When I graduated college a year ago, I never thought I would move back to Montana much less still be living in Montana, but I wouldn't have it any other way. All through college I was determined to end up in a big city with a fast-pace and a high-profile job, but that wasn't the calling for me.
I grew up outside of Bozeman where I was always hiking, skiing or camping with my parents. I enjoyed that lifestyle, but I also enjoyed traveling to those fast-paced cities I wanted to live in some day. When I graduated, like most people my age, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my degree. I came home and got a job at the closest faraway place I could think of: The Huntley Front Desk. Now that I am wrapping up my third season in Big Sky I couldn't ask for a better place to be than in this beautiful mountain community.
There is something great about living in a resort town like Big Sky. You get the hustle and bustle of a city from time to time with peak seasons of guests, but you can also get away from it all within 10 minutes and find yourself in the middle of nowhere with no one in sight. Having that balance in life is something that not many people can say they have. The locals here all say that "we live where others vacation" but it is so much more than that. The people here all have things in common, but the best and most important thing we have in common is that we all really want to be here.
When socializing with these great people, I love to enjoy the activities and things that motivated me to move here in the first place. Such as walking to Ousel Falls, hiking up Yellow Mule or just sitting on my back deck enjoying an evening, there's always something to enjoy or discover outside. I also love trying out new restaurants and revisiting old favorites, and going to Music in the Mountains on Thursdays in the summer. For such a small town, we sure do have some great food and music to share.
In my new position as the Owner Communication Manager, I work with the owners of our hotel rooms and condos. Basically, I get to work with people who love this place as much as I do. I can go on a new hike in the area and tell someone about it and they are just as excited to discover it as I am. But overall, it is the people who live here and vacation here, people who legitimately love what they do and where they get to do it, that are the reason this place is so great. While I had other big city plans for my life, I would not change where I am at right now for anything.
Ellie (left) on the Ousel Falls hike in Big Sky.
Walking into the Jack Creek Grille at Big Sky Resort, the first thing you'll probably notice is the amazing views. Like dining in the company of Lone Peak, the towering north side of Big Sky's signature mountain lays before you almost within reach. And if you're lucky enough to be there around the sunset hour, the alpenglow will most likely be as entertaining as the friends or family that you're dining with.
But views aside, dining is really why you're there, right? Located in the Moonlight Lodge, Jack Creek Grille has a comfortable lodgey atmosphere with a touch of elegance thrown into the mix, and the cuisine follows suit. The well-thought out menu features classic go-to items-burgers, steaks, chicken and fish-with Montana flair.
"We aim for farm to table type fare," says Executive Chef Bryan Devlin. "We use heirloom grains like hominy and faro, local cheeses and meats, even trout from the nearby Paradise Valley."
For lunch you'll find a bison or Wagyu beef burger made with Montana-raised meats, salads using as much local produce as possible, and fish tacos for a blend of healthy spice. For dinner there's a dryaged bison bone-in ribeye (that tends to fly off the shelves), local trout served with kale, elk served with hearty grits, and duck with caramelized beets, just to name a few. * And the wine list to accompany the meal is equally as intriguing.
The Jack Creek Grille, views and all, are the complete Montana package.
*The menus change with the seasons and available produce.
Quail at Jack Creek Grille.
Jack Creek Bar & Grille
In high school I went to a lot of soccer games because all my friends played soccer. After high school I joined my college newspaper as a sports photographer and shot soccer matches and, once again, became friends with a lot of soccer players. Needless to say, I'm terrible at soccer, but always found myself surrounded by soccer lovers.
In 2010, The World Cup was in South Africa and I spent a lot of time at The Nomad Pub in Minneapolis eating breakfast burritos and drinking Bloody Marys. Four years later the World Cup is in Brazil and I found myself looking for The Nomad Pub equivalent in Big Sky. Ustream has also taken the world by storm and allows me to catch the games without needing cable, but watching World Cup matches on my own is not as fun as the camaraderie of watching with a group.
The first few days of the World Cup I went to Milkie's Pizza & Pub. Milkie's is inexpensive and has great pizza, but just wasn't quite the World Cup vibe I was used to. The key to finding a good World Cup place is finding the soccer lovers.
The second week a Big Sky Resort guest asked me via Twitter where the best location was to watch the World Cup. I immediately thought of Carabiner Lounge. So I decided to check it out for World Cup action. The food and beverages were fantastic (as always), and the vibe was fun, however, I still hadn't found my Nomad Pub.
On Saturday, June 14 I decided to go to Lone Peak Cinema for the Cote d'Ivoire vs. Japan match. I had no real plan to ever hang out at the theater when not seeing a movie, but it's within walking distance of my house and seemed like a fun choice. When I tell people I watched the World Cup at the movie theater they automatically assume I'm watching it projected on the big screen. However, I'm sitting at the bar (yes, our theater has a full bar) and watching it on their 50-inch LCD flatscreen. Sure, it's not the big screen, but it's bigger than my screen at home.
