25 Top Spots: #8 Big Sky, MT

25 Top Spots: #8 Big Sky, MT

Overall Rank: #8
Snow: #19
Steeps: #12
Nightlife: #20

Lone Peak dominates the imagination, skyline, and skiing of Big Sky, and construction of a tram up its east face (plus a south-side lift) five years ago was the key to transforming the former intermediate hill into an expert's sanctuary. Today, runs with technical rock gardens spill in sustained pitches from the north, south, and east sides of the peak.

The upper mountain catches a lot of weather, and the tram sometimes will get held because of wind, wind-loaded snow, and low visibility, but there's still great skiing on the lower reaches. Andesite Mountain is a good option for warm-ups or high-speed carve sessions, but the best choice is to hoof it to the A to Z Chutes, a short hike above the Challenger lift. Just watch for rocks wherever you are on the mountain; Big Sky is notorious for eating bases. And never ski untouched snow surrounded by tracks-the locals know where all the reefs are.

The Vitals

Top Elevation: 11,145 feet
Vertical drop: 4,350 feet
Snowfall: 258 inches (8,920')
Skiable Acres: 3,600
Bars: 18
Eateries: 32
Phone: 406-995-5000
Web: bigskyresort.com

[250AD LEFT]

Big Couloir isn't the toughest test piece at Big Sky, but it's such a prominent line down Lone Peak that it will nag at you until you have it under your belt. It's wide enough to drive a bus down but has a tricky entrance, 40-degree-plus pitch, and occasionally ugly snow. To really knot up your stomach, try Castro's Shoulder: It's 50 degrees, tight and technical, and you do not want to fall.

Midwinter Montana can be bitter. One year it got so cold, paint peeled off the lift towers. The optimist's view: Cold air means powder as light as cold smoke and snow that lasts. Big Sky doesn't get a ton of flakes-just 258 inches-but it's all grade-A white.

The closest thing to a rager at Big Sky is when local Austrians bust out their accordions and lederhosen beneath the antler heads at Chet's Bar in Huntley Lodge. To really fire it up, go to Bozeman.

Local's Take
"The Wave, below the Dictator Chutes, isn't always open, but when it is, it's great-steep, narrow, and full of snow. It goes from 25 feet wide to 10 or 15."