Locals have been skiing in Red Lodge since they strung up rope tows and created what was then called Grizzly Peak ski area in the 1950's and 1960's. Later, they moved the ski area to its present site, which overlooks both the Beartooth Mountains and the plains of south-central Oregon. Red Lodge is a skier’s mountain – steep, sprawling, rocky, and largely wild, save for a few groomed cruisers. It’s not an ideal place to learn, though there is a separate beginner’s chair and learning zone. One of the nicest things about skiing Red Lodge is that afterward you can visit the town of Red Lodge – a mining-era throwback with Victorian homes and a super cute restored downtown.
Despite how tantalizing and huge the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness is, there are precious few ways to access it, especially in winter when no roads leading into the heart of the mountains are plowed. One way to get a taste of the area without undertaking what is basically an expedition is to cross-country ski into the mountains at Lake Fork, south of Red Lodge. Here, a plowed parking area and signed ski trail follow either a summer road or a creek-side trail several miles to the normal summer trailhead before pushing deeper into the mountains. This is big country, and while the famous spires of the Beartooth Mountains are still miles off, it’s highly likely you’ll be the only one here and it’s possible to feel the solitude and wildness of the area.