Far from the crowds in southwest Montana, Big Sky is the place to go for keen skiers wanting chutes and gullies, plus some of the United States’ toughest in-bounds skiing on upper Lone Peak’s steep, exposed slopes. With 150 trails and 4,350 feet (1,326 m) elevation from top to bottom, Big Sky offers more vertical than most other resorts.
Big Sky, Montana, used to be considered an intermediate’s deserted paradise by the few who had heard of the resort. But all that changed in 1995 when the tram (a small cable car) was built to the top of Lone Mountain, the highest peak in the region, opening up a hill from which there is no easy way to descend. Overnight it became a yardstick by which experts can measure themselves while it remains short of waiting lines even by U.S. standards; it’s still Montana, after all.
Big Sky is right up there in every sense: just a few hundred miles further north is Canada; Lone Mountain, the resort’s highest point, towers 11,150 feet (3399 m) above sea level, and the area’s skiing puts the resort at the top of the league for keen intermediates, advanced and expert skiers. But the telling word is keen. It’s a long way to Montana from most places and Big Sky as a resort is not big on anything other than skiing. There are saving graces, specifically Yellowstone, the oldest National Park in the U.S. and a unique winter destination in its own right, just down the road. Within the resort accommodation standards are high even if the architecture-which features a 10-story hotel block -doesn’t take your fancy.
With around 400 inches (1,016 cm) falling throughout the season, snow is seldom a problem although cold and wind can be. They say that the highest elevations rocks “float” thanks to the scouring gales that blow there. But if you’re a Big Sky type of skier, that won’t put you off, nor should it: you’re going there for some of the most challenging and extensive terrain in North America.