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Big Sky Spring Break - Trip Advice Needed

post #1 of 23
Thread Starter 

We are headed to Big Sky next weekend for the week.   We haven't been there in over 10 years - looking for some input on trip logistics and such.   Two adults, two teens, we generally ski together blues and blacks, mid-morning - til last lift. 

 

We are driving, thinking of staying in Bozeman on the way in and checking out Bridger - our son wants to try snowboarding, thinking a lesson there will give him a taste of that.   

 

At Big Sky, we are going to stay at Bucks - recommendations for driving or shuttling to lifts?   Start at Mountain Village (Big Sky) or does it work better to go to Moonlight Basin?   

 

We know onsite is more convenient, but also pricier - deals w/ lift tixs at Bucks seem good and the option to take a non-skiing day might allow for other activities - recommendations welcome - the kids are not as avid skiers as the parents.   We are thinking of maybe snow mobiling, nordic skiing, snow shoeing excursions, a sleigh ride (320 vs lone mountain recommendations)?   Any other suggestions - we're not much for shopping so hanging out in the village for a day is not likely to entertain us. 

 

Kids need rental equipment - since we're driving we have lots of options - any recommendations?

 

Any input is welcome - have at it!

 

Thanks in advance!

post #2 of 23
We booked through Big Sky Luxury Rentals. They have a buy 4 get 1 night free lodging and buy 3 days lift, get the 4th free special. We got 5 nights / 4 days skiing for 4 people, ski in/ ski out, 3 bedroom townhouse for around $3000 total. Did I mention private got tub on the deck?
post #3 of 23


Just skied Big Sky and Bridger Bowl for the first time last week. Big Sky is an amazing ski area, the place is massive with something for everyone. The only bad thing is the snow is pretty thin right now and you will find rocks with you skis. We stayed at Bucks T-4, very nice place and pretty unbeatable for the price, the lodge also has fantastic food but a little on the expensive side. We chose to drive every day just because of the bus schedule at bucks. We parked at Moonlight Basin, right below the pony express lift. We were the first in the parking lot each day and there was not more than 3 cars when we left every day. Parking lot is 30 yards from the lift, compared to having to ride a small shuttle from the parking to the lift at the Big Sky base. As far as rentals, Grizzly outfitters has two locations on the way to the mountain from Bucks. Bridger is a cool area and also has something for everyone and is empty on week days. Great place for kids to learn, talked with a local on the lift and he said most week days you can sign up for group lessons and it will end up being a private lesson. Keep in mind if you want to ski Schlasman's chair of the ridge you will need a beacon.

post #4 of 23

Highly recommend a day or two at Bridger.  Price is right for lodging in Bozeman, as well as lift tickets and lessons.  Some places have ski&stay deals.  Check the Bridger website.  Plenty of terrain.  Only small in comparison to Big Sky.

 

Big Sky has a free mountain host tour that's a good way to learn about the entire mountain.  Only on blue groomers but the host explains where to go for harder terrain.  Meets at the Big Sky base.

 

While the ski terrain is huge at Big Sky, the resort village is pretty small.  More options for eating out in Meadows Village in the valley (between Buck's and Big Sky).

post #5 of 23
Snow is rapidly disappearing with Temps in 40s lots of rocks and mud appearing. Best of luck if you arrive Fri/Sat glad we are leaving Sat after a 2 week stay. If it hadn't been so cold last week it would be a complete disaster by now. Can't see Big Sky season lasting much longer unless there is a huge change in temp and massive snowfalls. Waders and fly rod recommended.

Lots of runs in terrible condition and very poor maintenance. Lots of perfect terrain parks perfectly groomed and unused. Go figure.

Big Sky have no interest in real skiers/boarders only park rats?

We won't return to Big Sky not paying nearly $900 for a lift ticket if they don't care.

Seriously If you want some non ski activities contact http://yellowstonesafari.com had a great morning snowshoeing with a great guide Ken. Snowmobile tracks we saw driving towards West Yellowstone the other day were mud.

It's like June in March!
Edited by bloxy - 3/11/15 at 9:21pm
post #6 of 23

Bridger is still skiing nice but it is starting to lose snow in the usual places so the traverses and places you drop into runs have some rocks exposed. Once you get into the runs the coverage is still very good. All the groomers have good coverage the entire length.

