By Abbie Digel
stay·ca·tion noun ˈstā-ˈkā-shən vacation spent at home or nearby
The sound of pool balls cracking against each other, followed by a high five and cheers of excitement, echoes from the dining cabin at 320 Ranch. A line
of snowmobiles is parked outside of the cabin, and a warm glow lights the evening. Inside, Chef Nick Mehmke and his staff are boiling lobster, grilling
local steaks and keeping wine glasses full.
“It’s a quick getaway, far enough that it feels like a weekend away, but
close enough so it’s not time consuming,” said General Manager John Richardson. “People really gravitate toward that. With less families travelling since the recession, more people aren’t able to get away like they could in the past.”
320 offers $15 all-you-can eat prime rib on Mondays, an extensive wine
list and a saloon menu featuring Wild Boar Mac and Cheese and Cowboy Pie, all served by friendly staff. Promotional deals and consistent low prices differentiate 320 from other ranch vacations in Montana, and Richardson says they want to
make the property as accessible as possible. “We want guests to have that ranch experience, where everything is larger than life.”
Over a plate of heaping eggs, cheesy hash browns, and sausage links at breakfast, General Manager John Richardson, points to a large family sitting at a table in the corner. They came from Bozeman just for the night. 320’s local market includes a four-hour radius, including Helena, Butte and Jackson.
“There’s still a misconception that we’re private and only accommodate our on-ranch guests, but we are open to the public; everything we do is a la
carte,” Richardson said.
This means guests can pick and choose from various seasonal activities like trail rides, Western style barbecues, fly fishing on the Gallatin (right on the property), and rafting. In the winter, their popular sleigh ride is always a hit for families, as well as dog sledding and nordic skiing. New this year, 320 introduced free shuttle rides to and from their restaurant, as well as free rides
for guests up to the ski hill and to other nearby restaurants.
This hospitality is a throwback to the time when Dr. Caroline McGill, the first woman doctor in Montana, purchased the property and used it as a resting place for patients. McGill worked and died there, and as she aged, she donated most of the items from the ranch to the McGill Museum in Bozeman (now Museum of the Rockies).
The 320 team is made up of 20 winter staff, and 50 in summer. Providing staff housing creates “an informal, professional and relaxed environment,” said Richardson. “We want guests to feel like they are coming to a relative’s home they haven’t seen in awhile.”
After breakfast, Richardson meets 320 staff members, and they pile
into a car and head up to Big Sky Resort for an employee ski day. “We have our own little family here. We dine together, play together—it’s fun. Everybody lives and works here. Our free time and work time meld together.”
The staff is currently gearing up for the summer months, where they’ll host a $10 Monday night pig roast. They also are busy hosting 50-70 wedding events, yearly. The ranch offers offering multiple venues for events, including their banquet hall, 1800 square foot tent, and pastures along the river. The ranch
is also a popular place to book family reunions and corporate groups.
But most importantly, “We love our community support, and we want to offer incredible meals to our friends in Big Sky and West Yellowstone,” said Karen Macklin, Director of Food and Beverage. “We’re a little over 10 minutes out of Big Sky, and just over a half hour out of West Yellowstone. It’s easy to come down and join us for dinner any night of the week.”
Overall, it’s all about being present in a simple, quiet setting. Richardson said, “Coming here has a therapeutic effect on people.”