By Doug Hare EBS STAFF
BIG SKY – Montana Backcountry Adventures began in 1997 as a snowcat skiing operation on the slopes of Moonlight Basin. In 2000, the previous owner purchased a 30-foot yurt and began the “Moonlight Dinners” enterprise, offering snowcat-accessed dining. When the Lone Tree lift was installed in 2004 on MBA’s ski terrain, the snowcat ski business was put on hold and the yurt moved to its current location on Big Sky Resort property in 2005.
Kevin Daily, along with two partners, purchased Moonlight Dinners in 2007, and in 2008 they opened the Bell Lake Yurt backcountry ski hut in the Tobacco Root Range, offering guided skiing, avalanche courses and overnight yurt rentals. In 2011, Kevin’s wife Jodi bought out his partners. They sold the Bell Lake Yurt in 2013, allowing the couple to concentrate on their Big Sky operations.
Montana Backcountry Adventures now runs two yurt restaurants: the Shedhorn Grill—which opened in 2009—offers on-slope lunches and refreshments beneath the Shedhorn Chairlift on the south face of Lone Mountain, a popular destination for skiers looking for a break after skiing off the peak, and the Montana Dinner Yurt, which offers an intimate and unique BYOB backcountry dining experience nestled in the woods on the flanks of Lone Mountain.
This summer and fall, the Montana Dinner Yurt was completely renovated and refurbished. “We’re still using the exact same site, but it has been regraded and expanded. The yurt road has been graded and resurfaced,” said Kevin Daily of the recent improvements. “The sledding hill has been mellowed out. Landscaping, rock work, and seeding to the site will also improve our plans for a summer dining project as well.”
The yurt platform now boasts a new 2,000-square-foot deck surrounded by firewood with a new 35’ Shelter Designs “Big Sky Yurt” with 1,008 square feet inside, upgraded Arctic Insulation, an insulated floor, four hard opening windows, two front doors, two fabric windows and a dome opener for ventilation. The old kitchen tent has been replaced with a single pitch outbuilding.
According to Daily, the seating capacity of 44 people and menu will remain unchanged from years past. But the renovations and new accommodations make for an even warmer and cozier candlelit dinner yurt featuring a savory meal in a casually elegant atmosphere.
Patrons of the Montana Dinner Yurt are bound to have a quintessentially Montana experience. The adventure begins at the meeting area upstairs in the Snowcrest Building at Big Sky Resort’s Mountain Village. After checking in by 6:30 p.m., guests board Rosie and Ginger, two Pisten Bully passenger snowcats at 7 p.m. sharp, for a jovial fifteen-minute ride through the serene forest to a private backcountry location. Guests who bundle up can choose to sit up on top of the snowcats to enjoy the sights and sounds of the mountains at night.
Upon arrival to the yurt, a torch-lit sledding run and campfire lights illuminates the new yurt in all her glory, while inside candles flicker and the wood stove crackles, keeping the yurt toasty warm. Long tables covered with linens and candles give the opportunity to meet other guests, while local, talented musicians like Pete Manka play acoustic guitar. There is rarely a shortage of laughter and applause throughout the evening.
When the dinner bell rings, an exquisite dinner is served in courses, starting with hearty baked French onion soup and warm bread, followed by a tender filet mignon with peppercorn sauce or fresh-caught salmon, garlic mashed potatoes, and fresh sautéed veggies, and finishes with warm Toblerone chocolate fondue with fruit and pound cake for dessert.
The accommodating staff and relaxed atmosphere of the Montana Dinner Yurt experience allow guests time for sledding, stargazing, and socializing by the fire, with the dinner usually lasting around three hours, giving ample time for some outdoor recreation and a chance to make friends with strangers. A merry return ride back to the Summit Hotel ends the evening around 10 p.m with attendees leaving with full bellies, still smiling from nighttime culinary excursion.
Prices are $145 for adults and $115 for children.
For more information, visit bigskyyurt.com.