 

Bridger is going through nightly freezes which is good as it keeps the entire hill from turning to mush. The trick each day is to find where the snow has remelted an inch or two (making for ideal spring corn skiing) then moving around the hill following the melt. Generally the South Bowl melts first so I'd start on Pierre's Knob in the morning then migrate over to Bridger Chair and Powder Park as the day progresses. Because the runs on Alpine chair are somewhat south facing they tend to soften up earlier, also, making that chair good for early day intermediate groomers.

post #7 of 23
I go to school at MSU in bozeman, Bridger is the local ski hill, Big Sky is the local ski resort. The guys complaining about Big Sky should just keep his ski trips in Aspen. Both places have awesome atmospheres, but tourists seem to like Big Sky a lot more.
post #8 of 23
Your timing might be good. Snow in the forecast Sunday. I have done the Lone Mountain Sliegh dinner. It was fun.
post #9 of 23
On the location Moonlight, Village etc. if parking you can be some distance from the village, there is a shuttle. Madison is a possibility, never done it not sure if there is ski rental there howevere the parking lot is right there small walk. If you have rentals and tickets bought I like the Pony Express. There are no services there, your very close to the lift, ride Pony Express ski down to Iron Horse and your off. fast lane to Village or ski the Moonlight side.
post #10 of 23

Thanks for the ongoing tips and updates for Big Sky.  Having never been somewhere before, it's hard to have a true sense of the place.  I'm an info junkie and always try to load up on as much knowledge as possible before a trip (anywhere!) so I can put that information into use when we arrive.  (Thank to sibhusky's guide, my timid skiing self did not freak out when I encountered the "ant hill" at the summit in Whitefish, knowing that it would be ok once I picked my way through the scattered bodies and equipment.)

 

We probably won't make it over to Bridger due to the logistics of our trip, but it's been nice to hear good things about it.  Until we had already booked our trip, I didn't have any idea of how close it was to Big Sky.  I even talked to a "rep" at the ski show last fall and all she really told me is "most people drive" and "it's easy to get to within Montana."  I don't know if they want to be "the local's secret" or they'd like to siphon off a little of the BS business, but marketing would go a long way.  I live in an area that is known to travel west so we'd be a good market!  Again, we learned of Whitefish /Amtrak ski vacations 3 years before we took that trip.  However, they planted a seed on what made that unique and do-able for us and we had a good info base before we started looking into it seriously. 

post #11 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by bkwei View Post
 

Thanks for the ongoing tips and updates for Big Sky.  Having never been somewhere before, it's hard to have a true sense of the place.  I'm an info junkie and always try to load up on as much knowledge as possible before a trip (anywhere!) so I can put that information into use when we arrive.  (Thank to sibhusky's guide, my timid skiing self did not freak out when I encountered the "ant hill" at the summit in Whitefish, knowing that it would be ok once I picked my way through the scattered bodies and equipment.)

 

We probably won't make it over to Bridger due to the logistics of our trip, but it's been nice to hear good things about it.  Until we had already booked our trip, I didn't have any idea of how close it was to Big Sky.  I even talked to a "rep" at the ski show last fall and all she really told me is "most people drive" and "it's easy to get to within Montana."  I don't know if they want to be "the local's secret" or they'd like to siphon off a little of the BS business, but marketing would go a long way.  I live in an area that is known to travel west so we'd be a good market!  Again, we learned of Whitefish /Amtrak ski vacations 3 years before we took that trip.  However, they planted a seed on what made that unique and do-able for us and we had a good info base before we started looking into it seriously. 

Bridger is a non-profit.  Very different experience than Big Sky for travelers.  I would guess their marketing budget is pretty small and limited to a few local ads.  Plus a pretty active Facebook page.

 

I always include a day or two at Bridger as part of a trip to Big Sky.  Usually at the beginning as a warm up, including a private lesson.

post #12 of 23


Thanks marznc!  That makes more sense.  Next time we'll plan for both and explore a little bit more. 

post #13 of 23
Thread Starter 

Thanks everyone for the great info - hoping the precip in the forecast is SNOW!   I too like to get the "inside" scoop and really appreciate the tips that make the trip smooth!

post #14 of 23

One tip I got from the free mountain host tour was that the Cabin Bar & Grill on the top floor of the Arrowhead Mall is essentially ski in/out from a blue groomer on Andesite Mt.  I think the trail name was Silver Knife.  There is a small ski rack next to the slope and it's a very short walk to the door.

