Montana is a great place for outdoor adventure at any time during the year. But something special happens when winter arrives, as residents and visitors alike gather their skis and snowboards and head for the mountain slopes.
The ski towns and resorts in this part of the world are renowned for their approach to snow-based pursuits, and the western side of the state is where most of the top ski resorts in Montana can be found.
The 18 Best Ski Resorts & Areas in Montana
- Big Sky Resort
- Blacktail Mountain Ski Area
- Montana Snow Bowl, Missoula
- Whitefish Mountain Resort
- Bridger Bowl, Bozeman
- Lookout Pass Ski & Recreation Area
- Red Lodge Mountain
- Discovery Ski Area
- The Great Divide Ski Area
- Showdown Ski Area
- Bear Paw Ski Bowl
- Beartooth Basin Ski Area
- Lost Trail Powder Mountain
- Maverick Mountain Ski Area
- Moonlight Basin
- Teton Pass Ski Area
- Turner Mountain Ski Resort
- Yellowstone Club Ski Resort
Big Sky Resort certainly lives up to its name with close to 6,000 vast acres of quality skiing terrain, accessible by more than 30 high-speed lifts.
So even with the crowds of willing snow enthusiasts eager to take advantage of this outdoor wonderland, you’ll still never be that pushed for space.
The town of Big Sky is ideal for visitors looking for some outdoor adventure and is not too far from either Yellowstone National Park or Bozeman. Big Sky Resort is a ski destination for all-comers in that it caters to all levels – but in particular, anyone looking for vast terrain.
If you are looking for a unique skiing experience and you have a head for heights you can check out the Lone Peak Tram.
It will elevate you to the area’s 11,000-foot summit where you’ll encounter some pretty amazing skiing terrain. In fact, the Big Sky terrain is so vast and diverse that you won’t even begin to traverse it in a single trip!
If you do get bored of skiing for any reason you might be pleased to know that Big Sky has other activities on offer such as dog-sledding and there are plenty of amenities in the surrounding mountain areas of the resort by way of restaurants, lodges, and other forms of accommodation.
Winter brings with it all kinds of events like live music and festivals, which won’t be too far away from the resort.
The Blacktail Mountain Resort comprises over 1,000 acres of prime ski terrain and is located within the Flathead National Forest. It is thus fairly close to the west side of Flathead Lake, which adds to the natural and open feel of the place.
With the natural expanse of the surrounding environment, you are guaranteed some impressive views from this area, especially on those perfectly crisp, clear winter days.
Here you can expect winding, tree-lined trails with fresh, untouched powder if you time it right, with some nice photographic opportunities to boot.
The Lodge at Blacktail features a range of on-site dining options that won’t break the bank, as well as a fireplace to warm the cockles of the heart after hitting the slopes.
Just outside the lively university town of Missoula, Montana Snow Bowl offers mountain terrain ideal for more intermediate and advanced-level skiers and snowboarders.
The routes and trails are typically a bit more on the steep side than those of the average resort. This means that the place does tend to attract a particular type of clientele, but the vibe is pretty friendly and laid-back.
It is certainly less crowded than any of the places catering to all levels.
Snowbowl is also a favorite local ski resort, and its many skiable acres of winding tree-lined routes became even more accessible in 2020 when a new chairlift was introduced. If you like the idea of steep and fast-paced ski areas more than the odd challenging run, then you’ll love this place.
As Missoula is Montana’s second-largest city it has much to offer in terms of extra-curricular activities by way of some of the many local hangouts.
Montana Snowbowl is just a short drive from downtown Missoula, which is ideal for visitors looking to sample the vibe of the town after a day on the slopes.
Whitefish Mountain Resort is right next to Glacier National Park in Montana’s northwest region. Here you’ll find around 3,000 skiable acres serviced by 10 chairlifts.
The slopes offer plenty of space and diversity, with the added bonus of some impressive views of Glacier National Park on clear days, as well as the northern Rockies.
This is another one of the bigger resorts that tend to feature a wide variety of events and live music during the winter season.
It comprises four main areas of terrain that have all levels of participants covered as well as some mean powder, and the resort has been named a top ski town by various prominent ski magazines over the years.
Whitefish resort town has plenty of charm and character, and no shortage of places to eat, drink, or lodge. In fact, there are endless options for refueling or relaxing after a hard day on the slopes, and the Lodge at Whitefish Lake is a pretty popular option for a place to stay in the area.
5. Bridger Bowl
Bridger Bowl comprises over 2,000 acres of diverse, skiable terrain. There is a stretch to suit every level of skier or snowboarder, although some of the areas are a bit on the steep side.
This means some of the routes and trails might require a bit of technical skill more akin to advanced skiers.
Bridger Bowl is just 30 minutes down the road from the center of the University town of Bozeman. The ski resort is popular with both visitors and locals, including many of the college’s students.
