Real Estate & Construction  March 11, 2011

Brush Creek Ranch blends old, new

SARATOGA – The Lodge and Spa Brush Creek Ranch is a blend of old and new, done so skillfully that the line between the century-old working cattle ranch and the top-of-the-line guest ranch is invisible. The brand-new historic guest ranch opens in June on 13,000 acres set between Saratoga and the Medicine Bow National Forest, about 50 miles north of Walden.

Historic buildings from the original ranch have been restored and are scattered around the grounds. The cabins that once housed the ranch foreman and ranch owners have been stabilized and renovated and are now luxury accommodations for families.

The new 38,000-square-foot Trail Head Lodge is a log and timber frame structure set into a hillside overlooking the Platte River Valley. Inside, 28-foot ceilings and two huge fireplaces provide a lofty setting for a wine cellar, exhibition kitchen, dining area and a lounge area.

Outside, the lodge’s rough wood siding stained in multiple colors to match the look of weathered barn wood and its metal roof with a patina of rust make it look as if the structure has been there forever. And that’s the point.

Nine new (but faux weathered) log cabin residences have been built nearby, close enough for easy access to the lodge’s spa yet far enough for privacy and solitude.

The original barn’s hayloft is now a Cowboy Chapel that converts into a dance hall. Downstairs, the area that used to house horses and tack has become storage for the mountain bikes, cross-country skis and other outdoor equipment available to guests.

Don’t worry about the horses being evicted from the barn – they now live in cushy stalls alongside the new 28,000-square-foot equestrian center just over the hill and out of sight and scent of the ranch’s living areas.

Done the White way

Brush Creek Ranch was conceived by hotel management entrepreneur Bruce White, whose Indiana-based White Lodging has 25 years of experience in mid- to large-scale hotels.

“Bruce and his wife Beth have a passion for the West,” explained Mike Williams, executive vice president and COO of Brush Creek Ranch. “They looked for land in Colorado, Wyoming and Utah, but fell in love with Brush Creek. They like the diversity of terrain, the great surrounding community and the fact that Saratoga has a workable airport that allows them to visit frequently.”

The Whites bought the property in December 2008. The plan at first was to use the property as a family sanctuary and as a place to hold charity functions for the Bruce and Beth White Family Foundation.

However, Bruce White realized that the ranch offered the opportunity to “share this magnificent land with those who would truly appreciate its culture and heritage,” so The Lodge and Spa at Brush Creek Ranch was born.

After that, things moved quickly. The Whites built and renovated everything in just 23 months.

“The construction downturn was great for us,” Williams said. “We were able to put 140 contractors and craftsmen to work for us very quickly.”

The cost of construction was not disclosed, but, as spokeswoman Courtney Lis explained, “Bruce White worked to create his vision of the ranch without strict budget constraints.”

The finishes are all top-notch, from in-floor heat in the bath to granite countertops, from moss rock fireplaces to original artwork in the common areas and leather flooring in what the staff refers to as “The Man Cave” – a 12-year-old scotch-and-bearskin-rug retreat officially known as the Cattle Baron’s Library.

The price to stay at Brush Creek ranges from $720 a night for a room in the lodge during fall and spring to $6,600 a night for a three-bedroom log cabin residence during peak summer and Christmas times.

The term “all-inclusive” is taken literally at Brush Creek. Every meal, including fine wines and liquor, and every activity, including the 10-station sporting clays shooting course to the six miles of private water for trout fishing at the ranch is included. The only exceptions are the spa treatments.

Not just for high rollers

Through the Beth and Bruce White Foundation, the ranch also will be home to a special Kids Camp, giving inner-city children the opportunity to experience the West.

Twenty campers will be invited to “rough it” for two-week stays on the property with 10 platform tents and a bathhouse, with access to a challenge course and other activities led by a pair of educators from Chicago’s Latin School.

In addition to the foundation’s works, the Whites have put about 3,000 acres of the ranch under a conservation easement to help keep their corner of Wyoming as wild as possible.

The ranch is also expected to attract “exclusive, high-end, Fortune 250 corporations looking to recognize performance and build togetherness,” Williams explained.

The facility can easily handle multiple meetings, with a variety of meeting spaces and food and beverage options. Williams explained that Brush Creek can hold events for up to 125 people. The meeting and event spaces encompass a total of 9,000 square feet and include multiple boardrooms and flexible indoor and outdoor space, including walk-out decks and patios. Each meeting space offers all necessary technical amenities including an on-site audio-visual technician and WiFi.

Although the Ranch has a live-in staff of 45 to 50 during peak times, the association with White Lodging makes staffing this remote location a lot easier. In addition to providing a formalized training program for all staff members, the group has a large pool of trained employees nearby, from 19 hotels in Colorado and five hotels in Utah – “a very elastic staffing mode,” that allows the ranch to “go very lean,” as Williams puts it.

Brush Creek Ranch’s competition includes a handful of other Western destination ranches, such as Montana’s Paws Up, Triple Creek and The Ranch at Rock Creek, and Three Forks Ranch in Savery, Wyo.

“Those ranches have done a great job of announcing this market segment (luxury ranches) to the public,” Williams said.

Williams explained that Brush Creek Ranch’s appeal is to corporations looking for team-building experiences, couples looking for the perfect wedding destination, and vacationers looking to make memories.

Wyoming Business Report editor MJ Clark lives in Lander and can be reached at wbr.mjclark@wyoming.com.

SARATOGA – The Lodge and Spa Brush Creek Ranch is a blend of old and new, done so skillfully that the line between the century-old working cattle ranch and the top-of-the-line guest ranch is invisible. The brand-new historic guest ranch opens in June on 13,000 acres set between Saratoga and the Medicine Bow National Forest, about 50 miles north of Walden.

Historic buildings from the original ranch have been restored and are scattered around the grounds. The cabins that once housed the ranch foreman and ranch owners have been stabilized and renovated and are now luxury accommodations for…

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