We’ve all had those experiences in the mountains that make us incredibly happy to be alive. And if you haven’t, there is no better time than now to get out there and see what we are talking about. Compared to the Swiss Alps or far-off peaks in BC, Montana offers world renowned skiing in our very own backyard. Even as a coastal kid I can remember my first trip to Montana, which happened to change my perspective on life from that point forward. From this point of view, we view Montana as a destination that can truly offer a small town experience in the company of big mountains and deep powder. The mom-and-pop ski resorts here are the way to go when peak season crowds are simply unbearable at the major resorts. Imagine a trip defined by local culture, front row parking, short lift lines and minimal screaming children. Yeah, that sounds good to me!. And even if you don’t have an interest in skiing, there is still plenty of adventure to be had from the peaks of these mountains. In the spirit of authenticity, here are a 5 of under-the-radar Montana ski lodges that offer a truly memorable winter vacation experience:
1. RED LODGE MOUNTAIN
Situated along the eastern front of the Beartooth Mountain Range, this independently-owned mountain setting rivals mainstream resorts, but its skiing reminds visitors why they fell in love with the sport in the first place. Every March, the sleepy mining town comes alive during the National Ski Joring Finals when horses tow cowboys and cowgirls on skis over jumps at a full gallop.
2. BRIDGER BOWL
Bridger is one of the few remaining community-owned ski areas in the country, existing simply for those who want to shred. While beginner and intermediate slopes dominate the lower mountain, Bridger’s hike-to terrain along the famed Ridge is where stars like Scot Schmidt got their start. Rehash your on- or off-piste adventures alongside silver-haired locals and college-aged ski bums at the Grizz, a Bridger mainstay.
3. DISCOVERY BASIN SKI AREA
Disco, as the locals call it, packs a punch. Front side slopes feature family-friendly cruisers and stunning views of the Pintler Mountains. If you’re jonesing for steep chutes and untouched snow the mountain’s backside offers up heart-pumping vertical without the attitude. After filling your powder quota on the north-facing Bad Finger, try out the trail’s namesake beer at nearby Philipsburg Brewing Company.
4. MAVERICK MOUNTAIN
Maverick, as its name implies, is just that, an eccentric little ski area just off the beaten path. One of Montana’s hidden gems, this mom-and-pop mountain is home to one chairlift and 2,000 feet of uncrowded vert. After a day of top-to-bottom runs, stop by the nearby Jackson or Elkhorn Hot Springs. These restorative waters will rejuvenate riders, prepping them for the last stop on this powder-filled tour.
5. LOST TRAIL POWDER MOUNTAIN
Savvy locals take advantage of Lost Trail’s “Powder Thursdays,” when the lifts start turning again after a midweek closure. Tucked away at the far end of the Bitterroot Valley, Lost Trail offers all the stoke without the rat race, and skiers are more likely to figure eight their own tracks