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Experience a unique western-style retreat at Wildhorse Ranch near Rocky Mountain House, Alberta.

Owners Diane and Bear Baker don’t just talk about western culture, they live it – in boots, chaps and cowboy hats. They specialize in women’s wellness getaways, summer horse camps for girls, solstice weekends and spirit horse fire ceremonies. Guests stay in rustic cabins or canvas-walled glamping tents and enjoy western-style homecooked meals made from farm-fresh seasonal ingredients. Horseback riding, campfires, wellness activities, visits to Thunder Lake and Indigenous cultural experiences are popular ranch activities.

A stay at Wildhorse Ranch is chance to glimpse a different way of living. It’s more than just a vacation, it’s an experience that rejuvenates body and soul.

Ranch owners Diane and Bear Baker share their thoughts on Alberta’s tourism industry, the pandemic and the path forward for tourism operators.

Wildhorse Ranch
Wildhorse Ranch

How did your business evolve during the pandemic? What changes or new aspects to your business will you take with you moving forward?

Our business evolved to look more to locals as no one else was allowed to travel. The home market must become the most stable market as we cannot count on overseas guests. We bought chickens during the pandemic, and they taught us the huge truth of “do not put all your eggs in one basket!”

We know that Albertans will play a key role in the initial economic recovery of our local tourism industry, as health restrictions lift. What would you say to encourage Albertans to continue exploring their own backyard, even when it’s possible to travel elsewhere again?

Stay and play right here at home. Why go anywhere else? Alberta has something for everyone. No matter how many times you go somewhere in Alberta, the wonder and awe factor are like the first time you went there!

We know that health and safety is top of mind for everyone right now. How is your business preparing to give visitors peace of mind as restrictions lift?

We are an “outside operation” and we’ve always been “social distancing.” Horses are big animals, so staying two metres apart isn’t a problem. We are a land-based business with lots of space to experience freedom with the fearless certainty that life is great.

What is the most valuable part of Alberta’s tourism industry?

History and the land! Alberta gives you an opportunity to experience in real time a history that goes back thousands of years, on the same land the history was made on.

What are your hopes for the future of Alberta’s tourism industry? How will your business play a role in that?

Our hope is that the tourism industry will be given the respect it deserves and is promoted properly to be the equal of oil and gas and agriculture, as it used to be one of the Big 3. We will encourage people to take pride in and learn about their province and actually “live the experience!”

How can industry work together to recover and build even stronger post-pandemic?

Linkages are important as there is always strength in numbers and shared resources. Working together will result in more gains and opportunities to keep on building to recover what we lost during the pandemic.

What do you wish the rest of the world knew about tourism in Alberta?

We wish that the rest of the world had opportunities to meet face-to-face with the operators and learn about us and what we can do. We are Alberta tourism. We don’t sell it, we live it!

What is your favorite “hidden gem” in Alberta?

Nordegg: the Nordegg Lodge, Baldy Mountain and those magnificent Rocky Mountains are a real hidden gem.

What is your favorite memory of travelling in Alberta?

The sun going down over the mountains and the moon flickering light over the river as it comes up over the mountains. The sound of the loon, the wolves and all things wild.

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