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In This Issue:

The Perfect Last Minute Christmas Gift!

This Christmas season, make your holiday budget go further with the new Rocky Mountain Gold program. The program is simple. Rocky Mountain Gold Cash Certificates are just like gift certificates. But, rather than only using the certificate at one business, you can use it at any of the rapidly growing list of participating businesses in the Rocky Mountain Region. And not only are the certificates good at multiple businesses, but you are also able to purchase them at a 20%-40% discount of the face value. In other words, buy a $20 certificate for as little as $12—and spend it at any of the participating businesses as $20. It’s the perfect solution to all your gift-giving needs – you save on the gift while your recipient saves on their choice of dining, shopping, lodging, and other services. Visit the website for more details.

Click here for details and current list of participating merchants.

Fire and Ice: Winter Recreation in Yellowstone

By Kristin E. Hill

Shredding the powder near Cooke City
There’s no denying that the world’s first national park is a scenic treasure, and with more than 3 million individuals passing through each year, Yellowstone attracts plenty of attention with its stunning array of natural wonders. While many of these visitors opt for a summer tour, winter in Yellowstone offers a completely new realm of discovery. The park’s famous fluffy powder rests pristinely white around emerald hot pools while ice-rimmed trees glimmer in the sun, turning Yellowstone into a winter wonderland that’s not only scenic, but also ripe with recreational possibilities. This winter, rediscover the magic of Yellowstone. Whether you opt for a cross-country ski trip or a simple day of ice-skating, there’s an endless array of winter park activities beckoning you to have some fun.

Cross Country Skiing/Snowshoeing
With most of its 2.2 million acres managed as wilderness, Yellowstone is a scenic haven for Nordic skiers and snowshoe enthusiasts. Many of the park’s trails are marked with orange metal tags fastened to nearby trees, and most trails have no set track (so touring or mountaineering boots and skis work best). Take an easy 3-mile trek to Cascade Lake through lodgepole forests and open meadows. Intermediate skiers love the 1.8-mile aptly named Roller Coaster Trail, while advanced skiers may want to try the 2.5 mile Washburn Hills Trail. Not comfortable in a self-guided excursion? A guided ski tour is available from Mammoth Hot Springs, taking participants on a full-day adventure to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. A variety of ski and snowshoe equipment rentals are available at Mammoth Hot Springs’ Bear Den Ski Shop.

Snowmobiling is by far the most popular winter sport in Yellowstone, and thousands of speedy machines zip through the park each winter. Although controversy clouds the winter sport in a haze of heated debates and environmental concerns, snowmobilers still roar through the park every December through March. While there are several designated routes and park roads open to self-guided snowmobile excursions, both Mammoth Hot Springs and the Old Faithful Snow Lodge provide guided snowmobile tours.  Snowmobile rentals and other guided tour options are also available from vendors in the neighboring towns of Gardiner and West Yellowstone.

Snowcoach & Interpretive Tours
Not up for braving Yellowstone’s weather and experiencing its scenery via snowmobile or skis? Then consider turning over the wheel to an experienced winter driver on a scenic snowcoach tour. With a unique design that keeps passengers above ground level, each environmentally friendly and heated snowcoach provides a spectacular vantage of the park’s wildlife and winter landscape. During the 2009-2010 winter season, take an interpretive snowcoach or van tour from Mammoth Hot Springs or the Old Faithful Snow Lodge. Park tours include the Grand Canyon; Wake Up to Wildlife; Lamar Valley Wildlife; Norris Geyser Basin; Winter Photo Safari; Firehole Basin Adventure; and Steam, Stars, and Winter Soundscapes. Dates of availability for each tour vary, but advance reservations are recommended for all snowcoach excursions.

Ice Skating
As one of Yellowstone’s cheapest winter activities, ice skating at the Mammoth Hot Springs Skating Rink is always a popular choice with kids and adults of all ages. For those who can bear the cold, the outdoor rink rents out affordable skates at both hourly and daily rates. During December, holiday music plays from the rink’s PA system, and occasionally, campfires are lit beside the rink’s edge to help patrons warm their frosty hands and feet.

Massage Therapy
After a full day exploring Yellowstone’s winter wonderland, unwind at the Old Faithful Snow Lodge with a relaxing massage. A full team of licensed massage therapists greets recreationists with Swedish, Deep Tissue, and Sports Massage specialties. It’s sure to be the perfect ending to a memorable park adventure.

For more information about any of the above winter activities, contact Yellowstone National Park at (307) 344-7381

Cooke City

Partially excerpted from “The Ultimate Montana Atlas & Travel Encyclopedia”

Mountainside view of Cooke City

If you’re recreating in Yellowstone this winter (see our feature article for more details!) or simply want to experience some of Montana’s finest snowmobiling, head on over to the scenic mountain town of Cooke City. The town’s interesting past and strong foothold in year-round tourism make it a must-see stop on any visit to the Treasure State.

Cooke City is located on the northeastern edge of the Yellowstone National Park boundary and is accessed either by the Beartooth National Scenic Byway or by driving through the park.

Shoo-Fly, the original name of the mining town now known as Cooke City, was changed by the miners in 1880 to honor Jay Cooke, Jr., a Northern Pacific Railroad contractor and the son of an investor in the Northern Pacific Railroad. He promised not only to promote the area’s development, but also to help bring a railroad to the town. However, Mr. Cooke ran into financial difficulties, forfeited his bond, and his bonded mining claims reverted back to the original owners. Despite this, the town was booming by the 1870s.  A few years later, Chief Joseph and the Nez Perce stormed through town and burnt down most of the gold mining facilities. Although the facilities were reconstructed, Cooke City’s hard to reach location spelled the end of the town’s mining boom. Many old cabins are leftover from the mining days, and the town’s atmosphere reflects the past very well.

