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Lesser known Montana areas

post #1 of 18
Thread Starter 
Hello,

I'm kicking around a road trip from Whitefish to Big Sky over xmas with some stops at some lesser known MT areas. I've skied whitefish, snowbowl, and have a condo at Big Sky - but can't use the condo until Jan. 2nd - which is why I'm trying to fill out the rest of the holiday break. Plus, I always like checking out some different areas. My family had a great New Year's weekend at BC's Red & Whitewater last season - our first trip there.

It seems Discovery Basin is most recommended for what I'm after. How about some others? Turner Mtn? Blacktail? A bit out of the way for me, but Lost trail? I hadn't even heard of Tuner & Blacktail until checking a MT ski website. Lower cost lift tickets such as available at those areas would be nice for a change.

Any feedback from those with experience at these MT areas is appreciated. I am an advanced/expert skier with a preference for non-groomers, wife is intermediate groomers only, and we have 2 boys that will ski some tough stuff with dad, but also like the jumps in terrain parks.

Bottom line, I'm trying to decide if I should spend more time at Whitefish before hitting Bridger/Big Sky/MLB, or should I only do a day at Whitefish to allow exploring some different ski areas.
post #2 of 18
Absolutely do not miss Montana Snowbowl in Missoula. It generally does not make the mass Montana areas advertising, but it is an excellent mountain. Only a couple of lifts, but they provide access to good vertical and lots of great on-area terrain. Don't expect much in the way of grooming, although they have some, but if you've got the game the Bowl will challenge you top to bottom. I bet that Volantaddict would be willing to give you the local tour, or at least tips on how to ski it. Definitely worth a stop for a day on the way from Big Mt. to Bridger and Big Sky. It's like a trip back in time to when skiing was what mattered most, but then most of Montana is like that.
post #3 of 18

Trip

Lonepeak, where is Silverdale Wa and what are your intents on driving over or what way do you usually come.
post #4 of 18
Missoula Snow Bowl, Lost Trail, Discovery Basin, and Maverick Mountain would make a nice ski safari for the family that seeks a little retro ski action.
post #5 of 18

check their schedules

Check their schedules:
Turner and Maverick aren't open everyday of the week.
Snowbowl might not be open on Christmas or New years day.
post #6 of 18
He said he's skied the Bowl before, Mudfoot.

Lonepeak, given what you've said about your skiing preferences, I expect you'd like Turner. I'm told by my cronies, that they don't groom, and the terrain is on par with Snowbowl, but there is no terrain park to my knowledge. Turner is skiing in the raw, but with a lift, I think it's only open three days a week.

Blacktail is a "family" mountain with intermediate terrain. They might have a park, but I'm not sure on that either.

If you come to Snowbowl, I can show you some of the better terrain that you probably didn't ski before, if you don't mind skiing trees, which is really what The Bowl is all about. I'll be out of town for Christmas but I'll be up there on the 27th all day, and also have Jan. 1st off from work. There's no terrain park though.

Lost Trail gets the most average snowfall in western MT, but the terrain is mostly weak.

Discovery does have great terrain, but is unlikely to have enough snow for the steeps to be open that early on.
post #7 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by NordtheBarbarian View Post
Check their schedules:
Turner and Maverick aren't open everyday of the week.
Snowbowl might not be open on Christmas or New years day.
Snowbowl will be closed Christmas Day, but certainly open Christmas Eve and on New Years.
post #8 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by volantaddict View Post
He said he's skied the Bowl before, Mudfoot.
Sorry, apparently when I start thinking about skiing Snowbowl my mind clouds over, which pretty much says it all about the place. Whitefish can be fun, but with the regular fog and flatter terrain at Big Mt. I think the Bowl provides better skiing for an expert, especially with a local guide, but obviously lonepeak already has an opinion since he's skied both places.
post #9 of 18
I have skied most of the ski areas in Montana, and every one has been a trip. For instance, there's a unique place called Bear Paw near Havre, which is owned by the Rocky Boy Tribe and run by the Havre Ski Club volunteers. When I was there the groomer was a DC Cat pulling a barb wire gate behind. Not exactly corduroy. People went behind the lodge to find a log stump to drag in for seating during their lunch. The first one there in the morning screwed in the light bulb, last one leaving at night took it with them. The lift, a Riblet retired after forty years of service at Mt. Spokane, spits the riders out onto a hairpin turn padded with hay bales. The cutting of trees in the Bowl was truncated by the Rocky Boy Tribe's determination that the Bowl was a sacred burial place. The terrain is nothing special, but the preparation makes it a thrill ride. Needless to say, the liift ticket is cheap. Bring your lunch and a few kleenex for your girl to use in the biffy.
post #10 of 18
Thread Starter 
Some Retro ski action...that's a good way of putting it. I actually have some hotels reserved around salt lake city right now, but since I realized we can squeeze a few days in at big sky before the kids go back to school, I'm shifting to MT only. Also, I don't want to be standing in lift lines which I'm guessing is the case for UT over the holiday.

