From massive, alpine steeps to groomers that roll on forever, Big Sky’s terrain has something for everyone. But it’s not all about terrain. Ambiance is equally important for an incredible ski experience. I’m talking about spectacular views here, not fireside sushi.
From the Bowl or another of the alpine cirques, it feels like the mountain’s arcing flanks and ridges are engulfing me. The scale is hard to conceptualize until I see another skier juxtaposed against the immensity of the landscape. For me, the magic happens when those two things—terrain and ambiance—integrate into a moving dance with the mountain.
Big Sky draws skiers and snowboarders from around the world. To find out why, I spent a day on the mountain asking a handful of them what brought them here, and what keeps them coming back.
LAUREN GANDY & LINDSAY ROBINSON
While growing up in Michigan, sisters Lauren and Lindsay traveled west every winter with their family to ski, often at Steamboat Springs or Snowbird. Lindsey (left) still lives in Detroit, and Lauren is based in Houston, Texas. This was their first time to Big Sky.
Location: Riding the Swift Current Chair
Occupations: Project manager for a staffing agency (Lindsey); Emergency Medicine Physician (Lauren)
Hometown: Detroit, Michigan
Ages: 28 (Lindsay) and 33 (Lauren)
Favorite Run: El Dorado
What do you like about Big Sky?
Lauren: I like that Big Sky has more beginner and intermediate runs, as opposed to some other resorts that tend to be more advanced. It has a broader spectrum of trails that you can try.
Lindsay: I love this view, and I like how big the mountain is. It’s almost overwhelming, but I like it. Not a lot of people come to Montana. I feel like it’s kind of underrated.
Would you come back? Why?
Lauren: People are friendly and helpful here, [so] the hospitality would make me come back, in addition to the variety.
Lindsay: I need to become better at skiing. It’s more expert up there, but a good goal to have would be to get to the top of Lone Peak.
In over 45 years of skiing, Richard Gambin has ticked every major North American ski resort you can think of: Jackson Hole, Telluride, Aspen, Vail, Squaw Valley, Alpine Meadows, Heavenly, Snowbird, Park City, Whistler, Kicking Horse, Lake Louise, Big White, Alyeska, Jay Peak… the list goes on. After his first trip to Big Sky a decade ago, it quickly became his favorite. He now visits twice a winter, and over the years has introduced family and friends to Big Sky.
Location: Black Kettle Soup Company deck
Occupation: Attorney, certified ski instructor, former ski patroller
Hometown: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Favorite Runs: Midnight to Moonlight, Cold Spring, Big Horn and Hangman
What makes Big Sky different than other places you’ve skied?
Big Sky is different because of the lack of lift lines, accessibility to ski-in ski-out homes, great conditions, and good March weather.
What’s special about Montana?
It’s Big Sky Country. It’s a beautiful place.
During summers in North Dakota, Preston Smith helps on the family farm, which produces sugar beets, corn, soy beans, wheat and barley. He and his siblings will sweep the shop, ride in the tractor with their dad, and feed the cows and horses. Come winter, they attend school in Bozeman, Montana, and ski Big Sky every weekend. Part of the Big Sky Freeride Team, Preston has skied the Big Couloir five times.
Location: Top of the North Summit Snowfield
Hometown: Sawyer, North Dakota
Favorite Run: The Gullies
What do you like about Big Sky?
Big Sky never gets old. It’s so huge, you can ski stuff you’ve done 100 times and it’ll always change. The snow is always different.
What makes Montana special?
The forests, the camping, the skiing and the [wild] animals.
Emily Stifler Wolfe is a freelance writer based in Bozeman who finds the joys of skiing in the smoothness of snow beneath her feet, the cold winter sunlight on her face, and the stretch of snow-covered mountain ranges and river valleys surrounding Lone Peak.