Montana offers the best of the best in downhill skiing and snowboarding — acres of powder, a lot of vertical and easy lift lines. And now is the time to start getting out in Big Sky Country's big snowy open.
Here's a look at each of Montana's ski areas, with basic info on location, lift ticket prices and terrain.
Bear Paw Ski Bowl: Located 29 miles south of Havre, this ski hill has adult tickets for $20 a day, $18 for students 9 to 18. Children 8 and younger and adults older than 80 ski free. The hill is open only Saturdays, Sundays and school holidays, January through April (snow permitting), from 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. With one chair, one hand tow and a vertical of 900 feet, this is a small mountain – just perfect for beginners. Ski and snowboard rentals are available in Havre. Phone: (406) 265-8404. Website: skibearpaw.com.
Big Sky Resort: With more than 30 lifts, 4,350 vertical feet and 5,800 total acres of skiing, Big Sky offers instant access to some of the most diverse skiing and snowboarding amid breathtaking vistas. Float down a 2,000-vertical-foot, powder-filled bowl beneath Lone Peak, bob and weave through the Bavarian Forest or ride the Lone Peak Tram for a bird's-eye view of untamed wilderness. Snowboarders will find a halfpipe, rails and other features to grind on. Hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. An adult ticket is $106 a day, youth ages 11 to 17 are $86, children ages 6 to 10 are $56 and children younger than 10 are free with an adult. Big Sky is located about an hour south of Bozeman through Gallatin Canyon. Phone: (406) 995-5900. Website: bigskyresort.com.
Blacktail Mountain Ski Area: Overlooking Flathead Lake about 15 minutes from downtown Kalispell, Blacktail provides skiers and snowboarders with 1,440 feet of vertical serviced by one triple chair and two doubles. It has an average snowfall of 250 inches. The family-friendly resort offers a variety of terrain from beginner to advanced. Open 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday and holidays. An adult ticket is $40. Teens ages 13 to 17 are $28. Ages 8 to 12 are $19, and children 7 and younger ski free. Opening depends on snowfall. Phone: (406) 844-0999. Website: blacktailmountain.com.
Bridger Bowl: Skiing enthusiasts have enjoyed the area known as Bridger Bowl since the mid-1940s. Skiers love this hill, which is known for its "cold smoke" powder. Bridger Bowl is a nonprofit community ski area offering world-class skiing at small-town rates. An adult lift ticket price is $54. Ages 7 to 12 are $19, seniors 70 and older are $27, and children 6 and younger are free. Bridger Bowl is about 20 minutes northeast of Bozeman. Scheduled to open Dec. 11. Phone: 1-800-223-9609. Website: bridgerbowl.com.
Discovery Ski Area: Only minutes from Fairmont Hot Springs, Discovery provides 2,388 feet of vertical on 67 trails. The ski area, overlooking Georgetown Lake, has a good variety of terrain to suit many abilities for skiers and snowboarders. Annual snowfall is 215 inches. Lift hours of operation are 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. Adult tickets are $42 for a full day and $34 for a half day. Ages 12 and younger are $21 and seniors are $32. Ages 5 and younger are free. Phone: (406) 563-2184. Website: skidiscovery.com.
Great Divide: Twenty-three miles north of Helena near the old mining town of Marysville, Great Divide offers 1,560 feet of vertical on 140 trails. Average yearly snowfall is 180 inches. Tickets are $40 for adults, and $30 for middle schoolers, high schoolers, college students, seniors and military. There are five terrain parks for skiers and snowboarders. The mountain has five double chairs. Special lift and rental packages are available for beginners. The mountain is open. Phone: (406) 449-3746. Website: skigd.com.
Lookout Pass Ski Area: A family ski area since 1935, this resort is located 30 miles northwest of St. Regis off Interstate 90. The high mountains generate about 400 inches of snow annually. With 1,150 feet of vertical, the hill has 34 runs at a midweek rate of $39 for adults, $42 weekends and holidays, with reduced rates for students and seniors. The mountain is open. Hours are Thursdays through Mondays, as well as during Christmas break and on holidays. Phone: (208) 744-1301. Website: skilookout.com.
Lost Trail Powder Mountain: Lost Trail sits atop the Continental Divide on U.S. Highway 93 where Montana and Idaho meet. With more than 300 inches of snowfall every year, these still-undiscovered slopes await your visit. The terrain includes 1,800 feet of vertical. Adult tickets at the ski hill are $40. Ages 6 to 12 are $30, and 5 and younger are free. Seniors ages 60 to 69 are $32, and 70 and older are $15. The area is open Thursdays through Sundays with extended hours over the Christmas season and on holidays. Expected to open Dec. 3. Phone: (406) 821-3211. Website: losttrail.com.
