Cross Country Skiing In The Bitterroot Valley Of Western Montana

Bitterroot Valley Real Estate

There is no better way to explore Montana's winter wonderland than on a pair of cross-country skis.

The gear is easy to find, inexpensive to rent and takes little experience to use. With a little planning and not much fuss, you can immerse yourself in a world of beauty, solitude and adventure.

On cross country skis, try traversing the old trails of Lewis and Clark, the pioneering adventurers sent by President Jefferson 200years ago to explore the West. Or you can climb up a glaciated canyon in the Bitterroots to find old wooden dams built by the first pioneers a century ago. Or you ski across a ridgeline, gazing deep into the mountainous wilderness of Montana and Idaho. Montana receives hundreds of inches of snow each winter, blanketing the state with enough soft, fluffy powder to allow your skis to take you places limited only by your imagination.

For those new to this sport, try one of the two developed, public cross-country skiing areas. The ski trails at the top of Lolo Pass are well marked, groomed with tracks, which makes skiing easier, and designed to provide plenty of different length trips of varying difficulty. Though you could leave from here and ski for days, you can also ski for a few hours on trails marked for beginners or intermediate skiers.

At the southern end of the Bitterroot Valley, literally across the street from Lost Trail Powder Mountain, is the Chief Joseph ski area, another public cross-country ski area maintained by the Forest Service. Again, this area offers plenty of varying length and difficulty trips that all criss-cross through this wooded area full of big and small critters. And in the middle of the area sits a log cabin with hot coco and a warm fire waiting for you.

For those looking for more of an adventure, the hiking trails in the Bitterroot and Sapphire ranges the two mountain ranges that envelop the Bitterroot Valley offer hundreds of miles of trails that climb deep into the wilderness. Because some of these trails start at lower elevations that the trails at Lolo and St. Joseph, the bottoms can be a bit icy or thin. Many skiers wait till after a big snowfall to ski them, or plan on carrying their skies on a backpack the skis are very light up until the snow cover is adequate. Visit the Forest Service’s we site for more information on ski trails and conditions.

Cross county skiing adventures also lend themselves well to long weekend getaways. Several small resorts and bed and breakfasts are located near great skiing. A decadent meal in a warm cabin is the perfect end to a day of skiing. Accommodations range from the romantic to family oriented, from luxurious to discount. Some of the best skiing and ski accommodations are located near Montana’s national parks, Glacier and Yellowstone. Though a bit of a drive for the day from the Bitterroot Valley, they are worth the trek for that special weekend away.

Cross-country skiing is a perfect activity for new and experienced skiers alike. It takes most people just a few hours to become comfortable on the skis, but you can spend a lifetime exploring. Because this is a winter activity, you should be mindful of weather conditions, your own physical limitations and the shorter days. Be prepared with a watch, extra clothes, food and a map. And be ready for an adventure you’ll never forget!

Spend a little more time out in nature. 
Camp under the stars to really enjoy what the valley has to offer.