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Montana: Gold Country West, Wintertime Family Vacations with Snowkiting, Sled Dog Races, and Snowmobiling. The bonus of a Montana winter family vacation is miles of fresh white stuff, marked only by an occasional rabbit trail. You will find no waiting lines, plenty of affordable activities to share with kids.

Here's the scoop.
From ice skating, snow kiting and snow shoeing to cowboy dreaming, hot springs, and the amazing Race to the Sky having fun is easy. You will find no waiting lines, plenty of affordable activities. What kind of winter fun awaits families? The menu of vacation fun is expansive both inside and out but we have culled the best for your perusal.

Helena - Go ice skating. Cheap, easy, and fun skating is an ideal winter activity for the whole family and throughout Gold West Country, you’ll find plenty of places to go ice skating including indoor rinks, outdoor rinks, ponds, lakes and streams. Rent skates and take to the rink or use your own and skate free range. Memorial Park in Helena offers an ice-skating rink with warming house and skate rental. Bonus points: Nearby Centennial Park is the location of the new Skate Park with ramps, rails and jumps for skaters and boarders.

Georgetown Lake - Try snowkiting 101. Perhaps you’ve seen kite boarders jumping waves off Florida’s beaches (you may even have a teen who has tried to catch the wind) but the wild ride has an intrepid version popular where ever there is wind and a frozen free space – think Montana. Snowkiting is one of the fastest growing winter sports in the world. The high energy sport may be watched or even attempted at Georgetown Lake - known as one of best places in the world for snowkiting. The sport combines a large colorful kite, snowboard or skis and a sturdy rider with ice, wind and wide open spaces.  Each February the Snowkite Rodeo is held on the lake featuring freestyle and racing events for competitors. Bonus points: Checkout the Sweet Place in downtown Philipsburg. Image 72 flavors of saltwater taffy pulled and wrapped on the spot; browse from a selection of more than 800 candy choices including hand-dipped luscious chocolates. Walk two doors down to the Copper Cauldron and watch marshmallows, caramels or toffees being made.
Polaris - Run the powder trails. Snowmobiling in Montana is invigorating and loads of fun. A vast network of challenging trails weave throughout the state providing weeks of adventures. For families an ideal starting point is the back porch of Montana High Country Lodge near Polaris where during the winter months snowmobiles stand ready for guests. Located in Grasshopper Valley the Lodge has direct access to almost half million acres of remarkable backcountry. Guests simply suit up, step out and go. The 14,000-square-foot guest lodge, which has Montana style family rooms, an awesome great room, home-cooked meals and plenty of nsider information makes an ideal spot for families to unwind and have fun building memories. When the snow falls, snow angels and snowmen are encouraged and hot chocolate provided as a bonus. Bonus points: The rooms in the basement (not underground) surround a lovely gathering space. Russ and Karen owners of Montana High Country Lodge wrote the book on family friendly. Their cookie jar is never empty.

Dillon – Return to Grasshopper Creek. Montana is filled abandon gold camps and early settlements deserted by pioneers but the ghost town of Bannack (Montana's first territorial capital) located not far from Dillon, is one of the best preserved. More than 50 log and frame structures still remain standing along the Main Street. The town has been preserved rather than restored; protected rather than exploited. It offers a window on the culture and history of the American West. Open year round visitors are encouraged to walk the street and imagine. Bonus points: Sometimes historians or volunteer staff members provide stories about Henry Plummer, Chief Snag, Club Foot George, Dutch John Wagner and how gold was discovered in July of 1862 at Grasshopper Creek.
Deer Lodge - Walk the line.  Making a prison stop may not seem like the thing to do with kids but in this case it is a must. The Old Montana Prison is just plain cool (actually chilly in the winter.). Built by convict labor, the prison was in use until 1979 and now offers visitors an unusual and in many ways eerie museum experience. The complex in Deer Lodge offers self guided tours beyond the gray stone wall and towers through a massive cell block. Inspect the hanging gallows; see the solitary confinement rooms; visit the prison kitchen; gaze at the guard turrets.  Bonus points: For a not so sobering time check out the Montana Auto Museum adjoining the old prison. View interpretive exhibits and browse more than 150 antique cars carefully stationed for great photo opportunities Stand next to the wheels of the classic Chevys and Fords of the forties and fifties. Get close to a memorable 1950 Studebaker or a 1951 Packard. See firsthand a 1903 Ford with tonneau and wicker side baskets, a 1918 Ford TT, a Police Paddy Wagon and an amazing 1910 Hupmobile.

