Lone Mountain Ranch is in Big Sky, MT. I stayed at a hotel at the Big Sky Resort and took a free shuttle, provided by Skyline Bus, to and from the hotel and the ranch. In the winter, activities at the ranch include cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, sleigh rides, and fly-fishing. Parking is free but a pass is required to recreate on the trails. The rental/gift shop has restrooms, water, apparel, and everything else you may need for a day of winter fun. Cell phone service was decent while on the trails.
I have been cross-country skiing in Utah but had never really got the hang of it so we decided to take lessons. Jeannette was our instructor. She did an amazing job, starting us with the basic fundamentals and quickly working us up to a skill level that allowed us to ski the ranch independent of her. Specifically, we talked about fundamentals with no skies on, then did some exercises with one ski, then practiced with two skies and no poles, and finally two skies with poles. The lesson made a huge difference for me. Prior to the lesson, I was doing it all wrong and it was amazing to feel the difference after learning a few key fundamentals. Our lesson took place on a short, flat track at the center of Joy’s Loop (seen in next picture). From my notes, the key beginner fundamentals are:
- Knees bent with hips and pelvic region pushed forward
- Stand tall with toes,knees, and nose vertically inline
- Pole tips stay behind feet and are never used for stopping
- Put your skis in a pizza slice formation for braking
After our lesson, we did a 2.7 mile loop that started at Joy’s Loop and ended at the rental shop. The following elevation chart illustrates how we coasted down a couple of hills before climbing up to the rental shop.
Lone Mountain Ranch has over 60 miles of professionally groomed trails and, in my limited experience, groomed trails make a big difference. As you can see to the left in the picture below, their trail grooming includes two cross country ski lanes buffered by a wide trail. Even though the ranch is nestled in a ravine, it offers stunning views of Lone Mountain and the surrounding peaks.
The following picture illustrates the gentle curves and slopes of their beginner trails. On a side note, we spoke with a couple that stays at Lone Mountain Ranch every year for a week to snowshoe and cross-country ski. They said that there are enough trails to keep them busy and having fun for an entire week.
After taking a lunch break, we did a second beginner loop that started and ended at the rental shop. From the rental shop, we skied north and connected with the Carlin’s Cruise trail for a 2.2 mile clockwise loop that doubled back to the shop. The subsequent elevation chart shows that we climbed, leveled off, climbed, and then finished with a long descent, all of which was very manageable with our new beginner skills.
This loop starts and ends with a peaceful forest canopy above and complemented by sounds from a stream.
On the Carlin’s Cruise trail, the forest canopy thins and, thus, a far-reaching view is offered. This second loop was very similar to the Ranch Loop except that it included a couple of long straightaways. In total, we skied up and down an elevation range of 400 feet, between 6,400 and 6,800 feet.
In sum, Lone Mountain Ranch is a great place to learn how to cross-country ski and includes enough trails for a week of fun. In addition, it includes a network of snowshoeing trails. Closer to Lone Mountain the peak, you can do an 2.2 mile long snowshoeing trail at Big Sky Resort.