Pros: Great ungroomed wild terrain, outstanding tree skiing, and gladed runs
Cons: Relatively little beginner terrain, slow lifts
Snowbowl is a family run mountain, and it is not unusual to see the owner Brad Morris on the slopes, behind the skis school desk, and he was even teaching lessons for a while there. This is not the place to go if you like the luxury resort experience. However if you like the warm "homey" feeling that goes with a small mom and pop operation, the people of Snowbowl's staff won't disappoint. You will not have your ticket scanned, but the smiling ticket checker will ask you once to see it.
I began skiing Montana Snowbowl seven years ago, and since then I've logged well over five hundred days there; I have a hard time justifying going anywhere else. Snowbowl is an exceptional area for advanced skiers. The terrain is steep and wild, and the vertical drop is considerable. Fluted bowls, and large areas of forested acreage, with little undergrowth, make for endless enjoyment, and little incentive to leave.
Snowbowl has some outstanding tree skiing, which hides the treasures of untracked powder for those with the skills to seek it. Snowbowl has been working in the past couple years at thinning and glading some of this, to make it all the more impressive.
All the terrain is accessible by the two fixed-grip, double chair, lifts. The Grizzly rises from the base area 2000 vertical feet. From the top of the Grizzly one can then go on, by use of the easy Time Out/ Cat Walk to the LaVelle double chair which rises 1000 vertical feet to the top of the mountain. From the top, all of Snowbowl's Terrain is accessible, including the more family oriented terrain of the LaVelle lift, the "Bowls", and one can ski back down to the top of the Grizzly chair to access all of its terrain.
If one counts the "runs" (that is, designated by difficulty ratings) on the map, there are 42 runs, which are 17% Easiest, 38% More Difficult, and 45% most difficult. However, since most of the terrain is unnamed and unrated, this leaves much of the story untold, as the area that would be rated as Most Difficult is at least 65% of the acreage. This is not a good beginners mountain. It IS a mountain that breeds good skiers.
The food at "The Bowl" is relatively inexpensive, and of good quality. The Last Run Inn features a full bar and a stone pizza oven, which is the source of some of the best pizza I've had the pleasure to eat, made to order, or by the slice. A variety of bone warming soups are consistently excellent and hearty. The Snowbowl Lodge offers belly filling breakfast burritos in the morning as well as burgers and fries for lunch.
The slopeside lodging is no frills, but inexpensive. For those that prefer to bring their own groceries there are kitchen facilities, and the entire hotel can be rented out for under $700 per day!
So if you are a good skier, and weary of the impersonal, big resort experience, Snowbowl might be just the ticket.