Snowmobiling Around Big Sky, Montana

By: Blythe Beaubien         November 20th, 2014

There are so many great things to do and see when you visit Big Sky in the winter.  There’s downhill skiing, Nordic skiing, snowshoeing, nature hikes and animal watching, sleigh ride dinners, and even fishing.  But the most fun of all for the major adrenaline junkies is snowmobiling in and around Big Sky and the nearby Yellowstone National Park.

In Big Sky, there is a company called Canyon Adventures and they will rent you a snowmobile and let you go off on your own up on the Buck Ridge trail.  From the top of Buck Ridge, you’ll be surrounded by some of the most beautiful mountains in Montana including the Spanish Peaks, Lone Mountain and the craggy Sphynx Mountains. But if you’re a novice, beginner, or just want someone to show you around, they have guided trips as well.  For more information and pricing, visit snowmobilemontana.com/rates

Snowmobiling in Yellowstone National Park is a great way to see the country’s first national park in the wintertime. There are a number of tour operators that can plan out a route based on where you want to go in the park, what you’d like to see, and how long you want to be outside.  Custom daily tours are offered through Rendezvous Snowmobile Rentals and you’ll have the opportunity to learn about the history and geology of the park, while photographing wildlife and the geothermal features that dot the park.  For more information, visit yellowstonebigsky.com

Located about 45 minutes from Big Sky is the town of West Yellowstone and it’s a snowmobiling mecca.  In and around West Yellowstone, or “West” as the locals call it, are hundreds of miles of groomed snowmobile trails, endless deep powder, adventurous mountain riding, and back country riding to test the skills of even the most advanced riders.

So, once you’ve had enough of the ski hill, or if you don’t ski at all and want to get out and see the sights of Big Sky country, snowmobiling is a great way to see a lot of terrain in a short amount of time.

 
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Snowshoeing in Big Sky

By: Blythe Beaubien         November 4th, 2014

Whether or not you’re a skier or a snowboarder or not into downhill sports at all, you definitely need to take some time during your Big Sky winter vacation to explore the outdoors via snowshoes.  It’s a great workout and a fun way to explore some of the areas hiking trails that are covered in snow during the winter months.

My first adventure in snowshoeing was with a friend who is also from California, but she’s lived in Big Sky for a bit longer than me.  We’d been talking about going snowshoeing all summer long, so in preparation, I headed to REI during their fall sale to pick up a pair of snowshoes for myself.  As a longtime city dweller, that’s a sentence I’d never thought I’d write.  I was used to picking up a pair of heels for a girls night out on the town.  But I digress. 

So, early on a Saturday morning, my friend picked me up and we headed to the “Reflector Trail,” which is near the water treatment plant and starts at the beginning of the disk golf course.  We strapped on our snowshoes and headed up hill.  Strait. Up. Hill.  My lungs were burning, my calves were on fire, and my quads were like Jello.  But, wow, what an experience – so peaceful, so serene and such a great way to explore the Big Sky great outdoors.  Although I couldn’t walk for two days after our snowshoe up Reflector, I was ready to go for it again the next weekend.

After doing some research, I found out that Big Sky Resort offers a guided snowshoe tour through Basecamp.  The tours go out daily at 1 p.m. and the price includes snowshoe rental for those that don’t have their own.  I booked a tour for myself on the next Saturday and it was such a great experience.  Most in the group were non-skiers and looking for a way to see the mountain at Big Sky Resort.  Our guide was enthusiastic and eager to show us the way.  We headed up towards the Swift Current ski lift and up towards the Moose Tracks trail.  The tourists in the group were hopeful to see a moose because of the trail’s name, but no such luck. 

What we did see however, was equally impressive.  The trail ran between lots of Alpine trees and we saw many animal tracks – fox, snowshoe hare and winter birdlife.  And, just a few minutes into the trek we were encouraged to turn around and look downhill and take in the view.  We saw the resort’s Mountain Village, the Spanish Peaks mountain range, and the Big Sky Meadow area.  It was such a clear, bluebird day and the view was breathtaking.  Overall, the trip took about 1.5 hours round trip and was a good cardio workout while enjoying the serenity of Lone Mountain and its entire majestic surrounding views.

Snowshoeing in Big Sky is a great activity for those who don’t ski and also for those who do enjoy downhill winter sports.  Although the history of snowshoeing dates back to over 6,000 years ago and historically was used for employment and survival for hunting and traveling, it’s been a form of recreation since the 1970s.  It’s a winter sport that I highly recommend and encourage everyone who visits Big Sky during the winter months to give it a try.

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Cross Country Skiin in Big Sky, Montana

By: Blythe Beaubien         October 23rd, 2014

Many people visit Big Sky during the winter months for the world-renowned downhill skiing and the “Biggest Skiing in America” at Big Sky Resort.  But for those who prefer to enjoy the snow and the outdoors with less risk, cross-country, or Nordic skiing, is a great way to explore Big Sky during the winter months. 

Located in Big Sky, Lone Mountain Ranch offers 85 km of groomed trails.  The Ranch also offers rentals and lessons for first timers or those with experience who want to improve.  A hot cup of soup from the Ranch dining room is a great way to take a break and enjoy some Montana hospitality.  For more information, visit www.lonemountainranch.com

The Meadow Village area is also a great place to cross country ski.  There are a lot of groomed trails that meander around the land that is the Big Sky Resort golf course during the summer months.  For me, it’s a peaceful, mind cleansing and a great way to get some exercise when I only have a small amount of time to get outside.  But, I’ve also spent hours alone out on the trails, taking in the views of Lone Peak and looking for moose and other wildlife along the way. 

