Story and photos By Eric Ladd Explore Big Sky Publisher

Lone Mountain Ranch acts as an anchor for the Big Sky community, boasting a rich 99-year history and more than 85K of groomed trails winding in and around the Big Sky community.

The idyllic ranch setting is befitting of a classic western movie. Indeed, Big Sky’s oldest structure can be found here, cataloged with the National Registry of Historic Places.

And there’s an ace in the hole: LMR’s guided trips in Yellowstone National Park.

At 9 a.m. on Christmas Eve, our five-skier group met Drew McCarthy at the LMR ski shop to get outfitted for a day of cross-country skiing in the park. McCarthy plays the part of guide to perfection. An ex-collegiate Nordic racer and park guide in Alaska’s Denali National Park, he has professorial knowledge of the backcountry and brings a friendly approach to helping guests.

Once geared up, we departed for Yellowstone. LMR guides groups in various spots around the park – from guided snow coach tours deep into the heart of the park, to ski trips among buffalo and thermal features, to explorations of the more secluded sections of its northwest corner.

That’s where we went, exploring the headwaters of the Gallatin River. The 30-minute drive to the trailhead included a Q & A regarding animals, park history and geology, and our full-day trip was an ideal day befitting of an annual holiday tradition.

LMR’s quaint setting paired with quality activities have summoned back guests and staff for decades. The ranch is known for its summer horseback programs and world-class winter Nordic skiing, but what many don’t know is this coveted permit it holds: The ranch is one of the few regional operators allowed to guide guests into Yellowstone National Park, a permit that requires guides to be trained in knowledge such as park history, flora, fauna, geology and thermal dynamics.

A day of cross-country skiing with LMR includes catered lunch, gear, transportation and guiding. The Gallatin headwaters trip is unique in that explorers can access remote regions of the backcountry on moderate terrain, suitable for almost any skill level. Snowshoe options exist for those who don’t want to try skinny skis.

Lunchtime is spent on the banks of the Gallatin with views into the park, scanning the hillsides looking for elk and wolves.

For those looking to get a true feel for Yellowstone Park – during winter, when the park is at its most serene – make your reservations soon. Trips into the core book out quickly, sometimes a year in advance.

LMR instructors can help you practice your Nordic skills on the groomed trails around the ranch first with private or group lessons.

Mark your calendar for LMR’s Glide and Gorge

Sunday, March 9, 2014 from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Ski Trails open at 8 a.m.

Cross-country ski or snowshoe the Ranch trails, stopping along the way for gourmet appetizers, entrees from the grill and a plethora of house-made desserts, as well as wine, local beer and non-alcoholic beverages. Meet at LMR’s outdoor shop to begin.

For more information, contact Lone Mountain Ranch at (406) 995-4644 or visit lonemountainranch.com.