The holidays are a season of traditions, memories, and reflection. Looking back on the holiday seasons of years past, I am sure there are some glaring times that bring a smile to your face. I have been privileged enough to spend most of my holidays in Southwest Montana, and I thought – why not share some of the best traditions from Big Sky Country!
Possibly my favorite family tradition growing up was our New Year’s Eve feasts … and yes, “feast” may be an understatement – as we came together, each guest got to choose their favorite dish (9 times out of 10 that was a main dish). We may have gone a little over the top with chicken and dumplings, crab legs, casseroles, Montana ham, salmon, and lefse, but it made for AMAZING leftovers! A close second to that would be our annual Cookie Baking Fest – two families, one kitchen, 56 hours, endless Christmas carols, and dozens of batches of cookies later, we were cookie exchange ready 😉
Although my favorite traditions are primarily about the time spent with friends and family, sharing these memories in Southwest Montana has made them that much more special.
Every winter, our family marks our calendars for an annual weekend trip to Fairmont Hot Springs in Anaconda, Montana. This resort is featured in countless memories, but none so vivid as making snow angels in our swimsuits before hopping in the naturally heated pool! With a petting zoo, mini-golf course, full golf course, on-site spa, restaurant, indoor and outdoor pools, and water slide, there is plenty to enjoy for a relaxing weekend any time of the year!
There are several other Hot Springs in Southwest Montana, all equally worthy of providing the perfect backdrop to make memories. Enjoy live music with friends as you soak in the Water of the Gods at Norris Hot Springs. Plan your weekend getaway and winter adventure at Elkhorn or Jackson Hot Springs. Enjoy a weekend retreat at Boulder Hot Springs, or meet friends for drinks and dinner at Broadwater Hot Springs.
As the snow began to fall, we would bundle up and head out for a crisp day of cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, or even sledding in the Helena National Forest. One of the first times I had the opportunity to go snowshoeing was with a group of friends. As we tramped along, I took a large step forward only to find a little resistance and the next thing I knew my barefoot was planted deep in the snow and my snowshoe and boot were behind me. Let me tell you, there is nothing like an ice cold experience to stick something in your long-term memory.
Living in Helena, MacDonald Pass is in our backyard and offers amazing opportunities for winter adventure! The MacDonald Pass Ski Trails are four connected cross-country ski trail loops near the Continental Divide with groomed and ungroomed trails for skiers of all experience levels. The local outdoor shop, The Base Camp, offers rental equipment to make the most of your winter adventure.
Southwest Montana is home to three ski hills (Great Divide, Maverick Mountain, and Discovery), all of which provide a unique and down home feel. They are relatively small local hills, but that means they are less crowded and some of the friendliest slopes around. It was at Great Divide that I learned to ski, and Discovery where my uncle would ski in actual circles around us as we made our way down the mountain a little too slowly for his taste.
Downhill skiing is a breath of fresh air – some of the most exhilarating winter fun you can have, and at any experience level. The only way to improve a day on the slopes is to top it off with a soak in one of those aforementioned natural hot springs! This winter, consider a Ski & Soak Vacation in Southwest Montana.
Growing up, one of my best friends and her family were avid fishermen – fall, winter, spring, summer, the season didn’t matter. How could it when Southwest Montana offers some of the best fishing in the country? One winter we took a trip out to Canyon Ferry Reservoir for a peaceful day on the ice.
After a long day of fishing, messing around on the snowmobiles, and of course an epic snowball fight, we began packing up. I grabbed one side of the ice hut to help move it out of the way, and without thinking I took two steps forward – and walked right into the hole in the ice … needless to say I was not invited back, but it makes for a great story!
While there will always be those Christmas traditions that can happen anywhere and anytime (ugly sweater parties, cookie baking, and enormous meals), it is never too late to add another tradition to the repertoire; and, maybe, just maybe, those memories will be made in Southwest Montana.