Quick video highlighting some of the views available along the Montana/Idaho border! Just about an hour and a half southwest of Missoula, Montana, we made a Sunday trip to the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest in Idaho County, Idaho. We explored the Mocus Point Trail and surrounding areas, took in some wintertime views and made our way over to the Weir Creek Natural Hot Springs.
Being raised in Seattle, Washington I did not get many opportunities to drive in the snow growing up. When it did snow, usually only 1-2 inches, everything shut down and people just simply stayed home – no need to drive! With the current snow storm hitting the Seattle area, I though I would share the valuable lesson I learned in 2015.
After high school I decided to go to college in Montana, and as most people know it snows quite a bit in Montana. My first year of college, I decided to drive back to Seattle for Thanksgiving with a few of my friends. It had just begun snowing the day before and I had a 4-wheel drive car so I figured everything should be OK.
I began my drive down I-90 West with a car full of gals, the snow was light and everything was going fine… well, for about 50 miles at least.
Coming around a slight curve at about 60 MPH (the Montana speed limit is 80 MPH) I felt my back tires starting to slide and just like that I had lost all control. My car spun around 3 or 4 times before slamming into a ditch and screeching to a stop. Shock. That’s all I felt. Silence. No one had said a word the whole time we were spinning and crashing. Immediately we all got out of the car to make sure everyone was OK and to examine the damage.
The airbags had deployed, I had a broken front axle, completely messed up front and back bumpers, two popped tires and two bent rims. But most importantly, no one was hurt. Luckily, my friends are much better at handling bad situations than I am because that is when it all set it. I could have killed myself and all my friends. Why? Because I was inexperienced. I didn’t know to slow down. I didn’t know to be on the lookout for black ice – what ended by causing the accident. I just didn’t know.
Driving when there is snow and ice on the road is unlike any other driving condition. Yes, you might have 4-wheel drive but that does not mean you have 4-wheel stop. The ice has a mind of its own and once you begin to slide it can be very hard to stop.
This winter, I beg of you to go slow in the snow. If you are an experienced snow driver, slow down. If you have never driven in the snow before, slow down. Even if the roads seem fine, slow down. It could save your life.
Last winter break I did a winter session course to New Zealand. It is even more amazing than what is portrayed in The Lord of the Ring movies. It is literally paradise on earth, you have the best of everything. There are a range of climates from mountains, beaches, rainforests and volcanoes. No one-cent and five-cent coins, which means that most prices end in a zero, or are rounded up. Crosswalks have no lights so you can basically cross the road whenever you like, though there are a few exceptions in very busy areas. It doesn’t mean that you should stop watching for cars, not everyone stops for pedestrians. Restaurant bills are not delivered to your table you will either pay beforehand or have to go up to the register to pay. In some places they don’t keep track of what you have ordered; they will just trust you to tell them what you had. There is no tipping! There are also no snakes, venomous insects, scorpions and only has one venomous spider, which is very rare up to the point it has an almost mythical status. These are just a few things that make New Zealand even better. Though you can’t forget about the amazing sites and activities. Listed below are some must do adventures on New Zealand’s South Island, in no specific order.
Queenstown is your typical tourist town, high prices and many people. Disregarding those things it is a very picturesque town on Lake Wakatipu with street performers, stores and restaurants lining the streets, a gondola and a beach. It is a great town to stay at for holidays, night life and shopping. There is also a gondola where you can get breathtaking views of Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu. Queenstown also has a mouth- watering burger joint called Ferburger. Their line is usually a half block if not a block long and their wide varieties of burgers are about the size of a young child’s face. The half-hour wait is soo worth it. To end, Queesntown is world-famous for adventure, this leads into my next topic…
Since Queenstown is the tourist destination in New Zealand they offer a wide range of extreme activities such as skydiving, jet boating and bungee/bungy jumping. If you don’t know, jet boating and bungee jumping was invented in New Zealand. And many times we do spontaneous things while on vacation, so might as well do one of these activities. Jet boating is the ultimate water sport where you power your way through narrow river canyons. You all know what bungee jumping is, and there are two iconic spots to bungee jump a hour away from Queesntown. The first is Kawarau Bridge, a 43 meter (~141 ft) jump into the river below. It is one of the most popular bungee sites, attrackting thousands of thrill seekers every year. For the more daring there is the Nevis Bungy which is New Zealand’s biggest at 134m (~440 ft) above the Nevis River. There are age, weight and medical restrictions for many of these activities. Unfortunately, I ran into this problem at the Nevis jump, I was a few pounds short for their weight limit. At least I was allowed to travel to the jumping site that is held above the river by two wires to watch.
