Big Sky, MT
A ski itinerary
Overview: My two southern daughters have grown up taking an annual ski trip to Big Sky Resort since they turned 4. We have always enjoyed the good powder and groomed trails at Big Sky with its consistently good snow. We like it, because it is super family friendly, unpretentious and less crowded than many large, western ski resorts.
We also like Big Sky because of its reasonable altitude. The base of the mountain (Mountain Village) is 7,500 feet, so we acclimate quickly. FYI: the summit of Lone Peak is 11,166 feet.
The closest airport is located in Bozeman, MT and is located 1 hour and 15 minutes away. A great stop in its own right. See our blog post "Big Sky Skiing-My Family's Favorite Ski Resort" for why we love this place.
Getting to Big Sky
We fly into Bozeman/Yellowstone International Airport (BZN) in Montana, rent a car (all wheel drive), grab some groceries, and drive to Big Sky Resort which is a 1 hour and 15 minute drive south on US 191. Car rental at the airport is super easy, and the airport is small which means no bus shuttles to retrieve your car. Just walk out to the parking lot and off you go! We’ve never had any problem driving due to weather conditions, but we always rent an all-wheel drive or 4-wheel drive vehicle. It’s a beautiful drive and the roads are salted and plowed often. (Shuttles can also be arranged, but we have never done that.) If we arrive late at night or have an early return flight, we stay the night in a hotel in Bozeman. The Holiday Inn Express is 10 minutes from the airport and is quiet, comfortable, and clean. See the end of the itinerary for Bozeman restaurant and activity recommendations.
Where To Sleep in Big Sky
Big Sky Resort is separated into two areas: Big Sky Mountain Village and Moonlight Basin in the Madison Base Area which is 15 minutes up the mountain from the Village. Both have lots of lodging options. The Mountain Village is the hub of the resort and has better access to ski lifts, restaurants, and activities, but is limited to smaller condos. Moonlight Basin will have larger townhomes and beautiful mountain homes with slope side access but is further away from the activities of Mountain Village. Also, the majority of our favorite runs are accessed from the Village: The Bowl, Calamity Jane, Lizette, and oh so many more. Tip: If you want true “beginner green” runs, stick to the Explorer Lift. Big Sky Resort’s winter trails map can be found here.
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Shoshone Condos: We have always stayed in the one-bedroom Big Sky Resort Shoshone Condominiums located in Mountain Village. We like the Shoshone, because it offers a cozy, western decor, mountain views, plenty of space and a full kitchen. The bedroom is separate from the living area where a murphy bed and sofa bed (the mattresses are actually comfortable) can be pulled down to sleep extra guests (for a total of 6 guests). We typically use both (one daughter in each).
It is walking distance to the ski lifts, restaurants, and better yet: the hot tub and connected heated outdoor pool. Guests of Shoshone have access to the pool where my girls have marveled that they can swim while looking at the stars in the sky and the snow on the ground. It doesn’t get much better than that! Throw a snow ball AND swim! Tip: Look for a “corner unit”--they are just a bit larger than the regular units and have more windows in the living area. Also look for a unit that is on a higher floor level (4th floor or higher). You will have better views and the early morning snow plow won’t be as loud. Price: $200-$300 night which seems to be the best price point here.
How To Book the Shoshone Condos
We have booked the Shoshone both directly through the resort and through VRBO (vacation rental by owner.) It largely depends on the age of your children at the time of your trip and the time of year that you are visiting. February is considered peak season. The resort offers a total “ski package” which includes Shoshone lodging, a yummy hot buffet breakfast which we have always enjoyed, and lift tickets. Please note: Kids 10 and under ski free only if reservations are booked through the resort. We always call the resort for a quote and contact the vrbo owners for a quote and compare.
Big Sky Resort Booking
To book a “ski and stay” package from the resort, you can go online at https://bigskyresort.com/plan-a-trip/lodging-packages or call (800) 548-4486. They have always been super helpful and nice. To give you an idea of price, a family of four, with children 10 years of age and younger, will average $2600 for the ski and stay package for 5 nights at Shoshone in the last week of December (includes stay, breakfast, lift tickets.)