 

Lone Mountain Sports is in the Arrowhead Mall.  It has a good selection of demo skis, different brands than what is carried by the Big Sky rental shop.

post #15 of 23
Big Sky is one of the easier large mts to navigate. Most stuff comes back to the base. MoonlightBasin is so empty you could hunt on the trails though this may have changed with the merger?
Hope you get snow!

Def visit the lodge at Moonlight to see the stuffed mt goats on the chimney. It's quite a lodge.
Btw, @Rio is a local for both areas.
post #16 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by IMT00FIERCE View Post

I go to school at MSU in bozeman, Bridger is the local ski hill, Big Sky is the local ski resort. The guys complaining about Big Sky should just keep his ski trips in Aspen. Both places have awesome atmospheres, but tourists seem to like Big Sky a lot more.

Having traveled 5000 miles for a 2 week ski vacation, you tend to head for a resort.

 

I will repeat Big Sky is in very poor shape due to a low snow year and baking temps there are rocks everywhere on and off the groomed trails. I expect hazards off the groomed but you do expect the return tracks that funnel into the lifts to have more snow than rocks. Do love the tree skiing at Big Sky though.

 

Never been to Aspen not my thing. I,m more duct tape than Diamante'

 

This was our second visit to BS as we did 2 weeks in a great snow year last year (and still managed to trash new pairs of skis hitting a rock in powder, the place is one giant pile of scree). Having given the place a good go we won't be back to Big Sky.

 

Jackson Hole again next year as its a much better all round destination, atmosphere and skiing experience.

post #17 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by marznc View Post

One tip I got from the free mountain host tour was that the Cabin Bar & Grill on the top floor of the Arrowhead Mall is essentially ski in/out from a blue groomer on Andesite Mt.  I think the trail name was Silver Knife.  There is a small ski rack next to the slope and it's a very short walk to the door.

Lone Mountain Sports is in the Arrowhead Mall.  It has a good selection of demo skis, different brands than what is carried by the Big Sky rental shop.
The run is Silver Knife. I use Lone Mountain Sports. If you do your rentals there is coupon online at there web site. I enjoy The Cabin as well.
post #18 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by bloxy View Post

Having traveled 5000 miles for a 2 week ski vacation, you tend to head for a resort.

I will repeat Big Sky is in very poor shape due to a low snow year and baking temps there are rocks everywhere on and off the groomed trails. I expect hazards off the groomed but you do expect the return tracks that funnel into the lifts to have more snow than rocks. Do love the tree skiing at Big Sky though.

Never been to Aspen not my thing. I,m more duct tape than Diamante'

This was our second visit to BS as we did 2 weeks in a great snow year last year (and still managed to trash new pairs of skis hitting a rock in powder, the place is one giant pile of scree). Having given the place a good go we won't be back to Big Sky.

Jackson Hole again next year as its a much better all round destination, atmosphere and skiing experience.

No doubt a bad snow year. However I would guess you wouldn't of logged your most memorable trip at Jackson this year either. The only way I could possibly imagined gashing your skis last year would of been on something that is always wind blown.
post #19 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by bloxy View Post

Snow is rapidly disappearing with Temps in 40s lots of rocks and mud appearing. Best of luck if you arrive Fri/Sat glad we are leaving Sat after a 2 week stay. If it hadn't been so cold last week it would be a complete disaster by now. Can't see Big Sky season lasting much longer unless there is a huge change in temp and massive snowfalls. Waders and fly rod recommended.

Lots of runs in terrible condition and very poor maintenance. Lots of perfect terrain parks perfectly groomed and unused. Go figure.

Big Sky have no interest in real skiers/boarders only park rats?

We won't return to Big Sky not paying nearly $900 for a lift ticket if they don't care.

Seriously If you want some non ski activities contact http://yellowstonesafari.com had a great morning snowshoeing with a great guide Ken. Snowmobile tracks we saw driving towards West Yellowstone the other day were mud.

It's like June in March!

 

[quote
No doubt a bad snow year. However I would guess you wouldn't of logged your most memorable trip at Jackson this year either. The only way I could possibly imagined gashing your skis last year would of been on something that is always wind blown.[/quote]
Quote:
Originally Posted by doin1 View Post

No doubt a bad snow year. However I would guess you wouldn't of logged your most memorable trip at Jackson this year either. The only way I could possibly imagined gashing your skis last year would of been on something that is always wind blown.