Mount Cook is the highest mountain and longest glaciers in New Zealand. There is a lovely day hike (more like 4 hours) to a small lake at the base of the mountain. The hike is pretty flat and has several suspended bridges that are fun to bounce around on. The scenery is amazing, mountains, a river, and flora that were unlike anything I’ve seen. The flora actually somewhat reminded me or a Dr. Seuss book, there were rolling grass areas with these
spiky looking plants that shoot straight up in the air. The trail ends at the small lake which was the chalky white color with small ice blocks. There was a small rocky beach you can walk down to to get to the lake from the picnic area. I have to say, the hike to the lake was more enjoyable than the ending destination.
Kaikoura is a very cute, small town that is on the ocean and has rocky beaches. Kaikoura itself wasn’t that outstanding as a town but it too had amazing views and was home to many Maori people, the indigenous people of NZ, consisting of 3% of the population. There is a Maori tour ran by a Maori that I thought was worth doing, to learn about their history and culture. Kaikoura is also a popular spot to go whale watching and swim with the dolphins. I was fortunate enough to swim with the dolphins and it is something that I will always remember. As I have never been snorkeling I really got the full experience in this activity. Everyone had to wear a head to toe wetsuits with goggles and snorkel. Since the suits were so buoyant there was no need for life jackets. This was an activity I highly recommend. You are delivered as close as possible to a pod of dolphins. The time I went there were 30 or more dolphins swimming around you, it was awesome! If you are somewhat claustrophobic this might not be for you. Being encased in a wesuit add in being in the ocean you feel alone and closed in. Even I had a tiny anxiety attack. Also don’t worry if the dolphins move away you get back into the boat to follow them. The time I went we were on and off the boat 5 times before we headed back. And like many similar businesses if the weather is bad or no dolphins are to be found you get a refund and are able to reschedule.
Christchuch is the largest city on the South Island. In 2010-12 Christcurch experienced devistating earthquakes which forever changed the city. When I visited the destruction from the earthquakes could still be seen around the entire city. This was eye-opening to see since in Montana earthquakes are almost nonexistent. It was definitely surprising and heartbreaking to see all the damage left. But what surprised me the most was what the city did after the earthquakes. They turned a horrible natural disaster into a new beginning. All around the city there were little innovated places. One was an area of temporary trailer sized businesses, another a musical park made out of recycled material. There was an area testing out 3D printed designs to grow plant and shops made out of train cars. The street art all over the city was outstanding. I just happened to be there during the Spectrum Street Art Festival that consisted of street art, graffiti, video etc. all around the city.
Abel Tasman National Park
Abel Tasman is a coastal National Park that has several beaches and has a wide variety of Flora and fur seal rookeries and little blue penguin populations. It is usually recommended to plan a whole day just for this. There is a very easy trail that stretches along the coast that leads to several different beaches, depending on how long you want to walk. If wanting to stay overnight there are a couple of lodges and campsites throughout the park. I would recommend kayaking one way and walking back the other. By kayaking you get a better view of the seal rookeries and maybe a little blue penguin. You also get a better view of the smaller islands just off the coast. I kayaked to this small, somewhat secluded beach for lunch and relaxing and then walked back. If plan to go all day take water, sunscreen and a swimsuit. The burning time this far south is 10 minutes, yikes! There are water faucets available at some areas but they are more for washing and rinsing, not drinking. The water is so beautiful and clear it would be hard to stay away, hence the swimsuit. Warning the one bathroom that was at the beach I was at was awful, it stank to high heaven. Not sure this applies to all but approach with caution!
