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2 Centre Trip - Big Sky & .....?

post #1 of 22
Thread Starter 
Hi there,

I have been looking around in these pages for a while and have found some great stuff and it's given me lots of ideas for a trip. However, I'm a bit undecided so am hoping some of you can offer some advice and suggestions for a holiday that me and a mate are planning for February.

We're planning a 2 week trip to America for the first time (although we went to Whistler last year) having grown up on a diet of European skiing, and would like to visit 2 different places for a week each. Big Sky has caught our eye, and from the recomendations on here it looks to be a good bet for a week.

We're struggling to decide on where to go for the 2nd week though. Somewhere that is in the same area and wouldn't involve too much travelling to get to, while being big enough to entertain us for a week - anyone got any suggestions?

The obvious place we thought of was Jackson Hole, but is it too far from Big Sky? And if not, how to get between the two - would we need a hire car, and if so would it have to be 4WD? I haven't found anything about a bus/train that runs between the 2 places.

We're both good skiers (well, I'm a skier and he's a boarder) who like fairly tough skiing and plenty of off piste if the weather is kind to us and brings lots of powder!!! And although we're not as young as we used to be (both 30) a bit of night life would be good news - you've got to have a few beers after skiing!!

So what do you think - Are these resorts a good choice? We're pretty keen on Big Sky, so if not Jackson Hole, which other resort would you visit in the 2nd week? Are there any decent options nearer than Jackson Hole? Is Big Sky really as quiet in the evenings as people say it is?

Thanks laods for any opinions or advice you can offer us - we don't know much about that part of the world, so anything would be appreciated.

Billy M
post #2 of 22
Big Sky in the evenings seems quiet. If you go to the right places a gooooood time can be had.

If you do head this way and you own the gear, bring your transciever, shovel & probe. Some great terrain that is lift accessable requires that gear.

With 2 weeks, no JHMR resort is NOT too far to travel, and well worth the trip.
post #3 of 22
Thread Starter 
Hi Bunion,

Thanks for the reply, much appreciated.

Mapquest reckons 4 hours to drive to Jackson Hole - sound accurate? Is there any way other than a rental car that we could do the journey?

Glad to hear there's some fun to be had at night in Big Sky. We had kind of got the feeling it was just a few hotels and a couple of shops.

We're thinking of travelling out end of Jan and staying for the first 2 weeks of Feb - that doesn't clash with any American school holidays does it?

post #4 of 22
Presidents day is the biggest weekend of the US ski season. Feb. 14. or there abouts. I would allow 6 hrs to JH just because of road conditions, driving in a foreign country etc.

Rental auto is the best bet.
post #5 of 22

Big Sky and Jackson Hole

Billy M, Good trip, bad news is that Feb 12th is part of a 3 day weekend. Next to Christmas a very busy weekend. There are 2 president day weekends in Feb, this year 07 the 12th and 22nd. If your/re concerned about crowds it would be better to come a week earlier. You've made a great choice. Remember it can be cold at the end of Jan and early Feb so dress accordingly, or pack accordingly. Good Luck
post #6 of 22
Thread Starter 
Thanks guys, great advice. Will try and steer clear of the holiday weekends.

We learnt the hard way last year about choosing the wrong dates - booked our time off work with the intention of going to Park City only to find we'd booked the same time as the Sundance Film Festival and couldn't find any flights/rooms. Ended up going to Whistler instead, which turned out great as we got lucky and had lots of snow!! All happens for a reason eh...?
post #7 of 22
Originally Posted by Billy M View Post
Hi Bunion,

Thanks for the reply, much appreciated.

Mapquest reckons 4 hours to drive to Jackson Hole - sound accurate? Is there any way other than a rental car that we could do the journey?

Glad to hear there's some fun to be had at night in Big Sky. We had kind of got the feeling it was just a few hotels and a couple of shops.

We're thinking of travelling out end of Jan and staying for the first 2 weeks of Feb - that doesn't clash with any American school holidays does it?


I was having this type of debate approximately at the same time last year.

Ending travelling 2 weeks:

Starting January 21th 2006
day 1 - Arrival in Bozeman, MT
day 2 - Bridger Bowl, MT
days 3 & 4 - Big Sky/Moonlight Basin, MT
day 5 - Grand Targhee, Wy
days 6,7,8 & 9 - Jackson Hole, WY
day 10 - Snow King in Jackson (halfday then drive to SLC)
days 11,12,13 & 14 - Altabird
day 15 - Flight out of SLC for Ottawa

So as you can see Big Sky and Jackson is extremely possible in a 2 week vacation. When the next time will you be in that part of the World. That was my reasoning, but I added Montana to my intial plan SLC + Jackson trip.

I was planning initial to rent a car in Bozeman and then return it at Jackson and hitch up with a fellow skier from this forum (it was possible, but I don't remember how much). The skiing was so good that my ride ending skiing in Montana also.
post #8 of 22

Myself and a friend from this board are probably doing a Big Sky/Jackson trip at that same time. We'll be skiing Big Sky(staying in Bozeman) from 29 Jan - 02 Feb and then Jackson/Targhee from 03-08 Feb. Post on the "meet on the hill planning" section of Epic as your plans firm up and the time gets closer if you would like to ski together. You can also send a private message.

It will be my our first time to these areas as well, so maybe we can explore together.

You might also want to check out snowheads.com for a Brit/Euro perspective on these places.


post #9 of 22
I was Patrick's ride, picked up the car in Salt Lake City, drove it 7 hours to Bozeman, then we worked our way back on the schedule he listed. You will save $ on airfare if you fly to SLC instead of Bozeman or Jackson, and also $ on the car rental if your return it to where you picked it up.

Don't worry about crowd issues. Big Sky is never crowded. Only the 3rd weekend of February and the ensuing week gets much of a bump in destination ski travel. First 2 weeks of February will be no problem.

Since you asked, Sun Valley would be another destination accessible from the area you're going. If you review Patrick's itinerary that's a fairly ambitious road trip. With 2 weeks and 4 general areas (SLC, Jackson/Targhee, Sun Valley and Big Sky/Bridger) I would choose a maximum of 3, and if you want a more relaxed pace just 2.
post #10 of 22

3 Centre Trip

If you choose to enter the US via Salt Lake City or Jackson Hole, WY here are a few tips, sorry if some of this is obvious.

Car hire/rental is relatively affordable in the US especially for two or more traveling together. Rentals are priced towards weekly segments, therefore plan to rent for one or both weeks. A three part trip with skiing/boarding 3 to 4 days each at the following would be most excellent: Snowbird (Alta does not allow snowboarders), Big Sky, Jackson Hole. All have challenging terrain. Each leg would entail roughly 6 hrs of road time between ski areas. Use road day as rest day. An easy variation on this can be made depending on your actual gateway airport.
The excellent interstate highways in western US are mostly flat and good for very high speeds when not snowing. We Americans are automobile centric and attention deficit, many of us take these multi-centre trips spanning significant distances between destinations.
post #11 of 22
Thread Starter 
Hi guys,

Just got back from a few days away with work to find some great advice here - many thanks for taking the time to reply.

Patrick - you know how to tempt someone don't you... That sounds like an amazing trip!! To be honest, when planning the trip we didn't want too much travelling around every few days, but that looks seriously tempting. Seems to cover a bit of everywhere that we've thought about for this trip. We'd thought seriously about the Utah area, but had never thought to combine it and do the whole lot in one holiday. Making me think that even 2 weeks is not long enough!!! Quick question - is Snow King the small area near Jackson that has the floodlit skiing?

jgiddyup - Cheers Jim, very kind offer. Will definitely let you know our plans once we have decided and booked. The dates look to be very similar, we're looking at Jan 27th to Feb 10th at the moment, but that may change. Yup, snowheads is handy but thought that you guys would have a bit more local knowledge that we could quiz you on.

Tony - Yeah we'd heard about how quiet the mountain is at Big Sky, it's one of the things that caught our eye - having the mountain to yourself is very tempting isn't it - Millionaire Skiing!!! Especially after the relative crowds of Whistler last year, all fighting for the powder. I tend to agree with you about limiting the trip to 2 or 3 areas. It's going to take us the best part of a full day to travel from the UK, and we don't really want to be jumping in a car every couple of days for a big drive (and remember how small our country is over here - the 7 hour drive that you talk about is enough for us to travel all the way up our country!!) is not really our idea of a ski holiday. Not really heard of Sun Valley, will have a look at that later.

Jamesj - Nothing's obvious to us, it's all useful!!! Cheers for the tips, especially on car rental. I do like the sound of your idea of a few days in each of Snowbird, Jackson and Big Sky, but as mentioned above, not yet sure if that much driving is really for us. It's likely to be our only ski trip this year, so to lose a couple of days to driving might be too painful to bear!! You mentioned how good the roads are - I've done a fair bit of driving in the USA, and believe me compared to our mess of a road system it's a different story over there - you have much better roads!! Are the roads between the places we're talking about highways or mountain passes? Should we be looking at 4x4 or will a normal little car be good enough? Quite a difference in price if you rent a 4x4 so it'd be a bonus not to have to get one.

Once again, thanks everyone for your help. It's much appreciated.

Billy M
post #12 of 22
You're correct on Snow King Billy and I don't believe there's any major passes to cross from SLC to Big Sky. There is a pass to cross going from Big Sky to Jackson or vice versa.

