Montana in Winter: Insider Look at Montana Ski Resorts

Judy Antell Avatar
Skiing gondolas at Silver Mountain Ski Resort in Idaho.
Photo credit: Shutterstock

Montana is one of the top ski destinations in North America. Whether you are a beginner or an advanced skier, a snowboarder seeking terrain parks or simply a winter lover more interested in apres ski activities, Montana has it all. Read on to learn about the best ski resorts in Montana.

Thinking about a ski trip to Montana? Montana boasts ski resorts blessed with hundreds of inches of natural snow each year, big vertical drops, ski trails through national forests and glades and backcountry skiing that you might have thought only existed in your dreams.

Whether you are a beginner, advanced skier, snowboarder, or casual adrenaline junkie, Montana has the right ski resort for you.

Whitefish Mountain Resort

Whitefish Mountain Resort is in Whitefish, Montana near Glacier National Park. The ski resort sprawls across all sides of Big Mountain, with 3,000 acres of skiable terrain, 111 marked trails, four terrain parks and a skier/boardercross course.

SheBuysTravel Tip: Did you know that you can rent your ski gear? The Ski KITs are rented at 90% off of the retail cost and shipped directly to your destination with free shipping and returns. This is a great option for families with kids who grow out of their ski gear each season. Kit’s include jackets, pants, goggles, gloves, and optional snow boots. See all rental options here.

With an average annual snowfall of 320 inches, Whitefish Mountain Resort promises plenty of powder. There are plenty of expert trails and the ski school has a 2 day Learn to Ski or Ride Program (for kids ages 7 and up, through geezer) with two lessons, lift tickets, rentals and reduced lift tickets for the rest of the season.

Some unique aspects of this huge ski resort include:

  • An ambassador program to introduce you to the mountain. The free program requires a lift ticket and operates daily at 10:30am and 1:30pm, mid December to mid March.
  • Free lift tickets for kids six and under!
  • Night skiing with reduced price lift tickets
  • Summit Nature Center, where kids can become Junior Snow Ranger and learn about where animals go in the winter.
  • The nearby town of Whitefish, with breweries, distilleries, a cultural arts center and a historic depot museum.

Read More: The Ultimate Family Ski Trip Packing List

Snow skies
Photo credit: Shutterstock

Big Sky Resort

With 5,850 acres of skiing, Big Sky Resort isn’t large in name only. An hour south of Bozeman, Big Sky Resort is near the west entrance of Yellowstone National Park. The ski resort plans to have net-zero carbon emissions by 2030. Currently, 100% of Big Sky Resort’s energy use is carbon free.

The ski resort caters to all abilities. Beginner skiers and snowboarders two to four years old can have a private “try lesson” that’s 45 minutes long and is an ideal entry level lesson. If you book rentals with your ski school, the rentals are delivered to your lodging for free.

Big Sky Resort has a special Lone Peak Tram that isn’t included in a regular lift ticket. Long Peak Tram whisks you to the top of Lone Mountain and offers 300 degrees and thousands of acres of skiing. You can see Idaho and Wyoming from Lone Peak.

SheBuysTravel Tip: The Lone Peak Tram can have very long lines since only 15 skiers can ride at once. Parts of Lone Mountain require skiers to have a buddy and avalanche equipment, so be prepared.

Unique to Big Sky Resort:

  • Headlamp night skiing
  • Sno-Go bike rentals
  • First Tracks Tram Guide to get you up Lone Peak Tram before most skiers’ first cup of coffee.
  • Illuminated Enchanted Forest nighttime walk
  • Winter zipline tours

Bridger Bowl Ski Area

Bridger Bowl Ski Area, in Bozeman, has over 75 ski trails, plus many unmarked runs. What sets this ski are near Bozeman apart is the Ridge Terrain. There is no grooming or marked trails, just steep chutes and rock cliffs. An avalanche beacon is required; a strong stomach and expert skiing or snowboarding ability is recommended. There is also less terrifying backcountry access.

SheBuysTravel Tip: Consider staying in one of these Bozeman hotels.

This ski area does have some gentler terrain for beginner skiers, and inexpensive lower access lift tickets.

  • Free lift tickets to those six and under AND to “super seniors,” age 80 and over.
  • Bridger Bowl is also a non-profit, which warms my heart more than any down ski jacket.

Blacktail Mountain Ski Area

Blacktail Mountain Ski Area, in Lakeside, MT, overlooks Flathead Lake and Glacier National Park. What is cool here is that you drive in at the top of the mountain and ski down, so your first run of the day doesn’t even require a chairlift.

