The weather forecasts look good for Big Sky Resort in Montana this winter season. With reliable snow (upwards of 3 feet have already fallen on Lone Peak before November!) and tons of family-friendly activities, I think Big Sky is the perfect family-friendly ski vacation.
Opening day is set for November 23 (Thanksgiving Day); mark you calendars and find out why we think Big Sky is the perfect spot for your family ski vacation.
Big Sky Perfect Family Ski Vacation Planning
One of my favorite catchphrases from Big Sky is that they have more "acres per skier" than any other resort. If you fear getting mowed down on crowded, icy trails, don't worry, you won't find that here. Big Sky has more than 5,800 acres of skiable terrain and 300 named runs making it nearly impossible to find a crowd.
Though there aren't a ton of direct flights from NYC, if you time it right with your airline you can get into Bozeman airport with ease with a direct flight. The small airport is easy to navigate and, in minutes, you can get from your gate to your bags to your rental car.
Similar to Jackson Hole, the airport is small, charming, and efficient. Once in your car, it's an easy and extremely scenic drive to Big Sky. There isn't much to stop for long the way. Bozeman has a few grocery stores - it's cheaper to shop there than the pricey organic spot near Big Sky. We always like to make a few meals in on our trips to have cozy game or movie nights with the girls. We opt to pay more and go to Roxy's (the organic option) since it's cute and had all our favorite brands.
Lodging at Big Sky Resort Montana
Big Sky offers families plenty of options, from pricey and enormous mountainside houses to budget-friendly cozy condos. We split our stay between a log cabin in Cowboy Heaven (we covered them on an earlier stay and plan to do a dedicated feature on them later this month) and a large suite of rooms at the Summit Hotel.
The Summit Hotel is an excellent home base if you want quick access to the village's Ramcharger lift and lessons. If you've got young kids you can't beat this location in the center of the village. Home to the nicest spa at the resort, it's the most full-service spot on the mountain. The gym is decent and there's a monstrous indoor/outdoor heated pool. Definitely opt for a rate with breakfast included.
There's some new exciting options coming to Big Sky. Loads of new houses will help fill the rental pool and the word on the ski hill is that a new luxury hotel (with a spa!) is on the way. Take a gander at all the lodging options here.
Also, Big Sky Resort is adding rental delivery services this season. Guests in select properties will not have to stop at the rental shop first to grab their equipment. Delivery services will fit guests with equipment right at their hotel or condo. This is great news for single parents who want to make arrival less stressful.
Getting Ready to Ski Big Sky
While lodging and access to the resort are important, the reason you come to Big Sky is for the SNOW! With more than 400" a snow a year, it's a safe bet your ski holiday will be a success. They call it the "Biggest Skiing in America" and I have to agree. For nature lovers, you can't beat this experience of wide open spaces.
But before I talk about ripping down the expert slopes, let me assure you, beginners are more than welcome at Big Sky. Unlike a lot of other big resorts out West, Big Sky invests a ton of time and money on making the beginner experience a happy one.
They know if they get the beginners hooked, they will be back. Big Sky has tons of lesson options. Lessons run out of the village base and also Madison. Since lodging is sprawling at this resort (it gives you privacy and room to spread out), there's a convenient spot no matter where you are staying. Pick from privates, to group lessons to guided experiences - you can customize how you experience the mountain.
On our first visit, our girls had great success in the group lessons. They are grouped by age and ability. Remember: Plan to arrive at least 30 minutes prior to lesson for registration or 1 hour prior if equipment rental is needed.
Bonus: Kids 10 and under ski free with their Mountain Sports lesson. Free lift ticket applies to day(s) in which that child is enrolled in lessons. Children 5 and under always ski free.
Now that the girls are stronger skiers than the adults, we skip the lessons, but we still rely on guides. I always recommend families invest in a mountain guide for a day or two. I find it helps me learn the lay of the land and gives me a chance to try terrain that I might deem too challenging. A knowledgeable guide is an investment in your day - totally worth it.
What can you expect? Everything. If you want groomers, you can find plenty of them. If you want to hike and find a pure un-touched line, you can do that too. As an advanced skier, I am happy to challenge myself, but I don't love moguls. I adore playing in powder and popping in and out of trees. 42% of the trails are advanced--making it a wonderful spot for a family that is ready to try longer runs and explore terrain.
When I am skiing Big Sky, I can easily spend four or five days hunting down fresh groomers or untouched powder in complete bliss. But there are other on-mountain finds you can't miss.
