The 8 Best Ski Resorts in Montana

The 8 Best Ski Resorts in Montana
Karl Sander
Written by Karl Sander / Photos by Jack Lee
Last updated September 8, 2020
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Home of the northern Rocky Mountains, Montana offers excellent snow and seemingly endless terrain. It doesn’t always get the same exposure that other western states do, but the friendly locals don’t mind since that often means lower prices and smaller crowds. Here are our top 8 resorts!

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Known for

Vast terrain and uncrowded slopes at one of North America’s largest resorts

Highlights

  • Massive amount of terrain and vertical
  • A wide array of slope-side accommodation
  • Uncrowded
  • Relatively quiet après scene

Closest airports

Bozeman Yellowstone Intl. Airport - 52 mi (1 hour drive)
The second largest resort in the US!

An hour south of Bozeman and two hours north of Yellowstone National Park, Big Sky features more than 5,800 ac of terrain and a 4,300 ft vertical drop. That makes it the second-largest resort in the U.S. behind Park City, and second in vertical behind only Snowmass. More than 30 lifts, many of them high-speed, whisk skiers to more than 300 runs on three mountains. Terrain ranges from beginner slopes and relaxed groomers to exhilarating chutes and expansive bowls. Despite its size, Big Sky doesn’t see near the number of visitors as other resorts, so you probably won’t have to worry about lift lines and crowded trails!

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Known for

World-class skiing with the intimate feel of a locals’ hill

Highlights

  • Great variety of terrain
  • Excellent snow
  • Incredible views on clear days
  • Prone to challenging light conditions and limited visibility

Closest airports

Glacier Park Intl. Airport - 19 mi (30 minute drive)
Ski with incredible views of Whitefish Lake

Perched atop northwest Montana’s Big Mountain, Whitefish Mountain Resort offers more than 3,000 ac and over 2,000 ft of vertical. Low light and limited visibility can be a problem when storms roll in, but those storms bring about 25 ft of snow annually. And on clear days, you can take in spectacular scenery from the summit that includes Glacier National Park and Whitefish Lake. The base area features a variety of dining and lodging options, and the town of Whitefish itself is only 7 mi away. Whitefish is served by regularly scheduled passenger trains, and Glacier Park International Airport is only 30 minutes away.

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Known for

A real locals’ mountain with extreme inbounds terrain

Highlights

  • Legendary expert terrain
  • Excellent ski and snowboard school with great beginner slopes
  • Great value
  • No lodging at the mountain

Closest airports

Bozeman Yellowstone Intl. Airport - 25 mi (30 minute drive)
Locals love the resort's laid-back vibe

While not as large as Big Sky or Whitefish, with more than 2,000 ac of skiable terrain and 2,700 ft of vertical, Bridger Bowl still offers plenty to explore. A mere 30 minutes outside of Bozeman, it’s popular with locals and college students with the laid-back atmosphere to match. Although known for its extreme terrain (one chairlift requires an avalanche beacon just to ride up!), like any good locals’ hill Bridger Bowl also features excellent beginner terrain and great instructional programs. Although there are no on-mountain accommodations, winter’s actually the off-season in the Yellowstone area, so there should be good lodging bargains to be found in nearby Bozeman.

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Known for

An excellent choice for intermediate and advanced skiers and riders

Highlights

  • Big mountain terrain
  • Relaxed atmosphere
  • Close to one of Montana’s biggest cities
  • Limited lifts

Closest airports

Missoula Intl. Airport - 12 mi (25 minute drive)
Ideal terrain for intermediate to advanced skiers 

Less than a half-hour from Missoula, one of the largest cities in the state, Montana Snowbowl might initially seem relatively small at 950 ac of skiable terrain. But the resort offers 2,600 ft of vertical and trails as long as three miles. With only two chairs and two surface lifts as well as very limited beginners’ terrain, Snowbowl is better suited to intermediate and advanced/expert skiers. Some of the terrain requires extra effort to reach, but if you’re up to it you’ll likely have the run to yourself and may well find powder days after the latest dump.

