Rafter Six Ranch for sale a year later, with no buyers in sight

Turns out a multi-million dollar guest ranch in Kananaskis is a tough sell, and no one knows this better than longtime Rafter Six Ranch owners Gloria and Stan Cowley.

Couple wants buyer with a 'pioneer' spirit to partner with them at their Kananaskis Country ranch

Gloria and Stan Cowley put their Rafter 6 Ranch up for sale a year ago. The pair has owned the Kanaskis Country homestead for 38 years. (Karen Moxley/CBC)

Turns out a multimillion-dollar guest ranch in Kananaskis is a tough sell, and no one knows this better than longtime Rafter Six Ranch owners Gloria and Stan Cowley.

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The Cowleys have run the southern Alberta ranch for the past 38 years, but it is now under receivership and they're being forced to sell. The ranch was posted for sale about a year ago. 

"It's been a challenging year," says Gloria. "You have to start thinking about things in a different way." 

The Cowley's financial troubles began in 2008, when they partnered with a company they hoped could transform their ranch into a five-star resort. 

"They said all we had to do was put up our land and our buildings, which we did," recalls Stan.

How the trouble started

A number of people have looked at the Rafter 6 Ranch, but the owners say there have been no serious buyers. (Karen Moxley/CBC)

"And we would be 50 per cent owners on it. Unfortunately that's not quite what happened."

Instead, that company tanked, went into receivership, and took the Cowleys and their ranch down with it, he says.

"They raised the money but never did anything other than that. So we never saw a penny," says Stan. 

The past year has been an emotional time for the Cowleys. Talking about the situation and what could happen next almost brings them to tears. 

"I guess we're coming to a point of more acceptance and anticipation to see what the next step is going to be," says Gloria.

Noteworthy guests

Starbucks, a miniature horse, grazes on the ranch now in receivership. (Karen Moxley/CBC)

The ranch has been toured by a number of potential buyers, but they say no one is serious.

"It's been actually quite a number of tire kickers," says Stan.

"Everything from some of the Chinese from Beijing, along with some contractors from Calgary. There's a lot of interest. It is a beautiful part of the world."

Rafter Six has hosted a number of well-known guests over the years.

"The prince of Saudi Arabia came one time, and Stan buddied up to who he thought was the prince, but it was actually the bodyguard," laughs Gloria.

"And the princess of Thailand, she came. And Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen when they were here for How the West was Fun. They were really sweet, young girls."

Times are tough

The Cowleys say it's refreshing to recall the good times because times are tough at Rafter Six. 

"We are living a dream, but we also have reality. We deal on a daily basis. It's a lifestyle that is a privilege," says Gloria. 

The couple says they are trying to keep busy.

"Like most cowboys you get up in the morning and do what we have to do," says Stan. 

"I guess that's the western spirit. You kind of hope for the best, but you don't really know what's coming down the pipe."

What's next

The Cowleys say the future of the Ranch will be determined in a short period of time by the courts and the banks.

They say an ideal buyer would be someone who would partner with them and let them stay at Rafter Six. 

"We're hoping someone will come along that believes in recreation, hospitality and will come together with us and make this again one of those special places in the Canadian Rockies," says Stan. 

The ranch is for sale by Sotheby's International. The asking price is $12.5 million.

"Hopefully someone comes along that's a good buyer that would negotiate with us to continue to provide good services, hospitality and live the pioneer way," says Gloria.

Goliath, 'the gentle giant,' has been on the ranch for 11 years. He is an English Mastiff. (Karen Moxley/CBC)