By Gabrielle Gasser

A view of Lone Peak from my porch.

Growing up in Big Sky, I learned to ski when I was two and I was in Ski School every week until I was too old. As part of gym class at Ophir School, we also had the opportunity to ski during school days on Fridays during the winter. And, extra bonus, on Wednesdays I got out of school early and squeezed in an extra hour and a half of skiing with my Dad. Essentially, I was a tiny terror ripping it up all over the mountain learning all the secret spots, and there are a lot.

Big Sky Resort is a lesser-known gem tucked away in the southwestern corner of Montana in the town of Big Sky. The “biggest skiing in America” does not disappoint with 5,850 skiable acres, a cast of colorful local legends, and plenty of rowdy lines. The Mountain Village base area rests at 7,500 feet with a vertical gain of 4,350 feet up to the top of Lone Peak which stands proudly at 11,166 feet. The resort receives over 400 inches of annual snowfall and serves mostly advanced and expert terrain with 42% black diamond runs and 18% double black diamond runs.

Recently, Big Sky introduced a triple black diamond rating for some of their gnarliest and most exposed lines. One such line is the Big Couloir affectionately known as “The Big” which was upgraded to a triple black. This is a super fun line for expert skiers, it’s steep and narrow but has phenomenal pow on a good snow day. In order to ski it, however, you have to check out with ski patrol in the “penalty box” located at the top of the tram, you need a partner, and you need a beacon, shovel, and probe.

The view down the Big Couloir with the tram in the distance.

Katie Schuler, a finalist in this year’s Jackson Wild Summit, films pangolins for her documentary about the animals, “Nigerians Fight to Protect the World’s Most Trafficked Mammal.” Schuler will speak alongside photographers Sandesh Kadur and Doug Gimesy at this year’s Wild About Conservation Summit. Courtesy Photo/Katy Schuler

The tram at Big Sky holds just 15 people and runs about every 15 minutes. Even if you don’t feel comfortable skiing down, it’s worth a sightseeing trip to the top to enjoy the 360-degree panorama of the Rocky Mountains. Be warned though, even just skiing back down from the base of the tram requires you to be comfortable and competent on blue terrain.

For those just learning to ski or needing a refresher, Big Sky does have a great beginner area served by three different magic carpets and the Explorer lift which accesses mostly green terrain. Big Sky has a great Mountain Sports School, and it’s always a good idea to snag a lesson if it is your first time at this resort. A helpful reminder: make sure you know which base area your lesson is meeting at because there are two, the Mountain Village and the Madison Base.

Photo Credit/Big Sky Resort

Wow, that’s crazy, two base areas! Yeah, they aren’t kidding when they say it’s the biggest. If you don’t know your way around, it is very easy to become lost skiing Big Sky. There are even hidden corners that most visitors don’t ever find and that locals treasure. The best such corner is served by two lifts, Shedhorn and Dakota. These are tucked around the side of the mountain on the south aspect and are the place to be on a powder day. Normally there aren’t lift lines at Big Sky, but when there are, this is where locals flock. You can lap these lifts all day and never have to return to the base or head back out to the rest of the resort until you are good and ready.

Big Sky is owned by Boyne Resorts and partners with the Ikon Pass and the Mountain Collective. So, if you’re looking to come to Big Sky next winter, there are definitely options. Currently, the resort is in the middle of their 10-year-plan, “Big Sky 2025” to revamp lifts, add parking and housing, and update all their transportation among other things. The most recent result of this plan was the installation of the Ramcharger 8 ski lift, now an 8-seater with heated seats and a bubble, the only one of its kind on the continent.