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Solo strikes & (non)family dining in Big Sky

post #1 of 21
Thread Starter 

The family and I are going to be in Big Sky for 8 days at the end of February, and I was looking for some local intel. on:

1) where to find sweet less-tracked expert terrain (inbounds or sidecountry) that I can hit in "solo strikes" when I get an hour or two away from the family to charge hard on my own? 
I was planning on buying tickets for the Big-Sky & Moonlight Basin interconnect for at least a day or two.  Is this a "must do" upgrade worth the additional $20 a day, or not?

How workable/fast is the interconnect? Is it something I can hit for 3 hours in the morning and still be back noonish to pick up my kids from the Big Sky Ski school?

Is there "must hit" expert terrain or other benefits to skiing on the Moonlight Basin side for experts in search of variety, challenge, and perhaps the odd unplundered stash?

Are there compelling reasons to upgrade my intermediate wife & take her over there as well?

We can hook up decent lift discounts, but have to book the tix in the next month or so, so I'd appreciate any guidance Big Sky locals & cognoscenti may have for us in the meantime..

2) Where we can find the best food in a dining atmosphere lively enough that we won't feel obliged to spend more time "policing" the kids than eating? 
I'm afraid we're spoiled diners who find the fare served at most "family restaurants" hard to stomach, but we do have the good fortune of having two little girls who are remarkably well behaved when we take them out, so we are comfortable taking them anywhere but the most formal settings.
Both the kids and my pocketbook really like to do pizza at least once per trip: who's got the best pies?

Are there any good places for ethnic cuisine: Thai, Indian, Mexican, Burmese ... ?
If you've got a "best-in-class" recommendation, I'm ears: best burgers, best bang for your buck, you name it !

post #2 of 21

The local ethnicity is Cowboy. Have some steaks. For variety have a Bison Burger.

 Bucks T-4 is near Big Sky.

 

Quote:

Originally Posted by Veloscente View Post

Are there any good places for ethnic cuisine: Thai, Indian, Mexican, Burmese ... ?
If you've got a "best-in-class" recommendation, I'm ears: best burgers, best bang for your buck, you name it !



 


Edited by NordtheBarbarian - 10/28/10 at 10:54pm
post #3 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by Veloscente View Post

The family and I are going to be in Big Sky for 8 days at the end of February, and I was looking for some local intel. on:

1) where to find sweet less-tracked expert terrain (inbounds or sidecountry) that I can hit in "solo strikes" when I get an hour or two away from the family to charge hard on my own? 
I was planning on buying tickets for the Big-Sky & Moonlight Basin interconnect for at least a day or two.  Is this a "must do" upgrade worth the additional $20 a day, or not?

How workable/fast is the interconnect? Is it something I can hit for 3 hours in the morning and still be back noonish to pick up my kids from the Big Sky Ski school?

Is there "must hit" expert terrain or other benefits to skiing on the Moonlight Basin side for experts in search of variety, challenge, and perhaps the odd unplundered stash?

Are there compelling reasons to upgrade my intermediate wife & take her over there as well?

I'm not a local, but I have made three very good trips to Big Sky, so take what I say with a grain of salt.  A big advantage of Big Sky is that they get so little traffic that powder sticks around for a good long while.  I'm not sure of your skiing ability, but the true expert terrain at Big Sky is equivalent to most anything you'll find in North America. 

 

There's three areas of expert terrain that I've explored and skied.  The first is off of the Challenger lift.  This is an old and slow double fixed grip chair.  It accesses some relatively steep terrain; you can ski down along the Moonlight boundry, or over the ridge into numerous steep lines.  Or you can ski Big Rock Tongue, which is plenty steep, particularly if you enter from the top, although I've preferred the more dependable snow that you get by coming in from a bit down on the skier's left.  Challenger often is filled in by the wind, so the snow can be quite lovely days after the last dump.

 

You can also hike to the A-Z chutes off of the top of Challenger.  Many of these lines have real consequences if you fall.  It's not a place to be if you aren't on your A game.

