Jim Manley Interview

 
 
 

EXPERT Q&A: Jim Manley

 

The owner of the Ranch at Rock Creek opens up about his whiskey of choice and the inspiration behind the only five star ranch in America

By: WHITNEY JAMES

 

Photo Credit: Ranch at Rock Creek

 
 

Q:

 

What inspired you to buy your own ranch? 

 
 

A:

JIM: I grew up in New Jersey in a small, crowded town. I watched a lot of westerns and was enamored by the west – the cowboys, the horses, the lifestyle – and made a vow when I was ten years old that I was going to get a ranch and go out to the mountains some day. It only took about 43 years.

 

 

“Owning my own ranch was more than a dream. It was an obsession.

 
 

Q:

 

The Ranch at Rock Creek sits between Missoula and Bozeman. Tell us, why Montana? 

 
 

A:

JIM: I started my search in the Rocky Mountain region because I wanted the ranch to be in high alpine terrain, but without the elevation you find in Colorado. Montana gives you a lower elevation with the right kind of environment. Another reason is that a lot of the West is developed, but this region is considered the last undiscovered part of Montana. It has a pristine, undeveloped look, and it is surrounded by National Forest and other private ranches.

 
 
 
 

Q:

 

What made you decide to open the Ranch at Rock Creek to guests, instead of having a working ranch you wouldn’t have to share with others?

 
 

A:

JIM: My dream was always to own a working cattle ranch with horses, fishing, and shooting. Real outdoors stuff. I didn’t decide to turn it into a guest ranch until I owned it for a year. All my friends, family, and clients said it was so incredible it had to be shared. I’m glad I did open it to the outside world, because I really enjoy sharing it with people.

 
 
 

Q:

 

How does the Ranch at Rock Creek compare to other guest ranches over the US? 

 
 

A:

JIM: I’ve been to many guest ranches all over the United States, and I’ve really enjoyed them. But I realized there was a void in the market. There weren’t any that had a real feeling of authenticity mixed with high luxury, such as a spa and a 5-star experience. I wanted to make something that was very authentic and had that “step back in time” feel. While building the Ranch at Rock Creek, I made everything old, building it with reclaimed wood to give it that vibe.

 

 "This region is considered the last undiscovered part of Montana."

 

Our tented cabins are the most unique in the market because they’re very large and with all creature comforts you can imagine, from full baths to iPod hookups. This is the sort of standard that sets the Ranch at Rock Creek apart.

 
 
 
 

Q:

 

We won’t call it a dude ranch. How do you explain the Ranch at Rock Creek to first timers?

 
 

A:

JIM: People have called it a luxury guest ranch, which it is, but they also call it a luxury camp for families. I think of it as the ultimate in experiential vacationing because there are so many activities, and at the same time, you are ensconced in luxury. Right now we’re the only 5-star ranch in the nation, rated by Forbes Magazine.

 
 
 

Q:

 

You have created a new cowboy culture – one with a heavy focus on community. What’s your secret?

 
 

A:

JIM: It just kind of happened that way. Some people say we have a sense of community – I just call it a home. If you came to my home, and I had my friends there, you would feel welcome. The ranch gives off that feeling.

 
 
 

Q:

 

Is there anything in particular that makes the Ranch at Rock Creek stand out as a great destination for Outside GO enthusiasts?

 
 

A:

JIM: We offer 25 different activities, from rafting to cat skiing. There’s even a downhill mountain biking course with a 1,000-foot descent. From laid-back activities to the adrenaline filled, we’ve got you covered.

 
 
 
 

Q:

 

Spill it – what are your favorite activities for each season?

 
 

A:

JIM: In the summer, I would say shooting: pistol, rifle, sporting clays and skeet. I love the downhill single-track course, horseback riding, and rafting down Rock Creek. In the fall, I like to bike a 40-mile ride down the road. The hiking is great then too, because it’s cooler. In the winter I love to cross country ski, snowshoe, and ice skate. Spring is great, because you can pick and choose from all the year-round sports.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Q:

When you are done arm wrestling in the saloon after watching your favorite western film, what's your cocktail of choice?

 
 

A:

JIM: Straight Montana whiskey over ice.

 
 
 

Q:

 

What is your favorite Western?

 
 

A:

JIM: "The Big Country." It’s the best western of all time.

 
 
 

Q:

 

Why do you think people come back to the ranch time after time? 

 
 

A:

JIM: They love the staff, they love the food and activities, and they love the pristine beauty of the ranch. The ranch has only been open four years and it has already become a family tradition for many of our guests.

 
 
 

 

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Jim Manly Interview

 
 

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