Milford sound is within Fiordland National Park. This too is an all day trip. Even though from Queenstown it is located an hour away, straight across, due to road regulations in NZ getting there was more like a 4 hour trip. If you do a bus tour you pass through stunning landscapes including mountain ranges, glacier-carved valleys, crystal clear lakes and native rainforest. There are several things to do at Milford Sound such as, hiking, kayaking and cruises. The cruise was an ideal way to see Milford Sound. It is just over two hours, you get to see wildlife as well as the stunning waterfalls and steep mountain sides. The sights rival that of Glacier National Park, daresay, maybe even surpass those of Glacier.
It is no secret that the majority of the University of Montana student body is made up of Montana born and raised students (we’re talking 74% in-state). It is also no secret that there are “Keep California Out!” signs on everyone’s lawn (not really).
“Oh where are you from?” – Seemingly interested older Montanan
“Sacramento, California!” – Me
“…I’m sorry…” – Now uninterested and bitter older Montanan
“I’m not 🙂 Thanks for having me!” – Smiling me
Take a minute to listen up. I may not speak on behalf of the rest of the Californians in Montana, but I have a perspective I’d love to share. The second I stepped on University of Montana’s campus I knew that it could be my home away from home. The city of Missoula, hell the state of Montana, felt like hugging someone that you haven’t seen in years. I’ve been here for 4 very short years and no, I don’t plan on staying, but yes I will be back to visit. The reason being that it offered the experience of a lifetime for this particular time in my life.
For anyone who’s interested, University of Montana allowed me to step away from most everything I knew in Sacramento (yes I had seen snow, every year in Tahoe minus the recent winters). I was able to clearly establish my values as a young adult, assess the type of future I wanted, and walk away with some of the best friendships I will have for a lifetime.
You see, us Northern Californians appreciate tall trees, snowcapped mountains, cleaning our campsites and wandering to find that adventure just doesn’t end. I can single-handedly agree that California has some extreme undesirables. But so does Montana (hello Meth Capital), so does Colorado, so does New York, and Wyoming and every other state you can name. How do you think Arizona feels hosting all the frail Montana old-timers looking for warm retirement? Probably a mix of “stay in your own state” and “please contribute to our economy; look we have handicap approved EVERYTHING!”
I’ll leave on this note. The amount of times that people think that I’m a Montanan prior to asking is remarkable. Let’s just say I’ve had to convince just about everyone I meet with a valid California drivers license. My experience with those who are excited to have me is what makes Montana “the last best place”. The nay-sayers couldn’t keep me out if they tried.
By: Lia Sbisa, proud Sacramento Native and Montana Visitor
Fall is here, whether we like it or not, the changing colors of the leaves are proof that the coming snow is inevitable. To some this is a sad time of year, saying goodbye to late summer nights and drunkenly floating the Clark Fork River, but for others it means something more, it’s finally ski season! The chance to get back on the mountains and enjoy the fresh snow under your feet is something many would consider one of the best feeling on earth.
I happen to be one of those people! I wait all year for the chance to get back on the slopes and will spend every free moment, until the first day of spring, looking for one more run or to find one more untouched line in the snow to leave my own print on. With this fresh snowy season right around the corner I felt there was no better time than now to pass along some knowledge, in my opinion, of the top places in Montana to fulfill your love of snow!
#1 Big Sky Resort
Big Sky resort is the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about the top ski resorts in Montana. If you have ever had the pleasure of experiencing this resort you know why there was no hesitation to put it at the top of my list. With a resort that covers 4 connected mountains with runs as long as 6 miles, and with a summit of over 11,000 feet, it’s an adventure for everyone! If you love to ski or snowboard at any level, you need to make this trip! Even if you only ride one of their over 300 named runs, or stay a day or two and hit all of them, there is little chance that you won’t catch the snow bug experiencing this place.
One of the best things about Big Sky is that it is full of everything that any rider at any skill set can conquer; from the ever-challenging Bunny hills to their extreme technical backcountry, this resort is nothing to be underestimated.
You don’t ski or snowboard? That’s fine! Big Sky Resort offers everything from Zip lines and Snowshoeing, to dog sledding and sleigh rides. Then after a long day of hitting the slopes or dog sledding just sit back and relax at their Solace Spa and allow yourself be pampered. There is something for everyone!
