Improving Your Cross Country Skiing Experience

Dave Pecunies Photography

The town of Big Sky, and Big Sky country in general, is a mecca for Nordic skiing. Between Lone Mountain Ranch and the miles of groomed ski trails around the greater Gallatin County region, nordic skiing, and specifically skate skiing, is one of the best activities for getting into the woods and away from the crowds, fast. But unlike downhill skis, skate skis require more frequent waxing and at-home care. This may sounds overwhelming, but don’t worry; waxing is one of the sublime pleasures of being a nordic skier. Here’s a quick primer on the basics of waxing skate skis:

Lone Mountain Ranch

Lone Mountain Ranch

What you’ll need:

  • Ski vice or clamps, homemade or store bought
  • Glide wax
  • Scraper
  • Waxing iron
  • Cork block

Tuning supplies available at local shops like Grizzly Outfitters, East Slope Outdoors and Lone Mountain Sports. They also offer tuning services if you don’t want to do it yourself.

The Process:

Before being stowed away every spring, skate skis should receive a coat of “storage wax”, which needs to be removed every fall. After affixing your skis to your chose work surface, set your wax iron to medium heat and begin slowly heating the base of your ski. As the iron and the ski get hotter, the existing wax with turn ghostly white and stand out. Scrap off all the old wax to give yourself a new start.

After the ski is stripped and ready for wax, it’s time to give your skis their first coat of glide wax for the winter. Begin the waxing process by holding your wax block at a steep downward angle to the face of the iron, allowing hot wax to drip onto the ski.

Cover the ski with little blotches of wax from tip to tail. After the ski is fairly covered, begin spreading the wax around the ski’s base by running your iron in circular motions across the ski’s base. You will see the wax melt and spread. Continue this waxing motion until the ghostly white wax covers the ski base entirely. Because nordic skis have relatively soft bases, be careful to not melt the ski’s base.

Now it’s time to scrape. Hold your wax scraper at 45-degree angle to the ski as you pull the scraper towards yourself. You’ll see satisfying curls of excess wax pull from the ski. Once the excess is pulled from the ski, the bases should appear shiny and smooth. If you want to put some additional elbow grease into the work, buff the skis bases with a cork block to work the wax into the base.

Now get your skiing clothes on and get out the door!


Photos © Dave Pecunies Photography


Winter In Yellowstone National Park


Yellowstone National Park is one of the most spectacular wonders of the world, and we are fortunate to have it essentially in our back yard. But, did you know that in addition to millions of visitors passing through there in the summer, it is also open to the public in the winter? Except for a few weeks in the spring and fall when the park is closed to public traffic, you can experience the wonder during all seasons.

While you are making your plans to be in Big Sky this winter to enjoy skiing at Big Sky Resort or cross country and sleigh-riding adventures at Lone Mountain Ranch, consider a visit to Yellowstone to round out your trip.

xmasbook-1845You can explore the park on your own by cross country skiing into the park, and within it from one of their year-round lodging facilities; you can take a guided snowmobile tour; or you can view it from the warmth and comfort of a Snowcoach. The tours are available to various places in the park including the Old Faithful area and the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. You can make it a day trip, or enjoy several days staying in the Snow Lodge or other hotel within the park. If you prefer to drive yourself, the section of road between Mammoth Hot Springs (North entrance) and Cooke City (East Entrance) is open on a year round basis.

Below is a collection of information to help you make your plans. Don’t wait, reservations for the tours and lodging within the park book early!

West Yellowstone Snowcoach and Snowmobile Tours:

Buffalo Bus Snowcoach Tour

Backcountry Adventures

Yellowstone Adventures

Teton Valley Adventures

Yellowstone National Park Lodging

This winter, the National Park Service is renovating the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel and Cabins, so they will be closed. However, the Old Faithful Snow Lodge and Cabins are open and currently taking reservations for the winter season. If you are looking to stay in the park for a few days, consider booking a Snowcoach to transport you to Old Faithful where you can cross country ski or snowshoe, stay in the Lodge or a Cabin, and travel back out again on a Snowcoach.

Cross Country Skiing/Snowshoeing

There are a number of companies that offer guided ski and snowshoe tours into the park, including and Yellowstone Expeditions and Yellowstone Ski Tours. If you’d like to explore on your own, check out the National Park Service information found here.


Nordic Skiing in Southwest Montana

Nordic Skiing in Big SkyThe long Montana winters would be far more difficult to endure if it weren’t for the myriad of outdoor opportunities we have in the Greater Yellowstone area: downhill skiing, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, Yellowstone National Park visits, and, of course, Nordic skiing. Whether you are a skate skier looking for well groomed trails or a classic skier looking to explore the backcountry, you can find it all within a short drive from your Big Sky home base.

