It’s hard to imagine, but it’s time to start making winter reservations. One of our favorite spots for a winter escape is the sleigh ride dinner at Lone Mountain Ranch in Big Sky, Montana.
Scroll down for the video from our stay!!
In the Lone Mountain Ranch saloon, tourists and locals gather to listen to songs from cowboy/western/folk musician, Bruce Anfinson, while enjoying a drink. Jackets and scarves drape over the back of their chairs — warm wear for their upcoming sleigh ride. Anfinson sings slightly sad cowboy songs, a love song to his old wooden skis and folk tunes that beg the audience to sing along. Wagon wheel chandeliers, wood stump barstools and a longhorn mount add to the dude ranch ambiance. But these guests aren’t here to wrangle cattle; they are here for a sleigh ride through a winter wonderland.
The former cattle ranch, turned dude ranch, is now Lone Mountain Ranch in Big Sky, Mont. Nestled into a valley below Yellow Mountain and along North Fork Creek, LMR is know for summer horseback riding and winter Nordic skiing. It’s also famous for its sleigh ride dinner.
After Anfinson’s set is over, the guests mosey down to the horse barn to meet the equines that will pull the sleighs to the North Fork Cabin for dinner. The huge draft horses wait patiently for their work to begin. A mix of Belgians and Percherons, these horses were made to pull heavy loads, but are friendly enough to let the dinner guests stroke their soft faces.
Piling into several sleds, guests drape wool blankets across their laps and cuddle together listening to the tinkle of the sleigh bells.
“Sitting in the sleigh with the snow falling, I feel like I am in a magical snow globe,” said guest Sharon Johnson from Bozeman. Johnson and her husband came down for the evening after friends told them it was an experience not to miss. “What could be more romantic and more Montana than this?” she asked.
“We hear that all the time,” said Lone Mountain Ranch’s general manager, Paul Robertson. “It’s the quintessential Montana experience and it started here. The tradition is linked to this place. The sleigh ride, and the whole experience, puts you in touch with Montana.”
The sleigh ride isn’t long, but the North Fork Cabin feels like it is in the middle of nowhere. The cabin is lit with oil lamps and candles. It’s strikingly warm inside from the more than 100-year-old wood stove on which the dinner is cooked. Gingham curtains decorate the windows and garland wraps the wooden beams above. Anfinson joins the group and sings about huckleberries, C.M. Russell and Lewis and Clark, in three different songs, as they gnosh a most delicious meal.
Prime rib is served to guests family-style, and although the menu varies based on what’s in season, it usually includes home-baked bread, winter root vegetable chowder, cauliflower florets topped with fresh herbs and baby red potatoes with garlic and smoked paprika. The hearty meal is followed by warm chocolate cake with chocolate sauce and cream.
“It was an incredible dinner in a warm, nostalgic atmosphere,” Johnson said. “Montana at its best.”
To spend the night after a sleigh ride, and take advantage of the 85 km of professionally groomed Nordic trails or 35 km of packed and maintained snowshoe trails, Lone Mountain Ranch has a “Sleigh and Stay” package.
To make reservations contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 406-995-4644
Find out more about Lone Mountain Ranch at www.lonemountainranch.com.
This story originally appeared in the Great Falls Tribune, February 18, 2016