This year (2019) we picked Big Sky, Montana to be our winter wonderland destination. After looking into all the activities we wanted to do during our stay, we chose West Yellowstone area to rent a cabin.
Views from our cabin in West Yellowstone
I will say that at the time of booking, I didn’t realize the huge beautiful lake our house overlooked would be froze over…so much so that you wouldn’t even recognize it as a lake. Honestly we didn’t know where the driveway ended and the lake begun, so we parked on the street right outside the front door.
Also, West Yellowstone is a little less than 2 hours from the airport (BZN). That time frame is assuming you don’t get stuck behind a snow plow or accident. (We got stuck behind both) If your family is looking to ski most of the trip, book a house or room in Big Sky. If Yellowstone National Park is your main destination, look into West Yellowstone. Either way, you will not be disappointed since there is lots to do in both areas.
Sledding in West Yellowstone
Big Sky Resort
is where we booked our kids ski lessons, ski camps, and our own ski rentals/lift tickets. There are so many options for you and your family here in regards to skiing/snowboarding. Lessons for all ages and Camps for 7 years+. I believe the camps are for kids who have already skied before. The skiing is not cheap and cost our family about $1500 for one day (!!). And people say Disney is expensive.
Big Sky, MT
Other than skiing, Big Sky Resort offers an awesome zip line, giant swing, plenty of restaurants, snow shoeing, a day care for your little munchkins, shopping, a salon and spa, plus amazing views of Montana. They also help you plan other excursions, like Dog Sledding, Horse drawn Carriage Rides, and Snowmobiling and provide transportation to and from these activities. Just like many resorts, this is an all-in-one kind of place!
Rock in Ski School at Big Sky Resort
Sophia doing a Mini Ski Camp (7-14 year olds)
Penelope riding the giant swing
The Montana Dinner Yurt
— A unique dining experience in the “back country”! Meet at the base of the mountain at Big Sky Resort where you’ll meet your transportation for the 2 mile ride up the mountain. A three course meal is pre-selected and reservations well in advanced are a must! Alcohol is not available for purchase, but you can bring you own! Yippee!
Sleigh Ride Dinner at Lone Mountain Ranch
— A dinner experience you’ll never forget and what better place to do it at than this truly unique resort in Montana. It was even featured in National Geographic as one of America’s most unique resorts! The Sleigh Ride Dinner has become “legendary” in Big Sky! Get cozy in a horse drawn sleigh and take a ride to the oil-lantern-lit cabin for a family-style prime rib dinner! For reservations, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Yellowstone Vacation tours
– There are so many different tour groups in and around Yellowstone and I almost linked you the wrong one. I’m sure they are all good in there own way, and honestly how can you go wrong in Yellowstone?! But, I cannot express how great this company was! Yellowstone Vacation Tours gets a 5 star review with both the Old Faithful Yellowstone Winter Tour and snowmobiles rentals. They offer all types of adventures in and around Yellowstone during winter or summer. I don’t even know how I missed this adventure: Skijoring?! Look it up! 🙂
Snowmobiling in West Yellowstone
We booked the Old Faithful Yellowstone tour, but they also offer a “Grand Canyon of Yellowstone” tour, which I believe focuses more on the waterfalls of the park, while our focused on the geysers. The important thing to know about visiting Yellowstone during winter is that many of the roads into Yellowstone are closed to normal vehicles. The only way in and out, when there is tons of snow on the ground, is Snowcoach tours or snow mobiles. Matt, our tour guide, was so knowledgeable about Yellowstone since he’s been a park guide for about 17 years. He was interesting and funny to listen to along the way, making it such a great day.
Ok, this whole trip was wonderful, but YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK was beyond that. Seriously, the definition of adventure and God’s creations. Everything about the place had me in awe. Where else can you see hot springs, geysers, waterfalls, boiling mudpots, Thermophiles (microorganisms) that give the springs such brilliant colors, drive over super volcanoes, share the road with Bison, watch Bald Eagles fish in the river, plus more all in an 8 hour tour?!
Yellowstone Old Faithful Snowcoach Tour
We met at the offices of Yellowstone Vacation Tours in West Yellowstone to get on the Snowcoach that took us into Yellowstone. The first leg of the tour was about 45 minutes into Yellowstone to the pit stop area with bathrooms and a tiny food stand. We all got coffee and hot chocolate for the road. We saw so many Bison and swans during the morning hours. The sun rising and steam coming off the flowing rivers in Yellowstone was breathtaking.
During the tour, we of course, visited Ole Faithful. She’s big and steamy! The air temperatures were crazy cold, (I’m talking single digits) so the steam interrupted our view of water spewing out of the hole! LOL It was a little anticlimactic since we couldn’t really see the water, but still a sight to see! We realized she’s so popular because, well, she’s faithful. She goes goes off every 60-90 minutes, making her almost a guarantee to see. They have a sign outside of the Visitor’s Center that updates the time on every eruption. We ate lunch at the restaurant while waiting for her to erupt. Old Faithful has an entire village built around her with a nice visitor center and shop, restaurant, camp grounds, and the historic Old Faithful Inn.
Standing in front of Old Faithful
After lunch, Old Faithful, and hitting up the souvenir shop, we headed out to see more geysers and hot springs. I really wanted to see Grand Prismatic spring, but tour guide Matt explained that Grand Prismatic is the hottest (and largest) spring in the park. It’s actually the 3rd largest hot spring in the world! Since the spring is so hot and the air is so cold, there is way too much steam created, blocking the spring and it’s beautiful colors. (Kind of like our experience with Old Faithful, but apparently worse). He didn’t want us to be disappointed and said rarely do they visit Grand Prismatic during winter tours. So, that’s that..Putting Grand Prismatic on summer adventure lists!
We did visit many other springs in the Lower, Upper, and Midway Geyser Basins that were insanely beautiful!
Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center
is a small wildlife rescue center in West Yellowstone that gives you an up close experience with rescued Grizzly bears, wolves, otters, and other animals…all who once called Yellowstone home. All the animals at the Center are unable to survive in the wild and serve as ambassadors for their wild counterparts.
West Yellowstone Eats
Many restaurants and shops are closed during the winter months and reopen in May. This left us with slim pickings for meals in and around West Yellowstone, but since we rented a house, we cooked a lot of meals ourselves. We honestly didn’t have a bad meal in Montana!
Slippery Otter Pub – was a super cute and friendly pub and one that’s open year round! Get their jalapeño wontons and Bison burger with Gouda cheese.
Wild West Pizzeria (vegan options) and great pizza and wings! They offer a pizza called The Geronimo that had broccoli and banana peppers. The Wild West Supreme was also delicious!
Big Sky Eats
Montana Jack. A sit down burger joint and bar at Big Sky Resort. We had the Brisket Taco Salad, a burger, and sweet potato fries.
Vista Hall. Vista Hall is an upscale food court with a bunch of different food options (tacos, pizza, sushi, etc) surrounded by a bakery, coffee shop, and bar. It was newly renovated and was a great spot to have lunch in between ski runs at Big Sky Resort. We sat down at the bar twice for a beer after skiing and enjoyed the tacos and burgers.
Lotus Pad. Thai cuisine someone recommended to us, but we didn’t get the chance to eat. This was one of the only places we looked into going outside of the resort.