Locals have known for generations what makes the Upper North Platte River Valley special: 360-degree sunsets in colors so vivid they seem unreal, sagebrush taller than a grown man, untouched terrain that spans the Sierra Madres and alpine lakes at 10,000 feet.
Regional treasures go by appropriate acronyms. The GEM, for example, is short for the Grand Encampment Museum. For decades, Carbon County was one of Wyoming’s best-kept secrets, but as of late, some of the world’s elite have started to take notice.
Just this summer, Katy Perry, Orlando Bloom and Princess Beatrice of York visited what was once empty prairie, but is now a luxury resort for supermodel Karlie Kloss and Joshua Kushner’s wedding. Kushner, perhaps, learned about Brush Creek Ranch from his brother, Jared Kushner, the son-in-law of U.S. President Donald Trump, who has frequented the area with his wife, Ivanka Trump.
Brush Creek Ranch, owned by Bruce and Beth White, was named the No. 2 Hotel in the World and No. 1 Resort in the U.S. in the 2019 Travel + Leisure World’s Best Awards.
A “huge asset” to the area
Carbon County’s lodging tax revenue has grown steadily over the past five years, said Piper Singer, public relations and media manager for the Wyoming Office of Tourism. A substantial part of the growth can be attributed to the county lodging properties outside of any municipal boundaries, including the Brush Creek Ranch.
“Brush Creek is a huge asset, gives the area publicity and entices travelers to experience Wyoming outside of the ranch,” she said.
Brush Creek Ranch opened in 2010 and has grown exponentially in the past decade. It now includes The Lodge & Spa at Brush Creek Ranch, Magee Homestead and French Creek Sportsmen’s Club. This year, White Lodging announced the opening of The Farm at Brush Creek, an “expansive new amenity providing fully immersive food, beverage and event experiences steeped in a seed-to-table philosophy.” The facility is visible to passersby off of Highway 130, just outside the Medicine Bow National Forest boundary.
“In 2010, Brush Creek Ranch opened its gates with a commitment to be a highly refined, globally recognized destination that champions outdoor recreation, shared experience, personal renewal, environmental sustainability and preservation of the Western way of life,” said Bruce White, owner of Brush Creek Ranch.
This September, the company announced it will open Green Mountain, a private facility that will offer backcountry snowcat skiing and snowboarding, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, snowshoeing and tubing to its guests.
If this all sounds nearly too good to be true, it may be for most people: Winter 2019-20 per-person cabin suite rates start at $700, and luxury cabin residences are $1,100 per person per night. Nonetheless, total state lodging tax revenue from fiscal years 2015-19 saw a growth rate of 53.38%, and county lodging tax revenue from had a growth rate of 61% during the same period.
According to Leslie Jefferson, director of the Carbon County Visitors Council, Brush Creek is hugely popular among the trade show crowds. Once set on the idea of visiting Wyoming, she is able to highlight all of the region’s options.
Carbon County has several different guest ranch properties that provide unique experiences with varying price ranges, including A Bar A, Brush Creek Ranch Collection, Boyer YL Ranch, Medicine Bow Lodge, Spur Outfitters, Three Forks Ranch and other ranches that entertain a large range of clientele, from families to corporations, Singer said.
“Overall, these ranches bring in travelers across the world to experience Wyoming’s Western culture, which includes travelers going outside the ranch to explore and spend time in neighboring towns, such as Saratoga and Laramie,” Singer said.
Jefferson said both the Carbon County Visitors Council and the Wyoming Office of Tourism are proud the state provides visitors a variety of offerings, from authentic ranch experiences to luxury resorts, both highlighting the true spirit of the West.
Brush Creek Ranch supports the local economy by employing locals, directly and indirectly from services and products purchased including construction trades, transportation, restaurants, animal care and more in Carbon County, said Mike Williams, EVP and COO at Brush Creek Ranch. As of this fall, the ranch employed 297 associates and staff that are a part of the local community. Some have purchased homes in the area, support local businesses and have children who attend local schools.
In 2018, travel spending by visitors reached more than $3.8 billion, an increase of almost 7% from 2017. In addition, the leisure and hospitality industry directly supports nearly 33,000 jobs in Wyoming, making it the largest private sector employer in the state. And travel spending generated more than $195 million in local and state tax revenue. According to the Wyoming Office of Tourism, each Wyoming household would pay $842 more in taxes without the tax revenue generated by the travel and tourism industry.
“As one of the top resorts in the U.S. and the world, visitors to Brush Creek Ranch account for a portion of this travel spending that is integral to Wyoming’s economy,” Williams said.
And while it has had its fair share of high-profile guests, who Williams said “raise the stature of Wyoming as a whole as a tourism destination,” Brush Creek Ranch’s history is one of a working cattle ranch.
“Our goal is to build on that legacy, and to preserve and enhance our unique ecosystem toward both environmental and economic sustainability,” he said. “We have a keen appreciation for our history, and recognize that its role is important to our state and nation’s cultural history.”