There are two seasons in Montana—winter and summer. If you are one of the lucky people to live in this great state, we have a saying, “Montana is nine months of winter and three months of house guests.” As someone who is a relative newcomer to the state, having only lived here for 25 years, I have experienced this 9 to 3 ratio phenomenon. People from other states and countries love to visit Montana in the summer and will come stay at your house given the slightest of invitations. If you build a home in Montana, they will come.
However, do not discount visiting Montana in the winter. It can be cold as hell, but also amazing. When the snow is covering the mountain peaks, the sky is a dreamy cerulean blue and the sun is shining on your face, the only thing that comes to mind is John Denver’s best song ever— “Rocky Mountain High”. Yes, I know that song was written for Colorado, but it applies equally to Montana, and then some.
If you do come to Montana for the winter scenery, be prepared for extreme weather. It could be 60 degrees, or it could be negative 40 degrees all in the same week. Bring long underwear, a comfortable hoodie, wool socks, waterproof boots, a warm beanie, and the gear for whatever activity you plan to do.
Here’s a list of the best activities to do in Montana in winter:
- Downhill Skiing/Snowboarding. Duh. This is the most obvious winter activity and what Montana is famous for. The best ski mountains in Montana include: Bridger Bowl, Big Sky Resort, and Whitefish Mountain Resort. For those who want Montana ski areas that are more off-grid or small family-friendly ski areas, we recommend Discovery, and Showdown.
- Cross-Country skiing (also called Nordic skiing). This can be learned very quickly and can be as easy as gliding or as intense as an Olympic trial workout. Choose your course and terrain wisely. There are no edges on these types of skis, so turning and stopping are challenging. For Nordic skiing, you can pay to ski on groomed trails with a trail map, like at Crosscut, or hit the local hiking trails that are snow covered in winter. It is also common to get permission to ski on the golf courses, some allow dogs, but most do not. The options are endless.
- Snowshoeing—This is something anyone can do. Snowshoes have become so user friendly in the last few years, that snowshoeing can be anything from a slow walk on the snow to a full-out run. Streamlined, lightweight snowshoes like Crescent Moon Snowshoes, are all the rage and have made the sport of snowshoeing easily accessible. Our favorite snowshoeing areas in Bozeman include the Hylalite Reservoir trails, Triple Tree trail, and Bear Canyon.
- Snowmobiling—This sport is not for the faint of heart or for someone who is sensitive to sound. Snowmobiles are loud and proud. You need to go with someone who knows what they are doing and make sure that you are in an area with a low occurrence of avalanche. Getting stuck on the trail and buried in a snowbank is very common. Trust me, I’ve been there. It’s a must to either go with friends who snowmobile regularly and can be your personal guides, or rent snowmobiles through a guide company that will take you on a guided tour. Yellowstone is the best place for getting a guided snowmobile tour.
- Après Skiing—Yes. This can be considered a “sport”. It just depends on how you do it. Après ski is obviously the French term for “after ski”, but you don’t have to ski to participate in the drinking and socializing that are the true definition of Après Ski. Just put on clothes that make it look like you exercised outside in the snow—including snow pants, down jacket, waterproof gloves/shoes and of course a cool beanie. The best après ski place is literally your tailgate in the parking lot of any ski resort or trailhead, but if you insist on being warm inside, our favorite places to spend a wintery afternoon in Bozeman after downhill skiing, cross country skiing, snowshoeing or snowmobiling are:
- The Grizzly Ridge: A locals’ hangout located in the parking area of Bridger Bowl
- The Bacchus Pub: A place for food and sports watching located in the Baxter Hotel in downtown Bozeman
- Plonk: A wine/cheese/cocktail bar located on Main Street
- The Haufbrau House: Considered one of the oldest bars in Montana with a “rough around the edges” vibe, it is located in the “Bar-Muda Triangle” on 8th Avenue
- Map Brewing— A popular brew pub and a local favorite year-round—located Manley Drive in Bozeman
- Outlaw Brewing—Another popular brew pub with a cozy atmosphere, it is located on North 27th in Bozeman
Have fun enjoying the great outdoors of winter in Montana whether you venture outside or just pretend you did, but whatever do you, don’t forget your Jelt! You will absolutely need to wear your Jelt before, during and après your winter activity. Our elastic belts are a Montana staple on ski pants, snowmobile bibs and everyday jeans. Stay warm and be cool everyone! Cheers!