Down hill skiing in the Bitterroot Valley

of Western Montana

Picture this: You're at the top of a wild, Montana peak, snow whirling around you, your ski partners and the trees that are frozen into icy hoodoos. The ground drops off into an open field pointing own inches from your ski tips, and your adrenalin, hot compared to your face, is pumping in your core. At the bottom, at the end of all this, is a toasty lodge, warmed by the glow of a roaring fire. If you ski like you've been skiing all morning, you'll ride the thrills and be there in no time.


Montana is blessed with a great variety of developed ski areas for everyone from the family skier to the newbie, the adventurous to the seasoned veteran who just wants to cut it through beautiful terrain. Here you'll find places like Lost Trail, a locally owned, family run ski resort with just a handful of lifts, a small base lodge and the best powder in the region, and you'll find places like Big Mountain, an expansive resort with renowned glade skiing, a terrain park and long groomers overlooking a luxurious resort town.

Lost Trail is south of Hamilton while Big Mountain is at the northern end of the Flathead Valley, but in between, two other skiing options await. Minutes from the big city of Missoula, Snowbowl Ski Area sits on the edge of the Rattlesnake Wilderness Area. Served by just two lifts and a rope tow, Snowbowl holds a deceptively large amount of terrain to delight the beginner and the expert, though some say the area is definitely more geared for those with some experience.

The top, backside of the mountain has some of the friendliest cruising runs around. The bowls, on the other hand, harbor steep chutes, small cliffs and clusters of trees loaded with powder that can go un-skied for days before someone dares to find it. And, yes, at the bottom, you'll find one of the most highly regarded ski bars in the state. The Last Run Inn has earned a reputation for its stone hearth, wood-fired pizza and mouth-watering Bloody Mary's.

About half way between Missoula and Whitefish, home of Big Mountain, sits one of the state's newest ski areas, Blacktail Mountain. Blacktail is a long climb through the woods from Lakeside, a small town on the shores of Flathead Lake. The lodge is actually at the top of the mountain, and from a table in the family-oriented restaurant, you can gaze out of the huge, glass windows and watch the sun move across the lake one of the largest natural lakes in the West along the Mission Range and up toward Glacier National Park.

While skiing the mostly intermediate runs, there is no more beautiful scenery in all of Montana ski country. Western Montana's ski areas offer something for everyone. They combine the best of exciting terrain with the wildness of Montana. Don't be surprised to see a deer or elk pounce through the woods as you schuss along the trees. And because they tend to be smaller than many of the larger resorts in Colorado and Utah, they are also more affordable, without compromising on amenities. And lucky for us, they're here in our home.

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