The gear that is required for cross country skiing is a lot less expensive than a downhill setup, and if you’re just visiting or new to the sport, you can rent a full Nordic ski set with shoes, skis and poles at Grizzly Outfitters, located in Big Sky’s Town Center.  For more information on rentals visit www.grizzlyoutfitters.com

And, for a truly magical day on cross country skis, visit Yellowstone National Park.  The park is closed to car traffic during the winter months but cross country skiing into and around the park is a great way to explore the country’s first national park.  And, you’re guaranteed to see some great wildlife including bison, elk, and maybe even a wolf or two. 

So, whether you want to give your body a break or just don’t downhill ski at all, you can still enjoy Big Sky in the winter by strapping on a pair of Nordic skis and hitting the many miles of groomed trails that run throughout Big Sky.  See you out there!

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Winter Ziplining in Big Sky

By Blythe Beaubien        July 11th, 2014

Most of us have experienced zip lining in a warmer, more tropical climate like Costa Rica or maybe Hawaii.  But what about zip lining across the ski runs of Lone Mountain at Big Sky Resort?  It can be done!

During the winter, Big Sky Resort offers two options for zip lining, both of which can be booked through the Resort’s Basecamp office.  The Adventure Zip takes adrenaline junkies up the Explorer Lift to begin the adventure.  Or, you can ski to the first zip line, but that requires doing the entire adventure with ski boots on – not totally recommended as it is hard to navigate the snow and ice around the zip lines, and your ski boots add extra weight which will slow you down.  The Adventure Zip takes three hours, and there is a max weight requirement of 200 lbs. and a minimum of 80 lbs., so this one is not ideal for families with smaller children.  Once at the top of the Explorer Lift, let the zipping begin!  You’ll fly around the mountain on four amazing zip lines, some which span up to 1,500 ft. long and 150 feet above the ski lifts.  You’ll end the zip line adventure with a “twin zip” where you can race your fellow adventurers over the base of Big Sky’s Mountain Village. 

Alternatively, you can do the Nature Zipline, suitable for families and for beginning zippers.  Weight restrictions include a minimum of 45 lbs. and a maximum of 300 lbs.  This two hour adventure begins at Basecamp in Big Sky Resort’s Mountain Village with a 20-minute snowshoe hike up Lone Mountain.  This tour includes three zip lines that range from 300-500 feet in length, with a maximum height of 60 feet above the ski runs.  You can wave to your friends who are skiing the Huntley Hollow, Middle Road, Hangman’s and Calamity Jane ski runs as you zip across the snow covered terrain.    
What to wear? Dress as if you were going skiing, minus the helmet, that’s provided through basecamp.  Wear snow boots that can accommodate snow shoes.  Layers and a camera are strongly recommended.

Who can go?  Anyone who is up for the adventure (within the weight requirements for each). 
For more information and to book a reservation (strongly recommended), please call Basecamp at 406-995-5765 or email basecamp@bigskyresort.com
Happy zipping!

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Big Sky Winter Events

By Blythe Beaubien        June 27th, 2014

There is a giant mountain in Big Sky known as Lone Peak, it’s the main reason winter visitors flock here for epic skiing and snowboarding.  But, it’s not just the mountain you should come here for, there are many events that take place each year during the winter months, and here are a few of my favorites.

Christmas Stroll in Town Center
Typically takes place the first Friday in December.  All of the businesses in the Big Sky Meadow Village and Town Center stay open late for shoppers and holiday merrymakers.  Each shop provides a snack or a beverage to entice you to linger longer and maybe get a start on your holiday gift shopping.  The end of the evening concludes with a fireworks show over the ice rink in Town Center. 

Big Sky Blue Grass Festival at Big Sky Resort
This music event brings blue grass musicians in from all over the country.  Spend the day skiing and the afternoon and evenings warming up while dancing to classic blue grass.  Also enjoy food, drink and lodging specials at Big Sky Resort. 

Glide & Gorge at Lone Mountain Ranch
There’s nothing I love more than Cross Country skiing in the winter except for delicious, soul warming food. Usually in mid-March, this event combines both!  Participants meet at the Outdoor Shop at Lone Mountain Ranch and can XC ski or snowshoe the ranch’s many miles of groomed trails while stopping along the way to enjoy snacks and treats prepared by Lone Mountain Ranch, Buck’s T-4 and other area restaurants.  Beverages are also provided by the local Lone Peak Brewery and others.  At least you’ll burn some of those calories off right away. 

Pond Skim at Big Sky Resort
This is the quintessential winter event in Big Sky and the locals look forward to it all winter long.  It takes place on the second to last day of the ski season.  The competition is open to all ages and participants ski down the face of Hangman’s ski run, over a jump, and then try to clear a pond of water.  About 1 in 5 skiers make it across.  Most wear crazy costumes and those that don’t make it across are left wet but still come out of the pond with a smile.  The hillside along the ski run is always filled with spectators and it’s a great party to end the ski season. 

Lone Mountain has been here for hundreds of years, and will be for hundreds more.  So be sure to take advantage of some of the other great things that are a part of a Big Sky winter.

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Top Three Winter Hikes in Big Sky, Montana

By Blythe Beaubien        June 13th, 2014

Of course a lot of visitors come to Big Sky during the winter for the skiing. But, there are also some great Big Sky hikes that are beautiful during wintertime too.  You can leave the bear spray at home because those cozy creatures are hunkered down in hibernation for winter but do dress warmly, bring plenty of layers, water, and definitely your camera.

