Each private cabin has its own wood-burning stove for optimal coziness.
When my husband went in for an unanticipated knee surgery two weeks before we were set to travel to Montana to stay at Triple Creek Ranch, we debated putting the trip on hold. I convinced him that if he was going to rehab somewhere, it might as well be amid falling snow, Pendleton wool blankets and a crackling fireplace. He gave in.
Triple Creek Ranch, 75 miles from Missoula, is all about curating the guest experience. If that means room service from the property’s impeccable kitchen for three days of hunkering down, the staff will oblige. But if it’s downhill skiing on the Continental Divide or snowshoeing with a picnic lunch, they can make that happen too. During our visit in February, we tapped into both sides: He rested up, taking advantage of the resort’s 24/7 attention to guests, and I hit big sky country to both Nordic and Alpine ski. We were able to join forces over incredible meals and a stellar wine program at night.
Cross-country skiing can be done solo or with a guide.
Consistently ranked at the top of awards lists, including the No. 1 boutique hotel in the world by Travel + Leisure in 2016, Triple Creek Ranch is a Relais & Châteaux destination for Western adventure-seekers from all over the country. In the summer, hiking, biking and wrangling reign supreme; in the winter, it’s skiing, snowshoeing and horseback riding. Year-round, the dining is memory-making; the service on point; and the property child-free (under 16), a bonus for adults—or parents to a new baby like ourselves—looking to truly get away.
Without kids, there may be more elk on property than guests. The maximum capacity is 66, spread between the ranch’s 25 private log cabins, which range from one to three bedrooms. The resident elk lie around in no hurry to get anywhere, a metaphor for Montana—relaxed wild. Vacation here is as languorous or active as one wants it.
Horseback riding in the winter or summer takes guests through the Bitterroot Mountains and onto Triple Creek Ranch’s adjacent 26,000-acre CB Ranch property.
The first day, I opted for a morning of downhill skiing at Lost Trail Powder Mountain. A little over 30 minutes from Triple Creek Ranch, the 1,800-acre mountain has been family-owned for more than 80 years. Lift tickets and rentals are part of the all-inclusive rate to stay at Triple Creek Ranch. Open just Thursday through Sunday, lift lines and Chanel ski outfits are a rare sighting. Instead, fresh snow, wildfire-burnt gladed runs and a humble cafeteria are the norm.
After a half-day of fresh powder turns and snowy smiles, it was back to Triple Creek to join my husband for a wine-tasting class. The ranch hosts specialty vintner weekends and served this time was Rasa Vineyards, of Walla Walla, Wash. On-site sommelier and spirits director Angela Gargano walked a dozen visitors through some of her favorites, a preview of things to come with that night’s chef’s table dinner. Over a game of Scrabble and chatting with other guests, with snow lightly falling outside, time started to slow.
That evening, executive chef Jacob Leatherman put together a thoughtful seven-course menu, as part of the Chef’s Table experience, and introduced each round. The dishes were creative, explosive in flavor and specific to our tastes—and my pescatarian diet—with dishes like fava bean risotto or red snapper white beans, arugula almond pesto, and roasted cauliflower. Gargano paired the meal with a global tour of wine, and when my husband requested an obscure fernet at the end of the evening, she delivered.
The wine cellar is home to more than 700 bottles, and the program has been given a Wine Spectator Award of Excellence for 10 years running.
The following day, I found myself back in the kitchen for an afternoon cooking class from sous-chef Barry Kotek. We spent two hours learning how to braise lamb and make a pasta cream sauce, and picking up cooking tidbits. (My favorite: Salt and pepper throughout cooking, not just at the beginning or end). I’d earned the indulgence, after exploring the miles of trails on property—most former logging roads—on cross-country skis that morning. Two hours of swishing through the Montana woods alone, and all I saw were rolling clouds. Not even another footprint graced some of the paths. (Guided treks are also available on the property’s new Lavene Creek Trail System.)
The next morning, we boarded an early flight back to Aspen, narrowly missing snowstorms in both Rocky Mountain airports. A week later, I was thinking about the solitude and serenity that comes from Montana’s wilderness, and Triple Creek’s attention to detail, which leaves the heavy thinking to its staff. That’s when a package arrived in the mail: Gargano sent us a bottle of fernet, batched from Missoula’s Montana Distillery. Even with the trip complete, we were still on it. One-bedroom cabins from $1,050 per night
Photography by: Triple Creek Ranch