Northwest

The 8 Best Montana Ski Resorts in Whitefish and Big Sky to Visit This Winter

I'm staring out at the snow-capped mountains as the fiery sun slowly disappears into the cloudless horizon, turning the sky a vibrant reddish-golden hue that extends out as far into the distance as the eye can see.

As I breathe in the fresh mountain breeze dancing its way through the shimmering alpine trees, I suddenly understand the meaning of the phrase “Big Sky Country.” It’s hard to fathom just how expansive the sky appears in a state as wide open as Montana, a state which attracts far fewer visitors than Colorado and is equally underrated when it comes to skiing.

With 15 ski resorts sprawled out across America’s fourth-largest sized and 48th most population dense state, there’s plenty of room to roam when you strap on your ski boots in Montana. The largest and most famous of the state’s ski areas is Big Sky Resort, a sprawling winter playground boasting some of the best skiing in America yet attracting just a fraction of the crowds of the more well-known Colorado resorts. Short ski lift lines and vast expanses of fresh powder also can be discovered at Montana’s equally excellent Whitefish Mountain Resort, located near the town of Whitefish at the doorstep of Glacier National Park.

If you’re planning on visiting either of these A-list Montana resorts on your next ski trip this winter, here’s where you’ll want to stay.

WHITEFISH: Get the AAA Four Diamond Treatment at The Lodge at Whitefish Lake

Perched along the banks of Whitefish Lake just a five-minute drive from the town of Whitefish and a 10-minute drive to Whitefish Mountain Resort, it’s not hard to see why The Lodge at Whitefish Lake is Montana’s only AAA Four-Diamond rated resort. Not only does the grand lodge-style property offer free shuttle service to the ski resort, it also offers a wide range of winter activities to pair with your ski/snowboard adventures including cross country skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, even dog sledding and ice fishing. For some off-piste excursions, take advantage of the lodge’s backcountry cat skiing for a full-day, guided backcountry ski adventure amidst wide open bowls and some of the most spectacular mountain scenery in the American West.

After a long day of adventuring, dive off the ski lift into a plate of elk meatballs, duck pasta, or USDA Prime steaks with tableside views of Whitefish Lake at the resort’s Boat Club Dining Room before making your way to the lobby to enjoy Western-themed film screenings with a side of popcorn. S’mores roasting also goes down on the terrace nightly from 7-9 pm while both indoor and outdoor hot tubs await in the pool areas, a perfect way to cap the evening before falling into your cute plush bear doll-equipped bed in rooms that range from simple studios to loft suites, lakefront condos, and fully furnished vacation homes.

The Lodge at Whitefish Lake

Top rated
Whitefish
9.3 Excellent (1764 reviews)

Fall in love at Good Medicine Lodge

Known as one of the best B&Bs in Montana, anyone who stays at this cozy nine-room cedar lodge B&B immediately falls in love. The romantic cabin-style rooms at Good Medicine Lodge each feature private bathrooms and vaulted ceilings, most with balconies showcasing mountain views and whirlpools in the three suites. Skiers can take advantage of the free boot and glove dryers in the on-site ski room (where complimentary ski storage is also available), and the resort is a stop along the free ski bus that runs from the town of Whitefish to Whitefish Mountain Resort.

The 8,000-square-foot lodge also offers fireplaces, an outdoor deck spa, and homey décor with a Western motif available in king, queen, or twin arrangements. Located just six miles from the ski resort, the 3 Diamond-rated lodge also serves a gourmet breakfast daily with nightly happy hour from 5-7 pm. Bottom line? This place takes the phrase “home away from home” quite literally. You’ll love it, too.

Good Medicine Lodge

Whitefish
9.3 Excellent (49 reviews)

Party 'till 2 am at Grouse Mountain Lodge

If you like to party as much as you like to ski, you’ve come to the right place. Not only does this cozy lodge-style resort offer discounted lift tickets and free shuttle service to Whitefish Mountain Resort, they’ll also pick you up in downtown Whitefish with shuttle service to and from town until 2 am. Located eight miles from the ski resort and just one mile from downtown Whitefish, Grouse Mountain Lodge is the ideal spot from which to explore all the fun bars, breweries, and nightlife that the historic railroad town has to offer. Or if you’d rather dine without leaving the comfort of your resort, head over to Logan’s Bar & Grill at the lodge for bison meatloaf and sautéed Idaho trout while sipping local brews beside a towering stone fireplace.

When it’s time to retire to your room, choose from options ranging from standard king or two queen options (some of which overlook Whitefish Lake Golf Course) to two bedroom loft suites that are perfect for families. After you’re done exploring Whitefish Mountain’s 3,000+ acres of skiable terrain, relax in the lodge’s outdoor hot tub or head back to Logan’s for après ski specials from 4-7 pm daily offering discounted rates on food and drink.

