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Winter in Missoula, Montana

Fun things to do

The Montana Snowbowl offers great alpine skiing a short 12-mile drive from Missoula, Montana. Photo credit: Montana Snowbowl

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Missoula, Montana, turns into a winter wonderland during the colder months of the year. About an eight-hour drive from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, it makes a great base for winter fun.

For some, snow means skiing and snowboarding, and just a short 12-mile drive northwest of Missoula is the Montana Snowbowl. The resort is a smaller alpine ski area with something for everyone. The terrain is 20 percent beginner runs, 40 percent intermediate runs and 40 percent expert runs. There are 37 runs; the longest is one mile. The bowl is also known for its pizza. Locals often drive up just to hang out and enjoy a great pizza. Snowbowl offers a great "Learn to Ski in three" package that includes lift tickets, lessons and equipment for $119.  Don't want to drive up the hill? Visit the website for shuttle times and locations, a bargain at $3 per roundtrip.

Montana Snowbowl, check website for days and times, varies with weather, 1700 Snowbowl Rd., Missoula, Montana, 406.540.1874, montanasnowbowl.com

If you are in town on a Saturday, stop by the Missoula Valley Winter Market, which is open Saturdays from November to April. The market is a fun local tradition, and you will find farm-fresh fruits and vegetables, bakery items, fruit preserves, pickled products, honey, meats and eggs.  You'll also find breakfast and lunch items.  There is also a wide variety of craft items, which make good gifts and souvenirs to bring home. Look for soaps and lotion, handcrafted jewelry and quality artwork.

Downtown Missoula, seasonal, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., 705 S. Higgins Ave., Missoula, Montana, 406.396.0593

Missoula is surrounded by hills. Follow the lead of locals when the snow starts to fall and check out the best sledding spots in town. Bring your sleds or swing by Costco and pick up one for less than $20. Two hidden local gems are located off Linda Vista Boulevard -- Rainbow and Nicole Parks are a short distance apart. The South Summit Trail off the golf course at the University of Montana also offers some great sledding.  If you have children of varying ages, Wapikiya Park (clearly marked on Missoula maps) has smaller hills for the little ones and a larger hill for the more experienced.

Destination Missoula offers a list of "20 Things to Do in the Winter" on its website. In addition to the above-mentioned suggestions, consider some upscale choices like dog sledding and carriage or sleigh rides offered at some of the local resorts. Winter also brings opportunities for snowmobiling, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. A popular winter activity is ice fishing, and many local outfitters offer guides.

Accommodations are available in town with a wide variety of hotels, or consider a stay at one of the many resorts outside of town with options for lodges or cabins, which make a great base for a vacation.

Destination Missoula Walk-In Visitors Center, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday-Friday; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, 101 E. Main St., Missoula, Montana, 406.532.3250, destinationmissoula.org

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