1000 Places

#TravelTuesday: Big Sky Resort, Big Sky, Montana

1000 PLACES TO SEE BEFORE YOU DIE CALENDAR

Tuesday 20 December 2016

Big Sky Resort

Big Sky, Montana

Photo © Jeff Diener/Aurora Creative

When it comes to Big Sky, Montana’s premier ski and resort destination, “big” is the operative word. At the head of a beautiful mountain valley an hour north of Yellowstone National Park (see here), Big Sky came into being back in 1973 as the dream of Chet Huntley, the late NBC newscaster and a Montana native. The ski resort, which reaches across four mountains, including the pyramidlike crest of 11,166-foot Lone Peak, certainly qualifies as “The Biggest Skiing in America.”

One hallmark of skiing at Big Sky is the breadth and variety of terrain. Its 5,532 spectacularly skiable acres, with (almost) uniformly excellent conditions and vaulting Rockies views, have an average of only two skiers per acre—meaning lift lines are practically unheard of. Much of the annual 400-inch snowfall is the bone-dry talc that local skiers reverently call “cold smoke,” and while there’s extreme white-knuckle skiing for sure (the aerial tram to the Matterhorn-like Lone Peak summit offers skiers a 4,350-foot vertical drop and some of the steepest chutes in the world), a good 25 percent of the resort’s 300-plus trails are perfect for the intermediate skier.

In 2004, Moonlight Basin, on Lone Peak’s north and west face, became the first new destination ski resort to open in the U.S. in over 20 years and in 2013 came under the same ownership as Big Sky. Today, Big Sky and Moonlight Basin have interconnecting ski trails accessed with a joint lift ticket.

The 90-room Lodge at Big Sky enjoys a perfect location at the base of Lone Peak, replete with outdoor hot tubs, a heated indoor pool, and free shuttle service to all the ski lifts. If you’re more into cross-country than downhill skiing, visit the Lone Mountain Ranch. An elegant four-season lodge, it has 45 miles of exceptional cross-country ski trails. (It’s also an Orvis-endorsed fly-fishing resort in the summer months.) Lone Mountain is special for its seclusion, yet its top-drawer amenities, like its acclaimed restaurant and easy shuttles to the Big Sky area, mean zero inconvenience. Guests stay in charming cabins hidden amid the forest. The ranch’s snowy horse-drawn sleigh ride through the woods to a lantern-lit cabin offers an unforgettable old-time evening with great food and a spirited sing-along.

Where: 45 miles south of Bozeman. Big Sky Resort: Tel 800-548-4486 or 406-995-5900. Cost: lift tickets from $106. When: Ski season is late Nov–Apr. Lodge at Big Sky: Tel 406-995-7858. Cost: from $110 (off-peak), from $150 (peak). Lone Mountain Ranch: Tel 800-514-4644 or 406-995-4644. Cost: from $2,300 per person per week, all-inclusive; dinner $85 for nonguests. When: mid-June–mid-Sept; mid-Dec–Mar. Best times: Jan–Feb for cross-country; Jan–Mar for downhill skiing; June–July for fly-fishing. Sat nights in winter, when fireworks illuminate the rocky face of Lone Peak.

Don’t forget to check out the updated edition of 1000 Places to See in the United States & Canada Before You Die!

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