Who Makes Montana Speed Limits Anyway?

Snow ghost and the moon

I ask you, who makes Montana speed limits anyway? If that sounds like I’m an annoyed tourist, let me give you a little context for my winter vacation and then some facts.

I had rented a compact-size car for the city part of my vacation that looked sort of like a baby shoe on over-sized bicycle tires. I thought it was sort of cute when I picked it up. While handy for around-the-town driving, on a winter road trip into Montana it proved a bit short-sighted. I could feel every pebble on the road in that Fiat 500. The frost heaves through Monida Pass felt like speed bumps!

View from top of Big Mountain, MT

View from top of Big Mountain, MT

Usually when I’m driving long distances I just set cruise control and think about other things–like the magnificent Rocky Mountains. As I entered them on I-90 northwest of Dillon, the scenery became more beautiful and the interstate more and more winding. At Missoula I turned north toward Kalispell on Highway 93 heading for Whitefish where they’d just gotten another dump of several feet of snow. Plenty of powder!

But I knew that when driving Highway 93 in Montana you have to be on guard. You have to watch the speedometer every minute or pay the ticket! The last time I drove the road–summertime in a sports car–I did get a speeding ticket. Now, six months later I was determined to make it through the speed zone changes on that tedious two-lane highway.

Ski lift attacked by snow ghosts

Ski lift attacked by snow ghosts

Well, I was successful!  You can see the kind of weather at the top of Big Mountain. Blue skies and plenty of snow. It looks like the ski lift is being attacked by snow ghosts, doesn’t it? Just in case you didn’t notice the moon in the arc of the snow ghost limb in the featured image at the beginning of this blog, here’s a bigger version. Cool, eh?

Snow ghost and the moon

Snow ghost and the moon

Actually, snow ghosts are quite dangerous. The frozen trees often have a well, a deep pit, around them. If you ski too close you can fall into one and the result of that encounter can be fatal. The impact with the tree is one hazard, but if you survive that and don’t have a buddy to pull you out of the well quickly, you can suffocate or freeze to death. I didn’t do any of those things and had a wonderful vacation in every way.

Here’s an article for more information about deep snow safety and here’s another from Bon Traveler about a winter visit to Glacier National Park.

Snow ghosts over Whitefish townsite

Snow ghosts over Whitefish townsite

Despite the great skiing and winter wonderland enchantment of Big Mountain, my irritation about driving that road, that I-93, began all over again as I packed up the little rental car to go home. On my return trip I decided to take notes of exactly what happens to a motorist. Here goes: I took the traffic light south of Kalispell as mile zero and the intersection of Hwy. 93 and I-90 north of Missoula as the end point.

List of speed limit signs:

mile 0 = 55 MPH
mile 1 = 65 MPH
mile 5 = 55, then 45 MPH
mile 9 = 55 MPH
mile 11 = 45, then 35 MPH
mile 12 = 45, then 55, then 70 MPH
mile 32 = 55, then 45 MPH
mile 33 = 55 MPH
mile 34 = 70 MPH
mile 36 = 55 MPH
mile 37 = 70 MPH
mile 48 = 55, then 35 MPH
mile 49 = 25 MPH, then 35 MPH
mile 51 = 45 MPH
mile 52 = 55 MPH
mile 54 = 70 MPH
mile 56 = 45 MPH
mile 58 = 70 MPH
mile 62 = 55, then 45 MPH
mile 63 = 35, then 25, then 45 MPH
mile 64 = 55 MPH
mile 65 = 70 MPH
mile 77 = 45 MPH
mile 78 = 55, then 70 MPH
mile 82 = 45 MPH
mile 83 = 70 MPH
mile 91 = 55 MPH
mile 92 = 15, then 35 MPH
mile 93 = 45, then 55, then 70 MPH as I merged onto I-90.

That makes 53 speed changes in 93 miles! And this is fairly rural country-side.

Any chance the police departments of the little towns along the way are making their livelihood off ski traffic? Who makes Montana speed limits anyway?

2 thoughts on “Who Makes Montana Speed Limits Anyway?

  1. Loved this blog dear friend. I could hear your lilting voice. I have a nephew and his familly living in Whitefish and he woud commiserate with you.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *