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Big Sky/Bridger March advice

post #1 of 21
Thread Starter 

Much to my surprise and delight, I was able to book a non-stop flight to Bozeman with saver miles for me, my wife, and 12-year-old daughter.  Arriving March 16, leaving March 23.  Other than air, I have no firm plans for skiing or lodging.  

 

Based on talking to some folks on Epic and reading old threads (including about last year's Gathering), I'd like to ski a day or two at Bridger and the rest at Big Sky, with perhaps a Yellowstone or similar tour for a rest day (if still open).  Budget is a consideration.

 

Our skiing abilities/interests:

  • I'm an advanced, non-expert skier and will ski anywhere with good snow that doesn't involve air (prob. level 7/8).  Mostly east coast skiing, but have skied Jackson, Winter Park, Crystal, and Stevens Pass.  
  • Daughter: 12 years old, cautious and controlled.  Trying to parallel, but reverts to snowplow on steeper terrain.  Does not ski "offensively."  Enjoyed Jackson last year and benefitted from their lessons, but stayed mainly to greens, some blues (Easy Does It off Casper).  She loves snow and enjoys skiing, but is not hung ho, largely because she feels she isn't a great skier. 
  • Wife: Has never had any interest in skiing until last year, when she really enjoyed it for the first time, due largely to the Jackson ski school.  Was able to progress to Jackson blues on Apres Vous, which surprised the heck out of me.  Unfortunately will have foot surgery this fall, but is supposed to be fully recovered by March.  

 

Lodging:

  • Budget is a big consideration, but must be clean and comfortable (not necessarily luxurious).  Probably stay first night or two in Bozeman for Bridger.  
  • Prefer something with at least a partial kitchen to save cost on breakfast, some lunches, and perhaps a few dinners would be great, but not a deal-breaker.
  • Ski-in/out condo would be the holy grail, but a convenient (and frequent) shuttle to a condo or hotel would be fine if the price was significantly less.  
  • For instance, I've seen some people recommend Bucks, River Rock Lodge, Lodge at Big Sky.  Prices at Bucks seem very reasonable now.  Any recent thoughts on those or other hotels? 
  • Any advice on particular neighborhoods/condo complexes would be great.  I don't know the lay of the land at all.  
  • Don't plan on spending a tremendous amount of time in the room, but amenity like a hot tub or pool would be really nice, especially for my daughter, or a nice place to sit and read for my wife, if she feels like taking a day off.  

 

Tickets/Lodging:

  • Any insiders' tips on getting discounted tickets appreciated.
  • For lessons (for all of us), I know a number of Epic members teach in the area.  Any recommendations/hook-ups would be greatly appreciated.  Group lessons more likely based on cost, but would consider privates.  Feel free to PM me.  
  • Any worthwhile tours/guide programs at Big Sky to help getting around and discovering terrain? 

 

Ski partners

  • I will be skiing solo most of the time, so if anyone will be in the area and wants to ski together a little bit, that would be wonderful!  (Would especially like to have a buddy for some trees.)

 

Any other thoughts or advice.

 

Thanks in advance!

post #2 of 21

Good for you, that's a great time of year to be skiing in Montana. I've stayed at Bucks and it is great but you might consider something on property for the Big Sky part of your stay. I am thinking it would be easier for the women in your life if they decide they have had enough skiing for the day.

post #3 of 21

The Epic Gathering was in Big Sky last spring, and, I stayed at Buck's with Jimmy and a bunch of bears. Buck's was a great deal, in that, lift tickets and breakfast were included in the room rates. The drive from Buck's to Big Sky takes 15 minutes,or so, parking is plentiful with shutttle to the base area and, the changing area at the Big Sky is small but adequate.. There is small shopping area right at the base of Big Sky, so anyone quitting early does have some alternatives to just hanging out. Big Sky has mucho moderate terrain for your wife and daughter. Take them up the Tram for the views, but, have them go back down via the Tram.

 

Bridger Bowl is a great area, @Nolo skis there daily and she may offer some thoughts. Plenty of terrain for your familly.

