This is a piece I wrote for the Great Falls Tribune last winter.
At Homestake Lodge, east of Butte, skiers kick, glide and skate over nearly 40 kilometers of groomed trails. School groups don skis for the first time, womens groups hone their skills on skate skis and kids groups learn to ski recreationally and competitively.
Families and individuals breeze through aspen trees and around beaver ponds and cruise up and down the conifer-lined trails beneath granite cliffs.
Seven years ago, this Nordic center was nothing but trees, boulders and a few dirt roads. Now families, exercise enthusiasts and hard-core Nordic skiers get their cross-country fix, meet up with friends and enjoy a bowl of homemade soup in front of the fire.
We had a vision of a place with great trails and a communal aspect, said Chris Axelson, who owns Homestake Lodge with his wife Mandy.
Theyve made that dream come true.
With an eye on minimizing their carbon footprint through the use of passive solar heating, thermal masses, photovoltaic panels and other eco-groovy techniques, Homestake Lodge is a perfect place for a day or a weekend out of town.
Montana is loaded with Nordic skiing opportunities. From full-fledged lodges, to parking lots that lead to miles of trails where there is reliable snow in Montana, theres a cross-country ski trail system.
The North Shore Nordic Club maintains trails for skiers and snowshoers in the Flathead Valley. They groom 6.5 kilometers at Bigfork Community Nordic Center and 43 kilometers at Blacktail Nordic Trails.
Bigfork trails are located at the intersection of Foothill and Jewel Basin Road north of Bigfork. Blacktail trails are along Blacktail Road east of Blacktail Mountain (alpine) Ski Area.
Thirty miles of scenic trail system on private and Forest Service lands loop through terrain well suited for all levels of ability. Bohart Ranch is known for impeccably groomed trails, big hills, biathlon training and wildlife. The center is located 16 miles northeast of Bozeman.
Chief Josephs 25 kilometers of groomed trails receive reliable snowfall every year, and is usually skiable earlier and later than many of the other Nordic trails in the area. There is a warming cabin, with a rentable loft. Its located at the southern end of the Bitterroot Valley.
This resort in the middle of the Seeley Swan Valley has 15 kilometers of groomed trails to fit a variety of experience levels. Beyond the trails, backcountry skiing lures the well equipped and avalanche-savvy.
More than 20 miles of ski and snowmobile (separate) trails beckon at Elkhorn Hot Springs in the Pioneer Mountains. From the lookout at Solarium Point, gaze south three miles to the ski runs at Maverick Mountain and beyond to the Big Hole Valley. To the north and east, the mountains Highboy, Comet and Saddleback dominate the skyline. Soak in the hot springs pools après ski.
Forest Service Trails
Throughout the state, the U.S. Forest Service maintains a network of hiking/biking/horseback riding trails that double as ski trails. Check with the local district for the best trails to ski on.
Winter ski and snowshoe trails throughout Glacier offer access to spectacular scenery and uncrowded recreational opportunities. From Apgar, Lake McDonald and North Fork on the west side, to Saint Mary, Marias Pass and Two Medicine on the east side, both groomed and ungroomed trails crisscross the park.
Nestled at the top of Homestake Pass between Butte and Whitehall, Homestake Lodge superbly grooms 37 kilometers of trails for classic and skate skiing. Ten kilometers of trail are dog-friendly. A yurt, cabins and bunkrooms are available for rent.
This historic inn bordering Glacier National Park in Essex has 33 kilometers of ski trails, which are groomed daily. The trails wind through gently rolling, forested terrain with views into Glacier National Park. Guided backcountry ski tours provide amazing adventures.
Voted No. 1 Nordic Ski Resort in North America by Cross Country Skier magazine, the dependable snow, 85 kilometers of meticulously groomed trails and epic views create an unrivaled ski experience in Big Sky.
The Last Chance Nordic Ski Club maintains trails in two areas near Helena. The 13 kilometers of trails at MacDonald Pass offer stunning views of the Big Belt Mountains through the sheltered forest area. The city golf course offers convenient skiing in town. MacDonald Pass trails are about ½ mile east of the MacDonald Pass summit in Highway 12, the golf course is in Helena.
Nearly 28 kilometers of groomed ski trails (10 kilometers for skate skiing, and all of the trails with the exception of the Spire Loop groomed for classic skiing). Ski trails also can be used as access to backcountry skiing along the Continental Divide. Find it 11 miles south of Highway 1, near Anaconda.
More than 15 kilometers of groomed trails are laid out to take advantage of easy-going nature of the terrain just outside of Red Lodge. Well-groomed trails skirt meadows and wind through aspen groves; the hills are challenging, but easy to avoid.
Easily accessible from West Yellowstone, the Rendezvous Ski Trails consist of more than 35 kilometers of gently rolling, beautifully groomed trails that wind through tall stands of lodgepole pine and open meadows. Situated at just more than 6,800 feet, the trails provide perfect conditions for high altitude training or recreation. A 22-lane range is available on a self-serve basis for Biathlon training.
More than 20 kilometers of trail wind through trees and meadows at the Silver Crest trails located in the Little Belt Mountains south of Neihart. Benches and shelters dot the trails just where skiers need a rest.
The 20 kilometers of Nordic trails wind through old growth forests, roll over ridge tops and meander through meadows eight miles from Whitefish. Trails are groomed daily. The lodge offers three suites for overnight guests.
Glacier Nordic Club grooms and maintains 13 kilometers of flat-to-rolling ski trails at the Whitefish Lake Golf Course and 10 hilly kilometers on Whitefish Mountain.
Yellowstone is at its best in winter. A blanket of snow, steamy geysers and hot springs, wildlife hunkered in the valleys, and the lack of summer crowds make skiing in Wonderland delightful. Find groomed or blazed trails at Mammoth, Tower, Old Faithful, Northeast, Canyon, West Yellowstone, and along Highway 191 in Gallatin Canyon.