Manager Stephanie Boutry worked here before it became a guest ranch, and 10 years later she returned and won the Manager of the Year Award. General Manager Linda Walser started as a server and moved up the ranks before becoming second-in-command. Their passion is inspiring for those looking to excel in the hospitality industry.

PM Events Lead Kayden Windsor, explained how important this passion was to him in his first days here:

When I was an intern at The Ranch at Rock Creek Executive Chef, Josh Drage was flawless in his execution of instilling his passion in his team members. He shared with me the craftsmanship that went into each element. The way he spoke about it fueled my fire to be the best I could be each day to ensure our final product went out to our guests as perfectly as we could achieve.

Chef putting a sauce on a plate
Executive Chef Josh Drage

I believe that passion and happiness are closely aligned. When one fades, the other follows which leads to fatigue, increased stress and an unbalanced life. The Ranch encourages its team to enjoy the astonishing nature we are surrounded by and the tight-knit community we all become a part of by being in Philipsburg, Montana. All the practices and ethics this property exemplifies encourage my passion to be the best in the hospitality industry.

~ Kayden Windsor

We can’t thank our staff enough for all they do. They are the stars of our TripAdvisor reviews for good reason. See below for a few snippets just from our April reviews:

The staff could not do enough for you – Thank you MaKenna, Brian, Sam, Max, Hannah, Linda, Brook and all the others who took such good care of us!

The staff is superb. They made us feel like VIPs from the minute our driver, Neil, met us at the airport.

Every single staff member is so nice and the service is world-class.

If you missed our Earth Week sustainability blog, please take a look at the 22 initiatives our Ranchers support on a daily basis as they provide world-class service to our guests.

Staff cleaning up clark fork clean up
Ranchers on last week’s Clark Fork River Cleanup.

I feel that with this great change, we have only become better at what we do; making our guests feel special, everyone is a VIP on our watch. I love coming to work knowing that I am part of something bigger than a paycheck; we have a purpose and succeed at all we try for with a united front. I’ve never worked anywhere like The Ranch and that makes me happy to work here.

~ Candace Sellman, Spa Supervisor

Our Ranchers’ dedication has made The Ranch a happy place to work and also a supportive community. It’s the team that inspires us to work harder, happier and a little wilder.

Visit our Careers page to see our current listings and join our team. You can also follow us on LinkedIn. Watch the video below and, if you’re looking for a change, consider making the mountains your office.