Big Sky

Montana, USA

Big Sky Montana used to be one of skiing’s best kept secrets. While the word about this fantastic resort has gotten out, the resort just continues to get better – especially since it acquired two neighboring resorts, including Moonlight Basin. Offering the largest skiable terrain in Montana (over 5800 acres!), Big Sky also boasts one of the biggest vertical drops in North America - a staggering 4366 feet - meaning incredible steep slopes, chutes, and leg-burning runs, along with plenty of intermediate and beginner terrain. 

Scout Loves

  • Big Sky has registered the trademark ‘Biggest Skiing in America’ – which it can legitimately claim (based on vertical feet and skiable area).
  • The terrain is awesome and challenging, but also fantastic for intermediates. Truly something for everyone here.
  • Lone Mountain has an elevation of 11,166 ft, and as such it offers spectacular views.
  • Incredibly family friendly!

Scout Tips

  • The village is purpose built with some great dining options, but head to downtown Big Sky for a true mountain town experience.
  • Getting to understand the layout of the resort can take time (since it’s so huge and there are so many different mountains).
  • Big Sky has a comprehensive lift system, including super fast 8-seater chairlifts, and an aerial tram.
  • Nightlife is mellow (although you'll be too tired at the end of a powder day to party on anyway)

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, with a culmination of a terrain merger (formerly Moonlight Basin and Spirit Mountain), updated chairlift system, an epic aerial tram, and more hotel and terrain expansions to come, things look set to get even bigger and better at Big Sky.

Did we mention that it’s huge? Big Sky now covers a whopping 5880 acres of terrain – even the trail map is so large that it could just about double as a tablecloth. Granted, a lot of the 5,880 acres aren’t skiable since many of the runs are spread well apart. But since there are 24 chairlifts (including multiple 8-seaters), 12 surface lifts, an aeriel tram and 4,350 vertical feet of skiing, we’ll happily agree that the skiing here is indeed, 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, but in recent years, multiple refurbishments and upgrades to the infrastucture (and dining options) have brought Big Sky back into the modern ski era. The main village area reminds Scout of resorts like Steamboat or the Canyons Base in Park City, 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 and a family friendly vibe throughout. 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, but the downtown area itself offers a nice range of additioanl dining options and shops - perfect for those seeking a little bit of Montana mountain life.

Big Sky Skiing

Big Sky has some of the best expert skiing in North America. There is so much double black (and triple black mind you) 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 and Powder Seeker chairlifts. A new aeriel tram has cut the travel time to the peak in half - make sure you hold on as the speed is certainly impressive! The chutes and gullies off Powder Seeker are particuarly a favourite among locals, and be sure to rent a beacon if you're keen to tackle the couloirs, chutes and wide open powder bowls near North-Summit Snowfield. The rest of the lift infrastructure is comprehensive, including new high-speed 6-seater and 8-seater chairlifts, and with ongoing upgrades to the current triple and quad lifts, skiers won't be spending much time in lift lines.

There are black runs scattered throughout the resort, but the majority of the rest of the terrain is the domain of intermediates (25%) and beginners (15%). There’s a ton of variety in these runs – including fast and steep groomers and long and wide thigh burners (the longest run from Lone Peak to base is a mammoth 6 miles!), 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. Ski school is well situated and two surface lifts provide access to a huge first-timer area (no need for a lift pass). Scout loves the double blue terrain options - perfect for those warm up runs before tackling the double blacks!

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. Good news is that there are over 24 chairlifts to choose from, so you won't be lost for long. There are a ton of options for dining in the main Mountain Village, including the new and improved dining hall with endless options to suit the whole family. Be sure to pop a few snacks in your pockets as on-mountain dining options are quite limited.

Big Sky is part of the IKON pass, allowing you to explore more of the resorts in both North America and Canada! Contact us for more info.

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Big Sky For Families

Big Sky is an excellent choice for families. 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. Ski school terrain is perfect for first timers, and the spread of terrain provides a good base for progression. The lack of on-mountain dining and rest areas can be a challenge, but with such a vast array of chairlifts (most high speed), making it back to the Mountain Village is easy enough. The upgraded dining hall offers every style of cuisine for the hungriest of little skiers.

Big Sky has an enormous amount of condos to suit a wide range of budgets, which makes it makes it particularly friendly for families. 

Big Sky Accommodation

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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.

For those seeking the ultimate in slopeside luxury, there's no better choice than The Montage at Big Sky. Stunning rooms and suites, incredible on-site facilities for family, ski-in ski-out access (basically a private chairlift for guests), and everything you need in the one convenient place. Located in the Spanish Peaks area of Big Sky, it's is separate from the main mountain village, but the shuttle service makes it easy to access ski school and additional restaurants and shops.

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. Ranging from hotel rooms and suites with prime slopeside access in the main mountain villlage, to self-contained condos and larger cabins for families. Choose between staying closer to the resort amenities and restaurants in one of the condo properties, or opt to stay in Moonlight Basin for a quieter mountain experience (and only a short shuttle ride from the action). For details, see the individual hotel profiles.

Find a great map of the Big Sky Ski Resort area and location of the lodging on offer here.

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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), families will love exploring the Enchanted Forest, nature zipline, Avy Dog Demonstrations and dog sledding. 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.

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. There is also the Skyline Bus which provides free and easy access to downtown Big Sky, departing every 30 minutes.

Find a great map of the Big Sky Ski Resort area here.

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 15%  
Summit Elevation 11,166ft / 3403m Eight Chair 1 Intermediates 25%  
Vertical Drop 4350ft / 1325m Six Chair 2 Advanced 42%  
Skiable Area 5800ac / 2347ha Express Quad 5 Expert 18%  
Annual Snowfall 400in / 10m Quad & Triple Chair 9 Terrain Parks 9  
Longest Run 6.0 miles / 9.6km Double Chairs 6      
Operating Hours 9.00am –4.00pm Surface Lifts 12      
    Lift Capacity per hour 32,795      
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Due to the current uncertainty of future travel surrounding COVID 19, our regular T&Cs are overridden by individual supplier cancellation policies. We will clearly communicate all cancellation policies prior to confirming any booking, so you can be confident with your plans and book risk free.

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