The Ski Mountain
Nine miles of two lane and then dirt road out of Missoula, you’ll find Snowbowl, a classic Montana ski area and experience. 2,600 vertical feet is serviced by two fixed grip lifts, a t-bar and rope tow that all add up to a mellow attitude with an advanced ski experience. Over 80 percent of the nearly 40 runs are marked intermediate or advanced. Glades, bowls, and long runs provide most of the fun. Old-school buildings and lift tickets under $50 complete the picture—this is no resort. It’s a ski hill. One local skier puts it best, “You’ll get what you get, and you’ll have to like it,” which is just fine.
The Mountain Experience
Snowbowl’s vibe and operation are a blast from the past – in the best way possible. Expect wickets and stick-it tickets, no bag lunches in the Inn, and a cafeteria serving whatever is well-stocked down at the local FSA. Folks are friendly, even on a Missoula powder day, and the crowds aren’t bad. As you walk past the historic fleet of groomers to get your ticket, Snowbowl’s authenticity begins to crystallize. The traditional Gelande Jumping (nordic ski jumping on downhill ski gear) makes for a wild spectator event with the winner of the amateur class traditionally performing a naked jump as encore…parents beware.
Snowbowl Ski Terrain
• Advanced: Advanced and expert skiers will enjoy Snowbowl the most. Skiing off the summit through mostly ungroomed terrain makes for long, challenging laps. On your way up the Grizzly lift, it’s easy to spot the lines in Grizzly Bowl. Clear days reveal the East Bowls and the permanent closures over Chicken Chute and Longhorn. Infrequent grooming makes for some epic bump skiing especially on Angel Face. All of these runs funnel into Outrun—a harrowing, icy confluence at the bottom of the drainage. Watch for thin coverage, especially in the scoured windy spots. For glades that hold a little more snow and less thigh burn, head over to the trees past Nutcracker off the LeVelle Creek Lift.
Current Snow Conditions
• Intermediate: The gentlest intermediate terrain is concentrated around the LeVelle Creek lift, which also has the highest number of groomer runs. Upper and Lower High Park can make for a nice lap. Traverse out to nice cruisers like Nutcracker or Far Nut for a steeper option. If you don’t want to head to the top immediately, the Sunrise T-Bar offers good warm-up options like Upper Sunrise Bowl. Upper and Lower Paradise also make for an enjoyable, long trip to the base area.
• Beginner: First Run, and the rope tow that accompanies it, make for a nice bunny hill. Head to LeVelle with knowledge that you’ll be on the loops and curves of Second Thought all the way back to the bottom.
Around the Mountain
• Terrain Park: If the season is ripe you’ll find some terrain park features. If you’re so lucky, the park is usually located somewhere on LeVelle, and has a motley crew of features. Simply put; don’t come here for park skiing.
Again—Snowbowl is not a beginners’ area. Most of the resort has a southern aspect, and this can make for thin snow conditions. The best skiing comes after storms, but watch out for buried rocks and stumps. The base area is usually more protected, and much less windy than the summit. Since reaching the summit takes two long chair rides you’ll want to bundle up.
For food, ski to the base and find seats at the Last Run Inn, which is the shining jewel of Snowbowl. Their Bloody Mary has been voted the best in Missoula for more than a decade by the Missoula Independent reader’s poll. The wood-fired pizza is delicious, and there’s a nice spectrum of beers on tap; try the Cold Smoke from local brewery, Kettlehouse. No trip to Snowbowl is complete without a stop at this Inn.
The Inn is your on-hill option. Missoula is a genuine college town. It could be said that the best selection of dining in Montana is found in Missoula. Any of the five breweries in town are good options. The downtown area is plenty vibrant if you want to party—skiers will fit in fine at the Rhino or Top Hat for live music.
Missoula, Montana. Halfway point between Glacier and Yellowstone National Parks, this former logging town is home to the University of Montana.
On hill, the Gelandesprung Lodge is the only option. Instead, check out the range of places to stay in Missoula. Kids will love the C’mon Inn. If you’re looking for cheap lodging check the City Center Hotel.
Use the “Explore Missoula’s Best Ski Lodging Deals” box above and right to find your best Lodging choices.
Skiing with Kids
Lift Tickets and Season Pass Cost
See Regular Lift Ticket Prices and Season Passes here.
Children 5 and under FREE. Beginner tow free with lesson or rental.
By David Steele