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Crazy Mountain Ranch, Jan 2004
OK, so we just got back from the ever-so skeptical free trip to Montana from Marlboro. Well, there truly were no catches, just a fabulous time. They have a new group of 80-100 people every 5 days Jan-March. There are also 4-day summer trips for several months. I wrote our whole experience out, partially for you all to read if you wish, and also as a journal for our album. Enjoy...

Here's the full story...

As soon as we got off of the plane, Ranch Guest Services greeted us and showed us the way to registration and a full lunch of chili, fruit, chips, cookies, and drinks at the airport. They took care of the luggage, we just had to double check that they got all of our bags before we got on the bus. They brought the bags directly to our rooms for us. On the bus, they told us about the ranch and what to expect the week ahead. As we drove into the ranch, we were greeted with snowmobilers (guest services) along the road throwing snowballs at the bus as they blared the Rawhide song on the bus. Quite an entrance!

Once in our room (cool room... hard wood floors, claw foot tub, and great view of the mountains), we started digging through all the gifts (1, 2, 3) left for each of us on the bed. Here's the impressive list of goodies...we EACH got all that's on this list:

Samsonite luggage - got before we left home
60 minutes prepaid phone cards
Columbia Titanium Ski Jacket
The North Face boots for girls/Sorel boots for the guys
2 sets of long underwear
Swiss Army sunglasses
sunglasses strap
Canon Sure Shot camera, batteries, and film
lip balm w/ SPF
zippo lighters
Crazy Mountain Ranch ashtrays
Crazy Mountain Ranch pins
carton of cigarettes for the smokers
2 pr smart wool socks
duffel bag to take all of the goodies home
2 bandanas
travel key chain set with compass, temperature, clock, etc.
safety whistle
2 stamped postcards
(I think I got it all!)

Gear like snowmobile suits, helmets, ski goggles, and ski bibs were provided for use in the Activity Barn (1, 2).

They took a group photo the 2nd day and gave a copy to each of us in a frame on the last day along with an address book and photo album. With the address book, they printed up stickers w/ our name, address, phone, and email to exchange with people we met on the trip. It was so handy! 88 other people joined us as guests at the ranch.

Crazy Mountain Ranch is an 18,000 acre working ranch at the base of the Crazy Mountains just outside of Clyde Park, MT. The town on the ranch (only for guests) was made of actual old buildings from 1880-1890's (1, 2, 3, 4, 5), either built or moved there. A few buildings are new, but made to look old. You really can't tell the difference. 15-minute chair massages anytime and as many as you want. Phones only in the lobby of each building. No TVs (even for NFL playoffs). No cell phone service. Ashtrays and matches everywhere, but no sign of 'Marlboro' written anywhere except on the cigarette packs, ashtrays, and drink coasters in the saloon. No gratuities allowed...ever. Everything is free...the only thing you can spend money on is extra film, souvenirs at Yellowstone or Bridger Bowl ski resort (or advil - packs of 2 pills in a vending machine for 25 cents), and parking at the airport.

Incredible hot breakfasts and lunches everyday, with snacks and drinks everywhere else througout the day. Everyone ate dinner together in the Livery (1, 2, 3) (name of the building). Alcohol is served 5:00 pm til 7:00 pm everyday at the saloon (1, 2)for happy hour (along with amazing appetizers), during dinner and until 12:30 while we danced, played pool and sang karoake. All meals were spectacular, along with the service. For dinners, we had bbq chicken, ribs, prime rib, elk loin (yes Elk, and it was good), lamb chops, cornish hen, 2 types of salads and veggies each night. Oh, and don't forget dessert.... homemade ice cream every night with cheesecake, pecan pie, cherry pie and some others (can't remember them all).

We arrived Friday afternoon, got fitted for gear needed for activities throughout the week, tried on our gifts and exchanged if we needed a new size, got a tour of the town, and had happy hour. Then dinner, music, dancing, pool, etc.

Saturday, we snowmobiled (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6) twice - 1.5 hr in the morning and 2.5 hrs in the afternoon with a little ice fishing in between. The afternoon snowmobile tour went up to a cabin in the mountains to stop for snacks and drinks. One guy took the snowmobile of the edge of the trail down the hill. He jumped off and the snowmobile hit a tree about 15 feet down. Amazingly, no damage to the rider or sled. Then dinner, dancing, pool, etc. On our beds at the end of each night we'd find personalized agendas for the next day, and sometimes more gifts.

Sunday was incredibly busy. We went dogsledding (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6)in the morning and then jumped on another snowmobile tour at 10:30 til noon. I went snowshoeing after lunch... while Sergei took a nap. Then we went tubing (1, 2, 3, 4). Dogsledding was a great experience. The dogs are just raring to go and all look back at you at once if you step on the brake. The snowmobile tour ended up as just 4 of us 'experienced' riders and 2 guides. They ran us pretty hard and took us in terrain totally different from the first 2 trips. We got very lucky with this one. Tubing was an absolute blast! Some of us started going down in groups, hanging on to other people's tubes and the guides push you so that you spin all the way down the hill, about 30 mph! Then you ride back to the top of the hill on a wagon pulled by a Snow Cat (groomer)-remember, most of the guests were smokers and wouldn't have made it up the hill even once!. We made it back to town only miss a couple of minutes of our 30 minute full body massage - everyone gets 1 during their stay. Then headed off to the Polar Bear Party. This was Saturday's Happy Hour done 'Marlboro Country style' as they say. We rode a 30 person sleighs pulled by 2 huge belgian horses each sleigh to bonfires where they served drinks, hot appetizers, and s'more kits. Then of course, dinner, karoake, dancing, etc.

Monday we went skiing at Bridger Bowl. It was an hour bus ride. It was the only day of fresh snow. The mountain got 2-3 inches overnight and it snowed all day long. Absolutely beautiful skiing... and scenery of course. We had a guide/instructor take us around the mountain all day... free of course, even gratuity taken care of by Marlboro. Lunch, place to keep your stuff, and happy hour was provided at the base of the mountain. They gave us demo skis and got us on the mountain in no time, even had lift passes for us all ready for us. Although, Sergei's binding wasn't set right and his ski fell off about 50 feet on the first lift. He had to ski down on 1 ski... and he did it, only to find they had taken his ski to the top. So then they sent it down on the lift so he could get it fixed. Sergei had a huge wipe out that knocked the wind out of him for several minutes. He was quite sore after that, but ok. He tried to make a little jump (which he does now and then) but didn't stick the landing. I had a front row seat for that one.... nice show (once i figured out he was still alive)! Then again... get the theme... dinner, dancing, pool, etc. A very entertaining band and the guest services put on quite a show after dinner this last night.

Tuesday morning we had breakfast checked out a bunch of other rooms and buildings that we hadn't gotten a chance to see, picked up one last gift (a harmonica), and boarded the bus to the airport. Our luggage was waiting outside of the bus at the airport on carts separated by room. All we had to do was wheel it in to the counter.

Everything was meticulously and seamlessly organized. They had thought of EVERYTHING and then some! The staff is amazing. They treat you like royalty. We didn't have to worry about a thing. On top of it all, we met a ton of great people from all over the country (Mac; Donnie & Jodi; Nikki & Dori; Stu, Gary, Nikki, Dori, Crystal, JD, Mac; Laura & Nikki).