Historic photo of a child skiing at Big Sky Resort

February 15, 2024

Big Sky Resort Through The Decades: Stories from the Last 50 Years

In honor of our 50th anniversary season, we called on our guests, visitors, and team members - past and present - to share stories of time spent in Big Sky, along with photos of their memories, lift tickets, and passes collected through the years. The stories we carry make this place special, and we look forward to celebrating them all season long!

Some submissions have been edited for brevity.

THE 70's

Submission by: Carl Anderson, Montana              Year: 1972

I may have the distinction of being one of the people who has skied Big Sky the longest. My Dad bought one of the first Silver Bow condos in the Meadow Village. The first time we stayed in the condo was over Thanksgiving 1972 (I was 12 at the time). We knew that they were working on developing the ski resort but did not know whether it was open or not. One morning we drove up to the ski hill. While it was not completed yet, the road was open all the way to the upper end of the gondola for the workers (the lower end of the bowl). My Dad left my brother and I at the top of Killefer (now called Mr. K) and we skied down. There was only about 1 foot of snow, so we had to dodge stumps and rocks. While the trees had been cut, the logs had been piled in the center of the run. Unfortunately, we ended up at the bottom on the wrong side of the pile of logs and we had to climb over the logs to get to the truck. Therefore, while Big Sky is celebrating being in business for 50 years, I can celebrate that I started skiing there 51 years ago.

Submission by: Capree Bennis, Montana     Year: 1972-Present

My grandparents bought a home in Big Sky in 1972 before the resort ever opened. I was lucky enough to vacation and ski here every winter since I was born. I fell madly in love with the magic that Big Sky has to offer. So much so, that I moved here and started my career with Big Sky Resort!

The photos I shared are some old paper tickets from 2013, one of my old season passes from when I was about 8 years old, and a ski school report card from 1998 when I was 3 years old.

Someone from my family has skied Big Sky every year of the last 50 years, it’s my favorite family legacy. Four generations from my grandparents to my nephew who is 6 years old. Here’s to the next 50 years!

Submission by: Dale Rust, Montana    Year: 1974Trail Map of Big Sky from the 70's

I've skied every year Big Sky has been open except Fall '73. When I graduated from college I worked in Big Sky the first year that Boyne owned it in 76-80 and worked for Triple Creek Reality and Bucks T4.

If you skied hard you could ski all 19 runs in a day. You had to climb the peak if you wanted to ski the couloir and if you skied the south side you had to hike out. The last time I skied the couloir was the last Saturday of a season and it was so warm out we got part way up and striped down to our underwear. 

The toughest run was the gravel road up to the mountain. There we pot holes that could eat a whole Volkswagens and 2 dead man switch backs that introduced many people to a snow bank.

We would make our way up the 11:59 second gondola ride and play Blitz (31 card game). Who ever got 3 chops had to go back to Ernies Deli and by a bottle of wine. 

Those early days there were headwalls on a lot of runs and even a tree here and there in the middle of the run. The toilet bowl was a must jump on your way down Upper Morningstar and was located where the old tram base sits. It would puke you up and drop you on your back. There was no road to get to Silver Knife except the long poling way around the top so we would cut through the narrow trees where the road is now.

On race days we would race down Old Tippys Headway 3 at a time with a jump half way down. The Austrian ski instructors were world class racers and I got lucky and got paired up with Annalise Miller and we even won some money. There were also the inner tube races down the same course. Ski helmets didn't exist then so we found motorcycle helmets. Who ever survived 2 races over the deadly jump made it to the finals. Only 8 survived out of 25 people dumb enough to do it. Yunce Ueland and myself finished 1-2.

You got to know practically everyone on the mountain down at Bucks on Wednesday nights two-fers. We would order our drinks by the pitchers of kamikaze. Bucks had a lot of dances and every body would do the western swing. They could play a funeral march song and we would still jitterbug to it. Of course, we must not forget the Ore House Restaurant. They had the cutest waitresses and their Crab Tenderloin with bearnaise sauce was to die for.

