Ski Resorts - 13 min read

8 Best Ski Resorts in Montana (Challenging For All Levels)

Jeff Clemishaw

Jeff Clemishaw, Updated September 28, 2022

Disclosure: Town & Tourist may receive a commission for purchases made through links in this article, at no additional cost to you.

The vast expanse of the Rocky Mountain wilderness in Western Montana is home to some of the most extreme ski terrain in the United States.

From steep, tight chutes to densely packed glades, expert skiers and snowboarders will find Montana’s resorts unfathomable. Beginners and intermediates will also find their place at some of the most down-to-earth local resorts around.

With high average snowfall rates, Montana skiing is as good as it gets. Endless powder, local energy, and quiet backcountry solitude are what the state’s resorts are all about.

Visiting skiers can even extend their trip by exploring two of the largest National Parks in the country – Glacier and Yellowstone. Many of the resorts found on this list are located near these parks.

So, what are you waiting for? Wax your skis, sharpen your edges, and head over to “Big Sky Country.” Let’s check out 8 of the best ski resorts in Montana.

Best Beginner/Intermediate Ski Resorts in Montana

1. Lost Trail Powder Mountain

Credit: Wikimedia Commons / CaptainEek

Lost Trail Powder Mountain sits alongside the Montana/Idaho border in the sleepy, incredibly small town of Sula, MT. It rests atop the Bitterroot Mountain range at 7,000 feet of elevation in an area that earned its infamous name after Lewis and Clark “lost the trail” on their cross-continent expedition.

Lost Trail Powder Mountain has been family-owned and operated since its inception in 1938.  It is a family-friendly resort that emphasizes authentic and affordable skiing experiences rather than big, expensive, corporate ones.

While not as large as some other mega-resorts, Lost Trail Powder Mountain has a respectable amount of trails and a diversity of terrain sure to excite any skier or rider.

60% of the terrain is catered towards intermediates, but there are plenty of beginner-friendly green runs near the lodge that can be accessed via a rope tow.

Advanced skiers and riders will find joy in The White House area, where gate-accessed double-black diamond terrain is found and accessed via the Saddle Mountain chair. Here, skiers can drop in on numerous chutes or test their skills on steep and tightly packed ridge tree lines. They can also enjoy a leg-burning 2.5-mile run to challenge their endurance.

This resort is a destination on the Indy Pass and is unrestricted by any blackout days. Those looking for day tickets can purchase them for $53, an extremely respectable price. Visitors looking to travel multiple times per season can purchase the 10-day transferrable pass for a discounted $480.

Number of Trails: 50
Number of Lifts: 8
Vertical Feet: 1800 Feet
Avg. Annual Snowfall: 300 Inches
Terrain Parks: Yes

2. Blacktail Mountain

Credit: Shutterstock

Blacktail Mountain Ski Resort is a small, 1000-acre resort located in Northwestern Montana. It sits above the Western shore of Flathead Lake and overlooks it from the top of the mountain.

Blacktail is ranked as the #1 Beginner-Friendly ski resort in Montana due to its abundance of green and blue runs, as well as gentle slopes.

Two main sections break up the resort. Looker’s left on the map contains most of the resort’s black diamond runs that meet up further down the mountain with the main blue ones.

Between these runs lies ample glade skiing with endless opportunities to get lost in the trees. This section of the resort is accessed via the Thunderhead Double.

The looker’s right side of the resort contains a large selection of intermediate runs with advanced runs sprinkled in. Large open bowls that are dotted with trees make up most of these intermediate runs. The Crystal Double lift services this area.

Between these two sections lies the beginner’s area where skiers and riders will also find the freestyle terrain park to hone their tricks. Also found here are the bunny slope and rope tow for first-time visitors.

Adult day passes are available for only $50, and those looking for a season pass can pick one up for $450. With this season pass comes access to the powder alliance. This program allows pass holders free access to a sizeable list of other participating resorts.

If you’re seeking a wonderful place to learn to ski in Montana on your way to Glacier National Park, Blacktail Mountain is a prime choice.

Number of Trails: 35
Number of Lifts: 4
Vertical Feet: 1440 Feet
Avg. Annual Snowfall: 250 Inches
Terrain Parks: Yes

Related Read: 75 BEST Things To Do in Montana

3. Montana Snowbowl

Credit: Flickr / John Sieber

Montana Snowbowl is a small, vintage ski resort that opened in 1962 in Western Montana. It sits in the Lolo National Forest just 12 miles north of Missoula, MT, a relatively populated city. Despite its old-school operations and minimal 900-acre footprint, Montana Snowbowl offers some amazing skiing.

