Montana’s Moonlight Basin Mixes Luxury And Winter Adventure

Moonlight Basin offers winter adventure visitorsIf you’re looking for an adventurous, not to mention luxurious, winter escape, it’s tough to beat a visit to Moonlight Basin. Located in Big Sky, Montana, Moonlight is a beautiful and exclusive resort that offers guests world-class skiing, fine dining and a full-featured spa. The resort is a wonderful oasis of refinement in a spectacular mountain wilderness, and they’re currently offering travelers a winter adventure package that will provide memories for a lifetime.

The Montana Adventure Package includes lodging for two at Moonlight Basin, where guests will enjoy ski-in, ski-out accommodations for a minimum of four nights. The resort features some of the best skiing in all of North America, with more than 100 runs spread out across 1900 skiable acres. Those numbers expand to more than 230 trails and an astounding 5532 acres when you add in the interconnected routes that link Moonlight with nearby Big Sky Resort.

For many travelers, the skiing and snowboarding at Moonlight is quite the experience in and of itself, but the Montana Adventure Package offers even more opportunities to explore this impressive winter wonderland. Guests who purchase the package can also elect to go dog sledding or visit nearby Yellowstone National Park via either a snow coach tour or on a guided snowmobile excursion. Alternatively, they can also choose to take a romantic dinner sleigh ride after a long day on the slopes. Guest can pick any two of these experiences as part of the package.

Rates for the Montana Adventure Package start at $1509 per couple. This special is available by call-in only and Moonlight Basin can be reached at 877-822-0430. If you’re looking for a winter escape that will both thrill and pamper you, it’s tough to beat this option.

[Photo Credit: Moonlight Basin]

Winter in Alaska: snowmobiling with Glacier City, cheating death all the while (video)

In the spirit of journeying during periods less traveled, I’ve embarked to Alaska this winter. Follow the adventures here, and prepare to have your preconceived notions destroyed along the way.



A helmet cam view of snowmobiling in Girdwood, Alaska


When it comes to winter sports, you’ve got skiing, snowboarding, ice hockey — you know, the usual. And then, there’s snowmobiling. Or “snowmachining” as it’s known in The Last Frontier. Whatever you call it, there’s no question that it’s a rush of epic proportions, and while you can most certainly do it in the lower 48, doing in the one that borders Canada and and Russia* provides an entirely different perspective. I’ve snowmobiled through Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming and in Olney, Montana, and while those were both unique and extraordinary experiences in and of themselves, ripping it up through the Chugach mountains is a can’t-miss episode for daredevils. Read on to find out how Glacier City Snowmobile Tours got my adrenaline pumping, or press play on the video above to catch a helmet-cam view of the entire thing!

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Girdwood feels a lot further than 45 miles from Alaska’s largest city (yeah, Anchorage), and it’s home to both Alyeska Ski Resort & Hotel as well as Glacier City Snowmobile Tours. These guys are tucked within the Great Alaskan Tourist Trap shop, connected with the Tesoro fuel station. Tough to find, but well worth discovering. You’ll have two main tour options — the 5.5 hour Real Deal Blue Ice Tour (where you’ll spot glaciers) — and the 3.5 hour Gold Mine Tour. Those run you $250 and $200 apiece, respectively, and include fuel, gear, a campfire lunch (complete with Reindeer hot dogs and Russian Hot Tea) and a guide. The “guide” part is what really makes it — we had Matthew Moscoso (shown above), an Alaskan of five years and consummate professional on the sled. He was both comical and informative, and frankly, it makes me wish my US history teacher of yesteryear had a shred of his genes. I also got to ride with Chanc Deschamps-Prescott, an award-winning skier (and Girdwood native) who is but 15 years of age, and has his sights firmly set on entering the next Winter Olympics. I can’t promise that you too will get the sled with a local hero, but hey, crazier things have happened in Alaska.

