Big Sky, Montana: Rank 24 West, 1997

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With the second biggest vertical in the U.S. (4,180 feet) and jaw-dropping expert terrain off the Lone Peak Tram, Big Sky is starting to get noticed. "The tram is mind-boggling," raves one reader. So is the snow, which averages 300 inches per year. This sprawling (3,500-acre) ski area still remains uncrowded¿partly because it's hard to reach and partly because amenities haven't caught up to thespectacular skiing. The resort's comatose nightlife is often lamented. "They are trying to be a major player, but have a way to go," says one reader. Some of the best restaurants in Montana, however, are within 10 miles, including the Lone Mountain Ranch, which also features world class cross-country ski tracks and frequent wildlife sightings.

What's New A colossal lodge and mall area, which willtransform the small mountain village, is under construction and scheduled to open in 1998-99.
A Good Deal Super Saver Weeks, Nov. 26-Dec. 12, 5 nights, 4 days, including lifts, breakfast and lodging at the Shoshone Condominiums, $522/person; (800) 548-4486.
Medals Gold Snow Quality, Terrain, Challenge, Lifts;Silver Grooming, Value, Service.
High/Low Rank Lifts, Terrain (13); On-MountainFood (63).
Don't Miss Touring Yellowstone Park, 20 miles away, on cross-country skis is a true wonder of the world.
Reader Remarks "We love the new tram and lack of lift lines." "Becoming too pricey for the average skier. Very poor grooming."