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Seeking Montana advice for Feb 2010 trip

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 
Mostly the usual questions, but I haven't seen any threads giving MT advice lately for the southern areas:

We want to spend a week in Montana, second week in February.  Fly to Bozeman, ski Bridger, Big Sky, Moonlight, and perhaps one other smaller area.  Seeking suggestions on best eats, best places to stay, and how #@$%ing cold it might be?  Also, do I need to plunk down for an SUV rental?  I usually do when we are planning to move around ever two to three nights, but they are so expensive it would be nice not to.

Biggest questions:
SUV - Need one?
Lift Tickets - Any discounts to be found?
How many days needed for Big Sky and Moonlight?
Food and lodging recommendations

We are telemarkers, in good shape.  I am a solid advanced intermediate to expert, usually ski 30 days per season, but hit 60 last year due to a layoff.  I like trees, bumps, and bowls, but can skip the crazy steeps and cliffs.  My SO is a solid intermediate, but is more comfortable on blue and advanced blue terrain.  She can get down most things, but not with style.

Any suggestions and problems you foresee would be welcome.  Also, a report on how the areas are shaping up would be welcome!

I have never waited this long to book flights for our trip, but I needed to find out if I would be employed on 1/1 first!

Thanks!
post #2 of 11
Comments in bold below.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rorvis View Post

Mostly the usual questions, but I haven't seen any threads giving MT advice lately for the southern areas:

We want to spend a week in Montana, second week in February.  Fly to Bozeman, ski Bridger, Big Sky, Moonlight, and perhaps one other smaller area.  Seeking suggestions on best eats, best places to stay, and how #@$%ing cold it might be?  Also, do I need to plunk down for an SUV rental?  I usually do when we are planning to move around ever two to three nights, but they are so expensive it would be nice not to.

Biggest questions:
SUV - Need one?

I'd recommend one.

Lift Tickets - Any discounts to be found?

Yes, try local ski shops and some grocery stores (Albertson's)

How many days needed for Big Sky and Moonlight?

You can see most of Moonlight in a day.  Big Sky, maybe two.

Food and lodging recommendations

Buck's T-4 in Big Sky (food for sure, maybe lodging too).  I don't really like many restaurants in Bozeman, so I can't recommend much there.  Granted, I also don't a lot of them too well.


Also, a report on how the areas are shaping up would be welcome!

So far, seems to be one of the better openings in the past few years.

I have never waited this long to book flights for our trip, but I needed to find out if I would be employed on 1/1 first!

Thanks!
post #3 of 11
Three areas relatively close to Bozeman that should be visited if you have time are:

Discovery - www.skidiscovery.com - The terrain off the Limelight Chair is as steep as you can find anywhere in Montana with over 15 true double diamond runs all accessible without hiking.  Definitely worth a day.  Easily my second favorite ski area in Montana.  (Bridger is first but only because of the terrain they added last year with the Schlauchman's Chair.)  Don't bother skiing there if there is less than 60" though.  Discovery is about 2 1/2 hours from Bozeman.  Stay in either Anaconda or a bed and breakfast in Phillipsburg if you want an early start.

Montana Snowbowl - www.montanasnowbowl.com - Volantaddict's home mountain....what more information do you need to know.  3 hours from Bozeman.

Maverick Ski Area - www.skimaverick.com - We're talking a really out of the way ski area that make Snowbowl and Discovery look upscale.  Good snow and fun terrain.  Its biggest drawback is it is usually the most punished ski are in Montana during draught years.

The ideal ski car in Montana is a Subaru wagon because they handle freeway driving & winds much better than SUVs.  Crossovers with all-wheel drive are a good option, also.

Once you figure out where you are skiing and staying I'll give you a list of restaurants to eat at.
post #4 of 11
I would also recommend the SUV if you plan on driving much. 

It has been many years since I lived in Bozeman so I can't help a lot with lodging or dining but we were there this summer.  The lodging in the Bid Sky area is limited.  Bozeman has many of the standard hotel/motel chains.  In Bozeman, I would recommend Santa Fe Reds on North 7th Avenue if you like Mexican.  Looks like a dive from the outside but nice inside and the food is very good.

You might want to consider Red Lodge for your smaller area.  Mostly intermediate terrain but inexpensive and a great little town.  It is about 2 1/2 hour from Bozo.
post #5 of 11
I will reemphasize that you only need all-wheel drive and ABS brakes here.  SUVs don't handle as well as other options.  If you're planning on driving any distances you'd be better off with something that will drive better on the freeway and not be blown around by the winds we get in Montana.  When I drive to Bridger Bowl almost all the vehicles I see that have gone off the road are SUVs yet them make up 30% or less of the vehicles on that road.
post #6 of 11
We went to Boze last Feb. Was not cold at all, but it was a mild winter. If you are considering chain type hotels, check out C'mon Inn. Yes its a dopey name and the interior is this weird Disney meets the Deer Hunter vibe but it has 8 (!) hot tubs in its atrium. Its cheap and convenient to hiway, but not to "downtown" Bozeman.  We had a good meal at Ted's Montana grill, did not wait the hr to get into Dave's Sushi, and had a lame-ass pizza from highly touted Mackenzie River Pizza - you can't get decent Mex in Boston, and you apparently can't get decent pizza west of NJ (don't get me started on Chicago deep-dish food-pie).