  • With an annual snowfall of over 250 inches, there is no need for man-made snow.
  • You can ski over 1000 acres of National Forest at this family friendly ski area.
  • Note: The Blacktail Mountain X-Country Ski Trails are not part of Blacktail Mountain Ski Area. They are eight miles away and have groomed trails through the National Forest for classic and skate skiing.
Woman snowboarder
Photo credit: ShutterstockPhilipsburg

Montana Snowbowl

Montana Snowbowl in Missoula has downhill skiing from late November to early April.

If you are staying in town at one of these properties, Montana Snowbowl runs a shuttle bus on weekends so you don’t have to deal with parking.

The ski area boasts:

  • 42 trails
  • No terrain park
  • Average snowfall over 300 inches
  • A three mile long run!
  • Ski program for women only

Maverick Mountain Ski Area

Maverick Mountain Ski Area, in Beaverhead National Forest, is known, if a secret place can be known, for its absence of lift lines. It has 24 uncrowded ski trails, 30% beginner, 40% intermediate and 30% for advanced skiers.

SheBuysTravel Tip: The family-owned Maverick Mountain Ski Area is so remote that cell service isn’t available on your drive. Download maps in advance.

Lost Trail Powder Mountain

Lost Trail Powder Mountain, also known as Lost Trail ski area, is on the Montana-Idaho border in the northern Rocky Mountains. The family friendly ski area has 60 marked trails. It is open Thursdays to Sundays and on holidays.

The ski resort averages 325 inches of snow annually. The two terrain parks include a progressive learning park with man-made and natural features and a more traditional terrain park.

  • The ski school offers an intro to skiing program for kids ages three to six.
  • Lost Trail allows backcountry skiers to “ski uphill’ on days the chairlifts are closed.
  • “Old School Mondays” offer heavily discounted lift tickets (not on MLK Day and Presidents Day Mondays)

Great Divide Ski Area

Great Divide Ski Area located northwest of Helena in Southwestern Montana near the Continental Divide.

The locally owned ski area keeps lift ticket prices low, but still has over 100 trails served by five chairlifts.

  • Six terrain parks full of fun features.
  • Friday nights under the lights with live music.
  • Stay at one of these Helena hotels

Red Lodge Mountain

Three-year-olds can take private one hour ski lessons at Red Lodge Mountain. The ski school has group lessons for kids ages four to six. Special playtime ski lessons make learning how to ski into a game.

Red Lodge Mountain is generally open daily from the day after Thanksgiving through mid April.

  • For skiers who like to resort hop, Red Lodge Mountain is part of Indy Pass, which has 110 resorts across the U.S., Canada and Japan.
  • Beginner Terrain Park and Intermediate to Advanced Terrain Park

Discovery Ski Area

Discovery Ski Area is in Philipsburg, an old mining town in Western Montana. It is halfway between Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks. With an annual snow fall of more than 200 inches and plenty of terrain for beginners to advanced skiers, but at gentler prices. And lift tickets are free for children five and under.

The ski school’s Kinder program offers two hours lessons for kids ages three to six.

  • Extreme terrain on the back side of the mountain with true double black trails
  • Groomed cross country ski trails

Bear Paw Ski Bowl

The tiny Bear Paw Ski Bowl is a throwback, anti ski resort. Managed and operated by volunteer local skiers, Bear Paw Ski Bowl is open weekends only.

The charming Bear Paw Ski Bowl has just one chairlift and one rope tow with 24 trails. Beginner skiers won’t be intimidated by flashy snowboarders (there is no terrain park).

There is also no ski school, but if you are are an experienced skier, you can have a fun, inexpensive day on the mountain teaching your kids (or spouse) to ski. It reminds me of how I learned to ski, when my friend’s big sister took me up the mountain.

  • Sparse crowds
  • Inexpensive lift tickets

Glacier National Park in Winter

Though not technically a ski resort, Glacier National Park offers a quiet, inexpensive way to enjoy outdoor activities in winter. The Going to the Sun Road is plowed to the Lake McDonald Lodge from the West Entrance, so you can drive in, then go cross country skiing or snowshoeing through the quiet park. You won’t even hear snowmobiles. No motorized vehicles are allowed in Glacier National Park in winter.

  • No rental equipment
  • No place to buy food – bring your own snacks and drinks

Be sure to check out Montana’s ski areas in summer for warm weather adventures in Big Sky Country.

Judy Antell is an empty-nester mother of 3 who spends a lot of time visiting her daughters. Why don’t they live in Brooklyn? Judy and her husband love to travel, by bike, car, or plane, whether to see their kids or have friend or couple adventures, mostly centered around vegetarian food.
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