If time’s short and all you can spare is a single day, point the car east and head for Red Lodge. Be sure to get an early start: it’s about a 2.5-hour drive. On the way out of town, stop by Sola Café for coffee and a breakfast sandwich. You’ll need both kinds of fuel for the driving and the skiing. Hop on I-90 and in just over 100 miles, get off at Columbus, where you’ll hook up with Hwy. 212 to Red Lodge. Before making your way up to the mountain, stop in town to grab a pack lunch. Just off the main drag, the Regis Café has snacks, sandwiches, and wraps, all made with local ingredients whenever possible. Try some of their straight-from-the-oven baked goods to satisfy your sweet tooth.
At the mountain, warm up on the Miami Beach chair before heading up to higher elevations. Red Lodge has over 1,600 acres of skiable terrain accessed by six lifts, so there’s something for everyone in your group. With 2,400 feet of vert, expect to be challenged. The runs off Nicholas Peak (9,390 ft.) provide the most challenging terrain and can be lapped all day. There’s no shortage of fun on the double-diamond steeps or the thinned glades. Catch this zone on a powder day, and you’ll consider moving to town permanently. Like most Montana ski areas, crowds are non-existent, so take your time and sample all of Red Lodge’s bounty, including some of the long groomers off the Grizzly Peak Chair.
Once you’ve put in the hours on the slopes, pile back in the car and down to town. Red Lodge Ales Brewing Company, right on North Broadway on your way out of town, has the brews and the grub to fit any appetite. Fill up on sandwiches, finger-foods, and an array of seasonal beers. If you’re still full from lunch, skip the brewery and take the slightly longer route through Roscoe along Hwy. 78. Stop in Roscoe for a monster burger or steak at Grizzly Bar & Grill. They’ll make one pretty much any way you’d like, but the Blue is especially delicious, piled high with bacon, caramelized onions, and blue-cheese crumbles. Wash it all down with a cocktail or glass of wine from their full bar. Better yet, hold off on the booze until you’ve made it back to Columbus, where the New Atlas Bar is not to be missed. This place screams Montana, with its collection of taxidermy, a stocked jukebox, and spacious environs. Shoot some pool, sip a beer, reflect on the day, and remember to pace yourself: you still have the drive home.
From Columbus to Bozeman is an easy straight shot west on I-90, but with winter weather, you can never be too careful. Give yourself time and grab a coffee before getting back on the highway. Once back in town, check Red Lodge off the list and get started planning your next out-of-town ski adventure.