by Angie Ripple
For me skiing began before I could talk—on the back of my father, cross-country skiing through the wilderness of Montana. It took until I was sixteen to meet a friend excited enough about downhill skiing to volunteer to teach me. Her home mountain was Lost Trail. The night before our trek to LT she took me to the home of some friends and fellow schoolmates - the Bergousts - to find some skis and boots that would fit me. At the Bergousts, I saw a trampoline; I was told that the boys often used it to practice their ski flips and tricks. Their practice paid off; in 1998 Eric Bergoust won a gold medal in Aerials at the Winter Olympics is Nagano, Japan. He went on to compete in aerials at the next three successive Winter Olympics. I’m not totally certain, but I very well may have skied my first downhill experience on the skis of a future gold medalist! I have never attempted any flips on snow, but I have enjoyed many Montana mountains. Here are my two cents on a few, hopefully you will take away some inspiration for you next ski trip.
Bozemanites get an earful about our closest ski area, Bridger Bowl. I’ll let you in on a secret, it’s as good as you’ve heard. Just 16 miles from downtown Bozeman, Bridger has great runs for beginners to get their legs under them, as well as the best for the best. BB’s cold smoke powder is world renowned and its proximity to town makes it a must ski. Some of my favorite runs include Crazy Woman, Buck’s Run, and Powder Hog. Adult day lift tickets are $63. Since you’ll probably get hooked you may just want to jump on a 10 time pass only sold through December 24th, so you can ski any 10 days of the season for $510. Skiing at Bridger will start early this season at Bridger, with Double Bonus Weekends Nov. 23 - 25 & Nov. 30 - Dec 2 (Friday - Sunday). Operating all lifts except Snowflake and Flurry at regular season prices. The Jim Bridger Lodge and the Deer Park Chalet will offer full service.
Big Sky Resort on its own can take a lifetime to explore, it’s longest run is 6 miles which could just take you all day. Just about an hour from downtown Bozeman, Big Sky requires a visit in every season, but winter is by far the busiest and most exhilarating. The popular run Mr K can keep any beginner or groomer skier happy all day if necessary. Advance beyond to the Challenger chair and next to the Tram, which will give you a great view of Madison County and beyond plus some super tough terrain to explore. Big Sky Resort offers winter recreation for non-skiers as well including zip lining and snowshoeing, plus a good variety of restaurants and shopping opportunities. Spend the night at the Huntley Lodge, named after Montana native, and NBC news anchor Chet Huntley, who brought the resort to fruition in the 1970s. Some locals give Big Sky a bad rap, don’t believe the hype, check it out for yourself. Big Sky opens yearly on Thanksgiving day!
A resort within a resort, Moonlight Basin has been a part of Big Sky Resort since 2013 Moonlight but is often our forgotten local mountain. During Moonlight’s second season I worked weekends parking cars, giving out maps, hand warmers, and directions to its skiers. Moonlight’s long runs, bountiful trees and steeps make it a favorite with many Bozemanites. Prepare for a cold day when skiing Moonlight, much of the mountain is north facing giving skiers a unique, and often chilly, perspective on big mountain terrain. Prices vary check bigskyresort.com for details.
If you’ve been there and done that it’s time for a road trip to a new mountain and Discovery Basin should be on your list. About 25 miles outside Anaconda, MT, 130 miles west of Bozeman, Discovery is a fun mountain with a little for everyone. The front side of the mountain is great for beginners and intermediate skiers with rolling runs with jumps and kickers just off the groomers. The back side of the mountain is steep and hopefully deep, although it can be icy. Make your trip super enjoyable with a ski & stay package at Fairmont Hot Springs, or one of Discovery’s other six lodging partners. Adult lift tickets are $46/day this season, see www.skidiscovery.com for more info.
Since Red Lodge Mountain is still on my ski trip bucket list I had to talk to a couple of friends to get the lowdown. 145 miles east of Bozeman Red Lodge Mountain is a real ski area, with few amenities, but lots of great terrain. Its a small mountain that is never crowded, with friendly folks all around. It’s shorter runs are immaculately groomed, and when its cold enough the snow making machines are working hard to cover the mountain. If you are looking for some throwback charm this ski season Red Lodge is the spot. Regular season lift tickets are $67/day for adults, December 21-Jan 1 they run $77/day, kids over 5 are $28. See ya soon Red Lodge.
If you have time for a long scenic drive to the north, Whitefish Mountain Resort is a great winter ski destination. Formerly, and forever with many, known as The Big Mountain this place is a ton of fun. It is likely to take you at least 6 hours to get there, a very pretty, albeit long, drive. I grew up about 2 hours from the Big Mountain and have only skied it a few times, but wish it were more. Inversions are frequent, and can give an otherworldly or on top of the world feel to your time on the mountain. Pray for a bluebird day to enjoy the views, the vast terrain, snow ghosts and more. Full day adult lift tickets are $81/day or $74/day for 2 days, if you going to drive that far you might as well get two days of skiing in. Ski & stay packages, on mountain lodging as well as many options in and around Whitefish exist. Safe travels. #skithefish
Honorable mentions for your ski MT adventures are everybody else: Bear Paw Ski Bowl, Blacktail Mountain, Great Divide, Lost Trail Powder Mountain, Maverick Mountain, Teton Pass, Turner Mountain, Lookout Pass Ski and Recreation Area, Montana Snowbowl, and Showdown Montana.