February Home: Mountain Chalet 

Homeowners Paul and Akvilina Rieger and their beautiful daughters Sofia (11) and Savannah (6) love their home. When the couple was searching for a place to live, they were drawn to this neighborhood in Rehberg Ranch Estates for several reasons. Akvilina says, “To me, our house represents Montana really well.” The well-placed windows allow the family and their guests to enjoy the beautiful views, the backyard Koi pond “draws wildlife for a drink,” and the location is perfect for them. “We are just a few minutes away from downtown.”

An Entertainer’s Dream

The unique style of their mountain chalet has become their own with touches of modern furnishings throughout. Because of its flow, the family is able to host large groups effortlessly, and entertaining is something the Rieger’s do well and often.

The Eagle’s Nest

Sofia and Savannah love imagining in their “eagle’s nest!” Accessible by a unique spiral staircase at the top level of the house with bird’s eye views, and a reading nook fit for royalty. It’s no wonder the girls and their friends have so much fun playing in this special space. 

Natural Elements

Throughout the interior and exterior of the home are abundant touches of stone and wood that represent Montana to the family.

The kitchen features granite countertops mixed with warm wood and earth toned tile floors and backsplash. 

The powder bath features a stone backsplash and a wooden vanity with exposed plumbing. Elements found in nature bring a little bit of the outdoors in.

Room with a View

The master suite features a floor to ceiling stone fireplace, large windows for plenty of natural light and beautiful, year-round views, and a size-able deck to relax and breathe in the fresh air. 

Providing Guests with a Montana Experience

Embarrassingly Akvilina admits her love for Montana was not at first sight. She grew up in a metropolitan area and at first found the “hustle and bustle of traffic and dance clubs more appealing than the solitude of secluded mountains with more cows per square foot than people.” For a while, she says she would, “Try to talk friends out of visiting us out of fear they might be bored in our small town.”

One day, a dear childhood friend from London announced her plans to travel to Billings to see the Riegers and this is when “Our traveling tastes changed for good.”

After going into panic mode, “I started talking to locals, asking questions, and researching things to do in Montana.” Once she began to create an itinerary of activities, the list was endless. “I realized that attractions are not the only things that are fun to experience while traveling, but also absorbing local life in the area.” This includes food and other activities exclusive to our state.

Here’s a breakdown of her itinerary.

1.    Sightseeing

Beartooth Highway is a must-see. “There is nothing like it! It’s a jewel of our state, and I have yet to meet a guest who was not left breathless over the views.”

Yellowstone National Park is well recognized around the world. Akvilina recommends spending at least one night at the KOA in West Yellowstone. “Nature and rustic cabins are the perfect combination for a true Montana experience. We often forget the treat that clear, starry nights are for people who live in big cities.”

Hot Springs, sapphire mining, ghost towns, Lewis and Clark Caverns, skiing, and Glacier National Park are just a few of her recommendations. “Think unique.”

Hiking is always high on her list as, “There are a lot of picturesque hikes geared for all levels of hikers.” Sioux Charlie Lake is a breathtaking hike for intermediate hikers.

Fishing, “Because in Montana, we have the options of either fly fishing or regular fishing. You can even get out on a boat and combine fishing and boating.” As an added bonus, Akvilina recommends showing your guests the movie filmed in Montana: A River Runs Through It.

Shooting Range. “A fun bucket-list experience for visitors.” Try the Billings Rod and Gun Club.

2.    Food:

Eating In. Akvilina suggests jotting down a menu to use while guests are visting. “I enjoy feeding my guests, and I believe trying out local foods is a hugely important part of the experience.” Carefully plan meals unique to Montanans. “Fish and wild game brought home by my husband and guests are usually a staple.” Akvilina adds, “Spread out preparation and do as much as possible ahead of time. Freezing meals beforehand allows you to relax with your guests instead of working away behind the scenes.”

Dining Out. Ten at the Northern Hotel and Jakes offer dishes that are Montana staples such as bison, elk, or duck. Since we are known for our delicious burgers, “The Burger Dive downtown never disappoints our foreign or out of state guests.”

3    Accommodations: 

Gifts. “I love thinking of little touches for guests to discover in our guest bedroom.” A basket of goodies by the bed such as chocolates or mini soaps, bath bombs made in Montana. “I tend to splurge at Red Lodge at Lotions and Potions.”

Local Magazines. Simply Family Magazine is the perfect bedside companion for your guests including a calendar of local events for them to enjoy during their stay.

Food. “When I have visitors from other time zones, I like to leave a basket of fruit in the room as I know from experience, hunger usually strikes at night.”

Itinerary. “I enjoy compiling it as much as my guests love receiving it.” Akvilina recommends laying it out like a cruise ship newsletter and making it fun for guests to read. “Leave some surprises but mention a hint of something coming up that day.”

Finally remember, “Travel is so much better when your guide is a friend who loves where they live and can let you become an insider.” Akvilina Rieger.

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