 

Off of the tram, you have Liberty Bowl, a lovely, steep bowl with an average gradient in the upper 30's.  The view is fantastic, and I've had some of the best powder skiing in my life in Liberty Bowl; every turn I went under.  My avatar photo is from a run on Liberty Bowl for which I acquired the nickname "snowblower."  But you can also take the Yeti traverse near the top of the bowl into the dictator chutes (Marx, Castro, and Lennin).  These chutes are long and damn steep -- probably around 1500 feet of vert in the 40's.  If you take the Yeti traverse on past the dictator chutes, you come to the gullies:  steep relatively narrow chutes with consequences if you fall (there's consequences of falling in the dictators as well, but generally there's not the rock bands that are in the gullies). 

 

The third area is to ski the signature runs off of the tram:  the Big Couloir and the North Summit Snowfield.  You have to have a Moonlight pass to ski the North Summit Snowfield.  You also used to be required to have a probe, shovel, and transceiver for the NSS, but no longer.  You do have to sign out with the Moonlight patrol at the top of the tram, and you have to have a partner (I believe).  I intended to ski the Big last year, but the snow was crummy and we skied incredible wind-groomed powder in the NSS instead.  As a result, I'm not exactly certain what the restrictions are for the Big, but I believe you need a Moonlight pass and have to sign out with the Moonlight patrol as well.

 

It is feasible to ski these areas in the morning and get back to the base around noon.  You might, if lucky and you are a good skier, be able to make two laps off of the tram, but probably not more.

 

As for Moonlight, the good expert terrain is a few lines off of the Headwaters Chair, which is on the other side of the ridge from the Challenger chair.  I had a delightful afternoon 2 years ago making laps on the chair and skiing the two chutes that are up there -- the locals claimed that the terrain was 47 degrees.  It is steep, and lots of fun as long as the coverage is good.

 

Other than the Headwaters chair, most of the terrain at Moonlight is oriented to intermediate skiers.  It is worth the price to access the NSS for an expert and to gain a few hours to play off of the Headwaters chair, but otherwise the expert skier is going to enjoy Big Sky more (IMO).  An intermediate skier, paticularly a lower intermediate skier, will enjoy Moonlight.  Also, as Moonlight is on the north face of Lone Peak, it tends to have better snow when its been warm and now is cold.

 

That's what I can provide, but perhaps some of the locals will correct any misperceptions I have conveyed.

 

Oh, and you'd be well advised to get a guide/lesson.  I highly recommend Ursula Howland; she is phenomenal and can really show you the terrain and give you excellent instruction as well.  She posts here from time to time as Little Bear.

 

Mike

post #4 of 21

Good summary.
When you hike up the ridge to the A-Z chutes, you also have the option of dropping off the other side of the ridge into a choice of several chutes in Moonlight's "Headwaters" area. Pay attention to ski patrol fences and signage because some of the chutes end in a cliff band. It is the same hike to access both A-Zs and Headwaters.
There is a pretty good Thai restaurant in Big Sky - http://www.lotuspadbigsky.com/ - it is in Big Sky Town Center, about 5 miles down the road from the resort. Book early because it is rather on the small side!
 

post #5 of 21
Thread Starter 

Thanks Mike for all the nitty-gritty intel, and to Nord & Martin for chiming in on dining & the Headwaters.

I threaded a similar inquiry before my trip to Snowmass last year, & the feedback I got helped me cut to the chase and dive straight into the best stuff over in the Headwall, Cirque Headwall, & Hanging Valley areas, so I'm stoked at getting this running head start at what will hopefully be another great trip.

 

As for my skiing ability, for others who may want to know what sort of terrain is "within my reach" before making recommendations, I think the best way to characterize my skiing is by starting with my limitations.

Bottom line: level 9 skills, yes; monster hucking, NO.

I grew up skiing the upper elevations of Squaw & Alpine, hiking the Palisades, & doing smaller drops (<10 ft.) into tight chutes & steep bowls, so I can and will get airborne at times if I know the terrain and the run-outs, but as for those videos of guys hitting 30-foot drops on first-descents with snow covering their goggles: that's not me.

 

By "solo strike" I mean that on a family trip like this, once I leave the groomers, I'm completely on my own, so I tend to pass on lines where a single missed turn involves a high likelihood, say of plunging over cliffs to serious injury or death.  When I'm skiing with buddies, I'm willing to take calculated risks with a smaller margin for error, but given Big Sky's rep. for "low traffic" it doesn't sound like there are going to be a lot of other folks around to help out in a pinch.