I picked up a pizza from Ousel & Spur, ordered a Yellowstone Lager and watched one of the most exciting games of the World Cup thus far. (Cote d'Ivoire pulled ahead with just 20 minutes left). I like hanging out at the movie theater because it's a place where the love of soccer abounds and I didn't even know it until the World Cup. I've missed a lot of World Cup action in the past couple weeks due to travel, but I know I'll be watching the final match at the cinema with fellow soccer lovers. Lone Peak Cinema is my Nomad Pub for the 2014 World Cup.
Lone Peak Cinema
Chet's Bar & Grill serves food that I think is best described as "Americana". I am not sure when the restaurant opened. I chose this dish because I think it represents Chet's better than any other appetizer on the menu. Even though it is shrimp from the ocean, the corn salsa and the BBQ sauce represent the flavors of authentic American cuisine.
Mojave Shrimp Appetizer
Five jumbo bacon wrapped shrimp stuffed with jalapenos, slathered with BBQ glaze then served with oven-roasted corn salsa.
For the Corn Salsa:
1 Tb light olive oil
2 cups corn kernels
¼ cup roughly chopped cilantro
½ cup red bell pepper, diced
1 Tb lime juice
1 tsp Cholula hot sauce
1 tsp kosher salt
1 fresh jalapeno, minced
Heat oil in a sauté pan and add the corn. Sauté until corn is slightly browned, about 3-5 minutes. Place in a container and cool. Once cooled, mix remaining ingredients.
For the BBQ sauce:
1 Tb Butter
2 shallots, diced
1 Tb course ground black pepper
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup Coca Cola
2 cups your favorite BBQ sauce
¼ cup maple syrup
In a small sauce pan, heat the butter and add the shallots. Cook over medium to high heat until shallots begin to brown. Add black pepper and stir in, cooking only for a few more seconds. Add vinegar and Coke and reduce by half. Add BBQ sauce and syrup, bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes.
*Optional-strain to remove the chunks of shallots.
5 jumbo shrimp
1 jalapeno, seeded and cut into strips
3 slices of bacon, cut in half
Peel and devein shrimp. Place 1 jalapeno strip in where the vein was. Wrap in bacon. Skewer 5 shrimp on 1 skewer. Brush with BBQ sauce and place on a hot grill. Turn after 2-3 minutes, basting with BBQ sauce. On a plate, spoon corn salsa in the center. When shrimp are finished, brush one more time with BBQ sauce and then remove from skewer on to plate. Drizzle a little more BBQ sauce on shrimp and plate, sprinkle lemon zest on top and voila!
-Chef Tyler Sloan
"Grab the orange rope." These are the words that were said over and over again by Big Sky Resort Zipline Guides Molly, Ross and Max on our Marketing Team Adventure Zipline outing on June 17. "The orange rope used to be black, but orange stands out better."
What exactly does the orange rope do? It's essentially the break. And it exists to make less work for the guides. Instead of having to grab us and pull us into the platform at the end of every line, the orange rope is connected to a black rope that pulls us in. Welcome to the world of ziplining. All four Adventure Ziplines go 35-45 mph and traverse treetops, valleys, and part of the Mountain Village Base Area, and a lot of time would be taken if the guides had to go out on the line and grab us every time.
On Tuesday morning, we left the base area around 10 and walked to Explorer Chairlift, which took us about a football field's distance from the first zipline, Swifty 3.0. Swifty 3.0 is the second longest line at 1,200 feet, and takes each zipliner over the run Crazy Horse. As well as the Marketing Team knows Lone Mountain in winter-quickly orienting ourselves via runs and chairlifts-I had no idea we were looking over Crazy Horse when I zipped across it. How strange and marvelous this mountain looks coated in green.
After establishing our bearings we zipped over to line two, Jerry's Terror. Eight hundred feet long, Jerry's Terror feels faster than Swifty 3.0 because it is shorter, but also because it is the highest of all four lines. I push off of Jerry's Terror Platform backwards and wave to the team as they become smaller and smaller. I feel at peace when I'm ziplining. Each Adventure Zipline takes only about 16-20 seconds to cross, but each time I zip that 16 seconds lasts long enough to clear my brain and think of nothing but the ecosystem surrounding me. Sixteen seconds is long enough to marvel at the beauty of the mountains, the trees, and possibly a moose. Ziplining is unique because it unionizes technology and nature to create adrenaline and then peace.
We repel 15 feet down off the landing platform for Jerry's Terror and walk to the third zipline, The Kessel Run. Named for the route Han Solo boasts he can take the Millennium Falcon in less than 12 parsecs in A New Hope, The Kessel Run zipline swoops low between the trees, simulating how riding a speeder through the Endor woods must feel in The Return of the Jedi or how Han must feel taking on The Kessel Run.
The final zipline on the Adventure tour is the Twin Zip where I raced (and defeated) my friend and coworker Michael Tallichet by a mere half a second. Ziplining next to someone is the most fun as the experience becomes shared.
We step off the final platform and walk back to the base area. We deposit our gear in the same pile where we picked it up two hours earlier and linger near our guides. There's a feeling of satisfaction from a great ziplining trip and we linger there because we want to hold on to that feeling as long as possible. It's a fairly simple activity, ziplining, but it's uniquely bonding, creating memories that will last a lot longer than 16 seconds.
The view from Jerry's Terror.
End platform on Twin Zip.
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