For me it is all about the snowy mountains and the long runs, so from sunrise to sunset I find myself doing nothing but trying to hit every run across the over 4,000 vertical feet and miles of terrain. You’d be crazy not to hit this mountain that offers something for every winter enthusiast.
Bridger Bowl could easily be one of the only reasons I would ever step into Bobcat country, but it’s well worth it. Bridger has a landscape all its own with a high peak that allows you to see for miles on a good blue bird day. Even though Bridger offers quite a few beginner runs, it was full of more exposed rocky terrain than any other resort I have been to. This terrain gave it a more aggressive look but gives a new and exciting challenge for backcountry adventurers and for more advanced or even intermediate riders.
If you are a hardcore skier THIS IS THE HILL FOR YOU! Discovery has some of the steepest skiable terrain Montana has to offer and with several runs with great mogul riding you really cant go wrong. However, snowboarders, don’t let that early statement make you run away screaming! This mountain also offers some seriously steep groomed runs, awesome powder and tree filled runs to really keep a boarder on their toes.
Discovery is located WAY off the beaten path out by Philipsburg and is a bit of a drive on some rural back roads, but it does not disappoint. This mountain may be on the smaller side in comparison to Big Sky, but still offers 2,200 acres of serviced terrain. Discovery has everything from groomed cruising trails, powder bowls, tree skiing and mogul runs. Discovery even has some runs as long as 2 miles and a summit of 8,150 feet. So if you want something a little further off the beaten path that offers some technical terrain then you need to make the trip to Discovery Ski Area!
I know a lot of people that will be wondering why I put Lost Trail on this list with so many other great options in Montana, but to be honest it is a good sized resort with a small resort feel and I love it. Every time I have stepped on that mountain I always feel like I am in a small town where you know everyone and everyone knows you. It is a great environment and incredibly relaxing to drive deep into the woods by Darby, Montana and just feel like you are tucked away from everything.
Lost Trail has been around since its opening year of 1938, so it has some serious history. Although Lost Trail only has about 1,800 acres of marked trails and only 5 chair lifts, I have always had the feeling that I am secluded from all the hectic crazy crowds you would experience at larger resorts. The feeling of truly being out in nature away from the city and noise is reason enough to go to this little slice of heaven.
Lost Trail, like all the others we have looked at, offers a wide variety of challenges for riders from exposed rock to tree runs. Lost Trail also offers great beginner runs and a handful of open groomed trails for those who love to launch themselves down a mountain at top speed.
So if you are looking to get on a good-sized hill that gives the feeling of being away from the crazy crowds, then I highly suggest you make the trip.
This is hands down the smallest resort I have gone to in Montana and I could care less about its size. Lookout Pass is located on the Idaho/Montana boarder at one of the highest points of the pass, this allows you to ride in 2 states in the same day. Being located within 100 yards of the interstate it is one of the easiest ski resorts to get to and with an annual average snowfall of over 400 inches, this little resort packs a serious punch. With this resort having only 34 named runs, between each run is some killer tree skiing and some amazing light and very plentiful powder. The biggest selling point that got me to this mountain was how affordable and easy to access it is. Being a current college student I don’t have a lot to spend on the expensive lift ticket price that comes with big resorts, so having a max price of 44 bucks for a day pass was well worth the trip.
Lookout pass might not have the highest summit but being at the peak of the pass between Montana and Idaho you get some breath taking views of the surrounding area. Once again this mountain, like all the others, offer a wide range of great runs. From highly technical tree trails to your basic bunny hill with a magic carpet, you really can’t go wrong here. This small resort even has 2 different and very well maintained board parks that have high technical jumps, boxes and rails to a easier beginners park with much smaller gaps and boxes to refine your skills before hitting the big ones.
So if you are a poor college student or just don’t want to deal with the hassle of driving those nasty back roads to the larger resorts, you need to make a good day trip up to Lookout Pass. While you’re there, you will probably find me enjoying some of the best powder I have seen on such a small resort, and enjoying every second of it!