News from the Knoff Group

Top 11 Ideas for Winter Fun in SW Montana

Big Sky in Winter

The snowy roads may deter some, but not you!  Wanderlust doesn’t hibernate – get out there and have some fun!

1.  Ski Resorts

Skiing Near Bridger Bowl
Skiing Near Bridger Bowl

Our local resorts, Big Sky and Bridger Bowl offer excellent terrain for all abilities. But if a lift ticket to Big Sky is out of the budget, and you already know Bridger Bowl like the back of your hand, it’s time to check out some of the smaller (and cheaper) resorts around the state: Discovery Ski Area ($49), Maverick Mountain ($39), Showdown ($47), and Great Divide Ski Area ($48) are great for a quick weekend getaway without having to go too far. Bonus: ALL of these resorts are near the next hot-spots on the list..

2. Hot Springs

See what we did there? Living at the edge of the Yellowstone Caldera, we have a number of geothermal pools in the area. What’s better after a day on the hill than a soak in one of nature’s hot tubs? Chico Hot Springs, Bozeman Hot Springs, Norris Hot Springs, Fairmont Hot Springs Resort, Elkhorn Hot Springs, White Sulphur Springs, and Broadwater Hot Springs are just a few of the many places to soak that you probably haven’t been to a half-dozen times already. Bonus: some hot spring resorts also offer fine dining.

3. Wildlife viewing.

The cooler temps and fewer tourists can make wildlife easier to spot. The north entrance to Yellowstone National Park is the only entrance accessible by automobiles year-round. Take a wintery drive from Gardiner to Cooke City (end of the road) and along the way, you are sure to see many elk, bison and raptors – possibly foxes, moose, wolves, weasels, antelope, and bighorn sheep. Mountain lions are plentiful in the area but are rarely seen due to their nocturnal and elusive nature.  The west entrance to Yellowstone National Park through West Yellowstone is not open to private automobiles during winter, but there are several options for guided snow-coach and snowmobile tours into the park.

4. Snowmobiling

There are over 4,000 miles of groomed snowmobile trails in Montana and most are extensive enough to ride all day without crossing a highway. In West Yellowstone there are hundreds of miles of groomed snowmobile trails. A popular option closer to Bozeman is the Fairy Lake area in the Bridger Mountains. There are also over 100 miles of trails in Big Sky, Polaris (near Maverick Mountain and Elkhorn Hot Springs) and the Georgetown Lake area (near Discovery Ski Area and Fairmont Hot Springs) which is adjacent to thousands of acres of deep backcountry powder. Hire a guide and/or make sure to be well versed in backcountry travel through avalanche terrain before heading out. Check the avy forecast at mtavalanche.com

Snow angels in YNP
Snow angels

5. Rent a forestry cabin.

All cabins have flat top wood stoves for heat and cooking, but firewood is not supplied. Prices range from $20-40/night, and can be reserved from 1-5 nights, up to 6 months in advance. The cabins are rustic, with no electricity or running water.

  • In the Big Sky area, Cabin Creek Cabin is a 12-mile ride along the Big Sky Snowmobile Trail
  • Beaver Creek Cabin is 3.5 miles from HWY 287
  • Basin Station Cabin is 2 miles from HWY 20
  • Garnet Mountain Fire Lookout is 10 miles from Storm Castle Creek Road off of HWY 191
  • Yellow Mule Cabin is 13.5 miles from HWY 191.
  • Wapiti Cabin is 2 miles from Taylor Fork road, 4 miles off of HWY 191.
  • You can snowshoe 3.5 miles to the Spanish Creek Cabin from Spanish Creek Road off of HWY 191
  • Snowshoe 5.5 miles off of New World Gulch Trail to the Mystic Lake Cabin.
  • Little Bear Cabin is 10 miles off of Little Bear Creek Road, 8 miles from HWY 191.
  • Fox Creek Cabin, off of the South Cottonwood Trailhead, is a 5-hour snowshoe trek
  • Window Rock Cabin is near the Hyalite Reservoir south of Bozeman, and Battle Ridge Cabin is a ½ mile walk from the parking area off of Bridger Canyon Road

For complete information visit recreation.gov

6. Hockey

The Bozeman Amateur Hockey Association has two ice rinks available to the public, and a variety of hockey programs for all levels of experience. MSU, the Bozeman Stingers, and the Bozeman Icedogs are just a few of the many teams that have home games at the Gallatin County Fairgrounds. Check out BAHA’s website for complete schedule and ticket pricing.

7. Ice Skating

Contact skating not your thing? Each winter, Bozeman’s Park Division builds 3 outdoor ice-skating rinks that are free and open to the public (weather permitting). The indoor ice skating arenas at the Gallatin County Fairgrounds are also available to the public during certain times Monday-Saturday, and rental skates are available. There are also several subdivision ponds around town that may be skated on.  Visit the City of Bozeman’s website for info on rink hours, or the BAHA website for public skate times and pricing.

8. Ice Fishing

Don’t let a thick layer of ice stop you from enjoying this popular pastime. Canyon Ferry Lake, Hebgen Lake, and several area ponds offer great ice fishing opportunities.

9. Ice Climbing

Ice Climbing in Hyalite Canyon

The Bozeman Ice Climbing Festival holds full day clinics at several locations within Hyalite Canyon in December. The clinics provide gear, helmets, clothing, and over five hours of on-ice instruction by world-class climbers and guides. There is also a special 2-day self rescue seminar, and a women’s only clinic. Outside of the festival, you can hire a guide service for instruction. Check out their website for more details and pricing.

10. Sledding

Sled hills abound in the Bozeman area. Grab a sled and check out the 100 acre county park in the center of town, Pete’s Hill, Snowfill, Lindley Park or areas up in Hyalite Canyon for a thrilling ride.

11. Skiing (What?! Again?!)

Did you know there are different types of skiing? In addition to the more popular downhill skiing, there is also skate skiing, snowshoeing, and classic cross-country skiing. Also called nordic skiing, this style requires human power to glide on trails. There are two resorts in the area: Crosscut Ski Center in Bozeman, and Lone Mountain Ranch in Big Sky. The Bridger Ski Foundation grooms 6 trail systems in the Bozeman area that are free to the public, check out their website for maps and other info.