When winter comes around, it’s important to find the perfect balance between staying cozy and taking full advantage of the snow. In Glacier Country, world-class winter fun is not hard to come by. Just make sure you’re staying safe by playing it safe. Here’s how to recreate responsibly this winter in Western Montana.

Winter can be a blast if you gear up appropriately and follow safety guidelines. Photo: Noah Couser

Winter Driving

Make the most of your getaway by being prepared for winter driving conditions.

  • Check weather and road reports before you head out. You can find weather information, travel conditions and alerts on the Montana Department of Transportation’s website, and review their Travel Map for up-to-date weather and road conditions.
  • Take it slow. Stay safe by minding your speed, and enjoy the winter scenery while you’re at it. Be prepared and cautious, expect ice on bridges and shady spots, don’t use cruise control, and always buckle up.
  • Watch for wildlife. Stay alert and keep your eyes peeled for wildlife crossing the road, usually around dawn and dusk.
  • Be careful on backroads. Make sure you have the right kind of vehicle for backcountry roads, and play it safe by packing sleeping bags, blankets, extra water, food, warm clothes, and an emergency kit, and look ahead for where cell service may be spotty or nonexistent.
  • Check your vehicle. Make sure your headlights, taillights and windshield wipers work, you’re topped off on coolant and washer fluid, and your tire pressure is normal. Think twice before you head out in winter conditions without four-wheel drive, all-wheel drive or snow tires. And, gas up when you can; in some areas, gas stations can be few and far between.
Slick conditions are common in the winter. Slow down and drive safely. Photo: Noah Couser

Avalanche Safety

Avalanche safety should always be top of mind when you’re headed into the backcountry via ski, snowboard, snowshoe or snowmobile. Proper gear and know-how are everything.

  • Know before you go. Check Avalanche forecasts before you head out into the backcountry. Visit avalanche.org for conditions and warnings. For local Western Montana avalanche conditions, advisories and information, visit Missoula Avalanche and the Flathead Avalanche Center.
  • Carry the right gear. Find the beacon, shovel, probe and airbag pack that are right for you, and know how to use them.
  • Get educated. Take a course in avalanche safety, which will teach you the basics of avalanche safety gear, snow testing, avalanche awareness and avalanche rescue. Visit avalanche.org for more information on courses.
  • Know your snow. Learn to recognize the red flags of an unstable snowpack, which indicate avalanche danger. 
  • Stay in bounds at ski resorts. Don’t ski or sled the backcountry on your own unless it is permitted AND you are up-to-date on the avalanche forecast, own and know how to use the right avalanche safety gear, and have adequate training.

Guided Tours

When in doubt, go with a guide. Play it safe with a backcountry ski, snowshoe, or snowmobile tour. Guides know best when it comes to equipment and safety, and where and when to go.

Read more about recreating responsibly, and learn more from our friends at Tread Lightly! about engaging in backcountry snowsports responsibly.

If you plan on exploring the backcountry, go with an experienced guide. Photo: Noah Couser

Please note: We ask that all our visitors and residents Recreate Responsibly by being mindful of the following: practice physical distancing; know before you go; plan ahead; play it safe; leave no trace; tread lightly and build an inclusive outdoors. Travel responsibly by reviewing Western Montana’s COVID-19 information and guidelines at SafetyFirstMT.com.

November 8, 2021

Related: Downhill Skiing, Montana, Nordic Skiing, Outdoor Fun, Recreate Responsibly, Road Trips, Snowmobiling, Snowshoeing, Vacation, Winter Fun