Silverdale is an hour ferry ride west of Seattle (or an hour drive around the puget sound). I'm guessing we would drive from home through spokane to our first stop in a day - either direct to Whitefish or stopping short for a visit to Turner.

I guess I should point out I haven't skied Snowbowl since ~ 1983. I was thinking it would be a bit busy over the holiday break with Missoulan's. If that's not the case, route-wise it would make sense to spend a day there.

I mentioned I'm advanced/expert but don't call myself a true expert since I just don't have the legs to do tough stuff all day long. A good mix of terrain works best with wife and kids, and onset of exhaustion. Red's backside had some perfect runs for the family - my wife skied the goomers while I ducked into the trees on the edges for some powder. Ditto at Whitewater. Ok...maybe I'm asking for too much, but that's kind of what I'm after. 2 years ago in March I had a couple of sweet days at Big Mtn...I mean Whitefish. That little T-bar opened up on day 2 (Saturday) with sunshine and powder. We must have done 6 laps on it. Bottom line, we don't need a huge amount of terrain or tough stuff to have fun.

Big Mt - agree on fog problems. So, other W. Montana areas aren't as prone to fog when BM is socked in??? I've had the same weather at Schwietzer (rode the chair with a guy that said schwietzer is german for "fog"...).

I was thinking over a holiday the areas would be open every day, but guess that may not be the case for the real off-the-beaten path places like Turner. I will definitly confirm things are open before setting out.
post #11 of 18

Trip

Lonepeak, if you're coming across 90 and into Spokane how about Silver MT. IN Kellogg Id, then over the hill to Snowbowl, then up to Whitefish.

If I am around I would be glad to act as guide for Silver. Plenty of off piste and good powder skiing, lots of groomed intermediate stuff, park, trees etc.

Kellogg is 3 1/2 hrs from Whitefish and about 1 hr 45 to Snowbowl. Or, you could reverse since going to Big Sky; Spokane to Silver l hr 10 min, to Whitefish 3 1/2 from Kellogg, hit Snowbowl coming down to Big Ski and then just continue on the Big Sky for your time there.
post #12 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by mudfoot View Post
Sorry, apparently when I start thinking about skiing Snowbowl my mind clouds over, which pretty much says it all about the place.
You really need to come home for a visit, West Bowl beckons.


post #13 of 18
VA:

Damn that looks good! Step around the back of the warming hut, lean froward, and you've got sweet steep fall line sking top to bottom. I ski at a lot of mountains and it never ceases to amaze me how much great skiing Snowbowl has from just two lifts. Everything you see in the picture and all the way around to where you were standing when you took it skis from the same point at the top.

I have a picture in my office of me napping in the sun in a snow pit next to the shack at the top that was accidently supperimposed over a shot of the cliffs taken from the top of the main chair. It looks like I'm dreaming of the skiing the Bowl and is a constant reminder of what I'm missing.

Sincerly hope I get to make some turns there with you this year. Thanks for the photo.
post #14 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by Pete No. Idaho View Post
Lonepeak, if you're coming across 90 and into Spokane how about Silver MT. IN Kellogg Id, then over the hill to Snowbowl, then up to Whitefish.

If I am around I would be glad to act as guide for Silver. Plenty of off piste and good powder skiing, lots of groomed intermediate stuff, park, trees etc.

Kellogg is 3 1/2 hrs from Whitefish and about 1 hr 45 to Snowbowl. Or, you could reverse since going to Big Sky; Spokane to Silver l hr 10 min, to Whitefish 3 1/2 from Kellogg, hit Snowbowl coming down to Big Ski and then just continue on the Big Sky for your time there.
And, if you get to Whitefish, let me know.
post #15 of 18
Depending on the weather I would hesitate taking a detour up through Libby to ski Turner. Personally I would stick to the I-90 corridor hitting the numerous resort along the way. Here's a list of the resorts I'd consider skiing:

Silver Mountain, Kellogg, Idaho

Pluses:
  • Right off the freeway.
  • Good variety of terrain.
  • No crowds most of the time.
  • The gondola from Kellogg to the mountain is really different.
Minuses:
  • None I can think of if your criteria is small, off-beat resorts. (Some Montanans think the snow is heavy but you'll think its great compared to what you're used to encountering.)
Lookout Pass, Idaho/Montana Border

Pluses:
  • Right off the freeway.
  • No crowds especially on weekdays.
  • Closed Tuesdays and Wednesday (except around the holidays) which can make for epic powder days on Thursdays.
  • Huge powder dumps
  • Cheap tickets.
Minuses:
  • Small, especially if you're limited to groomed terrain.
  • Storms gather on pass so you might not want to stop there
  • Closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
Montana Ski Bowl, Missoula, Montana

