Welcome to big Mike’s winter planning! This guide should help you figure out what to bring, where to go and what to do. IT is in a constant state of “EDIT” and will be continuously updated.
Winter Weather in Montana:
You know what they say about the weather in Montana? If you don’t like it, wait 15 minutes.This is true most especially in winter. Winter in Montana can start as early as October and end as late as May. It can range from 60* and sunny to freezing temps with rain and of course snow as well. The heavy snow months are normally January/February with decent snowfall in December also. When packing to come to Montana for your winter install trip your best bet is to check the weather almost immediately before you leave on your trip to the facility.
Here is a good website for the roads in MT:
What to Pack:
With temperatures ranging from 60* to below freezing, sometimes within a few days span it is not always easy to pack light or correctly. We recommend at least one heavy outfit for the winter (IE weatherproof/resistant coat, water resistant lined boots, fleece lined pants, etc). From there you can layer accordingly with another jackets or sweater, lighter boots/shoes and pants. If you have a lighter rain jacket we would recommend bringing that as well.
It is always a safe bet to keep extra blankets in your vehicle. Thermal blankets are cheap, effective and take up very little space. Along with those some fleece or down bedding items will help keep you warm if you find yourself in a situation where that is needed.
Water is also always a safe bet. In Montana we typically have a negative dew point which means even with snow on the ground it can be very, very dry. This will force your body to more readily use the water you already have stored. Bring some extra to stay hydrated! Along with water some good dry food that doesn’t require prep or cooking will be a good addition. These are all things you should normally have in your vehicle along with a basic first aid kit but are especially important in the winter months.
Closed Winter Routes:
In the Winter you can expect that there may be road closures that depend on the specific weather conditions on that exact day. Though there are some winter roads that are closed more often than others and they are listed here:
–Highway 90 out of Coeur D’Alene, ID
This Corridor may experience closures as far into the mountains as St Regis and also has the potential to be completely closed off over the Continental Divide.
Alternative Routes: For this particular corridor there are no better alternative routes.
–Highway 20 out of Idaho Falls, ID
This corridor may experience closures out of Ashton once you start up the grade to Island Park. These closures are normally temporary and can be waited out. Along the route you may experience closures further north, outside of Island Park.
Alternative Routes: Depending on which highway is closed north of Island Park you have the option to head in two directions. If highway 20 is closed headed into West Yellowstone then you can take highway 87 to the 287 N towards Ennis. If the 87/287 are closed you can take highway 20 through West Yellowstone. Though both of these may experience closures at the same time.
–Highway 90 out of Billings, MT
This corridor does not experience as many closures as the other routes into Bozeman. If there is a closure it is normally closer to the Bozeman/Livingston area. The pass into Bozeman may be closed but could be temporary so it is best to wait it out in Livingston.
Alternative Routes: This route is directly into Bozeman so there are no alternative routes.
Complete Winter Closures:
-Beartooth Highway: This route is closed from October to Memorial Day (weather dependent, but it is best to assume it will be closed)
-Yellowstone National Park: Some roads will be permanently closed starting in winter. If you are traveling through the park please check the weather advisory and Yellowstone Roads page on their website.
-Hyalite Canyon Road: This route is closed seasonally
Hotel Choices and Rates:
There are many hotel options in Bozeman from your standard Motel 6 to some more cozy or fancy options.
Spacious sitting areas, an outdoor wood-burning fireplace and an on-site coffee shop make a strong case for staying in at the LARK, but the hotel’s real aim is to educate travelers on where to explore. Discover the possibilities in the Map Room, or book a Bozeman 101 package for a DIY tour of historic downtown. Afterward, settle back in for the night in guest rooms adorned with locally sourced leather, metal and wood furniture, as well as punchy, modern wall graphics designed by local artists.
The Kimpton Armory Hotel opened in August 2020, and in doing so, it revived a historic art deco structure built in 1941 to house the Bozeman National Guard. In-room treats include yoga mats for stretching out tight quads and an honor bar, laced with a rotating array of locally selected surprises. Draw from the spirit of Bozeman’s bustling music scene by borrowing a Gibson acoustic guitar and picking out a few melodies.
The RSVP Hotel begs for a girlfriends’ getaway. Pop off the ski boots, gather around on chaise lounges and call for a delivery of champagne – or fresh flowers. Splashes of mauve and emerald brighten the guest rooms, while touches like an Igloo mini-fridge boost the retro feel. Start the next morning with avocado toast or Hillary’s signature coffee (drip with coconut milk, vanilla stevia and MCT oil) from the on-site restaurant, the Farmer’s Daughters.
We partner with the RSVP Motel to offer better rates to GFC customers. Please use code “Go Fast” for 15% off when booking with them
From the crossed timber beams over the entrance to the mounted buffalo head trophy above the lobby’s fireplace, the C’mon Inn Hotel and Suites hearkens back to the best of the Old West. Dip into hot tubs beside the rush of an indoor waterfall, or practice wildlife spotting in the tree-lined, multi-story courtyard that fills the hotel’s interior before putting those skills to test in nearby Yellowstone National Park.
We partner with the RSVP Motel to offer better rates to GFC customers. Please use let them know you are a customer when booking with them
There are not many camping options in the winter but if you do not mind cold temps there are a few places that may be accessible. some locations also close seaonally.
This is one of our high desert areas that is just SW of Bozeman through the Madison River valley. With some cool single track, double track and pine tree islands it is a cool place to crash (and I mean sleep) if you can access it. The route from Bozeman to RF will also take you through Norris and just passed their hot springs.
This area is typically reachable with a 4WD truck in the winter. Going in with a 2WD is risky even if the roads seem dry due to the tree cover and altitude change. It is not super far out of town with plenty of places to stop in the trees.
-Fairy Canyon Lake
A little way outside of town, fairy lake is also int he high desert which means it is going to be accessible during the winter when most other places are not. There is also a huge lake with dispersed camping along the entire shore.
FOR OTHER CAMPING LOCATIONS PLEASE ASK DURING YOUR INSTALLATION! WE DO NOT WANT TO POST ALL OF OUR FAVORITE SPOTS ONLINE
Things to do:
-Museum of the Rockies
NOT JUST FOR KIDS. Do you love nature? Mountains? How about Dinosaurs? This place has it all. Go check out the real BIG MIKE, a bronze casting of the largest T-Rex fossil found in North America.
-Norris Hot Springs
Located just outside of Norris int he Madison River Valley, you can soak in the “Water of the Gods”. Says it all right there.
-Bozeman Hot Springs
Located just outside of town, this spot is the place to soak if you are looking to stay close by! With a campground at the facility as well, you do not even have to leave!
Our local ski area, it is close to town and different types of passes are available! Ski or board with the locals close enough to run back into town for a beer!
-Big Sky Resort
One of the best ski resorts in the world, the resort also has a ton of other activities and facilities. If you are heading back south it is likely you will pass Big Sky anyway so you might as well take a gander!
Many local ponds and lakes freeze over in the winter which makes for some great skating! We have a few great organizations that maintain these areas so please be respectful and enjoy! our favorite is right over on Cattail Lake! (They even have a hockey rink).
Our local bowling alley! With a great new restaurant inside, a full bar and a ton of lanes, it is a great thing to do in the winter for those who are not into he outdoor winter lifestyle.
WILL BE UPDATED WITH BREWERY AND RESTAURANT SELECTIONS!