The word ‘Montana’ has a bad rep for some reason – a stereotype image of Cowboys and Indians and endless stretches of cattle herds tend to pop into your brain with a dismissive ‘What’s in Montana?’ attitude.
Those silly stereotypes and slightly ignorant attitudes couldn’t be farther from the truth. Sure, Montana is a big state with long stretches of beautiful land and plenty of isolation but it’s also home to one of the nation’s most beautiful National Parks, Yellowstone, and even better it is officially home to the Biggest Skiing in America. Literally. The BIGGEST.
Big Sky Resort is quite possibly our new favorite place to ski in all of America…after spending six weeks of ski resort hopping on the road and finding pretty good conditions on some world class mountains we finally arrived at Big Sky to find it was everything we had ever dreamed of and then some. Blue Skies at Big Sky – that’s the unofficial motto of the place, meaning if it isn’t dumping fresh pow then it’s blue skies for miles and miles. Visibility like you’ve only ever dreamed of. You go for a weekend and stay an extra week (or two), it’s just that sort of place.
They recently took over the local ‘town hill’ so now Big Sky Resort, Spanish Peaks, and Moonlight Basin combine to create a ski resort of more than 5,750 acres of skiable terrain, with 4350 vertical feet, 23 chairlifts and 10 surface lifts.
There’s so much to explore you need to be on the lift by 9am with only a quick break for hot cocoa and ski till last call on the mountain. The resort has its own little village area with light bites and heartier food over at Whiskey Jacks where you can have a Steep N Deep Stout from the local Lone Peak Brewery with a shot of Vanilla Stoli to re-energize and invigorate you to take a ride up the Lone Peak Tram. Liquid courage and all….
It’s an intimidating leap of faith to dive into the bowl from the tippy top of the tram, but as with a lot of runs at Big Sky, it looks scarier than it is and for the truly ‘core’ skier it just might be the run of your life. Most runs here are incredibly satisfying in that you rarely find yourself on something you can’t handle – it may look intimidating but once your tips are down and the sun is on your back you find yourself having the time of your life and even stepping outside your comfort zone.
As soon as the ski day ends you should immediately jump in the outdoor heated pool at the Summit Hotel for a beer and some R&R – there’s nothing quite the snow softly touching your nose while your toes tingle from the warmth of the water. Jack Creek Bar & Grille is a very short ride from the Summit Hotel (a bellhop will give you a lift so you can peruse and enjoy their excellent wine list) and is a delicious version of fine dining in Montana – fantastic elk steaks, bison short ribs and wild boar shank.
It’s not at all too late to book a flight and get more powder days in one weekend than you could possibly get on the East Coast (or even the West Coast this winter) – the conditions are still picture perfect and will be heading into late Spring. If you do wait till next year to visit make sure you look into the dates for Big Sky’s elusive and highly sought after SnoBar in January – an amazing rave of party in a room built of snow at the base of the mountain with a disco D.J. and psychedelic dancers.
It is an experience not to be missed – and since it ends at 8pm when the darkness sets in and makes it impossible to dance in the snow no matter how many spiked hot cocoas you’ve had, it’s perfect timing to hop on the roof of a snowcat to a Yurt Dinner hidden in the woods mid-ski run. A dark and intimate dinner with three courses of hearty food and great wine (well, it’s BYOB so make sure you bring some good stuff) ends with a ride back down the mountain gazing at the plethora of stars you never even knew existed.
One place off resort that is not to be missed – Lotus Pad restaurant, a 10 minute drive from the resort. Call us crazy but this teeny tiny restaurant has some of the best Thai food we’ve ever had in our lives. Just make a reservation, seating is limited and you can’t get a walk-in table on a busy night. The spicy corn cakes with thai chili yellow curry and a sweet chili sauce are absolutely addicting – also each menu item is rated with a green circle, blue square or black diamond for spice levels…don’t order anything you can’t ski! You might not be able to handle it off the slopes either.
Montana has a lot to offer and Big Sky is the best place to experience it all. It will be the skication of a lifetime – skip your usual mountain and book a flight to Bozeman instead. You’ll be as hooked as we were.