How about cell phones? Is Big Sky's coverage like what you'll find at most major CO resorts, or is it Snowbird-spotty?  Was glad to be skiing with buddies last year at the Bird: cellular coverage affords next to zero additional safety net there.

 

I was looking at some of the video imbedded in Big Sky's animated trail maps, and it looks like rock bands & semi-hidden obstacles are a pretty consistent feature all over the mountain, but there was nothing I saw in their vids that I wouldn't be comfortable skiing with adequate snow coverage.

Even on the Big Colouir, their footage gave the impression you could pretty much pick your line without any mandatory airs, so I'd ski it solo if patrol would let me in on my own without avy gear.

post #6 of 21

Verizon coverage is pretty good, other networks spotty.
Lone Peak does have a lot of loose, sharp-sided rocks, so keep an eye out for those!
Have fun!

post #7 of 21

Blue Moon Bakery is my favorite place to grab cookies, pastries and slices of pizza.  They also serve breakfast but I find them too big to eat on a skiing day.

 

The deli at the Moonlight Basin Lodge has great reubens and other sandwiches.  It's my favorite lunch spot.  Another good place for lunch is The Cabin on the top floor of the Arrowhead Building at Big Sky.  You can reach them by skiing down Silver Knife off Ramcharger.

 

I don't stay at Big Sky for dinner so I can't give any recommendations.  If you're feeling like a drive there are a few restaurants in the Bozeman area (not in Bozeman, itself sadly) that I could recommend.

post #8 of 21

The North Summit Snowfields are totally worth it for the moonlight pass.  You can milk that for a lot of vert.

 

If you're skiing by yourself, watch out for the shark's teeth andesite rocks.  They are everywhere and will blow out an edge really quickly and are about the least pleasant surface imaginable to take a tumble on.

 

There isn't a whole lot of what would pass for cuisine down the canyon, in my humble opinion, but the above advice is solid.  Buck's T4 is quality.

 

The new-ish brewery in there was a solid place for a pint and a burger the last time I stopped by.  Free shuffleboard, too!

 

post #9 of 21

On the rock issue, the word I was given was if you don't see tracks there, don't ski there.  There's lots of obscured nasty rock that can ruin your day.  Not saying you have to ski crud ('cuz you won't), but you want to be careful about the lines you pick.

 

Given your skills, you will have plenty to keep yourself busy. 

 

BTW, if there's any chance you can ski with Martin Bell, Rio, Ursula, or Nolo (Joan Rostad), or RidgeHippie (Phil Rostad), take 'em up on it.  You won't regret it.

 

Mike

post #10 of 21
Thread Starter 

Awesome tips.

Once again, Verizon rules the rural roost.

Roger on the rocks.

Keep 'em coming.

post #11 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by Veloscente View Post

 

Even on the Big Colouir, their footage gave the impression you could pretty much pick your line without any mandatory airs, so I'd ski it solo if patrol would let me in on my own without avy gear.


That's a no-go. You will need a partner and the gear. And it's the Big Sky Patrol you will have to sign out with .
You are correct, there is usually no "air" required. Last year you had to jump over some rocks to get into the chute. (We hope we'll have better coverage this season.)

 

Mike's report on Big Sky and Moonlight was pretty awesome. (Big Sky should pay him for his PR!)

 

One more part of the mountain that a lot of folks sort of overlook, is Flat Iron Mountain with the Lone Moose Lift. It's a fixed grip tripple chair. But it has nice runs. The nice thing for families is that you can have 2 easy goomers with absolutely NO traffic on, and 3 black runs. You can always meet at the lift.

 

It is easy to connect between the two resorts. Two lifts are "common ground": Pony Express and Iron Horse. Even they belong to Moonlight, you can use them with the Big Sky pass. If you dont' ski the North Summit Snowfield on a daily basis, you can save the money and not buy the upgrade every day. You can pick the day when to ski Moonlight.  If you are staying at the Big Sky resort, and you only have the Moonlight pass, you will have to use the free bus shuttle to get to Moonlight. (Or your car.)

