2008 Ranchers of the Year
Wayne and Judy Kilpatrick
Triple Creek Ranch, Darby, Montana
What sets the Ranchers of the Year apart from the operators of hundreds of other great ranches Gene Kilgore has visited? Some criteria are specific, such as: ensuring the ranch offers an amazing menu, lodging that brings both comfort and style, and offering a wide range of activities to guests. Others are less concrete: the way they’ve responded to challenges that face every dude and guest ranch owner—including maintaining a top-notch staff and keeping up with the times with innovative programs and offerings.
And the general managers of the Triple Creek Ranch meet all those criteria and more. After some 25 years as general managers of the ranch, Wayne and Judy Kilpatrick are still enchanted by their surroundings here in the heart of the Bitterroot Mountains.
Today it’s bitterly cold, with 8 inches of snow on the ground, but Wayne Kilpatrick feels like he’s in Heaven. “I’m living the lifestyle some people only dream about,” he notes, “surrounded by wildlife, mountains, clean air, and with a pretty short commute!”
But don’t let him kid you—he and wife Judy have no simple job managing a ranch with a lodge, 23 cabins with all the amenities, horses, herds of cattle, a full program of activities (from fly fishing and hiking to cattle work) and a staff of about 50. Yet, from the welcome basket of warm cookies to the tasteful décor and extraordinary service to guests, it all happens seamlessly.
Their secrets? “We make sure our staff has the opportunity to travel and work in other top facilities,” notes Kilpatrick. “It helps them to learn new techniques and to stay on top of trends.” And the décor? “You just have to keep current and freshen them constantly,” says Judy Kilpatrick.
How do they keep performing at such a high level?
“You have to believe in the concept of service,” believes Kilpatrick, “and teach your staff that it feels good to do fun, individual things for guests,” he adds.
”It takes effort, but it says you care,” he believes. And if you convince the staff to care at that level, it makes a huge difference, Kilpatrick continues.
“Once it has happened, they know how cool it is and how much fun it is; they get reinforcement for doing it—and maybe a tip,” he says. He also adds that the whole staff gets a share of gratuities. “So they all understand the importance of that level of service. The system does work—but the manager has to be a facilitator and believer.”
You can’t argue with results, which is why we’re honored to present Wayne and Judy Kilpatrick with Gene Kilgore’s award for Ranchers of the Year, 2008.
What we love about Christmas on the ranch
The sweet curl of smoke from a chimney into a starry sky
The gathering of friends from far and wide
The neighing of horses tucked snug in the barn
A white coat of ice on the nearby tarn
The laughter of young and old in our families
The chance to make warm new memories
The joy of hard work and pulling together as a team
A lifestyle and landscape that’s out of a dream
Happy holidays from Gene Kilgore and all of us at Ranchweb.com and the DudeRanchBlog.com. We hope your days are filled with the spirit of the season and the warmth of good cheer.
Look for our story on the Rancher of the Year on Christmas Day!
Then, we’ll be back January 1, with more good news from Dude and Guest Ranch Country. And we’d love to hear from you in 2009!
Vintage shirts for gals
Denver-based Rockmount has been around since 1946—long enough to become a true Western icon. The company made its name with its embroidered shirts, and they’re still hot today—especially women’s shirts with their pictorial (shown) and floral patterns. A lot of the work on items like the one above is done by hand, which is why these shirts cost a bit more, but become so treasured and lovingly cared for by their owners.
Rockmount has dozens of styles to choose from on their website (and you can order by email or phone). Their newest embroidery is inspired by the natural beauty of the iris, with chenille embroidery on collar, front, cuffs and back; ($87). For more info, check the Rockmount website (photo courtesy of Rockmount).
Need more gift ideas for the wrangler or dude in your life? We’re counting down the list of Hot Picks from Sheplers western wear, and this one is not only distinctive but is perfect for the guy who ‘can’t be fenced in’.