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I embarked on the Gold Mine Tour, and couldn’t have possibly had more fun. The trails were definitely the most challenging I’d seen in my three major treks out, but that also adds to the thrill and excitement. We were able to stop for plenty of astounding photo opportunities of the surrounding mountains (as you can see in the gallery here), and the lunch really was something special. Delicious, and thought provoking. How often does that happen?

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As with pretty much everything in Alaska, there’s something truly awe-inspiring about doing everyday activities here. Snowmobiling is no different. Glacier City is the only tour outfit that gets to cruise on the trails that we cruised on, so you’re literally surrounded with nothing but nature. It’s you, your group, your sled, and some of the most intense scenery your brain will ever have to digest. I could go on, but I’ll let a bit of helmet cam footage from my journey handle whatever convincing is still required.

[Images provided by Dana Jo Photography]

My trip was sponsored by Alaska Travel Industry Association, but I was free to report as I saw fit. The opinions expressed in this article are 100% my own.

Winter in Whitefish, Montana: where extreme snow sports and radical serenity meet

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Northwestern Montana just doesn’t get the credit it deserves. When most tourists ponder Big Sky Country, they think of big lakes, outback hunting and skiing at Big Sky Resort. Truth is, all of those things are most definitely found in the Treasure State, but there’s a slice of this place that manages to package a raft of winter sporting activities with a slice of natural beauty that’ll burn a collection of lasting memories into your brain.

The place is Whitefish, Montana, and the vibe is simply unforgettable. Sitting just an hour south of British Columbia and light years away from that nuisance known as “hustle and / or bustle,” this cozy town of 5,000 or so acts as a perfect base for your idyllic winter getaway. Most folks head to a ski town to hit a few good runs, a few decent bars and a few overpriced merchandise stores. But if you’re flying into FCA this winter, I’d recommend bringing an entirely different set of expectations. Read on to find out why.

%Gallery-114796%No question about it: the star of Whitefish is Big Mountain, home to Whitefish Mountain Resort (and this rediculous mansion situated near lift 3). Unlike the vast majority of ski towns in the U.S., this town was actually a thriving place prior to 1947, the year it was turned into a ski destination. That simple fact has led to locals being almost universally emphatic about its existence — during a quick jaunt to Moose’s Saloon in downtown Kalispell, I was greeted by three residents who could tell by my garb that I’d been on the hill earlier. “How were the conditions up there today? Good I hope!” That’s the kind of attitude that permeates through the greater Whitefish region, and it makes the entire place remarkably hospitable to outsiders like myself.

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I spent a couple of solid days at Whitefish Mountain Resort, and it’s definitely the gem of the northwest. Lift lines were practically nonexistent, conditions were stellar, powder was abundant, and even the amenities onsite were downright impressive. The 3.3-mile Hellride is just the tip of the iceberg; unlike many mountains, riders can soar down both sides of Big Mountain, giving you a nearly endless array of trails to choose from. Even advanced skiiers and snowboarders could spend a solid week here and barely have time to test out all of the routes.

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Whitefish has also done a commendable job in making sure there’s plenty to do all day; you’ll find top-notch eateries at both the Village and the Base Lodge (Ed & Mully’s had some of the best resort grub these chompers have ever sunk into), as well as numerous shops (with fair pricing!), a gaggle of lodging options and a view to die for. Oh, and did we mention that a single day lift ticket ($64) is 21 percent cheaper here than at Big Sky ($81)? It is.

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If you’ve managed to place an undue burden on your knees and twist your back in ways they should never be twisted, there’s a perfect midweek escape just a half-hour away. And it’s one that’ll require a shockingly small amount of physical exertion to enjoy. The destination is Glacier National Park, and a ride through in the winter is certainly an ideal way to find R&R during a otherwise revved-up week of vacation. Glacier just recently celebrated its 100th birthday, and she’s as gorgeous as ever at 101. Only ~12.5 miles of roadways are cleared during the winter season, but it’s enough.

