Skiing and snowboarding are expensive sports. Every year prices increase, and some of the most well-known mountains are now charging $165 (ahem, Big Sky) or $209 (wtf Vail?) for a day pass. Finding a lift ticket under $55 is almost unheard of unless you find yourself at one of the mom’ n’ pop, independently owned smaller mountains. Below are eight of Montana’s ski resorts that offer day lift tickets for under $55 listed by price from lowest to highest.
#1. Turner Mountain – $38
Summit: 5,952 ft
Vertical Drop: 2,110 ft
Base: 3,842 ft
Located in the upper Northwest corner of Montana, Turner Mountain is managed entirely by volunteers through a non-profit program called Kootenai Winter Sports Ski Education Foundation, Inc. Visiting this mountain helps stimulate Libby’s economy during the winter months, which otherwise would be a rather slow season for the small town. This mountain is also known for private events – you can rent out the entire mountain! Get a group together and call for pricing to have an intimate mountain experience with your friends. There is one double chairlift and twenty-two named runs (less than 50% of which are groomers). 60% is advanced, 30% is intermediate and 10% is beginner terrain.
#2. Maverick Mountain – $39
Summit: 8,520 ft
Vertical Drop: 2,020 ft
Base: 6,500 ft
Another mountain with only one chairlift, but don’t let that stop you from a reasonably priced day of fun. Located in Southwest Montana in the town of Polaris, Maverick prides itself on uncrowded slopes, incredible views and over mile-long runs. With 2,000 skiable acres, 30% of their runs are advanced, 40% intermediate and 30% beginner. Be sure to top by the lodge for food at the Cowboy Cafe or drinks at the Thunder Bar! Beer drinkers will enjoy a selection of microbrews and four local beers from Beaverhead Brewery in Dillon, Montana.
Bring a towel and an extra $7 and swing by Elkhorn Hot Springs afterward for a relaxing soak.
#3. Blacktail Mountain – $45
Summit: 6,780 ft
Vertical Drop: 1,440 ft
Base: 5,326 ft
One of the features that sets Blacktail apart from other mountains is that after a long, winding, uphill drive, you park at the top of the resort. This means that everyone (regardless if you are a beginner or expert) starts at the top of the mountain surrounded by views of Flathead Lake, Glacier Park, Whitefish and the Cabinet Mountains. Blacktail offers three chairlifts and a handle tow with slopes dedicated to 15% beginner, 65% intermediate and 20% expert.
Why We Love It:
Incredibly, Blacktail relies 100% on natural snow (zero snowmakers using up resources like water and energy in this pristine National Forest land). There’s also always a discounted deal. If you are a pass holder at any other Montana ski resort, bring your pass and ski for half of the daily rate. Not a pass holder but want to ski here more than once? Get a punch card from Sportsman Ski Haus for $150 and ski four times (that’s $37.50 per day, which would technically put this mountain at number #1 on this list in terms of cheapest).
#4. Lost Trail Powder Mountain – $49
Summit: 8,200 ft
Vertical Drop: 1,800 ft
Base: 6,400 ft
Located on the Montana-Idaho border, this hidden historical gem opened in 1938. It covers two mountains, 1,800 acres and over 60 marked trails with their longest trail being 2.5 miles. There are five lifts (double chairs) and three rope tows with terrain consisting of 20% beginner, 60% intermediate and 20% advanced. The owners have maintained a mission of continually providing affordable, great skiing throughout the years and are also currently part of the Indy Pass. Also, Lost Trail is another special place that private groups can rent out for special events.
Why We Are Dying To Go:
Lost Trail Hot Springs is located just 6.5 miles from the ski area (on the Montana side). Is there anything better than dipping into hot springs after a day on the slopes? There are also a couple of other exciting lodging options that add to this mountain’s appeal. A Lil Bit of Heaven is a ranch with two secluded cabins nestled in the trees offering solitude and thousands of acres of National Forest. Bigger groups (6 or more) can rent the Ridgeline Yurt directly on the mountain for just $45 per person (backcountry gear not required).
#5. Showdown Mountain – $49
Summit: 8,200 ft
Vertical Drop: 1,400 ft
Base: 6,800 ft
Showdown Mountain opened in 1936, making it the oldest ski area in Montana. It is located in the Little Belt Mountains in Central Montana, with several nearby lodging options. Like Blacktail Mountain, Showdown is another ski area operating with all-natural snow – and has been for 83 years. They are known for private hill feels on weekdays and small crowds on weekends. It has three lifts, a magic carpet and 640 acres of terrain made up of 30% beginner, 40% intermediate and 30% advanced runs.
The nearest hot springs (Spa Hot Springs) are 30 minutes away in the town of White Sulphur Springs. Although technically part of a motel, you don’t need to stay there to hop in.
#6. Great Divide Ski Area – $50
Summit: 7,233 ft
Vertical Drop: 1,500 ft
Base: 5,730 ft
Like freestyle terrain? From smooth rollers to massive jumps and gaps, get your practice on at one of the six different parks at Great Divide. Located off of the continental divide just 22 miles north of Helena, this mountain offers 1,600 skiable acres. The runs consist of 15% beginner, 40% intermediate and 45% advanced and diverse terrain, including bowls, glades, moguls and parks. It has a fortunate reputation for being the first mountain to open in Montana each year, but more snowfall is always welcome in this particular area.
While they may have old lifts and limited facilities, they have enough perks to make up for it. Where else can you buy a lift ticket by the hour? Yes, for $12 per hour, you don’t have to feel guilty about arriving late or leaving early. Also, season pass holders can bring a friend for free every Thursday. Why can’t more mountains do something like this? We would have so many more friends!
#7. Snowbowl – $52
Summit: 7,600 ft
Vertical Drop: 2,600 ft
Base: 5,000 ft
Located just 8 miles from Missoula, Snowbowl has 950 acres of terrain, made up of 20% beginner, 40% intermediate and 40% advanced runs. The mountain caters to experts and tree-skiers with 500 of those 950 acres specifically designated for glade skiing. Snowbowl is one of Montana’s best-kept secrets for excellent snow and steep terrain.
You don’t necessarily need wheels to get there. There is a shuttle bus from Missoula on weekends and holidays (except Christmas) and also a local rideshare program called Missoula in Motion.
#8. Discovery Ski Area – $52
Summit: 8,158 ft
Vertical Drop: 2,388 ft
Base: 6,480 ft
Located in Western Montana near the town of Philipsburg, Discovery has three different core areas, which makes it suitable for all abilities. The front face consists of both: advanced groomers and beginner runs while another area (off the Granite chair) is home to steep groomers and mogul runs. Meanwhile, the backside is just straight-up gnarley. Discovery is known for uncrowded slopes, gorgeous views and bomb expert skiing. Of their 2,200 inbound acres, 55% of the terrain consists of advanced and expert runs, 25% intermediate and 20% beginner.
Check out this list of powder stashes and favorite runs from locals and staff, organized by condition.