A Dude Ranch in Winter

So, today we’ll be starting a series called “A Day in the Life…” to help all our friends see what a Montana Dude Ranch winter is like.
Day 1:
Just like the Nine Quarter Circle, most Montana Dude Ranches close in the winter due to weather, snow load, etc. However, unlike the Nine Quarter, many of those ranches are not staffed all winter. We are fortunate to be able to stay on-site and enjoy the quiet and beauty of a Montana winter, but it’s not all rest and relaxation! We have many tasks and maintenance items to take care of and this is the best time for that. As one of the lucky dude ranch vacation destinations located away from the main roads, our first priority has to be keeping the road open so we can come and go! This first “Day in the Life” focuses on that large and essential chore.
The Nine Quarter Circle guest ranch is located five miles up an un-maintained Forest Service road, which follows a beautiful creek called the Taylor Fork. It is our responsibility to keep the road open and passable for ourselves and guests. Some winters this is an easy task and requires little effort. Other years – like THIS winter – are another story entirely. With all the snow we’ve received this year, plowing has been at minimum, a weekly task and sometimes, even daily! Typically, the worst location is all the way down where the road meets the highway. The wind is quite strong coming down the Gallatin Canyon and the road tends to drift badly right there. This year has been no exception. But, the wind direction and severity is an exception. So, every 3-4 days, Jeff must drive our plowing machine all 5 miles down to that entrance and plow.
We use a 1964 John Deere crawler to plow the road. It has been reliable for so many years that we hate to trade it off on something else. So, we just keep trusting it and, so far, it keeps the faith. However, it’s not the fastest machine in our dude ranch mechanical remuda. Just driving it to the end of the road takes 45 minutes to an hour. Then, depending on the severity of the drifts, it can take between 2 and 6 hours to plow that short section. If the entire road needs cleared, we plan on 2 days.
Attached is a short video of what Jeff sees (and hears) from the seat of the crawler on a typical day, as well as a couple pictures up and down the Gallatin Canyon from where our road meets the highway.
We hope this “Day in the Life..” segment has been informative! Watch for the upcoming segments on maintenance, foal training, etc. And, be sure to check out our Facebook page for daily updates on our family dude ranch activities and scenery.