Here are some spectacular Nordic ski options in and near the Big Sky area:

Lone Mountain Ranch: Big Sky
Right in the heart of Big Sky, Montana, we are lucky to have Lone Mountain Ranch, a private guest ranch and cross country ski area that has been rated as the number one Nordic Center in North America. With over 85 kilometers of groomed ski trails, there are miles of scenic loops that are perfect for skate skiing and classic skiing for all ability levels. The ranch uses top-of-the-line grooming equipment and trails are maintained regularly. They offer rental equipment and PSIA certified ski instruction. Lone Mountain Ranch is a guest ranch with all-inclusive lodging/dining/ski packages, but daily and season ski passes are available to the public. Contact Information: (800) 514-4655,

Rendezvous Ski Trails: West Yellowstone
The 35 kilometers of ski trails at Rendezvous, winding through lodge pole pines and open meadows, are on U.S. Forest Service land and maintained under their own program with area sponsors and partners. Trail prices vary depending on the time of year, from November through March. With consistent snow conditions in West Yellowstone, Rendezvous has hosted many Nordic events and is a popular spot for biathlon training. For more information, see

Bohart Ranch: 16 miles northeast of Bozeman
Bohart Ranch Cross Country Ski Center is located up Bridger Canyon, just outside of Bozeman. They offer 25 kilometers of ski terrain winding through beautiful Forest Service land, with skiing for all abilities. Using the latest equipment, the trails are groomed for classic and skate skiing. Bohart also features snowshoe trails and hosts many national level Nordic ski events. They also offer ski rentals and instruction and are open November through April. Contact Information: (406) 586-9070,

Yellowstone National Park:
Yellowstone has a variety of Nordic ski options that take you through the Park’s splendid scenery and abundant wildlife. To get deep into the park, a snowcoach ride is available, but some roads are plowed in the winter to access ski trails on the outer edge of the park. Mammoth and West Yellowstone are both good base camps for ski trips, and rental shops can guide you to trails that are appropriate for any level of experience. For more information, call Xanterra at (866) GEYSERLAND, or go to

Backcountry Nordic Skiing:
To break your own trail through the beautiful and quiet Montana landscape, try cross county skiing on one of the many Forest Service trails in the area. There are a variety of trailheads up the Gallatin Canyon off Highway 191, including Spanish Creek, Porcupine, Swan Creek and Moose Creek Road. If you do decide to ski the backcountry, it is a good idea to ski with a partner and to bring an avalanche beacon and shovel. For more information about Big Sky area trails, talk to the experts at one of the many area ski and outdoors shops.

Winter in Yellowstone

winterynpThere’s nothing like Yellowstone National Park in the winter.

In the winter months, the thick layer of snow that blankets the once lush, green summertime landscape of Yellowstone National Park creates a dramatic backdrop for the quiet solitude that awaits the park’s few lucky winter visitors. A winter day in the park is a truly magical experience; there’s steam shooting up from the hot pots surrounded by fields of white, grazing snow-crusted bison and elk and, best of all, no crowds.

For Big Sky, Montana residents and visitors alike, a winter park excursion is a must, and there are many ways to explore.

Snowcoach Tours
There are a few different tour operators offering half and full-day interpretive snowcoach tours through parts of the park that are closed to vehicles during the winter. The coaches also serve as transportation to Old Faithful Lodge, Mammoth Hot Springs, West Yellowstone, and Flagg Ranch. Wintertime lodging is available in some of these areas, where people stay to cross-country ski or snowmobile (see more on that below). The snowcoach is a comfortable and warm way for the whole family to experience the park in winter. Here are some vendors:

Yellowstone Snowcoaches

Yellowstone Vacations

Yellowstone National Park Lodges

Snowmobile Tours
Cruise through the snowy landscape on a guided snowmobile tour to really experience your surroundings first hand with a dose of adventure thrown into the mix. Designed for all ability levels, from first timers to advanced riders, many of the trips are full day excursions that travel to Old Faithful Geyser Basin or the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. Here are a few of the authorized Yellowstone National Park snowmobile concessionaires:

Two Top Yellowstone Winter Tours

Yellowstone Vacations

Old Faithful Snowmobile Tours

Ski & Snowshoe Tours
A variety of ski and snowshoe tours are offered in different areas throughout Yellowstone National Park. Departing from Mammoth Hotel or Old Faithful, there are trips to the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone and tours around Old Faithful to Delacey Creek and Fairy Falls.

