The “Montanazhdarcho” is how Montanans refer to skiers and snowboarders with unique steeze and warm vibes. Okay, maybe not, but “good times, good people, and good snow” is how most people describe skiing in Montana. So, here’s a list of our favorite Montana ski resorts.
Within earshot of Yellowstone National Park sits one of North America’s most secluded and expansive ski resorts.
Renowned for its 5,800 acres of skiable terrain, which varies between beginner, intermediate, and expert, Big Sky also gets two thumbs up for its incredible mountain infrastructure and hard-to-beat snowpack.
But what sets Big Sky apart from the rest of its Rocky Mountain neighbors is the extreme terrain. The snowfields off of Lone Mountain and the chutes off of Big Couloir and Upper A-Z provide steep grades and a slim margin for error.
Big Sky is home to a rare collection of triple-black diamonds. Ski Patrol seriously encourages skiers and snowboarders to bring gear like shovels and avalanche beacons, as these areas are prone to some nasty snow slides. Runs like Big Couloir, North Summit Snowfields, and Upper A-Z Chutes require the equipment above and a sign-in with a patroller before you even duck the rope.
It may be expensive, but Big Sky offers its fair share of lodging options around the base area. The Saddle Ridge and Power Ridge condos are a great choice for larger group trips to Big Sky, and if you’re quick about planning, you could book them at pretty reasonable prices.
Within a ten-minute drive, guests can find some relatively cheap deals on lodging, but if you’re after the most affordable possible, look to the nearby town of Bozeman, though it requires at least an hour’s drive to get back to Big Sky.
While you won’t find any extreme nightlife like other Rocky Mountain ski resorts, Big Sky boasts après aplenty around its Mountain Village base area for fantastic drinks to celebrate the day’s hard work.
Whitefish: Not the most prominent mountain in the Rockies, but one of the most distinctive in gladed terrain if that’s your jam. What’s also pretty cool about Whitefish is its proximity to Glacier National Park. On a clear day, which is relatively complex to come by due to fog, you can look out and take in some great views of the park and surrounding town, and while the mist may seem like a downer, it does coat Whitefish in a very unique vibe.
Skiers generally break Whitefish into three sections: Front side, North side, and Hellroaring Basin.
The front side is where you will find the most diversity in terms of terrain, from corduroy groomers and mogul runs to tight tree areas; the North side is where you’ll find the super exposed, wide-open terrain with views of the surrounding area; and Hellroaring Basin is exactly what it sounds like Hellishly steep bowl areas and adrenaline pumping glade sections.
For expert skiers who want to shred double-blacks all day, head over to Chair 5 East Rim on Whitefish’s Front side.
Guests can choose from a list of hotel, inn, and condo options when it comes to staying on-site at Whitefish. For other options, look to the town of Whitefish for hotels that range from basic to best-in-class.
Whether staying in town or on-site, there’s plenty to do once the final chairlift stops spinning. The bars at Whitefish usually peak around 4-6 pm and die down around dinnertime, but that doesn’t mean the party has to stop. The town of Whitefish has plenty to choose from, whether you’re looking for a dimly lit mellow bar or a raucous joint that’s poppin’ with live tuneage. The Great Northern Bar & Grill and the Remington Bar offer some great live music on the weekends and stay open for your night owls until 2 am.
Montana Snowbowl is somewhat of an expert skier’s paradise. Similar to Mad River Glen in Vermont, “The Bowl” is almost exclusively expert terrain, with all of its trails cut on Big Sky Mountain (no relation to the #1 ranked).
There is a ton to choose from, whether you’re looking for steep chutes or gladed skiing. Plus, its vertical drop is one of the biggest in the state, sitting at roughly 2600 feet.
Pro-tip: If you’re looking for a plethora of expert terrain, head over to Grizzly Chair, and you’ll get all things glades and chutes.
Surprisingly for its size, Montana Snowball offers several properties with affordable stay and ski packages, including their on-site lodging at the Gelandesprung Lodge and C’mon Inn, as well as other accommodations down the road from The Bowl.
After you wrap up skiing for the day, head on over to Snowbowl’s legendary après bar, The Last Run Inn, for their famous Bloody Mary and woodfire pizza.
From there, head on over to the understated town of Missoula for a wide selection of breweries, live music spots, and some buzzing nightlife. It’s a vibe unlike any other ski town on the list.
Nestled right up next to Big Sky sits Bridger Bowl Ski Area. Due to its majorly eastern-facing slopes, Bridger Bowl receives some of the driest and lightest snow in all of Montana, which locals refer to as “Montana cold smoke.” This dry and light powder offers comfortable turns and easy maneuverability no matter where you are on the mountain.
Bridger Bowl is about as local a vibe as you can get, even with Big Sky in its backyard. The weekdays are barren, with a little bit of pickup in crowds on the weekends.
Bridger’s terrain covers roughly 2000 acres with eight chairlifts at different points across the mountain. Some of the steepest and most extreme terrain is located toward the summit — terrain that requires skiers to use an avalanche beacon to access.
With all that said, the Bridger Bowl remains a fantastic destination for the top-tier shredder or the annual family vacay.
While there isn’t any on-site accommodation, the local town of Bozman offers some relatively cheap options for lodging that are close to Bridger Bowl.
Then nightlife is a bit lacking at Bridger. You won’t find any clubbing or 2 am shenanigans at Bridger Bowl, but Jimmy B’s is just as good a place as any to celebrate the day’s turns with filling platers, tasty cocktails, a wide selection of beer, and occasional live music, all around a cozy fireplace.
If you find yourself in Bozman after the ski sesh, make sure to show your face at the Garage on E. Main and Wallace to cash in on their special “Free Beer in Your Ski Gear.”
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