Long known for incredibly diverse and expansive skiing (No. 1, Terrain), and cold, dry powder (No. 11, Snow), Big Sky Resort has always been a skiers’ mountain. With 5,850 acres to explore and runs dropping up to 4,100 vertical feet from the dramatic summit of Lone Peak (11,166 ft.), that fact certainly hasn’t changed. Couloirs, snowfields, gullies, and bowls keep even the best skiers engaged (Challenge, No. 4), while long, family-friendly groomers, Plake-worthy bumps, and eight terrain parks provide something for everyone—and terrific views, too (Grooming, No. 13, Scenery No. 14).
Once harangued for having aging and unreliable lifts and a dearth of off-mountain activities, Big Sky’s ongoing capital improvements include a growing fleet of high-speed, high-capacity lifts with heated seats and protective bubbles (including North America’s only eight-passenger chairlift; Lifts, No. 4), a recently revamped base village, and rapidly growing lodging and dining options. It’s still Montana, however, so don’t expect too much of a club scene—unless you like partying with taxidermy moose. —Drew Pogge
2021 Reader Resort Guide Rankings for Big Sky Resort: No. 22 in the West
- BRAGGING RIGHTS: Hike the knife-edge ridge separating the Headwaters from A-Z chutes and follow the wind. Blowing S-SW? It’ll be deep in Three Forks, on the Headwaters side. Blowing N-NW? Follow the blower into A-Zs.
- LOCAL TIP: If it’s dumping or flat light, visibility on the upper mountain can be vertigo-inducing, so play in the trees off Dakota or poke around Lone Tree.
- DOWN-DAY ACTIVITY: Go snowmobiling up Buck Ridge (just south of Big Sky) and get an entirely new perspective on Lone Peak—bonus points if you can see your tracks from the day before.
Wondering who is No. 21 in the West? Read about Heavenly Mountain Resort, Calif.
Don’t Forget about No. 23: Alta Ski Area, Utah
Big Sky’s 2020 SKI Magazine Reader Resort Survey Rank: 26th in the West
Buckle up, buttercup; Big Sky ain’t messing around. With 5,850 skiable acres draped from the striking summit of 11,166-foot Lone Peak, there’s terrain for any skier—and lots of it (Terrain, No. 4). Experts can ski up to 4,100 continuous vertical feet right off the precipitous tram dock, and sample puckering inbounds chutes, gullies, and faces galore (Challenge, No. 5).
Families have plenty of gorgeous terrain (Scenery, No. 13) to explore as well, with long, buffed-out groomers, bumps, and terrain parks serviced by new, state-of-the-art, high-speed lifts (No. 8). Which brings us to Ramcharger, North America’s fi rst eight-person chair—complete with heated seats and bubble protection. While few resorts can match Big Sky’s expansive and challenging on-mountain experience, après, dining, and lodging have always been a sticking point (Dining, No. 25, Après, No. 28, Lodging, No. 33). But for 2020, Big Sky has renovated the Mountain Village to include a new food hall with nearly double the seating capacity, more diverse cuisine options, and cozy après areas. — Drew Pogge
- BRAGGING RIGHTS: Hike up the knife-edge ridge of the Headwaters, and drop north into the steep, powdery goodness of Three Forks, or south into the famous A-Z Chutes, where everyone in the tram line will be judging your style.
- FAMILY EXPERIENCE: For something out of the ordinary, sign up for night skiing—Montana style. You’ll head out with a private guide and ultra-powerful headlamps to shred Andesite under the stars.
- LOCAL TIP: Follow the wind on Lone Peak. Ski the lee aspect (it can change daily, if not hourly), and enjoy wind-deposited freshies and smoothed-out chalk even days after a storm.
SKI Magazine’s 2019 Review of Big Sky, Mont.
Long revered for diverse and expansive acreage, challenging terrain, and Montana’s famous “cold smoke” powder, Big Sky’s always been a skier’s mountain. But with ongoing major lift and infrastructure improvements, and a rapidly growing town square in the Meadow Village, the resort is growing into a well-rounded adventure hub.
Experts naturally head straight for Lone Peak’s iconic 15-passenger tram—the closest thing to heli-skiing most skiers will ever experience—and hike-to Headwaters terrain. But families enjoy 2,300 acres—the total acreage of many major resorts—of beginner and intermediate terrain, long, empty groomers, bumps, and terrain parks off the north side of Lone and all over Andesite Mountain. This plethora of options earned the resort a high score in Terrain Variety, as well as accolades for its Snow and Local Flavor.
But Montana is still remote, and Big Sky is still not the place to party. Still, for skiers who value huge terrain with tons of variety, deep snow, and few crowds more than on-mountain dining or après scene, Big Sky delivers in spades. – Drew Pogge
New in 2019:
- An eight-seat, high speed, heated bubble lift (the first in North America) takes the place of the venerable Ramcharger Quad—which will replace the slow Shedhorn chair.
Come to Big Sky For The…
- CHALLENGE Big Couloir is THE classic line off Lone Peak; Three Forks in the Headwaters area is hike-to only, and blows in perfectly.
- DOWN-DAY ACTIVITIES Go dog sledding with Yellowstone Dog Sled Adventures or snowmobiling with Canyon Adventures.
- SCENERY Everett’s 8800 serves great burgers and Lone Peak views.
- ON-HILL EATS It’s not fancy, but the Shedhorn Grill’s cozy yurt on the south side of Lone Mountain is tough to beat, with wagyu burgers, local brews, and unbelievable views.
- BRAGGING RIGHTS Liberty Bowl off Lone Peak, because skiing 4,350 feet off the summit is just glorious.
- LOCAL SECRET Blue Moon Bakery has freshly made pizza, baked goods, and sandwiches.