 

Moonlight has some really long, nice groomers. Because it's mostly north-facing, it can be really cold. (But the powder stays even longer!)  A lot of the runs were logging roads, therefore narrow in sections. For the advanced skiers not a problem, for the beginner to intermediate skiers, it can be scary. They don't want to ski close to trees or drop-offs and therefore only use half of the width of the run available.

For advanced to expert skiers, Moonlight is a hoot! Lots of glades, and off Lone Tree and Headwater lifts, lots of steep too.

 

For dinner at the mountain: Andiamo (Italian) and The Cabin.

Let me know if you have more questions.

 

Ursula

post #12 of 21

It's been a few years since I've been to Big Sky but contrary to the negative reviews I've read about dining in the area I found it to be pretty good. I only spent a week there but hit a few of the local haunts. A few of the places I enjoyed the most was the 320 Ranch which is not on the access road but down the road towards Yellowstone. There was a German restaruant in the lower village that was very good but I don't know if it's still there since I don't see it in the listings anymore (can't remember the name of it). Bucks T-4 had good food but I found it to be more like a diner/bar. Lone Mountain Ranch was ok but it was worth it just to eat inside the beautiful building. I wouldn't recommend the Huntley or the restaurant in the lower base lodge and the food in the cafeteria was pitiful.

 

The last time I was there was the 1st year they put in the tram & Moonlight was under construction but not open yet so I'm sure a lot of things have changed. I would definitely recommend renting a car so you can enjoy the surrounding area around the resort. Touring the area was almost as much fun as the skiing. I've never seen as much wildlife as i did at Big Sky which for me was a treat. The review of the skiing posted above pretty much sums it up but Andesite mountain (not mentioned) was also lots of fun even though it wasn't exceptionally challenging. If I remember right it offered mostly intermediate to advanced intermediate terrain. I would also recommend renting snowmobiles for a day down at Yellowstone. We were lucky because it was late in the season & Yellowstone was closed but still very much enjoyed riding the trails outside the park. The day we went we only saw one other machine the whole day. I here it can be a zoo down there with all the snowmobilers at times. Anyway I hope you enjoy your trip, I'm sure you will. Big Sky is a place I would definitely like to go back to one day.

post #13 of 21

If I had one area to spend 8 days at it would be BS.  Lots of varied terrain: lots of steep stuff that you can access right off the Tram (no hiking) but there is even more if youj don't mind a little hike.  Some of the best (longest) greens and blues in the country for the family. And with 8 days you can explore it all.   If you do get snow - and you have an 8 day window to work with - it will last due to the colder temperatures and lack of the local crowd on a feeding frenzy.  My guess that you will have such a good time you will but BS near the top of your favorites.

 

post #14 of 21

Mike's dead on in his advice (was right behind him on "snowblower" day), but he missed out on mentioning Andesite mountain. What at first glance looks like the "little" intermediate hill has a lot of great terrain tucked off in the trees. If you want to split off from a varied ability-level group and meet up for lift rides, it's a great mountain. I was really surprised when Rio showed us all the good stuff in there.

 

You'll have a great time. I'll second Skigrud's comment -- if I had one eight day trip, it'd be at Big Sky, too.

post #15 of 21
Thread Starter 

Thanks a million everyone for all the great intel !

Things got busy & I somehow missed the last four posts back in November, but it was definitely a nice surprise to revisit this thread now just a couple weeks prior to our departure and discover this extra "stash" of insight.

 

I'm just itching to get out there and praying for snow!

Struck out on the fresh powder front on my trip to Mammoth last month, so I'm really hoping the snow gods are kind and dump some light, fluffy stuff on top of all those rocks.

 

I'd love to try and hook up with Ursula or anyone else who has contributed here to say thanks in person, but with two little kids (4 & 7) in tow and my wife's week-long conference schedule to juggle, past experience has taught me that it's virtually impossible to predict our family schedule on any given ski day, and it would be unwise of me to overcommit.

 

Thanks again, and here's hoping I bump into a bear or two on the mountain!

 

post #16 of 21

I just got back from 7 days at Big Sky.  We skied 6 days on the Big Sky side and one day in Moonlight Basin.  While we certainly duplicated some runs we definitely had enough varied terrain and options to keep our group of four strong skiers busy the whole time.

 

It was snowing when we left (isn't that always the way?) so conditions should be great for the next week or so.  

