With a collection of hot springs, local breweries and easy access to skiing and other winter sports, Missoula, MT, has a full assortment of winter fun.
Missoula makes a great base for those interested in piecing together a multiday ski trip. Skiers can choose among six ski areas within a two-and-a-half hour drive of downtown, the closest being Montana Snowbowl in the Lolo National Forest about 25 minutes away. Cross-country skiing trails can be found in three national forest areas – on some local golf courses and at the Mount Haggin Nordic Ski Area. Guests can rent snowmobiles at a few local shops, then explore the vast network of snowmobile trails that wind through Missoula’s surrounding forests. Ice skaters can glide on indoor and outdoor floors at Glacier Ice Rink, while anglers can ice fish at several lakes that freeze over in the Seely Swan Valley.
After experiencing water in all its frozen forms, guests can warm up and relax aching muscles in one of Missoula’s hot springs. While some of the springs are located in natural settings and require a hike to reach, others have been tapped for commercial use and incorporated into resorts that feature mineral pools.
Missoula’s restaurants serve everything from pizza, pub fare and BBQ to more refined recipes. With four breweries concocting original beers plus a variety of pubs, finding a drink is never a problem. In fact, we noticed Missoula’s beer scene last year and named it one of the best unexpected beer cities in the country.
Activities: Downhill and cross-country skiing, snowboarding, snowmobiling, ice skating, ice fishing, sleigh rides
Average Annual Snowfall: 46
Winter Temps: 16 to 30
Must Try: A nighttime dip in a hot spring
The gold standard of the upscale version of experiencing the great outdoors, a stay at one of the upscale campsites at Montana’s Resort at Paws Up will have even the most rugged backwoodser questioning his spartan ideals. Situated along the Blackfoot River (the very same that inspired ‘A River Runs Through It’), Paws Up’s “glamping” (glamorous camping, naturally) sites are the epitome of luxury and comfort: For the River Camp, your tent is a mere cast away from the water, and, by the way, is actually a sumptuously furnished, house-sized living space with canvas walls and roof, plus electricity and en suite bathroom. Nights are spent by a crackling campfire enjoying s’mores (prepared by your personal butler, naturally) before drifting off to sleep with the sounds of a gentle wind blowing through the trees and the distant bugle calls of elk.
Creature comforts aside, though, the real draw is the exceptional beauty of Montana, and the chance to experience it with a little adventure. For many, that comes in the form of rapelling down a huge, 167-foot cliff – said to be the same spot where Meriwether Lewis once stood as he crossed the U.S. – with a view of the Blackfoot River below that’s simply breathtaking. Other activities we partook in were archery, ATV-ing through the mountain valleys (which you can also do on horseback), and a sweet massage in a tent with a view of the valley. Every morning, we’d wake up to beautiful sunrises with herds of cows off in the distance. The food at Paws Up’s onsite restaurant Pomp is as good as anything you’ll find in the big city. That said, as a vegetarian, this writer didn’t try any of the hallmark meat dishes (the huckleberry pancakes were pretty awesome, though).
Naturally, Paws Up offers plenty of activities that don’t require an adrenaline spike. After all, Montana is world famous for fly fishing, and the best way to spend a tranquil morning is by casting your line in the Blackfoot River while watching the sunrise over the nearby mountains. One of the most beautiful moments we experienced came during a helicopter ride, when we crossed over a herd of horses, which began to chase us as we flew by. The sound of the hooves running in the field almost made our entire group cry. The guy who works at Paws Up had never seen anything like it. That pretty well describes an experience here.
-Ryan Van Duzer
in rural Montana, a spacious, extravagant home masquerading as a family-style campground is a city-dweller’s haven along the Blackfoot River. The Resort At Paws Up sits in a forest of brilliantly colored firs and ash trees in the fall. We’ll wander the surrounding plains and snap photos, Ansel Adams in mind. A perfect escape from everyday routine.
This September, Mary-Frances was thrilled to be apart of a FAM (FAMiliarize) trip to The Resort at Paws Up in Greenough, Montana. Actually, she hasn’t stopped talking about Paws Up since she’s returned! It really is a destination spot like none other for the bride and groom who love nature and the outdoors and are looking for that rustic elegance feel for their wedding. Paws Up’s luxurious accommodations (including “glamping” – glamorous camping and 1-4 bedroom homes for families, bridal parties or small groups) are over the top and the activities for your guests to enjoy really are endless (horseback riding, cattle drives, hunting, fly fishing, dog sledding, skiing, hot air ballooning, four wheeling, snowmobiling, white water rafting, hiking and relaxing at the spa…just to name a few). Not only are the views and weather spectacular, but the food and service will far exceed the expectations of any “foodie.” For weddings from 10-250+ people, the options really are limitless….you can bring in your own vendors and decor or use the resort’s contacts to make your wedding fit your needs/wants and budget. Weddings are welcomed at Paws Up year-round…winter weddings are just as magical as fall, spring and summer weddings! Located 45 minutes from Missoula International Airport (the resort will send Mercedes vans to pick you and your guests up!), Paws Up is also a great destination spot for corporate events, milestone celebrations, family reunions, bachelor or bachelorette weekends and honeymooners. Visiting Paws Up was one of Mary-Frances’ most favorite trips she has ever been on…she will never forget the breathtaking Montana scenery, glamping for the first time, the delicious food, experiencing a cattle drive and the way she felt so welcomed and taken care of by the staff at Paws Up! We would LOVE to do a wedding at The Resort at Paws Up SOON!