Looks like we have a winter storm advisory for the Memorial Day weekend. What did you expect? Warm light breezes, sunny skies, budding plants and trees? Get real. You’re in Montana.

I’ve been in Montana almost 20 years and like most locals I’ve seen snow sometime or other in all twelve months. One of the great things about living in Montana is, walking out the door dressed according to the weather forecast, and two hours later, or less, you find the forecast was not even close. Dress for warm weather and you might find your teeth chattering before noon. Dress for cold and you might be having “flop sweats” by quitting time.

What’s the most popular phrase in Montana? “Hold my beer and watch this!” Second most popular phrase, “If you don’t like Montana weather — wait a minute.”

Holidays: Weather Magnets

Easter, Memorial Day, Fourth of July, and Labor Day — If you are newbie to Montana and planning an outdoor gathering for friends and family on any of these days, you might want to have a backup indoor option available. Each year, one or more of these holidays, will present you with significant weather challenges.

Could be high wind, unseasonably cold temperatures, rain, snow or hail will make your fun outing a memorable experience of holding small children in one hand, while you chase paper plates, napkins, and other party decorations down your local street.


It usually only takes a few months for new Montana residents to show up on local car lots for, in many cases, their first four-wheel drive vehicle. Getting stuck in your own driveway in your 50 MPG Toyota Prius is a real eye opener. Low mileage doesn’t mean a lot in Montana if you are using it for the heater while sitting in a ditch waiting for the tow truck.

The other amazing form of transportation in Montana is the bicycle. It’s amazing to me that people ride bikes in blinding snowstorms on icy streets. I can only assume that there is some kind of masochistic death wish to perform this sort of activity. I would like to think of the helmet as a, “just in case,” not a “wonder how many times I’ll fall on the way to work today?” thing.  I think I would need, at least a full size tricycle, before venturing out on anything other than clear, dry streets.

Winter Sports

In Montana, we make the most of winter. Skiing, ice skating, hockey, ice climbing, and snowboarding are the national pastimes in Montana.

About September you can spot skiers by their glazed eyes, shaking hands, listing from side-to-side, and stiff necks looking for snow filled skies. What’s the most asked interview question by new hires in Montana, “If I work here, how many ski days do it get?”

My most memorable Christmas was the 23 inch snowfall on Christmas Day in 1996. Snow blowing the sidewalks every couple of hours was not the best memory or trying to cut a path so the neighbors could get out of their spots on the street. But, looking out the window at the snow really brought the Christmas message home to the whole family. The 4-wheel Jeep performed great in the snow and the brother-in-law and nephews hit Bridger Bowl for some great skiing.

A small piece of trivia that you may not know, “The Guinness Book of World Records lists the world's largest snowflakes as those of January 1887 at Fort Keogh, Montana; allegedly one measured 15 inches in diameter." How would you like an all day snowfall of those babies? To paraphrase Roy Scheider, in “Jaws,” “We’re gonna need a bigger shovel.”

Some Final Thought on Weather

I’m one of those unusual people who prefer winter to summer. I like the cold and snow so I guess I’m in the perfect place other than Antarctica. Don’t get me wrong I have no problem relaxing on the deck, with a cold adult beverage, and warm breezes. But the seasons are just long enough for me I think.

As winter approaches I get a little excited while most people experience six months of dread. So I guess it get the best of both worlds. I get to enjoy Montana year round. So that makes it truly, “The Last Best Place on Earth” for me. I would write more but I’ve got to get my “brass monkey” inside. There’s a winter storm watch in effect.


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