Hidden Montana ski gems for escaping the crowds and chasing the pow

In his iconic travelogue Travels with Charley, the famed American novelist John Steinbeck once wrote of Montana, “I’m in love with Montana. For other states I have admiration, respect, recognition, even some affection. But with Montana it is love. And it’s difficult to analyze love when you’re in it.”

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While Steinbeck might have struggled to grasp what precisely made him fall in love with the Treasure State, one visit to a Montana ski resort for an intrepid skier or snowboarder makes that infatuation easy to explain.

Montana is home to a plethora of affordable, under the radar resorts the masses tend to overlook that offer world-class terrain, old school charm and otherworldly views. Below is our guide to five of our favorites, but beware: Once you ride these places, you may never want to return to your home resort.

Bridger Bowl Ski Area: Bozeman

Montana Skiing
Wide open spaces and untouched pow are in heavy supply at Bridger. Photo: Andy Best

Located just 40 minutes away from the Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport and within the city limits of Bozeman, Bridger Bowl is a throwback to the early, simple days of skiing.

Operating as a nonprofit community entity, Bridger gleefully rebels against the growing commercialization of skiing and snowboarding, in favor of an inexpensive, down-to-earth mountain experience.

Single day lift tickets are only $57 for adults and season passes are a mere $780. But that value doesn’t mean Bridger skimps on terrain.

The resort features over 2,600 feet of vertical and 105 different marked runs across 2,000 skiable acres. And if you’re looking to push your limits, a 20-minute bootpack to the top of The Ridge offers some of the best chute skiing and powder fields anywhere in the U.S.

Red Lodge Mountain: Red Lodge

Montana Skiing
Rip groomers with nobody else in sight at Red Lodge. Photo: Andy Best (somebody)

Just 90 minutes south of Billings lies Red Lodge Mountain, an independently-owned ski resort which traces its roots back to the 1930s when the Silver Run Ski Club — one of the nation’s oldest ski clubs — would explore the mountains around the mining town of Red Mountain.

Eventually, the ski club set up a couple chair lifts in the 1960s and Red Lodge Mountain was born, and in the half century since its inception it hasn’t lost its old school charm.

It packs 2,400 square feet of vertical and over 1,600 skiable acres that you can access for only $55 a day.

And if you want to reconnect with its rugged Western past, visit in March to take in the National Skijoring Finals, where skiers are towed by galloping horses into jumps.

Discovery Basin Ski Area: Anaconda

Montana Skiing
Do you love charging unspoiled pillows? Of course you do. Photo: Tim Kemple

Located two hours southwest of Helena, Discovery Basin — or Disco, as its known by the locals — flies under the radar for most skiers across the country, meaning you won’t have to deal with annoying lift lines.

Disco features some of the most well-rounded terrain in Montana, with green, blue, black and double black runs available in equal measures.

The front face offers gentle winding runs perfect for beginners while the the backside of the mountain off the north-facing Limelight lift accesses some of the steepest terrain in all of Montana.

And like the other mountains on this list, Disco won’t break your bank: It only costs $46 for a full-day of riding throughout Disco’s 2,200 skiable acres.

Maverick Mountain: Polaris

Montana Skiing
This view will only cost you $36. That’s a steal. Photo: Courtesy of Adam Clark

In the remote reaches of Beaverhead National Forest in southwest Montana lies Maverick Mountain, which — as its name implies — is unlike most any other ski resort you’ll likely ever ride at.

About two hours south of Butte, Maverick is eccentric and caters to the skiers who really want to disconnect and get away from it all. The mountain only has two lifts (one double and a rope tow) which access 255 acres and 2,000 feet of vertical.

Lift tickets are only $36 for a full day, and for that price you get some of the best views in Montana.

Lost Trail Powder Mountain: Sula

Montana Skiing
Operating only Thursday-Sunday, Lost Trail oozes the charm of days past. Photo: Courtesy of Laura Lawson Visconti

Lost Trail, much like Maverick, marches to the beat of its own drum: The mountain is only open Thursday — Sunday every week, so the best time to hit the mountain is on Thursday after its had a few days to collect some snowfall.

Situated on the Idaho border of southwestern Montana (about two hours west of Butte), Lost Trail’s aversion to the glitzy resorts of modern times is noticeable in its layout: Tickets are only $42 for a full day of skiing, and it features five chairlifts — all of which are doubles — as well as three rope tows.

But its mom-and-pop vibe belies a stunning mountain that has some of the lightest snow in Montana, 1,800 feet of vertical and some of the least populated slopes you will ever find.

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