Bitterroot Resort, Montana


Bitterroot Resort

As the proposed Bitterroot Ski Resort plants images of a four-season mecca for outdoor enthusiasts that could rival any present day ski village, it struggles with the realities of bureaucracy.

  • The Bitterroot Ski Resort hopes to become a year round hub of outdoor activity.
  • Opposition, paper work and foreclosure may keep this resort from ever becoming a reality.
  • Proposes to have the largest vertical drop in North America.
  • It may not be in operation, but check out the downhill mountain bike competitions.


Tom Maclay's vision of the future for his 2,900 acre Maclay & Son Ranch, which dates back to 1883, is one only an avid skier and dreamer could envision. The proposed Bitterroot Ski Resort in Carlton, MT promises to be a mecca for ski, snowboard, and outdoor enthusiasts alike.

The proposal for the Bitterroot Ski Resort, which will encompass both private and public lands, is still facing legal bureaucracy and community opposition. Not surprising for a project of such magnitude. Yet, initial approval for special-use permits for the lands above the ranch and adjacent to Lolo National Park were approved. Complicated yes, but that isn't stopping this dreamer from hoping that one day Bitterroot Ski Resort will be a fully operational, four-season adventure paradise. But for now, only a few amenities are available.

Current Amenities

For now, Bitterroot Ski Resort pines on as runs have been cut on Maclay's private acreage. Until the lifts are built, snow cats provide you with access to over 30 runs, a small sample of the big picture. And in the summer, Bitterroot Ski Resort continues to host downhill bike competitions.

Proposed Amenities

If successful, the Bitterroot Ski Resort will be a four-season center of activity boasting something for everyone. Advertising the greatest vertical drop in North America at 5,555 ft, over a mile, Maclay isn't just building another ski resort, but one that stands to rival the big dogs.

Beyond the skiing and snowboarding in the winter Bitterroot Ski Resort proposes using the existing 40 miles of logging roads for nordic skiiing, snowshoeing and snow snowmobiling. A terrain park will also be available for those looking to practice their moves.

Let's not forget the summer activities the Bitterroot Ski Resort has planned, including hiking and biking trails, horseback riding, and golfing. They also plan on providing many comfort amenities to help you relax after a your full day of activity. Think pool, spa, and a great meal before you curl up in one of the luxury hotel beds for the night.

The Debate

A project of this magnitude does not pop up on the landscape without burdensome paperwork and years of effort. The Bitterroot Ski Resort first hit the front page in 2003, when Tom Maclay made public his plans for this development. In his eyes it would be an example of sustainable development that would benefit the community and the state.

In addition, the Maclay Ranch is one of the last remaining large swaths of consecutive ranchland found in the area. The Bitterroot is currently being subdivided into private land holdings, generally surrounded by their own open space, creating neither urban or rural living and therefor a very car dependent community. The Bitterroot Ski Resort would be a way to maintain a large land area for one greater purpose.

With such a large parcel of land up for development the environmentally conscious citizens of Missoula and the surrounding areas started voicing concern. First and foremost, the originally planned 11,000 acres of public land that would be privately developed is huge. This would effect both floral and fauna of the area creating unknown environmental impacts.

Missoula is a tight knit community that also fears the economic change the Bitterroot Ski Resort may bring to the area. More jobs good, more tourists and traffic not so welcome. They may not be ready to become the next Vail.

And finally, snow. Necessary for a ski resort but consistent snow fall does not occur in this area nor has a water source been named for snow making machines. Grey water, used but not totally dirty water, will be used for landscaping but what will fill the drinking fountains.

And so the debate goes on into the present, where the Bitterroot Ski Resort is still looking to move ahead with it's plans but is again stalled in litigation, debate, and foreclosure.


Ten miles south of Missoula, between Lolo and Florence. Take Hwy 93 south, toward Lolo. Take a right on Rowan Road and a left at Old Hwy 93. Continue south until you reach Mc Clain Creek Rd, take a right. This will lead you to the base area of Bitterroot Resort.


Call for current hours of operation.

Contact Information

(406) 273-2223

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