Big Sky Resort is the first place I went downhill in a sort of wagon being pulled by my dad, but is also the first place I skied as I quickly followed in my older sister's footsteps and got two planks of my own. Although a lot of my formative years were spent at Showdown in the Little Belt Mountains, my big mountain memories are all of Big Sky Resort.
In the winters and summers my dad would have business conferences for long weekends in Big Sky. My siblings and I would take turns picking which color gondola to ride up in, taking our precious time hiking or skiing down to the base, testing my mom's patience. Buffet style dinner would be had in the Huntley Dining Room, and after dinner all the kids would head to the Huntley Pool to kick-off a raucous game of Marco Polo. Marco Polo was a 13th century explorer. History is uncertain as to how his name became connected with a child's game, but legend has it Marco Polo fell asleep on horseback and his horse became lost. He found his way back to his crew in the dark by listening for their voices calling his name.
Today I hear kids playing Marco Polo in the Huntley Pool and it brings me back. Perhaps it's absurd of me to think it's a ski kid's rite of passage as the game is played in pools and hot tubs across three or more continents, creating lasting memories and friendships for kids of all ages.
For me, I will always associate it with trips to Big Sky and the legendary Huntley Pool.
The Huntley Lodge Pool. Photo: Michel Tallichet
Huntley Pool circa 1990.
Waking up on a fresh powder day gives you many reasons to be excited. From skiing deep lines with friends, to the après party afterwards, there are exasperating amount of ways in which a powder day can stow away lasting memories. What many people overlook are the journeys to and from the resort; the experiences leading to the adventure. The Skyline Bus to Big Sky from Bozeman is the key cultivator of such memories. On a mini powder day a week ago, I had the amazing experience of riding the bus for the first. While it doesn't sound like the most formidable way to get up to the resort, I can tell you it has definitely been the most memorable and exciting.
I woke up on this specific morning at 7:00am to be ready for the 8:00am pickup. As soon as my dreadful alarm rang, I made sure to send a text message to all my friends to make sure they were ready to start this adventure. We all met outside the bus pickup and selected our seats diligently, making sure to get a bunch of seats in the back so we can all share our antics from the night before. The bus starts to depart from the Montana State University campus and after about 10 minutes of remeniscing about the prior night, we are already at Gallatin Gateway.
When I'm the driver to Big Sky Resort the scenery can lose its luster because my attention is on the road. Taking the Skyline Bus to the resort gave me the luxury of seeing all the sights from the big bus windows. My friends and I gazed at the mountain peaks and shared stories of summer hikes we had prior to the winter, but truly all I could think about was how nice it was to be able to just hangout and not worry about driving. Before we knew it Lone Peak was just around the bend. I immediately instructed everyone to take advantage of the fact that we can put our ski boots on in the bus so we can be the first ones to the lift.
Getting dropped off right in from of the base area is no joke either. I challenge you to get first chair without having to find a parking spot and come up with a complaint - none to be had here. I grabbed my skis out of the bottom of the bus, raced over to Swift Current, and looked back thinking ‘man, I don't know why I didn't take the bus before.'
Photo: Explore Big Sky
When my officemate Michel and friend Candis asked me to go snowshoeing I was skeptical. What I knew about snowshoeing came from National Geographic Alaska TV specials and Jack London novels. What I didn't know, or expect, was how much I would learn about Lone Mountain, the Spanish Peaks and snowshoeing from our Basecamp guide Bea.
Bea taught us about the flora and fauna around Big Sky, such as the Indian Paint Brush wildflower grows at different colors at different elevations or that the Spanish Peaks are one of the only ranges in the Rocky Mountains that run east to west and are the oldest peaks in the Madison Range. Bea was a wealth of knowledge, keeping us on our snowshoe toes with funny quick-fire quizzes of what we'd learned so far.
We hiked up Moose Tracks, the trees near Middle Road, and then went even a little further to an open area with spectacular views of Lone Peak and the Spanish Peaks, the tallest of which, Gallatin Peak, stood prominently out overlooking both Madison and Gallatin Counties.
Breaking our own trail from time-to-time, I found snowshoeing essentially to be winter hiking. I love hiking and had no idea what I had been missing out on all these winters by not taking up snowshoeing.
Not only is snowshoeing great exercise, but it put me out into nature in a different way than skiing does. I don't stop to look around enough while I'm skiing because I'm continually in search for that great line, but snowshoeing forced me to pause and listen to the beauty that surrounds me every day.
For more information on snowshoe tours at Big Sky Resort check out bigskyresort.com/activities
Video: Michael Jezak
The best part of a typical Winter Tuesday is going skiing. The best part of this particular Tuesday in February was being invited by Peaks Restaurant manager to the Peaks Lunch Buffet. The Peaks Buffet offers a wide variety of delicious food from lighter soups and salads to chicken fried steak and fish and chips and is ski-in-ski-out, my favorite feature.
I started the buffet with a sampling of soups, salads, and appetizers: Potato Salad with Bacon; Bacon Mushroom salad; Green Salad; Grandma's Turkey Vegetable soup; Mixed Game Chili, which was perfectly spiced; fruit; and Risotto Balls. Although this sounds like a lot for lunch, I wanted to taste everything taking small sample sizes in order to do so.
Venturing on to the comfort foods I tried the Chicken Fried Steak, which was tender, juicy, and exactly how my grandma used to make it. The fish and chips were my favorite because the fish was flaky and fresh, not overly breaded, and came with a side of chipotle tartar sauce that made me want to quit buying tartar sauce and find this recipe. After my second course I glanced at the dessert table, thinking I would forego dessert for one more Risotto Ball, but the Mousse and dark chocolate truffles called out like Lady Godiva on a spring morning. Thus I indulged in chocolate for the first time in three months and it was well worth the wait.
If the truffles, risotto, and fish and chips aren't enough incentive to check out Peaks Lunch Buffet the quick ski-in-ski-out feature should be. Offering a soup and salad only option also makes for a lighter and quicker lunch so we can all get back on the slopes.
It's a great lunch deal with a great location, and the best part is it's all ready to go; all I have to do is choose.
"What surprised me most was the diversity and variety in the Peaks Buffet. I tried almost everything they had from the tender meats, to the delicious appetizers. While the Chicken Fried Steak was incredible the Flank Steak was even more so. Everything was laid out well, and I was able to get in and out in moments."-Michael S.
"When lunch is delicious and fast it is more than satisfying...it's amazing. The buffet offered so many options from Ahi tuna, gravlax, fish and chips, salads, sandwiches, soups and hearty meats and chili. It gave me more time to do what I came here to do.... ski the Biggest Skiing in America."-Lyndsey O.
"There were a plethora of different kinds of foods to choose from, all tasted incredibly delicious!"-Nicole H.
Soup, salad, and appetizer buffet.
Photos: Michel Tallichet
Instagram shows us The Biggest Skiing in America every day. Not just through @bigskyresort account or @ridebigskyresort, but through the photos guests take while on vacation or locals take on their 10th time down The Big Couloir. #bigskyresort tracks these sweet photos. Here are all the #bigskyresort winners from January. Don't forget to #bigskyresort for a chance to win a prize.
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