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John Lehrman

Nestled amongst the pines of Downing Mountain’s east face, Downing Mountain Lodge caters to pretty much everybody from the gutsy backcountry ski enthusiast to the amateur hiker looking for a weekend getaway. Rustic is one way to describe it. Paradise seems more apt.

Downing Mountain Lodge boasts plenty of space for the extended family or the party crew—three bedrooms, with 13 beds and one pull-out couch. There’s a commercial-grade kitchen big enough to prepare even the most lavish meals, a hot tub out back for long après ski soaks, and a stone fireplace perfect for curling up after a tough day on the mountain. Throw in a barbecue deck and a foosball table and you’ll understand why Downing Mountain isn’t just a recreation destination.

Forget long drives on rutted roads. Downing Mountain Lodge sits about eight miles west of Hamilton on Grubstake Road. The lodge is accessible by car in summer. In winter, visitors are required to park about one mile and 500 vertical feet below. Lodge owner John Lehrman will transport gear and food by snowmobile for a fee, but guests are required to reach the lodge by foot, snowshoe or ski. Nightly rates range from $50 to $70 per person depending on day of the week. Summer 2013 rates will be $70 per person per night, with a six-guest minimum. You’ll have to prepare your meals yourself, unless you arrange catered service with Lehrman in advance.

Once settled, Downing Mountain Lodge guests will discover a backyard with endless possibilities. For skiers, it’s a 2,000-foot skin from the lodge to the upper ridge. Once there, you’re free to enjoy a powder-filled playground with 500-foot alpine runs or 2,500-foot tree runs that kick you out directly at the lodge. The terrain is largely intermediate to advanced, and skiers are cautioned that avalanche danger is constant. Winter months also offer sledding and snowshoeing opportunities closer to the lodge. Summer activities range from hiking and fishing to rock climbing and mountain biking.

Lehrman and his family have been operating out of Downing Mountain Lodge for years. But in summer 2012, Lehrman finally purchased the lodge outright—even as the Sawtooth Fire cleared hundreds of acres of forest debris. There’s literally no end to the possibilities at Downing Mountain Lodge, making it one of those rare Montana destinations that’s perfect for anyone.

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