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|Resort: Big Sky, Montana
Domain: None, but Moonlight Basin is beside it, and you can get onto a few runs there for free. Yellowstone club is also close by, but it is a private area.
Date: 22-29 January 2005
Our holiday: I was here for the EpicSki Academy - possibly the greatest ski learning experience in the universe. Arrived on the Saturday, skiied a bit on the Sunday, had the clinic Monday-Thursday, then skiied Friday before flying home on Saturday
Website : http://www.bigskyresort.com
Basics : I flew with NorthWest from Gatwick via Minneapolis to Bozeman. From there it is a 45 minute drive by car, or just over an hour by transfer bus. United fly from Heathrow (I think that's via Chicago) Other options are available. Total flying time was around 11 hours.
Lift system : The main resort has several detachable quads, one gondola, one tram, and a couple of triples/two seaters. Most of the lifts are relatively new, and run at good speed, getting you to key areas of the mountain. There's also a magic carpet on the main nursery slope, and for some of the chalets there is a button lift to get to the main slopes
The terrain : This is a deceptively big resort by US standards. http://www.bigskyresort.com/images/site_images/trailmap/Tmap04_05East_04.jpg
It could be divided into 4 areas (two of which I didnâ€™t go to). Flat Iron Mountain (I wasnâ€™t there) consists of a few greens, with a couple of black runs cutting the corners. The other area I didnâ€™t get to (due to lack of snow at the top) was the South face of Lone Mountain (the runs serviced by the Shedhorn lift and the Tram). The first lift of the day for me was Ramcharger taking me to the top of Andesite. From there, take a run down Elk Park Ridge or Big Horn to blow away the cobwebs. Silver Knife and Tippyâ€™s Tumble are also great runs, and highlight a great thing about the resort â€“ the runs have undulations and pitches that add a lot of fun, particularly if you like speed. My favourite run on this side of the mountain was Ambush â€“ one side is a terrain park, and the other side is piste. On the pisted bit, start out on the right, then about half way down, get over to the left, close to the trees â€“ throw in a few flat out carves, and youâ€™ll be smiling at the bottom. Taking the Swift Current lift is the best way to the bigger part of the mountain, from there, Lobo has fewer on it than Calamity Jane (then again, there were days when there was nobody on runs apart from us). Donâ€™t bother taking the Gondola, as Swift Current is a quicker way to go, and you can get over to the Gondola top station easily from it. Now the fun beginsâ€¦ J go up the Lone Peak Triple. The Bowl is just a lot of fun. Whether you choose to go down the bumps, or take the Turkey Travers, the snow there is excellent.
I went up the Tram for a view from the top, and even if you arenâ€™t going to ski down, it is worth the trip for the view.
Staying up high, the Challenger lift is the next place to visit (although donâ€™t expect an easy way down, there isnâ€™t one). The Moonlight bumps are the winners here, but Iâ€™ll add the warning that while they are marked as a black run (the same as in the Bowl), they are considerably steeper, IMHO. From here, come down Bad Dog or Blue Moon, and hop on the Iron Horse. At the top, you can either go straight ahead (unmarked) and you will get to the wall jump â€“ basically you go down into a dip, then come up a vertical wall to get back on piste, or you can return down Fast Lane, but what is more fun is to turn right, and go into Moonlight Basin resort. Your lift ticket DOESNâ€™T cover this area, but you can get out again! Take the cat track past Snake Bite, and onto Elk Horn. Itâ€™s a great, fast black. As you go down it, turn right, which will eventually take you onto a path through the houses, which will eventually bring you out at Moonlight Lodge. You HAVE to see the inside of this place. (Also the bistro is the best on the mountain). For a final run of the day, head to Mr K â€“ it may be a green run, but the conditions along the edges of it are excellent, and you can cut across to Lone Star if youâ€™re heading for the Huntley
The snow : Unfortunately there wasnâ€™t that much powder around, and the skiing off the Tram involved a hike over some rocks. The pistes themselves were in good shape, but my Pistols only got one morning on the snow.
Off-piste : We did some tree skiing, but you could say that the Bowl is all off-piste. I WILL go back to this resort when it has more snow.
The resort : Big Sky was built in the 70s, it has limited shopping, a few good restaurants and bars, all within easy walking/skiing distance of the slopes. Donâ€™t be expecting alpine charm, but equally, itâ€™s not a concrete jungle.
Food : For lunch, as I said above, it has to be the Moonlight Lodge bistro â€“ they do an excellent Reuben. The other mountain eatery, the Dug Out, is good too. I had lunch one day in the Lone Peak CafĂ©, which is just like any other cafeteria style US resort restaurant. In the evenings, we ate at the pizzeria (canâ€™t remember the name), also at Danteâ€™s Inferno and in the Huntley bar (where we were staying). We were given vouchers for buy one, get one free on the Entrees at the Cabin, but given that the prices there start at around $35 for one course, it was a bit much! One evening we drove down to the Corral (although a bus is also available, as I found out for the trip home). It is authentic Montana, and not touristy. Great food, reasonable prices. Well worth the trip.
Bambu is the best place in the resort to end the evening, and burn off your remaining energy on the dance floor. One night we were there they had a jazz band, and the next was a techno night (which also seemed to be the staff night off â€“ and the two of us were the oldest there)
Accommodation : Itâ€™s the first time Iâ€™ve stayed at a truly ski-in/ski-out hotel. Right at the bottom of the slopes. With just a little more snow (and if the staff hadnâ€™t kept the paths clear), I could have skied to my balcony. Most of the rooms have two queen sized beds, (some have one king size) a good bathroom, and a fridge, coffee maker and humidifier, a TV, and balcony. Between our room and the slopes were the hot-tubs and pool. At the end of a great day on the slopes, it was relaxing to get in and enjoy the sunshine with a beer and good company. Breakfast was included in our deal, and our options there were excellent, almost anything you wanted, both hot and cold.
Costs: I paid around ÂŁ400 for the flights (cause I only booked them in November, otherwise it would have been around ÂŁ300 in August). Accommodation was at the reduced rate of $99 for the room per night (so, divide that by the number of people in the room), including breakfast. The lift pass should have been around $65 per day, but this was included in the EpicSki Academy price. The Academy cost around $800 for the 4 days of coaching, the lift passes, and the opening & closing meals. So that gives a total of around ÂŁ950.
Photos: A few pictures
Conclusion: The Academy was Epic! The resort needs more snow, but was excellent even in the conditions (which the locals considered to be bad). I WILL go back.
Do my fingers smell fishy?