My favorite winter hike in Big Sky is the Ousel Falls trail.  It can be slick in the afternoon once the sun goes behind the hill, so I suggest wearing tracks on your boots.  To access the trail, drive about one mile past Town Center on Ousel Falls Road and you’ll see a parking lot on the left hand side of the road.  The trail is 1.5 miles out and back and you’ll enjoy views of the South Fork of the West Fork of the Gallatin River.  The destination is the Ousel Falls waterfall, which will most likely be frozen over depending on what month you go, but it’s a spectacular site and a great photo opp. 

For a more challenging hike, head up the Reflector Trail, which is located behind the Big Sky Community Park and softball fields and just above the water treatment facility.  Early in the winter season you can wear winter boots, but January – March I suggest using snowshoes on this hike.  You’ll enjoy rewarding views of the Meadow Village and Lone Mountain, with a gain of 1,066 feet in elevation on this 3.5-mile loop.  The last part of the hike brings you out into an Aspen Meadow that is so serene during the winter – again, bring your camera!

For a good family friendly winter hike, head into Bozeman and hit the Bozeman Creek Trail, also known as the Sourdough Canyon Road.  It’s an old logging road that runs along Bozeman Creek (hence the name) and you can walk in as far as you want and then turn around and go back.  To get to the trail, once you are in Bozeman, take South Church Avenue (becomes Sourdough Road after crossing Kagy Boulevard) heading south, turn right on Nash Road and continue a short distance before turning left on Sourdough Canyon Road. Follow Sourdough Canyon Road until the end of the road.  After the hike I suggest checking out downtown Bozeman for it’s many shops, restaurants and bakeries. 

So give your skis a rest and hike on!

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Apres Ski Music Venues in Big Sky, Montana

By: Blythe Beaubien         May 30th, 2014

After a long, hard day of skiing, there is nothing I enjoy more than grabbing a cold beer and taking in some live music.  In Big Sky, there are a ton of après ski live music venues.  There’s live music almost everyday of the week - at Big Sky Resort in the Mountain Village, in the Meadow Village, and at numerous bars and restaurants in the Town Center.

My favorite place to hear some live music is at the Carabiner bar, which is located in the Summit Hotel at Big Sky Resort.  They have nightly beer specials, great wines by the glass, and a good bar menu for a snack to hold you over until dinner. 

For a true Montana bar experience, check out the Saloon at Lone Mountain Ranch after skiing at the resort or Nordic skiing on their many miles of trails.  They serve a great Moscow Mule in the traditional copper mug.  Bruce Anfinson is my favorite performer at the Ranch, he sings great cowboy songs and tells amazing stories along the way. 

Ousel & Spur Pizza Company, located in the Big Sky Town Center, has live music every Friday night during the winter season.  They have a rotating series of local artists that perform acoustically.  And, their pizza is to die for!

Also located in the Town Center is Choppers Pub & Grub.  They host a variety of musicians during the winter months and have a great après ski scene.  It’s where the locals go to check out tourists. 

And finally, if you’re looking for great BBQ to pair with your live music, check out the Gallatin Riverhouse Grill.  They feature live music on the weekends and bring in bands from all over the country.  The food is good, the beer is cold, and the live music is rockin’. 

As you can tell, there’s no shortage of venues for music in Big Sky.  The après ski scene almost always promises live music no matter where you go.  And, if you’re here in the summer too, you can look forward to the free, weekly, outdoor summer concert series in the Big Sky Town Center. 

Happy listening!

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Dog Sledding in Big Sky, Montana

By: Blythe Beaubien         April 28th, 2014

Earlier this winter I was lucky enough to experience authentic dogsledding in Big Sky and the Moonlight Basin area.  My family came to town for a visit and since they don’t ski, I had to come up with other winter activities in Big Sky to keep them occupied.  Over the years, I had heard that the dogsledding experience was not to be missed, but as a local, usually you don’t branch out and away from your normal everyday activities.  That is, until you have family or friends who come to town who want to see and do it all.  Let’s just say that I’m so glad that my family doesn’t ski, because if they did, we wouldn’t have had this experience of a lifetime.

The winter dogsled experience can be booked through Spirit of the North, a tour company based out of Ennis, Mont., but they do many half-day trips in the Big Sky area.  We booked our trip for New Years Day 2014, and what an amazing way to ring in the New Year.  We did the afternoon half day trip as we figured it would be a bit warmer and sunnier. 

To meet the dogs and the tour operators, we drove up the Big Sky spur road, past Big Sky Resort and into Moonlight Basin.  We followed the signs for “dog sledding” which took us to the gate at the private Jack Creek Road.  Like magic, as we pulled up to the gate, the gate opened and we drove through.  Just a few yards ahead we saw a few of the dogs excitedly running alongside the road as if to guide us to where we should park.  We parked the car and as we got out we were greeted by a number of friendly Alaskan Husky sled dogs.  The dog adoring family that we are, we were already in love.

The tour operators invited us over to the sled area.  They made sure that we had plenty of layers of warm clothes, good winter boots, and the spirit of adventure.  I also recommend wearing ski goggles or sunglasses, both for warmth and protection from the wind during the trip. 

We waited for the rest of the group to arrive and then the excitement began.  The dogs were so eager to get to work.  They were barking and yelping and running about.  There is no mistaking the fact that these are working dogs, they know that they have a job to do and they aim to please.  All of the tour guests were invited to help link up the dogs to the sleds. I was intrigued by how the tour operators matched the dogs together, knowing which dogs got along with which and which dogs had secret love affairs and needed to “work together.”  Each sled had a team of 8-10 dogs that would be pulling us along the trail. 

