Between the surge in adventure tourism and the country’s reinvigorated fascination with the American West (I’m looking squarely at Netflix’s Yellowstone here), chances are good that your recent vacation searches — or at least your Instagram feeds — have featured rugged destinations and action shots of riders on horseback, hikers on mountain trails, or whitewater rafters rejoicing under a giant sky.
Part of adventure travel’s appeal is the get-your-hands-dirty-and-your-feet-wet immersion factor, but lest anyone equate “adventure” with “roughing it,” The Green O in (fittingly) Greenough, Montana, is a singular finger wag to the contrary.
Located on the 37,000-acre working cattle ranch that’s also home to The Resort at Paws Up, The Green O offers an experience as authentic as they come. Deer roam the tree-laden property freely and the resort’s herds, which include bison, browse vast pastures that extend out of sight. Unpaved roads wind between densely wooded hills and along rustic fences, and bald eagles nest in tall trees to overlook the vast, virtually unspoiled landscape. The Blackfoot River that slices and curves through the ranch weaves its path beneath steep mountain vistas and beside grassy clearings.
But then, the luxury. Oh, the luxury.
The Green O is an exclusive, adults-only alternative to its family-friendly sister property. Like Paws Up, its accommodations are individual homes, but here, the entire resort is composed of just 12 custom-designed “hauses,” each created for a maximum two guests, meaning the entire resort reaches full capacity at a mere 24 guests. Each haus — an assortment of four unique architectural designs that are dispersed in a rough semi-circle on the property — is positioned to maximize both its views and guest privacy, and all were built with the intention of being minimally intrusive visually within their pristine, densely timbered environment. In their essence, each haus is a cabin in the woods, but make it luxe. Haus interiors live in the sweet spot merging indulgent and minimal, elegant and cozy in a neutral palette of rich woods, sleek tiles, soft leathers, and mixed metals. Giant leather high-backed chairs with stretchy-snuggly blankets beckon in front of the fireplace; they alone are enough to tempt me to never step outside. But there’s just too much to miss.
All of the resort’s hauses are about a five-minute walk to The Green O’s restaurant and hub, the Social Haus. Helmed by Executive Chef Brandon Cunningham, the Social Haus is The Green O’s version of a cafeteria — if your idea of a cafeteria is a glass-walled, sleek, one-room establishment with a giant cylindrical fireplace at its center and chef-driven, locally sourced cuisine flowing from its open kitchen. Intimidating in stature but radiant with warmth, Cunningham is a generous host who’s as eager to share as he is eager to please, and the ever-changing menu boasts enough variety to tempt any palate. His comfort food-inspired menu is approachable, but elevated.
True to its name, the Social Haus is a fantastic spot to connect with fellow guests if you’re feeling, well, social. Given how few people share The Green O at any time, its natural intimacy creates an easy kind of vacationer camaraderie among its guests who are eager to compare experiences and share itineraries. But, it’s just as ideal a setting for a quiet coffee or a peaceful meal with Montana’s natural beauty as your sole company. If you prefer the solitude of your haus, any meals can instead be delivered. Even if the plan is to eventually head to the restaurant for a full breakfast, the team at The Green O will deliver freshly brewed coffee with all its accoutrements to your doorstep, where it will await, packed to remain steaming hot, until you’re ready to climb out of bed.
A unique aspect of a stay at The Green O is that while only resort guests may enter through its gates, roam its grounds, and dine at the Social Haus, those guests have full access to all the amenities available at Paws Up including an array of epicurean-driven events slated year-round. It might be surprising for some that an all-inclusive resort in rural Montana is also a world-class culinary destination, but when the general manager of food and beverage is a globally vetted chef whose CV radiates with Michelin-starred experience — Sunny Jin — and the pastry chef is a two-time James Beard Foundation Award nominee — Krystle Swenson — the culinary events calendar on property is a revolving door of celebrity chefs, decorated toques, renowned winemakers, and epicures as well as a curated list of boutique vintners, brewers, and distillers.
Arguably the pinnacle of the year’s dining events is WinterFest, taking place annually over the course of four days during Presidents’ Weekend. An extravaganza of culinary excellence, WinterFest is at its core a great, big party put on by people who find joy in creating fantastic food and attended by the people who love to enjoy it all with gusto. The rustic setting strips away any sense of formality — after all, events take place in a converted barn and a giant dining room presided over by taxidermized Montana wildlife — and the result is a joyful, indulgent weekend of eating and drinking in its purest form, with live music to round out the convivial tableau.
WinterFest 2023 kicked off with an open-seating dinner in Paws Up’s Bull Barn featuring multiple stations boasting generous and unlimited tastes of guest chefs’ delectable dishes, wines, and whiskeys. Rather than a dip of the toe into the level of indulgence that’s to come, WinterFest’s opening night is a dive into the deep end. In 2023, it kicked off WinterFest’s daytime events including cooking demonstrations and tastings. They’re well-spaced to allow time for activities away from the table, with the evenings reserved for the chefs to truly shine. Tasting dinners, hosted at Paws Up’s Pomp restaurant on each of the festival’s next two evenings, are cooperative efforts between the featured chefs and the resort’s own esteemed team. Each course is presented by its chef creator, whose introduction and description of their dish is invariably met with resounding applause from the packed room of rapt guests. It’s a fair assumption that everyone present is keenly aware of just how incredible it is to have a seat at this table.
Fortunately, there’s plenty of opportunity to burn off at least a percentage of the weekend’s staggering caloric intake. Seasonal activities include dogsledding, featuring teams of exuberant, Iditarod-experienced canines (a must-do), sleigh rides, broom hockey, curling, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling. A standout among the extensive list is moonbiking. Essentially a mountain bike-cum-snowmobile, the moonbike is an exhilarating means to explore the resort’s expansive, snow-blanketed terrain in virtual silence — the completely electric machines eliminate the deafening blare of gas-powered outdoor toys. If less is more, each haus back “home” at The Green O is equipped with its own outdoor spa for a soothing soak, and the tireless team there ensures it’s always hot and ready for you with a path cleared daily from your door to the spa’s edge.
Unsurprising is that many who visit end up planning a return before they even depart, meaning these signature events, especially, have a tendency to book quickly. So, while February may seem far off as an entire holiday season still lies ahead, if you want to be among those 24 people to call a Green O haus your home for Winterfest 2024 on February 16-19, the time to book is now. Don’t forget to pack your stretchy pants.