It’s time for snow lovers to rejoice and head to the winter haven of Montana. The Big Sky state features an abundance of snow-covered jagged mountains and exhilarating opportunities for travellers to have fun on and off the slopes. Bundle up and get ready for these winter adventures.
Under-the-Radar Ski Areas to Avoid the Crowds
Nestled within the Beartooth Mountains just 6 miles from the historic town of Red Lodge ─ which was just named one of the “Coolest Small Towns for 2022” by Budget Travel ─ is Red Lodge Mountain. It features 71 runs spread across two mountains on 1,635 acres of skiable terrain, including steeps, glades, chutes, groomers and gentle cruisers. With an average snowfall of 250 inches and a peak elevation of 9,416 feet, it’s a skier’s dream. It has six chair lifts and one surface lift and numerous dining options.
Grab your skis or board and head to the trendy town of Bozeman for a unique ski experience. Bridger Bowl is a nonprofit ski area that has been recognized for its sustainable business model while also being known as one of the best ski areas in North America. With 2,000 acres of skiable terrain and a top elevation of 8,800 feet, Bridger offers a big mountain experience with a friendly local vibe and full customer service. It has one quad, six triple and one double chair lift along with three surface lifts and a variety of restaurants, bars, cafeterias and mountain-side decks with fireplaces.
Easily reached from Missoula, Butte and Helena, Discovery Basin Ski Area, or “Disco” as the locals refer to it, in Anaconda offers beautiful views and uncrowded slopes with enough tree skiing, powder bowls, groomed trails and mogul runs for all tastes. The disco features an average of 215 inches annual snowfall, a top elevation of 8,158, 2,200 acres, six lifts and a cafeteria in the lodge.
Located in the heart of the Little Belt Mountains, Showdown in Neihart has a friendly and local atmosphere. It features an annual snowfall of 255 inches, a peak elevation of 8,200 feet, and 36 runs on 640 acres of skiable terrain. It has one triple chairlift, two double chairs and one surface conveyor, an on-site cafe, grille, bar and coffee shop. Insider’s tip: don’t miss Showdown’s 85th-anniversary party on Feb. 19.
Hidden away in the mountains of southwest Montana, you’ll find Maverick Mountain in Polaris, one of Montana’s best-kept secrets… and that means you’ll find lots of untouched powder. Maverick is a gem to the region with 24 trails covering 455 acres, 2,020 vertical feet, consistent fall line skiing, one double chairlift and a cafeteria/bar.
Known for reliable snowfall and consistently good snow conditions, Lost Trail Ski Area in Sula sits at 7,000 feet on top of the Continental Divide. It straddles the Montana-Idaho border in the breathtaking Bitterroot Range of the Northern Rockies. Lost Trail features 300 inches of annual snow, five double chair lifts and three rope tows that offer access to over 60 trails. Don’t miss the new extension of the lodge featuring indoor seating and big windows to enjoy the view. After your day on the slopes, head to Hamilton in the Bitterroot Valley where you’ll find a variety of places to eat, drink, shop and stay.
Enjoy the Beauty of the National Parks in Winter
Snowshoeing is a great way to take in the beauty of the sweeping, snowy mountain peaks in Glacier and Yellowstone National Parks. Take a ranger-led trek or go on your own, just be sure to stay on the trails. For those visiting Yellowstone, the Canyon Rim Ski Trail is 4.5 miles and offers stunning views of the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. For travellers going to Glacier, the Lower McDonald Creek Trail is an easy 3 miles and takes you along the lower McDonald Creek and through the forest.
Revel in the peace of the winter landscape when you ski Montana’s cross-country trails. Visitors to Glacier National Park won’t want to miss the Sacred Dancing Cascades Trail. This intermediate-level trail is 1.8 miles and takes you over the Lake McDonald Creek bridge with views of McDonald Falls. Those travelling to Yellowstone should consider Rendezvous Ski Trails, which offers more than 20 miles of gently rolling, well-groomed trails that wind through pine forests and sprawling open meadows.
Book a snow coach tour through Backcountry Adventures or one of the many other tour operators. These guided tours stop frequently, allowing visitors to intimately explore iconic areas like the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, Old Faithful and Mammoth Hot Springs. No matter how cold the weather is outside, you’ll stay cozy on your journey through America’s first national park.