The Justin® barbed wire belt ($60) is made of leather, with a leather barbed wire detail overlay and more barbed wire detailing on the buckle. Now I know what you’re thinking: how do I know what size to get? Easy: just use his jean or slack waist size and then add 2 inches to determine belt size. To order, go to Sheplers website and order online, or use the store locator button to find out where you can shop locally. Photo courtesy of Sheplers.
Can’t think of what to get for the cowboy or cowgirl in the family? We couldn’t either, so we asked the nice folks at Sheplers western wear store for their Hot Picks. Over the next few days, we’ll highlight some of the most asked-for gifts in Sheplers lineup. And don’t worry that you’ve left your shopping too late or that there is no western wear store nearby. Go online, shop, and set up overnight shipping—there’s plenty of time for your gift to arrive before the big day.
Today’s hot item: Roper Old West embroidered retro Western shirt ($62), shown at left. Its the vintage western look, with lots of detailing and the classic one-point western back yoke, pearlized snap closures, and five-snap cuffs. With its traditional fit (not too slim or loose), it could be just the thing to suit ranchers and dudes alike. You can order online at Sheplers’ website or find a nearby store using their store locator button. Photo courtesy of Sheplers.
Just outside Cordoba, Argentina, Estancia Los Potreros is a horse and cattle ranch run by the Begg family. Its small size (12 guests) belies the estancia’s world-class reputation, honed by Robin and Kevin Begg and their wives Teleri and Luisa.
Guests get a close-up look at a classic South American cattle estancia, plus enjoy trail riding, birdwatching, hiking in the wide-open countryside, and Cordon-bleu inspired menus. On twice-daily rides, you can cover a lot of Argentinian ground, depending on your experience and skill.
But what most guests remember about Los Potreros: polo. If you’re up to it, you can take a whack at the game the Brits spread around the globe. When they give you a mallet, helmet, and a horse used to novice players, you’ll be geared up—or ‘kitted out’, as they say in the British-style English spoken here (along with Spanish). Then the Beggs will teach you the game’s basics, like how to hit the ball without hitting your mount. Eventually, you’ll play a practice chukka-one period in a polo match.
It’s open year-round (save for four weeks in May/June). Twice a year, Los Potreros offers two-week daily polo schools for beginners; check the web for schedule. And every Easter, the ranch hosts an annual polo tournament. As the Brits would say, “Bully, old chaps!”
Looking for a different holiday outing? How about snowmobiling, snowshoeing, or nordic skiing in Yellowstone National Park or along the Continental Divide Trail System? At Wyoming’s Turpin Meadow Ranch, winter play options abound.
You can tramp about endlessly on snowshoes (it’s fun and easy, even for beginners) or strap on skinny skis and glide onto a trail right outside your cabin door. Turpin Ranch is in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, so Grand Teton National Park
is handy (just 15 miles away) and so is the southern border of Yellowstone National Park. The ranch offers snowmobile tours into Yellowstone park, where you can gawk over abundant wildlife (bison, elk, tundra swans, even wolves) along with hissing mud pots, frothy fumaroles, and steamy geysers. Or let them show you a section of the Continental Divide Trail (CDT); the little-known CDT traverses some of Wyoming’s most diverse landscapes, from the craggy Teton Wilderness to the lake-strewn Wind River Range.
Finding the right ranch for you and your family can be a little like finding the perfect horse–fun, but also daunting, thanks to a wide range of choices. But there’s a lot of help out there. Our partner website, Ranchweb.com offers several special features to help narrow your choices. The site’s exclusive Space Availability Finder & Dude Ranch and Guest Ranch Search Engine lets you find ranches and lodges that meet your preferences (for example, the price range, ranch activities you want, and whether or not you will be traveling with children). Narrow the list by selecting a specific state, province or country, then click one of the resulting ranches or lodges to find details on activities, accommodations, rates, food, kid’s programs and more, plus photographs.
At Ranchweb’s Interactive Map
, you get a bird’s-eye view of the area you would like to travel to. Click on an area of the map and zoom into a state or province to see a listing of dude ranches and guest ranches. Then, just click on a ranch listing for more information; use the navigation tools at the top or bottom of the page or use the back button on your browser to review additional ranches and lodges.