As I mentioned in my previous post about winter camping, we sort of hit it hard this winter. I am so glad we did – tons of memories were made and plans for future return trips dreamed up.
However, I’ll be honest, despite the pain of packing and unpacking (and oh – what a pain that can be!), we drove up very close to most of our stays. Pulling a sled a hundred yards or two was the toughest we had it, which is great when you have 4 kids to get in there too.
But when Trina out at the B Bar Ranch (located up the Tom Miner Basin near Gardiner, MT) invited us to come ski into one of their rustic cabins for a weekend, I jumped on the opportunity. I had skied the B-Bar trails before and loved them and had always planned on coming back and camping with the family. However, their no-dog policy kept us away for quite a few years. Now I’m not sure why we waited so long!
The Davis cabin is the biggest and easiest to get into (they also rent out a wall tent, but it’s a hilly ski in). But, it’s still a 1.5 mile ski (albeit easy) and certainly something we had to plan ahead for a bit. The storms were whipping in December and we delayed our trip by a day (per Trina’s suggestion) because of massive winds that were making the trail nearly impassable (at least with kids!) We were blessed by a gorgeous sunny day to ski in, a gorgeous sunny day to ski out and a snowy day with fresh powder sandwiched in the middle.
This is the only short (and very steep) hill on the way in. It wouldn’t be such a big deal except for the trailers…. I ended up taking my skis off and hoofing it up to avoid continuous sliding back down.
My motto is that if we are going camping, we stay at least two nights. It just takes that long to get everyone settled and make hauling the gear worthwhile.
We loaded up our Burley D’Lite with gear (which is perfect because you can unbuckle the seat and make it totally a cargo trailer) and packed sleeping bags and other soft gear around the girls in the Croozer. While Mtn Papa was still giving me a hard time about how much stuff we had, I felt pretty good about the fact that we fit it all in two trailers. Except for a cooler…..which he graciously went back a second loop for.
That said, our big “winter camping box” was nearly completely unnecessary. The Davis Cabin (thanks to Trina and crew) is well-stocked with everything we needed for eating except food. They even had soap and dish bins and a sponge and Clorox wipes. Plus a few different cast iron pans, a full set of enamel dishes and utensils and even a kettle.
They delivered our water and propane for the included two burner stove. Clean towels and rags were available. We really were set.
I was just so used to going to Forest Service cabins that you couldn’t depend on what was there, that I assumed this would be the same.
The cabin is an old homestead (we assume) and quite primitive. There is no electricity and the outhouse seems to match the cabin in age. There is a small kitchen table for eating and furniture in the “living room” for sitting around the fire.
The bunk room has 2 sets of bunks to get you up and off the ground. Because of the concern of rodent issues, no mattresses are provided.
We brought our own thermarest-type mattresses, but would not do that again. Small slivers in the bunks got the best of one of them, which is something we hadn’t even considered. I would instead haul in foam pads or something similar. I know that Trina is working on finding something they can provide, but just hasn’t found the perfect solution yet. **Note: since our stay, they’ve started putting blankets on the plywood to avoid the situation we encountered.**
While I don’t think they advertise it, they seemed happy to haul things out for us via the groomer (on a snowmobile) if needed and they were available. Bulkier foam mattresses may come out best that way. And maybe bringing cookies to bribe them 😉
The cabin was cozy and the winter nights unbeatable. There really is nothing like that wide open ski in crisp and cold air.
We were one of the first guests this year so hit it before they had a chance to give it a super thorough fall cleaning, which is totally necessary in these areas. However, I wouldn’t hesitate going back and knowing that would be taken care of.
One slight disadvantage of staying at the Davis cabin is that you’re further away from the main trail system if you wanted to ski more during your stay. We took a trip up to the old Anderson cabin (uninhabitable and basically given over to the rodents at this point), which was a great ski with the family. That valley is simply incredible and makes you dream of long-ago “homestead days”. Our kids are big fans of Laura Ingalls Wilder and so there was lots of talk about all sorts of pioneers.
You can also ski a loop back to the main ranch, but it’s pretty exposed on windy days. On our last day there, we hauled all our gear to the truck, ate lunch in the warming tent and then skied around the other trails. It worked out perfectly.
The trails are groomed daily and the trail fee ($10 is included in the cabin rental fee).
All in all, we had a GREAT time and would highly recommend checking it out. The Tom Miner Basin is wild and free and breathtaking. We even spotted a moose or two…
B Bar Specifics:
- One night minimum stay.
- Sleeps up to 6, maybe a couple more if small children.
- Well furnished, pretty much need to just bring bedding and food.
- Water provided.
- Wood stove and wood provided for heat.
- Approximately 1 1/2 mile easy ski to cabin.
- $50 for up to 2 ppl, $20 for each additional adult; $10 for each additional kid 5-12; and 4 and under free.
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