 

As a side trip, you may consider taking a day off and going to the west entrance of Yellowstone for a tour.

post #4 of 21

Well worth calling Big Sky Resort and see what kind of packages they can offer.  About the only way to get discounts on lift tickets is with lodging.  I think Bucks has lift ticket packages too.

 

The Mountain Host tour at Big Sky is great.  Divided by ability, all on groomed runs, with plenty of advice about where to find easy/mid/hard trees or other more exciting terrain.  If there is time, can get all the way over to the lift shared with Moonlight to learn how to get back to the Big Sky base.

 

I think your wife and daughter would like Moonlight.

post #5 of 21
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the responses so far.  As far as I can see from the NPS website, winter tours of Yellowstone will be over right before we get there.  Does anyone know what other access to Yellowstone there is at that time of year for a day trip?

post #6 of 21
Re. Yellowstone. Yes, much of the interior of YP will be closed, but you can always visit at Mammoth Hot Springs and take the valley road out towards Cooke City. Lots of walks/xc skis (depending on snow) from there and a chance of seeing wolves. That access is pretty far from Bozeman, but a reasonable drive for a full day. Not sure about access from West Yellowstone, which will be a LOT closer to Bozeman/Big Sky. The park is officially open 365, so I think you can always walk or ski/snowshoe regardless.
post #7 of 21

Carve out a half-day for yourself without the family (unless your girl has had a breakthrough by then). Hire @RicB to take you into the Schlasman's area at Bridger. You will not regret it.

post #8 of 21
Thread Starter 
Funny, the salesperson at Big Sky I spoke to today was trying to talk me out of "wasting" any time at that hill for locals, and that I would regret not skiing the whole time at BS. I told her that I've heard quite a bit of advice to the contrary. I didn't much care for her sales pitch.

Regarding Schlassmans, I have no avi training or gear. Is that part of the guide process?
post #9 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by ADKS View Post

Funny, the salesperson at Big Sky I spoke to today was trying to talk me out of "wasting" any time at that hill for locals, and that I would regret not skiing the whole time at BS. I told her that I've heard quite a bit of advice to the contrary. I didn't much care for her sales pitch.

Regarding Schlassmans, I have no avi training or gear. Is that part of the guide process?

 

You don't need avi training to ski there if you get good local guiding. You do need a beacon, which can be rented inexpensively. You would want to connect with Ric or nolo or Ridge Hippie or Rio either to make an arrangement with one of them if they're working, or to get a recommendation on someone who is. And of course things are weather and demand-dependent. But there is no substitute for local knowledge if you are newbie at a western area. It's not like here in the east where you can just look at the trail map and know most of what you need to know to make the most of your short visit. (Resist the temptation to stick your oar in here, Josh. Save it for the right thread.) 

 

Edit: Re: the salesperson's spiel: If you really love to ski you will want to enjoy the contrasting experiences at the two areas. Bridger is to Big Sky as Mad River or Burke or Saddleback is to Stowe or Sugarloaf. They're all good, all worth skiing, in their different ways. There is definitely more at Big Sky, but you can have your cake and eat it, too, so why not do so?

post #10 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by ADKS View Post

Funny, the salesperson at Big Sky I spoke to today was trying to talk me out of "wasting" any time at that hill for locals, and that I would regret not skiing the whole time at BS. I told her that I've heard quite a bit of advice to the contrary. I didn't much care for her sales pitch.

Regarding Schlassmans, I have no avi training or gear. Is that part of the guide process?

Clearly she has no idea that the EpicSki Big Sky Gathering last year very deliberately included a day or two at Bridger before moving on to Big Sky. ;)

 

I think @Rio or @RicB had an extra beacon they let someone borrow during the Gathering day at Bridger.

post #11 of 21
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by qcanoe View Post
 

 

If you really love to ski you will want to enjoy the contrasting experiences at the two areas. Bridger is to Big Sky as Mad River or Burke or Saddleback is to Stowe or Sugarloaf. They're all good, all worth skiing, in their different ways. There is definitely more at Big Sky, but you can have your cake and eat it, too, so why not do so?

