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Seeking Powder: Skiing in Butte, Montana

If Montana is known for two things, then it has to be 1) its easy access to beautiful and often mountainous outdoor landscapes, and 2) the state’s notoriously chilly winters.

To the first point, we nod in enthusiastic agreement. The landscapes found all over the state exhibit a unique forested beauty, complemented by the silhouette of the Rocky Mountains or other quainter mountain ranges. Our national parks, most notably Glacier National Park and the northern tip of Yellowstone, also offer some remarkable landscapes, attracting locals and tourists alike. We at the Montana Business Development Park are proud to live in Butte, Montana, at the intersection of two picturesque rivers. All of this is perfect for recreating, creating a state-wide standard for healthy lifestyles and a healthy workforce.

Most Montanans are probably not convinced of the second point about the chilly weather. Winter definitely brings some cold days, don’t get us wrong — but not even our most frigid days rival that of our neighbors in the Midwest. We’re looking at you, Minneapolis.

So, it seems Montana is famous for its breathtaking landscape, as well as its snowy, dry winters — as you can imagine, this fosters the perfect environment for world-class skiing. Music to a ski bum’s ears!

Downhill Skiing

In 2010, the four-month ski season in Montana made a $83 million economic impact. The state boasts about 15 different resorts, with runs varying in size, snowfall and necessary skill level. One thing that’s consistent among our long list of ski areas? Even at our most popular resorts like Whitefish Mountain or Big Sky, you’ll find lift lines easily described as either short or downright non-existent. Montana has more acres per skier than anywhere else in the US, so we definitely enjoy enough space. In fact, our largest resort, Big Sky, provides visitors with over 5,800 acres of terrain to explore.

Smaller in size but certainly not lacking in quality, Discovery Ski Area offers a little something for every kind of skier, ranging from gently sloping groomers to a backside of advanced steeps. Disco is only about an hour away from Butte, making it the area’s favorite spot for skiing, snowboarding and chocolate chip cookies. With powder stashes found on every kind of day, there’s always something to “discover” on this hill — and the many other hills in Montana, too!

Off the Beaten Path: Backcountry skiing is also incredibly popular in Montana. For those of you looking to leave groomers behind, backcountry can open up an entire world of powdery slopes. As always with backcountry, safety should be your first priority —  Mount Haggin is a good spot to explore near Butte, but make sure you do your research on each specific summit.

Cross-Country Skiing

Where there are mountains perfect for alpine skiing, there are usually valleys ideal for XC skiing — and the Montana landscape is no exception. What better way to appreciate your beautiful natural surroundings and wildlife than on a pair of cross-country skis?

With so much room to explore and so much support from local communities, groomed trails seem almost populous as ungroomed territory here in Montana. Homestake Lodge Cross Country Ski Center is just a short 15-minute drive outside of Butte. In half the time it takes most people to get to work, you’ll have arrived in the middle of a full-service cross-country ski center — 35km of pristine groomed trails through meadows, evergreens, aspens and beaver ponds. The center also provides a lodge to warm your toes for the comfortable Nordic skiing experience.

Butte residents can also find great cross-country skiing at Georgetown Lake, as well as in donation-only areas like Mount Haggin.

Big Sky Country, Big Mountain Skiing

There’s truly a little something for everyone here under the Big Sky, especially those looking for the perfect, powdery line to take on a pair of skis. Whether it’s skating on gentle hills or braving the steepest of verticals, maybe the third thing Montana should be known for is excellent skiing.

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