Once the dogs were leashed up to the sleds, we were asked to get into the sleds.  The sleds hold 2-4 people depending on the size of the people in your group.  And, for the brave ones, you can even volunteer to drive a sled.  I was too nervous and my sister was recovering from the prior evening’s festivities.  But, our dad was very up to the challenge.  When he raised his hand and volunteered to drive our sled, my sister and I looked at each other wide eyed and said, “Oh boy, here goes nothing!” After a few tips and pointers from the guides, he stood on the back of the sled, my sister and I got into the sled and we held on for dear life.

The dogs were still barking loudly and at this point we were all anxious to get going.  The teams of dogs and the sleds took off one at a time towards the groomed trail through the woods.  Seconds after we took off it was so quiet and peaceful, the dogs had stopped barking and they were hard at work.  It amazed me to see how in tune they were with each other and how they just knew what to do.    The ride was relaxing, picturesque with views of Lone Mountain, the Spanish Peaks and the surrounding Lee Metcalf Wilderness area.  For me, the experience was very spiritual.  It was a way to see the Big Sky area that was so different and unique.  Watching the dogs work together as a team was impressive and something I’ve yet to see humans figure out. 

The entire trip lasted almost 3 hours and we traveled over eight miles of scenic terrain. We stopped half way for a hot cocoa and cookie break and a chance to interact with and meet more of the dogs.  Soon enough, the dogs became anxious and excited again and it was time to head back to the “ranch.” 

Once we arrived back at the starting point, again all guests were encouraged to help unleash the dogs and help the tour guides get the dogs back into their little crates for their journey back to Ennis.  The dogs were exhausted but full of pride.  They just finished a hard day’s work and knew that they’d be treated and rewarded when they got home. 

Dogsledding in Big Sky was truly an experience that I will never forget.  Although it was months ago, I can still smell the fresh air, hear the sounds of the dogs, and feel the sense of calm that came over me as we were sledding through the forest.  For visitors and locals alike, I sincerely recommend the Spirit of the North dogsled tour.  It’s unlike any other adventure I’ve ever had. 

For more information and to book a dogsled adventure, please visit www.huskypower.com

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Winter in Yellowstone National Park

By: Blythe Beaubien         April 7th, 2014

During the summer months, Yellowstone National Park is a destination for many tourists from around the world.  The geysers are popular and the animals aplenty.  But, did you know that the park is open during the winter months too?  Located a picturesque 45 minute drive from Big Sky, visiting the park during the winter is a fun and unique experience.

For me, winter in the park is the best time to be there.  The chances of seeing wildlife are increased and you’ll most definitely see bison, maybe some elk, a bald eagle and other unique birdlife.  The bears though, they’re sleeping, so no chance for that.  And for me, that’s a good thing!  Sure, it’s harder to get into the park because a lot of the roads are closed to car traffic, but there are plenty of other ways (which are more fun anyway) to visit Yellowstone in the winter. 

For the adventurous thrill seekers, you can tour around the park on a snowmobile.  There are a number of tour operators that offer guided snowmobile tours through the park.  They will plan out a route based on where you want to go, what you want to see, and how long you want to be outside.  Custom daily tours are offered through Rendezvous Snowmobile Rentals and you’ll have the opportunity to learn about the history and geology of the park, while photographing wildlife and the geothermal features that dot the park.  For more information, visit yellowstonebigsky.com

For those that want to take in the sites in a more protected mode of transportation, the snowcoach tours are the way to go.  Based in West Yellowstone, Montana, Yellowstone Alpen Guides offers daily winter snowcoach tours which take you to Old Faithful and the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone.  With Yellowstone Alpen Guides, you also have the option of cross-country skiing or snowshoeing while on the trip.   The snowcoaches are classic, historical bombardiers, modernized for comfort and low emissions, and made for over-snow travel.  You can take pictures from the snowcoach and stop along the way to view wildlife.  For more information go to yellowstoneguides.com

And for me, the most tranquil way to visit the park in the winter is to either cross-country ski or snowshoes into the park and around on the numerous trails.  This is your best bet for seeing some great wildlife.  Your quite, stealth like movements on xc skis allows for sneaking up on unsuspecting wildlife.  You can capture great close up photos of the animals and the many breathtaking sites in the park.  The park has miles of trails for the adventurous skiers and snowshoers. Whether you are skiing a groomed trail in a developed area or if you prefer to venture into the backcountry, always be mindful that you’re out in the wildness and it has its dangers including wildlife, deep snow, open streams, quick changing weather conditions and the threat of avalanches.  But just be prepared, bring plenty of layers and lots of water and snacks and you’ll be ready for a peaceful day of exploring the park and untouched terrain. For a list of printable ski/snowshoe trail maps, please visit nps.gov

I encourage you to visit Big Sky and Yellowstone National Park in the wintertime.  The crowds are diminished; the wildlife abundant, and the adventures are endless.  Just don’t tell too many people how much fun you had!

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Winter in Town Center

By: Blythe Beaubien         March 28th, 2014

The Town Center area of Big Sky is home to numerous shops, restaurants and amenities.  During the summer months, Town Center is the hub of activity in Big Sky as it hosts the weekly farmer’s market and the free outdoor concert series. 