Deer Lodge - Be a cowboy. Any time of year Grant-Kohrs Ranch welcomes guests and encourages youngsters to try on cowboy clothes, read cowboy stories, practice cowboy skills like roping Woody the wooden steer, try walking on stilts, as well as visit the horses, cows and chickens. Rangers at Grant-Kohrs Ranch share a uniquely American story of the open range cattle business. Young guests between the ages of 5-12 are invited to become Junior Rangers and encouraged to attend ranger programs, complete activities in a junior rancher workbook and in doing so learn about American history and why it matters to all of us. From the main ranch house and prairie garden to the black smith’s station and the stables Grant-Kohrs Ranch makes visualizing the American West easy. Bonus points: Not to be missed, the gift store onsite has a rich variety of cowboy music both vintage and contemporary.

Butte to Lincoln - Feel the call of the wild. This year marks the 26th Race to the Sky competition and celebration (February 8-13, 2013). Communities along the 350-mile route will be providing plenty of activities to engage fans and families in the energy of the race. For example in Butte activities include: junior musher races, "Meet the Mushers" with their dogs, and sled dog rides for the public. The official start is at Camp Rimini near Helena; then on to Elk Park in Butte, Lincoln, Ovando, Seeley Lake, looping from the Wilderness Checkpoint near Condon back to Seeley Lake and the finish in Lincoln. Fans are invited to view teams at checkpoints which are all accessible by car. Fun fact: Call of the Wild 3D was filmed during (and at) the 2007 and 2008 Race to the Sky. During the 350 mile dog sled races two camera crews road with two of the sled teams and filmed in and near Lincoln, Helena, and Philipsburg.

Helena – Ride a magical carousel.
At the heart of the city the Great Northern Carousel weaves its magic creating memories for all ages. With two chariots and 38 hand-sculptured animals including otters, bears, horses, fish, rabbits, and one special  dinosaur, the question is not when to ride but how many times to ride.  The enclosed year-round carousel is decorated with stained-glass murals of the Capitol, the fire tower, the civic center, elk, and grizzly bear. Bonus points: Just steps from the carousel sample locally made premium ice cream. 

Find a place to get soaked. In addition to pristine snowy terrain and star studded winter nights, southwestern Montana offers visitors hot springs to be experienced any day of the year. Gold West Country Montana “hot” spots include spa-like resort facilities, family friendly health club options, and rustic free range geothermal pools. The point is to enjoy the warm, take a soak and relax. At Norris Hot Springs soak in 120 degrees under the stars. Broadwater Athletic Club and Hot Springs in Helena offers day passes for the mineral waters. Enjoy cross-country skiing or snow mobiling by day at Elkhorn Hot Springs and then soak in one of the outdoor hot mineral pools or try a Grecian sauna. Bonus points: For extra action the Fairmont Resort and Spa has two mineral soaking pools (one indoors and one outdoors) plus a 350-foot enclosed waterslide open year-round.
Winter time is the easy season when things slow down and there’s time to appreciate a simpler life with crystallized sunsets, snow forts to be conquered and cozy fire places to be enjoyed. Southwestern Montana offers dozens of snow possibilities for families from tubing, skating, kiting and sliding to hot springs soaking, skiing and snowmobiling. All that is left to do is show up and begin vacation time.
Location on the planet. Gold West Country is located in the southwestern part of Montana smack dab between Glacier National Park and Yellowstone National Park. You will find rolling terrain, valleys ringed by snow-capped mountains, a mother-lode of history. More importantly the area offers free range fun with no waiting lines. From Helena, Deer Lodge and Philipsburg to Dillon, Butte and Anaconda possibilities for family vacation fun are endless. Gold West Country Communities

Make it happen. Get the bigger picture at Montana Gold West Country

Planning Details
Bannack State Park, 4200 Bannack Road. Dillon, 59725. (406) 834-3413 or
Old Prison Museums. 1106 Main St. Deer Lodge, MT 59722. (406) 846-3111 or
Race to the Sky. (406) 881-DOGS, (406) 458-6116, e-mail or website at
Great Northern Carousel 989 Carousel Way Helena, MT 59601 (406) 457-5353 or
City of Helena Parks Dept at (406) 447-8463 or

Content researched and created by FTF. Images provided by Visit Montana. Copyright 2013.
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