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Known for

Terrific in-bound steeps, reliable snow, and a wilderness setting

Highlights

  • Some of Montana’s best terrain
  • Consistent snowfall
  • Inexpensive
  • Limited amenities

Closest airports

Missoula Intl. Airport - 98 mi (1.5 hour drive)
With two faces of the mountain, there's terrain for everyone (Photo credit: Discovery Ski Area)

Located between Missoula and Butte, family-owned and operated Discovery offers 2,200 ac of terrain on three faces. There’s something for everyone on the front two faces and an expert’s paradise on the other side, with some of the best lift-served steeps you’ll find. Thanks to its location next to a designated wilderness area, you can enjoy a backcountry feel without having to duck any ropes! Meanwhile, its beginner runs are favorites for families across the state. There’s no lodging, and dining and après are limited to the base lodge, but loyal regulars like it that way as the mountain retains an old-school relaxed, uncrowded and inexpensive atmosphere.

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Known for

Family-focused ski-area with extensive beginner and intermediate terrain

Highlights

  • Friendly staff and excellent service
  • Light, dry snow
  • Amazing views from the mountaintop lodge
  • Limited expert terrain

Closest airports

Glacier Park Intl. Airport - 38 mi (1 hour drive)
Enjoy amazing views from the mountain top (Photo credit: Blacktail)

Blacktail is a relatively new ski area overlooking Flathead Lake, 28 mi from Kalispell. It offers just over 1,000 ac and with the lodge at the top of the mountain, everyone can take in the panoramic view. The area caters to families, with extensive intermediate terrain, well-groomed beginner runs and an excellent ski school. Although 20% of the terrain is rated for experts, it’s generally suitable for advanced intermediates. Seasoned shredders used to more challenging terrain might be underwhelmed, though there are some glades for excellent tree skiing.

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Known for

Skiing how it used to be in an authentic Montana setting

Highlights

  • Zero lift lines
  • Good variety of terrain
  • Quaint, historical town
  • Dated, slow lifts (but you might need the rest!)

Closest airports

Billings Logan Intl. Airport - 69 mi (1.5 hour drive)
Enjoy quieter slopes (Photo credit: Red Lodge)

In southern Montana 90 minutes from Billings, near the Wyoming state line and Yellowstone National Park, Red Lodge is one of Montana’s best-kept secrets. It’s not the biggest ski area in the state, but with 71 runs on nearly 1,650 ac of skiable terrain and 2,400 ft of vertical drop, there’s plenty to keep everyone busy. The town of Red Lodge, a few miles away, is an authentic old west town where you can walk in the footsteps of Buffalo Bill and Calamity Jane among modern shops and dining as well as historic saloons and hotels.

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Known for

A budget-friendly choice for families

Highlights

  • One of the lowest priced ski areas in the state
  • Multiple terrain parks
  • The longest season in the state
  • Small lodge with limited amenities

Closest airports

Helena Regional Airport - 25 mi (35 minute drive)
Missoula Intl. Airport - 137 mi (2.5 hour drive)
No shortage of snow at Great Divide! (Photo credit: Great Divide Ski Area)

Spanning the continental drive less than 30 mi from Helena, Great Divide has 140 trails on 1,600 acres of skiable terrain. Three mountain peaks offer long groomers (the longest stretching out to 3 mi), bowls and glades, a nice pod of beginner trails, and six trail parks. It’s one of the largest ski areas in the state, but it’s also one of the least expensive, which makes it an excellent choice for families. All of Montana’s ski areas rely on natural snow, but Great Divide augments it with the state’s most extensive snowmaking system, so it consistently opens earlier—and stays open later—than any other mountain in the Big Sky State.

The 8 Best Ski Resorts in Montana
Big Sky Resort
Whitefish Mountain Resort
Bridger Bowl
Montana Snowbowl
Discovery
Blacktail
Red Lodge Mountain
Great Divide Ski Area
Big Sky Resort