Frequently Asked Questions

General Questions

1How many guests can the Lodge accommodate?
There are 13 beds (5 double beds & 8 single beds) and 1 pullout couch. At capacity, with all double beds and the pullout shared, the maximum capacity is 20.

The Lodge is very comfortable with 12 and the minimum to book an exclusive stay during the winter is 10.

2Where is the Lodge?
The Lodge is located just over 7 miles from the town of Hamilton, Montana - about an hour and a half from Missoula.

There is different accessibility depending on the season. During the winter, the final stretch of road is only open to skis, snowshoes, and approved snowmobiles.

The address of the Lodge is 1017 Grubstake Rd, Hamilton, Montana. Driving directions and staging information will be provided upon booking.
3What should I pack?
Please refer to our Trip Planning page for a detailed packing list. Keep in mind, you will be in the mountains and should have layers no matter the season.

Guests are responsible for bringing their own food and beverages.

We provide blankets, pillows, pillowcases, and top sheets year-round. Winter guests will need to bring their own bedding or sleeping bags and towels. We provide all bedding and towels for summer guests.

It is possible to go into Hamilton for any items your group needs during your stay, though that will be a long trek in the winter!
4How close is the nearest airport?
Missoula is about an hour and a half north with regular air service to Seattle, Salt Lake City, Denver, Minneapolis, and less regular service to Las Vegas, San Francisco, and Oakland. Rental cars are available at the airport and in Hamilton.
5How close are Glacier National Park and Yellowstone National Park?
West Glacier is 3-4 hours away to the north and Yellowstone Park is 5-6 hours away to the east.

Winter Guests

1How do we access the Lodge in the winter?
Once the road snows in, generally in late December, access to the Lodge is by ski or snowshoes along the summer road for 1.5 miles and 600’ vertical from the staging area at switchback 11. 4WD or AWD vehicles with good snow tires and backup chains are required to reach the staging area at Switchback 11 on Grubstake Road.

Personal snowmobiles, if preapproved, may also be used to haul luggage to and from the staging area at Switchback 11 along Grubstake road.

All other vehicles may be staged in Hamilton at the public parking north of the Post Office. We request carpooling when possible.
2How far is the staging area from Hamilton?
It is 6 miles from Hamilton to the staging area at Switchback 11. The final 1.5 miles are a winding mountain road requiring 4WD, snow tires, and backup chains.
3How many cars can be safely parked at the staging area at Switchback 11?
There is room for 4 vehicles per group to park at Switchback 11. Carpooling is requested to reduce congestion. There are a couple of other turnouts before reaching Switchback 11 to accommodate overflow parking or short snowmobile trailers.
4Do we need to hire a guide at Downing Mountain Lodge?
No, hiring a guide is not a requirement at the Lodge. However, to maximize your safety, enjoyment, and understanding of the mountain, hiring a guide for your first day will give you a headstart for the remainder of your visit at the Lodge.

Guide service is $1,000 per day for a full group of 10 or more with two guides.
5Can the Lodge accommodate smaller groups?
Prior to COVID, we would mingle smaller groups mid-week. This is not recommended for the 2021 winter. If your group is smaller than 8, please be in touch with your preference for dates. I will contact you a week beforehand with potential availability.
6Is there a snowmobile shuttle to the lodge option for luggage and food?
Yes. It is recommended that you utilize this service to make your trip easier. Hire us to do the hauling and we can shuttle your food, beverages, and luggage to the lodge for $350 round trip.

Plan to pack your food in boxes and coolers and your individual luggage in water-resistant duffels. Plan to carry your day pack as you skin to the lodge.
7What can we do at the lodge in the winter when not backcountry skiing?
There is a hot tub, a sauna, a shower, a foosball table, a small Bluetooth speaker, and adequate wifi (45:90 Mbps). The full commercial kitchen is great for preparing any food you might want. There are numerous games and cribbage boards, a drum, a piano, and a guitar in the Lodge. Stoking the fireplace and woodstove and chopping and hauling wood are important chores to figure into your daily routine at the lodge.
8What is the skiing/riding terrain like at Downing Mountain Lodge?
There is skiing and riding at Downing Mountain for all but beginners.

The lion’s share of terrain is nicely spaced tree skiing in the main bowl and on its flanks, with some smaller more alpine in nature backbowls. Much of the terrain on the flanks of the first bowl is 25 degrees, with steeper pitches up to 45 degrees encountered in the headwall of the first bowl and in the back bowls.

Downing Mountain is primarily a winter powder destination with sustained and long pitches up to 2,600’ vertical with high quality and copious amounts of snow. It generally has a midwinter base at 7,000’ of 6-8 feet of snow, with more above and less below.

Spring skiing in April is quite good and then deteriorates rather quickly in May.
9What are the mountain statistics?
With Downing Mountain Lodge at 5,500’ and the summit of the first bowl 8,100’ the initial vertical and length of the longest run is 2,600’.

Downing Mountain is 8,700’ and the toe of the main bowl is 5,300’ making a total vertical 3,400’. Acreage is subjective, but there are a couple of thousand acres of open bowls, gladed tree skiing shots, and adventurous backsides to ski.

