This was our family's third trip to Big Sky but first time in Spring and first time skiing with my in-laws. We stay at the Huntley, an older hotel but with a great breakfast buffet and is ski-in/ski-out. We had adjoining rooms with our in-laws which really helped make the space feel larger. We normally drive from Minneapolis straight to Big Sky which takes about 15 hours. It is a fairly straight shot with not a lot to see till you hit Billings. Once you hit Billings, the mountains of western Montana start appearing on the horizon.
On the first day we decided to take it easy so I could determine the skiing ability of my In-laws. We rode the Ramcharger chair to the top of Andesite mountain to ski down the green runs off the Southern Comfort chair. El Dorado, Deep South and Sacajawea are three long, moderately sloped green runs. After a couple of runs, it was clear my kids (9 & 11) were better skies than their grandparents. My wife, son and I broke off from the group to try out Spanish Peaks while my daughter stayed with the grandparents on the green runs.
This was our first venture into Spanish peaks since I wasn’t really interested in skiing it in the past. After riding the older chair up and skiing down Double D, we decided to head back. The snow was a bit crunchy there and the area didn’t have many options for us. I don’t see us ever going back into that area again.
After re-joining our group, we end up heading back to the main base area to grab lunch. Lunch in Big Sky means Yeti Dog’s to my kids. The hotdogs are good but the vibe is better. The shop is next to the ski school in the village with no indoor seating but has benches just outside its back door.
After lunch, we rode up the Swiftcurrent chair and went down Mr. K and Lower Morningstar. The kids enjoy Natural Halfpipe and Louise Lane, two runs that go through the trees between the two named runs. While we ate lunch the snow had just started to fall. Over the next four hours 10” would fall, filling in all the hard spots and creating nice powder stashes.
The kids and grandparents decided to call it quits early so my wife and I ventured over to the Moonlight side. It was already fairly deep by the time we headed over to Moonlight so we were skiing fresh powder on relatively empty trails. My wife had always seen Moonlight’s plentiful blue trails and worried it would be too much for her. She is a very good skier but doesn’t like to push her skills. We worked our way over to Horseshoe via Blue Moon to Iron Horse chair and Cinnabar to the Six Shooter and finally Meriweather to the Lone tree chair. Blue Moon is a fun blue run through the houses on Moonlight. Cinnabar is a easy green that takes you to the main base area of Moonlight. Both these runs were fairly easy in the powder but we didn’t really know where we were going. Getting to the Lone Tree chair was a bit more difficult. It was fairly deep and we couldn’t figure out how to get to the chair. We followed another couple and ended up in a short steepish area that was fairly untouched that placed us by the chair we were looking for.
By the time we got to Horseshoe, it was deep and still snowing hard. The cat track to horseshoe was barely visible and we had no idea if we were going in the right direction. Once on Horseshoe we enjoyed a very greening blue run that went for three miles. By now there was easily 9” of new snow we were skiing through. The deepest snow I’d ever skied to this point. By the time we finished skiing Horseshoe, we rode up the Six Shooter lift and headed back to the Big Sky base area.
Day two for us means lesson day for the kids. We always put the kids in all day lessons on day two so that they learn about new areas on the mountain and we have a chance to ski the stuff we enjoy. An added benefit for the day was Big Sky received an additional 4” of snow after the chairs stopped. The mountain was full of fresh snow. After a warm up run on Lower Morningstar it was time to ski The Bowl. The in-laws rode up Swifty with us but broke off to ski Mr. K instead. Now I am fairly novice to deep snow skiing but my wife has skied at Vail since she was a kid and her experience shows. I struggled getting down in the deep snow while she skied it like a pro. I think I fell four times but really three of those were from exhaustion. After skiing down the bowl we skied Crazy Horse into the base to meet her parents for lunch.
Skiing The Bowl in 14” of fresh snow make it hard for me to make good turns. I think I was skiing stupid and trying to make my turns too quickly. The Bowl isn't scary steep and in normal conditions I think it would be relatively fun black diamond. After lunch we decided to ski Calamity Jane and Lobo. Crazy Horse, Calamity Jane and Lobo are the main blue runs off Swifty chair. In my opinion Calamity Jane is the best Blue run at Big Sky. It is normally groomed but not 100% so you can ski through crud (which I do enjoy). It has two nice faces that are good skiing but not too steep with plenty of moderate terrain in between. Crazy Horse is the easy blue and Lobo is the harder blue run off of Swifty.
On Day three the weather gave us more snow, some fog and some blue skies. In typical mountain fashion, the weather changed on an almost hourly basis. We started out a little later than usual with the goal of getting pictures take on Mr. K. The group skied the greens then found the professional photographer on the mountain. It seems whenever we get photos take its never sunny. Still we got nice pictures with the whole family.
After lunch the kids and grandparents headed in while my wife and I skied over to Moonlight. It was brightening up so we got to see a lot more of the views from that side of the mountain. We decided to ski the same runs as last time since we hadn’t seen them in clear skies. The views of Lone Peak from Moonlight are incredible. An added benefit turned out that there was a freeskiing contest going on the Headwaters. The Headwaters are the steep chutes off Lone Peak on the Moonlight side. Watching skiers traverse down the Headwaters was a fun end to the day.
Our last day of skiing. The overnight snow total was 6” when we started the day and it was still snowing. By end of day another 6” would fall on Big Sky making the grand total 28” for our four days of skiing. We took my kids and father-in-law back to Andesite as the kids wanted to ski the tree runs and I was interested in the powder stashes off Ponderosa. Once everyone was ready for lunch I skied down Ambush while the kids and my father-in-law skied Safari to the base area. After lunch my father-in-law headed in and the kids took us down a tree run they found on Crazy Horse. My son took a jump, landed flat and ended his day with a sore ankle. My daughter joined him with the in-laws so my wife and I were off to Andesite for a couple more runs.
As you drive up to Big Sky, the run you see from the road is Elk Park Ridge. It's a nice long blue run that has a very consistent pitch. This afternoon it was mostly powder bumps and crud. We decided to rest a little and ski down Ponderosa looking for more powder stashes to charge through. We ended up skiing down Hangman, a nice blue run off the front of Andesite and getting back on Swity for one last Calamity Jane run before finishing the trip with Lower Morningstar straight to the hotel.
Big Sky has a bad rap as a place with a bad night life. Well, there is no bar scene to speak of but there are some nice restaurants in the Village and lower on the mountain. This trip we decided not to drive down because of the snow. We ate at The Cabin, Andiamo's, Chet's Grill and a Yurt on the mountain. All are expensive and only Chet's isn't worth it. I recommend making a reservation for The Cabin and Andiamo's.
Our third trip to Big Sky was a memorable one. I got to ski in the deepest powder I’ve ever experienced, three generations got to ski together and I got to ski The Bowl.
Packing up the rental.
Waiting for their grandparents before getting on Ramcharger Day 1.
Day 1, dumping on Horseshoe
Yeah, it was soft powder.
Me, almost at the bottom of The Bowl.
Those specs on the top of that ridge are skiers waiting their turn on the Headwaters freeride event.
View of Lone Peak from Horseshoe on the Moonlight side
View from the top of Blue Moon into the Madison/Moonlight area
Selfie on Swifty
Last day snow storm
Cat up to dinner at the Yurt
Dinner in the Yurt