Friday, July 31, 2015

Resort near Red Lodge blends casual ambiance, fine food in gorgeous Beartooth setting

Rock Creek Resort has an Old World charm, enhanced by its owners' European roots and sensibilities. 


A columbine at the lobby entrance trumpets your arrival.

Bikes are a leisurely way to enjoy the scenery at Rock Creek Resort.

WHEN ROCK CREEK Resort began to create the legendary place it is today, owner Pepi Gramshammer drew from childhood memories of Alpine scenery and the food of his native Austria.
He was a young man with an ambitious idea.
Hailing from Innsbruck, Austria, he was a championship ski racer, internationally known.
While his athletic abilities were well established, he was also becoming a fine amateur cook, developing a taste for  gastronomic pleasures.
Enter, Piney Dell, which I first visited as a youngster with my parents and grandparents.
Gramshammer and his wife Sheika are proud owners of Rock Creek Resort, on which the charming restaurant -- now Old Piney Dell -- resides. The place's ties to Pepi go back to the 1960s when he purchased a small restaurant and bar already on the premises.
Today's Rock Creek Resort includes Old Piney Dell and offers outdoor activities one would expect in an alpine resort abroad or in any upscale mountain-surrounded locale.
In the European tradition, Gramshammer has integrated cultural experiences, shopping, scenic drives, and more into the appeal for his resort.
Old Piney Dell goes back decades, and was a favorite of this reporter's
family as she grew up in the 1960s.
Beartooth Lodge was added to the resort in the 1970s when the owner branched
out and determined there was a calling for cozy lodging as well as fine food.
NOW IN his 80s, he no longer gets to Red Lodge much.  But Sheika makes regular visits to inspect the property and insure high standards are enforced.  The couple also owns and operates Hotel Gasthof Gramshammer in Vail, Colorado, which they began developing around the same time Pepi scouted out Piney Dell.
When he first came to Red Lodge more than 50 years ago, he fell in love with the area and its signature mountains. He started a ski race camp up on top of the Beartooth Pass, and bought the restaurant as a way to feed his racers.  Its popularity grew and he returned each year to build up the restaurant's growing clientele.
WHEN PEPI purchased the property, the much loved restaurant and bar were already in place. The building -- now more than 90 years old --  evolved from a homesteader’s cabin built in the 1920s. The ambiance is rustic and friendly.  The menu features fresh fish, steaks and pastas, with a nod to the schnitzel and veal of Pepi's upbringing. Old-fashioned, cordial service is a point of pride.
Pepi Gramshammer built Rock Creek Resort
up from a small, rustic restaurant and bar
to a world class resort with fine dining.
GUESTS OF the restaurant were thrilled when the dining enterprise got the complement of lodging in the 1970s.  Responding to requests for overnight facilities, Pepi began development of the resort.  He first built he Grizzly Condos to house the ski racers. Over the decades he added Rock Creek Town Homes, Stoney Cabin, Beartooth Lodge and finally the log building Twin Elk.
TAKING A CUE from Europeans' pleasure in nature, Rock Creek is designed for lovers of the outdoors.  The creek from which the place takes its name is right out the window, and our favorite rooms have views of the rushing waters.
If staying put, watching birds, sipping a cuppa or glass of wine are your ideals, Rock Creek is your place. Soak in a hot tub, rejuvenate in the sauna, swim laps in the large heated pool or work off a Piney Dell dinner in the gym -- if you dare.
Rock Creek gives its name to a popular resort near Red Lodge.
THE WEEKEND we visited in mid-July, a family from Maryland was enjoying the catch and release fishing pond. An older couple celebrated an anniversary in the restaurant. A young couple planned a wedding -- the place offers spacious reception facilities. It also offers volleyball court, bikes, playground, a soccer field and hiking out the back door. Nearby Red Lodge offers shopping, art galleries, a historical museum, restaurants, and lively taverns. Plan a stay around popular events including the Christmas Stroll, Winter Carnival, Fourth of July Home of Champions Rodeo, the Beartooth Rally, the Festival of Nations, and Oktoberfest. For a calendar of local events, visit Call the resort at 406 446-1111. Reservations are recommended at Old Piney Dell by calling 406 446-1196.
A Barbara Adams landscape of Bridger Creek features sky blues and greens.
COMING UP:  Montana Meadowlark Photography offers fresh, poetic images of the landscape we all love, the scenes that attract us to Montana. Barbara Adams jumps in her car and takes off, guided by her love of Big Sky Country.  She spends the day looking for the perfect clouds or a pair of horses at play.  Remember to explore, learn and live and have a look at her imaginative work next up at 

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