Montana is frequently referred to as The Last Best Place, and this is certainly true when it comes to downhill skiing. Montana boasts 16 ski resorts, second only to the state of Colorado. All of Montana’s ski resorts are clustered in the western half of the state, the prime reason for that, of course being it is where the mountains are. One of the most appealing spots for downhill skiing in Montana is a place known as Big Sky. The village of Big Sky is nestled in the Gallatin National Forest and Spanish Peaks area. Situated north of West Yellowstone and 40 minutes south of Bozeman, it has a small town charm with a year-round population of only 1,400 people. Though the town of Big Sky is small, you are sure to find world class restaurants and resorts that aim to pamper you lavishly. The people are consistently friendly and full of Montana pride.
There are two major resorts in Big Sky. The first is the town’s namesake. It consists of an impressive 3,800+ acres of ski terrain over three mountains – nearly two acres per skier! If you prefer elbow room, this is the place for you. I love that there are consistently short or non-existent lines which ultimately means I get more snow time. Virtually right next door to Big Sky is Moonlight Basin which has its own 2,000+ acre playground draped across the famous Lone Peak. Because of their hard earned reputation, these two resorts tirelessly groom and maintain their resorts. Even when skiing in the afternoon, you are sure to find plenty of perfect corduroy runs. For the real ski enthusiasts, you can get a combo pass to the interconnected resorts for the largest skiing experience in America; over 5,500 acres of terrain, spread over 3 mountains with the second largest vertical descent in America at 4,350 ft. As they say, “Go big or go home!”
If quiet, small resorts are your skiing preference, there are plenty of those, too. Snowbowl sits about 20 minutes north of Missoula. This quaint ski area is the closest one to a major airport, which allows easy access to tourists and locals who just want to spend a few hours on the mountain. It is a popular, convenient getaway for the students attending the University of Montana. Snowbowl has 950 acres of powder to explore with a respectable 2,600 ft vertical drop and runs over 3 miles long. They get an impressive 300 inches of snow annually. The locals have an affection for Snowbowl, claiming it as all their own and likening it to the Cheers bar where “everybody knows your name.”
Just south of Great Falls is Showdown. Only 640 acres, it is one of the smaller ski resorts in Montana. It is conveniently located along one of the major storm routes. This means two things: 1) the weather can be tumultuous at times, and 2) they have amazing snow. They have bragging rites of never having to pump in artificial snow. The vertical descent is only 1,400′ so it’s not going to attract the extreme skier looking for thrills. It is a very family friendly, low key fun resort centrally located.
I have barely skimmed the surface of the skiing abundance that is Montana. There are so many opportunities for skiing in Montana, both downhill and cross-country skiing, that you simply must come and explore all of the possibilities for yourself!
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