As snow falls early, backcountry touring opens up in western Montana

Joshua Murdock

There isn’t a ton of snow in the mountains around Missoula right now.

But there is a lot for mid-November. And, better yet, it’s (barely) deep enough to ski in some places. Snowpacks across the area are 150% to more than 200% their normal depths for early and mid-November, courtesy of so-far-accurate predictions of a cold, snowy winter across western Montana.

Lolo Pass southwest of Missoula has just enough snow for unusually early backcountry skiing. The skiing might not be the best in mid-November, but the views don’t disappoint. 


Head to Marshall Mountain or Snowbowl ski areas just outside town, down to Lolo Pass about an hour southwest, into the central Bitterroots, or farther afield to Lost Trail Pass and Ski Area, and you’ll see a handful of hardy skiers and snowboarders each morning applying climbing skins to backcountry skis and splitboards. They might take one last sip of hot coffee in the pre-dawn gloom or brilliant sunrise rays. Then they’ll shed layers, lock their cars and begin their hike upward into a

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