Clouds hung low over a gray morning when Tess and her son Hagen, visiting from Colorado, loaded the chairlift at 8 a.m. As they rode up, 5-year-old Hagen watched the snow fall on Ramcharger’s blue bubble.
Cresting Andesite Mountain, they broke through the fog, and the sunrise lit the world around them. Behind them, Lone Peak glowed in the magic light. Hagen led off down the wide-open slopes of Deep South above a golden sea of clouds. An inch of new snow sparkled on top of the freshly groomed trail and skied like silk.
“It was the most beautiful light you’ve ever seen,” said Hagen’s mom Tess Weaver Strokes, a freelance writer and former Powder magazine editor.
After four runs to themselves, they ducked into Everett’s 8800 Restaurant for Instagram-worthy eggs and bacon, with a side of cinnamon rolls and fresh fruit. After one last run, Tess dropped Hagen off at the Lone Peak Playhouse before splitting off to ski the A to Z Chutes. As she learned on that trip, Big Sky’s vast range of uncrowded terrain, unreal views, and host of activities serve up a family trip for the record books.
WHAT NOT TO MISS
Mountain Sports School
My 3-year-old has been on skis at least 15 times, but never had a lesson until her “Small Fry Camp” at Big Sky this winter. The enthusiastic instructor showed my daughter how to shuffle her feet and walk uphill, and held her skis in a wedge to teach her to snowplow (something my shouting “pizza! pizza!” hadn’t accomplished). Instead of my daughter’s regular mix of screaming and limp noodle, she put all her energy into skiing.
With lessons for all ages, small classes, Big Sky’s Mountain Sports School aims to instill a lifelong love of the sport. Lessons are available at both the Mountain Village and the Madison Base, and kids 12 and under ski free with a lesson.
Tip: Lone Peak Playhouse accommodates children 6 months to 8 years old and will coordinate Mountain Sports School lessons while parents are on the hill. The playhouse has locations at both base areas.
Everett’s First Tracks is all about having perfectly groomed trails to yourself. And if you get really lucky, it’s about untracked powder. “There’s nobody else out here. How can you not like that?” said Chris S., a railroad conductor based in Pocatello, Idaho, who recently spent a morning carving fresh corduroy. Don’t forget gourmet breakfast at Everett’s 8800 Restaurant. Offered only to First Tracks participants, it might just be the best part.
After rock climbing for 20 years, I thought the zipline might be a little cheesy. But standing on the edge of the first platform, I had to take a deep breath before leaping. And then: I was flying. Linking a series of four ziplines up to 490 feet long, the Nature Zip is an exhilarating tour of the snow-covered forest, 30 to 50 feet above Moose Tracks Gully.
Tip: The adventure begins with a 15-minute snowshoe hike under the Swift Current chairlift. It’s only a quarter mile, but you may want to dress in layers so you’ll stay warm after cooling down from the hike.
Non-skiers or those looking for a break will find peace and quiet on a snowy hike through the forest up Moose Tracks Gully, a trail under the Swift Current chairlift. Drink in the scenery, and learn about the area with a knowledgeable guide. Snowshoe hikes leave daily from Basecamp in Mountain Village at 1:00 p.m.
S’mores & Ski Patrol Dog Demo
Meet the hardworking ski patrol dogs, and watch a rescue demo in the Village Plaza after the ski trails close for the day. Plus delicious s’mores roasted over a hot fire.
The feeling is surreal. Your body knows how to move, but lit only by a headlamp beam, the rhythm of skis and shadow becomes pronounced. Beginning at sunset, Big Sky’s private, guided night skiing experience is unlike anything else in North America. On a clear night, you can spot constellations through Ramcharger 8’s bubble. To really feel like you have the mountain to yourself, take a moment to pause and turn off your headlamp and appreciate the tranquility of the night and snowcats illuminating the trails in the distance.
Tip: Even with Ramcharger 8’s heated seats and weather-proof bubble, nights can be chilly. Prepare with extra layers (especially bottoms) and maybe even hand warmers.
Hit up après or dinner at this classic family spot, which has been a Mountain Village fixture since 1974. Newly renovated, Chet’s features games, a Montana-style menu (think bison queso with buffalo chips and huckleberry barbeque wings), a tap lined with Montana beers, and kid-friendly choices.
Emily Stifler Wolfe is a freelance writer based in Bozeman who believes breakfast is the best part of First Tracks. Unless, of course, it’s a powder day.