The resort has eight chair lifts to help with the flow of visitors, and there are also various useful aspects such as is also a ski and snowboard school which is ideal for beginners, and a day-care facility that allows parents with young ones to hit the slopes.
You’ll also find two lodges around the base of the mountain with various amenities to accommodate skiers with rental equipment and anyone looking for refreshment in the cafeteria or restaurant.
Because of its location on the Montana/Idaho border, Lookout Pass comprises slopes that are in both states.
You can find the Lookout Pass near the border off Interstate 90, and it could be well worth the effort as it frequently receives more snow than any other ski resort in Montana.
Lookout Pass has also gained something of a reputation over the years for being a family-friendly and affordable place to ski in the Montana area.
The ski terrain is varied enough to accommodate different skill levels, and there is also a fairly well-known Ski School for kids that is actually free.
The resort features 3 terrain parks with varying degrees of difficulty. Both beginners and high-fliers will find something to suit them, and one includes a 1,000-foot-long quarter pipe.
Red Lodge ski town is probably one of the lesser-known or more understated Montana skiing regions, even though it has much to offer.
The town itself is situated close to the eastern side of the Beartooth Mountain Range, and it’s safe to say that a high proportion of the people in the region are skiers or snowboarders of some description.
In fact, this is reportedly the only town that still has available skiing options in the summertime, up on the Beartooth Pass.
If you are looking for a backcountry classic Montana experience on and around the slopes you won’t go far wrong with Red Lodge.
Covering an area of 1,600 acres, skiers and snowboarders both old and new love the laid-back vibe of the whole region, not to mention its impressive scenery and views.
That said, the best stretches of the mountain are most suited to the more intermediate and advanced skier or boarder, although there are a few less challenging runs towards the lower reaches of the mountain to accommodate beginners and newcomers.
The slopes and trails set among more than 2,000 acres offer enough variation to accommodate all levels of outdoor snow enthusiasts and also include 20-odd miles of cross-country terrain.
The stretches of groomed, skiable terrain at Discovery wind through winter forest areas not too far from both Echo Lake and Georgetown Lakes.
There are two inbound-facing parks in the area and the slopes and tree-lined routes are easy to identify in terms of difficulty or suitability for each level.
You can explore the friendly towns and various other leisure and entertainment activities that they offer after an enlivening day on the slopes.
Here you’ll find a locally owned mountain and ski area that comprises a broad range of different terrain to suit all comers. There is also a ski and snowboard school of some repute that is ideal for beginners.
Like many of the other smaller, family-run concerns, The Great Divide is good for families and also works out quite a bit cheaper than many of the bigger resorts. So it’s not surprising that this place is a popular weekend family getaway for both locals and visitors.
If you hit the Mount Belmont chairlift you’ll find all the standard routes, but the less-used Wild West chairlift puts you in the vicinity of various blue and black diamond routes if that’s more your thing.
10. Showdown Montana
Showdown Montana in Neihart is one of the oldest existing ski areas in the state. This is another family-friendly resort family and attracts both locals and visitors alike.
The resort features a summit of more than 8000 feet with more than 30, variously-challenging runs serviced by three chairlifts and a conveyor.
Showdown gets busy at weekends during the peak winter season, and Wednesday is a better option to try and avoid potential crowds. The resort operates between Wednesday and Sunday, and there is an on-site grill house, a coffee bar, and a saloon.
Lodging can be found relatively easily if required in the northern region of the mountain and surrounding areas.
Bear Paw Ski Bowl is in north-central Montana, 35 miles from Havre. The resort has something of a reputation as the place to come if you are looking for a good old-fashioned north-central Montana ski hill experience.
And that particular reputation is founded on the management and operation of the resort’s staff, which is largely a volunteer group of local skiers who do it for the love of it.
The Bear Paw experience echoes the spirit of the beginnings of the ski scene in the region when groups of enthusiasts got together for the enjoyment of honing and mastering the necessary skills to do combat with the snowy terrain.
A pleasant and rustic-tinged nod to a time when skiing was the main focal point and any required refreshment or accommodation came with a smile, courtesy of the locals. Local enthusiasts have been skiing this particular area since around 1960.
If you head out to this small ski area set across just 80 acres you’ll find the terrain and slopes can accommodate all levels, although intermediate-level skiers probably get the best of it. There are some decent vertical descents of over 1000 feet, and there is a half-pipe for snowboarders.
There are just 11 trails in all and 2 ski lifts, but this Montana ski area is highly-prized by those local to the vicinity. This includes college students from Montana State University, members of the nearby Rocky Boy’s Reservation, and those living and working in the region.
This ski area along the Beartooth Highway is not strictly in Montana as it just breaches the Wyoming border. The 600-acre resort is close to Red Lodge and was originally known as the Red Lodge International Ski and Snowboard Camp when it was established at the beginning of the 1960s.
Three Austrians were the driving force behind it as they were looking for a decent practice spot for both American and European Olympic skiing contenders.
