Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Winter Fun at Lone Mountain Ranch in Big Sky, Montana

          Light snow falls as your skis glide silently through the forest, jingle bells ring as Draft horses lead the way to a sleigh ride dinner, expert chefs serve a trail-side lunch buffet as you gaze over the mountains.  If this is your idea of winter fun, then be sure to visit Lone Mountain Ranch in Big Sky, Montana.
         Tim and I spent four days at Lone Mountain Ranch several winters ago.  Our stay at the ranch included three meals a day, a sleigh ride dinner, and access to over 50 miles of cross-country ski trails.

Porcupine Cabin's cozy interior.

A fire burns in the wood stove in Porcupine cabin (on right).

           Lone Mountain's cabins are located in the woods, far from noisy roadways.  Parking is available at the cross-country ski center and a ranch employee transports your luggage to the cabins while you walk the paths through the forest.  Our two-person cabin—Porcupine—is nestled into lodgepole pines and is equipped with a wood stove; a spacious front porch hosts log chairs for lounging and a rack for hanging skis and poles.

Tim glides through the forest on a snowy morning.

A gentle uphill climb,
leading to more difficult terrain high on the mountain.

Skiing through the meadows on a perfect blue-sky day.

          Diversity of terrain keeps the trails at Lone Mountain Ranch interesting; you can access gentle rolling hills on the golf course and along the stream, you can also tackle gargantuan hills in the forest. 

Made to order:
a ranch chef grills our trail side feast.

 Alfresco dining at its finest.
         The trail side buffet lunch is served every Monday.  (Note: as of 2017, the trailside lunch is no longer offered at Lone Mountain Ranch.)  Tim and I arrive around noon after an hour’s ski.  An open grill stands under the trees, the chef preparing these items:  homegrown beef on a stick, vegetable shish kebabs, medallions of elk kielbasa, shrimp and pineapple on skewers.  The lunch spread also includes fresh salad and pasta salad, cookies, brownies and caramel corn.  Urns provide hot water for coffee, cider and hot chocolate.  Tim and I fill our plates and take seats on a table under a towering Douglas Fir.  This buffet is a not-to-be-missed event while staying and skiing at Lone Mountain.

Jan—or is it Sandy?, harnessed and ready to go.

Horses and sleighs await their riders on a frosty winter's eve.

         Jan and Sandy, two Belgian Draft horses, will draw our sleigh to dinner.  Our driver describes Jan and Sandy as "two good old girls, both around 16 years old, weighing between 1500 and 2000 pounds and able to carry up to three times their body weight".  That’s a good thing because our sleigh and its 14 passengers may weigh over 4000 pounds.  Jan and Sandy huff and puff along the trail and stop three times to rest, steam rising in plumes from their massive bodies.  The girls will be put out to pasture (in a good way) after this winter season and not be put into service for logging operations as some of the other draft horses will be—it’s one of the benefits of their advancing years. I am in awe of these gentle giants, working so hard while enabling us to savor this ride through the moonlit Montana mountains. 
         Jan and Sandy pull the sleigh half a mile uphill to the cabin where we enjoy French onion soup, honey-molasses bread, baked potatoes, prime rib and roasted vegetables.  Huckleberry cheesecake is served for dessert while a cowboy poet strums his guitar, serenading us with Montana tales and tunes.


Lone Mountain Ranch is located near Big Sky downhill ski resort in the town of Big Sky, Montana.  In addition to skiing the ranch offers day trips to nearby Yellowstone National Park.  

Interested?  Read all about Lone Mountain Ranch on their website:   http://www.lonemountainranch.com/
You don’t have to stay at the ranch to ski the trails or to attend the sleigh ride dinner.   Check out this website to find other options for lodging in Big Sky:   http://www.bigskydestinations.com/?eid=


  1. Rita, I was practically drooling as I read your posting, and viewed your photos about the fabulous cross-country skiing you and Tim experienced at the Lone Mountain Ranch!

    Because of our current "snow-draught" situation at the lower elevations in NH, the cross-country skiing has been nearly non-existent this winter season. Thus far, there has only been one day that I was able to XC-ski, and it was mostly on slush and ice. Not very satisfying!

    Thanks again for sharing another of your terrific experiences!


  2. That is beautiful country. Love the pictures. Thanks for sharing! - Marc

  3. You and Tim always manage to find gourmet-style grub on these backcountry trips! Sounds like an amazing retreat with beautiful scenery. Thanks for sharing these photos of the ski trails and Jan and Sandy. :-)