We also stayed at Howler's Inn - nice if you like B+Bs.

I'm surprised about recommendations re SUV - we got a cheap upgrade (they had a bunch unused) but did not need it - as I said it was mild winter. You might consider same tactic - reserve regular car and upgrade when you get there. Agree AWD is all you need but they are not necessarily available as rental.

We spent part of our time at Yellowstone - 1 hr ish  from Boze - stayed at Mammoth Springs Inn. My SO is a nature freak so we hired a wild-life guide for a day - very cool. Plenty of (easy) xc trails, too.
post #7 of 11
Worked at Big Sky as a concierge last winter.

For the rental car thing, I drove a front wheel drive sedan all winter and had little trouble. It's a pretty heavy car (2000 Impala) so that probably helped. I did get stuck in a crowded parking lot at the resort once, but it was more my fault than the car's. Besides that, I just took it easy and everything worked out. There were some white knuckle nights coming down the mountain in blizzard conditions, and the drive to a from Bozeman is no picnic for anyone in the middle of winter, but everything worked out.

I'll second the Albertson's recommendation for lift tickets to big sky. Never did it myself but I've heard many people recommend the same. Because $79/day is ridiculous.

For lodging, I found the resort's rates to be enormously too high, but staying up on the mountain is so much more convenient than staying in bozeman or even down in the town of big sky, about 8 miles down the mountain. If you go that route, you'd either have to get a rental car to make the drive everyday, or wait for the bus. Personally, I hated the buses in big sky. They were sometimes unreliable, but usually ok about showing up on time. The problem was once you get on the bus, it seems to take fooooorever to get to where you're going. Some nights I'd get on the bus at 7:00 at the top of the mountain and not get down to the canyon (about 10 miles away) til 7:50.

I would recommend calling up reservations and see what kind of deals they can work out for you. They always preached to us that they wanted us to do everything we could to get the guest to stay at the resort, since less money from a guest is still better than no guest at all. I'd just call up and ask what kind of deals they have, and if you think the price is too high, ask if they can go a little lower and hint that you might have to stay elsewhere. I also just remembered of a place called The Inn at Big Sky (edit: The Lodge at Big Sky). It's an unaffiliated hotel on the resort's property. They should have lower rates, and it's within walking distance to the slopes.

For places to eat, my biggest recommendation would be to stay away from Whiskey Jack's. It has a very convenient location to the slopes, but the food is underwhelming for the price. Chet's is a similar kind of place, sports bar type atmosphere, and I found the food to be much better. For pizza, there's two places off the mountain that are pretty good. Trailhead pizza and Blue Moon bakery. Both deliver to the resort if I'm not mistaken.

Sorry for long winded response, guess I was channeling my old job...hope it helps.
Edited by dan9124 - 12/12/09 at 1:42pm
post #8 of 11
Thread Starter 
Thanks for all the great feedback here.  Maverick, Lost Trail and Discovery were all on my list for possible smaller areas, but some might be too far to realistically loop in.  I think I will focus on plans for the first few days (Bozeman/Bog Sky) and then plan the last piece.

Subaru would be ideal rental car, but I have never seen them for rent unfortunately.  I'm always torn, but in the end I don't want to end up unable to ski on my ski vacation.  Maybe I'll reserve and SUV now, and keep an eye on the weather as the trip approaches!

I have heard good stuff so far about C'mon Inn, so we'll check it out.  Any other suggestions for hidden gem type restaurants also welcome!

Thanks also for the Yellowstone advice, I suspect we should grab a day there, so any other tips would be great in terms of getting the most bang out of a single day in the park would be great!

As always, thanks for the great feedback folks, I am starting to get pretty psyched about this trip!  I'm sure I'll add it to the list of places I would prefer to live!
post #9 of 11
A friend just recently had an Outback as a rental.  I know as it died (new car with 8 miles on it) just outside Drummond.  It was from Dollar Rental Car. 
post #10 of 11
For Yellowstone, I would recommend staying overnight at the Mammoth Springs Inn, rather than driving RT from Boze for the day. Hotel itself is dated, but its cheap, in the park, and has an excellent restaurant - locally smoked trout, bison steaks, full bar with blazing fireplace. They have snowcoaches to take you to Old Faithful, which would be cool, but they are expensive. There are hot springs right at the hotel which are a must (for viewing, not soaking). There is a ski shop at the hotel and the staff there can advise you re trails that you can drive to.
post #11 of 11
Why go all the way to Mammoth Hot Springs?  West Yellowstone is 50 miles from Big Sky and has a greater variety of coach tours.  I'd recommend doing a day trip to Yellowstone via West Yellowstone over driving 3 hours to Mammoth Hot Springs.
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