Montana

Perfect Places: Big Sky Montana

Perfect Places: Big Sky Montana
Big sky is out of the way — and out of this world
By Jay Cowan

perfect_place_skiMontana always impresses me with its most dominant element — space. High, wide, handsome space, dotted sporadically with towns peopled by a few hardy individuals, just another random, small herd of wildlife. Where that space is embraced by giant mountains, there is a sense of possibility that expands like the sky and becomes something approaching endless.

When I pull up to Big Sky Resort, I feel like I can do anything.  And that’s fine with the folks there — they’ll let me. They’ve been offering that wide-open, have-it-your-way kind of ski and life experience for more that 30 years. Yet the resort remains and enduring secret of the sort that anyone who talks about it too much should be flogged, me included. But gently, please, because it isn’t simply ignorance that keeps the crowds at bay. Big Sky’s remoteness is a big reason why some of the runs have more moose on them than people.

Sprawled across a sizable chunk of Montana’s wild Madison Range — almost back to back with Yellowstone Park — Big Sky and neighboring Moonlight Basin provide some of the biggest, most inspiring skiing in North America: 5,512 acres with the Lone Peak ticket that allows access to both resorts. The centerpiece of this skiing fantasia, loaded with some of the best powder and most challenging lines you’ll find, is 11,166-foot Lone Mountain, its siren call beckoning to me for miles along the long, lonely drive.

I arrive in the early afternoon and bolt straight for it in order to catch the North Summit Snowfields before they close. Suddenly I’m all alone in a wintry paradise, my only concern how much time I have before the setting sun and ticking clock chase me om the mountain.

perfect_places_In a state once famous for its lack of speed limits, the Daytona/Montana cruiser runs fit right in. Big Sky screamers like Big Horn, North Ambush Meadows, and Lone Wolf Mountain, and Moonlight Basin rollers such as Runaway and Horseshoe Run, allow plenty of space to liberate your inner Bode or meander with the whole clan.

I skip them all, spending the next three massive powder days sating myself on Lone Mountain, the Challenger Lift, and Moonlight’s haunting North Summit Snowfield and The Headwaters Terrain.

Even a patrolman tells me — off the record and with a wicked smile —“Someone had a screw loose when they opened all of this.”

Good karma to them. Standing on the off-piste back