 

I found plenty of untracked pow off of the Dakota left, skiers right in an area called the Dakota Territory.  Quite a bit of "business travel" to get over there unless you're coming in from Liberty Bowl off of Lone Peak.

 

The trees at Big Sky tend to be pretty thick so I ended up bushwhacking a bit off of Ramcharger and Shedwood to get back to a cat track.  

 

The lift system takes a bit of figuring out if you want to make it to the edges of the resort.  We missed a few turns and wound up on Yellowstone property (private) and White Otter which really just serves the condos over there.  Study the trail map and get a feel for how much traversing is required to get laterally down the mountain in a hurry.

 

Watch out for rocks.  We all took hits and now my skis are in the shop for a base grind.

post #17 of 21

Par for the course there.  Last time it cost me $85 for base repairs.  Something about the type of rock there has these sharp bits migrating to the surface of even the groomers. 
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by dmourati View Post


Watch out for rocks.  We all took hits and now my skis are in the shop for a base grind.

post #18 of 21

I like La Luna restaurant in the meadow. Great margueritas. Make reservations. Get a hold of the Big Sky Coupon Book, ask a concierge. There is a 20% off coupon for La Luna. There is a free shuttle bus from the mountain to the meadow village and Bucks. If you have a car the 320 Ranch has specials Monday is prime rib $15. They have a pick 3 menu for $30. And one evening, don't know which, is 2 for 1.

post #19 of 21

I had the chance to ride in a snowcat and griped to the operator about the rock bands on Duck Walk coming back from Dakota.

 

He told me that the recent cold snap (it was -20F on Tuesday) combined with a warming cycle knocks rocks down from the wall onto the road.  There was  a total of 6 feet of snow on the road he said, indicating it wasn't a coverage issue per se but rather a new rocks on top of old snow issue.

 

Hadn't seen that before.

 

In Liberty bowl, I spotted and picked up a large rock sitting atop the snow and chucked it into the rock strewn slope on the skiers left.  Not sure it made a difference but I thought maybe I'd save someone some trouble later that day.

 

We even saw rocks in a cool little Natural Half pipe skiers left below Gun Mount.  Those definitely did some damage as I was too busy have a grand old time trying to emulate the best moves I'd seen by Shawn White in the X-Games.  
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by sibhusky View Post

Par for the course there.  Last time it cost me $85 for base repairs.  Something about the type of rock there has these sharp bits migrating to the surface of even the groomers. 
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by dmourati View Post


Watch out for rocks.  We all took hits and now my skis are in the shop for a base grind.


 
post #20 of 21
Thread Starter 

Quote:

Originally Posted by untrainable View Post
I like La Luna restaurant in the meadow. Great margueritas. Make reservations. Get a hold of the Big Sky Coupon Book, ask a concierge. There is a 20% off coupon for La Luna. There is a free shuttle bus from the mountain to the meadow village and Bucks. If you have a car the 320 Ranch has specials Monday is prime rib $15. They have a pick 3 menu for $30. And one evening, don't know which, is 2 for 1.


Thanks for the additional food feedback. 

We're transferring in from Bozeman: saved $400+ over 9 days by skipping the car rental

(4WDs big enough for family of 4 and ginormous double-ski bags cost some serious coin).

Is there some sort of cab or convenient shuttle service around Big Sky?

$400 will buy a lot of cab rides - and for that matter a couple pretty nice dinners.

 

As for the mountain recon & rocks, duly noted.  Sounds like it is wise to do a lap or two of a given area to scout obstacles before really letting 'em run.

Base damage is one thing, having a rock grab a ski at 35mph+ is another...

post #21 of 21

The bus is very convenient for getting around and it is free.  You can get a schedule from any bus you see or ask at concierge or look on brochure racks and the realtors for the schedule. Or online at http://www.skylinebus.com/routes-schedules/winter-schedule/. It can be confusing at first, but people are very friendly here and will answer any questions.

 

More dining: There is an "all you can eat fish fry" on Friday nights at "By Word of Mouth" in West Fork and they have a kid menu. I also think their pub burgers are one of the best deals for quality/size. I always split one with a friend. and they make great sweet potato fries. The rest of the menu is pricey. They also do a Tokyo Tues Sushi, and there is a new Sushi place in town.

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