Ranger-led snowshoe trips through the Lamar Valley are also a popular way to spend the day, or try a tour around the Mammoth Hot Spring Terraces with a geology talk and through the northern ranges for a wolf reintroduction tour.

For more information about exploring on your own, check out

For information about ranger-led programs for 2015, go here

For guided tours, check out

How about spending the night in a winter wonderland? Winter lodging is available in the park at both Mammoth Hotel and Old Faithful Snow Lodge. Hotels just outside the park, in West Yellowstone and Gardiner, are also open throughout the winter. For reservations and more information for all of the above programs, call (307) 344-7311 or (866) GEYSERLAND.

Custom Tours
Want to do a little bit of everything, and have a private guide to show you the ins-and-outs of the park? Choose your own adventure with custom guided tours that can include skiing, snowmobiling, or snowcoaching. For more information, see

Top 10 Things for Non-Skiers to do


Top 10 Things for Non-Skiers to Do on a Big Sky Winter Day

If you’re a non-skier, it’s easy to feel like an outcast amongst the hardcore Big Sky winter fanatics. Maybe you don’t ski because of an injury or health condition, or maybe it’s just not your thing. But you don’t have to let those powder days go to waste. If you’re not planning to hit the slopes, or if you’re taking a day off, there are many other equally rewarding winter activities to take advantage of on Big Sky winter day. Try these:

  1. Ousel Falls: This low-key hike is a great way to get out of the house on a beautiful snowy day. Less than two miles out and back, the trail switchbacks down into a canyon before crossing the Gallatin River to the falls. The Ousel Falls hike is accessible to people of all abilities, and well worth it to see the magical frozen falls. If there’s snow or ice, try using ice traction cleats (such as Yaktrax), snowshoes, or cross-country skis.
  2. Fine Dining: Big Sky is known for its world-class skiing, but its dining is top notch too. Start your day at the Blue Moon Bakery with a yummy pastry or, if you’re a late sleeper, try their excellent homemade pizza for lunch. For fine dining Montana style, visit the Rainbow Ranch Lodge Restaurant, Buck’s T-4, or Olive B’s; or for a more casual experience, try or the Gallatin Riverhouse Grill or Ousel & Spur. For a complete list of dining options, go here.
  3. Winter Ziplining: Brave souls seeking an adrenaline rush should check out Big Sky Resort’s Adventure Zipline Tour. Expert guides will acquaint you with safety equipment and procedures, and accompany you up the chairlift towards Lone Peak. Glide your way down through the epic scenery solo, or try “racing” a friend on the twin line. Reservations are required, call 406-995-5769.
  4. Sledding and Tubing: Sliding fast down a snowy hillside never gets old. Plenty of area businesses offer tube and sled rentals, and Big Sky even has its very own “Tube Park.” For an especially unique sledding experience, check out Spirit of the North Dogsledding Adventures, which offers guided dog sledding for the inexperienced.
  5. Rest and Relaxation: Get a little rest and relaxation by taking advantage of one of Big Sky’s numerous spas, which offer massage, facials, and other treatments for both men and women. Rainbow Ranch Lodge and Big Sky Resort both offer spa services; OZssage Therapeutic Spa will send a masseuse to your home or hotel.
  6. Snowshoeing: For those who prefer more laid-back winter recreation, snowshoeing is a great way to take advantage of winter weather. Explore the trails on your own or try a guided tour. Lone Mountain Ranch even offers moonlight snowshoe tours.
  7. Ice Skating: The Big Sky Town Center Ice Rink offers daily open skating, a kids’ rink, classes and other programs, including adult drop-in hockey and broomball. Go to for more information.
  8. Entertainment: The classy Lone Peak Cinema shows films daily and also offers a full bar, with happy hour from 8-9 p.m. Ousel & Spur Pizza Co. hosts live music every Friday through the winter, not to mention fantastic coffee, cocktails, and pizza. And check the local event schedule for up to date entertainment here.
  9. Shop and See: Stroll your way through the Meadow Village, Mountain Village, and Big Sky Town Center’s unique boutiques, cafes, galleries, and restaurants. Whether you’re looking for sports gear, western art, or souvenirs, there are many options that cater to all ages and tastes.
  10. Learn to Ski: You won’t get kicked out of Big Sky for not being a skier, but if there’s no good reason to avoid it, maybe it’s time to give in. Start slowly with a few lessons on the bunny hill, and you’ll be well on your way to hitting the slopes next winter.