The new face of dude ranches
Top 50 Ranches works extensively with corporate planners and networks about 50 upscale dude ranches for various group sizes. The bulk of these full-service, all-inclusive ranches are located in the American West, with a few more scattered around the world from Argentina to Australia.
CEO Jody Dahl once owned her own ranch, and she remembers how difficult it was for clients to find reliable information among so many options. We sat down with Jody to learn about corporate retreats at a dude ranch.
Prevue: Can you describe what Top 50 Ranches is?
Jody Dahl: We are a marketing association for dude ranches. We visit and hand select only those that meet a specific criteria. They have to have the utmost in quality, hospitality, service and landscape. It has to stand out above the rest. We are the best contact for planners who want to plan a group ranch retreat. We can get them started in the planning process.
What do groups get out of the experience?
No other venue offers as many activities as a ranch retreat. A lot of time when dealing with planners, they can’t decide what activity to do with the group. There are so many activities under one ranch: fishing, horseback riding, spa, 4-wheeling, etc.
At a ranch, there’s a wide-open landscape, perfect for clearing the mind and preparing for a meeting that you are focusing on.
Herding cattle sounds awesome, is that something that a lot of the dude ranches offer?
Yes. Many of the ranches offer herding cattle. A very popular activity is team-penning in the arena. Corporate groups will divide into teams on horseback or on foot. It really gets them communicating because they are dealing with animals. It improves their communication skills as a group immensely. It opens up a whole other type of communication for them.
What about those who don’t know how to ride a horse or never have before?
The ranches accommodate anywhere between novice to experienced riders. They teach them how to mount, control the horse, stop, go, etc.
Can you tell us about meeting space?
It really depends on the ranch. The smaller ranches may only hold 20 people, so meetings are more impromptu But the larger retreats have dedicated conference/breakout rooms. There are some ranches that have up to 200 people for meeting and some use a barn for events.
What about luxury/upscale ranches?
There are several. Triple Creek Ranch and Ranch at Rock Creek are both high-end properties. In Wyoming you have Brush Creek Ranch where you can find detail oriented accommodations, meeting, space, etc.
What’s the cuisine like on a ranch?
You’ll never match the dining experiences that you’ll get at a ranch. The food is locally sourced from a garden on property, it’s fresh and the beef is ranch raised. The culinary experience knocks others out of the park. Alcohol is negotiable in the price, but beer/wine is typically served with dinner.
Can you tell us how planners/groups can get a lot for their money at a ranch?
The scenic views aren’t fabricated. It’s completely nature and fresh air. You also have to consider that it’s similar to an all-inclusive model. Most of them are that way. You don’t have to worry about being nickel and dimed while you are there.