The Ultimate Guide to Winter in Montana 

The best in skiing, skating, soaking, escaping, partying and staying warm.

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Learn to surf at Silver Mountain. The Kellogg, Idaho, resort—just two hours west of Missoula—features an enormous indoor water park and wave pool, and offers hour-long surfing lessons on Saturdays and Sundays. Oh, and there's some skiing at the place too. Visit www.silvermt.com for more.

Top Choice

Rent a cabin at The Jack

The Lumberjack Saloon off Highway 12 is a self-contained complex of down-home, rustic pleasure. The log cabin bar on 7000 Graves Road overlooks a firepit and large yard populated by four tiny but clean rental cabins. The cabins rent for $65 a night for one bed or $75 for four beds—that's beds, not bedrooms. This isn't a getaway for the highbrow. But the cabins are efficient and cute, and include kitchenettes, full bathrooms and straightforward sleeping space.

It's not really about sleeping anyway. What truly makes "The Jack" a gem is the fun you'll have hanging out in the saloon all night. Yes, you might witness a fistfight or find yourself inexplicably covered in peppermint schnapps. But the cozy isolation of the joint promises a little more magic than your average downtown rowdy bar. It's open year-round, but winter time at the saloon means hanging out drinking whiskey and beers in the warmth of a large log cabin bar full of hospitable locals, good-timing forestry students in Carrharts and flannels, and random out-out-of-towners. It promises bar food galore, winter barbequing and cheerful sing-a-longs. And you can wander outside and warm yourself over the roar of a bonfire as snow falls.

On weekends, the saloon hosts country and cover bands of varying calibers, and if you're into dancing, you'll probably find someone who knows western swing. Best of all, when you've had 12 too many shots of Jägermeister, you can stumble out the front door of the bar and into the comfort of your cabin (you must reserve ahead of time) just a few yards away, where you can sleep it off until breakfast.

Erika Fredrickson

Nine non-traditional ways to play

Be like the guy on this week's cover. Grab a case of Rainier and enter the 2010 Pike on Ice fishing derby on Seeley and Salmon lakes. The competition will be held Jan. 16 and 17.

Play softball in the snow. Put together a team and enter the annual Blizzardball invitational softball tournament at Fort Missoula Jan. 30 and 31. This year's team theme is "Blue." Find out more at www.blizzardball.net.

Shoot things and ski. Compete in the Seeley Lake Challenge Biathlon on Jan. 23, hosted by the Seeley Lake Chamber of Commerce. Bring your own gun or borrow one. It's Nordic skiing combined with shooting balloon targets, with different races for both beginners and advanced. They even serve burgers, donuts and hot chocolate.

Join the Whitefish Curling Club at the Stumptown Ice Den. Saturday practices are open to the public from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. Cost to cover ice time is $10, or buy a season membership for $20. More at www.whitefishcurlingclub.com.

Win $1,000 in the Fifth annual Pond Skim Competition in Whitefish. Registration for the April 3 event is $25 per person, and wild costumes are a must. Have to be 21 or older to participate.

Try snowkiting on Georgetown Lake Feb. 13 and 14. The public demo and kitercross race is hosted by Montana Kite Sports.

Test your luck at the Moonlight Snowmobile Poker Run. The Snow Warriors Clubhouse is just a three-mile snowmobile ride from Hooper Park in Lincoln, and it's the place for poker on a full moon. Games start at 6 p.m., so ride fast.

Run in Missoula's Frost Fever 5K Fun Run on Jan. 30. Times and registration fees to be announced in December. Keep your eyes peeled and your quads warm.

click to enlarge Ice fishing and napping: two great things that go great together. - PHOTO BY ALEX SAKARIASSEN

Freeze your spandex off in the 31st Snow Joke Half-Marathon. Registration is $10. Race starts at 11 a.m. on Feb. 27 in Seeley Lake.

Grow a pair and try the annual Flathead Lake Polar Bear Plunge. The Raven Brew Pub in Woods Bay hosts the shivery dip every Jan. 1 at 2 p.m.

Seven signature spectator events

Northern Division Freestyle Competition at Snowbowl. We recommend watching this annual two-day event (Feb. 13 and 14) from the bar deck. The competition draws the best mogul bombers, freestylers and jumpers around.

Lookout Pass' "Battle on the Border" slopestyle competition. Freestyle skiers and 'boarders duke it out for bi-state bragging rights during this annual invitational on Feb. 21.

Snowbowl's annual Gelande Championship. Jumpers from around the country compete for an $8,000 cash purse—the largest on the Gelande circuit—on Feb. 27 and 28. Three local brothers—Rolf, Erik and Brent Wilson—have traded the trophy amongst themselves for years. It's a signature Missoula event.

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