The Best Winter Getaway in Montana
February 8th, 2021
There's a lot I take into account when traveling. I love to remember the feeling a place gives me.
When you leave somewhere new, you'll feel a particular type of way. That's how you know how much it meant to you.
On certain days, long after you've returned from your trip, something will remind you of it. It could be the scent in the air or a picture long forgotten, and for a moment, you remember what that feeling was like. To be there, at that moment.
And you'll wish you could experience it for the first time again.
I got that feeling at Dancing Spirit Ranch.
Everyone knows I'm a no-frills type of traveler. My favorite moments are under the stars and in good company. My favorite stays are ones with character. I'd take a cabin in the woods over a luxury resort any day of the week.
Our winter getaway to Montana almost seemed manifested. I read the email about coming to stay at Dancing Spirit Ranch at a gas station about five miles outside Glacier National Park less than 48 hours after getting married there. Whitefish and the entire Flathead Valley had just become a monumental part of our life. We fell in love with it. Our families fell in love with it.
My mom still calls me weekly to tell me she's moving to Montana.
So when the day came that we had to wake up at 1:00 am to pack the car and leave for an eight-hour journey to northern Montana again, I didn't hesitate.
It was a treacherous journey through snowstorms in Wyoming and Montana. We arrived at Dancing Spirit a bit frazzled and in need of some R&R time. I knew it was within reach when the ranch was down a dirt road after another dirt road outside of Whitefish. My kind of place.
Whitefish is crowded in the summer, slammed with tourists searching for adventure in Glacier National Park. In the winter, it's even busier for the ski season. Whitefish Ski Resort is one of the most renowned ski resorts in the country. As much as I love spending time on slopes, I want to break away from the crowds at the end of the day. There's nothing worse than sweaty skiers mushed together in a room waiting for their named to be called by an overworked hostess...especially in times of COVID. I want a place where birds dominate the conversations. Where the sunset is the grand show at the end of the night.
A dirt road down a dirt road.
That's precisely what I'm looking for.
The peacefulness of the Dancing Spirit Ranch didn't surprise me. Everything else did.
Mere minutes after our arrival, we found ourselves kicking back on a plush sofa surrounded by a dozen candles next to a fire and served one of the best meals of my life by one of my (now) favorite people in life. An onsite chef cooks all guest meals at Dancing Spirit Ranch. She's no ordinary chef. Her name is Ananda. She made me classify GRILLED CHEESE as one of my "favorite meals" after her aged cheddar, apple, and ginger spread creation. She and her assistant, Taylor, whip up the most beautiful and delicious plant-based meals.
Entire courses are prepared and served next to the coziest fireplace inside "The Barn," an original structure from the property back when it was the oldest lumber mill in Montana. The only sounds come from a record player upstairs and the crackle of the fire. The food is locally sourced, and most of it comes from the ranch's onsite organic garden in the summer.
Many of the onsite buildings are restored structures from the original lumbar mill, including our cottage named the "Little White House," which was originally the schoolmarm's living quarters.
We barely had time to take off our shoes before we fell in love with it all.
It wasn't a crowded resort or cookie-cutter hotel room. Every ounce of it, from the food to the design, was artistic, intricate, and thoughtful. A true masterpiece.
In the coming days, we made the most of the ski and stay package to perfectly combine all four realms of the "perfect Montana getaway."
Ski. Stay. Eat. Relax.
Since moving out west at the beginning of the year, we knew that our first couple of times on slopes in the Rocky Mountains would be rough and slightly comedic. We were excited to get our ski and snowboarding legs back in shape at a mountain that offered terrain options for everyone.
Whitefish Ski Resort offers numerous easy green and blue routes down every mountain angle, even from the summit chairlift. We could see all these beautiful routes back in September from our condo near the Base Lodge, only dreaming of what it was like to ride the routes.
It turns out it was even better than I had envisioned.
What I love most about the resort what that it is inclusive for all ages and riders. Their ski and ride program offers lessons with a professional instructor and is available to all ages. For the pros, there are backcountry and double-black routes to keep you entertained for days.
At the end of the day, we'd return to our private little white cottage with grand views of Glacier National Park in the distance and watch the last pink glow fade over the mountain summits. I'd sit on the porch wrapped in a blanket until my surroundings faded into shadows and stars overtook the sky.
At this time, when the nights dipped in the teens, that didn't mean it was time for bed. Instead, it was time to head to the outdoor fire pit for smores and endless cups of Ananda's homemade hot Golden Oat Milk. In the distance, coyotes howled at the moon—a reminder of how wild this area truly is.
And that's what winter in Montana is all about.
When looking for a ski and stay package near Whitefish, choose a place with intention. Somewhere that will continue to provide an experience long after you've left the slopes. Skiing and snowboarding are great, but bonfires and spaghetti squash with bison meatballs after a long day on the slopes definitely make it a hell of a lot better.
Learn more about Dancing Spirit Ranch here: https://www.dancingspiritranch.com/
Learn more about ski + stay packages here: https://www.dancingspiritranch.com/winter-vacation
** I was hosted by Dancing Spirit Ranch and Whitefish Ski Resort. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
At any given moment, Shalee is either lost, hunting for ice cream, or obsessively planning her next adventure.
Born and raised in rural Michigan, she began exploring the shores of Great Lakes as a teen, often sleeping in her car to save money. Eventually, her urge to explore pushed beyond her Midwest borders. Today, Shalee shares her tips and stories to thousands of readers interested in adventure and outdoor tourism. Her pack now includes two spunky hiking cats and her partner, Josh. Learn more about her here.