By Robert Lucke
When planning that ski vacation in February or March, don't overlook the Internet to help you in planning wherever you might want to go.
Spend an evening surfing the net and you will find ski trails throughout Montana, snowmobile trails, lodging, snow conditions, ratings of ski and snowmobile areas by users and prices. Everything from skiing to snowmobiling to snow boarding is covered in depth on the "net."
It takes some time, though, to get to where you want to be. And often times a question asked a search engine is worded just a tad wrong for the answer you are looking for. Be prepared to be creative in asking for what you want. And know that the information you want about winter sports in Montana or anywhere else is there somewhere.
Take Blacktail Ski area in Lakeside, Montana. There is a snow update, base depth, open trails, weather conditions, operating hours, amenities and prices all listed.
Ski and snowmobile areas normally include snow type, how it is groomed, whether there is night skiing, whether there is snowmaking provided, if the area is experiencing spring conditions, and a lot of other valuable information. Most information is updated frequently.
Let's say that you are interested in visiting Hidden Valley ski area just north of Havre in Alberta's Cypress Hills. They bill themselves as the "Snoasis" of the prairie.
There is much information on the "net" about Hidden Valley. For instance, lifts include a quad chair, t-bar, and two handle tows with a combined capacity of lifting 2,400 skiers an hour. There are plenty of restaurant, day lodge, and rental facilities at the area. Then there is sort of technical information such as 95 percent of the area is involved in snowmaking, that the annual snowfall is 7 feet, that the elevation of the area is 4,594 feet and the vertical lift is 656 feet. The longest run is 1 1/4 miles and bus service is provided to and from several Canadian points.
The area has a certified ski and snowboard school and if you give them a call, they will describe current snow conditions in the Cypress Hills.
And the list goes on and on. There seems to be no end to helpful information in planning that winter outing in or out of Montana that is available on the Internet. It does take some searching, though, to find just the right information at times.