Sean Jansen

Winter: Montana’s Secret Season


   ~Sean Jansen


Tourists, visiting family members, conference travelers and Montanan’s alike flock to our state and frolic in the splendors and joys of summer. Camping, fishing, paddling, and hiking their way to help our economy. Embedding wilderness memories for their scrapbooks and Instagram, bragging to their friends about where they went.


In winter, the same process seems to work. However the actions are solely based off the joys from snow that blankets our ski resorts and mountains around the state. A similar number of tourists, visiting family members, and Montanans contribute to that economy. Only to the ski shops, resort, resort hotels, and coffee shops. But who ever said you couldn’t still hike? Couldn’t fish? Trail run, backpack; hell, go camping? I’ll be honest, there is nothing quite like a Montana summer with wildflowers blanketing the landscape and the warm air inviting you in to play. On the contrary, winter is certainly my second favorite.


Old man winter gets a bad rap. Yes, he is grumpy and cold and a vast majority of us love that for we get to wax up our skis and snowboards and slide down his angry bitter attitude. But he does have a soft side. One that does give soft powder, but also days on end where he isn’t in the mood to dump couple inches of snow and throw us in the ice box for a few days.


Fishing in Montana is a year round venture. Sure there are some days where you don’t want to put on those extra base layers. Don’t want to stand in the freezing river with steam rising from the cold water, or don’t feel like dragging that ice shelter over the frozen lake and start drilling. But there are days when the ground has thawed and midges dance on the surface of a near 50-degree day waiting to be sipped by that large brown trout.


Yellowstone’s visitation is out of control for most of the summer season, but what about winter? Check out the snowmobile and snow cat trips or slap on those cross country skis and cruise the Madison watching the swans and other creatures continue stirring like they always do. From Gardiner to Cooke City must be my favorite section of the park. With the wide Lamar valley and hundreds of bison roaming around unmolested by whatever the temperature seems to be. Open year round.


Hiking and running? Why not? Some days when the snow is thick and just recently dumped a few inches, you may need to bust our those snow shoes or cross country skis. But when the sun comes out and temperatures hover around freezing, the snow compacts and can easily be ran or hiked on. Some of the most popular hikes are the most splendid in winter.


The tranquility, peacefulness, and solitude are lost to those that think winter is a mountain resort only kind of attitude. Those that hunker down indoors watching television and over drinking coffee. Winter is the ultimate playground for any outdoor enthusiast and I beg any to get out and see for yourself. Some days I am a bit lonely watching those swans in the park, admiring the white-tailed deer and turkey along my favorite run, the sound of the river wrapping around my leg in complete solitude, or the quiet drive to a peaceful winter wonderland. You don’t have to take my word for it, but Montana’s secret weapon of a season is certainly winter.