I don't think a 4WD is absolutely necessary, but it's nice to have if you can spend the extra $$.
post #13 of 22
Billy, have you narrowed down what are the two or three most likely US cities you would fly into as gateway? That would help us advise you on ski area pairings.
The reason many of us talk about Salt Lake City is because flights are plentiful and relatively cheap from many points inside the US to SLC, compared to Bozeman, MT, Pocatello, ID, or other smaller cities in the northern Rockies.
I think the route from SLC to Big Sky would be fairly uncomplicated up Interstate 15. Small car would do. You could do just those two destinations to minimize driving.
There are many fine ski areas around SLC, you could do two weeks there only. Park City has nightlife and much intermediate to expert skiing.
You could just do Big Sky and Moonlight Basin for two straight weeks.
Lots of options, all fun.
post #14 of 22
Thread Starter 
Hi guys,

Flights are not a major factor as any of these airports require a connection - we can't fly non-stop to any of them, even SLC requires a change. So it's just as easy for us to get flights to JAC or BZN as it is to SLC (slight difference in price, but not a bank-breaker!). And we could even fly into BZN, ski Big Sky and then Jackson Hole and fly out of JAC.

Funny you should mention Park City, James. We have just been talking about the possibility of going there instead. I work for an airline in the UK that does ski holidays, and I get a good staff discount. They do holidays to Park City, but not to Big Sky or Jackson Hole.

We had almost discounted Utah this year as my friend is a boarder. I certainly realise that there's more to Utah than just Alta, but we felt that maybe we would not get the best out of the place by not being able to ski all the areas. Would you agree with that or are we talking s**t? Is Alta the only place that doesn't allow boarding, or are there others too?

That said, after discussing it tonight, we're thinking that Park City might be the favourite. And if we book up this far in advance the most certain to have good snow (with the staff travel we can't really wait until the last minute to see where the snow is unfortunately).

Who knows? Not me!!

As you said james; "Lots of options, all fun." That's the beauty of tough decisions like these - we're going to love it wherever we go, so it doesn't really matter what we chose!!


P.S. Today I read paedde's trip report again. Now that's the way to travel - 2 months of powder-chasing!!! If only.......
post #15 of 22
Alta and Deer Valley DO NOT allow Boarders.

That still leaves PCMR, The Canyons, Snowbird, Powder Mountain, Snowbasin, Brighton and Solitude. PCMR and The Canyons are a short FREE shuttle ride from any lodging in PC and the rest except Powder Mountain are within an hours or less drive.
post #16 of 22
With all the areas there's easily 2 weeks of variety in Utah even without Alta and Deer Valley. And if you're there that long it's easy for the boarder to be at Snowbird when you're at Alta or at PCMR or The Canyons when you're at Deer Valley.

Not sure exactly what range of "fairly tough skiing and plenty of off piste" you're looking for, but that might influence your choice. Jackson is always on the short list for that definition. Big Sky has upper terrain that is extreme by anyone's standards but the lower mountain is fairly flat.

If you describe what you liked at Whistler we might have a better idea about how you would like these other places.
post #17 of 22
FWIW having worked at PCMR.
PRMR is one of the most over rated ski areas in Utah. The terrain is mediocre at best.
post #18 of 22
Thread Starter 
Hi guys,

Funny isn't it - 2 years on from starting this thread about Big Sky and we're finally going! So it's good to know that all the good advice we got a couple of years ago is going to good use.

The season that I posted this thread we actually ended up going to Utah for the whole 2 weeks, but this year we're going back to the original plan from the first post. Will be booking the flights and rental car tomorrow...

Fly into Bozeman on Jan 24th, spend roughly a week in Big Sky then drive to Jackson Hole for the 2nd week before flying out of Jackson.

Anyway, just wanted to say thanks again for the advice a couple of years back, I've just read it through again and it's good to know we're finally going, so your posts weren't wasted!! Just need to pray for snow now...

post #19 of 22
While at Big Sky definitely hit Moonlight Basin for a day. You might also consider driving up to Bridger Bowl for a day as well. (Its 90 minutes away.)

While in Jackson be sure to hop over the hill to Grand Targhee especially on those days when Targhee gets hammered.
post #20 of 22
JH + BS for two weeks? That's some pretty tiring stuff! They both offer some of the hardest skiing in North America.
post #21 of 22
Thread Starter 
Hi Rio, thanks for the advice. We're hiring a car and don't have any firm dates for each area so that is the plan, to remain flexible and visit those other areas too. I gather that Targhee is on the way between BS & JH so I figured we'd probably stop there for a day or 2 on the drive down, especially if there is good snow there.

We're going to be there from Jan 24th to Feb 7th - am I right in assuming that we won't have any problems if we don't book accommodation in advance? To remain flexible we were thinking of just getting a hotel room as and when we decide to move to different areas.

Skiking4 - sounds good!! Let's hope we're up to it...

post #22 of 22
Grand Targhee is on the way to Jackson Hole, but its also close to enough to Jackson for day-trips over the hill if conditions are better there. Sometimes Targhee catches the clouds coming from the west resulting in Targhee getting significantly more powder that Jackson. The mountain also doesn't get skied out as fast. (A downside to Targhee catching the clouds is its notorious for having conditions ideal to create vertigo above the treeline.)
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