But, Town Center should not be overlooked during the winter months.  Growing up in the Midwest, ice skating was a huge part of my childhood during the winter.  But, a family move to California meant that those days were over once I hit my teen years.  So, two winters ago, when I saw that the boards were going up and the rink was being flooded, a flash of nostalgia brought me back to my days on the ice.  I bravely rented a pair of skates from Grizzly Outfitters and set out to see what I could remember about skating.  The first few steps onto the ice were not pretty, but I got the hang of it and soon was circling around the rink with a giant kid like smile on my face.  There is something so pure and simple about ice skating, the sound of the blades gliding across the ice, the noise that you make when you come to a quick stop, and the promise of a cup of hot chocolate after the skating is over – it takes me away to a much simpler time in life. 

Tuesday nights are for broomball at the rink.  There are several local teams that meet up each week to battle it out on the ice; it’s fun to watch and more fun to play.  But don’t forget the extra padding, the games get competitive and walking and running on the ice in your sneakers is not an easy task.  And, might I suggest a mouth guard?  Your parents paid a lot of good money for those perfect teeth!   

And, every Friday night the Town Center has a roaring fire pit where locals and tourists can hang out and warm up while they share tales of the day’s ski adventure, or dog sled experience or snowmobile tour in Yellowstone National Park.  Some bring whiskey, some bring hot cocoa, but all bring a good story to share.

If you happen to be in Big Sky during early December, don’t miss the annual Christmas Stroll, which usually takes place the first Friday in December.  This is a great way to kick off the holiday season.  All of the shops and businesses stay open late and invite revelers in for a glass of wine, some spiked apple cider, a nosh or a sweet treat.  It’s one of my favorite events in Big Sky and promises a chance to catch up with friends before the hectic season begins and I always get a jump-start on my holiday shopping list on this night. 

Town Center is home to Big Sky’s movie theater, Lone Peak Cinema.  The theater has a full bar and nightly happy hour from 8-9 p.m.  Typically it shows two movies at a time and on Saturdays they often host a morning of cartoons and a cereal bar with all you can eat cereal and Bloody Mary’s for adults.  It’s perfect for kids and kids at heart. 

So be sure to check out the Big Sky Town Center during your trip to our Rocky Mountain town.  Take a break from skiing and head down to Town Center for some shopping, good food and entertainment. 

For more information, visit bigskytowncenter.com

 
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Winter Fly Fishing

Gallatin River during winter

By: Blythe Beaubien         March 21st, 2014

Big Sky skiing is epic; in fact, it’s the Biggest Skiing in America.  But some days, the call of the river is greater than the call of the mountain.  Most people don’t think about fishing during the winter months in Big Sky, but trust me, you should.   Southwest Montana offers some of the world’s best fly fishing, all year long.  Some people think I’m crazy when I tell what I did with my day as they’re recalling tales of record snowfall and a great day of skiing on the mountain when I say “Cool, I went fishing today!” There’s nothing I love more than spending time on the Gallatin River during a bluebird day in winter.  Sure, parts of the river are frozen solid, or the snows so deep it makes it hard to find a way to get to the river.  But there are plenty of fishing spots along the Gallatin, or “Gally” as the locals call it, to hit up for winter trout slaying. 

First of all, dress warmly; a day on the river during the winter can present sun, wind, rain, snow and sleet, all in an hour’s time.  I dress in layers as if I were going skiing, and then put on my waders, and then a warm winter coat or jacket on top.  Hand, and especially foot warmers are lifesaving when you’re spending hours with your feet in the cold water. 

You’re best bet is to check with one of the many local fly shops in and around Big Sky before you head out for a day on the water.  They are open year round and there is always someone there who is anxious to promote winter angling, share a few tips of the trade and give some hints about where to fish that day.  It’s pretty obvious that there is not a lot of bug activity during the winter months in Big Sky.  Winter fly fishing requires nymph fishing, no dry flies at all.  Hit the deep holes and bounce some bugs along the bottom of the river.  Small flies, in the 18-22 size range are your best bet.  My winter fly box is filled with Blue-Winged Olives and golden stone midges; also the zebra pattern can be effective.   But, the surest trick for success is the old “bacon and eggs” trick.  Grab a San Juan worm (I’ve had most success with the red ones, but there are orange and purple too) and a salmon egg pattern.  Tie them with about 14-16” in between and put a small weight in the middle of the flies.  I mean, come on, who doesn’t like bacon and eggs?!  Trust me, this works. 

A few other things to keep in mind.  Don’t feel like you need to get out on the river at the crack of dawn because unlike the warmer summer months when the fishing is best early and late in the day, trout are more active during the middle of the day in the winter.   Also, bring a change of clothes to keep in the car.  Falls happen in the summer, and believe me; they happen more in the winter when you’re navigating snow and ice along with rocks.  It’s a good idea to have a dry set of clothes with you in case you take an accidental swim.  Most importantly, treat the trout with care.  Keep them in the water as much as possible during the catch and release process because cold air can potentially freeze the fish’s gills.  And, trout build up a protective layer of slime in the winter and a lot of handling of the fish can damage that.  

So go on, be brave, be bold and hit the river a couple of times during the winter.  Your skis will be there tomorrow and that majestic mountain isn’t going anywhere either.

