When winter hits Montana, the crisp air and sparkly snow are the perfect invitation to get outside and enjoy nature. Cross-country ski trails are easily accessible from cities and resorts with an abundance of skate skiing and classic trails.
There are plenty of trails leading into Montana’s backcountry where the sound of skis sliding over snow is the only thing you’ll hear. The season starts in November and usually stretches until the end of March.
Cross-Country Skiing in Montana
West Yellowstone Rendezvous Trail
Within the Gallatin National Forest, which is right next to Yellowstone National Park, are the Rendezvous Trails. The 21 miles (35 km) of trails typically have excellent snow due to the high altitude of the forest. This elevation also makes Rendezvous ideal for high-performance training, and several Olympic hopefuls ski here.
Beginners and intermediates need not worry, there’s a Rendezvous Trail for every level of ability! The park has both diagonal stride tracks and wider lanes for skating, and nearby is an abundance of backcountry for telemark and touring. Daily and seasonal passes are available.
Red Lodge Nordic Center
Less than three miles from the city of Red Lodge’s downtown, these trails at the base of the Beartooth Mountains are groomed weekly. The Nordic Center is operated by the Beartooth Recreational Trails Association, an official 501(c)3 non-profit. It accepts donations as well as charges a $5 fee for the use of the trails, with kids skiing for free.
Red Lodge has over nine miles (15 km) of trails at several levels of difficulty. The terrain is varied from loops through aspen forests to open meadows.
The Glacier Nordic Club maintains two different areas of trails: Big Mountain Trails near Whitefish Mountain Resort and trails at the Glacier Nordic Center near Whitefish Lake. Annual membership and day passes are available for both areas.
When some want downhill and some want cross-country, Whitefish Mountain and the Big Mountain trail system allows the family to start and end their day together. The hilly Big Mountain trails are advanced and expert. The altitude means excellent snow cover, even when the trails at the Glacier Nordic Center have started to melt.
Just one mile from town, the 7.5 miles (12 km) of groomed trails at the Glacier Nordic Center are on the Whitefish Lake Golf Course. The area is generally flat with some slight rolls and is suitable for all skill levels. Evening skiing is available until 10:00 p.m. on 2.5 miles (4 km) of lit trails.
Elkhorn Hot Springs Ski Trail
Perfect for those who want to balance a hard day’s ski with a relaxing soak in natural hot springs. Ski trails in the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest are free and are groomed occasionally. Elevation climbs about 1,000 feet and the most difficult trail in the area stretches over 14 miles (23 km). Experts can even mountaineer to a ghost town.
This small town in western Montana has been called “the best-kept nordic secret in the Rockies” thanks to its reliable snow, daily grooming, and variety of trails for all skill levels. Maintained by volunteers at the Seeley Lake Nordic Ski Club, skiers can use the trails for free, though donations are welcomed.
Groomed and ungroomed trails are easy to access, and those who want a challenge can go extreme backcountry skiing with accommodation in yurts. In between, there’s more-accessible backcountry terrain, ski touring, skate skiing, and classic skiing.
For more cross-country skiing inspiration, check out Visit Montana’s video!