Many people have seen the movie “Fargo,” with its dreary depiction of life here in the dead of winter. And while North Dakotans took it at face value and got laugh out of it, others saw it as a representation of the vast nothingness of the Northern Plains locked in the dead of winter. Well, that was a movie. The reality is that North Dakotans relish winter for a change of recreational opportunities.
Instead of biking or motorcycling, they snowmobile on more than 2,000 miles of groomed trails. Instead of jogging, they cross-country ski or snowshoe along wooded trails or river bottoms. Instead of boating to their favorite fishing spot, they drive across the frozen lake and set up the icehouse.
Snowmobile North Dakota has a trail condition report posted throughout the winter to keep riders up to date on the conditions of trails across the state
North Dakota has three downhill ski and snowboard areas – at Mandan (Huff Hills), Bottineau (Bottineau Winter Park) and Walhalla (Frost Fire). They’re not the Rockies, but a day on the slopes here will work out the kinks and break in that new equipment before you head west.
Cross-country skiers can glide into the solitude of North Dakota’s 13 state parks, whose varied terrain offers great views and wildlife. But they aren’t the only places with excellent skiing. Golf courses like Bully Pulpit in Medora and Riverwood in Bismarck offer peaceful solitude in the Badlands and along the wooded Missouri River bottomland.
Ice fishing is big throughout North Dakota. Devils Lake and Lake Audubon are destinations that resemble small towns when ice-fishing houses spring up in the winter. Other bodies of water also turn out game fish throughout the winter months.
Ice skating rinks are found across the state and most larger cities offer indoor rinks.
The majestic beauty of the American West becomes even more magical in wintertime, when South Dakota is transformed into a winter wonderland just waiting to be explored. From skiing and snowboarding to snowmobiling and snowshoe hiking, winter in South Dakota offers something for everyone.
Go cross-country skiing, try your hand at ice fishing or enjoy miles of groomed trails while snowmobiling across South Dakota. The Black Hills offer the most extensive and well-groomed snowmobile trails in America, including 448 kilometers of marked trails south of Spearfish to north of Custer. The area also includes hundreds of kilometers of groomed cross-country ski trails. Most of the 1.2-million-acre Black Hills National Forest permits snowmobiling, but the enhanced trail system gives the Black Hills a national prominence. At 6,000 feet, trails develop a five-foot snow pack each winter, carrying you through snowy pine forests and deep into canyons that lead to summit lookouts or untracked meadows and play areas with top-notch powder-floating. With warming shelters, gas stops, local service and expert guides, the snowmobiling support in South Dakota is hard to match.
Experience the thrill of downhill skiing at Terry Peak Ski Area outside of Lead or Great Bear Recreation Park in Sioux Falls. Enjoy the peaceful winter solitude of a snowshoe or cross-country ski trip through acres of unspoiled, pristine wilderness across the state. Take a winter hike to Black Elk Peak—the highest point in both South Dakota and in the United States east of the Rockies—or explore Oahe Downstream State Recreation Area for an opportunity to see majestic bald eagles roost in the treetops below the Oahe Dam.
Whatever your goal, South Dakota is the perfect setting for your winter getaway.
In Wyoming, Jackson Hole Mountain Resort boasts 2,500 acres of legendary inbounds terrain, including (35km of beginner and intermediate runs. The resort also boasts a 1261m vertical rise and unparalleled backcountry access. It’s known around the world as “The Big One,” and the chutes, tree runs, and famous couloirs are generally agreed to be the most challenging expert skiing in America.
On the other side of Jackson, Snow King Resort brings a completely different ski experience. This resort caters to the lovers of long, steep slopes. If skiing isn’t the only thing on your agenda, this resort offers two-hour lift tickets at a great price. On the back of the Tetons, Grand Targhee Resort provides a slower pace for new and family skiers. Wide-open spaces and plenty of powder allow ski and snowboarders to enjoy the experience at their own speed.
