Winter fun in Western Montana-
Those who love to ski and snowmobile take heart! A few inches of snow in the valley of Missoula, usually means ‘powder’ in the mountains. Western Montana is blessed with several wonderful ski areas and some fantastic places to snowmobile. Within minutes of downtown Missoula is ‘Snowbowl Ski Area”. The ‘Bowl’ is one of The Most challenging ski areas you will ever see; or live to see. There are intermediate runs, which challenge the intermediate skier but for Expert Skiers, this is ‘The Place’ to Ski. With runs like ‘Heap Steep’, the ‘Spartan’ and ‘the Bowl’, that will get your blood rushing and heart-pounding. The top of the chair will show you a view of the entire Missoula Valley (all the way down south to the Bitterroot Valley). If you are up to ‘the challenge’ – then grab your ‘board’ or your ‘planks’ and head for ‘Snow Bowl’.
Another great ski area lies to the South of Missoula (down the Bitterroot Valley & south of Hamilton) – ‘Lost Trail Powder Mountain’. Like many of Western Montana’s ski areas, ‘Lost Trail’ is enough mountain to have a great time skiing, yet small enough to make you feel right at home. For the money, this is a great area for both young and old. This writer has watched it grow from a small log cabin lodge with outhouses to a very nice ‘family atmosphere’ lodge and nice runs.
If you head east from Missoula, you may want to stop and ski ‘Discovery Ski Basin’ yet another ‘family-oriented’ ski area with some great runs. Discovery is near Anaconda, in the scenic- Pintlar Mountain Range and near Georgetown Lake. Two chairlifts let you decide whether to stay with the kids or head on up the mountain for some challenging runs; another good value.
Just before you get to Butte, we invite you to head south, where you will find ‘Maverick Mountain’, a beautiful ski area located in the Pioneer Mountains of the Beaverhead National Forest, about 40 miles west of Dillon. This small ski area, with a balanced variety of ski trails from expert to beginner, is currently for sale by Stelling & Associates (see pic below). So if you have ever dreamed of owning your own ‘ski hill” – Maverick receives an average of over 200” annual snowfall, with fluffy light-powdered snow, and offers breathtaking panoramic views of unsurpassed mountain scenery. Combined with a comfortable lodge, Forest Service Lease, wonderful ski runs and an optimal fall line Maverick Mountain has produced a marvelous skier’s mountain. This isn’t glitz and glamour, movie stars and high-speed quads, but a warm and friendly lodge and ski area. It lies at the end of one of Montana’s oldest valleys; the closest town is Montana’s 1st Territorial Capitol, but now the ghost town of Bannack. If what you are really looking for, is your own escape from the unfriendly crowds of overrated slopes and a quality lifestyle that includes the essence of skiing, with the ability to make your own dream and watch it grow, then you had better consider this opportunity. There certainly aren’t many offerings like this- but then that is what makes it so special; and listed at a Bargain Price. Besides the downhill skiing at Maverick, miles of cross-country skiing and snowmobile trails begin at Elkhorn Hot Springs Resort, and the Grasshopper Inn, provide the quiet and very nice accommodations that make this the ultimate place to relax – only about 3 miles away.
Continuing east on I-90 to ‘just-before’ Bozeman, you may want to visit Montana’s true Destination Resort Ski Area – ‘Big Sky’. The first thing you will see as you near this amazing ski area is ‘Lone Peak’- it is majestic. The ‘Big Sky’ ski area was the brain-child of Chet Huntley and as ‘baby boomers & up’ will remember, he was the famous News Anchor of the remembered nightly ‘Goodnight David – Goodnight Chet’ news team. ‘Big Sky’ has Montana’s only (as far as we know) Gondola Lift (4-man). This is an excellent intermediate area and a wonderful beginner’s area. The runs are long and wide. But once you have moved up a few levels, there are some excellent difficult and challenging runs that will guarantee you don’t get bored. And one chair that heads up Lone Peak is a ‘no fall’ zone. Certainly a run not for the faint of heart but designed for only the most expert of skier. ‘Big Sky’ has condo’s to rent right at the foot of the Mountain or you can stay in the Lodge and enjoy fine dining as well. The ski lodge has many shops and bistros to visit, or sit out on the deck and watch the skiers ‘shoosh’ to the Gondola line, while you enjoy a hot cocoa and a sandwich. Changing direction again and going back to approximately 2 hours north of Missoula, at the small town of Lakeside (situated along the vast and beautiful Flathead Lake), is Blacktail Mountain Ski Area. This is a wonderful ‘family oriented’ ski area that is now in its eleventh year of providing wonderful ski memories for all ages. Another great Western Montana destination ski resort in this area is “Whitefish Mountain Resort” (formerly ‘The Big Mountain’). It is located north on Highway 93 (north of Missoula). This IS a Big Mountain to ski with runs for all levels of skiers and several chairs (including 4-man High Speed Quads) and a restaurant at the ‘top’ of the world (or so it seems) where you can see clear into Canada and the peaks of Glacier/Waterton National Park, all the way across Whitefish Lake and down the Flathead Valley. And the 2014-2015 will see some brand new runs on the backside. Wherever you are on this Big Mountain, the views are absolutely spectacular 360’ gorgeous. Don’t forget to watch for ‘Snow Ghosts’ while riding the ‘Big Chair’. These ‘Ghosts’ are actually trees that are so wind swept with snow that they seem to take on shapes that you can visualize (like seeing pictures in the clouds on a sunny day) some have looked like Winnie the Pooh, or dinosaurs – let your imagination run wild. This very large ski area has many amenities and it also caters to our friends from the north (Canada), and can be a very busy place, but it is a large enough mountain that it handles a lot of ski traffic. Don’t miss seeing the statue of Jesus (off the 2nd chair) arms open, overlooking the entire valley, and where Sunday services are often held. If you get a chance look for the ‘Big Drift’, a huge, deep gully, with an out-turned lip on the up-side. Daring (?) skiers take a run down this windblown and snow-shaped gully to try and make it up and over the back-turned lip on the other side. Makes for some ‘amusing’ viewing. At the base there is a lodge for ‘sack-lunchers’ or you can dine amid elegance. They also have outdoor ‘burgers & brew”. Book lodging in one of the many condo’s on the Mountain or stay in Whitefish or Kalispell. The ‘Mountain’ also has night skiing and you can see the lights beckoning to you from the towns of Whitefish & Kalispell on any clear, crisp evening. Whitefish Mountain Resort has got to be on your list of places to ski in Montana. Priced a bit higher than most Montana ski areas it offers ‘bunny hills’ to blue/black diamonds; this is a great place to ski.
We haven’t forgotten the Snowmobilers or the ‘Skinny Skiers’. Montana offers miles and miles of terrain for cross-country skiers, with the quiet, solitude you are looking for. And Snow Machines can let loose in such areas as Lost Trail Pass, Lookout Pass and our favorite Lolo Pass. Just 10 miles south of Missoula and West, up the beautiful Lolo Valley – you will pass (and you may want to stop at) the Lolo Hot Springs Resort. This natural Hot Springs is a true part of Montana History. Here is where Native Americans came to soak in the hot, medicinal waters. Lewis & Clark camped here and wrote of the springs in their Journals. Plan to bring your swimsuit and then stay to dine in the restaurant, (the RV park is open in the spring/summer). They offer summer and winter recreation packages. Just a few miles past the Hot Springs, at Lolo Pass, is where you can enjoy some excellent snowmobiling on groomed trails. So, whether your winter sport is Snowmobiling, Sledding or Skiing. From All of us here at Stelling & Assoc. Real Estate – Happy Trails! and we’ll See You on the slopes!