News from the snow
Big Sky USA
It was Chet Huntley, the late NBC newscaster who conceived and built Big Sky and was responsible for its opening in 1973. After his death in 1974 it was bought over by Boyne USA, a Michigan-based corporation which also owns a chain of other mountain ski and golf resorts across the United States including Boyne Mountain and Boyne Highlands in Michigan, Brighton Resort in Utah, Crystal Mountain in Washington and Gatlinburg in Tennessee. The family-run corporation started in 1947 and is still run by Everett Kircher and his family. Located in the southwest corner of Montana, Big Sky is surrounded by the magnificent Gallatin Range of the Northern Rockies. With its spectacular natural beauty its not surprising that Robert Redford chose the Gallatin River to film his classic movie "A River Runs Through It". Skiing is on two lift linked peaks, Lone Mountain which resembles the Matterhorn and towers at a height of 3398m/11,150ft and Andesite Mountain at 2682m/8,800ft . Lone Mountain peak is definitely a serious skiers' mountain but the lower levels are perfect for intermediates. The Mountain Village sits at 2286m/7,500ft and Meadow Village at approximately 1890m/6,200ft. The average winter temperature hovers around 20º F while summer temperatures generally climb into the upper 80's. With very little humidity, the snow is extremely light and fluffy averaging around 10m/400 inches annually. The Lone Peak Tram gave Big Sky the biggest lift-served vertical in the USA in 1995 (a title since taken by Snowmass in 1997), and the area has won numerous awards for its uncrowded slopes and non-existant lift lines/queues. The 15-person Dopplemayr tram carries passengers 3,300 vertical feet at a rapid 4.5 minute pace to the summit of Lone Mountain. There's an average of less than two skiers per acre on the busiest days and the longest lift lines are reportedly to the free breakfast buffet at Huntley Lodge where up to 927 guests may be served. The resort still holds the world record as the place where the most vertical feet have been skied in one day, by local Rusty Squire who made 220 helicopter ascents to claim his title. Skiing for all standards on two lift-linked mountains and good facilities for boarders and telemarkers. The steepest route down is Castro's shoulder, with a 50 degree pitch, whilst the Big Couloir run down from the tram has pitches of around 42 degrees and is 2,600 feet long. Big Sky boasts one of the longest runs in the States - the run down from Liberty Bowl to the Base Area being 6 miles long. Numerous accommodation options to suit all tastes and budgets, including the slopeside Huntly Lodge, Shoshone and Snowcrest Lodge condominiums. The resort's biggest project has been the construction of the 45 million dollar slopeside Summit Hotel located less than 300ft from two high speed quads and a gondola on what might be the last best place for slopeside lodging in the Rockies. Big Sky is located close to Yellowstone National Park which has the world's greatest concentration of thermal springs including their Old Faithful - popular with tourists as the most frequently erupting geyser in the park. Tourist hot spots include Yellow stone Lake, the largest mountain lake in the northern hemisphere and the Old Faithful Inn, the largest log structurein the world and a National Historic Landmark. Built in 1904 of ageless knotty pine logs and other indigenous materials, the lobby rises 85 feet above a massive fireplace of native stone. Like Yellowstone, its totally unique. I
A new tram into the top of Lone Peak gave Big Sky the biggest lift-served vertical in the USA in 1995 (a title since taken by Snowmass in 1997), and the area has won numerous awards for its uncrowded slopes and non-existant lift lines/queues. There's an average of less than two skiers per acre on the busiest days and the longest lift lines are reportedly to the free breakfast buffet at Huntley Lodge where up to 927 guests may be served. The resort still holds the world record as the place where the most vertical feet have been skied in one day, by local Rusty Squire who made 220 helicopter ascents to claim his title. There is skiing on two lift-linked mountains for all standards and good facilities for 'boarders and telemarkers. The steepest route down is Castro's shoulder, with a 50 degree pitch, whilst the Big Couloir run down from the tram has pitches of around 42 degrees nd is 2600 feet long. There are numerous accommodation options for all tastes and budgets, including the slopeside Huntly Lodge, Snoshore and Snowcrest Lodge condominiums. The resort's biggest project has been the construction of the 45 million dollar slopeside Summit Hotel. Big Sky is located close to Yellowstone National Park.
