The Ski Mountain
Big Sky Montana could have left its name at Big: 5,800 acres make it the largest ski resort in the United States and its other numbers are just as impressive. One hour south of the town of Bozeman, Big Sky boasts a 4,350-foot vertical drop (the most in the United States), 400-plus inches of average annual snowfall, a 11,166-foot summit and runs up to six miles long. With a plethora of terrain options – jaw-dropping chutes and gullies, scenic groomers that wind through luxurious neighborhoods and long intermediate runs that will have your thighs screaming if you hit them on a powder day – most skiers won’t be disappointed.
The Mountain Experience
While Big Sky is mammoth, it maintains a cozy feel due to the many locals who work to keep local businesses and services alive at the resort. Compared to other smaller ski areas in Montana, Big Sky might possess more of a resort destination and less of a down-home feel, but it’s apples and oranges when comparing it to major Colorado and Utah resorts. Why? Because Big Sky sees fewer crowds and, therefore, can provide extra attention to guests and their needs. And its more amenities, means non-skiers will find plenty of off-hill options as well.
As for the locals, they’re a somewhat hardy bunch with dinged up gear but love to gush about the beauty of Montana during the lift ride.
Big Sky Montana Ski Terrain
• Advanced: Big Sky’s Tram is home to the resort’s experts. The sheer magnitude of the terrain is enough to keep seasoned experts egos in check. The Headwaters and A-chutes areas are littered with steep chutes for the unafraid. With the proper gear and the right conditions, you can find the line of your life in this area. Bragging rights are gained in the Big Couloir from the summit of Lone Peak. More moderately mannered but advanced folks will enjoy steeper runs from the Challenger and the Lone Tree lifts.
Current Snow Conditions
• Intermediate: The sunshine that pours over Big Sky is properly enjoyed on the intermediate groomers off both the Swiftcurrent and Six Shooter lifts. Take Six Shooter to Meriwether for a smooth trip that seemingly goes on forever. As confidence grows, head up Ramcharger to sample the steeper trails.
• Beginner: For kids that need the facilities of a lodge close by, the runs accessed by the Explore lift are in close proximity. The Southern Comfort lift services a great selection of mellow terrain and with its southeastern exposure, it gets early sun and can be warmer than other spots on the hill. Pacifier offers a comfy return to the base area. Adventurous beginners like the Derringer Quad with its gentle terrain but can be a bit of a haul from the base area.
Around the Mountain
• Terrain Park: With six parks, Big Sky has every kind of jibbing covered. The Swifty park makes for quick laps and tends to remain similar year to year as the jumps are built over dirt work. Zero Gravity in the former Moonlight Basin offers a full run of larger style features when built out later in the season. Most jumps on the mountain are step-downs. You’ll see the superpipe right under the Ramcharger lift, but it’s not always cut or built out and isn’t in the same league as what you’d find in Colorado. For the past few years, the Chamberlain Rail Jam has highlighted some serious action near the base area, and this can be a fun spectator event for anyone.
By David Steele