“You’re from Texas!? What in the world brings you to Montana in January!?” The snow, of course!
Being from Austin, Texas, winter is a season I rarely get to experience — aside from a few cold fronts that blow through early in the year. So, when I got an invite to explore Montana, I thought why not do so in the dead of winter. I mean, you can’t go dog sledding when it’s sunny and 70 degrees!!
It all started five years ago when I was sandwiched into a tiny aircraft on my way to Fargo, North Dakota — you know, the small planes with only two seats on each side of the aisle, forcing you to either ignore your one and only seatmate or strike up a conversation with a stranger. Of course, I struck up a conversation. As luck would have it, I was seated next to a cattle rancher from Western Montana. By the end of the two-hour flight, we’d become friends, exchanged email addresses, and left each other with mutual invites, “if you’re ever in Texas/Montana…”
So, with the start of a new year, I cashed-in my offer to check out Big Sky country. After all, I’d met a wonderful couple while snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef in Australia and accepted their invitation to visit a family farm Switzerland — so why not follow-through with Montana?
The winter adventure was amazing! I was blessed with picture-perfect weather and beauty beyond my imagination: snow on the ground, sunny skies, and mild temperatures in the 30s. My new friend showed me around the vast lands of Montana’s Indian reservations, the capital city of Helena, and the wide-open spaces of the ancient glacier basin, Lake Missoula. Eagles soared above the mountains as frequently as squirrels cross the roads in Texas. Deer and elk roamed the white, sunlit valleys while horses grazed the picturesque snow-covered fields. It was everything I’d imagined — gorgeous, wild, infinite Montana.
I even got the chance to go dog sledding AND snowmobiling — two things I’d only dreamt about in my wildest Central Texas dreams. But that’s why I was there — to genuinely experience the season and do things I could never do at home. I also rented a four-wheel drive vehicle from the airport and proudly increased my novice knowledge of how to drive on snow and ice. Thankfully, I only encountered one wintery-road scenario in which I safely (and barely) maneuvered out of an icy, fishtailing situation!
In the end, I learned a lot about Montana: the people are friendly, kind, and exceptionally tough; neighbors have your back no matter how much you might disagree on beliefs and current affairs; and the phrase “wild west” is not just a slogan, it’s a daily occurrence of survival, adventure, and love of the land in what Montanans aptly call, “the last great place.”