Downhill and Cross Country Skiing, World Class Snowmobiling, Dog Sledding in Northwest Montana

Annabel Petty



Downhill and Cross Country in Northwest Montana

Hey there! I’m thrilled to share a slice of my life that’s incredibly close to my heart: winter sports in Northwest Montana. This corner of the globe has become my favorite for downhill and cross-country skiing over years, but these are just a few activities I enjoy here.

So, if you’re as passionate about winter sports as I am, read on because Northwest Montana is a gem that no winter sports lover should miss. Let’s begin!

Downhill Skiing

Downhill Skiing - montana

Let’s get straight to the point: downhill skiing is my jam, and Glacier Country is the ultimate spot for it.

Imagine this: eight top-tier ski resorts sprawled across northwest Montana and the Canadian Rockies, offering a combined playground of over 20,000 acres to carve, 385+ trails to explore, competitively priced lift tickets, minimal lift lines, and an impressive annual snowfall of 300 inches.

It might seem like a skier’s fantasy, but it’s the real deal here.

Here are the eight ski resorts that make Glacier Country a paradise for skiers and snowboarders:

  • Whitefish Mountain Resort: Located near Glacier National Park, it’s the second largest ski resort in Montana with 3,000 acres of skiable terrain.
  • Blacktail Mountain Ski Area: Overlooking Lakeside, Montana, offering over 1,000 acres and a family-friendly atmosphere.
  • Turner Mountain Ski Area: Known for its wide-open slopes and excellent snow conditions, located in the Kootenai National Forest.
  • Castle Ski Resort: Situated in Canada, offering more than 3,500 skiable acres across two mountains.
  • Fernie Alpine Ski Resort: In the Canadian Rockies, it boasts incredible mountain scenery and over 2,504 acres with 5 bowls.
  • Kimberly Alpine Ski Resort: A Canadian resort known for its stunning scenery and relaxed atmosphere, offering more than 1,800 acres.
  • Sunshine Village Ski Resort: Located in the heart of Banff National Park, Canada, it offers more than 3,300 wilderness acres on three mountains.
  • Lake Louise Ski Area and Mountain Resort: Further north in the Canadian Rockies, known for its scenic views and world-class terrain across 4200 acres.

If you’re planning your ski trip, do yourself a favor and hit up both Glacier and Yellowstone National Parks. It’s absolutely worth it.

Quick heads-up: always ski smart. Stick to the resort boundaries unless you know what you’re doing in the backcountry. Avalanches aren’t a joke. Gear up, stay savvy about snow conditions, and maybe take an avalanche safety course. Better safe than sorry.

Cross Country Skiing

Glacier Nordic Center

  • Where? Just a quick half-mile from downtown Whitefish, right at the Whitefish Lake Golf Course.
  • What’s Cool? They’ve got 12 kilometers of Nordic trails groomed daily for classic and skate skiing. Plus, 4km of these trails are lit up for some epic night skiing.
  • Extra Tip: Swing by during a full moon for a free ski night after 3 pm. Trust me, it’s magical.
  • Need Gear or Lessons? Hit up the Glacier Nordic Shop at the trailhead.

Big Mountain Nordic Trails

  • Location? Right below Whitefish Mountain Resort.
  • Trails? A sweet 25km of trails groomed daily. Start at 3315 Big Mountain Road and choose your adventure—uphill for a challenge or into Haskill Basin for something a bit more chill.

Glacier National Park

  • The Vibe? Once the snow piles up, the main roads turn into a winter wonderland for skiing and snowshoeing. Super quiet since snowmobiling’s a no-go.
  • Need to Know: Skiing’s free, but you need a park pass. Also, check out Whitefish Tours & Shuttle for guided trips.

Round Meadow

  • Where? 12 miles west of Whitefish, nestled in Flathead National Forest.
  • What to Expect? More rustic vibes with 12 miles of trails across seven loops. Grooming’s hit or miss, but it’s a great spot for some peace and quiet. Dogs can tag along too—just clean up after them.

Other Trails Worth Mentioning

Spots like Foys to Blacktail, The Izzak Walton Inn, and Blacktail Mountain Nordic have great trails too. Plus, there’s Dog Creek Lodge, among others, for more variety.

