The Ultimate Snow Experience: Big Sky

The Ultimate American Winter Experience - Big Sky Resort

I’m still new to this whole snowboarding thing. I finally learned how to properly snowboard last month outside of Portland, at Mt. Hood Meadows, but other than that my experience in the snow has been close to nilch.

This is partly why I felt so honored to have heard back from Big Sky Resort during my recent trip to Montana with an offer of an all-access lift ticket to enjoy their slopes for the day. I would be able to improve my skills in the snow while experiencing the biggest skiing in America. Yes, this was going to be the best kind of adventure.

We left Missoula before dark, as we seem to always do for trips, and sleepily made the 3.5 hour drive to Big Sky to arrive in time for the resort opening. We had picked up a little 4WD Subaru the day before from Dollar Rent A Car so we could explore a little more of Montana outside of Missoula.

Once we found ourselves in the mountain range near Big Sky, the scenery quickly changed from gorgeous to epically beautiful.

Big Sky, Montana - USA

As we slowly made our way through the large resort and to the bottom of the mountain where we would find rental gear and check-in, our eyes adjusted to the wintery village that lay before us.

Now, I haven’t been to many ski resorts, but Big Sky Resort was its own functioning town. It had everything from emergency care, to a chiropractor, and even a Thai restaurant (that looked really good by the way!). There were multiple cafes and eateries and places to go shopping. The upscale accommodations went on for as long as the eye could see.

Big Sky Resort - Biggest Skiing in America

To park for the day in the lot closest to the mountain it cost us a hefty $35, but we deemed the price worth it so we wouldn’t have to walk for ages and wait for the shuttle. We only had one day to enjoy the biggest skiing in America and we weren’t going to waste a minute.

Once we were geared up and ready to hit the slopes, we made our way to the first ski lift we saw, called Swift Current, which also seemed to be one of the main ones. What amazed me once we hopped on was how long the ride was, it was almost a 10 minute ride on a high speed line. I quickly realized that the slopes at Big Sky are serious business, none of those short and sweet kind of runs.

Big Sky Resort - Montana, USA

Big Sky Resort - Montana - USA

The lift kept going up and up. We would get to the top of a ridge and I’d think, okay we’re definitely hopping off once we get over this one, but there would be another hill in the distance once we cleared the last ridge. I turned to Kendall to make sure that we were in fact going to a beginner slope and not a black diamond for my first run down, and he assured me it would be fine.

Big Sky Resort - Montana, USA

When we eventually made it to the drop-off point, I slid off the lift with as much grace as I could muster (and without falling once!) and made our way to the start of the downhill portion. There was even a Mexican restaurant at the top of the run, just in case you needed a burrito on your way down. That’s when I knew Big Sky and I were meant to be.

What’s great about Big Sky and why I enjoyed it so much is the amount of options you have every time you go down. There are options for black diamond, intermediate and beginner paths all from one starting point. Or you can start on a beginner path and easily veer off to a side intermediate or black diamond route if you so wish.

Big Sky Resort - Montana, USA

The options are endless and we had the chance to change it up at least 5 or 6 times within my skill level from the start of the same lift. I soared through wide open slopes where I could work on my turns to the narrowest paths I’ve tried carving in.

While I was working on my turns in the more open slopes, Kendall, who is much more advanced than me, could be right alongside me on the side path that was cutting through trees and had jumps along it.

Big Sky Resort - Montana, USA

The immensity of the mountain was in a word, astounding. I only wish I had a whole week to explore the many options that the mountain offered, the many alternative paths that were hidden away for each run. Combine this with the fact that I was finally getting the hang of snowboarding and not falling so much, and my experience at Big Sky was by far my favorite snowy adventure I’ve had as of yet.

Big Sky Resort - Montana, USA

Although compared to Mt. Hood Meadows, which is much more of a neighborhood ski resort, Big Sky can come off at times as big and commercial. The upside to this is that it has something for everyone.

I had a full day of options as a beginner snowboarder, I didn’t even get to half of them. If you take into account the fact that beginner runs only make up 15% of the slopes, you can start to see the versatility and enormity of the mountain. Oh and did I mention that there are 4 mountains in total at the resort? We just stayed at the one for the day since the mountains are a ways apart from each other.

Big Sky Resort - Montana, USA

In terms of the rest of the terrain, 25% of the runs are intermediate, 42% black diamond, and 18% double black diamond. There are 34 lifts in total, 400 inches of annual snow, and about 2 acres per skier on average. As you can see, there is a whole lot of mountain to explore at Big Sky Resort.

The downside to such a large resort is, like I said before, the commercialized nature of it as well. Whereas everyone we met on the mountain at Mt. Hood Meadows was incredibly friendly, remembered me by the jacket I was wearing, and all the snowboarders and skiers were overly accommodating, Big Sky was more hit or miss.

Big Sky Resort - Montana, USA

All of the staff were laid back and friendly but some of the skiiers and/or snowboarders that had obviously been coming to the resort for awhile seemed to have  a chip on their shoulder and weren’t as friendly towards beginners.

A couple of skiers completely cut me off my first or second time down the mountain, making me lose my concentration and balance. I’m sure it’s something you’ll find at most big resorts with that many people going down the mountain at any given time, but you just have to shake it off and keep doing you.

I was happy to be snowboarding again, so it really didn’t bother me all that much, it’s just the difference I noticed between a much smaller resort and the biggest resort in America.

Big Sky Resort - Montana, USA

The other positive aspect besides the amount of options on the slopes at Big Sky, were the various amenities we found while we were there. There are lessons for beginners and a snow park for those wanting to practice their tricked out moves. They have two child daycares, a spa & salon, and plenty of places to stay the night. There are even two zipline courses and snowshoe tours you can sign up for. You could, without a doubt, literally spend a week here and not be bored.

There are well over a dozen different types of accommodation that are all connected with Big Sky, and although they’re convenient and luxurious, they will cost you a pretty penny. We ended up not staying at Big Sky because we simply couldn’t afford the digs, but there is also plenty of affordable accommodation just 15-20 minutes outside the resort.

Big Sky Resort Accommodation - Montana, USA

My personal favorite was 320 Guest Ranch, which was quiet and most definitely the perfect winter wonderland retreat away from the hustle and bustle of the mountain.

The Entrance to 320 Guest Ranch - Big Sky, Montana

All things considered, I had a wonderful time at Big Sky Resort, I only wish I would’ve had more time exploring all the options both on and off the mountain. If you’re looking for the ultimate snowboarding experience, I would recommend at least visiting Big Sky once in your lifetime. Go big or go home, right? It also helps that Montana is one of the most stunning states you may visit in America. I can’t imagine anyone being disappointed with what they find there.

Big Sky Resort - Montana, USA

Note: Big Sky Resort generously offered me a one day lift ticket for the mountain, but all opinions, as always, are my own. 

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The Ultimate Snow Experience - Big Sky, Montana

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Mimi McFadden
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Mimi McFadden

Travel Writer/Blogger at The Atlas Heart
Mimi founded The Atlas Heart to create a community of travelers inspired to see the world. The Atlas Heart is a space where you'll find anecdotes on slow travel, craft beer, outdoor adventures, and all the eccentric bits in between that this world has to offer.
Mimi McFadden
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