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Crowds are unheard of when visiting this beaut in the off-season — in fact, I only spotted three other humans during an entire afternoon there last week. I’ve always been a huge proponent of visiting National Parks in the off-season, and the images below capture my explanation of ‘why’ perfectly. Guests can cruise the entire length of Lake McDonald (the largest in the park), and there are numerous opportunities to pull off and take a stroll down to the shoreline. If you catch it on a particularly foggy day, you’ll be hard pressed to believe you’re not somewhere in Iceland.

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If faced with good visibility, and one more extreme itch to scratch, I’d recommend making a beeline to Olney, MT. 20 or so minutes up Highway 93 North puts you at Winter Wonderland Sports, otherwise known as The Time of Your Life. These folks have a vast network of snowmobile trails right in their backyard, and at just $135 for the day, there’s hardly a better way to get your adrenaline boosted to near-unhealthy levels. The trails here are well maintained and chock full of astounding views — it’s an argonaut’s paradise, doused in untouched powder and surrounded by peaks and lakes that have been immune to commercialization. Wondering what kind of universe exists atop a mountain in the backcoutry of northwestern Montana? Have a gander below.

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For snow-loving adventurists, you’ve got too many options to count. But if you’re looking for a delicate mix of serenity and insanity, Whitefish is one of the few places that really nails it. Toss in a community’s worth of friendly locals, too many stellar eateries to count (Piggyback Barbeque gets a special nod, though) and world-class skiing, and you’ve finally got a reason to embrace Old Man Winter. If you find yourself here in Whitefish or the surrounding area, check out a few recommended day trips that I’ve compiled below…

[Images provided by Dana Jo Photography]

Yellowstone opens for winter season

Yellowstone in WinterOne of America’s premiere national parks, Yellowstone opened for the winter season yesterday, with the South Entrance granting visitors access to the pristine backcountry that already seen plenty of snow this year. The East Entrance and Sylvan Pass will both December 22nd, offering even more access to this winter wonderland.

In recent years, it has become increasingly popular to explore Yellowstone’s stunning landscapes during the winter months, with many visitors taking in such sites as Old Faithful and the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone with a fresh blanket of snow on the ground. But with so much snow in the region, travel by car is out of the question, which means that most will climb aboard a snowmobile to make the journey to those iconic places. The park puts strict limits on the number of such vehicles that are allowed in the park each day, and all riders must be accompanied by a commerical guide.

In preparation for the winter opening, Yellowstone employees have been very busy grooming roads and trails for winter travel. The park is already covered in various amounts of snow this season, with some areas remaining lightly covered for now, while others have experienced heavy snowfall already. Considering winter doesn’t officially begin for a few days yet, there is already plenty of the white stuff to play in.

For those that would prefer a more eco-friendly approach to visiting Yellowstone in the winter, there are other options besides snowmobiles and coaches. Snowshoeing and cross country skiing are not only great ways to explore the wilderness area, they are an excellent workout as well. The local park rangers also lead a number of great winter programs, which can be found by clicking here.

If you’re planning a winter escape to Yellowstone and would like to travel by snowmobile or snowcoach, you’ll find a complete list of authorized operators in the various regions of the park by clicking here.

Just because winter is about to set in doesn’t mean we have to give up on our outdoor adventures. Check out Gadling’s cold weather gift guide for plenty of winter gear to keep you warm all season long.

A weekend of Mammoth proportions

I glance at my watch; it’s roughly 11am and I’m halfway into the flight from San Jose to Mammoth Lakes, California. The turboprops on Horizon Air’s Bombardier Q400 churn less than 27,000 ft above the immense snow-covered Sierras. The view is remarkable, and the gradual transition from green rolling hills to sharp white ridges is memorable.

