First, summer camping got its makeover. That daunting ritual in which you lug a tent under the stars, devour mac’n’cheese and pray you aren’t yourself devoured by mosquitos or bears became glamping. An amalgam of glamor and camping, glamping is for people who want an outdoor experience, but admit to themselves that they prefer a bed with 800-thread-count Egyptian cotton sheets and a screened-in porch to sleeping on the cold hard ground. Now, winter glamping—the cold-weather version—is transplanting the same charms and salvation onto frozen tundra.
Think of it as a real-life version of the Budweiser Clydesdales delivering a cold one directly to your hot tub. That’s the idea behind The Ranch at Rock Creek whose bespoke tents make no concessions to the frigid Montana weather. “The tents have heated floors, pellet stoves and attached bathrooms,” boasts Erin Paul, a resort representative. “Claw-footed bathtubs are one of our trademarks.”
Winter glamping offers different attractions than the summer version. After all, you can’t, of course canoe or kayak down frozen streams. And traditional hiking isn’t the draw. Instead, at the Ranch at Rock Creek, you cross-country ski, snowshoe, snowmobile, horseback ride, ice fish (in a heated tent, of course) and enjoy après-ski yoga and a granite spa. The travel can—in a sense—actually be easier, since you’re not restricted to roads or trails when everything has a blanket of snow to glide across.
And then there’s the solitude. For all its charms, the challenges of summer camping, beyond the heat and biting insects, are the crowds. It’s hard to commune with nature when you’re sharing it with a Boy Scout troop or a large family working out its issues. Moreover, chances are you’re not going to run into a tour group of seniors taking selfies in avalanche country.
The tradeoff comes in plunging temperatures. “There’s definitely some suffering involved,” admits Adam Berliner, the assistant director of the Bowdoin College Outing Club and an all-season camping expert. But the secret to staying happy and avoiding frostbite, Berliner adds, is layering and a lightweight down parka with lots of “loft,” or heat-trapping insulation.
But there are further compensations. Berliner counts among his peak experiences a recent New Year’s Eve spent hut camping with friends and a couple of cases of Champagne in the mountain wilds outside Aspen, Colorado.
Winter glamping has its element of romance as well, Paul explains. “In the colder months it’s more couples, a more intimate crowd. It’s totally cozy.”
In an uncertain world, never underestimate the power of cozy.