This article, and distribution, was paid for by Visit Montana and produced in conjunction with POWDER.
MONTANA HAS AN UNPRETENTIOUS, accessible ski culture that’s ideal for families that want a true winter experience. Ski areas across the state offer affordable lodging and package rates that include rentals and lessons, and varied terrain that suits everyone’s needs. Discovery Ski Area, 18 miles south of Philipsburg, and Red Lodge Mountain, about 60 miles southwest of Billings in the Beartooth Mountains, are two quaint ski areas—especially for kids. Both are situated near charming Western towns and have fun events, slopes and amenities the whole family will enjoy.
Red Lodge’s Miami Beach is a whole lot more kid-friendly than its more well-known counterpart of the same name. Montana’s version is a very low-angle green circle run that’s ideal for children and adults who are learning to ski. The ski area sells tickets to access just the Miami Beach double chair. All-day tickets for kids ages 6 to 12 on this lift are only $15. Meanwhile, the magic carpet is also free for anyone and kids 5 and under always ski and snowboard for free throughout the ski area. For those ready to graduate to blue squares, the Palisades quad offers a friendly stepping stone. The Columbine and Paradise runs are both slow rolling groomers with little risk. Of course, it isn’t all pizzas and french fries at Red Lodge. Skiers looking for something a little more challenging will have plenty to explore, too. The Grizzly Peak chair tops out at 9,416 feet and accesses steeper blue circles and easier black diamonds. The zone is a natural progression from the blue squares off of the Triple and Willow Creek chairs. Want it spicier yet? The Cole Creek quad leads to a number of steeper, narrower double-black diamonds, like the tight trees in the Headwaters.
It’s more than just skiing at Red Lodge, though. The ski area has some of the most entertaining events in the state. The Cardboard Classic, a part of the annual Winter Carnival festivities in late February, celebrates good old fashioned Montana ingenuity and pluck. The challenge is to sled down a portion of the mountain, but contestants only get to use cardboard, duct tape and glue to construct their ship. The winner takes home a $1,000 prize. Red Lodge also hosts torchlight parades throughout the season. The beautiful display of lights snaking down the dark mountain will inspire awe in anyone.
EATS AND DRINKS
Red Lodge Pizza Company
Family-friendly joint with pies for the whole family, in addition to local beers from Red Lodge Ales Brewing Company.
A James Beard nominee, this restaurant is the best menu in town with truly exceptional cuisine.
Blue Ribbon Bar
A classic dive whose Blue Burger, served on an electric skillet, is simple and delightful.
WHERE TO STAY
Classic, comfortable, affordable and well-managed—it’s run by a young outdoorsy couple.
The Two Bears Inn Bed and Breakfast
This mid-range hotel, tucked into the pines of Haywood Gulch, offers beautiful views of Mount Maurice and Point of Rocks.
A historic hotel in downtown Red Lodge, this higher-end option offers luxurious rooms in a brick building constructed in 1893.
DISCOVERY SKI AREA
At Discovery, the experience is the quintessential Montana ski experience: authentic, big-hearted, family-oriented and lots of challenging, fun terrain full of untracked powder. In addition to the uncrowded slopes, the Kids Kinderski (ages 3-6) and Kids Kruizers (ages 7-12) programs offer a full day of lessons with four kids to an instructor, with a lift ticket, and rentals, for just $60. For those older than 12, the Snow Sports School has half day group lessons for $22. The terrain is well-suited for learning to ski or snowboard. Beginners should start on the Easy, Totemoff or Jubilee chairs, where green circle and blue square groomers are perfect for getting comfortable linking turns together. When those runs feel natural, the Rumsey and Anaconda chairs access steeper blues and a few less technical blacks.
As much as Discovery is known for how it caters to families, its wild terrain on the backside is equally as famous. The lifts at Discovery access 2,200 acres and 2,388 vertical feet of skiing, none of which has more sustained, steep fall line skiing than the runs off the Granite and Limelight chairs. For steep trees, narrow chutes and sporty lines, the backside of Discovery, in particular the double-black diamonds from Limelight, are as technical as any lift-accessed terrain in Montana. Hit it on a powder day and the experience could be enough to keep you in Philipsburg forever.
EATS AND DRINKS
The Philipsburg Brewing Company
Opened in 2012 in a building erected in the 1880s, it features award-winning beers—try the Pumpkin Spice Beer—and live music on Fridays and Saturdays in an intimate, classy bar.
Gourmet burgers pair with a wide selection of microbrews at this Philipsburg pub.
UpNSmokin BBQ House
Mouth-watering barbeque in Big Sky Country, UpNSmokin also offers Western-themed Friday Night Pizza.
WHERE TO STAY
Located in the heart of town, it was restored in 2003 in a colorful brick building that dates back to 1890. It has modern, comfortable rooms with character.
Marcus Daly Motel
Look for great stay-and-ski deals at this budget-friendly option.
Fairmont Hot Springs Resort
An hour from Philipsburg, Fairmont has reasonable deals, as well, and it comes with a massive, twisting water slide and a pool that every kid (and adult) will appreciate.