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Lone Peak Tram
On our first visit to Big Sky it was too windy for me to take the Lone Peak Tram (11,166'). This year we had a clear afternoon to take in the views. Lines can form at the Tram base, so be patient. Once you make it to the top walk around and take in the 360 views. There are a few options on how to get down. On our visit, the black/expert slopes didn't have great late-season coverage. While we could've made it down, we opted to download off the Tram. There is no "easy" way to ski down. If you aren't an expert, plan to download on the Tram.
Feeling bold? There's a big coulior for those of you with nerves of steel. I'm happy soaking in the views and then downloading! Whether you plan to ski down or just grab a selfie, don't miss out on the Lone Peak experience.
To get to the Tram, you need to get on our favorite lift - Powder Seeker. This lift is home to the blue bubble. What's a blue bubble? Just the best invention since sliced bread! It's a heated bubble lift with a cool blue filter on the wind shield. Not only will your family warm up in between runs, you'll also see everything in an awesome shade of blue! The bad news? The new lift is so fast it only takes you three minutes to zip back up to the top.
Favorite Places to Ski at Big Sky
While we tried a ton of different trails, our family was drawn to the Powder Seeker lift. Powder Seeker is our happy place. We all loved dropping into the bowl and doing laps in this area. It's steep enough to make you feel like you are working, but also wide open so you can make sweeping turns if needed to control your speed.
More Turns Please
This was the first year we made it over to the South Face of the mountain. It's extremely quiet over there. Not that there are crowds anywhere at Big Sky, but off the Shedhorn Double Lift we had miles of terrain to ourselves. We loved the powder stashes along Upper Sunglight and had a great lunch on the deck at the Shedhorn Grill.
Don't miss the Nastar course
Since we are raising little ski racers, it's only natural we try the Nastar course. They girls love to race us and finish WAY ahead of Mommy and Daddy. The Dual Giant Slalom course is located on Ambush and accessed via Ramcharger lift. This fun course is designed for intermediate to expert skiers and riders of all ages.
The NASTAR course is open Thursday through Sunday. Ask at the lifts for hours and rates. You can try to beat my older daughter's time...25.78. Not many adults were able to break this!
Coming for 2017/18
Big Sky Resort added three new gladed runs: OxBow, PB&J Way and Wild Bill. One is parallel to Swift Current Chairlift, one is accessible from the North Summit Snowfield and the third is off Horseshoe. Also, Big Sky Resort more than doubled the width of Fast Lane, the main arterial from the Madison Base Area back to the Mountain Village.
Where to Eat in Big Sky
I devoted and entire post to dining options in Big Sky. You can head here to read more. On mountain dining is spectacular at Big Sky. They've pumped a lot of money into landing great variety on the slopes. From the deluxe setting of Everett's to the laid-back chill vibe of the Shedhorn Grill, you can feast in a major way at Big Sky.
Our family picks for "can't miss" food include lamb at Everett's 8800, burgers at Shedhorn Grill and soups at the Black Kettle Burrito.
Off Mountain Fun at Big Sky Montana
You can definitely spend five full days skiing without EVER getting bored with this mountain. It's just massive and offers a wide variety of terrain. That being said, everyone likes to mix it up.
I highly recommend taking a day to cross country ski with the folks at Lone Mountain Ranch. They have miles of groomed trails over there and it's an easy process getting kids up and running on nordic skis quickly.
On the Big Sky property, you can snowshoe or schedule a guided zip-line course. Since our kids don't weigh much, we do the shorter course with a nature walk. It's an awesome way to find a winter adventure.
Our girls love the Euro-bungey in the village. They never miss a chance to flip upside down. The folks at the Basecamp in the village can offer even more ideas on how to spend your days if you want to take a break from skiing. One of these days I really want to try dog sledding. We've never, ever been bored or lacking for things to do.
Big Sky Perfect Family Ski Vacation
What's missing? Not much. Aside from crowds, I can't say there's much I can find fault with at Big Sky. Montana is idyllic spot for a family ski holiday. You won't get the pot smoking I have run into in Colorado or the crowds you'll find at Park City. If I HAD to offer some suggestions, I would say they need a world-class spa. Ideally something like the Scandinave Spa at Whistler and Tremblant would open here - I think it would be a hit. And the other note: They could use more high-end shopping options.
And it's not just fun in the winter. Check out what our writer, Kate Bayless did on her Montana summer visit with the kids.
Have you skied at Big Sky? Are there more questions I can answer? Let me know in a comment or tag me on social media and I'll try to help.
This post Big Sky perfect family ski vacation is not paid. Travel accommodations were made to facilitate the review. All opinions are my own. Photos may not be used without expressed permission from Momtrends Media.