Gear Up

Forgot your gear? No worries. Whitefish has plenty of spots like Glacier Nordic Club Shop and Whitefish Outfitters, among others, where you can rent or buy what you need.


Flathead Valley is the place to be for snowmobiling in Montana, and there is no doubt about it. Here are some tips that you might find handy if snowmobiling is your go-to winter sport:

Planning Your Montana Trip

Flathead Valley’s got it all – Columbia Falls, Whitefish, Kalispell, Bigfork, and the way into Glacier Canyon. And getting here’s a breeze.

Flying In? Hit up Glacier Park International Airport (FCA) right in Kalispell, which is smack in the middle of everything. Or check out flights to Missoula International Airport (MSO), just a couple hours south, if you’re looking to save some cash.

Taking the Train? Amtrak’s got you covered with stops at Belton Station in West Glacier and Whitefish Station in Whitefish. Close to our trailheads and easy to get from there to the action.

Driving? Cruise in via US 93 or US 2. Easy.

Need a Car?

If you’re looking to rent a ride, there are plenty of options:

  • Avis: 406-257-7148
  • Budget Rent-a-Car: 406-755-7500
  • Dollar Rent-a-Car: 406-892-0009
  • Enterprise Rent-a-Car: 406-755-4848
  • Glacier Heli-Tours: 800-879-9310
  • Hertz: 406-758-2220
  • National: 406-257-7144
  • Alamo: 406-257-7148
  • Thrifty Car Rental: 406-257-7333

Dog Sledding

winter sports in Northwest Montana - Dog sledding

For those seeking a truly unique winter adventure, dogsledding is something special. This traditional form of winter transportation offers a thrilling ride through the winter wilderness, and as far as adventures go, this is unique.

Several local outfitters offer dogsledding experiences, where a team of well-trained sled dogs guide you.

Don’t forget to dress warmly, bring a camera, and be prepared for an awesome winter adventure.

Family-Friendly Winter Activities

Snowshoeing - Family-Friendly Winter Activities

This region isn’t exclusively for adrenaline junkies – it also offers a wide range of winter activities that the whole family can enjoy. When visiting with my son, tubing and ice skating are our go-tos, but there is plenty to enjoy, depending on your preferences.

Many ski resorts in the region, including Whitefish Mountain Resort and Blacktail Mountain, offer designated tubing hills, providing a fun and accessible way for kids and adults alike to enjoy the snow.

If your family prefers gliding over ice rather than snow, the Woodland Ice Center in Kalispell was the go-to for public ice skating sessions throughout the winter. However, it’s temporarily closed, so you should dig for some alternatives.

Snowshoeing is another fantastic family-friendly winter activity, that lets you explore the winter landscape at your own pace. It’s relatively easy to learn and suitable for all ages and fitness levels.  Several parks and nature centers in the region, such as Lone Pine State Park and the Glacier Nordic Center, offer snowshoe rental and guided tours, so check them out if this is your jam.

Where to Relax?

After a day of winter adventures, there’s nothing quite like unwinding with some après-ski indulgence. Fortunately, Northwest Montana offers a range of options to help you relax and refuel.

For a truly restorative experience, I suggest you head to the Symes Hot Springs Hotel and Mineral Baths in Hot Springs. Here, I usually enjoy soaking in natural mineral hot springs, which are known for their therapeutic properties. Alternatively, I suggest the spa at the Lodge at Whitefish Lake, where you can get a massage or a facial in a cozy, luxurious setting.

If you’re looking for a culinary treat, you’ll find plenty of options in the region. My personal favorite is American fare at The Montana Club in Kalispell, but when I’m more in the mood for some upscale dining, Whitefish Lake Restaurant is the place to go.

Final thoughts

Every time I visit Northwest Montana, there’s something new I grow to appreciate. The slopes here offer a perfect combination of challenge and beauty, and every descent is a new and thrilling experience. Each activity offers its own kind of rush, and together, they make Northwest Montana a winter sports paradise. With that said, plan your trip carefully, and you might just have the time of your life.