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Big Sky Montana

Inside Line
posted: 10/27/2005

Elevation: 11,150 feet Vertical drop: 4,350 feet Snowfall: 258 inches at 8,920 feet Acres: 3,600 Getting There: Big Sky is one hour south of Bozeman. Take Route 191 south and go right at the Big Sky access road. Info: 800-548-4486; bigskyresort.com

Beta: It's not just the sky that's big; it's the mountain. There's the rapidly expanding, hyper-modern village. There's 11,166-foot Lone Mountain, soaring more than 4,000 feet above the base. There are 50-degree chutes, exposed faces, and miles of low-tuck, high-speed cruisers. But somehow—probably because Big Sky sits in the southwest corner of a state with fewer than a million people—the mountain doesn't make a spectacle of itself. You won't find any self-proclaimed freeskiing Dirk Digglers here. Just old-fashioned rippers who care more about rocking the slopes than they do about killing the party scene. So take our advice: Ride the Lone Peak tram till the lifts close and make the most of après by 10 p.m.

Powder DayRide the Challenger Lift and stick to northeast-facing runs like Midnight and Moonlight, each about 1,000 vertical feet of 35-degree skiing. Evergreens and wind-ravaged deadwood provide visual reference in whiteout conditions on roomier slopes.

Three Days LaterThe Tram. Period. Because of avy hazards, exposed, treeless Lone Peak might not open until the day after a storm. When it does, ski Marx and Castro's if they're filled in. Otherwise, head to fluff-holding Liberty Bowl.

The RidingStumpy and boulder-strewn, Snake Pit (off of the Thunder Wolf Quad) is a garden of mushroom-tuft hits on a powder day.

Proving Groundsmarquee route: The Big Couloir. Sign out at the patrol shack and drop into the couloir's 45-degree funnel entrance. Fall before it doglegs, and you're a smear on the rocks. off-broadway: From the Challenger chair, head to wide-open Country Club, then into Cache Trees or Little Tree, 40-degree, garage-door-wide slots through—yep—trees.

Backcountry AccessAlmost everything remotely skiable at Big Sky is inbounds. Locals hike a mile for turns at Beehive Basin, an area just past the resort with open faces, steep glades, and Lone Peak—like chutes.

WeatherIn January, Montana cold means light, dry snow. In late March, between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. it's a corn-skiing dream. After that, it's a frozen-coral nightmare.

ApresBogner suits and ski instructors hit the Carabiner Lounge in the Summit Hotel. Beer drinkers loiter in the Alpine Lounge, a hole in the wall in the Mall, where ski flicks play nonstop and the wait for the pool table is usually short.

FuelSalads, baked goods, and java make the Sundog Cafe the lunch or breakfast choice. For dinner, head eight miles off-campus to Buck's T-4 Lodge (406-995-4111), an all-in-one Montana roadhouse with a poolroom and chichi restaurant serving wild game and French wines.

Up All NightLive bands and video poker make Dante's Inferno the call, but late nights at Big Sky are mostly a Big Snooze. Plan on bringing your party, or crash in a chain motel (Days Inn or Comfort Inn) in Bozeman (bozemannet.com), a college town with a college nightlife pulse.

DigsBed down in the Huntley Lodge, where rooms start at $195. Next door, the glitzy Summit starts at $272. During high season, ask for the prime package—you could save up to 15 percent(bigskyresort.com).

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