Big Hearts, Little Areas: Montana's Small Ski Areas

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Beyond Montana's two major resorts are another dozen or so wide-ranging ski areas, including the state's newest (Blacktail, near Kalispell, opened in 2000), and the country's most exclusive, The Yellowstone Club (got $250K to join?). Following are five of Montana's classic small areas, with the common DNA of a pure love of the sport.

Red Lodge, 60 miles southwest of Billings; 2,400 vertical feet and seven lifts, including two high-speed quads. Excellent tree-skiing and cruisers, with a wonderful town below. 406-446-2610; www.redlodgemountain.com.

Lost Trail Powder Mountain, 90 miles south of Missoula in the Bitteroot Range on the Idaho border. Three chairs, three ropetows (ropetows!), 1,200 vertical feet, unbelievable snow, with lots of ski-club charm. 406-821-3508; www.losttrail.com.

Discovery Basin, 20 miles northwest of Anaconda. A four-chairlift, 1,300-vertical-foot family mountain with a dark side (mostly double black) and some of Montana's best steeps. 888-678-7669; www.skidiscovery.com.

Montana Snowbowl, just 10 minutes north of Missoula and the University of Montana. Four lifts, 2,600 vertical feet, gnarly backcountry and one of the West's biggest gelande jumps. 406-549-9777; www.montanasnowbowl.com.

Bridger Bowl, 20 minutes north of Bozeman and owned by Montana State University, with five lifts and 2,000 vertical feet, featuring the famous Ridge and a young and devoted clientele. 800-223-9609; www.bridgerbowl.com.