Whether you want to cross-country or downhill ski, snowmobile, snowshoe, or capture photos of majestic scenery, winter brings great opportunities to enjoy the outdoors. Enjoy downhill skiing at Discovery Ski Basin near Georgetown Lake or Maverick Mountain near Dillon. Groomed cross-country ski trails and snowmobile trails are an easy drive from Butte at Mount Haggin, Elk Park, Georgetown Lake, and the Big Hole Valley. Thompson Park offers winter fun for backcountry skiing, snowshoeing and fat biking on groomed and ungroomed trails. Butte-Silver Bow Parks and Recreation and the High Altitude Skating Center maintain outdoor ice rinks for family fun.
Map of Winter Activity Locations
Click a marker for more recreation area information.
Leave No Trace Seven Principles
The Seven Principles of Leave No Trace were developed to help educate and guide recreationists in sustainable minimum impact practices that mitigate or avoid recreation-related impacts. Each Principle covers a specific topic and provides detailed information for minimizing impacts. Visit the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics for more information.
1. Plan Ahead and Prepare
- Educate yourself on the area you plan to visit. Know the regulations and special concerns for the area you'll visit.
- Prepare for extreme weather, hazards, and emergencies.
- Take a winter backcountry course to gain experience.
- In mountainous country, carry an avalanche beacon, probe, and shovel.
- Schedule your trip to avoid times of high use.
- Never explore alone, but visit in small groups when possible. Consider splitting larger groups into smaller groups. A group of four allows one to stay with an injured person and two to go for help.
- Leave your excursion plans with two people, including your expected return time. They can begin a rescue if you do not return in reasonable time.
- Trail markings may be hidden in snow. Use a map and compass for navigation. Batteries in GPS units may not work in cold temperatures.
- Plan a route appropriate for the experience level, size, and goals of your group.
- Anticipate changing weather that may obscure or cover trail markings, tents, and gear. Make sure you know where you are and where your gear is at all times.
- Night falls early. You will have much less time to travel and set up camp, so plan accordingly.
- Everything takes longer in cold weather, whether it's heating water, hiking, or tying shoelaces.
- Ensure you have appropriate gear for the worst-case environment. Use layering of clothes to keep warm and prevent overheating followed by freezing.
- Repackage food to minimize waste.
- Use a map and compass to eliminate the use of marking paint, rock cairns or flagging.
2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
- Ice is a great durable surface and hard-packed snow is nearly as good. All your imprints melt away in the spring.
- Travel and camp on deep, firm snow cover. Avoid thin snow where you might break through to the soft ground beneath, especially in spring.
- Stay in the center of the trail, using well-packed snow cover when possible and avoiding trailside vegetation areas.
- Crampons may be helpful on icy trails, but they damage rock and are quickly worn down from rock. Be prepared to take them on and off as needed or do without.
- Avoid traveling close to tree limbs and brush. When frozen, they are fragile and can be easily broken.
- Be aware of steep slopes, cornices, unstable snow, and other possible avalanche dangers. Hike and set up camp well away from these areas.
- Camping on a frozen lake or pond will leave no impact in the spring. It also allows high-traffic summer campsites more time to recover.
- Use removable tent anchors, such as ice axes, ice screws, and poles rather than moving rocks or tieing to trees.
- Durable surfaces include established trails and campsites, rock, gravel, dry grasses or snow.
- Protect riparian areas by camping at least 200 feet from lakes and streams.
- Good campsites are found, not made. Altering a site is not necessary.
- In popular areas:
- Concentrate use on existing trails and campsites.
- Walk single file in the middle of the trail, even when wet or muddy.
- Keep campsites small. Focus activity in areas where vegetation is absent.
- In pristine areas:
- Disperse use to prevent the creation of campsites and trails.
- Avoid places where impacts are just beginning.
- In popular areas:
3. Dispose of Waste Properly
- Pack it in, pack it out. Inspect your campsite and rest areas for trash or spilled foods. Pack out all trash, leftover food and litter.
- Deposit solid human waste in catholes dug 6 to 8 inches deep, at least 200 feet from water, camp and trails. Cover and disguise the cathole when finished.
- Pack out toilet paper and hygiene products.
- To wash yourself or your dishes, carry water 200 feet away from streams or lakes and use small amounts of biodegradable soap. Scatter strained dishwater.
- Make an extra effort to carry non-greasy and non-cook meals to minimize the clean up required. It is more difficult to clean dishes and properly dispose of water in cold weather.
- Acquiring water may be a challenge in winter. Set up a 'clean snow' area uphill from camp where you can collect and treat snow for water.
- Repackage all food into flexible containers. Avoid the mess of broken containers due to freezing and expansion.
4. Leave What You Find
- Snow cover actually helps us leave things as they are since artifacts, rocks, and sticks are hidden and flowers are not in bloom.
- Destroy any snow shelters, igloos, and wind breaks before leaving your campsite. They become unsafe as they melt and they encourage others to concentrate traffic in one spot.
- Preserve the past: examine, but do not touch cultural or historic structures and artifacts.
- Leave rocks, plants and other natural objects as you find them.
- Avoid introducing or transporting non-native species.
- Do not build structures, furniture, or dig trenches.
5. Minimize Campfire Impacts
- Campfires can cause lasting impacts to the environment. Use a lightweight stove for cooking and enjoy a candle lantern for light.
- Where fires are permitted, use established fire rings, fire pans, or mound fires.
- Keep fires small. Only use sticks from the ground that can be broken by hand.
- Burn all wood and coals to ash, put out campfires completely, then scatter cool ashes.
6. Respect Wildlife
- Harsh winter months are especially hard on animals. Scarce food and water means they need to conserve energy as much as possible.
- Approaching or harrassing wildlife causes them to expend energy that may be required just to survive. Stay far from animals and suspected animal habitats.
- Observe wildlife from a distance. Do not follow or approach them.
- Never feed animals. Feeding wildlife damages their health, alters natural behaviors, and exposes them to predators and other dangers.
- Protect wildlife and your food by storing rations and trash securely.
- Control pets at all times, or leave them at home.
- Avoid wildlife during sensitive times: mating, nesting, raising young, or winter.
7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors
- Respect other visitors and protect the quality of their experience.
- Sound carries farther in winter so keep voices down and camp noise minimized.
- Be courteous. Yield to other users on the trail.
- Step to the downhill side of the trail when encountering pack stock.
- Take breaks and camp away from trails and other visitors.
- Respect skiers and hike only on trails intended for hiking. Avoid ski trails.
© 1999 by the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics: www.LNT.org.