Bozemama Takes in Kids N’ Snow
January 24, 2014
Posted By: Bozemama
Our family has lived in Bozeman for more than three years now, but we’ve never ventured into Yellowstone during winter – until last weekend. Wow . It is beyond spectacular. Did you guys know this? Well, you longtime residents have probably known for ages, but we carpetbaggers had no idea what to expect when we packed up the car and headed for West Yellowstone on a sunny Sunday morning.
The plan was to meet up with my good friend ( Montana Parent ’s co-owner) Cora Larson and her brood, spend the night at the Three Bear Lodge and then take a snowcoach ride Sunday afternoon. It’s been a while since we got out of town (unless you count Belgrade), so we were pretty jazzed to hit the road. And what a drive it was. With Idina Menzel (sorry, Demi Lovato) belting out our favorite Frozen song – Let it go, Let it go, I am one with the wind and sky . . . – we zoomed through the canyon, in and out of the blinding sunshine, surrounded by our own frozen landscape, so happy to be alive and in Montana. Clearly, we need to get out more.
Our first stop in West Yellowstone was the Chamber of Commerce at the corner of Yellowstone and Canyon, where the Kids N’ Snow folks are based and where you can get all the details of the weekend schedule. The Kids N’ Snow program started in 2010 and it offers families the opportunity one weekend a month during the winter season to participate in all kinds of outdoor fun like ice fishing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling and snowcoach tours at minimal cost. It also includes educational activities at the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center , which – alone – is worth the visit. Just trust me. If you haven’t yet taken your kiddos on a Kids N’ Snow weekend, you must do so as soon as you can – for they will love it.
We had barely parked the car before the kids spilled out of the minivans and started doing parkour-like moves up the vast piles of snow all over town. In truth, the boys did this pretty much the entire weekend and could not have been happier – they didn’t even need any planned activities. Cora and I, on the other hand, built a makeshift picnic site on one of our sleds and broke into a mid-day snack of Boursin and Chardonnay. That’s right – we awesome.
Sated, we made our way into the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center where we were lucky enough to watch both species at feeding time. What a treat! Neither the kids nor I had ever seen wolves before and we were rendered seriously speechless as we watched the River Valley pack feed on a deer carcass. One of the Center’s Naturalists explained their behavior and answered our questions about the animals. Literally awesome.
After the wolves, it was time to check into the lovely Three Bear Lodge . At least that's where we thought we were staying, and -- believe me -- we were psyched about it. Hermione was already in search of her suite when we were told that, in fact, our room was accessible only by car. In other words, our rooms were in the roadside no-tell motel portion of the Three Bear compound. I make this distinction, dear readers, to protect you from making the same mistake. Now, here’s one of the many things about me: I am a bit of a freak when it comes to overnight accommodations. I guess that maybe you could call me a princess. And so I had barely opened the door to our dingy, musty room when I closed it again and called the office to see if we could get into something a little nicer. (I know, I know . . . I’m a massive pain in the ass). To her credit, Cora ignored me, unpacked her stuff and settled right into her room without a peep. (She even made her kids chicken tenders and nachos in the room's microwave!) “I’m a low-expectations-kind-of-person,” she said kindly, flopping onto her bed. Hmm. I wonder what that must be like.
Anyway, any attempts to be moved to the lodge (which was full anyway) were thwarted by the presence of our dear 14-year-old lab, Lola. Makes sense, right? Families with dogs stay in the motel not the lodge. Duh. Although, in the spirit of full disclosure, I admit that I did suggest to the front desk lady that I would be willing to leave my beloved Lola in the car overnight if I could secure a room in the Lodge. At this, she looked horrified and said these exact words: “Ma’am. I would not leave your canine in the vehicle overnight. She will freeze to death.” It turns out that I am a very bad person.
Tail between my legs, I returned to our room and flopped on the bed, channeling my inner Cora. It was actually fine. It really was. Besides, we had a lovely dinner in the Lodge’s restaurant, which was kinda like staying there (although not really).
So, the kids and I rose early the next morning in time to see the start of the sled dog races. Another unforgettable first. Trailers filled with these sleek, ripped dogs who are so amped up to run that they are actually jumping up and down, yipping and whining to start the race. And here’s the best part: Once they start to race, they are perfectly silent and the only sound you here is the sled gliding over the snow and into the park.
Totally blissed out (and starving) we headed over to the Running Bear Pancake House where we indulged in everything from chocolate chip pancakes smothered with strawberries to breakfast burritos and zucchini bread. And now we were ready for our two-hour snowcoach adventure.
Everything up to this point had been so fabulous, it was to imagine how it could all be topped, but – guess what? – it was.
First of all, by some miracle (maybe to make up for the motel room), we ended up getting the Badass Speed Racer of all snowcoaches from Yellowstone Alpen Guides . Small, low to the ground and painted a dark ruby red, our coach went fast and our fab-tastic driver, David Alder, openly admitted that he loves nothing more than passing the big, slow yellow coaches and leaving them in his snow spray. Epic! Now, you may wonder why you’d want to go fast in the park. Here’s why: Because you get to see a lot more in two hours than if you didn’t go fast. That’s why.
What did we see? We saw trumpeter swans, bald eagles, coyotes, elk and bison. Knowledgeable, patient and funny, David was the perfect guy to take our brood into the park. With his speedy coach, he’ll take you anywhere in the park you want to go – whether you want to ski or hike or whatever. We can’t wait to go back and see more. Cause now we know.