Big Sky Is Montana’s Ultimate Year-Round Mountain Escape
Step aside, snowbirds.
What is it about mountains that capture our imagination? For me, it goes beyond aesthetic appeal. They exist as punctuation—emphatic reminders of the awesome forces that shape our earth over eons. A single snapshot millions of years in the making. They wink at me, knowingly, from the horizon's edge.
How they call to you is a surprisingly personal affair. But when you’re in western Montana, it’s a conversation you won’t be able to ignore. And if you’re in Big Sky, you certainly won’t want it to end.
As far as aptly named towns go, you’d be hard-pressed to find a rival (Boring, Oregon maybe?). The landscape of Big Sky remains relentlessly on-brand.
Turn west off of US-191 and a wide alpine basin unfurls before you. The “Meadow” is a verdant valley bookended by sloping ridges on opposing sides. Your sights, however, will be drawn directly ahead to the triangulated mass of Lone Peak dominating the encroaching panorama. It's basically one of those dictionary illustration-type deals for the word “mountain.”
Lean into the cowboy-chic vibes
Big Sky Golf Course. It was designed by links legend Arnold Palmer and sits at an average elevation of 6,500 feet—which means you’re afforded not just stunning views, but a performance-enhancing boost to your long game.
You’ll soon discover that most things in this resort town of less than 2,400 residents are pretty straightforward, allowing the experiences to speak for themselves. The golf course is called
Just up the road is Lone Mountain Ranch. As advertised, it’s… well, a ranch overlooking Lone Mountain. It’s also one of the most undeniably bonafide adventure lodges in the country, featuring a slew of standalone cabins, some of which are holdovers from the homesteaders that settled this region at the turn of the 20th century.
Rustic, western-themed exteriors belie the modern trappings of luxury that exist within: heated bathroom floors, high thread-count linens, a smartphone-activated concierge service. Nestled alongside North Fork Creek, the destination draws fly-fishers and mountain-bikers in the spring and summer, giving way to sleigh-riding and nordic skiing once the snow falls.
“Big Sky appeals to so many different types of travelers,” notes Lone Mountain Ranch owner Paul Makarechian. “It’s a place for families, a place for the adventurous, and a place for nostalgic romantics hoping to reconnect with western traditions of a bygone era.”
Escape the crowds
Big Sky, along with its sister resort, Moonlight Basin, can be accessed by a single lift ticket. Combined, they form one of the largest terrain—5,750 acres—in all of North American ski country. Between the beginning of December and the middle of April, the mountains can record as much as 300 inches of snowfall. Yet they remain relatively untrodden compared to their more touristy counterparts in Colorado and California.
“Even on busy days, you'll never wait more than 10 minutes in a lift line, and the price is way more reasonable than Vail,” says Matt Morley, a professional pilot who went to college in nearby Bozeman. Home to the region’s largest airport, Bozeman serves an an entry point for most visitors to Big Sky Country. “Just the drive to get there—winding your way down Gallatin Canyon for an hour, spotting bighorn sheep licking salt off the side of the road. It’s a spectacular scenic journey you won’t soon forget.”
And because it takes a little added effort to get here, Big Sky tends to attract a more intrepid set of travelers. Namely, the sort that's eager to escape the masses.
“For the outdoor enthusiast seeking adventure on a daily basis and a slower pace of life, there's no place better than Big Sky,” says Mike Donaldson, owner of Gallatin River Guides. Since 1984, his company has been connecting visitors with some of the best fly-fishing on the planet. So renowned is the area for its wild trout rivers, in fact, that it even served as backdrop for a Brad Pitt movie on the very subject.
Big Sky... even bigger appetites
Big Sky is a surprisingly reliable destination for good food, too—spanning a range of styles and price points. At the base of the slope, riders enjoy an innovative arrangement of frankfurters at Yeti Dogs. Scissorbills Saloon is another local standby, offering accessible après-ski, including oversized nachos and Philly cheesesteaks to complement local microbrews.
On the higher-end, the Montana Dinner Yurt is a candlelit BYOB affair reached only by snowcat or sled. It showcases a chef-inspired, protein-driven menu over three hearty courses. Back down at the Lone Mountain Ranch, Horn & Cantle goes the way of elevated gastropub, pitting bison short ribs and pickle-brined fried chicken against barrel-aged cocktails and an international assortment of wines.
Embrace the small town ethos (quietly)
Big Sky remains no stranger to high-profile personalities, thanks to an elite private development known as the Yellowstone Club. But despite the likes of Bill Gates, Ben Affleck, and Tom Brady milling about, the town is remarkably low-key and refreshingly unassuming.
“We have a phenomenal community of folks that enjoy living here and tend to care about each other,” adds Gallatin River Guides' Donaldson. “Big Sky is a great place to slow down and enjoy life with family and friends. It is a small town with great weather and beautiful views in every direction—a no brainer in my opinion.”
More than a century after those old dusty pioneers first rolled into town, Big Sky awaits discovery by a whole new generation of nomads. Though some are happy to let them take their time in the pursuit. “Please don’t tell people about how awesome it is,” begs Matt Morley. “Keep it a secret!”