Apr 29

Glamping: Soaking Up Nature in the Lap of Luxury

by Kelsey Dayton

In the seven years since the Resort at Paws Up started offering “glamping,” or glamorous camping, they’ve added doors with actual hinges replacing the zipper opening of a tent, they’ve added twig-made walls to separate rooms, installed bath tubs, air I conditioning and heat, and this year some structures are getting Japanese soaking tubs on the deck.

The one thing that has stayed the same and differentiates the feeling of staying in a high-end hotel or luxury cabin is the canvas walls of the tent. You can hear the river or the sound of rain, said Stephen Beaumont, CEO of Paws Up Ranch in Greenough.

“It’s just the canvas between you and the heavens” he said.

Glamping, a term to describe highend luxury camping, is modeled after the African safari. It first became popular in the United States about a decade ago, and now ranches and resorts across Montana are offering a way to get out in nature without giving up a comfortable bed and hot shower.

In 2009, Sarah Dusek, CEO of the Under Canvas Group, which offers glamping near Glacier and Yellowstone national parks, and her husband started operating Sage Safaris in Havre. Dusek had worked in Africa and Havre’s landscape struck her as similar to the prairies and bush. Rich in wildlife and with visitors coming for hunting, modeling an operation after an African safari seemed natural.

A stay at Sage Safaris not only includes three gourmet meals a day and staying in a fully furnished safari tent, elevated off the ground and with its own private bathroom, but also a private hunting guide for upland bird hunting. This allows people to set their own schedules whether they want to hunt all day, or break for a nap.

The operation is open for only about a month in the fall, during upland bird hunting season. Most guests are seasoned bird hunters who have hunted all over the world and wanted a unique experience without having to travel internationally, Dusek said. The clients are typically men in their mid- 30s up to late 70s.

Sage Safaris, which only accommodates about eight guests at a time, was so popular the company opened a business in Yellowstone in 2012 and one near Glacier will open this summer.

The camps near the parks don’t offer hunting, but instead cater to those wanting to hike and just be outside.

“If you are a die-hard camper you may turn your nose up at glamping, thinking you are not doing the real thing,” she said.

But not everyone has the wherewithal or the desire to sleep on the ground. Glamping provides an experience between staying a hotel and traditional camping and makes the outdoors more accessible.

“It’s fantastic waking up in a real bed but breathing that fresh air,” she said.

The Sweet Medicine Ranch in Fishtail has offered glamping for about three years, but owner Kaity Williams started thinking about it nine years ago after seeing a safari in Africa. Last summer was the first they really marketed the experience. The semi-permanent structures are canvas tents on raised platforms fully furnished, complete with queen-size beds.

People can spend the day fishing or hiking, but come back to more of a house than a traditional tent, where they can take a hot shower.

“You are out there with nature without having to rough it at all,” she said. “It’s a hotel suite with canvas walls.”

The ranch sees a variety of guests, most are visiting Montana and want to experience the landscape and lifestyle. It’s a popular activity with couples with kids who want to get away from the world for a bit, but also older people.

“The need to go out in nature doesn’t go away because we get older, but the need for comfort increases,” Dusek said.

At Paws Up, glamping has become especially popular with multigenerational family outings, Beaumont said. Often grandma, grandpa, mom and dad and kids come on a trip. It’s a way for someone who is a little older to still share the experience with kids of throwing stones in the creek or learning to fish or making s’mores on a fire, while still allowing for comforts like running water or heat for a chilly evening.

The set-up at Paws Up makes it feel for guests like they are far in the woods, away from the distractions of a city. Many of the tents are near the Blackfoot River, Beaumont said.

Glamping has become so popular at Paws Up they’ve continued to expand their offerings and now have five camps; each camp has multiple tents. While there isn’t big game hunting like in Africa, there are chances to spot bears and eagles.

“There’s nothing around the tents that tells you, you are in a luxury location,” he said. It is the service that reminds people they are staying somewhere equivalent to a high-end hotel. There’s housekeeping, turn-down service and a chef. There’s no television, but there is Internet.

“It’s very much get back to nature,” Beaumont said. “But not too much.”

No comments yet.

Add a comment