Insider's Guide to 15 Montana Ski Areas

For downhill, alpine, big-mountain skiing...

What to do in Montana...

Montana has a lot to offer in the way of ski areas (15 in all).

Chairlift
Chairlift

The small ski areas are unpretentious, each unique in its own way.  The value of many of the areas is exceptional compared to the popular ski area giants, falling short only in the latest fashion.  This article intends to bring you up to speed on each of the mountains, what to expect there, and what not to miss on your trip.  

Check Web sites for current ticket prices and remember that a season pass holder at any Montana ski area only pays the half-day rate at any of the following areas.

Turner Mountain

  • Where: Libby
  • Size: 2,110 ft., 20 trails
  • # Lifts: 1
  • Terrain: υ10% ν20% λ70%,
  • Yearly Snowfall: 250”
  • Vibe: Always uncrowded, here you’ll find mostly local industry workers, including loggers, miners, and farmers.  With substantial vertical and high proportion of advanced runs, Turner should not be overlooked.
  • Don’t Miss Pizza and Brewskis at the Red Dog Saloon on the way home.
  • www.skiturner.co

Blacktail Mountain

  • Where: Lakeside
  • Size: 1,440 ft., 24 trails
  • # Lifts: 3
  • Terrain: υ15%  ν70% λ15%
  • Snowfall 250”
  • Vibe: Cruise blue groomed runs above beautiful Flathead Lake at Blacktail Mountain Ski Area.  The namesake Lakeside run is a locals’ favorite.
  • Don’t Miss The views of the Glacier, Mission, and Whitefish mountain ranges from the top.
  • www.blacktailmountain.com

Snowbowl

  • Where:  Missoula
  • Size 2,600 ft., 39 trails
  • # Lifts 2
  • Terrain: υ20% ν40% λ40%
  • Snowfall:   300”
  • Vibe:  When Snowbowl gets a dump, the terrain here is second to none, with 2,600 ft of sustained pitch vertical.
  • Don’t Miss:  The view of Missoula is majestic from the peak of Snowbowl.
  • www.montanasnowbowl.com

Lost Trail Powder Mountain

  • Where: Conner
  • Size 1,800 ft., 45 trails
  • # Lifts 5
  • Terrain υ20% ν60% λ20%
  • Snowfall 300”
  • Vibe: At Lost Trail you won’t find fancy ski clothes or equipment, just down home skiers who like to ski powder—deep powder.  Like many of the other smaller ski areas Lost Trail is closed mid-week, so Powder Thursday is the best day to find the goods.
  • Don’t Miss:  The abundant natural hot springs down the road would make for a great two-day trip.
  • www.losttrail.com

 

Discovery Ski Area

  • Where Phillipsburg
  • Size 1,670 ft., 63 trails
  • # Lifts 6
  • Terrain υ20% ν30% λ50%
  • Snowfall   210”
  • Vibe   While it appears that Discovery does not get as much snow as other areas mentioned, the snow tends to come in big dumps. Discovery is halfway between Bozeman and Missoula, so it’s a great place to meet your Griz friends for a day.
  • Don’t Miss:  The backside bowls hold snow for days after a storm and have a north aspect (read: lighter powder, less sun.)  These offer some of the best steep and glade skiing in Montana.
  • www.skidiscovery.com

Maverick Mountain

  • Where Polaris
  • Size 2,020 ft, 24 trails
  • # Lifts 1
  • Terrain 20% 40% 40%
  • Snowfall 180”
  • Vibe Tucked away in the Sapphire Mountains and accessed by the Pioneer National Scenic Byway, Maverick is as much about the beauty surrounding it as the skiing.  That said, the advanced runs are steep and the 2,000-ft. vertical drop is long enough to make even the fittest skiers sore
  • Don’t Miss The Patagonia outlet store in Dillon on the drive out is a great place to get good gear cheap.
  • www.skimaverick.co

Great Divide

  • Where: Marysville
  • Size: 1503 ft, 140 trails
  • # Lifts 5
  • Terrain υ10% ν40% λ50%
  • Snowfall 180”
  • Vibe Great Divide is a must-see for any terrain park enthusiast.  With three parks, Great Divide offers the best park skiing outside of Big Sky for less than half the price. The all new Wildwood terrain park features wooden hits that twist through a secluded glade.  Their snowmaking is so good that they have already had slope-style competitions this season.
  • Don’t Miss The half-price punch card that can cut the price of tickets to $18 when traveling with a group.
  • www.skigd.com

Showdown Montana

  • Where Neihart
  • Size 1,400 ft, 34 trails
  • # Lifts 3
  • Terrain υ30% ν40% λ30%
  • Snowfall 240”
  • Vibe: Showdown is as western as western ski areas get.  You are just as likely to see cowboy hats as Northface jackets.  It just goes to show you that Showdown has a little for everyone with great groomed runs on the front side to world-class powder and moguls on the back.  After a few runs, the lifties will probably ask for your name—and remember it.
  • Don’t Miss: Glory Hole is Showdown’s famous double-black bump run, offering 1,000-ft. zipper lines and some of the best moguls in Montana.  Around noon, stop at the base lodge for tacos that would make any ski area cafeteria proud. Stop in White Sulphur Springs for a soak in the rustic namesake hot springs.
  • www.showdownmontana.com

