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When it comes to ski resorts in America, Big Sky, Montana doesn’t get enough credit. The mountain offers some of the best skiing in the United States, but that doesn’t mean it is for advanced-skiers only. Big Sky is a family-friendly ski mountain that offers a variety of terrain for all levels of skiers and snowboarders. It is such a huge mountain that both expert skiers and novices will have a blast. Although Big Sky is probably the best resort for beginner skiers, there is plenty to do for even the expert skier or boarder.
About Big Sky Mountain Resort
From steep shoots to gentle rolling green runs, Big Sky boasts 300 named runs and 5,850 acres of skiable terrain. It’s one of the larger ski resorts in the United States and one of the highest. From the top of Lone Peak, you can ski a whopping 4,350 vertical feet, the second longest vertical drop in the United States. With four connected mountains, 7 terrain parks, and 36 lifts you could ski at Big Sky for days without skiing the same run twice.
Big Sky is located approximately 90 minutes outside of Bozeman, Montana, a cute, small town in itself that deserves more visitors. Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport is the closest airport for out-of-state visitors arriving by air.
Weather in Big Sky, Montana
Winters in Big Sky, Montana are cold… really cold. This is one of the only mountains where I have skied that I needed hand warmers just to make it through the day. When skiing in Big Sky it is super important to wear the appropriate ski gear and apparel to stay warm. If you aren’t dressed the part, you will be miserable on the mountain. Big Sky receives an impressive amount of snow each season. On average, they receive 400 inches of snow each year!
Why Big Sky is the best resort for beginner skiers and families
Big Sky Mountain Resort is somewhat isolated, which is another reason I think it is one of the best resorts for beginner skiers. Unlike many of the ski resorts in Colorado or Utah, it isn’t within close driving distance to a large city. Because of that, the mountain never feels crowded. Even on holidays, weekends, and the week after Christmas when ski resorts seem to be most packed with people, lift lines at Big Sky are extremely manageable. You’ll also find a large number of wide ski runs in Big Sky, Montana so even at its most crowded, beginner skiers will have plenty of room to make wide turns and take their time getting down the mountain.
Another thing that makes Big Sky a family-friendly ski resort is that kids ages six and under always ski free with parents or adult guardians. Kids 12 and under also ski free if taking lessons. Skiing is an expensive sport, so this is a HUGE cost savings for families, especially if you have multiple children. You’ll also find lodging at the Big Sky Mountain Resort base area to be relatively affordable compared to other ski resorts in the Rocky Mountains.
Ski school at Big Sky Mountain Resort
Big Sky’s ski school is great for kids and adults alike. One of the nice features available to those with young children who aren’t quite ready for all-day ski school is the ability to do an hour-long private session during the day. The instructor will pick them up from the childcare room, get their suited up in their ski clothes and take them out for an hour while you ski. There is a fenced off area where those in ski school can practice before joining the rest of the skiing public on the mountain. At the end of the day, they even let us take our daughter in that area to give her another chance to get used to being on skis.
Child care in Big Sky, Montana
As a parent and an avid skier, we return to Big Sky every year knowing our daughter enjoys her day while we are on the mountain. Before she was old enough for ski school, we utilized the child care at the base of the mountain resort. Child care is essential if taking a ski trip with a baby or toddler. The child care facilities at Big Sky are conveniently located in one of the closest buildings to the lifts, directly at the base. The staff has always been friendly and attentive, and the room is clean and well-stocked with toys and activities for kids. While child care at Big Sky (or any ski resort for that matter) is expensive, for us, the cost is well worth it.
Navigating Big Sky if you’re a beginner skier
Don’t let the stats scare you. Big Sky is big. The numbers prove it. But despite the intimidating vertical, this mountain is for more than just those that want to do crazy GoPro videos. This mountain is perfect for those that are strapping on skis for the first time. When it comes to beginner mountains, Big Sky provides the ideal terrain.
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Why? Because you’re not stuck to an isolated part of the mountain. This mountain is huge and the beginner terrain will feel just as big. Chances are, you’ll start at the base of Big Sky where you can find many beginner runs.
For young children who are learning to ski or those who aren’t ready to get on a lift yet, Big Sky has a long, covered magic carpet, or conveyor belt to take you up the slightest incline at the base. Our daughter, at the age of 3, road this conveyor belt and skied between our legs down this small incline, and loved every minute of it.
The Explorer lift will be your ideal spot as it only services beginner terrain. But, greens are accessible from The Swift Current lift as well, which is what you will need to head over to the Moonlight side of Big Sky Resort. Accessing the Moonlight terrain can take awhile as the trail is long, but it is well worth it. The Derringer Quad lift over on the Moonlight side will change up the scenery and keep beginner skiers from getting bored with the same terrain. Seventeen percent of the mountain is beginner terrain which is a lot considering the size of Big Sky Mountain Resort. That percentage of green runs at Big Sky top many other ski mountains in America.
Where to ski at Big Sky if you are an advanced skier
Looking for advanced runs at Big Sky is like walking into a liquor store and looking for beer. You’ll see a lot of options, but which ones should you try first? Do you like trees or do you like steeps? If you’re craving steep runs then everybody will tell you to take The Lone Peak Tram. And they’re right. The peak stands out, and you can see the lines you want to take while standing at the base.
But, if tree skiing is your thing then avoid the peak and go skier right. You’ll need to take The Swift Current lift from the base and then navigate your way toward The Shedhorn lift. This lift is getting a nice upgrade for 2018-2019 winter as the slow double-chair is removed and replaced with a high speed lift. It’s just one of many improvements happening at Big Sky in the near future. From there, the possibilities are endless. You have bowl skiing and glade skiing. There are no greens on this side of the mountain so you can count on the crowds thinning out fast.
Once at the top of Shedhorn, you can find some great tree skiing in the area or even ski down toward The Dakota lift. What is great about this side of the mountain is that you very well could be the only skier. Lift lines are a rarity, even in the high season, and fresh tracks are easy to find even in the afternoon.
Big Sky Mountain Resort base area
The base area at Big Sky Mountain Resort is less developed than what you will find at many of the other ski resorts in the Rocky Mountains. Nevertheless, you will find a variety of hotels and lodges, family-friendly restaurants, shops, and après ski activities. Montana Jack is our go-to restaurant for burgers and beers after a fun day of skiing. It is lively and loud enough that a toddler doesn’t bother other guests dining there. For lodging, both the Summit at Big Sky and The Huntley are great options for families. Both hotels are practically ski-in/ski out.
Aside from skiing, there are a lot of other winter activities in Big Sky, Montana. Dog sledding, ziplining, sleigh rides, and snowshoeing are just a few things to do in Big Sky in winter other than skiing.
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Why Big Sky is our favorite resort for a family ski trip
Big Sky is a resort that appeals to every type of skier. My husband has been skiing most of his life and would be considered an expert skier. I’m more intermediate, and our daughter is just learning to ski. But there are so many ski runs of varying difficulty at Big Sky that we never get bored and all of us feel challenged. That unique quality not only makes Big Sky the best resort for beginner skiers, it makes it a great resorts for all skiers – regardless of skill level. In fact, we consider skiing at Big Sky one of the absolute best things to do in Montana.
Have you been to Big Sky, Montana? What do you think is the best ski resort for beginner skiers and families? Leave us your thoughts in the comments below.
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