Boot top powder in horseshoe bowl area, buried rock blew the edge out:( Big Sky has lots of rocks!
post #20 of 23

I am packing up to leave after a week at Big Sky. It is a beautiful mountain, but definitely suffering from a low snowpack plus extremely warm temps. We have watched the base erode before our eyes. Pretty much nowhere on the mountain is good right in the morning, but if you wait till about 11, you should have great snow below the turkey traverse (off the triple) and liberty bowl, lenin, and marx off the tram. Screamin Left below liberty bowl has been fun, too. Getting to the base in the afternoon has been a slog fest, trying to make it "down" a nearly flat cat track in soup.

 

But they're supposed to get a good amount of snow in the next week, so maybe you're in luck. Just be aware - there be dragons just below that fluffy stuff.

post #21 of 23
Thread Starter 

Thanks everyone for your insight.  We had a good trip but had our expectations in check due to less than ideal snow conditions.   We skied a day at Bridger - really lacking in snow but a good warm up.   Bonus - our son took a snowboarding lesson and basically had a private lesson on a week day.   Tickets were 1/2 day rates for the full day b/c of the number of runs closed.   Less than ideal skiing but it is what you make it - we got a lot of runs in and had a good day anyway.  

 

Big Sky had much better snow - maybe skiing Bridger helped us to see that.  Yes, lots of rocks underneath, 5" of snow midweek helped conditions and spirits.   Decent snow up top could be found, we didn't ski off the tram - it just looked too rocky and not fun.   Took one run off Challenger and decided the rocks were not for us.   We took the advice from the forum one day and parked at Moonlight one day - it was awesome - we had some fabulous runs on that side of the hill and very much enjoyed getting over to that side.   

 

We took a day off and did the Big Sky zip line tour - it was our kids favorite part of the trip - more fun than we expected, great guides, and a very fun group.   Also hiked to Palisade Falls in Bozeman and Ousel Falls in Big Sky on our off days.   

 

I see that they have had a lot of snow since we left - should be some good snow left for those late March/early April skiers - but keep your expectations in check - it's not an awesome year for skiing there but pretty good anyway!   If you are lucky enough to have a big snow, get out and enjoy it while it lasts!

 

Thanks again for the helpful advice!

post #22 of 23

We are back as well and had a great time! Fresh powder both Tues & Wed mornings (14-22" total depending on location).   Mon was ice.... a type of ice I've rarely seen in the Midwest.  We're used to groomed ice.  This was just .... there.  Thurs was good in the morning and turned to slush by afternoon. We stayed near Moonlight Lodge and ended up skiing more at Moonlight than at Big Sky.  My husband and son had their sights set on skiing Liberty Bowl but the tram wait was over an hour on Thurs so they decided to ski in the bowl instead of waiting.  Otherwise there were never more than 2 chairs in line ahead of us on any given day. 

 

We rented an awesome condo in Saddle Ridge.  Ski in/out was kind of done for the year due to the snow cover, but the walk to ski in/out was less than 5 min.  We went to Whiskey Jacks for après one night, otherwise we didn't really go out at all.  Thurs night we drove down to Big Sky (meadows) to look at the shops, but they were pretty much closed before 8pm so it was a short trip.

 

We drove from Minnesota and had great weather both ways.  That was a plus to this weird snow-deprived winter.  Minneapolis to Billings took 11 hrs through North Dakota.  Then it was about 3 hrs over to Bozeman and up to Big Sky.  We came home through Wyoming/ South Dakota with an overnight in Deadwood.  Along the way we stopped at the Little Bighorn Battlefield, Devil's Tower and drove the Badlands Loop near Wall SD. That route was definitely longer and more mountainous (on the way out we had 1 pass -- just before Bozeman). 

 

I would say that the strangest thing was how everyone we talked to from the area asked us why we didn't go to Bridger (sounds like it wasn't as good this time, but...).  Even a guy at the blackjack table in Deadwood told us that Big Sky was for the wealthy.  We did run into the Yellowstone bodyguards a few times (at Mountain & Madison base area) but we didn't get that uber-monied vibe anywhere else. If we go out there again, we'll have to check out Bridger as well.

 

Thanks for your helpful comments and suggestions prior to our trip.

post #23 of 23
The median hourly wage in Montana is $15.15 (even lower in the western part of the state). The walk up lift ticket at Big Sky is $103. So, work for a whole day to ski a whole day. The lift ticket at Bridger is half of that. And for most, it's closer.
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