 

Teton Pass

  • Where Choteau
  • Size: 1,010 ft, 26 trails
  • # Lifts 2
  • Terrain υ19% ν35% λ46%
  • Snowfall 300”
  • Vibe Inbounds Teton pass is pretty tame, offering blue cruiser skiing and some confidence-builder black diamond runs.  With such a low ticket price and no lines, this is a great area for a beginner or first time skier.  Advanced skiers see below.
  • Don’t Miss: From the top lift at Teton Pass, skiers so inclined may hike up an additional 1,200 ft to the top of Mt. Lockhart for avalanche-controlled, side-country skiing.  The wind is known to push snow around up top, so look for chutes with the best snow. Skiers who trek out must be equipped with avalanche rescue gear, including a beacon and shovel.
  • www.skitetonpass.com

Bear Paw Ski Bowl

  • Where Rudyard
  • Size 900 ft., 25 trails
  • # Lifts 1
  • Terrain υ19% ν35% λ46%
  • Snowfall: 140”
  • Vibe: Bear Paw Ski Bowl is an entirely volunteer-run ski area.  The skiers here herald from ranches and farms across the Hi-Line and Carhartt is in vogue.  For you ladies who are hard up for the $20 ski ticket, a bikini run gets one free.  Male bikini runs pay double.
  • Don’t Miss Augie Dogs and Hermie burgers for lunch and then Group Therapy on the mountain after the hill closes.  We are not exactly sure what “group therapy” is, but it probably involves high-proof cinnamon schnapps.
  • www.skibearpaw.com

Red Lodge Mountain Resort

  • Where Red Lodge
  • Size: 2,400 ft, 71 trails
  • # Lifts 7
  • Terrain υ14% ν29% λ57%
  • Snowfall: 250”
  • Vibe: Red Lodge is the biggest of the small Montana ski areas, with a formidable vertical and a high percentage of advanced runs.  Check out Red Lodge for big ski area terrain at small ski area prices.
  • Don’t Miss The on-hill bar and party deck, The Bierstube, has been a classic for decades.  “Ski the Stube!”
  • www.redlodgemountain.com

Big Sky

  • Where: Big Sky
  • Size 4,350 ft, 150 trails
  • # Lifts 17
  • Terrain υ17% ν25% λ58%
  • Snowfall 400”
  • Vibe: Big Sky has everything—park, steeps, powder, and persistent groomers.  You can find skiers here from all walks of life—from Gucci-clad trophy wives wearing $300 perfume to duct-taped ski bums who smell like the burgers they were just flipping.  They put “Big” in the name for a reason as Big Sky has the longest continuous vertical of any ski area in the lower 48.
  • Don’t Miss: The tram up to the top of lone peak—the skiing is great and the view is breathtaking.  If you don’t want to ski the black diamond runs back down, hop back on the tram and get a ride.  Yes, people will think you are a dork.  It’s worth it.
  • www.bigskyresort.com

Moonlight Basin

  • Where: Big Sky
  • Size: 4,166 ft, 76 trails
  • # Lifts: 6
  • Terrain υ23% ν41% λ36%
  • Snowfall 400”
  • Vibe: Moonlight is an undiscovered treasure. It got a bad rap in its early days due to lack of challenging terrain.  In the last several years the owners added two chairlifts, which access some of the most varied and steep terrain in Montana.  A long line at Moonlight is five minutes.  It has the desired north aspect, which means that powder can be found days after a storm.
  • Don’t Miss: The Headwaters lift accesses 1,000 ft. chutes that average 40 degrees and range in width from John Goodman to Nicole Richie.
  • www.moonlightbasin.com

Whitefish Mountain Resort

  • Where: Whitefish
  • Size 2,353 ft, 93 trails
  • # Lifts 9
  • Terrain υ20% ν50% λ30%
  • Snowfall 300”
  • Vibe   Whitefish (formerly known as Big Mountain) is laid back and unpretentious, hosting an average of 2,500 skiers per day.  While this may sound like a lot compared some of the areas listed here, these skiers are spread out over 3,000 acres—more than one per skier.  In the trees, you can find powder days after a dump.
  • Don’t Miss   Feel like an X-Games superstar night riding in the lighted Fishbowl Terrain Park.
  • www.skiwhitefish.com

Bridger Bowl

  • Where: Bozeman
  • Size: 2,000 ft, 71 trails
  • # Lifts: 7
  • Terrain: υ25% ν35% λ40%
  • Snowfall: 350”
  • Vibe: The scene at Bridger Bowl is representative of the cultural hodgepodge seen around Bozeman.  You can find ridge hippies as well as kids and 80-year-olds. Bridger is primarily an area for advanced skiers, with notoriously poor grooming, but who needs that when the gnarliest inbounds skiing in the world is just 600 feet above you?
  • Don’t Miss:  The Ridge.
  • www.bridgerbowl.com

Skiing combines outdoor fun with knocking down trees with your face.”

Dave Barry