Montanans Love to Soak & Stay at Chico Hot Springs

Cabin at Chico Hot Springs, Pray Montana
Cabin at Chico Hot Springs, Pray Montana

On our last night in Montana we were treated to something with which most Montanans are familiar. We stayed at the Chico Hot Springs Resort, in the tiny town of Pray.  The long straight road leading up the 110-room hotel is flat as a runway. In fact, up until a few years ago, guests used to be able to land private planes on the road.

General Manager Colin Kurth Davis joined us at the head of our table at a sumptuous dinner tonight, and told us his philosophy and some of the long history of this fabled resort with the hot pool and horse stables.  “I tell the staff here, make the decision, make things right, go ahead, you don’t need to ask a supervisor. If you need to give them free dessert or free wine, DO IT, I want them to think like a boss, and act like one.”  His point was that this ain’t no stinkin’ corporation, this is a family business, and decisions can be made at lower levels just as well as at the top. So take the initiative, and do what’s right.

Colin said that this place is well-known and loved by people all over the state, who come to soak in the 100 degree hot pool and enjoy an adult beverage passed through the window from the bar while they soak.  There are 140 acres of land, surrounded by thousand of additional roomy acres, and you can see horses following trails up into the mountains in the morning.

It’s a Montana tradition to come up here for a luxurious weekend, and there are $49 rooms as well as opulent (yet not ostentatious) cabins that go for $225. The view from the cabins at the top of the hill goes on for miles and is spectacular!

The hot springs beneath the resort pump out 15,000 gallons a minute of super hot water, and it is piped underground  to keep the sidewalks free of snow, radiant heat, as well as to fill two pools, one smaller one even hotter than the full size swimming pool sized hot pool.

Chico dining room regulars include Jeff Bridges, Michael Keaton, Tom Brokaw and others, but they’re treated like regular people here, not Hollywood celebs. But his wine list tips off the high class clientele he attracts: it includes bottles of the rarest and hardest to find Burgundies like Romanee Conti, which very few bars can procure, let alone serve. “We buy a lot of wine, ” Colin explained.

Hot pool at Chico Hot Springs, Pray Montana.
The hot pool. It's great when it's snowing!

He told me about a wedding between a New Yorker food critic and a writer. Each of the 140 guests had a special book at their place, chosen just for their personalities. They took their brunch by the hot pool and Colin said he thinks he’ll see many of them around for years to come. It’s just that kind of a place…where you make a habit of coming, year after year.