It has continuous 2,600 vertical runs from top to bottom. Novice and advanced skiers alike can enjoy the length of runs that Montana Snowbowl provides. While it is heavily known for its long steep runs that cater to experts, there is also a sizeable selection of beginner and intermediate trails.

Each of the resort’s three chairlifts provides access to green and blue runs, giving beginners diverse terrain access that isn’t found at other resorts. First-timers can easily access the bunny hill via the T bar found right at the base of the mountain.

Tree skiers will be thrilled at the massive quantity of glades available. 500 of the 900 acres found at the resort are designated glade areas.

Like other small Montana resorts, Montana Snowbowl is relatively inexpensive. $60 will get you an all-day adult ticket, but the resort also conveniently offers $5 beginner tow area tickets with the purchase of a lesson or rental.

Access to the resort is quite easy, with a quick exit off route 90 bringing you within miles of the mountain. Road access to the resort is just as primitive as its operations, with the main entrance road still being unpaved to this date.

Surprisingly, Montana Snowbowl offers lodging at the base of the resort despite being a smaller resort. There is also ample lodging in Missoula, just a 25-minute drive south.

Number of Trails: 42
Number of Lifts: 4
Vertical Feet: 2600 Feet
Avg. Annual Snowfall: 300 Inches
Terrain Parks: No

Best Expert Ski Resorts in Montana

4. Big Sky Resort

Credit: Shutterstock

When thinking of the best Montana Ski Resorts, Big Sky is one of the first to come to mind. As the second-largest ski resort in the United States, it has terrain for skiers and riders of all ability levels.

However, it especially caters to advanced skiers with 60% of the terrain designated for experts. Coupled with 4,350 vertical feet and an absolute pounding of annual snow, Big Sky is the optimum playground for expert skiers and snowboarders.

Big Sky’s 5,800 acres of terrain are separated by a large number of lifts. The resort’s most advanced terrain is found off the Lone Peak Tram, which brings skiers to the top of Lone Mountain’s peak. At over 11,000 feet, expert skiers can access a variety of death-defying terrain. This terrain includes triple black diamond chutes and gullies.

These trails require skiers to sign out with ski patrol as the area is not patrolled. If skiing in this area, you are also required to carry an avalanche beacon and bring a partner. Access to this terrain extends to the south-facing side of Lone Mountain, where skiers and riders will find expansive glades and open bowls.

Big Sky Resort also features 7 different terrain parks, each catering to a different ability level. Aspiring park riders can slowly progress their way up to bigger features, and eventually make it to Olympic and X Games size jumps and jibs.

Located just an hour south of Bozeman, MT, visitors have access to a larger city during their stay at Big Sky. The resort is a primary destination on the Ikon Pass, but adult lift tickets can also be purchased starting at $150.

Number of Trails: 300 Trails
Number of Lifts: 36
Vertical Feet: 4350 Feet
Avg. Annual Snowfall: 400 Inches
Terrain Parks: Yes

5. Red Lodge Mountain

Credit: Red Lodge Mountain / Facebook

Red Lodge Mountain is in the foothills of the Beartooth Mountains, just near Yellowstone National Park. It’s found just outside the town of Red Lodge, a laid-back ski town that takes a no-attitude approach to skiing and snowboarding. While not as large as Big Sky, Red Lodge is still a sizable resort spread across 1,635 acres.

Grizzly Peak and Nichols peak separate the resort into two sections. The top of Grizzly peak features most of the resort’s advanced, single black diamond runs. Down the mountain, the runs transition to intermediate blue runs, and a few beginners.

Tied into the lower portion of the mountain is a couple of terrain parks. These parks are not as extensive as larger resorts, but they still provide a variety of feature options for budding freestyle riders.

Nichols peak is highlighted by steep, double black diamond glade skiing. This is where the most advanced, expert terrain is located. Serviced by the Cole Creek chair lift, experienced skiers and riders can take endless laps on these runs. Far separated from the beginner areas of the resort, advanced riders will find quiet solitude in these parts.

For a medium to large-sized resort, Red Lodge has extremely affordable prices. Adults can receive a full-day ticket for just $60. This resort is also a destination on the Indy Pass. Passholders receive two free tickets to Red Lodge to use any time, black-out date dependent.

Number of Trails: 70
Number of Lifts: 7
Vertical Feet: 2400 Feet
Avg. Annual Snowfall: 250 Inches
Terrain Parks: Yes

6. Whitefish Resort

Credit: Shutterstock

Whitefish Mountain Resort is a remote ski resort found in the Rocky Mountains of Northwest Montana. It is located just West of Glacier National Park and is home to over 3,000 acres of skiable terrain.

