Big Sky Lives Up to It's Name - Big Sky, Montana Review
This past week we ventured to Big Sky, Montana. We more or less followed the Florida Ski Adventures group after we found out they were headed that way. Skiing with our littles is a passion of ours. We love getting them out on the slopes. I have only been skiing for about 4 seasons. We went on our honeymoon, then a long break, then on and off again between pregnancies. My oldest son’s birthday was that same week and he is ski-obsessed. With no school on Monday, we decided what the heck… let’s go!
When I am starting to plan a trip, I always check for local hotels with kitchens, then rentals if the hotels are traditional rooms. Ski trips are expensive, the biggest expense is food! I I found a great HomeAway located just at the bottom of Lone Mountain in the Big Sky ski area. Our rental was on Black Eagle road with access to the Puma Lift. (Not great for small children, but easy for adults.) We picked a 3 story, 3 bedroom rental with a hot tub and garage. Originally, we were splitting the rental with some family that didn’t end up making it. So, we had a sprawling space to ourselves! Check out our rental here. The town of big sky is a very windy drive 10 minutes down from the mountain. I believe there is a bus system but we had a rental car. You can find groceries in the town, for a pretty penny. We were told the locals buy their groceries in Bozeman before heading to the mountain and I can see why. We spent about $120 more than the previous ski trip to Winter Park, Colorado on groceries and we ate just about the exact same meals. We aim for breakfast, 50% of our lunches and 90% of our dinners to be at the rental.
We arrived on Saturday, our Ikon Base pass was blocked out for Sunday so we waited until Monday to ski and as luck would have it the snow came in Sunday night. Our week would be amazing with 37 inches of snow coming while we were there. Big Sky is just that, big! There is plenty for everyone to ski or snowboard with runs from easy greens to crazy double black chutes. I ended up only doing 1 black run and then spent the rest of my time of blues. They have a lot of really nice tree runs on Lone Mountain. Lizette and Pomp became family favorites. The new Ram Charger heated lift is so nice. Now, I just wish Swift Current would get an upgrade.
We never did make it as a group over to the Madison base. I was told it was the shady side of the mountain and being that we hardly had sun on the sunny side we decided to just keep going down the trails closer to us. We had lunch at Everett’s one day (FYI: you need to make a reservation) and then 2 lunches at the reasonably priced The Cabin near the base (try the chili and the fish and chips.) Adding a cafeteria, or quick service location near Everett’s would be a good idea.
Our experience with the ski school was very nice. The kids had small groups. Graham was a Blue Dinosaur (advanced) so he ended up with a private lesson one day. Isla was excited that she got the chance to ride the lift. My only nit-pick would be that you really don’t sign the kids in and out. A little bit more control over that would add some peace of mind. I also wish they had a place to store the kids skis/boots overnight as many of the schools do for kids who have lessons on back-to-back days. The staff themselves were very friendly and got along great with the children. There was plenty of hot chocolate to be shared with the kids and whipped cream as an added bonus.
In Big Sky our dinner date of choice was Buck’s T-4. After hearing about it from other travelers and seeing the reviews on Trip Advisor we decided to make the drive. The restaurant does have a driver that will pick you up from the lodges in Big Sky, but we didn’t want to walk to the lodge and then ride to the restaurant when we had a rental car. Buck’s T-4 is inviting and a nice “preppy- casual” feel. I wore colored pants with a nice top and of-course my jacket. I saw some people more dressed up and some people in jeans. We had been given a heads up to order the Red Deer, which was an excellent choice! Served with bacon risotto it was delicious and cooked perfectly! My husband had actually ordered a different entree but our server put in 2 Red Deer. She apologized and offered to get the other entree, but we aren’t picky so we accepted the Red Deer and he cleaned his plate! We also tried the soup of the day (a mushroom marsala) and dessert. We ordered the Huckleberry cake to eat there and the Chocolate cake to-go back to the rental for my mom. The Huckleberry cake was moist and honestly would have been a great “coffee-cake” alternative with my morning joe. My mom reported the chocolate cake to be a little dry but better as left overs the next day. Overall, we really enjoyed our meal and the atmosphere. There were a lot of large groups celebrating birthdays and anniversaries.
We spent the majority of our time skiing while in Big Sky, but I did spend a day visiting Yellowstone. Karst Stage took our group by bus to Yellowstone and then Yellowstone Adventures took us around the park. We voted as a group to hike a little more than a mile to the Grand Prismatic Springs overlook. It was exhausting, but a wonderful experience in the shin-deep snow. We also stopped at one of the geyser basins and, of course, Old Faithful. She was feeling cold that day so she left us standing for 40 mins in the single digit cold before she blew. The bagged lunch provided by Yellowstone Adventures was delicious and included a sandwich on soft, sweet bread, a cheese stick, an apple, a cookie and a piece of chocolate. Our bus on steroids made several stops at bathrooms (some plumbed and some long-drops.) One stop at the Madison basin for restrooms and a snack stand. The lack of crowds was incredible and our guide (Jessie) was right that there is nothing like hearing Yellowstone in the winter (i.e. the silence on the trails and the bubbling of the features). The summer is very crowded at Yellowstone and thus very loud. Seeing Yellowstone in the winter is something everyone should do once in their life, but if I had to pick between summer and winter I would still suggest summer. It is rather difficult to see the thermal features in the winter because of the steam. I left having seen a bison, a coyote and several swan so overall my trip was a success. It’s just that summer brings clear water-ways and warmer temperatures to further explore more trails. Every time I visit Yellowstone though I am reminded of why you stay on the trails… thermal features are not something you can to fall into.
A week in Big Sky was not enough to ski the whole mountain. You could spend a month and still discover different paths. Other than skiing/snowboarding there isn’t a whole lot to offer off mountain. They do have a few shopping areas and restaurants, but I didn’t see any sledding. Ice skating is available in the Town Center area. The mountain resort area seemed to get quiet pretty early in the evening. That said, I feel like that is typical when you have a mountain with such advanced terrain: it’s exhausting skiing all day.
We flew into and out of Bozeman from Atlanta. The flights were reasonably priced and the drive between the airport and the resort area was very easy. If you don’t have a lot of people to fill a rental car, arranging transportation from the airport to the resort area is also easy as there are lots of reasonable options. Karst Stage seemed to be the biggest operator, but several others operate van and SUV shuttles.
If skiing or snowboarding interest you, be sure to head to Big Sky!