Montanans are humans too (hard to believe, isn’t it? sometimes we seem like so much more) and when faced with phrases like “unusual cold spell” and “record-breaking snowfall” it can be tempting, even for us, to want to swathe ourselves in blankets, brew something hot, and really commit to completing BuzzFeed’s top ten most binge-able TV shows. But, however intriguing a Netflix description may sound, Montanans also know that winter is no time for staying inside.
See, the aforementioned ominous phrases actually mean that winter sports are awesome this year, and Montanans–when we’re not hiking or biking or camping or hunting or fishing–live for winter sports. Ice sailing, snow shoeing, snowmobiling, ice fishing, cross-country skiing, dog sledding…all definite possibilities. But probably the most popular winter sport in Montana is downhill skiing and snowboarding. And while hurtling down a mountain is the most exhilarating part of skiing, every aspect is fun: the impossibly early mornings so that you can spend as much time on the slopes as possible…speeding down the mountain, punctuated by the almost eerie calmness of the lift back up…eating lunch in the lodge, convincing yourself that even though you brought a perfectly good lunch what it really needs is a side of fries…hitting the slopes again…
Then the ski hill closes, and what do you do? Granted, there are a lot of excellent ways to finish a day of winter adventure–I once topped a day of skiing off huddled around a counter with my friends ravenously devouring an Albertson’s roast chicken, and it was fantastic–but I do think that all activities are made even better when you put a little thought into what you want to do next, after your adrenaline wears off and your muscles remind you that they exist.
Pizza is always a good option, and a brewery is a natural choice. But I’m going to suggest something even better than a micro brewery (gasp! does such a thing exist?): Hot Springs. In my book, nothing is better than ending a day of skiing at a hot springs. Soaking your tired muscles in the mineral baths, watching the snow flakes melt as they hit the steam from the pools, staring up at the limitless stars. That’s the American Dream right there.
Southwest Montana, naturally, has some perfect spots to live out the American Dream. Elkhorn Hot Springs in Polaris is only ten minutes away from Maverick Mountain. Miles from anywhere, and with only a single chair lift, Maverick is often overlooked, and doesn’t have many of the frills of more famous ski hills. What it does have is incredible runs, tons of off-trail skiing for the adventurous, beautiful scenery, a cheerful atmosphere, and did I mention the hot springs ten miles from the lodge?! Elkhorn offers cabins, rooms, RV parking, a classic restaurant (with micro brews), two outdoor pools, and a sauna. As if that weren’t enough, there’s another hot spring–Jackson Hot Springs–only half an hour down the road from Maverick.