Teton Pass, located outside Choteau on the Rocky Mountain Front, became the final Montana ski area to crank up its lifts for the season. The tiny hill with two lifts and 26 runs usually is able to open in early December, but unseasonably late snows postponed its opening until New Year's Day.

Lifts serve 144 acres of inbounds runs and 1,010 feet of vertical. But expert skiers and riders who are prepared for backcountry skiing extend the acreage by catching trails beyond the ski area boundary lines. The locals even name the out-of-bounds runs.

The ski hill has the reputation of being a hiker's hill. The unpatrolled slopes on the flanks of Mt. Lockhart extend the ski hill's acreage. Some skiers trek up to the 8,488-foot summit, adding another 1,200 vertical feet to their run. But high winds scour the upper flanks of the mountain, often precluding descent down open ridgelines. Look for pockets of snow to ski in ravines.

The terrain also is known for its natural halfpipes. Two gullies inbounds attract jibbers, and several more gullies tuck into runs just outside the boundaries.

The ski hill operates on weekends only until the end of March. It also runs its lifts on Fridays from Jan. 23 through Mar. 6.

Daily lift tickets are inexpensive. Adult lift tickets cost $29. Student passes cost $23. Child and senior lift tickets cost $18.