Family-friendly Montana is calling Chicagoans to give it a try

Montana may not be the first place you think of when taking advantage of frosty fun, but that’s precisely what makes it a good destination for a family on a winter trip—it’s not too crowded, you can find off-season prices and the scenery is breathtaking.

And even the most avowed winter opponent will warm up to it.

Similarly, while you may associate all-inclusive resorts with sandier locations, destinations like the all-inclusive Ranch at Rock Creek, nestled in a picturesque valley near Philipsburg, illustrate why an all-inclusive is a particularly great option in the snow. One of the many reasons is that the multiple lists that come with arranging a vacation for an active family become significantly shorter.

To start, your planning to-do list becomes very brief. Transportation is provided from the airport to the Ranch at Rock Creek, so no need to worry about that. Once you’re there, activities are included and planned, you just pick what appeals. Families can opt for a full day of downhill skiing at nearby Discovery Ski Area, or they can stay at the ranch and partake in two on-ranch adventures. Options include snowmobiling, snowshoe trekking, yoga, photography class, fat tire biking and UTV mountain tour, as well as cross-country skiing, skating and horseback riding. 

The Ranch’s staff accommodates all ages and offers instruction for all abilities (or inability, in my case). I was new to many of them and felt grateful for the help and patience. What surprised me most was how much I truly enjoyed the winter weather and how the outdoor activities made it easy to embrace the season in Montana, rather than fight it as I often do in Chicago.

Making peace with Mother Nature is easier when the Ranch provides all the necessary gear. Your packing list becomes downright manageable. For example, don’t worry about skis—a ski concierge is on hand to make sure the whole family has what it needs. Both hockey and figure skates are available at the pond so you can skate however you like. From helmets to boots, the Ranch has everything. 

The only list that gets longer is the list of things to do on your own. The Little Grizzlies Kids Club helps make that possible. It recently won the Virtuoso “Best of the Best” Travel Award for Best Family Program for 2018 for how it introduces kids ages 4-12 to the ways of the West and teaches them about nature. Activities like ice fishing, snowman building and wildlife spotting mean you’re free to head off on an adventure with the other adults, enjoy the Granite Spa, take a yoga class, or just curl up with a great book and beverage next to the giant stone fireplace. Babysitting is also offered separately. 

While outdoor fun is abundant, there are indoor options included, too. The Silver Dollar Saloon offers family-friendly fun, including bowling lanes, pool, shuffleboard, karaoke, games and a movie theater. I didn’t know that sitting on a bar stool that’s actually a saddle was on my bucket list until I had done so there.

You don’t have to worry about food and keeping kids or yourself from getting hangry. Three meals each day are provided, and guests also enjoy social hour every night with drinks, including unlimited premium beer, wine and spirits. The menu changes nightly, featuring authentic Western cuisine and local ingredients and the chef takes dietary needs into account. There’s plenty kids will eat and Little Grizzlies have their own dinner two nights during the week. If you want to cook, there are several accommodation options, including cabins with kitchens. There are also rooms at the lodge and glamping tents that stay toasty warm. Whichever you choose, the family memories you make will warm your heart for many winters ahead.

This article originally appeared in the January 2019 issue of Chicago Parent. Read the rest of the issue.

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