First-timer’s Guide to Winter in Montana

By Discover Kalispell on Oct. 12, 2021

There are few places as magical as Montana during the winter, and Kalispell is no exception. The hub of the Flathead Valley in northwest Montana, Kalispell welcomes winter and its 300+ inches of snow to the surrounding mountains, while a feeling of friendliness and adventure radiate through our unfiltered mountain town. 

If it’s your first time visiting Montana in winter, chances are you probably have a lot of questions. To start with, we’ve rounded up some of the biggest questions you might have to help you make the most of your winter adventure to Kalispell. 

How much does it snow? 

A lot. But it really depends where you go. The mountains (and ski areas) get around 300+ inches of snow each year, while the Flathead Valley gets about 55 inches. 

Is it scary to drive during the winter?

We’re going to be very honest and tell you that it depends on your experience level. If you’ve never driven in a place that has snow, it could be a bit scary for you. However, we have great road crews in and around Kalispell and they do an incredible job of keeping our roads open, safe, plowed and sanded. Our biggest tips: go slow, don’t ride your brakes and never use cruise control.

How cold does it get? 

In January, our average high temperature sits at 31 degrees Fahrenheit, with an average low of 16 degrees Fahrenheit. When you visit Montana, you should be prepared for cold weather, snow and ice. The most important part of being comfortable in the winter is being prepared. If you’re dressed properly, you’ll have no problem enjoying the outdoors, even in the heart of winter. (See our packing list here.) 

I’m not a skier. Is there anything else for me to do? 

Well, for starters, welcome. You’ve come to the right place. Don’t get us wrong, we love downhill skiing and snowboarding, especially as we have two ski areas within easy reach of Kalispell. But there’s way more to winter in Kalispell than just downhill terrain. To name a few, we’ve got snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, winter kayaking and perusing our charming downtown. We’ll also dive into more, so keep reading. 

Now that we have the most frequently-asked-questions out of the way, here are our top recommendations for your first-time winter visit to Kalispell, Montana.

Downtown Kalispell

One of the most charming parts of Kalispell is its downtown. Lined with historic buildings that are home to modern-day businesses - including cute shops, art galleries, boutiques, restaurants and watering holes - it’s well worth spending some time strolling through downtown. Oftentimes winter visitors cruise on through as they’re making their way to the ski hill, but downtown should be on your must-visit list. 

Play Outside

If you’ve always pictured northwest Montana as an outdoor-lover’s paradise, pictured it correctly because that’s exactly what it is. Even in the winter there is no shortage of things to do and adventures to take. Here are our top winter picks: hit the downhill slopes at Blacktail Mountain Ski Area or Whitefish Mountain Resort, take a horseback trail ride with Artemis Acres through the Salish Mountains or kayak the waters of Flathead Lake with Sea Me Paddle. Want more? Check out additional ideas here

Eat, Drink (and be Merry) 

Kalispell has a growing culinary scene, with new restaurants opening in both downtown and on the north end. Warm up with a cozy drink at Ceres Bakery or Sable Coffee, sip on an adult beverage at Whistling Andy Distillery and Glacier Distillery, or head to MontaVino Winery, Brannigan’s Irish Pub or Whitefish Handcrafted Spirits for a spiced apple cider or mulled wine. 

Dig into local grub at the new Mercantile Steakhouse, bite into a yak burger at Hop’s Downtown Grill, fill up on the best BBQ in the West at DeSoto Grill or visit local favorite Moose’s Saloon for made-right-here pizza.

Explore Indoors

While the outdoors tend to take center stage around here, Kalispell’s history, museums and indoor offerings are well worth exploring. If it’s your first time here, we highly recommend touring the Conrad Mansion Museum, which was the home of Kalispell’s founder - Charles E. Conrad. 

Stay in Kalispell 

Whether you want to earn points at flagship hotels or step back into Kalispell’s history, there are plenty of places to stay. Several lodging properties have indoor fireplace and outdoor fire pits, which are the perfect addition to a winter stay. After playing in Montana’s snow-filled wonderland, return to the SpringHill Suites, Homewood Suites or Red Lion Hotel Kalispell to take advantage of their outdoor fire pits. See the full list of properties with fireplaces/fire pits here.

If You Only Do One Thing...

If you only have time to do one thing in Kalispell, Montana, your must-do activity is visiting the block on Main Street where Norm’s Soda Fountain and Western Outdoors are located. Spend time pursuing the selection of boots and western wear, as well as the Kalispell Antiques Market in the basement, before enjoying a huckleberry shake at Norm’s News. 

And if you need help planning your visit, check out our just-launched personalized travel consultation and let us help you plan your visit.

Love, Discover Kalispell

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