Grouse Mountain Lodge

Whitefish
8.2 Very good (1689 reviews)

Stay in the heart of downtown at The Firebrand

For a more sophisticated take on that classic Montana getaway, The Firebrand offers an urban escape smack in the middle of downtown Whitefish. The stylish rooftop patio, overlooking downtown with the mountains in the background, is where you’ll want to watch the famous Montana sunset. Meanwhile, The Firebrand Lounge is the place to be for a dozen Montana craft beers paired with elevated bar eats like ahi tacos, bison sliders, and pork pot stickers. In addition to free shuttle service to Whitefish Mountain Resort (and the Firebrand’s sister property The Lodge at Whitefish Lake), you’re also within a five-minute walk of more than 20 Whitefish restaurants yet just a 15-minute drive to the ski area.

The property features 47 king rooms, 34 double queen rooms, and five premium suite-style “skyline” rooms on the third floor with balconies and fireplaces. Rent bikes from the hotel to explore downtown, take part in the same outdoor activities as offered at The Lodge at Whitefish Lake (including backcountry skiing expeditions), or enjoy custom roasted coffee made especially for The Firebrand by Montana Coffee Traders. The social vibe of the property extends into the holiday season as well, where events include an ugly sweater contest and holiday wine pairing demos.

The Firebrand

Whitefish
9.0 Excellent (335 reviews)

BIG SKY: Kick back slopeside at The Lodge at Big Sky

If you’ve come to Montana to ski, it’s hard to be more centrally located than The Lodge at Big Sky. Smack at the base of Lone Peak in the iconic Big Sky Resort (home of “the Biggest Skiing in America”), this slopeside lodge is just steps to the ski lifts from which you can experience the full gamut of Big Sky’s gargantuan 5,850 skiable acres. The rustic hideaway features 130 guestrooms and suites ranging from single queens to 740-square-foot master suites, with suites offering views of Big Sky and all rooms including complimentary breakfast service in the Great Room overlooking Lone Peak.

If you do ever decide to tear yourself away from the ski mountain, you’ll find four hot tubs and an indoor heated pool at the lodge, in addition to a patio fire pit and outdoor grill for family cookouts. At the end of the day, kick back with a beer or a cocktail from Altitudes Bar on the outdoor deck under the moonlit Big Sky stars and get ready to do it all again tomorrow.

The Lodge At Big Sky

Big Sky
8.4 Very good (2090 reviews)

Get a taste of what's new at Residence Inn Big Sky/The Wilson Hotel

This brand new hotel recently opened near Big Sky Town Center brings a touch of sophistication to the classic ski resort escape with bike rentals, a game room, and a free shuttle that takes around 20 minutes to reach the ski area. While you may not be directly on the ski mountain at the Residence Inn Big Sky/The Wilson Hotel, you are within easy walking distance to a small but charming assemblage of local independently owned shops, bars, and restaurants in the area near the Big Sky Golf Course.

Bright and airy modern rooms range from studio queens to two bedroom suites, while additional amenities include an outdoor patio and grill with fire pit, an outdoor hot tub and pool heated to 98 degrees, free breakfast, and the forthcoming second location of popular Bozeman whiskey bar Copper.

Residence Inn Big Sky/the Wilson Hotel

Big Sky
8.6 Excellent (28 reviews)

Stay in a historic hunting lodge at Buck's T-4 Lodge

Established as a hunting camp in 1946, Buck’s T-4 Lodge is the place to go for local Montana culture and character. Rather than cookie cutter ski resort accommodations, the more affordable Buck’s ushers in a friendly mountain vibe paired with country décor, antique sporting gear, and one of the top restaurants in the area. The restaurant at Buck’s is a favorite of the local skiing community, offering local specialties like cast iron seared red deer, pheasant breast, and wild game meatloaf paired with more than 175 wines and a cool old Western-styled historic bar.

Newly remodeled rooms include king, two queen, and two-bedroom family suite options, with the lodge also unfurling two oversized outdoor hot tubs and an outdoor patio with fireplace. The local Skyline Bus will transport skiers from the resort to the Big Sky ski area in about 15 minutes, and full hot breakfast is included with each stay.

Buck's T-4 Lodge

Top rated
Big Sky
8.7 Excellent (1881 reviews)

Take an elevated approach to “roughing it" at Rainbow Ranch Lodge

This upscale lodge pairs that classic old Western experience with a more high-end yet approachable aesthetic on the banks of the Gallatin River. Listen to the babble of a nearby creek at Rainbow Ranch Lodge as you kick back in the outdoor hot tub under the stars at this more secluded location, which offers pondside rooms overlooking the resort’s trout pond as well as riverside rooms along the Gallatin River featuring handcrafted lodgepole queen beds with plush down comforters, wood burning fireplaces, and decks overlooking the river.

Rainbow Ranch Lodge is also known as one of the best places to get a drink in the area, with barrel-aged and artisan cocktails being served at the Montana-inspired restaurant paired with authentic ranch-to-table cuisine such as smoked trout cheesecake and bison flatbreads. Skiers may access the local Skyline Bus from the bus stop across the street from the lodge, to be dropped off at Big Sky Resort in around 20 minutes.

Rainbow Ranch Lodge

Top rated
Big Sky
8.6 Excellent (229 reviews)