We spent spending six nights and five days at Big Sky over the holiday break. This was our second trip to Big Sky and our goal was to try skiing more new terrain than our last visit. A little background on my family, we are all intermediate skiers from the Midwest where we ski about 20 times a year at a 300 foot hill. We have all been skiing at least four years and are very capable of skiing the black diamonds at our home ski hill but the kids (10 & 7) tend to ski the blues and greens where they know the jumps.
Lone Peak Swift Current
At the base of the village, Big Sky has two chairs to choose from Swift-Current and Ramcharger. The Swift-Current chair is a high speed quad that will allow you to access the majority of the runs on Lone Mountain. We rode this lift to access the green and blue runs on the front of Lone Mountain. From this chair we tended to ski Mr. K, Lower Morning Star, Crazy Horse, Calamity Jane and Lobo.
Mr. K and Lower Morning Star are nice green runs that are long but not too challenging. My kids found a run called Natural Half Pipe which runs between the two and enjoyed the tree run off shoots from these runs. We often started the day with Mr K and ended our day on Lower Morning Star. Both runs are fairly popular and will probably see the most people on them.
When we wanted a little more challenge, we skied either Crazy Horse, Calamity Jane or Lobo. These three blues provided plenty of challenge for us. Crazy Horse is the easiest of the three but isn’t groomed and when we were there it had small moguls formed on the beginning of the run. The kids had no problems skiing these as they weren’t too big and well spaced. Calamity Jane and Lobo are two long blue runs with mostly moderate slopes. Both runs have a couple steep spots that easily match the slope of the black runs at my home ski hill. These runs were the favorites for myself and my wife. These runs offered good snow and low traffic.
Ramcharger chair services Andesite from the base of Big Sky. This chair allows you to access the front and back of Andesite. The front side of Andesite is dominated by steep blue slopes and two vastly different green runs. The easiest way down Andesite is long catwalk called Pacifier. Pacifier is long and easy but Safari is the better green to go down if the blues look too scary. Safari is shorter with a little more slope and cuts through Africa. My son loved skiing Africa. Africa is a bowl like run that is made mostly of powder moguls. Africa isn’t groomed so skiing it can be a challenge in early conditions. The moguls that form can get large but they are soft (I know because I fell).
If the names of the runs on the front of Andesite don’t make you scared, the steepness will. Hangman, Ambush, Silver Knife and Tippy’s Tumble are some steep blue runs. If you like carving fast turns, you’ll love these runs. These are steep but they are well groomed and fun runs to acr some big turns. Silver Knife is the only one I’d avoid because of the end where it feels like one mistake will have you somersaulting into the condos below. Needless to say, the kids didn’t ski these runs. They were much more interested in skiing Africa and Safari back to the base.
Andesite Southern Comfort chair
The Southern Comfort chair is a true gem for families at Big Sky. This chair offers access to some of the best views and the best green runs Big Sky has to offer. On our first trip to Big Sky we almost never left Southern Comfort chair. El Dorado is a super wide, long easy green run that is meant for family cruising. Just off of El Dorado is Freemont Forest which is a fun green tree run the kids kept wanting to ski. The other two green runs off Souther Comfort are Sacajawea and Deep South. Both follow the trend of being wide runs that have some offshoots the kids loved skiing through. The lone blue run is Ponderosa, which is a fairly tame blue considering everything else at Big Sky. Ponderosa is wide with some areas not groomed. From the top of the Southern Comfort chair you can take a catwalk to where Ramcharger offloads or take The Nile. The Nile is a tree run that drops you off on Pacifier right above Africa. This was the kids prefered route to Africa.
Thunderwolf services the part of Andesite you see from the road when driving up to Big Sky. Unfortunately we only skied Bighorn once because of time and the difficulty of the run. Bighorn is a long steep run that will kill your thighs, at least that is what it did to my wife and me. By far the steepest of the blue runs at Big Sky. Thunderwolf looked like it had steep black tree runs and another blue run we never got to ski.
Lone Peak Tram
To access the tram you need to ride Swift Current and then ride the Lone Peak Triple. We did not ski The Bowl or Liberty Bowl this time but did ride the tram up with the kids to the top of Lone Peak. We rode up on a bluebird day to see the sites and it was well worth the wait. The tram is the only significant line you will have at Big Sky. I think we waited maybe 40 minutes to go up and look around. We were able to see the Tetons the day we went up. We skied down Upper Morning Star which is a easy blue run that fed into the other runs services by Swift Current.
We placed the kids in all day lessons for one day on this trip. On our last trip we did two half days lessons for the kids. If your kids have skiing experience and are 6 or younger, i might not place them in lessons. Last year my daughter was in the 4-6 camp and I don’t think she rode a lift. This year in the 7-14 group she got poles and was all over the place with her brother. Maybe she really got better in a year but my guess is the little kids never leave the beginner area. The kids had a blast this year and the instructor showed them a bunch of tree runs that they in return showed us.
On both of our visits to Big Sky we stayed at the Huntley Lodge. The Huntley offers ski-in/ski-out accommodations and a great breakfast buffet. For lunch, we went to Yeti Dogs almost everyday. Their Lifty and Yeti are excellent. For dinner there are options right in the village and in the commercial area just below Big Sky.
The main options inside the village we went to are Whiskey Jack’s, The Cabin and Scissorbill’s. On our first trip to Big Sky we ate at Whiskey Jack’s a lot because it was easy to get into and the food was good. Scissorbills is right next to Whiskey Jack’s and is more expensive. The service was good but get there right when they start seating for dinner or you might be SOL. The Cabin is a small, reservation required kind of place. We ate at the bar and had a great dinner. It’s expensive but good. We could not get into the italian place in the village. None of these restaurants seem to know how to manage a waiting list so showing up early or getting a reservation is wise.
The three restaurants outside the village we went to were Choppers, Albertos and Ousel & Spur. Choppers is an American Pub style restaurant that offered good food and beer at a reasonable price. Albertos is a nice small mexican restaurant that was very family friendly. Ousel is a pizza place that seems to be the most popular of the three. We got there early and got a table but you might need a reservation. The pizza and service was very good.
Overall Big Sky is a great vacation spot for any skiing family. We didn’t ski any black runs but still felt like we skied a lot of the mountain. There is plenty of burly terrain for the more advanced skiers and plenty of groomers for the more casual skiers. I originally chose Big Sky because of the small crowds and massive acreage. We never had long lift lines, except for the tram, and never felt like we were in danger of getting hit by other people on the mountain. As an intermediate skiing family from the Midwest we love Big Sky and can’t wait to get back.