No need to be a burly downhill skier to enjoy a winter vacation in Montana. Though skiing and snowboarding get the lion's share of limelight during Montana’s snow-blanketed season, many travelers are drawn to Big Sky country for less well-known, yet equally transformative experiences.
Yellowstone National Park by Snowcoach
Try a "high-speed quad" of a different sort this winter by hopping a ride in a heated snowcoach (kind of like a van on skis or tracks) into the frosted beauty of Yellowstone. Day trips and overnight jaunts depart from West Yellowstone and Mammoth and offer front row seats to the steam-breathing mega fauna and geothermal pulse of the nation's first National Park. The Old Faithful Snow Lodge and Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel, open in winter, are ideal basecamps for snowshoeing, wildlife viewing or simply drinking in the iconic Yellowstone landscape.
Dogsledding...with You at the Helm
If you've secretly wanted to get in touch with your inner-musher, Montana has the goods. From Whitefish, in the northwest corner of the state, down to Paradise Valley, near Yellowstone National Park, aspiring dogsledders can experience the exhilaration of husky power! Several outfitters (see below) will put you at the helm of your very own sled.
Hot Springs are Nature's Spa
After catching a quota of snowflakes on your tongue, or wandering the unpretentious Main Streets of Montana, you may be ready for a soak in a natural hot spring. Bubbling up from subterranean geothermal pools, these velvet soft waters provide a core-warming dose of therapeutic indulgence. Take a dip in Jackson Hot Springs' restorative thermal pools with the towering Pioneer Mountains as your backdrop, or stay at the Boulder Hot Springs Bed & Breakfast and plunge into the outdoor pools or find other natural hot springs dotted throughout the state.
Glacier Via Snowshoe
Unlike its steamy cousin to the south (Yellowstone), Glacier National Park requires winter visitors to forgo mechanical access to witness the Park’s jaw-loosening landscapes. Perhaps the most inclusive mode is with lightweight snowshoes strapped to your feet, providing stable flotation atop a deep blanket of powder snow. The saying goes, “If you can walk, you can snowshoe.” Several outfitters (see below) serve up great Glacier snowshoeing outings.
Dinner by Sleigh Ride & Snowcat
For journalists wanting to tap into offbeat dining experiences, Montana serves up a rack of options. One prime example is Moonlight Dinners, offered by Montana Backcountry Adventures. Guests load into a snowcat for a starry ride up Lone Peak where, perched in the conifers, a cozy, Mongolian-style yurt awaits with hearty fare to warm your insides and impress your palate. Plus, there’s sledding in between courses! Several properties (see below) offer another cozy way to arrive at dinner with horse drawn carriage rides.
Spirited Winter Festivals
Montana isn't short on offbeat events...particularly during the winter season. For instance the ski joring contests held in Red Lodge and Wisdom. Watch skiers get pulled behind galloping horses at nerve-wracking speeds while negotiating slalom gates and copious jumps. Can you say photo op? Or for more cold weather fun, you’ll find ice fishing derbies, dog sled races, festivals and rodeos—including one specifically for snowkiting. Check out the list below.