The town of Cooke City and the land around it were within the Crow Reservation until 1882, when the boundaries of the reservation were shifted eastward. Shortly after moving these boundaries, 1,450 mining claims were staked and recorded in the New World District. Most of these claims lapsed after a year. By 1883, Cooke City had grown to a community of about 135 log huts and tents.

John P. Allen was the first person to drive a four-horse team and loaded wagon to town. In 1883, he built the Allen Hotel, later renamed the Cosmopolitan. Eventually he opened three mines: the O-Hara, War Eagle, and McKinley.

The town site was platted in 1883, had two-hundred twenty-seven voters, two smelters, two sawmills, three general stores, two hotels, two livery stables, and a meat market. However, because of the large number of irregularly shaped mining claims and the problems of organizing them, it took eight years to complete the surveying and platting.

Today, Cooke City has a year-round population of approximately 90 people. The population expands to over three hundred when summer residents arrive and also swells with snowmobiles each winter. The town has a rustic "old west" atmosphere, which can be traced to its mining roots. However, tourism is currently the main stay of the economy.

This is a tourist destination, with people pouring in from both sides, but with Cooke City’s past, it is easy to see why.

Montana Snow Trivia

From “Montana Trivia” by Janet Spencer, Riverbend Publishing

Click here for price and order information and to view more Ultimate Press products

Q. The state record for the greatest snowfall in a season, with 418.1 inches, goes to what town?
A. Cooke City, for the winter of 1977-78.

Q. What town holds the record for greatest snowfall in 24 hours; greatest snowfall in four days; greatest snowfall in five days; and the greatest snowfall in one month?
A. Summit, when 131 inches of snow fell in January of 1972.

Q. What are the only two cities of significant size that have never seen snowfall in July or August?
A. Havre and Miles City.

Q. How many people were killed by avalanches in Montana between 1980 and 2004?
A. Fifty-six, ranking the state fourth behind Colorado (139), Alaska (87) and Utah (59).

Q. What percent of avalanche victims in the U.S. are men?
A. Ninety percent.

Recipe from:
Montana Private Chef, Sara Knecht

Sarah Knecht is a Private Chef in Montana with clients from all over the world. She also teaches cooking classes and loves to share her passion for cooking. !  

Visit Sara's Website

Chicken Lasagna

A note from Chef Knecht: Montanans are home grown, and we love our comfort food. I always double this recipe and put one in the freezer; it's perfect when planning for a weekend of company. My Grandma Shirley was always busy making something mouth watering like Swedish Meatballs or Chicken Noodles with Mashed Potatoes. I hope you enjoy making this because you'll be remembered for it, and family and friends will be calling you to say, "Please make your famous Chicken Lasagna!"

Ingredients & Directions

Simmer 1 whole chicken until done, about 2 hours. Cool. Pick the meat into bite-size pieces. Set aside. Rotisserie chicken also works well.
Mix together:
2 cans Cream of Chicken soup
1 can Cream of Celery soup
2 cups of chicken stock from the above chicken (or use organic chicken broth)
2 / 3 cup milk
1 / 4 cup chopped herbs (parsley, tarragon, and basil)
4 cups rough chopped clean and rinsed spinach
1 tsp. poultry seasoning
1 / 4 cup finely minced chives or green onion
Kosher salt and white pepper to taste

Beat 8 ounces cream cheese; add to above mixture, and stir well.

Coat a 9 x13 cake pan with non-stick spray. Spoon 1 1 / 2 cups soup/cream cheese mixture on the bottom; lay 3 raw lasagna noodles across lengthwise (I like to use fresh handmade pasta or fine imported Italian noodles).  Spread 1 / 3 of the chicken over the top. Repeat the process, ending with the top layer being soup/cream cheese mixture.

Cover with foil, and bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour. Uncover and top with 3 cups of slightly crumbled potato chips or bread crumbs. Bake another 15-20 minutes. Let stand for 5-10 minutes before cutting. Cut into 12 servings, and get ready to see to smiling faces.

Featured Books

The Ultimate Montana Atlas and Travel Encyclopedia - Yellowstone Gateway Edition

by Michael Dougherty, Heidi Pfeil-Dougherty and Kristin Hill

Click here for price and order information and to view more Ultimate Press products

Brand new! Now Shipping! The newest offering from Ultimate Press covers the Yellowstone Gateway Region from Red Lodge to Virginia City. Now in full color, the book exceeds the reputation of Ultimate Press for providing the most comprehensive books available on areas in the Northern Rockies. The book has 184 color pages packed with maps, photos, history, attractions, dining, lodging, camping, fishing, hikes, scenic drives, and more. It also contains a complete guide (50+ pages) to touring Yellowstone National Park. Over 72 maps including highway, town and city, demographic, tours, ski areas, camping and fishing, and more. But rather than waste space telling you about the incredible amount of content in the book, visit the Ultimate Press bookstore and order a copy for yourself today or download the entire book for free!

Includes complete guide to Yellowstone National Park — Complete information on the Montana gateway area from Virginia City to Red Lodge — 73 maps: highway, city and town, tours, specialty — All restaurants — All Motels — All public campgrounds — All private campgrounds — All Forest Service cabins — Travel and relocation information — Airports — Fishery information — Lewis & Clark points of interest — Public golf courses — Museums and historical sites — Historical information — Hot springs — Hikes — Cross-Country Ski Trails — Downhill ski area information — Scenic drives and sidetrips — Ghost towns — Attractions — Adventure — Hundreds of photographs — Weather information — Information on all cities and towns — Directory of schools, churches, government offices, municipal offices, businesses and more!

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