Montana is having a moment. While it’s always been a destination for outdoors lovers, the Big Sky state has gotten even more attention from travelers in recent years thanks to two things: The pandemic – which had city-slickers running for the hills faster than you could say “on your mark” – and Paramount’s hit series Yellowstone, which does an incredible job of showing off the state’s natural assets.
Over the past century, cows have outnumbered humans in Montana. It’s an agricultural utopia where most residents still have homes on the range, and, believe it or not, the bison still roam. Few know this better than Laurence Lipson, co-owner and managing director of one of Montana’s newest resorts, The Green-O. This five-star property consists of 12 luxury houses for a maximum of 24 guests situated on 37,000 acres in the wilds of western Montana. It even has its own resident bison herd.
“The Green-O is a resort for people who want to experience and explore the Montana wilderness without sacrificing elevated luxury, exquisite cuisine, and personal service,” Lipson says. It’s a concept he’s perfected since opening his first property, The Resort at Paws Up. The resort, just 30 miles from Missoula, helped kickstart the glamping trend in the United States when it took ranch resort tent camping to the next level – think The Ritz-Carlton or St. Regis – in 2005.
But The Green-O, Paws Up’s new next door neighbor and much smaller sister property, doesn’t offer its guests opulent canvas tents. Instead, is has well-appointed Scandinavian-inspired “hauses.” It also doesn’t cater to families, Paws Up’s bread and butter. “We wanted to create a product that was standalone for couples,” explains Lipson, who decided early on that The Green-O would be an “ultra-luxury” adults-only escape.
In fact, The Green-O is so exclusive, it’s gated. Guests drive to the registration office at Paws Up to check in where they’re handed the keys to a private Lexus UX to use during their stay. They’re also given the secret code. These four digits open the massive, dramatic front gates, flanked by lit torches 24/7, that guard the road leading to the elite enclave. Just a half-mile up the road, The Green-O is hidden within a healthy forest of towering pine trees. If you didn’t know it was there, you’d never spot it on your own. It’s why one of the four words Lipson uses to describe The Green-O is “unexpected.”
“We tried to position each individual haus so there were a lot of trees and foliage in between them just to add more privacy,” Lipson says. “It enables us to do a much more personalized level of service. Hopefully the staff can learn some of your needs over the course of your stay and deliver on those.”
The Green-O’s over-achieving personnel is perhaps its biggest asset. From the pastry chef to the housekeeper, the hospitality professionals are tasked with accommodating a very discerning clientele ranging from CEOs to celebrities. While Lipson and staff don’t name drop, it’s well known in the industry that the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow, Leonardo DiCaprio, and The Rolling Stones have all vacationed at Paws Up. The Green-O, which is even more private, is certainly poised to become another haven for A-listers seeking refuge from Hollywood in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.
Accommodations at The Green-O
Lipson didn’t get his inspiration for the design-forward resort from the rich and famous. It came from architecture and the environment. “We really wanted to bring the outdoors in and make these homes sort of a ‘screen’ for the wilderness and timberland of Montana,” he says.
Green-O features four different styles of hauses – Green Haus, Tree Haus, Round Haus, and Light Haus – but one thing they all have in common is an overwhelming amount of floor-to-ceiling glass. “It didn’t leave much room for art on the walls,” Lipson notes. But the views are natural art enough.
When asked to pick a favorite, Lipson cites the Tree Haus because it transports him back to his childhood spent playing in trees. Situated 23 feet in the air, it’s centered by a spiral staircase leading up to the canopy-front living quarters. A touch smaller and located on the ground level, the 918-square-foot Round Haus has 180-degree panoramic views. The best stargazing, however, can be found in the 880-square-foot Green Haus, which has an astronomer’s dream skylight. Still, travelers who really want to let the light in should book the appropriately named Light Haus, which is basically 1,080-square-feet of glass. Every haus comes with a king-sized bed, an eco-kitchen, a private deck with a hot tub, and an indoor-outdoor fireplace.
Dining at The Green-O
Situated in the center of all the well-spaced hauses is The Green-O’s gathering place, Social Haus. This is where guests enjoy meals like wagyu steaks prepared by executive chef Brandon Cunningham, who uses a hot river stone plucked from the nearby Blackfoot River. Every night’s tasting menu features at least eight experiential courses, all handcrafted with ingredients sourced so close to The Green-O that Cunningham is on a first name basis with the purveyors. Guests who want to get their hands dirty (or flour-y) can sign up for Cunningham’s sourdough starter class using wild yeast found in the air of Montana.
For carnivores, ordering the rack of lamb, when it’s offered, is a rite of passage. The Green-O gets its name from a sheep farmer, Paul Greenough, who owned this slice of land in the early 20th Century. Greenough was a local legend known for painting his flock of sheep with a big green “o” in lieu of branding them. The resort’s nearest town, Greenough, is named after him.
Amenities and activities at The Green-O
According to Lipson, four is the magic number of nights guests need to fully appreciate The Green-O to take advantage of the property as well as all of the resort amenities and activities just down the road at Paws Up that The Green-O guests have access to. There’s a full-service spa, a gym, a ropes course, and the mercantile that serves as the meeting point for activities like archery, horseback riding, ATV tours, fly-fishing, rappelling, cross-country skiing, and helicopter tours. Also, as of 2023, the resort also now has a fleet of MoonBikes, the world’s first electric snow bike.
Getting to The Green-O
Most guests arrive at The Green-O by flying into Missoula, and then drive 35 minutes west to the property. The Green-O’s all-inclusive nightly rates, which start around $2,000 for two people, include round trip airport transfers.