Old Faithful's Obsidian Dining Room combines isolation, luxury

Eating at the Obsidian Dining Room isn’t about the food. The meals are good, and partially locally sourced, but what draws guests in is the atmosphere. Tucked into one end of the Snow Lodge at Old Faithful, the Obsidian is surrounded by snow, geysers and a sense of really being “out there.” The restaurant is open in the summer, too, but in winter feels like an outpost of luxury and civilization in the middle of Yellowstone National Park.

It’s accessible only by over-snow vehicles, and after the long journey in from West Yellowstone, the south entrance or Mammoth, you’re ready for hot cocoa and a hearty meal.

Wood and leather chairs are etched with local animals, and the intricate lighting fixtures resemble snow-capped trees. The largest chandeliers are meant to lead visitors on a celestial voyage, and the bottom tier shows silhouettes of trees and animals. Each successive tier leads to stars at the top.

Xanterra, the concessionaire that manages the Snow Lodge and the restaurants inside it, strives to make the dining and lodging experience as sustainable as possible, setting a goal to purchase a minimum of 50 percent of sustainable food items by 2016.

The menu includes farm-raised trout, wild Alaska salmon, sustainable coffee, Timeless Farms legumes, Amaltheia Dairy goat cheese, Wolf Ridge lamb, farm-raised game, sustainable and natural beef, Gran Prairie Ranch burger, Wheat Montana bakery items, Montana- and Idaho-grown potatoes, Montana dairy products, sustainable wines and locally brewed beer.

An icon on the menu indicates which meals include sustainable and/or organic ingredients.

Before or after their meal, guests can relax in the Firehole Lounge adjacent to the Obsidian. A fireplace crackles as you reflect on your day cross-country skiing, geyser gazing or snowmobiling. Just outside the lounge and restaurant, comfy chairs and couches create sitting nooks in the long foyer. You can check out a puzzle or board game, read a book or sip a drink and chat with fellow travelers. The ski lodge-feel makes it worth waiting for your reservation.

It’s what’s outside the Snow Lodge that’s really spectacular. Geysers and hot springs stand out against the blanket of snow that surrounds them. Bison graze in the geyser basins, and wolf tracks break the snow just off the boardwalk. Eagles eye the Firehole River where trout swim year-round.

Old Faithful is fronted by empty benches covered with snow. It’s the only time of year to see the famous geyser alone, or with just a few other people. With a pair of skis, snowshoes, or sometimes just good boots, you can explore Geyser Hill and the other geyser basins while listening to gurgling hot springs and twittering chickadees.

In winter, the Obsidian Dining Room is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, with reservations required for dinner. To make a hotel or dinner reservation call 800-GEYSERLAND or visit http://www.yellowstonenationalparklodges.com/.

From the Great Falls Tribune