Things To Do Outdoors in Northwest Montana in the Winter
The winter may not seem like the ideal time to visit Montana, thanks to the large amount of snow and cold weather. I start to go stir crazy if I am indoors in the winter, something that happens more frequently now that I have small children. But there are plenty of things to do outdoors to keep you from wishing that summer would get here sooner!
1. Ski / Snowboard.
Northwest Montana has Whitefish Mountain Ski Resort (the former Big Mountain) in Whitefish, and Snowbowl Ski Area in Missoula. Snowbowl has a smaller, homier feel than the growing Whitefish Mountain, but you will have fun no matter where you go. Both of these mountains offer first-timer ski lesson deals that include lift tickets, the instruction, and equipment rentals. Snowbowl has a fun “For Women Only” 6-week program where women can be taught by women — find out more about the FWO program here.
2. Dog Sledding.
Dog sledding may seem to be an activity that only happens in Alaska, but there are amazing opportunities to enjoy this sport right here in northwest Montana. There is dog sledding available just north of Whitefish in Olney, Montana, with the Dog Sled Adventures Montana. The great thing about this company is that they do allow small children because you ride inside the sled. These are the dogs you see around town hanging out of the back of the truck. Call (406) 881-BARK to make a reservation. There is also the wonderful Bigfork Base Camp located in Bigfork that allows you to “mush your own” dogs through the wilderness, but only allows kids aged 7 and up. Bigfork Base Camp also has overnight camping opportunities.
The thing that I love about snowshoeing is that anyone can do it! And you can easily carry your kids in carriers and backpacks if they are still too small to keep up on their own. For guided snowshoe tours, you can head to Lone Pine State Park in Kalispell on Saturdays from the end of December until the end of February from 1-2 pm for $4 per person, plus $5 if you need to rent snowshoes. Kids on snowshoes must be ages 10 and up to participate on the Lone Pine tours.
Another guided tour is available starting at the Apgar Visitor Center in Glacier National Park on Saturdays and Sundays at 10:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. The tour is free, but you have to pay to enter the park. You can rent snowshoes from them for $2, and this is a two-hour tour that will provide a lot of wonderful information. Available from January to March.
Or head up to the Izaak Walton Inn in Essex for a Glacier Park half-day snowshoe tour. Rental equipment is available, and you have the chance to hike over a suspension bridge and up a forested ridge to views of the Flathead Range. Be sure to bring a snack and water!
4. Cross Country Skiing.
Cross country skiers can enjoy 8 kilometers of groomed trails right behind Flathead Valley Community College in Kalispell. Whitefish Lake Golf Course in Whitefish has cross country skiing, and if you want to make the short trek to Blacktail Mountain, the mountain has beautiful Nordic ski trails available. Head to http://www.glaciernordicclub.com/ for current trail and grooming information.
If you want to head into Glacier National Park, there are trails available for cross country skiing. Click here to view those trails, and be sure to dress warm!
Another fun place where you can buy a season pass is Stillwater Mountain Nordic Trails — 20 kms of groomed cross country ski trails eight miles northwest of Whitefish.
Snowmobiling is a wonderful sport for getting into the mountains for those that don’t want to ski or snowboard. There are plenty of groomed trails available in northwest Montana. I love to go around Upper Whitefish Lake and the trail to the top of Whitefish Mountain Resort is popular. To find out more about local trails, visit http://www.flatheadsnowmobiler.com/.
6. Ice Fishing.
There are endless lakes in northwest Montana that freeze in the winter and provide plenty of ice fishing opportunities to catch Perch in particular. (Perch taste delicious.) Only seasoned ice fishermen should participate in this sport, as you do not want to fall into a frozen lake in the middle of winter! Lone Pine State Park offers a fun Ice Fishing Course for women at the end of January that includes one indoor class and one class on the lake ice fishing. Click here to learn about the “Ice Fishing for Becoming an Outdoor Woman course,” by clicking on the Program Schedule.
7. Ice Skating.
Woodland Park near downtown Kalispell, Montana, has a pond for ice skating open from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. There is even a warming hut for families to enjoy. There is an indoor ice skating rink in Whitefish called the Stumptown Ice Den available year-round for those wanting to get on the ice.
Now get outside and enjoy some fun in the winter in northwest Montana! See you out there!!