For nearly 80 years, snow enthusiasts have flocked to Showdown Mountain for an authentic skiing excursion. That’s right, this mountain is Montana’s oldest ski area and has been providing season after season of wintery fun since 1936. With a base area elevation is 6,800 feet, Showdown is higher than many other ski area summits throughout the state. Skiing at Showdown has become a tradition for many Montanans that has been passed down from generation to generation. In fact, one of my earliest ski memories was watching the New Year’s Eve fireworks at Showdown as a little tyke.
In 1905 the Great Northern Railroad put Whitefish, Montana and its logging industry on the map. But in 1949, Whitefish became known for something else: big skiing on Big Mountain. More than 60 years later, Whitefish Mountain Resort has become one of America’s 10 largest ski areas. Despite its 3,000 acres of terrain and 10 chair lifts, Whitefish has maintained its quaint, local-charm that has attracted skiers and boarders from all over the world, year after year.
At first glance, Bridger Bowl looks like any other local ski hill in Montana. The image of bright-white ski runs, dotted with boarders and skiers descending their way down the powdery wide-open slopes or maneuvering their way through trees and logs, dominates the landscape. What you can’t see is the sustainability of this operation. For nearly 60 years, Bridger Bowl has operated as a private, non-profit 501(c)4. There are no owners or stockholders, therefore their mission is simple: to provide a quality ski and snowboard experience at the best possible price commensurate with smart sound practices.
Big Sky Resort’s claim to fame is that they offer “America’s Biggest Skiing. Period.” It’s a bold statement, but a massive project in 1995 earned them those bragging rights. Construction of the Lone Peak Tram required the aid of 3,000 helicopter flights and hundreds of specialized high-altitude workers. It was a daunting task, but in the end it paid off. The tram to the summit doubled the size of Big Sky Resort by 50-percent and increased the skiable terrain by more than 1,200 acres. In addition to skiing some of the most difficult non-backcountry terrain in the country, advanced skiers and riders can enjoy views of three states and two national parks from the top of Lone Peak.
Red Lodge, Montana has been home to the Silver Run Ski Club for 75 years. The club was founded in 1939 and is quite possibly the oldest continuously operating ski club in the country. Historically, Red Lodge was simply known as a mining town in the back country, but the Silver Run Ski Club knew their local ski mountain was a hidden gem, just waiting to be discovered. Finally, in 1960, Grizzly Peak Ski Area opened with one chair lift and three runs. Within a few years, word had spread that the small, mountain town had a lot of tourist appeal and visitors started streaming in. In the mid-1960s, Grizzly Peak changed its name to what it still is today: Red Lodge Mountain.