According to the Big Sky Chamber of Commerce, Big Sky, Montana, fluctuates between about 2,000 full-time residents to 17,000 during peak seasons (the highest being Holiday week). As anyone could imagine this makes for a funny little town to live in year round, and I love it.
Right now we're in that 2,000 population range and it's a welcome time of year. I miss skiing almost every day, but the peaceful light rain on the window outside makes me feel special. Special because I might as well be the only one in the world enjoying it as I look at Lone Mountain change from snow-capped winter dream land to Evergreen summer wonderland. The earth is quiet.
My biggest challenge with these "shoulder" seasons is my new workout routine. Some Big Sky folks might say it's the change in hours of their favorite bar or restaurant, the fact that the resort is not open, or the spring muddy weather that makes the spring and fall odd, but for me, it's not being in ski shape anymore. Thus, I look to off-season activities to fill the void before summer biking, climbing, tennis, and hiking. Off-season for me means bouldering in the meadow; hiking the lower elevation trails such as Ousel Falls, Indian Ridge (just north of Big Sky), or Porcupine Trail; and playing Big Sky Resort Golf Course when it opens on May 22. Two weeks of golf before the summer season is an ideal way to enjoy the spring.
As much as I love winter and summer, every season in Big Sky brings its unique beauty and necessity. For now I will work on being content with spring, living one day at a time, and enjoying these wistful moments between the excitement of winter and summer.
Photo: Glenniss Indreland
My Montana childlike wonder makes it easy to write about all the fantastic places and activities I explored in Big Sky as a kid, but it also makes it easy to write about all the new and wonderful activities offered in Big Sky for kids today.
First of all: Basecamp to Yellowstone. Yellowstone Park was the neatest, most odd thing to 9-year-old me: Geysers, hot beds, bison, and low-lying mountains that seemed to move with every breath of the molten underbelly. But I'm getting ahead of myself, before venturing south of Big Sky, the activities right at the resort were something I would have devoured as a kid. I still love ziplining, a high ropes challenge, archery, paddleboarding, jumping on a bungee trampoline, or scaling a climbing wall. These things came after my childhood for the most part, but I was enthralled as a sixth grader of my friend's tall tale of ziplining through a forest. Now kids can zipline all the time and in so many cool places, not least of which is Big Sky Resort.
Second: Hiking. I remember taking a guided hike as a kid in Montana and being shocked that the guide could remember all the flora and fauna of the area. How did he know what flower that was? How could he tell an elk had been here? Take a hike around Big Sky for free or go on a guided hike right at Big Sky Resort.
Third: Whitewater rafting and horseback riding. One of my biggest regrets, that I may not have had full control over, was that I didn't go whitewater rafting until high school. Although it is not for the smallest children, rafting the Gallatin River is such a great kid-friendly family past time, I don't know how anyone can even pass by the rafting outfitters without booking. The same can be said for horseback riding. Not only is horseback riding classically Montana, it is also one of the most challenging and then relaxing things a kid could do. I was afraid of horses as a young girl, but once I got on horseback it was like I was meant to be there.
Big Sky, Montana, invites kids and adults into childhood. The adventures to be had are endless and unforgettable.
Photo: Glenniss Indreland
Photo: Glenniss Indreland
Although we boast a plethora of evergreen trees in and around Big Sky, the fall foliage is still not to be missed in the mountains. Check out any of these hikes for an adventure into the Big Sky wild this autumn.
Storm Castle. Hike to the amazing Storm Castle rock formation for a bird's eye view of fall colors in the Gallatin Canyon. The Storm Castle hike is well worth the incline as the reward offers incredible views in every direction.
Lava Lake. Mystique best describes how Lava Lake looks in the autumn. A fantastic hike any time of year, Lava Lake's crisp aesthetic stands out in the fall air.
Cinnamon Lookout. Just down Highway 191 from Big Sky Resort is a 4.4 mile (one way for a total of 9 miles to the lookout and back) forested trail to a beautiful lookout in 360 degrees of the Gallatin Canyon and Taylor-Hilgard Basin.
Sphinx. Just a Paul Bunyan stone's throw from Lone Peak, Sphinx Mountain is the only peak in the Madison Range Crest that consists of a conglomerate from the post-Mesozoic era. Sphinx is also one of the most fantastic fall hikes with a decent chance of seeing a bear gather the last of the season's calories before hibernation.
Porcupine Creek Trail. Climb nine miles up to the headwaters of Onion Basin for views of Lone Mountain on this fun high meadow hike. The colors of fall may not be the bright purples and pinks of wild flower season, but the earth tones and hues of red, brown, and orange are not to be missed.
Oktoberfest began in Munich, Germany in 1810 as a festival to celebrate the marriage of King Ludwig I to Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen, and has since transformed into the world's largest fair.
It wasn't until the 1880s that Oktoberfest added breweries as a way to draw more people to the festival. Today, more than 6.5 million people attend Oktoberfest, but only six breweries provide the beer. Beer must be brewed within the city limits of Munich and conform to the Reinheitsgebot ("German Beer Purity Law") to be an official Oktoberfest brew.
Although Big Sky Resort's Oktoberfest provides beer brewed outside of Munich and only lasts three days, instead of the traditional 17-day festival, it's a mighty great time with beer specials, food specials, golf tournaments, and a traditional Oktoberfest dinner. Dinner includes: Bratwursts with curried ketchup and whole grain mustard, braised red cabbage, German-style potato salad, apple strudel, and more!
"Mehr Bier, Bitte!"
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.
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