Big Sky

Montana, USA

Big Sky Montana used to be one of skiing’s best kept secrets. Now, although the word about this fantastic resort has gotten out, the resort just continues to get better – especially since it acquired two neighboring resorts. 

Scout Loves

  • Big Sky has registered the trademark ‘Biggest Skiing in America’ – which it can legitimately claim (based on vertical feet and skiable area).
  • There truly is something for everyone here.
  • The terrain is awesome and challenging.
  • Lone Mountain has an elevation of 11,166 ft, and as such it offers spectacular views.
  • Big Sky has one of the best end-of-season pond skims.
  • Kids 10 and under ski free when staying in Big Sky Resort Lodging (all of those on Scout) 

Scout Tips

  • The village is purpose built and there is no major downtown area.
  • Getting to understand the layout of the resort can take time (since it’s so huge and there are so many different mountains).
  • Although there are 23 lifts, some of them are slow old doubles and triples.

Scout Review

‘Large,’ ‘fun,’ steep,’ ‘friendly,’ ‘powder,’ ‘variety,’ – these are the words that keep coming up whenever people describe their skiing experience at Big Sky. It is, quite simply, amazing – and yet all too often it’s overlooked. However now that it has purchased the neighboring resorts Moonlight Basin and some terrain on Spirit Mountain (from Spanish Peaks), things look set to get even bigger and better.

Did we mention that it’s huge? Big Sky now covers a whopping 5800 acres of terrain – even the trail map is so large that it could just about double as a tablecloth. Granted, a lot of the 5,800 acres aren’t skiable since many of the runs are spread well apart. But since there are 23 chairlifts, 10 surface lifts and 4,350 vertical feet of skiing, we’ll happily agree that the skiing here is BIG. Just when you feel like you’ve seen everything, there’s another ridge, another lift and another run to be ridden. A week would only just be enough to really get to know this mountain. Not surprisingly, with all this terrain comes a great deal of variety

Added to its size is the fact that Big Sky is not particularly crowded, which means you can get in even more skiing than at some of the other major resorts. Regardless of what standard you are, there is plenty for everyone to explore – though it truly is heaven for the hard-to-please advanced and expert skiers.

Big Sky is located in southwest Montana, about an hour from Bozeman. It’s on the boarder of Yellowstone National Park and in summer the picturesque Gallatin River has some of the country’s best fly-fishing and rafting.

The resort was the vision of NBC News anchorman Chet Huntley, and officially opened in 1973. Boyne Resorts (the current owners) purchased Big Sky in 1976 and after that the resort went through a growth spurt. As a result some parts of the purpose-built resort base area do have that dated 70s/80s feeling. The main village area reminds Scout of resorts like Steamboat or The Canyons, which have base areas that are dominated by a few large hotels. Beyond the village, the condo developments stretch out across the mountain – some more luxurious than others.

By contrast, The Moonlight Lodge base is small, with just one main day lodge. It feels more like Deer Valley in its extravagance – with large wooden beams and crackling fireplaces.

Most of the après activity takes place around the Mountain Village, where there are a couple of decent bars and restaurants – the scene is small but vibrant. Unlike many other purpose-built resorts, Big Sky doesn’t have a long established town close by. This means the focus here is all about the mountain… which isn’t a bad thing at all.

Big Sky Skiing

Big Sky has some of the best expert skiing in North America. There is so much double black diamond terrain here that expert skiers are spoilt for choice.

Most of the expert skiing is off Lone Peak and thanks to the various aspects it faces, you can almost always find excellent snow conditions. Some of the terrain requires a short hike or access via a backcountry gate, but there’s also plenty that can be accessed straight from the top of the Lone Peak tram and the Challenger lift. (The tram is pretty small and carries only 15 people every 4 minutes so lift queues can get long).

There are black runs scattered throughout the resort, but the majority of the rest of the terrain is the domain of intermediates and beginners. There’s a ton of variety in these runs – including fast and steep groomers and long and wide thigh burners, as well as gladed runs, terrain parks and gentle beginner slopes. Meanwhile, kids seem to have a ball on the lumps and bumps under the Swift-Current High Speed lift.

Naturally, with a resort this size, everything is quite spread out. Getting from one side to the next can not only take a while, but can also be confusing. Plan carefully if you’re meeting others, or need to collect kids from ski school.

There are a ton of options for dining, though most are in the different base areas with only a few options on the slopes.

Big Sky for Families

Big Sky is an excellent choice for families. For starters it offers free skiing for kids 10 and under (when staying in Big Sky Central Reservations lodging – which is all of those listed on Scout). Secondly all kids 4 and up staying in resort lodging can use the Kids Club every afternoon from 4-6pm with a variety of supervised activities.

But beyond these great perks there are still many other reasons families should visit Big Sky. The varied terrain will mean that everyone in the family will have fun and it’s relatively easy to get around. There are lockers right on the slopes at the base area, and if you’re driving to the resort, there are shuttles to get you to and from the parking lots and the ski lift base.

Big Sky has an enormous amount of condos to suit a wide range of budgets, which makes it makes it particularly friendly for families. Our Big Sky Scout Field Guide has more information about family services, including contact details for babysitters and childcare.

Big Sky Accommodation

There’s a wide variety of accommodation in Big Sky, though the super luxurious accommodation is restricted to huge houses and some condos. There are a few hotels (some dated, some modern) in the Mountain Village and a ton of condos spread across the various bases. Some require a bit of a trek to get to the Mountain Village – if you’re staying at one of these, having a car will give you better freedom to enjoy the area.

The majority of the accommodation (and all that is listed on Scout) is owned by Boyne Resorts (owners of Big Sky) so have similar facilities and services. For details, see the individual hotel profiles.

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Resort Activities

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There are a multitude of extra activities on offer at Big Sky – on and off the snow. As well as the usual (snowshoeing, Nordic skiing and tubing) there are also zip-lines, bungee trampolines, a climbing wall and a giant swing. Plus, thanks to its proximity to Yellowstone National Park, there are some wonderfully scenic excursions available, such as snowmobile and snow coach tours, and ice climbing.

Our Big Sky Scout Field Guide has more information about winter activities, including contact details and price guides.

Getting There and Around

The closest airport to Big Sky is Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport, which is about one hour’s drive from the resort. There are daily direct flights to major cities by different airlines. There are also several different companies providing airport shuttles as well as plenty of rental car options.

The Mountain Village Base area is pedestrian friendly and easy to get around. While the best way to get around the rest of the resort is by private car, there is a shuttle service that circulates the Meadow, Mountain and Canyon areas approximately every 30 minutes. 

When To Go

Big Sky gets plenty of powder snow – on average around 400 inches/10 meters per season. Being located so far north, it can be pretty cold in January and February (which is great for the quality of the snow). February is usually a reliable time for snow quality and March often has large powder dumps followed by blue sky days.

Facts & Figures

Mountain Information   Lifts   Terrain    
Base Elevation 7500ft / 2286m Tram 1 Beginner 14%  
Summit Elevation 11,166ft / 3403m Six Chair 1 Intermediates 26%  
Vertical Drop 4350ft / 1325m Express Quads 5 Advanced 40%  
Skiable Area 5800ac / 2347ha Quad Chair 3 Expert 20%  
Annual Snowfall 400in / 10m Triple Chairs 6 Terrain Parks 9  
Longest Run 6.0 miles / 9.6km Double Chairs 6      
Operating Hours 9.00am –4.00pm Surface Lifts 7      
    Lift Capacity per hour 32,795      
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