Give Snowmobiling a Try
Seeley Lake is a prime snowmobiling destination with 350 miles of groomed trails. Starting from town, snowmobilers can fan out in every direction to scenic lookouts, cozy lodges, cafés and backcountry lakes for ice fishing. Popular trails include Double Arrow Lookout, Seeley Lake-Ovando and Lake Marshall. Contact Kra-Z’s for snowmobile rentals and backcountry guide service in Seeley Lake.
Cooke City sits at an elevation of 7,600 feet, welcomes around 200 inches of snow each year and offers 60 miles of groomed trails and backcountry trails in the Gallatin National Forest. Climb to Daisy Pass at 10,000 feet to get a panoramic view of the surrounding mountains and pines as far as the eye can see. You can also free ride Henderson Mountain Trail, which goes through high marking mountains and meadows of deep powder with some of the best tree riding.
West Yellowstone is a great spot to hop on a sled—right on the streets of the town—and discover more than 400 miles of groomed trails. Favourite sled trails in the area include Two Top, Horse Butte, Madison Arm, Big Sky, South Plateau and Lionhead. You can also enlist a professional guide for a breathtaking tour of Yellowstone National Park’s tranquil winter wonderland.
Warm-Up in a Hot Spring
For more than 100 years, visitors have come to relax and rejuvenate in the natural hot springs at Bozeman Hot Springs. It is a world-famous natural hot springs located in the heart of Montana’s beautiful Gallatin Valley. A small pool enjoyed only by a few in the late 1800s has evolved into a destination for area residents and tourists seeking a unique Montana experience with friends and family. The facility features nine different pools with temperatures ranging from 59 to 104 degrees, both dry and wet saunas and a full fitness facility.
Fairmont Hot Springs Resort is known throughout the Northwest for its hot springs. It features four hot spring pools (two Olympic-sized swimming pools and two mineral soaking pools, one of each located indoors and outdoors). It also features a 350-foot enclosed waterslide that is open year-round. Guests of the resort can also enjoy spa services, tennis and golf on-site. Food and beverage outlets include The Springwater Cafe, The Waters Edge Dining Room and Whiskey Joe’s Lounge, plus several snack bars. Fairmont Hot Springs is just a short scenic drive to Georgetown Lake, Discovery Ski Area and one of Montana’s finest fisheries, the Big Hole River.
When you arrive at Quinn’s Hot Springs Resort you’ll feel like you are in paradise… and you both literally and figuratively will be because Quinn’s is in the town of Paradise. Quinn’s features five natural hot springs pools with soothing warm and hot mineral waters. Temperatures vary from 100 to 106 degrees, in addition to a cold plunge at 55 degrees. Quinn’s also features two additional pools that are salt-treated and maintained in the upper 90s to 100 degrees to allow swimmers of all ages. After a fun day in the water, you can rest your head in the historic lodge and enjoy fine dining at Harwood House Restaurant. You’ll also find gaming in the tavern and casino.
Surrounded by mountains, a stone’s throw from the Yellowstone River and a short, scenic drive into Yellowstone National Park, Chico Hot Springs & Day Spa features two open-air natural mineral hot springs pools for you to soak all your worries away. The chemical-free, geothermally heated pools are open to resort guests and day pass holders. The historic resort offers a variety of lodging options, including a boutique hotel, luxury cabins and rustic lodging. Spend the day cross country skiing or snowshoeing and then head back to the resort for a soak in the hot springs, a service at the on-site spa or a hot toddy or cocoa.
If you’re looking for something a little funky, Norris Hot Springs is the place for you. It’s simple and rustic yet elegant and authentic. The hot mineral water bubbles up from the earth at 120 degrees right up through the wooden planks to fill the historic wooden pool. The poolside stage offers local acoustic music, operating weekends all year. The 50 Mile Grill & Snack Bar and the No Loose Dogs Saloon are also heated with radiant heat from the hot springs, providing comfortable seating on the coldest night. Want to stay the night? No problem. Online reservations are available for nine full-service RV sites and four tent sites.
Broadwater Hot Springs & Fitness is Helena’s one and only geothermal mineral hot spring, located in the mountains just 10 minutes from downtown Helena. Get a good workout on the fitness floor featuring a wide selection of workout equipment. Then take a relaxing and refreshing soak in one of the many pools and spas that are all filled with therapeutic natural mineral hot springs water. Pools are outdoors and available for swimming year-round. Enjoy live music on Tuesdays on the outdoor stage and poolside service from the taproom and grill.
Travellers to Montana should be aware of any local restrictions or mask policies. For travel alerts, go to visitmt.com/travel-alerts.html.