You don’t have to travel to Jackson to enjoy Wyoming skiing. If your vacation takes you to another part of the state, your itch to ski can still be scratched. White Pine Ski Area and Resort is Wyoming’s oldest ski area, located in the Wind River Mountains near Pinedale. Sleeping Giant Ski Area, near Cody, has reopened with improved runs and is just three miles from Yellowstone National Park. Hogadon Ski Area, on Casper Mountain, offers a nice variety of terrain for visitors to the center of the state. And Snowy Range Ski Area is just a short drive from Laramie for those visiting the southeast corner.
No matter where you visit in Wyoming you are within a day’s drive of the slopes. Try each of our ski communities for a complete Forever West getaway.
Wyoming also has extensive trails systems, but none is larger than the Continental Divide Snowmobile Trail. Stretching from Lander through Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Park, the trail covers nearly 1,000 kilometers and is one of the longest snowmobiling trails in America. The Bighorn Mountains in north-central Wyoming and the Snowy Range/Sierra Madre areas in southeastern Wyoming also offer hundreds of kilometers of groomed snowmobile trails as well as designated cross-country ski areas and surrounding national forests.
In Montana, Big Sky Resort now claims the most vertical drop of any U.S. ski area, 4,180 ft. or 1274m (edging out Jackson by 41 ft. or 12.5m) and is located between Bozeman and Yellowstone National Park. Big Sky offers 150 trails on two mountains, with 17% beginner, 25% intermediate, and 57% expert slopes. Adding nearby Moonlight Basin’s trails through the Lone Peak Pass, you’ll experience the most skiing in America.
Located in the shadow of Glacier National Park in Whitefish, Montana, Whitefish Mountain is famous for snow-ghosts, vast ski and snowboard terrain, unsurpassed views, and a relaxed, family-friendly environment. Big Mountain has been rated as the number one ski resort in Montana for four years running in Ski Magazine’s Top Resort Guide.
Montana’s cross-country skiing stretches from border to border under the state’s famous Big Sky. Glacier and Yellowstone National Parks, as well as seven publicly owned national forests, offer several hundred kilometers of backcountry skiing. In addition, Montana has more than a dozen cross country resorts with 285+ km of groomed trails.
Nearly all of Montana can boast of having groomed snowmobile trails nearby. Flathead Valley, with Kalispell as its hub, has four trail systems. The national forests near Butte, Missoula and Helena offer 10 snowmobiling areas. West Yellowstone is called the “Snowmobile Capital of the World,” and rightly so. Snowmobiles are allowed on the town’s streets, and guides and rentals are available in abundance for excursions into Yellowstone National Park.
Idaho truly is a winter wonderland with over 18,000 acres across 18 ski and recreation mountains and resorts. All manner of playing in the snow-packed mountains and meadows is welcome, including skiing, snowboarding, cross-country skiing, heli skiing, snowkiting, snowshoeing, snowmobiling and fat biking.
Explore the snow-powdered tree lines along the slopes of Idaho’s exhilarating mountains. While Idaho is known for the iconic Sun Valley Resort, notable resorts can be found all around the state, including Schweitzer Mountain Resort in Sandpoint, Brundage Mountain Resort in McCall and Grand Targhee Resort near Eastern Idaho.
For those seeking more of an adrenaline rush, try heli skiing in Sun Valley and at Teton Springs Lodge or cat skiing on Brundage Mountain or Soldier Mountain. Riders wanting to roam will find 7,200 miles of snowmobile trails to glide through. A more relaxed winter trip can be spent snowshoeing in and out of a cozy backcountry yurt.
For an extra dose of fun, visit during one of Idaho’s winter festivals including Sandpoint Winter Carnival, McCall Winter Carnival or Fire & Ice Winterfest in Lava Hot Springs. Another unique winter event true to the western spirit is the American Dog Derby in Ashton, where you can watch traditional dog sled racing.