Montana Ski Resorts: A Treasure of SlopesFrom Big Names to Small Powers
There are eight primary ski resorts in Montana, all of which follow along the Rocky Mountains as they cut through the western half of the state. From Whitefish in the north to Red Lodge in the south-central part of the state, there is plenty of powder for skiers of all skill levels. Determine which of the Montana ski resorts is the best choice for your shredding skills, travel preferences, and time availability.
Montana Ski Resorts
- Montana Snowbowl
- Showdown Montana
- Bridger Bowl
- Big Sky
- Moonlight Basin
- Red Lodge Mountain
- Blacktail Mountain
- Teton Pass
- Turner Mountain
- Great Divide
- Lost Trail
Whitefish is located just west of Glacier National Park. For Montana ski resorts, or for resorts of any state, this one is massive. The resort spans 3000 skiable acres with an enormous 2353 foot vertical. There are 98 trails scattered across three faces with a wide mix of glades and bowl skiing: Hellroaring Basin, the Northside, and Uphill. Whitefish receives about 300 inches of snow each year, leading to a season that stretches into early April most years. With night skiing, ski lessons, and heli-skiing available, Whitefish is truly one of the Montana ski resorts with something for everyone.
Montana Snowbowl is 950 acres of wide open skiing. Snowbowl is located just north of Missoula. While it only has 39 trails, most of them are wide open gamboling trails that give you the feel of off-piste skiing without the dangers. There are four lifts with a total capacity of 3900 skiers per hour. The primary lift, Grizzly shoots up 2000 feet to a mid-mountain area, with the LaVelle Creek Chair taking you up the remainder of the way. Snowbowl’s difficulty mix is weighted toward expert and intermediate trails, but there are 8 novice-rated trails to help beginners ramp up to more challenging runs.
Located about two hours east of Helena along US-89, Showdown packs a lot of fun into 640 acres of skiing. Showdown receives about 250 inches of snow annually, plenty to keep the 36 trails covered throughout the season. The ski area has a 1400 foot vertical with the Payload lift leading from the base to the summit. The longest runs are found toward the west side, with the Prospector lift climbing the full 1400 feet over a 6700 foot run. Showdown also features two terrain parks and a dedicated learning area for ski lessons.
Discovery comes with two sides, the Frontside and the Backside. On the Frontside, the wide-open cruiser trails have complete lift coverage with three trails leading to two different peaks. These area also features the Pentecost terrain park and plenty of fun skiing for all skill levels. On the Backside, things get even wilder. This area is made up of single and double black diamond chutes, bowls, and steeps. Three lifts service the Backside, with a total vertical of 2388 feet. The Basin receives about 200 inches of snow annually, blanketing the 2200 acres of skiing with powder throughout the season.
Bridger Bowl is just north of Bozeman, MT and features almost 2000 acres of skiable mountain. Seven lifts service the actively patrolled portion of the mountain. Two lifts head up to the midpoint, where gentle easy runs mix with a terrain park on your way back to two base lodges. From the midpoint, four lifts will take you the rest of the way up the mountain to one of four peaks. Bradley Meadows contains more intermediate runs, while Bridger Gully, the North Bowl, and the South Bowl contain bowls, chutes, and steeps that cater to the advanced crowd. For the more adventurous, there are another 311 acres of ungroomed terrain off-piste. This Ridge Terrain is serviced by one double chair lift, with five distinct bowls and ravines for some wild skiing.
Big Sky Resort is another one of the huge Montana ski resorts. 5800 skiable acres spread out with over 300 trails and a 4350 foot vertical. The top of Lone Mountain sits at 11,166 feet above sea level and is serviced by the Lone Peak Tram. With a resort this size, it doesn’t matter what type of skiing you’re looking for, it’s here. You want double black diamond chutes that lead into a crazy wide open bowl? Head to the Stillwater Bowl. Want to take one of the longest trails in the United States? Ski the six mile Liberty Bowl to Mountain Mall run. Desire a terrain park? Choose one of seven terrain parks throughout the mountain. And with a lift capacity of 29,000 skiers per hour, even at its most crowded, Big Sky has virtually no lines at the lifts.
Red Lodge Mountain
Red Lodge Mountain is located near the Wyoming-Montana border just west of the city of Red Lodge. There are 1600 acres of skiable terrain with a 2400 foot vertical. Over the two mountains, there are 65 trails and acres of groomed open slopes. The Lazy M is the resort’s longest run, ambling over 2.5 miles as it leads from Grizzly Peak to the lodge at the base. Red Lodge also features 30 acres of chutes and 60 acres of glades for advanced skiers. With an average annual snowfall of over 250 inches, Red Lodge always has snow on some of its trails. And for times when Mother Nature isn’t cooperating with Montana ski resorts, Red Lodge has full snowmaking abilities on 31 percent of its trails.
Blacktail Mountain is a mid-sized resort located on the western side of Flathead Lake in Montana. Located about 3 hours north of Missoula, this 1000-acre ski area prides itself on being different from the rest of the resorts in Montana. And it succeeds. From the small resort feel to the “lodge at the peak” layout, there is something special about Blacktail. The mountain features 25 named runs and a top vertical of 1440 feet. There are four lifts that service the mountain; two doubles, one triple, and a rope tow ferry 3900 skiers per hour around the mountain.
After a brief hiccup, Teton Pass has reopened under new management. Formerly known as Rocky Mountain Hi, this resort is located in northwest Montana near Choteau, just east of the Continental Divide. It’s location along the Rocky Mountain Front provides spectacular views and amazing skiing. There are 43 named runs on 330 acres of territory with a 1010-foot vertical drop. Three lifts carry skiers, with two rope lifts and a double chair servicing the mountain. One rope tow handles the novice area, while the other provides access to the glade and bowl skiing that cover the northern face of the mountain.
Maverick is located southwest of Butte in the heart of the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest. Resting off the Pioneer Mountain Scenic Byway, this smaller resort is a quintessential small town ski area. There are 22 named runs spread out over 225 skiable acres with 6 novice, 9 intermediate, 4 advanced, and four expert runs. The ski area has an impressive 2020-foot vertical and has two lifts: one double chair and one rope tow.
Turner is a smaller ski resort located in the Kootenai National Forest in northwest Montana. It sits about a half hour’s drive north of Libby. The ski area has 20 named runs with a difficulty mix of 10 percent novice, 30 percent intermediate, and 60 percent expert. The vertical drop at Turner is 2110 feet with base elevation at 3842 feet and lift serviced peak elevation at 5952 feet.
Great Divide is a large ski resort located just north of Helena. This 1600 acre playground is divided into three faces, Rawhide Gulch, Mount Belmont, and the Wild West. There are six lifts that ferry skiers all over the mountain. Five doubles and one tow make sure that there’s never a wait to get back to the top of your favorite run. There are 110 named runs and six terrain parks across the mountain for your skiing pleasure. Be warned, however; Great Divide is definitely skewed toward the intermediate to expert skier with a full 90 percent of the mountain covered in blue and black. That isn’t to say that novices won’t have a great time. There’s a dedicated beginners area at the base and some of the intermediates are very forgiving.
With programs, lessons and many activities that happen throughout the riding year; everyone is able to enjoy a little fun in the snow at Lost Train Resort in Montana. With longer ski seasons than some of the other resorts in the area, Lost Trail Resort provides the opportunity to ski, snowboard or tube for a longer period of time, allowing you to ride the trails and enjoy winter a little longer.