This makes it another one of the largest ski resorts in the United States, and it is because of this that it has room for such advanced terrain. The resort is divided into three sections: Frontside, Northside, and Hellroaring.

The Frontside features most of the terrain, and it is here that you can find all difficulties of runs. The more advanced runs at the top of the mountain are accessed via the Big Mountain Express chair.

Popular beginner and intermediate sections are found towards the middle and bottom of the Frontside near the village. There’s a multitude of chairlifts to choose from to access this terrain. Multiple terrain parks are accessed via the Tenderfoot chair, located just west of the main village area.

The Northside is a smaller section of the resort found on the opposite side of the Summit House. It is primarily accessed via the Big Creek Express quad chair. This side of the mountain is mostly highlighted by intermedia blue runs.

A few advanced black diamond runs can be found off various intermediate runs or at the top of the chair. Only one beginner trail is located here, called Caribou, and it cuts through the middle.

All of the advanced and expert terrain at Whitefish is found in the Hellroaring area. Only accessible by hiking, skiers first take Chair 8 and immediately start their trek to the left. From the top of this ridge, expert skiers can drop in on various chutes or weave through tightly packed tree lines.

Adult tickets are slightly more expensive than some of the smaller resorts and are priced at $89. However, the large footprint of this resort makes that price a bargain compared to Big Sky.

Number of Trails: 105
Number of Lifts: 14
Vertical Feet: 2353 Feet
Avg. Annual Snowfall: 300 Inches
Terrain Parks: Yes

Related Read: 50 Most Beautiful Places in the US

7. Bridger Bowl Ski Area

Credit: Shutterstock

Bridger Bowl Ski Area is a non-profit ski area that began in 1955. It is located just 16 miles from Bozeman, MT, where visitors can find ample lodging and out-of-state flights.

Steep, expert terrain along the ridge is a distinguishing feature of Bridger Bowl. This terrain is incredibly avalanche-prone, even with the mitigation measures put in place by the ski patrol.

Beginners shouldn’t be completely dismayed by the abundance of expert terrain. There is a large green run section found at the base of the mountain near the village. Two lifts – Sunnyside and Virginia city -give access to these runs.

Intermediates can progress higher up the mountain via four different triple chairs. Here, they can access the North and South bowl which is predominantly made up of blue runs.

Most of the advanced terrain located along the ridge requires hiking, as lift access is limited. If this isn’t a problem, expert skiers and riders will find some of the most treacherous and thrilling lines in the country.

By hiking to “The Ridge”, a variety of steeps and natural features can be found. Although in-bounds, it is still highly recommended to carry avalanche gear as the mountain face’s snowpack can easily splinter after heavy snowfall.

Tickets begin at $70 online, but various multi-day packages are available at a sizable discount.

Number of Trails: 75
Number of Lifts: 11
Vertical Feet: 2600 Feet
Avg. Annual Snowfall: 300 Inches
Terrain Parks: Yes

8. Great Divide

Credit: Great Divide / Facebook

Great Divide lies right on top of the continental divide, just Northwest of Helena, MT. Situated in the town of Maryville, this resort is almost always the first ski resort to open in Montana every year.

Furthermore, they also receive the most sunny days out of any other Montana resort. However, they also receive relatively little snowfall when compared to other locations.

Rawhide Gulch, Mt. Belmont, and Wild West separate Great Divide into three regions. Mt. Belmont is accessed top to bottom via Chair 1, and it is from here that skiers primarily reach the rest of the mountain.

Most of the intermediate runs are found in the Wild West area. This area has its own dedicated lift once skiers and riders get over there. Skiers will enjoy a variety of narrow blues intertwined with steep black bowls that are peppered with trees.

The most advanced terrain is accessed in Rawhide Gulch. Skiers must first take Chair 1 to the top of the mountain. Once they reach the bottom of Rawhide, they must take Chair 4 back over to Chair 1 again. This can make skiing in this terrain inconvenient.

However, if you have the time, you’ll greatly enjoy the challenging runs far away from any other skiers. Wide open bowls and a variety of chutes to barrel through highlight this section of the resort.

For a small resort, lift tickets are standardly priced at $59. Great Divide also offers under the lights Friday night skiing for just $12! This is a great bargain for those looking to rip up the terrain parks after school or work.

Number of Trails: 107
Number of Lifts: 6
Vertical Feet: 1500 Feet
Avg. Annual Snowfall: 180 Inches
Terrain Parks: Yes

Recommended for you

Travel smarter

Join the thousands of travel enthusiasts who are part of our T&T community.