Montana has many monikers and watchwords: Big Sky Country, The Land of the Shining Mountains, and The Last Best Place. All are accurate, especially when traveling to summits and crags in the western half of the state. Montana is home to some of the best skiing in the country, whether you’re a novice on the bunny slope or a black diamond pro, and most resorts have excellent accommodations and dining to satiate all tastes. The lift lines here are usually short, and you’ll have the benefit of enjoying more acres per skier than at any other ski destination in the U.S. World-class skiing is available at Big Sky Resort and Whitefish Mountain Resort and many smaller skiing destinations offer an experience that is unique to rural Montana.
Big Sky Resort
Big Sky Resort is one of the most luxurious ski terrains in Montana, as well as the largest with its 5,850 skiable acres on four different mountains with 300 runs—plus, the famous Lone Peak with a summit reaching 11,166 feet. Accessible via direct flights from 16 different major cities, including Atlanta, Chicago, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, and New York City, Big Sky Resort is easy to get to and offers plenty in the way of food, lodging, and entertainment. For slope-side accommodations, stay at Big Sky Resort, where breakfast is included, kids under 6 ski free, and you’ll have access to a hot tub to relax après ski.
Whitefish Mountain Resort
Situated about an hour from Glacier National Park, the historic railroad town of Whitefish is one of the most visually stunning areas in the state, alluring skiers to the destination since the late 1940s. High-speed quad chairlifts; over 100 trails, one of which is 3.3 miles long; a terrain park; and an average annual snowfall of 300 inches all contribute to the success of this resort. The skiing instruction is top tier, especially for beginners and children. For the best dining experience, make a dinner reservation at Café Kandahar located at Kandahar Lodge.
Blacktail Mountain Ski Area
Located above Flathead Lake, Blacktail Mountain Ski Area is interesting because the lodging and parking lot are situated at the top of the mountain, allowing for excellent panoramic views no matter what level of skier you are. Most of the skiing here is for intermediate levels, and you’ll likely experience zero wait times for the lifts. Cross-country skiing is also available on groomed trails should you want a scenic experience without the speed.
Turner Mountain Ski Area
Located in the northwestern part of the state in Libby, Turner Mountain is a downhill skiing area that is affordable and family-friendly. Take Amtrak or fly into Glacier International Airport. Ski on 22 different trails, half of which are appropriate for beginner and intermediate skill levels, and the other half are dedicated to experts. This no-frills skiing experience attracts outdoor enthusiasts that just want to point their skies or boards down the mountain for good-quality runs. Many of the groomers and stewards are volunteers, creating a sense of pride and community that is unique to the mountain. Cabinet Mountain Brewing Company, Rosita’s Mexican Restaurant, and Red Dog Saloon and Pizza are nearby for replenishing lost calories.
Lookout Pass Ski and Recreation Area
The 550 skiable acres on 35 trails bring snow lovers to Lookout Pass each winter season. Two terrain parks are what make this ski area stand out, with technical features for beginners and pros to learn tricks and hone in on their craft. Come for the snowshoeing and cross-country skiing as well. The lesson programs here are outstanding, if not legendary—check out the Women’s Clinic, Senior Workshop, and Famous Free Ski School for Children. Ski and Stay packages are available with participating lodging partners throughout the destination. If you visit on your birthday, your lift ticket will be free.
Discovery Ski Area
The top elevation soars to more than 8,000 feet at Discovery, located about 90 miles east of Missoula in central Montana. Thrill-seekers will love the Limelight lift that delivers you to terrain with a 2,270-foot vertical drop. Half-day rates are also available here, should you want to check out the mountain in a more affordable way, and children 5 and under are free. For a special treat, book your accommodations at Fairmont Hot Springs, located less than an hour from Discovery, and soak your muscles in the open air pool at the end of the ski day. The resort offers a two-night ski and stay package.
Powder fans will love Montana Snowbowl, with 300 inches of snowfall annually. There is no terrain park, but the longest run is 3 miles. Eat at The Last Run or The Double Diamond Café. Ride sharing with Missoula in Motion and shuttles are available to transport skiers from town to the Snowbowl. Stay at Gelandespring, a slope-side lodge, but book early to secure a private bath.
Great Divide Ski Area
The Great Divide Ski Area is located right on the Continental Divide in Marysville, with 107 trails spanning three valleys and three mountain peaks. If you love terrain parks, then this is the ski hill for you—enjoy six different feature-filled experiences here. Live music and BBQ’s happen throughout the season, especially toward the end, and the vibe is nearly all local. If you’re looking for a deal, ski on Wednesdays through Fridays for discounted tickets. Pop into the Base Lodge, The Missing Lynx Saloon, or The WildWest Cabin for noshes and drinks.
Bridger Bowl Ski Area
Bridger Bowl, in Bozeman, is one of the most popular ski areas in the state, especially for locals. The mountain offers a dedicated beginner’s area, complete with a warming hut; 2,000 acres of skiable terrain on 75 trails; 10 lifts; and a terrain park. Expert skiers will love the Ridge Terrain with steep chutes and cliffs. Bozeman offers plenty to do in terms of restaurants and nightlife, and the Museum of the Rockies has one of the best paleontological collections in the country. Given that the ski area is relatively close to Yellowstone National Park, one of the most visited parks in the country, lodging is plentiful and fairly affordable.
Maverick Mountain is tucked away in southwest Montana, giving it a private homegrown feel. There’s nothing pretentious about this mountain, and the lack of superfluities is quite refreshing. About 70 percent of the trails are ideal for beginner to intermediate skiers. There’s only one lift for all the 24 trails, but you’ll find that it’s all you need for a day of classic rural Montana fun.