Pluses:
  • 30 minutes from I-90
  • Lots of steep terrain
  • VolantAddict skis there
Minuses:
  • Access road is legendary for being difficult and dangerous
  • Not known for its intermediate and beginner terrain
  • VolantAddict skis there
Discovery Ski Area, Phillipsburg, Montana

Pluses:
  • One hour out of way off I-90 (Take the Drummond exit and get back on I-90 in Anaconda)
  • Good variety of terrain for all levels
  • No crowds during week and relatively little on weekends
  • Over 15 true double diamond runs off the Limelight chair, some of the best expert skiing in Montana
  • Good burgers
  • Be sure to stop in Phillipsburg at the largest old-fashion candy store in Montana
Minuses:
  • Steep terrain requires lots of snow (I won't go there unless they are reporting 60" or more) to cover rocks which they don't get some years and rarely by Xmas
  • Granite chair faces SW and slushes out during warm winters
Bridger Bowl, Bozeman, Montana

Pluses:
  • Great variety of terrain especially for intermediate & expert skiers
  • Great moguls in the North Bowl
  • Small crowds
  • 25 minutes from I-90
Minuses:
  • Not really small and unknown
  • Powder day crowds are insane
  • Lots of Flatlanders around during Xmas break making for crowds in the cafeterias, rental shops and lower chairs but usually not much impact on the upper mountain
post #16 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rio View Post
Montana Snowbowl, Missoula, Montana

Pluses:
  • 20 minutes from I-90
  • Lots of steep terrain
  • VolantAddict skis there
Minuses:
  • Access road is legendary for being difficult and dangerous
  • Not known for its intermediate and beginner terrain
  • VolantAddict skis there
I fixed it for you, you BLASPHEMER!

The road has gotten all too easy, since over the past three years, they've widened it significantly; it's getting so barely anyone drives off the edge anymore, and requires little skill to navigate safely. I only had to pull a couple people out of the ditch last season.
post #17 of 18
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Lots of Flatlanders around during Xmas break...
Confession time...I used to be one of them. I grew up in Grand Forks ND skiing the big stuff of MN (200-300 vertical!). At our condo in BS we check out on Fridays, and last year we spent a night in Bozeman before heading home (so we could still ski Fri at BS). I was surrounded by those from my homeland. But hey, I was impressed with one group that had to be in their 60's from Duluth still hitting the Mtn. Love the accents as well. But that's how we ended up with a condo at BS...my parents wanted a place that was 1/2 way for them coming from ND to visit us in Seattle area. One of the best decisions they made 20 years ago.

Quote:
Access road is legendary for being difficult and dangerous
Two experiences. In 1980 I helped my brother move from ND to Seattle. We were cruizin up the Snowbowl in his bad-ass AMC Hornet on a super slick roadway. Lost a chain, slipped, slided, and never made it up the hill. We later found out they weren't even open that day (lack of planning due to youth). A few years later, my other brother & I did the same route. This time made it up ok, but on the way down I plowed his Nissan into a snow bank, we glanced off, and kept on rolling. Glad to hear the road is a bit easier now.

Quote:
stick to the I-90 corridor
That does make the most sense. The only thing is I keep thinking we can make a long weekend out of Silver Mtn/Lookout sometime (done that for Schwietzer). Plus, we drive by those spots every year, so getting off I-90 has some appeal - new scenery. However, this could finally be the excuse to take the time to stop and ski those areas.

I keep flip-flopping between Utah and this trip. It will probably come down to conditions in the end. Thanks for the thorough run down.
post #18 of 18
Lonepeak -

If you are looking to get off I-90 you have two loops to choice from. The first is through Libby where you can hit Turner, Big Mountain and Blacktail. Your other option really gets you off the beaten path. It is to head south of Missoula to ski Lost Trail then head through the Big Hole to Dillon to ski at Maverick. On your way back to I-90 you can backtrack a little to Anaconda to ski Discovery.

Lost Trail gets some great snow but is a funky mountain to ski. The newer terrain to the north requires a very long traverse which usually ends up in lots of walking. (You'll notice that almost all the ski patrol is on tele or AT gear.) They have put in some chairs and rope tows to help but its still a pain to get around. You can easily amuse yourself for a couple hours on the old terrain but when you get bored and decide head to the newer parts be sure to stop in at the lodge for refreshments and bathroom breaks because it will be a while before you get back.

Maverick has great terrain, is really off the beaten path and gets good snow. Unfortunately, when Ullr is punishing Montana by denying snow he really lays into Great Divide (outside Helena) and Maverick.
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