Powdery Playground

Powdery Playground

Kinser, Karen
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Bozeman insiders know that for those of us who love the great outdoors—especially in the winter—the Gallatin Valley’s offerings can’t be beat. But, hey, sometimes you just need to get away. We live in a really big—and beautiful—state, after all, and maybe there’s more to experience than our own back yard. Maybe it’s a special someone’s birthday or anniversary? Surprise her—or him—with rooster-tailin’ refreshment on the mountain slopes with a winter adventure in Red Lodge. Whatever the reason for taking a road trip (you’re a prodigious powderhound and just need to check out the competition, right?), you’re gonna love the powdery playground of Red Lodge.

Hard to believe, but Red Lodge has a lot in common with Bozeman. Sure, it may be smaller, but it’s got comfortable neighborhoods, loves its dogs (even though none of the stores offer loaner leashes), is friendly and welcoming, has unique restaurants and a local brewery, and—of course—great outdoor opportunities.

Whether you’re a hot-dog aerialist, ultrasonic schusser, love the challenge of glade skiing, or just prefer long, lazy runs on corduroy, you’ll find the skiing you need at Red Lodge Mountain. The bad news? Lift lines are practically nonexistent, so you probably won’t be making new friends while you wait for your ride. The good news is the full-day lift ticket price of only $49 for an adult (a college ID will drop that to $32), which gives you access to 65 trails and groomed slopes, 2,400 feet of vertical, and almost 100 acres of extreme chute and tree skiing. Been off the skis for a while and need some remediation? Then choose the Skillbuilder package with a lesson, rentals, and lift ticket for $69. For boarders who want to rip it up, Red Lodge Mountain offers two terrain parks—Miami Beach for beginners and the Scrap Yard for intermediate and advanced—where you’ll be sure to catch some air.

To fuel your adventures, make a stop at one (or all) of the three eateries on the mountain. The main lodge offers cafeteria-style fare for over 300 people with a river-rock fireplace as its centerpiece. For a great view of five mountain ranges, stop at the Midway Chalet, and warm up at the Fire hole (weekends and holidays). Or ski the Stube—the Bierstube, that is. Located at the base, the Bierstube offers great burgers and a full bar, along with 13 beers on tap. On Saturdays (3-6pm), get down with live music and gather your friends for their famous shotski—a Nordic jumping ski, nine feet long, fully equipped with six shot glasses filled with your favorite liquor.

If you’re the artistic sort (or just graduated with a degree in cardboard and duct tape), plan to attend the Winter Carnival, March 2 and 3. The 2012 theme is the Wild West, and you can create a float for the Cardboard Classic Race down the slopes, or just hang out for a day of fun and festivities. Don’t miss the after-dark Torchlight Parade and fireworks.

If you’re not into alpine skiing, then trek on out to the Nordic Center (on Route 78, about two miles out of town) for cross-country skiing on 15 kilometers of groomed trails with killer views. Plan your trip around a full moon for a Moonlight Ski weekend; ski through aspen shadows and along the trails, and then meet new friends around a fire, sharing chili, cornbread, and hot cocoa. Groomed trails too tame for you? Head out to Custer National Forest, where you can go backcountry skiing, snowboarding, and even deep powder sledding in the Beartooth Mountains.

Craving some serious winter adventure? Then there’s nothing like ice climbing to pump up the adrenaline. Grab your snowshoes and ice gear and head to the long, thin waterfall of Silver Falls, a few miles south of town, in Lake Fork Canyon. If you’ve never participated in this sport before, start with a guide and some instruction (contact Beartooth Mountain Guides or visit beartoothmountainguides.com).

After the slopes have shut down, the town of Red Lodge starts to party (well, some of it, anyway). Re-fuel yourself first at some of the area’s great restaurants—local fare at Bridge Creek Backcountry Kitchen & Wine Bar, Mexican food at Bogart’s, killer steaks and seafood at the Carbon County Steakhouse, or feast on continental creations served in white-linen elegance at the Pollard—before heading to some of the bars and lining up for karaoke. Or meet some new best friends at Sam’s Tap Room at Red Lodge Ales, the local brewery. Don’t miss their Bent Nail IPA (try it on a sampler tray) and Panini sandwiches.

Who knew that the wonder of Bozeman’s great outdoors could extend as far away as Red Lodge. After a winter adventure in Red Lodge, you’ll come back to Bozeman with a whole new attitude—and an appreciation of the great state we’re privileged to live in… not to mention some plans to return in the spring and tackle those headwalls in the Beartooth Mountains.

 


Resources:

Town of Red Lodge: redlodge.com.

Red Lodge Mountain: redlodgemountain.com.

Red Lodge Nordic Center: beartoothtrails.org

Beartooth Mountain Guides: beartoothmountainguides.com.

 

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