Helena, Bozeman, and Southwest Montana Places

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Big Sky and Gallatin Canyon

Downhill Skiing and Snowboarding

For many years the attitude of more advanced skiers toward Big Sky was "big deal." There wasn't nearly enough challenging skiing to keep expert skiers interested for long, and certainly not for an entire ski week. As a remedy, the Big Sky people strung up the Challenger chairlift, one of the steepest in the country, and then installed a tram to the summit of Lone Peak, providing access to an array of steep chutes, open bowls, and at least one scary-steep couloir. The tram also gave Big Sky the right to claim the second-greatest vertical drop—4,350 feet—of any resort in the country.

None of that, however, has diminished Big Sky's otherwise easy-skiing reputation. There is still a good deal of intermediate and lower-intermediate terrain, a combination of wide-open bowl skiing higher up and trail skiing lower down. Additionally, there are 85 km (51 mi) of groomed cross-country skiing trails nearby at Lone Mountain Ranch.

The other plus about skiing Big Sky is its wide variety of exposures. Many of the ski areas here are built on north-facing slopes, where snow usually stays fresher longer, protected from the sun. In addition to these, Big Sky also has plenty of runs facing south and east, and the differing snow textures that result make for more interesting skiing.

Facilities

4,350-foot vertical drop; 3,812 skiable acres; 150 runs on 3 mountains; 14% beginner, 26% intermediate, 40% advanced, 20% expert; 1 aerial tram, 4 high-speed quads, 1 quad chair, 5 triple chairs, 5 double chairs, 5 surface lifts.

Lessons & Programs

Half-day group-lesson rates at the ski school are $67. Powder, mogul, and snowboarding clinics are also available. There's also a ski school just for kids—whether they're first-timers or speedsters—with enthusiastic instructors. Big Sky, MT. 406/995–5000 or 800/548–4486.

Lift tickets cost $79. Multiday tickets (up to 10 days) offer savings of up to $9 per day. Kids 10 and under ski free. "The Biggest Skiing in America" lift ticket ($94) allows access to both Big Sky Resort and Moonlight Basin, which make up the largest connected skiable terrain in the United States (5,500 acres).

The resort's Big Sky Ski Rentals at the base of the mountain offers rental packages for $35, and high-performance ski packages for $50. Big Sky, MT. 406/995-5841.

At Gallatin Alpine Sports rentals run $25 with discounts for multidays; performance skis are $35 and demos, $45. 3091 Pine Dr., Meadow Village, Big Sky, MT, 59716. 406/995-2313.

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