Marianne Wiest

Near Glacier National Park, the year-old Dancing Spirit Ranch is drawing both yoga enthusiasts and nature lovers alike.

Sarah Jenks-Daly
April 28, 2018

Snowshoeing for the first time — in a Montana blizzard no less — seemed slightly daunting, to put it mildly. Fortunately, I quickly got the hang of it, crunching through the snow en route to visit The Tower of Power, an enormous circular stone structure jutting out from the earth and visible even amidst the rapidly falling flakes. The view was nothing short of spectacular, and although I had touched down less than 24 hours before, I felt completely absorbed by the tranquil wilderness around me.

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I had come to Dancing Spirit Ranch for a six-day yoga retreat, aptly named “Breathe Into Winter.” Located on 300 acres of pristine land in Columbia Falls, Montana, the ranch is just a short drive from the charming town of Whitefish and world-renowned Glacier National Park. You may have heard of Whitefish Mountain Resort — a nearby retreat popular with seasoned skiers in the winter, and park enthusiasts looking to hike in the summer. Dancing Spirit Ranch is the quieter, more off-the-beaten-path alternative, one that gives you access to all the fun activities that northwest Montana has to offer, while also providing ample opportunity to find stillness in nature.

The proprietors, Robin Gardner, Tyler Gardner, and Katherine Cross, have owned the Ranch for decades. But over the last two years, they built or renovated buildings where travelers can now stay and enjoy wellness activities they now provide. The Ranch is made up of three main buildings: The Barn, The Bunk House and The Schoolhouse. Black and white photographs from the early 1900s, when the ranch housed a sawmill and homes for workers, line the walls of the century-old Barn, the largest of the three buildings. These photos, along with vintage maps of Montana, nod to the past, while a spacious, restaurant-grade kitchen feels very much of-the-moment. At night, guests gather around the massive stone fireplace for wine and conversation.

Marianne Wiest

The Bunk House, which can sleep up to 14, is furnished in a rustic, Western style, complete with Pendleton blankets and exposed wood beams. There are seven guest rooms in all, and four shared baths. About 100 yards away, The Schoolhouse is the center for activities, hosting everything from yoga classes and sound baths to music recitals and workshops, even a kids’ camp. During my stay, our twice-daily yoga classes were held here—a more vigorous practice in the morning and a restorative one in the evening to close out our day.

The owners believe that the Ranch has a special energy and otherworldly quality to it. They’ve built several structures to pay tribute, seeking inspiration from stone sites in Scotland and working with spiritual advisors to map energetic lay-lines throughout the property. There are now nine sites that guests can visit, each designed with a different intention and purpose. I was impressed most by The Tower of Power, built to promote crop growth and wealth. The seven stone towers extend more than five feet in the air (and start four feet below the ground) into a circle with a small area inside where they built a fire-pit.

Robin Gardner

Open just over a year and year-round, Dancing Spirit Ranch is becoming known as a destination for wellness retreats and writers’ workshops. (Additionally, they’ve hosted non-profit fundraisers, concerts, and bridal showers.) This coming June, they will accommodate a month-long, 200-hour yoga teacher training with students traveling from all over the world to become certified in their craft. Perhaps most rewarding, the surrounding community has embraced the property.

During my retreat, they arranged massage treatments by masseuses from the area, and had two local musicians play by the fire after dinner. And one of the ranch’s most popular events is a seasonal breakfast club hosted by a local chef, who makes plant-based, organic dishes like smoothie bowls, vegan frittatas and even donuts, giving travelers and natives alike a taste of what true Montana living is all about.

Day rates vary from $180–$510 (peak season) and nightly prices vary from $900-$3200 (peak-season). Retreats begin at $1599.

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