Let’s be honest: since the first flakes fell in Montana’s Yellowstone Country over a month ago, we’ve been literally counting the days until the ski hills open. Unfortunately, we’ve still got a few weeks to go (Big Sky opens on November 28, Red Lodge Mountain opens on November 29, and Bridger Bowl and Moonlight are playing hard to get and opening on December 6 and 7, respectively). In the meantime, let’s constantly update the snow report, scroll through ski pictures on Facebook, pray for snow and salivate over all the juicy details of each Yellowstone Country ski area so that we’re ready to roll on opening day.

Red Lodge Mountain
Founded: 1960
Lifts: 6 (Plus a Magic Carpet. Everyone loves a Magic Carpet.)
Trails: 71
Skiable Terrain: 1,700 acres
First Chair: 9:00am
Last Chair: 4:00pm

Why It’s Awesome: Their tagline is “Montana Skiing, Pure and Simple.” Can’t get much better than that, eh? While Red Lodge is the smallest of the hills listed here, it’s in the company of giants and it’s definitely got the chops worthy of a dedicated ski trip. Challenging terrain (you’ll be please with the amount of black diamonds ready for shredding), and a serious lack of lift lines makes Red Lodge a world-class ski experience at literally half the price of the big resorts. No attitudes, no lines, just good, clean powder all day long, situated above an authentic mountain town.

Where to Après: Bierstube is on-mountain, which makes it an easy  stop for a brew. Boasting 10 beers on tap, if you stop in on a Saturday, there’s live music between 3pm and 6pm. And if that wasn’t enough, they have an infamous, 9-foot long (slight exaggeration) “shotski.” To be honest, they had us at “shotski.”
Internet Haunts: website // facebook // twitter // instagram // youtube

Big Sky Resort and Moonlight Basin
Founded: 1973
Lifts: 23 (Plus 10 surface lifts, like tow ropes, poma lifts and Magic Carpets)
Trails: 250 named runs.
Skiable Terrain: 5,750 acres (gulp)
First Chair: 9:00am
Last Chair: 4:00pm

Why It’s Awesome: Two hundred fifty trails (excuse us while we wipe away the drool). 11,000 feet at the peak. 4,000+ feet of vertical drop. And snow, snow, snow like no other. If a ski vacation is what you want, Big Sky and Moonlight are where you should be. After merging in October 2013, the combined forces of these resorts boast literally the Biggest Skiing in America® (both in elevation AND in skiable terrain). And a trip to Big Sky is perfect for families, since all those comfy mountain resort amenities are available right onsite (a tube park for kids, spa, fitness center, delicious restaurants, cozy lodging and anything else you can dream up).

Where to Après: Whiskey Jack’s at the heart of the base area. Grab a microbrew for yourself and a plate of nachos for the kids (and another plate of nachos for you). Catch some live music and marvel at the goggle tans, ski suits and flat-out wild style that this mountain attracts.
Internet Haunts: website // facebook // twitter // youtube

Bridger Bowl
Founded: 1955
Lifts: 10
Trails: 75 (plus all those unmarked ones you’ll find by getting happily lost)
Skiable Terrain: 2,000 acres
First Chair: 9:00am
Last Chair: 4:00pm

Why It’s Awesome: A nonprofit since it opened in 1955, when skis strapped onto everyday boots, Bridger Bowl is a local’s hill all day long. Twenty minutes from the Bozeman airport, it’s possible to fly in, nab a first chair and make it back into town for dinner after a full day of skiing. Bridger also has all top-notch ski hill amenities like lessons for the whole family, mountain tours, ski clinics, workshops and winter events without all of the fuss. With a recent nod from Outside Magazine as one of the best independent resorts in the country, Bridger has terrain for first-timers, old-timers and thrill-seekers alike.

Where to Après: If you’re not heading to The Griz, you’re missing out. Located just next to Roundhouse Sports at the base area, your best bet is to act like a local and ski right down to it. Pop out of your bindings and order a brew before you even think about heading back to the parking lot to get yourself un-geared. It’s the perfect place for a little eavesdropping on some epic storytelling.
Internet Haunts: website // facebook // twitter // google+