There are a few possibilities in accessing the backcountry in Montana. The most pure form is by telemark skiing. Nothing can compare with setting off under your own power from one of the hundreds of trailheads toward a snow covered crag with visions of first tracks. With the proper equipment, a bit of hiking will deliver you to an alpine peak or couloir filled with untouched powder. However, this isn't a decision to take lightly, as the terrain can be dangerous if you are unprepared.
The sport of telemark skiing is similar to cross-country skiing, but with more of an alpine ski and boot. This type of skiing offers the gentle gliding over flat terrain of cross-country skiing, as well as the ability to navigate steep snowy hillsides. Telemark skiing originated from Norway, from the Telemark region, where skiing was a natural mode of travel due to the long winters. Sondre Norheim, of Morgedal, Telemark first demonstrated the telemark turn in 1868, later called the Christiana turn.
Telemark skis are shorter, stiffer and a little wider than cross-country skis and offer more control especially when traversing down a steep hill. While ski resorts see lots of telemark skiers intermingle with alpine skiers on the hill, most telemark skiers search out the solitude of the quiet winter backcountry for miles of untracked powder. However, with the freedom to travel down steep snowy slopes in the backcountry comes the responsibility to carry the proper avalanche and safety equipment.
Guided services provide access into the backcountry of Montana by helicopters or snowmobiles. These guided tours are available in some of the most challenging and beautiful terrain in the world. Guided trips are safe and informative, and your guide's goal is to put you on the best possible powder in the area for the conditions at that exact moment, with keeping safety first in mind. Guided snowcat backcountry tours are also available. Snowcats can get you into backcountry areas fairly quickly and they have the added advantage of being instant lifts when you're done with a run.
Most outdoor sporting goods stores in Montana carry a variety of telemark ski equipment and clothing. These shops will also have information on guided tours for backcountry skiing. The beauty of the backcountry is that you either work for it, or you pay for it. It matters very little on how you get there, it's the experience of the untamed world of the snowy backcountry that matters - it is unlike anything else in skiing. Areas that are often frequented by backpackers in the summer are completely empty and quiet in the winter, when the peaks, lakes, rocks and trees are blanketed under 20 feet of snow. A true delight awaits for those skiers looking for the real wilderness experience.