Lone Peak provides the starting point for a multitude of white-knuckle descents including the Dictator Shutes, the Big Couloir and the Gullies. The lift also opened the Peak to advanced skiers, in the wide open alpine terrain of Liberty Bowl. Certain runs accessed by the Lone Peak Tram require skiers and snowboarders to sign out with ski patrol, ski with a partner and be equipped with a transceiver and shovel. The terrain available to visitors of Big Sky is unequalled by any resort in the States. The Lone Peak Tram is accessed by riding either of Big Sky's two gondolas, then taking the Lone Peak triple chairlift to the Upper Morning Star trail.
Having lift served access to above-treeline terrain is rare but to have the ability to begin a run from the very summit of a Matterhorn-like mountain is fully distinctive of Big Sky and its Lone Peak Tram. The Shedhorn double chairlift allows less advanced skiers to enjoy wide-cut runs into the trees on the lower elevation of the mountain's south side. Shedhorn can be accessed from either the tram or Gondola II. South Face skiers return to the main base area via a traverse to the top of Gondola II and down intermediate runs such as Lobo or Calamity Jane.
A favourite with children is alway the natural half-pipe on Lower Morning Star while the best intermediate cruising run is Elk Park Ridge. Above the trees skiing, Austrian run ski school and Dopplemayr lift all give Big Sky a distinct European flavour.
Big Sky have a free skiing policy for children of 10 and under (up to 2 kids 10 and under get free lift tickets with each adult). Family benefits are'nt limited to lift tickets, kids also stay free in the Huntley Lodge with their parents and can enjoy the expansive breakfast buffet free of charge. Most of the resort restaurants also feature special kid's menus for lunch and dinner.
In the winter, quick and tasty lunches may be had at the Lone Peak Café, upstairs in the Mountain Mall. After a round of golf or for lunch on the deck, stop at the Bunker Bar and Grill, open during the summer, located in the Meadow Village at the Golf Course.
Other nightspots offer a vast array of selections, ranging from western-style menus to American, Mexican, Italian and Chinese cuisine. Live bands can often be heard in the area. Movies, dancing, family fun nights and lectures add to nightlife variety in the Big Sky area.
n the canyon, check out the Buck's T-4 game room, with pool tables, football and video games. Locals like the Corral and the Half Mon Saloon, with darts and pool. Both are roadhouse-style Western bars.
After the lifts close you could enjoy an old fashioned sleigh ride into Montana's past. Horse drawn sleighs ride through the pines to the North Fork Cabin where you can enjoy a feast prepared over a century-old woodburning stove and enjoy live entertainment before the lantern-lit ride back home.
For more details of apres-ski visit www.bigskychamber.com or check Big Sky's local newspaper, the Lone Peak Lookout which has entertainment listings.
Big Sky's parent company, Boyne USA Resorts, has hired Dave Rogers to design the new area. According to Snowboarder Magazine (Oct. '98), Rogers is "the Midwest's premier snowpark builder and manager." Rogers, who has 10 years' experience building terrain parks, also will be reconstructing and rearranging the parks at Boyne Mountain and Boyne Highlands in Michigan. When creating terrain parks, Rogers prefers to rely on his intuition and the riders' input. "I prefer to examine the slope and observe how the snow is laying, then start pushing the snow around and feeling my way," Rogers said. "I also ask for feedback from the locals - that's the key to a great terrain park." The resort has purchased a Pipe Dragon grooming machine, and Rogers plans to reshape the park each month. The park is located on North Ambush off the Ramcharger High Speed Quad. Events staged at the Park include the Thrash and Bash Cross Games - a combined boardercross, skiercross and telecross event.