We may have had slow wood chair lifts, only 19 runs, crappy groomers and got paid $2.50/hr but these were the best of times for us ski bums in the early days. Wouldn't trade these memories for anything.

Submission by: Brad Rust, Montana   Year: 1978

I have skied Big Sky every year since 1978. Worked here in winters in the 80’s and vacationed 3-4 times a year until retirement in 2020. Now spend full winters again. From 4 lifts to present day I have seen pretty much all of the growth in this time. It used to be that you knew every single person working the season. I remember days in January the in early 80’s where the skier count was 50 people, most being locals.

Oly days (Olympia beer) used to be the big spring celebration. They made a giant oly beer can and hung it on the old colored bubble gondola and it would go around all day. One and three person inner tube races were run on Tippys. There were ski races and the famous OLY days triple slalom event on the steep bottom head wall of Tippys tumble. There would be a Calcutta auction of the three member ski teams at Bucks T-4 and it would be a pretty good time.

Intramural ski racing was a huge deal back in the day with upwards of 15 or more 10 person teams. One year there was Helicopter skiing at BS omniflight. They would fly you up to the top of country club where you would be guided down the Challenger terrain for about 35 bucks. Before the tram and challenger lifts the locals used to climb above the triple bowl chair and the high traverse above upper Morningstar and ski lots of terrain that is lift service now.

Lots of good old days to remember. 

Submission by: Bruce Schoenberg, Minnesota     Year: 1978

Bruce Schoneberg's 1978 Ski Pass

My first year teaching skiing at Big Sky with Robert Kirschshlager as Ski School Director.

THE 80s

Submission by: Rick Holmes, Arizona     Year: 1982

In the winter of 1982 my best friend and I (seniors in HS) drove from Sioux Falls, SD to Big Sky to ski for a week as his sister was working at Big Sky that winter (see photo of us). Amazing memories to cherish as my friend John passed away in 2002.

In 2016 I returned with my wife and son who was 10yrs old at the time and had never skied. My son Beckett has fallen in love with the sport and skis as much as a Scottsdale kid has the chance. We go to Telluride, Durango and Snowball often.

He's now the same age as when I first discovered this magical place. Over the last couple years he kept asking to go back to Big Sky. The trip is booked and we will be arrive 1/11/2024 to make more Big Sky memories.

Submission by: Lisa Christopher, Montana     Year: 1984

Lisa Christopher and her father skiing in 1984

I learned to ski here. We drove around the Madison Range from Ennis, where I grew up. My family skied here for years. The photo is of my father and me in 1984. That was the last time we skied together. Sadly, he passed away from a car accident that was close in proximity to Big Sky. Thanks for the greatest memories.

Submission by: Sophia Angelosante, Montana     Year: The 80s

Angelosante's Grandparents skiing

This is a photo of my grandparents and aunts on their first spring trip to Big Sky in the 80s! They went “out west” every year, traveling from Michigan. Look at the steeze! The swag! The style!

Submission by: Jolane Jones, Montana.  Year: 1983

Jones skiing with her sister in 1983

I have many memories since I have skied at Big Sky every year since the resort was opened in 1973. Obviously, the resort has changed significantly since the early days of a handful of chairs and a gondola. Unfortunately, I tossed all of my old trail maps years ago, and I don't have photos of previous passes, but here is my sister and me skiing at Big Sky in 1983.

Submission by: Morgan York Singer, Montana     Year: Late 80s 

Young Morgan York Singer skiing

Circa late 1980’s skiing with my family at Big Sky. I grew up in Missoula, and it always felt so special to get to ski Big Sky. Now I get to raise my two sons skiing there every weekend.

Submission by: Amanda McFain     Year: 1986

Amanda McFain and her brother on Mr. K

My brother and I about 37 years ago. Peep my ticket in my pocket.

THE 90's

Submission by: Jim Harris     Year: 1992

Jim's pass from 1996

My earliest memories of Big Sky was in 1992 and I was living in South Hedges dorm at MSU. The paper cups in the food hall had coupons to night ski for like $5 or $15 bucks at Big Sky! We would take a group down, ski the bitter cold evenings, get a drink at Whiskey Jacks and life was good.