 

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Top 5 Ski Runs at Big Sky Resort

By: Blythe Beaubien         March 10th, 2014

Big Sky Resort, located in Big Sky, Mont., is infamous for its miles of expert terrain and 400+ inches of snowfall each winter season.  But, our majestic mountain in the Rockies has a lot more to offer than what meets the eye.  As a Midwest native who learned to “ski” on snow covered trash dumps that had reached their max, and after moving to Big Sky two years ago from San Francisco, a city that sits at 50 feet above sea level, Lone Mountain (elevation 11,166 at the top) was daunting the first time I saw it.  I strapped on my skis, followed my anxious ski buddies up to the ski lift, which sat in the luminous shadow of the peak of Lone Mountain, and thought, “I have to ski down THAT?!  I might die.”  Much to my relief, I quickly learned that there are plenty of green and blue ski runs at Big Sky Resort that would help me earn my ski legs before I tackled the mountain from the top.  

Here, I will highlight the top five ski runs at Big Sky (for beginners, intermediates, and the brave expert skiers) to help you plan your mountain vacation. 

Beginner/Green Run – Mr. K., Accessed from the Swift Current Lift

The Swift Current lift, located in the Base Area of the Big Sky Mountain Village, or as us locals call it “Swifty” is the beginning of the journey to the top of Lone Mountain, accessed via the Lone Peak Tram.  But for those of you who are new to skiing, or want to start off with a warm up lap, the most popular green run at Big Sky Resort is Mr. K.  It’s a long, smooth, always groomed, ride down from the top of Swifty.  At the end of the run, skiers return to the base area and can ride up Swifty again or if they’re ready to step it up, head over to the Ramcharger lift, also located in the Mountain Village base area.  For the super newbies, or those who really want to take it easy, the resort offers a “beginners” lift ticket for $35, which gives access only to the Explorer lift, which services numerous green runs that are family friendly.   

Intermediate/Blue Run – Elk Park Ridge, Accessed from the Ramcharger Lift

Personally, this is my favorite run at Big Sky Resort.  It’s a long run that has a good pitch and big arcing turns.  The view from the middle of the run is beautiful and a good place to stop and take a rest.  This is the longest intermediate run, often groomed, on the Andesite portion of Big Sky Resort.  The run follows the east ridge of Andesite and at the bottom skiers can ride the Thunder Wolf High Speed Quad back to the top of Andesite. 

Intermediate/Blue Run – Lookout Ridge (on the Moonlight Basin side of the resort), Accessed from the Lone Tree Quad at Moonlight

This run doesn’t get its name for nothing.  Be sure to stop along the way to snap a photo of Fan Mountain, which is easily visible from this run on a clear day.  It’s a beautiful run surrounded by trees and brings skiers to the Madison Base Area at Moonlight.  Be sure to stop for a hot toddy at the Headwaters Grille before heading back up the mountain, after all it’s winter in Big Sky. 

Advanced/Black Run – Moonlight Run, Accessed from the Challenger Lift

Appropriately named, the Challenger lift is a locals’ favorite, especially on a powder day.  (But you didn’t read that here.)  The Moonlight Run offers some epic skiing and is a long run that will have you screaming uncle by the time you get to the bottom.  Head back up Challenger for more or ski over to Moonlight and hit the lodge for a snack or après cocktail. 

Expert/Double Black – Marx, Accessed from the Lone Peak Tram

Say your prayers on the ride up the Lone Peak Tram.  Just like the dictator himself, this run is unforgiving and not for the faint of heart.  This run features 1200+ vertical feet of slope that is in the upper 40° range.  A slight mistake or fall could be catastrophic.  But if you make it, the adrenaline rush is worth the risk!  Let’s just say this Midwesterner hasn’t faced the dictator.  But go for it, and let me know how it goes.

So, you see, at Big Sky Resort all levels are welcome and encouraged. Just be sure to explore all aspects of the mountain.  Big Sky Resort now offers the “Biggest Skiing in America” with the recent acquisition of Moonlight Basin Resort.  Ski safe, and stay classy.

 
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Pre-Season Ski Training

The ski season is fast approaching. You have one beautiful fall month before the lifts start turning and trails open. Be prepared.


If you’ve spent your summer on your bike, hiking favorite mountain trails or trail running, you’ve had fun and done some maintenance training for the upcoming ski season. Now is the time to do focused work to prepare your body for another long ski season.


Core muscles can be tuned up with sit ups and crunches. Yoga practice and Pilates-inspired routines done three to four times a week lead to strong abdominal and back muscles as well as a flexible pelvis and hips. Strength training in the gym gives added focus to specific muscle groups.


Preparing ski ready legs can be accomplished countless times in the crisp autumn air. Hiking or trail running hilly terrain is an essential component for leg strengthening. Biking, with lots of time out of the saddle…standing, offers ski-specific leg strength training. Floor exercises can include lunges, squats, and standing hip adductions. Rollerblade on a smooth bike path and crunch through fallen autumn leaves.


Nordic skiers have found roller ski workouts, both classic and skate, mimic leg muscle usage for both styles of cross country skiing. In addition, the pole motions that go with roller skiing engage both arm and shoulder muscles. To reduce the wimpy arm syndrome for Nordic, do free-weight arm exercises such as curls, overhead triceps and tricep pushdowns, dumbbell bench presses, and bent knee pushups.


Using components of the above listed exercises and programs will have you ready for the ski trails in good form once the snow flies and there’s adequate snow depth.

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What ski runs to hit based on your skiing level

With 5,500 acres, Big Sky Resort and Moonlight Basin have a broad range of terrain for all levels of skiers and riders. From mellow cruisers and perfectly groomed blue trails, to powdery trees, steep chutes and wide open alpine slopes, we have it all.

Here are a few highlights:

Big Sky

Mr. K (green) – The perfect beginner run, Mr. K is a favorite for visitors and locals alike. You can’t beat it!

