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IOIA's 2015 Annual Meeting in Montana – come to “Big Sky Country”!

chico 2Chico Hot Springs Resort, in Pray, Montana, is a cozy and historic hot springs resort in a rural setting located in the beautiful Paradise Valley just north of Yellowstone National Park. YNP is widely held to be the first national park in the world, and the area abounds in western and natural history. The valley is famous both for the beauty of the snowcapped mountains and for geothermal activity which is associated with the Yellowstone region.  All pools are outdoors. Natural hot springs water averages 103°F (39.4°C) in the small pool and 96°F (35.5°C) in the large pool. No chlorine is added.  Winter visitors often enjoy the novelty of soaking in the pools while the snow is falling.

chico 4The Annual Meeting will be March 28. Advanced training is tentatively scheduled March 26-27.  The reserved room block includes a few days after the AGM to allow members to enjoy the surrounding area or just relax and enjoy the waters.  The modern but rustic Conference Center will be entirely available to IOIA and includes a cash bar for the AGM.

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How to get there? Distance to airports is about 2.5 hours to Billings, a major regional airport, or 1.5 hours to Bozeman. If driving, Chico is about 30 minutes south of the major interstate highway through Montana – I-94. The train plus carpool could be feasible with some advance planning. Closest Amtrak station is straight north at Shelby (about 300 miles).  IOIA will arrange some van shuttles and assist carpools from the Billings and Bozeman airports.

Food and beverage offerings include the western-style Chico Saloon with live music on Friday and Saturday; The Dining Room at Chico, long noted as one of the region’s best restaurants; and the Poolside Grill for lunch and dinner (more affordable offerings). chico 1A variety of lodging options include old-fashioned rooms in the main lodge with antique furnishings and bathrooms down the hall for around $80/night to similar rooms with a private bath for about $100/night to fully modern rooms for up to $134/night. (Note: None of the rooms have TV; this is a place to “get away from it all”.) Wireless internet is available throughout most of the facility although there are some dead spots for internet and cell phone service.   

Recreational activities at Chico include horseback riding, snowshoeing, skiing, and full-day dogsled treks (advance reservations required). Pool tables, shuffleboard, video keno, and video poker are available in the saloon. Winter will be waning by the end of March and snow is not guaranteed except on the spectacular mountains both sides of the valley. The operation raises vegetables in a greenhouse during the summer. A Day spa offers massage, including a famous “River Rock Therapy” with warm stone, wraps, and facials.  The site is especially attractive to multi-generational groups, with guests from 2 to 90+ often together in the pools. Children of all ages are also seen in the lobby playing board or card games; assembling puzzles; or throwing horseshoes outside. The venue is pet friendly.

chico 6This is the first annual meeting ever to occur in Montana. Although it was a close race between New Orleans and Chico Hot Springs, Chico won out both with the email general membership survey and the BOD. The BOD recommended the venue to the 2014 meeting in Costa Rica, and the AGM validated the choice. One factor in the decision was that potentially every staff member of IOIA could attend. Chico is always close to the Canadian prairies, where no IOIA AGM has yet occurred. In prairie terms, the venue is reasonable driving distance from Calgary, Regina, or Saskatoon.  

Potential field trip sites include a ranch with the largest herd of Ancient White Park (heirloom) cattle in the world.

The venue is about 300 miles from the IOIA office. Montana is a big place! – the 4th largest state in the USA.

“Welcome to Chico Hot Springs, where old meets new and friendly Western hospitality has been a tradition since 1900." For more about the venue - www.chicohotsprings.com  For more information about Yellowstone Park www.nps.gov/yell/index.htm  

Note: Most Yellowstone Park roads are CLOSED to auto travel between early November and late April. The road from the North Entrance at Gardiner, Montana, through the park to Cooke City, Montana, via Tower Junction is open all year to auto travel. Abundant wildlife (elk, bison, pronghorn antelope, and sometimes wolves) can be seen on these roads, as well as the impressive Mammoth Hot Springs site at the north entrance. The cost to access the park is $25 per car for a 7-day pass.