I plan on eating a lot of cake (or maybe just the frosting).  Bridger sounds like an awesome place, not to mention nearly half the cost per day for a lift ticket.  Sounds like my kind of place, as I much prefer a no-frills but fun and uncrowded area like Plattekill to the well-known Hunter in NY.  (Not that Hunter is anything like Big Sky.) 

post #12 of 21
I highly recommend Ursula Howland for instruction/guiding. She is fantastic and will help you progress in terrain (challenger, headwaters, north summit snowfield, gullies, big couloir). I hope to see her in early January on my return to BS!

Mike
post #13 of 21
qft:
Quote:
Originally Posted by habacomike View Post

I highly recommend Ursula Howland for instruction/guiding. She is fantastic and will help you progress in terrain (challenger, headwaters, north summit snowfield, gullies, big couloir). I hope to see her in early January on my return to BS!

Mike
post #14 of 21
^ Ursula aka "Little Bear"
post #15 of 21

Any instructor recommendations at Big Sky?  I'll be there Xmas week before we go to Bridger. My wife would like to take a lesson earlier in the trip rather than our last day.

post #16 of 21
The three previous posts to yours all said Ursula.
post #17 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by sibhusky View Post

The three previous posts to yours all said Ursula.

Oops, missed that was BS not Brigdger

post #18 of 21

Hi ADKS, I hope to be able to welcome you to southwest Montana and Bridger.

 

For Bozeman lodging you should look into Cmon Inn. There are many hotels in Bozeman that have Bridger lift ticket deals, but Cmon Inn seems to be a favorite of people I know who visit every year. They have rooms with kitchenettes and they have a large open common area that is good for just hanging out, as well as several well maintained hot tubs, and a full pool. to get the full low down on Bozeman lodging call the Bridger marketing dept. and they will help you out with your reservations.

 

At Big Sky Ursula would be great, but for your daughter you should ask for Zoe Mavis (I think that is Zoe's last name), Big Sky's instructor of the year last year. Zoe would also be great for your wife if Ursula isn't available.

 

You can rent beacons at the Bridger Bowl rental shop, but if you sign up for a ridge tour snowsports provides the extra gear needed. I would highly recommend skiing the schlassman's or other ridge terrain with someone who knows their way around. We also have a great ski school and our prices are well below what Big Sky charges. Send me a PM when you head our way and I will try to hook up with you, or at least meet up and send you off in the right direction, and call the snowsports desk with any questions you might have about our mountain and any services we might provide. You will have more fun than you would ever imagine skiing Bridger.

 

Ric

post #19 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by ADKS View Post
 

Thanks for the responses so far.  As far as I can see from the NPS website, winter tours of Yellowstone will be over right before we get there.  Does anyone know what other access to Yellowstone there is at that time of year for a day trip?


Even a drive down to West Yellowstone from Big Sky for a day is well worth it. You will drive through 25 miles of the Park on your way to West Yellowstone, with a good chance of seeing some Bison and other large animals. Once in West Yellowstone you and the family could rent some CC gear and shuffle into the park along the Madison river for a very nice outing.  This is all flat terrain and very beginner friendly. There is also the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center in West Yellowstone too. The trip over to Livingston and down to mammoth is a lot of driving, but it is a beautiful and interesting drive. Yellowstone is a special corner of the world and any small part of it a person can see is worth it.

 

Ric

post #20 of 21
Thread Starter 
Thanks so much, Ric! I will definitely be in touch as it gets closer.

Do you know if any of the geysers or other thermal features are close enough to ski or snowshoe to for a day trip? I visited many years ago in the summer, but my family's never been.
post #21 of 21
Well, as Ric said, you can take a long drive to Mammoth to see the thermal feature there. Otherwise, it is a fair distance (30+ miles) to get to the main thermal features. While the Snow Lodge may be closed, there may still be tours going to Norris and the Old Faithful areas -- check with the West Yellowstone chamber of commerce.

Mike
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