A Guide to Cross-Country Skiing in Southwest Montana

Cross Country Skiing

Montana is undoubtedly a winter wonderland. From skiing and snowboarding to snowmobiling and ice fishing, Southwest Montana offers a little bit of everything. Often when you mention skiing in Montana, visions of ‘skiing the cold smoke’ play through our minds – the downhill slopes, fresh powder and endless possibilities. In Southwest Montana, we have three downhill ski areas: Maverick Mountain, Great Divide, Lost Trail, and Discovery Ski Area.

While downhill skiing is exhilarating, there is nothing better than Nordic, or cross-country, skiing through Montana’s wide-open spaces. And the best part? Cross-country skiing is accessible for people of all ski levels. Cross-country skiing is a great way to get in some cardio (we’ve got to keep those New Year’s Resolutions) while enjoying all Montana has to offer. Check out our guide to Cross County Skiing in Montana.

How to Cross Country Ski

New to cross-country skiing? Check out these beginner’s videos from the Professional Ski Instructors of America.

Where to Rent Cross Country Ski Gear

If you are new to the sport and don’t already have cross country ski equipment, these are some of the best places to rent equipment in Southwest Montana! Take the rentals for a test run and when you fall in love with the sport, these professionals will be happy to point you in the right direction to make the purchase of your very own skis. Make sure you ask about their Nordic Packages if you are looking to go cross country skiing.

The Base Camp in Helena
5 East Broadway St, Helena, MT 59601  |  406-443-5360

Capital Sports Helena
1092 Helena Ave, Helena, MT 59601  |  406-443-2978 

Homestake Lodge near Butte
530 Upper Rader Creek Rd, Whitehall, MT 59759  |  406-284-1725

Discovery Ski Area
180 Discovery Basin Road, Anaconda, MT 59711  |  406-563-2184

Where to Cross Country Ski in Southwest Montana

In addition to the stunning mountains of the region, Southwest Montana has its fair share of open meadows and rolling hills. Combined, that leaves plenty of groomed and ungroomed terrain to explore! Here’s a map of some of the most popular Ski Areas and Trails in Southwest Montana.

Chief Joseph Cross Country Ski Area

Chief Joseph Ski Area

Settled at the southern end of the Bitterroot Valley along the Idaho border, this area receives reliable snowfall that is sure to meet your expectations. The immense trail system offers terrain for a range of experience levels from easy to difficult. Trail maps are available, and every junction is marked with a map. Trails are consistently groomed December – mid April. View Map

Discovery Basin Ski Area & Echo Lake

The Echo Lake Trails are adjacent to the Discovery Basin Ski Area and Echo Lake. The Echo Lake Trails Association grooms 14 km of trails for both skate and classic skiing, with an additional marked 15km of ungroomed trails. Snowshoeing is permitted. The best access for parking is the Midway lot on the road to Discovery Ski Area. Ski rentals are available at the Discovery Rental Shop. More Information

Homestake Lodge

Homestake Lodge maintains and grooms over 35km of trail, most of the trails are set with a classic track and skate lane. Maintaining narrow trails allows guests the opportunity to ski in an intimate and natural setting. There are 15km of dog friendly trails. The lodge offers lessons, ski rentals, and food. More Information

Stodden Park at Highland Golf Course

Like Helena, Butte’s Nordic Ski club in conjunction with the Butte-Silver Bow Parks and Recreation maintains groomed trails at the local golf course. The trails are rolled and when snow is deep enough, classic tracks are set. They offer a 4km loop when conditions allow.

Elkhorn Hot Springs Ski Trails

Elkhorn Hot Springs Ski Trails

This trail system has 1,000 feet of climb following the old Wise River Polaris Road from Elkhorn Hot Springs to the top of the Price Creek Divide and continuing near the Pioneer Mountain National Scenic Byway. While the trail is occasionally groomed, expect difficult terrain. View Map

MacDonald Pass Ski Area

Located 15 miles west of Helena on Highway 12, MacDonald Pass ski trails provide the perfect getaway from town. As long as snow permits, trails are open December through April. The 14km of trails are groomed by the Last Chance Nordic Ski Club. You will find a plowed parking lot on the north side of Highway 12, about a third of a mile east of the summit. More Information

Bill Roberts Golf Course – Helena

The parking lot is located along North Benton Avenue just north of Carroll College. The Last Chance Nordic Ski Club in partnership with Helena’s Parks and Recreation Department grooms roughly 4km of skate and classic tracts around the golf course which runs across gently rolling terrain. After you’ve had a chance to ski the golf course, swing by the clubhouse for a bite to eat where you will find Muni’s Sports Grille. View Map

Big Hole Battlefield

The Battlefield (10 miles west of Wisdom on Highway 43) is open year-round, dependent on snowpack, from sunrise to sunset, however the road leading to the lower parking lot and trailheads is closed to vehicles but open for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Visitor center hours for the winter are 10am-5pm.

**Due to the lasting effects of the Trail Creek Fire, ALL TRAILS at Big Hole Battlefield are close to all winter recreation. the visitor center is currently open, winter hours are 10:00-4:30pm Tuesday-Saturday. 

Nordic Skiing at Mount Haggin

Mount Haggin Nordic Ski Area

The Mount Haggin ski trails are groomed weekly by volunteers of the Mile High Nordic Ski Club. Located just 11 miles south of Highway 1 near Anaconda on Mill Creek Highway, Mount Haggin offers 25km of groomed trails. Roughly 10km are groomed for both classic and skate skiing while the remaining trails are tracked only for classic skiing. Grooming Report

Moulton Ski Trails

The Moulton Ski trails are located in the Beaverhead-Deer Lodge National Forest north of Walkerville. The trails wind themselves through open meadows with hills and challenging climbs. The trails are provided through cooperation between the National Forest Service and volunteers of the Mile High Nordic Club. Grooming Report

Stemple Pass Ski Area

Stemple Pass Ski Area is located 37 miles north of Helena toward Lincoln and offers 32km of ungroomed ski trails in four connected loops for beginner to intermediate cross-country skiing. While less popular than MacDonald Pass, it is traveled well enough to keep well defined tracks. The trailhead is located adjacent to County Road #601 at the top of Stemple Pass. More Information

Wade & Cliff Lakes Ski Trails

There are 35km of groomed (weekly) ski trails near Wade and Cliff Lakes in the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest. 15km are rated easiest, while the remaining 20km are more difficult. Several routes of set track provide skiers with a scenic tour of Cliff and Wade Lakes and provide a scenic vista of the area. Food and lodging are available at Wade Lake Resort.

Map of Ski Areas in Southwest Montana

Southwest Montana Ski Map
Click for a Printable PDF