Oh Marshall, why can’t you be just a few hundred feet taller? Just 500 or so would be good, tack on say 800-1,000 and we’d still have a game-changing winter rec hotspot, right in our backyard. Or, if we could just return to the winter weather of the '70s or '80s that’d be fine too.

In the meantime, we’re left waiting for just the right temperature/storm combination. One needs overcast days, near or sub-freezing daytime highs, and we have to be on the heels of a storm that produced three to six inches (in town) on top of some sort of existing snowpack base. Typically the stars align and produce these conditions 2-3 times per season, sometimes more.

Getting to Marshall Mountain couldn’t be easier, so much so that one might even consider riding their bike if not for their gear (bike trailer, maybe?). You’ll head east out of Missoula, through East Missoula and about a mile past the Sha-Ron River Access, you’ll turn left up Marshall Canyon. This popular summer biking route will lead you right up the private gate and parking area where the road ends.

NOTE: This is PRIVATE PROPERTY, and you are not allowed to trespass or traipse around wherever you want on the old mountain.

That said, the owners have been very accommodating to the “tread lightly” crowd that appears when the weather conditions are met. Your best bet is to call ahead and let them know you’d like to pay your respects to one of Missoula’s skiing frontiers. Leave a message if you get their machine. The Marshall folks are good people. Please don’t ruin the good thing we all have going up there by acting disrespectful.

Depending on the exact conditions and your allotted time, you’ll likely want to head straight up “the face” that you see directly in front of the original lodge. This slope will lead you up to the top of the chairlift where you’ll likely want to continue up the old T-bar slopes where generations of kids learned to ski in the after school ski programs. At the top of the T-bar (approx. the same elevation as Snowbowl’s parking lot) you’ll see where several new runs were cut uphill from where you stand. These “new” runs were added, along with plans for another lift, just before the mountain shut down in 2003. Keep going if you have the time, the snow gets significantly better above this point. You’ll want to make a couple laps up here before heading back down on one of the runs you came up.

Marshall, if you’re listening, we know you’ve put in your time over the last 70+ years and are settled into a cozy retirement of weddings and warm-weather events. We get it; winters just aren’t the same these days. Just know that you are sorely missed and for a handful of days each season we’ll continue to swing by to catch a glimpse of your pretty snowy face.

Ross Peterson

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