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Big winter fun for families at Big Sky Resort, Montana

Set in the southern Rockies, Big Sky Resort, Montana’s biggest ski resort, offers big fun for families on and off the slopes. Brian Thacker shares his family ski holiday adventure here.

Big Sky is the third-largest ski resort in North America, with 2,367 hectares of skiable terrain, accessed by 38 lifts. When I was there, just over half the runs were open (a slow snow year), but that’s the beautiful thing about skiing big mountains like Big Sky –161 runs were still open.  

From wide-open groomers to challenging steeps, there’s more than enough terrain for everyone, regardless of age or ability. Although Big Sky is famous (or infamous) for its Double and Triple Black runs, there are also 930 hectares of beginner or intermediate-level terrain. 

Big Sky Lifts Lone Peak Tram

Heated chairlifts and scenic Lone Peak Tram

Cold kids are complaining kids, but Big Sky solves that problem. The mountain has several chairlifts that are covered with big blue bubbles and come with ergonomic heated seats. It makes the world of difference on a snowy, blistery day. The two main chairlifts funnel to the base so the kids can stay on the blue runs while parents hit the steeper slopes, catching the same lift together. 

The brand-new 75-person capacity Lone Peak Tram (which replaced the old 15-person tram) is another perk. Available for skiers and scenic rides, the tram has floor-to-ceiling glass windows, and from the top, you can catch views of three states: Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming. The tram is ($US20) a ride, an add-on to the pass, a small price to pay for zero lift lines and more fresh snow in the expansive backside Liberty Bowl. 

Big Sky Ski Snowboard Mountain Sports School

Ski school for kids of all ages  

Big Sky has made ski school even more fun. With the Big Sky Adventure Map, your child will be guided through a series of marked areas where they will progress from their first turns in the Bison Banks to Bad Dog Gully, moving up to advanced terrain like the Turkey Traverse and Hangman’s Cliff. 

Too small to ski? There’s a full-service daycare program at the Lone Peak Playhouse at the resort’s base. Kiddies will fill their days with art projects, games, outdoor playtime, and even naps in the dedicated nap rooms. 

Big Sky Montana Ski Snowboard family

Early access to the slopes 

On my last day, we did “early tracks”, which gives you early access to Andesite Mountain’s untouched slopes for an hour before the mountain opens to the public. And, while we’d slept, a small storm had blown through, and we savoured a light blanket of powder on the long, wide runs. 

But it got better. After an hour of blissful skiing, we dropped in at Everett’s 8800 for complimentary tea. There, we indulged in coffee and donuts that were impossible to stop at one. Now, that’s what I call a perfect ski morning. 

Big Sky Montana Landscape Winter

Magical Enchanted Forest over the village  

A kaleidoscope of coloured lights danced around my feet on the snow as I traipsed through a forest of trees caked with fresh snow. The perfect silence was only broken by children giggling and whooping with joy. I’m in the Enchanted Forest above Big Sky Mountain Village, where a kilometre-long trail of dazzling fairy lights takes you on an incandescent journey through long tunnels of twinkling lights, past lights chasing each other around tree trunks and ends at a warming firepit for a free hot chocolate.

The Enchanted Forest is accessible via the Ramcharger 8 chairlift from the village, and on the ride down, I get a bonus show of millions of lights as a blanket of stars light up the entire night sky.  

Big Sky Activities Winter Dog Sledding

Dog sledding trips with Husky Power 

“I know the names of all of our hundred and ten dogs,” said Jim, our Husky Power dog sledding guide. “Unlike my five children, who I forget their names.” I’m standing next to fifty of those friendly huskies barking and howling enthusiastically because they can’t wait to pull people in sleds through a snowy landscape.

I’m almost as excited as my new canine friends to go on my first dog sledding trip. Each sled is pulled by ten dogs, with two or three people sitting inside the sled. As we raced on a narrow track through a forest of spruce trees, Jim called out commands while standing on the back of the sled. Halfway through our hour-and-a-half trip, giant feather-down-like snowflakes begin to float around us, and it feels like we are riding in a snow dome.  

Brain Thacker at Big Sky Resort Montana
Brain Thacker skiing at Big Sky Resort, Montana

Winter dining at Big Sky Resort   

The taxi to dinner is a snowcat. We headed from the resort on a 15-minute snowcat ride to a secluded, cosy, candlelit yurt for dinner in the middle of the mountain. Dinner is French onion soup, filet mignon (cooked to perfection), Toblerone chocolate fondue, and a side of sledding between courses outside on a hill lit by string lights.

But that’s not the only extraordinary dinner you can have in Big Sky. For lunch the next day, I made a reservation at Everett’s 8800, which Architectural Digest named the Most Beautifully Designed Bar in Montana. The fine dining on-mountain restaurant has unmatched views of the imposing Lone Peak and serves farm-to-table fare and cocktails by the fire. I had an incredible grilled cheese and prosciutto sandwich with truffle fries – it’s the best ‘cheese toasty’ I’ve ever had.

You can also trade that snowcat for a snowhorse. At Lone Mountain Ranch, you can ride a horse-drawn sleigh to dinner in a log cabin served with tales and music from a real Montana cowboy.

Big Sky Resort Montana Pano

Big Sky Resort fast facts 

  • Skiable Acres: 5,850 
  • Annual Snowfall: 400 inches 
  • Runs: 320 
  • Longest Run: 6 miles 
  • Trail Difficulty: 15% beginner, 25% intermediate, 42% advanced, 18% expert 
  • Total Lifts: 24 chair lifts, 12 surface lifts 
  • Vertical Drop: 4,350 ft. 
  • Elevation: 11,166 ft. maximum, 6,816 ft. minimum 
Ski Snowboard Mountain Sports School

How to get to Big Sky Resort, Montana

Big Sky is easy to get to from Australia. With more than 30 nonstop flights to Bozeman/Yellowstone International Airport (BZN) from hubs across the USA. Big Sky is one of the most well-served mountain destinations in the U.S.A. The resort is then a one-hour scenic drive (84km) through the Gallatin National Forest.

Best time to visit Big Sky Resort 

The ski season runs from late November until late April. (But even though the slopes are closed, plenty of outdoor fun to be had at Big Sky Resort in summer, too!)  

Big Sky Accommodations Summit Hotel Exterior

Family-friendly accommodation at Big Sky Resort

The Summit Hotel is Big Sky Resort’s Resort’s premier lodging. A true ski-in, ski-out hotel with the lifts mere metres from the entrance. The hotel has a true homey feel enhanced by the bellhops wearing cowboy hats, with milk and cookies served in the lobby. Head to The Summit just to dine at the new Peaks Chophouse and Wine Lounge. For true local fare, start with Elk Tartare, followed by Dry-aged Bison Steak, and for true indulgence, you can’t go past the dessert trolley. 

More information 

Learn more: bigskyresort.com

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