I ended up patrolling in 1996–1998. I have had a season pass ever since! In fact our whole family skis at Big Sky!

Submission by: Michael Sprecher     Year: 1994

Trail Map from 1993

This 1994 lift ticket was from my last visit to Big Sky before I had to get a "Real" job. I wasn't able to return to Big Sky until April 2021 as my retirement. No more "Real" job to get in the way of having winter fun. I hope to be back every year to keep myself young at heart.

Submission by: Becca Zabawa, Montana     Year: 1997 - Present

Growing up in Billings with parents who fiercely loved skiing on dark winter Saturday mornings, my dad would move us from our beds to the car fast asleep. When we woke up in the Big Sky parking lot, we knew a BIG, epic day was in store. Not only has Lone Peak brought so many great childhood and adolescent memories, from learning how to ski on Explorer when I was three - to high school Ski Club trips with my best friends - and then countless, very questionable, sketchy treks up from Utah in college - it has also brought me my greatest blessings in my adult life.

Thanks to Big Sky Resort, I moved back to Montana 7 years ago to live out one bucket list item. I grew up the youngest of four children in a family of skiers. If you're the littlest and can't keep up, you get tossed in ski school. Too naive to realize I was ditched by my whole family (to ski Lone Peak unbothered by my inabilities, I don't blame them); I then met who would be the 'coolest adults' in my childhood - ski instructors. After growing up and realizing I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, I leaned back on my bucket list for something I knew would bring me joy. I applied to be a ski instructor the winter of '16-'17 season to give back a little bit of those special moments I experienced at Big Sky when I was a youngster. Learning how to pizza and french fry with energetic people who were passionate about a beautiful sport helped me carry that spirit and desire to pass the love of skiing to future generations.

Although my first season of ski instructing went a little awry when a tree and I decided to have a bit of a collision on a 13-inch powder day, it was the catalyst for starting my new, beautiful life living back in Montana and centering my life around my love for Lone Peak and Big Sky. I learned tough challenges can bring wonderful things. I thought I would be around for one ski season, and seven years later, with no plans on leaving, I can say wholeheartedly that Big Sky has given me more joy, peace, happiness, and lessons on strength, resilience, and community than any other place in the world.

Thank you, Big Sky! Happy 50th!

THE 2000's

Submission by: Janet Roberts, Florida     Year: Early 2000s

We loved to ski in Big Sky with our family. We felt very safe and allowed our children to ski with walkie-talkies (pre-cell phone era). I remember taking our 3 kids (13, 11, and 5) outside of the Huntley Lodge and having a snowball fight. We made forts and had a blast. Thank goodness for the stores because we had to bribe the youngest to stay in ski school so we could ski! Big Sky is still my favorite ski resort. Now our kids are all grown up (32, 30, and 24). I would love to go back to that ski trip when they were little!

Submission by: Kenneth Jackson, Montana     Year: 2002

Child stands by Rabbit sign at Ski School

This photo is from January 2002. In those days a group lesson was often a “private lesson” since no one else signed up.

Submission by: Madeline Reid, New York     Year: 2003

Maddie's Pass from 2003

Grew up coming to Big Sky every winter to visit my grandparents who lived there and ski with my grandpa who was a mountain host. Still my favorite place to come back to!

Submission by: Maddie Coombs, Montana     Year: Recent

When I first started riding, I didn’t totally love it. I was always the last one down the mountain. But then I started going up with just my sister. Her love for the sport was crazy, it brought her so much happiness and that made me love the sport so much. Now we go up every chance we get and ride all day. We take the earliest Skyline bus up to Big Sky and we take the last one down. My favorite thing is riding with my sis!! It’s my favorite time of the year!!

Submission by: Wayne Anderson, Minnesota     Year: Recent 

Wayne at the base of the Mountain Village

I live in Minnesota, and my sister lives in West Yellowstone. I visit her at least two times per year, once in the summer and once in March when I ski at Big Sky three times a week. Big Sky is absolutely the BEST skiing I have ever experienced.

Thank you to all who submitted stories and photos as part of our 50th anniversary celebration season. Here's to the next 50 years of memories!