Over the drone of the propellers, a husky voice belonging to our bleached blonde flight attendant moves down the aisle with a strange choice of words: “Can I get you to drink?”. A quick survey in the cabin reveals a mixture of young, savvy professionals with shirts and bags that show the markings of Google, Sun, and Adobe. Further down, there’s a smattering of couples with small children and a father-son pair. 11am does seem a little early for drinks, but the mood is festive and a few passengers oblige to the attendant’s propositions in an attempt to usher in the weekend on the right note.

The flight is quick and easy, and just two hours after touching down at Mammoth Lake’s quaint airport, I’m in full snow gear and comfortably admiring the fresh powder from Mammoth Mountain’s Panorama Gondola. Board in hand, I unload at the top of the 11,053ft peak; a height that qualifies Mammoth as the highest ski resort in the state of California and lends itself to an average of 400″ inches of annual snowfall.

The views from the top of the peak are nothing less than picture perfect. The mountain is nestled 3 hours south of Yosemite National Park, 2 hours north of the highest mountain in the 48 states, and is officially part of the Ansel Adams Wilderness area; named in the famous photographer’s honor due to his involvement in inspiring the federal protection and preservation of the land.

By the time night falls on my first day, I’m whisked to the quaint lakeside Tamarack Lodge for dinner with the rest of the journalists that have been assembled by the mountain for the weekend. The dining room glows with soft light; there are a limited number of tables, no more than 12, which adds to the restaurant’s charm and cozy atmosphere. The wine is only trumped by the tender bluefin tuna and delicious blueberry pie, and the meal ends with a farewell from the enthusiastic French Chef. He’s a man that obviously loves his work and takes pride in catering to such an intimate set of diners.

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The next day proves to be even more eventful than the first. The morning is spent hopping around the mountain, looking for the best untouched patches of last week’s snowfall. For lunch, a private snowcat tour has been arranged to take us to a vista that overlooks Mammoth’s postcard-friendly peaks known as the Minarets. It’s stormy and gusts of snow threaten to spoil our lunch, but a few brave souls embrace the cold and eat a spread of marinated chicken and salad at the scenic area’s picnic tables. Through the breaks in the low clouds, we catch glimpses of the peaks and imagine what the scene would be like in all its glory on a clear day.

In the afternoon, we’re led on a guided snowmobile tour that weaves through cleanly carved trails to an open snowfield where the group is encouraged to let the throttle rip, bouncing through crisscrossed tracks in six foot deep snow. After drinks and snacks at the Yodler, a local favorite for aprés ski, I force myself to shake off the burn in my legs and bundle up for the evening’s full moon snowshoe hike.

As tired as I was, I really wasn’t expecting too much out of the hike, but it turned out to be the pinnacle of the entire trip. An older couple that run the cross-country skiing center were our guides for the night; Uli (from Switzerland) and Robin were extremely charming and knowledgeable about the Sierra region and had facts at the ready around every corner.

I was taken aback by the stillness of Mammoth’s forests at night; the intensity of the brightest full moon of the year; the view overlooking Mammoth Lakes and the village far below. All of it came together to be a completely relaxing but genuinely memorable outing.

I thought I could get away with ending the day there, but was mistaken by the fact that we still had a round of nightlife hotspots to see. One of the great things about the nightlife in Mammoth is that most of the popular gathering spots are all in walking distance from one another and from the Village; the residential / commercial development that the Mountain has established in the last few years as the pseudo-hub for mountain activity and social activity.

By the end of the weekend, I exhausted and impressed that Mammoth could offer so much activity in to one weekend. The town has still managed to retain the feel and personality of a small mountain community, while readily establishing itself as a major destination for outdoor action. If you haven’t given Mammoth a second thought due to its location, then check out Horizon Air’s flights out of Los Angeles and San Jose.

You may come away sore, but you won’t leave disappointed.

Stephen Greenwood ventured out to Mammoth Lakes on a trip sponsored by the Mammoth Mountain Ski Area. No editorial content was guaranteed and Stephen was free to openly report on his experiences (pending his survival of the outdoor winter activities that demand motor skills he generally lacks).