There are some amazing steep faces, cliffs, pillow lines, and gullies for the advanced/expert skier, but no true couloirs.
10Are there slopes that avalanche on Downing Mountain?
Yes. The slopes above 30 and especially 35 degrees in the Headwall, the Long Run, the Wave, the Crown, and the Barley Bowl have all experienced avalanches.
11What bedding does the Lodge supply to guests?
We supply top sheets, pillows, and pillowcases in the bedrooms as well as numerous extra blankets. Guests are asked to bring their own bedding or sleeping bags and towels. Toilet paper is supplied in the bathrooms.
12How equipped is the kitchen?
The kitchen is equipped with the following:
  • Running hot and cold water
  • Plates, bowls, mugs, cups, silverware, and plasticware
  • Any leftover spices
  • Pots, pans, and a wok
  • Knives and cooking utensils
  • Toaster oven, griddle top, four burner gas range, 2 ovens, microwave, slow cookers, refrigerator, freezer, coolers, and coffee makers & filters
  • Cleaning supplies and garbage bages
13What should I bring for the kitchen?
Guests are responsible for bringing their own food, beverage, spices, and paper towels if desired.
14Is there a cleaning fee in the winter?
No, there is no cleaning fee in the winter because guests are expected to thoroughly clean and organize the Lodge as they found it, as well as haul their own garbage and recycling to the dumpster at the bottom of the road entering the forest. There is a checklist for leaving posted in the kitchen.
15Are there any snowmobiling opportunities at the Lodge?
No. Snowmobiles may only be used for hauling luggage and supplies along the summer roadway. Snowmobiles are not permitted off-road or above the Lodge elevation. Downing Mountain Lodge is strictly a skin and ski/ride area. Snowmobiles on the skin trail and bunny hill would create hazardous conditions for skiing thus the strict ban.
16Are there any cross country skiing trails at the Lodge?
There are no designated cross country trails. The roads and ski trails are generally too steep for anything other than skins and snowshoes. However, the adventurous scaled bc vector gurus will debate the merits of scaled downhill skis here at Downing Mountain.
17What other skiing and recreation opportunities are available in the area?
The Downing Mountain Lodge is adjacent to Highway 93, also known as the U.S portion of the Powder Highway. Canada’s Powder Highway is Hwy 93 due North to Rogers Pass, Lake Louise, and the Ice Fields Parkway.

Lost Trail and Snowbowl are the closest downhill ski areas. There are other backcountry destinations in the Bitterroot as well as in nearby mountain ranges. Big Sky, Whitefish, Sun Valley, Jackson Hole/Targhee, and Fernie B.C. are the larger downhill resorts within a half-day drive. Chief Joseph Pass and Lake Como have groomed cross country trails within an hour.

Summer Guests

1How do we access the Lodge in the summer?
Access to the Lodge in the summer is on a dirt, mountain road with multiple switchbacks that can be driven by regular passenger vehicles. It takes about 20-25 minutes to drive to the Lodge from downtown Hamilton, Montana. It is a total of 7 miles. There is no reliable Uber in the area, so you will need your own vehicle.
2Can the Lodge accommodate weddings or other large gatherings?
Yes. The Lodge is well suited to smaller gatherings of 50 people or fewer. We can help with organizing with caterers, planners, and equipment rentals.

The Lodge has been popular for retreats and events over the years. There is a large deck below the Lodge that can accommodate a large gathering as well as a small lawn adjacent to the Lodge.
3What does the Lodge provide for guests in the summer?
We provide bedding, towels, firewood, local advice, and access to the Forest Service lands. Guests enjoy a private stay renting the entire lodge out for their group only. This includes private access to the entire Lodge, kitchen, hot tub and sauna, and 60 acres.
4Is there a cleaning fee in the summer?
Yes, in the summer there is a cleaning fee. Guests are asked to clean up after themselves and leave the Lodge as they found it including returning any moved furniture to its original place. The cleaning fee covers basic cleaning, laundry service for linens & towels, and garbage & recycling service.
5How many cars can park at the Lodge?
If carefully managed, there is room at the Lodge and along the roadway to the Lodge for 30 vehicles.

The Lodge is built into the side of the mountain with a parking lot above and a ½ mile of roadway which can accommodate parked vehicles. Maintaining a turnaround zone at the Lodge is important with larger assemblies of vehicles and carpooling is always encouraged.

Extra cars can be parked at the Hamilton free lot north of the Post Office.
6What activities can the Lodge provide in the summer?
Additional summer activities that the Lodge can provide include mountain bike trips, scenic river trips on the Bitterroot River, and cultural, historical, & wildlife watching tours.
7What is there to do in Hamilton?
There are numerous restaurants, grocery & health food stores, a river park with walking trails &fishing access, a Farmers Market on Saturday morning, a library, a skateboard park, the fairgrounds, the Daly Mansion, Valley Bike shop, Red Barn Bikeshop, Bob Ward’s Outdoor store, two brewpubs, and most other service options.
8What activities are popular in the Bitterroot area?
Fishing, hiking, mountain biking, mountain climbing, rock climbing, float trips, hot springing, ATVing, hunting, and historical tours are all popular choices in the Bitterroot Valley for locals and visitors alike.
9Can you recommend local guide services for fly fishing or other activities?
Yes, connecting you with purveyors of high quality and authentic experiences is a passion here at Downing Mountain Lodge.
10Can you help us plan our trip to the area?
Yes, please get in touch directly for planning your trip to the area. We have decades of experience in the area and are willing to share tour operators if we cannot provide the service ourselves. Additionally, we can provide ideas and suggestions for getting the most out of a trip to the Bitterroot.
11How close is the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness?
The Wilderness is just west of the lodge and some of the very best mountain hiking trails in North America are within 20 minutes of the lodge. Additionally, there is a mountain trail ascending Downing Mountain directly from the Lodge which is completely private and has some of the most beautiful wildflowers blooms in spring and huckleberry picking in the summer months.