El Dorado (green) – A rolling, wide-open green run that follows the Southern Comfort lift line, this is a perfect place to practice your form.

Elk Park Ridge (intermediate) – One of the best blue runs in the country, Elk Park Ridge has a perfect pitch to open it up and arc big turns.

Upper Morningstar/The Bowl (intermediate/advanced) – The views of the tram Cirque are unparalleled. And the skiing is darn good.

Liberty Bowl (advanced) – The easiest run off the tram, and also the longest, Liberty gives you that feeling that you could jump right off the mountain and fly.

The Big Couloir (expert) – Another line at Big Sky Resort worth superlatives, the Big is one of North America’s classic ski lines. Grab a partner, check in with patrol, and screw up your courage – this line is proud.


Moonlight Basin

Horseshoe (beginner) – Horseshoe rambles for two miles down Moonlight’s western flanks. Take your time, and stop to take in unbelievable views of the North Summit Snowfield.

Lookout Ridge/Icehouse (intermediate) – Lookout is the signature blue run at Moonlight, and Icehouse is a lovely diversion. Stop at the long flat spot to snap some photos of Fan Mountain, to the west, then rip the headwall.

Lone Tree Face (advanced) – Spend an hour or two spinning laps on Lone Tree Face and you’ll work yourself silly – and never ski the same run twice. This is the perfect spot to hone your skills before venturing into the Headwaters.

Second Fork to the Elbow Room (expert) – This is the prime line in the Headwaters – a cirque of prime lines. Starting at the apex of the ridge, and descend fall line past the confluence of first, second and third fork. Veer left into the Elbow Room, an obvious dogleg chute that dumps you into the apron.

North Summit Snowfield (expert) – A locals’ favorite, the Snowfield descends more than 2,000 feet from the summit of Lone Mountain to the wild, undeveloped moraine below. You’ll need a partner – or three, and to check out with Moonlight patrol in the top shack.
 

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36 Hours in Big Sky, Montana

Ready for a winter retreat, but don’t have a lot of time?  No problem, in just 36 hours you can enjoy many of Big Sky’s best offerings.  Let’s start with an example of an evening arrival:

After a busy day of traveling, what better way to wind down than with an old-fashioned Sleigh Ride Dinner?  Take advantage of Lone Mountain Ranch’s Sleigh and Stay Package, which includes the acclaimed Sleigh Ride Dinner, accommodations in one of the ranch’s comfortable log cabins, and a bountiful breakfast. 

7:00 pm—Lone Mountain Ranch Sleigh Ride Dinner, take a horse drawn sleigh ride over the river and through the woods to a cozy cabin. Once there dinner and entertainment, including Prime Rib among other mountain favorites.

7:30 am—Breakfast at Lone Mountain Ranch.  Up and at ‘em, The Biggest Skiing in America is calling! 

9:00 am-4:00 pm—For a fun filled day of skiing or snowboarding, head for Big Sky Resort and/or Moonlight Basin.  Together, the two adjacent ski resorts comprise more than 5,500 acres of skiable terrain, the most skiable terrain anywhere in the U.S.  Click on the following for more information regarding lift tickets and pricing:


12:30 pm--Lunch at the Cabin Bar & Grill, located at the base of the Silverknife ski run.  Enjoy delicious skier’s lunch. 

4:00 pm-6:00 pm –Relax in the Solace Spa with a massage, body treatment, facial or blowout for the helmet hair then head to “après” at the Carabiner Lounge.

6:30 pm—The Montana Dinner Yurt, backcountry adventure.  Your evening begins with a 20 minute ride by snow-cat to a cozy yurt (an igloo-like tent) tucked back in the Montana wilderness.


 

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What to pack for a ski vacation in Big Sky, Montana

One of the most important things to remember when skiing at Big Sky Resort and Moonlight Basin is that Lone Mountain is high. With a summit elevation of 11,166 feet, you want to pack for an alpine skiing experience. Bring warm layers that can be removed throughout the day as the temperature rises and you exert yourself. Sunscreen is essential even when it’s cloudy – at high elevation you’re that much closer to the sun – and don’t forget spf for your lips, they often get neglected and you don’t want that smile to hurt after a deep powder day.

Hydrating is vital during any day on the slopes and especially on Lone Mountain. Water combats the effects elevation has on the body and on a mountain with 4,350 vertical feet of skiing, you’ll need fluids on board to ski till that last chair ride. It’s a good idea to bring a water bottle and toss it in your pack if you ski with one.

Bring a camera with spare batteries. Lone Mountain is unique and very photogenic – it tends to hog the camera lens. If you take the tram to the summit you can capture stunning, 360 degree views, including a rare vantage point of nearby Yellowstone National Park. And have those extra batteries handy, so you don’t miss all the smiles sure to accompany your family on a ski vacation in Big Sky, Mont.

What to pack:

  • Baselayers
  • mid layer- (down is great!)
  • Waterproof shell/pants
  • Sunscreen
  • Waterbottle or hydration pack
  • Camera
  • Goggles
  • Neck gator or helmet liner
  • Helmet
  • Warm gloves or mitts
  • Jeans for apres- you can wear to dinner anywhere in Big Sky
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Great Family Dining in Big Sky, Montana

 

Big Sky Montana is not just home to the Biggest Skiing in America, it is an all around fantastic family vacation destination.  In the winter, Big Sky offers a myriad of fun outdoor activities such as skiing, snowboarding, sledding, sleigh rides, dog sledding, and more.