Maverick Mountain: Hidden in southwestern Montana's Pioneer Mountains, Maverick boasts low rates and two nearby places to plunge into hot water –Jackson Hot Springs Lodge and Elkhorn Hot Springs. The ski hill features 2,020 feet of vertical spread out across 24 trails. The mountain's annual snowfall is 180 inches, accessed by one double chair and a rope tow. Adult tickets are $35. Youths are $22 and seniors are $25. Opening depends on snowfall. Phone: (406) 834-3454. Website: skimaverick.com.
Montana Snowbowl: Located only minutes from downtown Missoula, Snowbowl is famous for its tricky terrain. Two high-capacity double chairlifts quickly carry skiers and snowboarders to the top of the mountain for the 2,600-foot drop. Forty-two runs – including one that cruises for three miles – spread out winter enthusiasts. The adult rate is $46 a day. Students and seniors are $43, while ages 6 to 12 are $19 and children 5 and younger are free. Opening depends on snowfall. Phone: (406) 549-9777. Website: montanasnowbowl.com.
Red Lodge Mountain: Red Lodge Mountain is Montana skiing pure and simple. Just minutes from downtown Red Lodge, at the base of the magnificent Beartooth Mountains, the ski area has 2,400 feet of vertical accessed by 65 trails. Average snowfall is 250 inches. Snowboarders can frolic in the terrain park or take to the trees to track powder. The adult rate is $53 a day. Ages 13 to 18 are $42, ages 6 to 12 are $22, ages 65 to 69 are $44, ages 70 and older are $18. Open. Phone: 1-800-444-8977. Website: redlodgemountain.com.
Schweitzer Mountain: Schweitzer's premiere attraction is its terrain park, the Stomping Ground, which was named the best terrain park in the Pacific Northwest by Powder magazine. Schweitzer also offers a beginner park for the less daring. For those looking for steep, fast runs, be sure to check Siberia and Pucci's Chute in the Outback Bowl. Schweitzer also has smooth, mellow groomers for the whole family. Average snowfall is 300 inches. Schweitzer is open seven days a week. Lift tickets are $73 for adults, $61 for students and seniors, and $50 for ages 7 to 17. Kids 6 and younger ski for free. Phone: (208) 263-9555. Opens Dec. 4. Website: schweitzer.com.
Showdown Montana: High atop the Little Belt Mountains, Showdown offers a family environment, while nearby White Sulphur Springs serves up a hot pool. Showdown, which celebrated its 70th season last year, is famous for its early snowfalls that average 240 inches a year. The mountain's 1,400 feet of vertical are serviced by one triple and two double chairlifts. Adult full-day tickets cost $43. Ages 6 to 12 are $25, and ages 70 and older are $32. Opens Dec. 21. Phone: (406) 771-1300. Website: showdownmontana.com.
Teton Pass: Teton Pass is a 400-acre ski resort, located in the Lewis and Clark National Forest, close to the town of Choteau. At Teton Pass you will find no lift lines, and some of the best back- and side-county skiing in Montana. The annual snowfall averages 250 inches and the mountain has a 1,000 feet of vertical. Expected to open Dec. 12. Phone: (406) 466-2209. Website: tetonpassresort.com.
Turner Mountain: Located 22 miles north of Libby, Turner Mountain sells adult tickets for $37, $25 for ages 13 to 18, $20 for ages 7 to 12, and $30 for seniors, while children 6 and younger ski free. The ski area has 25 runs with 2,110 feet of vertical. While only one chair serves the mountain, half of the terrain is considered expert. The hill is open 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday through Sunday, except during the Christmas break and on holidays. Opening depends on snowfall. Phone: (406) 293-2468. Website: skiturner.com.
Whitefish Mountain Resort: Whitefish Mountain, one of America's favorite resorts since 1947, is located eight miles north of Whitefish and 23 miles north of Kalispell. The resort has gained notoriety for its laid-back vibe, world-class skiing. Average yearly snowfall is 300 inches and the resort boats 2,353 feet of vertical. Adults day lift tickets are $73. Seniors are $63, ages 13 to 18 are $64, ages 7 to 12 are $38, and children 6 and younger are free. Opens Dec. 5. Phone: (406) 862-7669. Website: skiwhitefish.com.