The ski area sits 10,800 feet above Twin Lakes Headwall, and it functioned as a summer training camp for nearly 4 decades until 2003, when public access was granted.
It only changed its name to Beartooth Basin Ski Area in recent years, and still functions primarily as a summer skiing destination operating between May and July. It has 1000 feet of descents and two lifts that provide access to around 3,000 feet in all of varied skiing terrain.
Lost Trail is in the Bitterroot Range of the northern Rockies, on the Montana and Idaho border. The name gives some indication of the snow conditions in this ski area, which is well-known for its consistently skiable conditions.
This is a family-friendly, affordable ski area in Montana that has avoided all traces of the corporate ski world with its locally-owned family operation which has been in operation for 80-odd years.
The ski area has more than 60 marked trails and 5 double chair lifts, with elevations up to 8,000 feet and vertical drops going on for 2,000 feet. Come prepared!
Fifty miles west of Dillon, just off the Pioneer Mountain Scenic Byway, you can find the fairly sizable Maverick Mountain. It is tucked away in the southwest mountain regions in Grasshopper Valley, and offers some of the least-populated trails you are likely to find.
The resort claims to be one of Montana’s best-kept secrets for skiers and certainly offers plenty of opportunities for snow-lovers to find some untouched powder. The mountain is 2,000 feet of prime snow and uncrowded trails, offering great opportunities for all levels across 425 acres and 24 trails.
This is another Montana Ski Area that likes to try and keep that grass-roots vibe and avoid anything overly commercial, which adds to the appeal of the place no end.
15. Moonlight Basin
Moonlight Basin is located around an hour to the south of Bozeman in Big Sky, and the vast ski area of 5.5 acres has developed its reputation as a top-notch skiing resort since opening in 2003.
Nestled into an ideal Rocky Mountain location across the Madison range, Moonlight Basin’s elevation over 10,000 feet means the snow stays for longer, but there is less chance of encountering crowded slopes.
The terrain features a variety of moderate trails and groomed stretches alongside adrenaline-fuelled chutes. With a high-speed, six-passenger chairlift, you won’t be hanging around here for too long either.
Teton Pass Ski Area is close to the Bob Marshall Wilderness Area, just west of Choteau. Everything you might wish for from a Montana Ski Area is here, including impressive views, diverse terrain, and untouched snow on the many ski hills.
The resort covers 400 acres and has more than 40 downhill runs as well as access to backcountry skiing. To add to that you’ll find queue-free lift lines and friendly staff, as well as a large day lodge, a ski school, and a rental shop.
Just over 20 miles from the incredibly scenic town of Libby, this is another Montana ski area run by local volunteers that has all the snow conditions you could hope to find.
We are talking expansive, wide-open, and crowd-free slopes, picture-book scenery, and inexpensive lift tickets. There are 20 runs with two-thirds of them being rated advanced level, with around 10% of the terrain allocated for beginners.
Turner Mountain stands close to 6,000 feet and the resort has a recently-built lodge and a rental shop. On top of that, you’ll find a friendly, local vibe that always adds to any experience.
The Yellowstone Club Ski Resort is located in Madison County near Big Sky and actually makes up part of a private complex comprising a residential club, the ski resort, and a golf resort.
This is an exclusive lifestyle estate that has previously been rated in the world’s top ten. As far as skiing goes, there are about 50 miles of slopes and 12 miles of ski runs, with no less than 20 lifts. The elevations of the skiing terrain are between about 6,000 and 9,800 m. The skiing here is seasonal between November and April.
A Brief History of Skiing in Montana
Reports of early skiers using one crude wooden pole to navigate the Montana slopes date back to the mid-1800s. When groups of like-minded people became a bit more organized they started to gravitate towards certain slopes and hills that became the first ski areas in Montana, although there was nothing commercial about them back then.
Showdown Mountain is reportedly the oldest ski area in the state, first being recognized as such in 1936 albeit under a different name to begin with.
Soon after that in 1937, Otto Lang, who was one of the sport’s well-known early protagonists, founded the first ski school at Mount Rainier. Other ski-related events started to follow, such as the first ‘official’ ski race, which occurred in Montana’s Rimini in 1938.
Another milestone in Montana’s skiing history came with the grand opening of Big Mountain in 1948, and almost 70 years later the top-notch Whitefish Ski Resort is ranked as one of the best in the world.
Soon after its opening other ski areas and resorts in Montana started to take proper shape — and the rest is history, as they say. So let’s have a deeper delve into some of Montana’s best ski areas & resorts.
Montana Ski Resort Map
Limitation is not part of the equation when you look at the quality of ski areas and resorts in Montana. Adventure knows no bounds on these slopes and landscapes, which is why they remain renowned skiing destinations for tourists from around the world.
If you are seeking a downhill, vertical adrenaline rush or just want to get started at your own pace amidst some of the most picturesque scenery in the world, you are in the right place in Montana.
There is something for every level in Montana’s ski areas – just make sure to schedule well in advance if you are planning your next trip!