As we all know, any great family vacation involves great family dining.  There are many excellent and fun eateries in Big Sky; some even dish up a serving of "favorite unforgettable experience" with every meal.

I am a long-time, Big Sky local; when visitors, especially those with kids, ask where they should eat, I recommend the following:

The Montana Dinner Yurt

The Montana Dinner Yurt experience is more than just dinner.  It is a once in a lifetime, back-country adventure.  Your evening begins with a 20 minute ride by snowcat to a cozy yurt (an igloo-like tent) tucked back in the Montana wilderness.  Once you arrive, you'll enjoy sledding, campfires, and hot drinks, followed by a delicious steak dinner.

Sleigh Ride Dinner at the Lone Mountain Ranch

This one scarcely needs any explanation; imagine your family, together in a horse drawn sleigh, sipping hot chocolate and gliding through a real-life winter wonderland, on your way to enjoying a hearty prime rib dinner.

Choppers Grub & Pub

Perhaps you are just looking for a great meal in a fun atmosphere.  If this is the case, try Choppers.  The menu is varied with plenty of choices for parents and kids alike.  The food is pleasantly familiar American cuisine such as burgers, (Choppers was voted Best Burger in Big Sky, 2012) chicken wings, and nachos.

Blue Moon Bakery

The Blue Moon Bakery has the most delicious pizza in Big Sky, which may explain why they were voted Best Pizza in Big Sky for 2012.  Stop in for hand-tossed pizza, delicious salads, and a cold draft beer.  Afterward, choose from the tempting selection of cookies and treats.

Bugaboo Cafe

The Bugaboo Cafe is owned and operated by two talented chefs, and it shows.  Everything on the menu is tantalizing.  My personal favorite is the gyro served with house made chips; it just can't be beat.

But don't wait until dinner to go to Bugaboo Cafe, they are open for breakfast and lunch only, they close at 4pm.

 

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How to Dress for Skiing and Snowboarding

How many times have we heard "What should I wear?" when planning an outdoor activity in Montana? We all just smile and say "dress in layers and be prepared for anything."

A warm, bluebird morning can quickly change to a blustery, cold afternoon. Montanans are never surprised when the temperature changes by 40 degrees in one day. We just go with the flow!

When dressing for a day of skiing or riding, always keep in mind that the weather in the mountains can change suddenly.  Dress in layers and plan for sun, snow, wind, and a wide range of temperatures, regardless of the current conditions.

Click here for a detailed list of must-have clothing...

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Tips for Skiing with Kids

Lonnie Ball photo.

Big Sky is the ideal winter wonderland for a family vacation. Kids and adults alike will be in awe of the scenery and overwhelmed by the multitude of activities to choose from.

Skiing can be an ideal way for the whole family to enjoy time spent together.  However, to ensure that your great expectations don't turn into great frustrations, Biggest Skiing in America has a few tried-and-true tips for skiing with kids.

Click here to view tips… 

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Picture Perfect: Photographing Yellowstone Wildlife

Yellowstone National Park is one of the nation’s premier destinations for nature photography, and for good reason. A spectacular array of native species, breathtaking vistas, and some of the worlds most famous geothermal features can be found just outside your car door. Herds of bison mosey down the streets, grizzly bears roam through tall golden grasses, and wolf packs can be seen stalking elk on fire red horizons. Yellowstone is a place that dreams(and great photos) are made of!

Yellowstone Park is a massive expanse of wilderness. However, even with it’s 2.2 million acres, Yellowstone wildlife corridors run far and wide beyond the park’s boundaries. Here in neighboring Big Sky, Montana many of that same Yellowstone wildlife can be found. Bears, moose, elk, wolves, and a number of other species call Big Sky home. Early risers, motorists, and outdoor enthusiast alike can find wildlife photo ops all around Big Sky. Here at Moonlight Basin Resort, we installed several wildlife cameras as part of our wildlife monitoring program. Avid nature photography buffs ourselves, these cameras allow us a rare and beautiful glimpse into the lives and patterns of our fuzzy neighbors!

Click here to see more videos.
 

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Cross Country Skiing

Clear frosty nights are the prelude to wonderful snowy days to come. The winter storms will be coming soon and I want to be ready for the ski season. Being out on the snow is seductive and addictive. I feel compelled, almost possessed to take advantage of the cold smoke that Big Sky receives, whether downhill skiing, cross country skiing, or snowshoeing. My passion, though, is really on my cross country skis gliding through the forests around Big Sky’s Lone Mountain Ranch and Yellowstone National Park.

My skis are talking to me and as I scrape off the summer wax and I think about silently gliding through the snow laden trees on Walkin’ Jim’s Way, my favorite groomed cross country ski trail at Lone Mountain Ranch. Following the North Fork creek up toward the Spanish Peaks, the trail meanders along through dense forests and small open meadows.  The bright sunlight glows off the ridgelines of the Spanish Peaks and makes the snow twinkle like diamonds. Often I follow the tracks of a moose who takes advantage of the groomed trail for easier walking than the deeper snow off to the side. It’s fun to see where it decides to take a nap under the comfort of a fir bough.  I often wonder how many times I have passed one who is perfectly camouflaged in the shadows of the trees.

A bench is waiting for me in a sunny meadow where I stop for a snack and some water.  The bench also signals where the trail heads downhill back to the Ranch.  I’m going to add a layer and get ready for the fun, twisty-turny run down. It’s an exhilarating step, turning around the corners & gathering as much speed as I can handle, tucking as I go.  My eyes watering from the wind, stresses clearing from my mind, I am in the zone. Another perfect day cross country skiing!    

 

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