Big Sky Resort-VRBO Shoshone Condo Listings
To book directly from owners, check out these Shoshone units. Remember to add the cost of lift tickets to the total price. Depending on the month, these condos will range from $200-$300 a night.
Fabulous!! Ski-in/Out Corner Condo: Great Pool, Great Views! VRBO 44059. A corner unit we have rented multiple times.
Best Rates! Ski in/out Corner Condo. Wow Views, Pool! VRBO 380137. Another corner unit we have rented multiple times.
Shoshone Ski in/Out at Big Sky ResortVRBO 390110. 4th floor.
If you rent directly from an owner, you have the advantage of paying a lower nightly rate but you have to factor in the additional cost of lift tickets for all in your family including children. Lift tickets cost approximately $120 for adults per day, $100 for children 11-17, and $69 for children 6-10. A beginner lift ticket costs $39 and gives you access to the “magic carpets” and one green diamond ski lift (the Explorer lift). Tip: If you book ski lift tickets online ahead of time, you will save about $100 for a 5 day ski pass.
Book lift tickets here.
Other Lodging Options-Mountain Village
The Summit Hotel is another option in the Mountain Village. It’s a bit more upscale and surprisingly a bit sterile (kind of an extended stay hotel feel) but has an excellent location and offers 1 and 2 bedroom options. It also tends to be pricier than Shoshone.
Huntley Lodge is the budget option at Big Sky Mountain Village. It’s a standard hotel room with a great location and access to all of the village’s amenities.
Other Lodging Options-Moonlight Basin
Powder Ridge Cabins- Not technically in Moonlight Basin but actually the northern end of the Village. 3, 4, and 5 bedrooms and super pricey.
Cowboy Heaven Cabins-2 bedroom Montana-style cabins with its own hot tub. Sleeps 4-6. Offers great views and slope side skiing. Also, super pricey. $800 night with lift tickets for 2.
We usually stop at Albertson’s Grocery, 6999 Jackrabbit Lane-Belgrade, MT 59714, near the Bozeman airport to pick up groceries for the week. It’s right on the way to Big Sky. It’s a full service grocery store with decent prices and a good beer selection. Groceries stay cold in the trunk for the drive to Big Sky.
If you’d like to get groceries in Big Sky, head to Roxy’s Market, 20 Huntley Drive, Big Sky MT, 59716, at the base of the mountain (about 15 minutes from Shoshone Condos.) This is a much more expensive option but a nice, new store. You can order online 48 hours prior to pickup for a fee.
Hungry Moose Market in Town Center is another good grocery store option-it is small but should have everything you need (produce and meat selection is good).
Grocery-Big Sky Resort
In addition, the Big Sky Resort houses an even smaller satellite Hungry Moose Market, in the Mountain Mall within walking distance of Shoshone. They carry all staples including meat, milk, beer, etc. The prices are actually fairly reasonable for being so convenient and close. A good option for when you run out of something or have a hankering for a particular food or beer. They also sell hand and toe warmers if you run out or didn’t bring any.
Big Sky Rentals, located in Mountain Plaza, is the most convenient option. They are ready to fit you in the perfect skis for the week. A nice, helpful staff within walking distance of Shoshone.
Lone Mountain Sports also rents skis and also is within walking distance of Shoshone. You can rent basic or top of the line skis from here. Less expensive than Big Sky Rentals and good service.
If you’d like to save some money and try some really nice skis, go to East Slope Outdoors in Town Center. The rental is less expensive than the resort but you will need to transport them up the mountain. We usually do this on the way up the mountain to check-in to the Shoshone. The folks there are super nice and helpful and we have made this our first stop each time we come.
The staff at Big Sky offers a fantastic ski school for the kids. You can enroll children ages 4-6 years old in a 1/2 day of “ski school” ($92) where they will learn to ski or enhance existing skills with a fun group of teachers. Kids age 7-14 are offered a full day from 9:15-3:45 including lunch ($172.)
Note: Lift tickets for children 10 years and younger are FREE when purchased with a lesson or ski school. Sign up the day before at the Mountain Sports School in the Mountain Village. The staff are super friendly and will advise you on the best plan for your family. They also offer group lessons and private lessons for adults. We usually splurge for one day of lessons on the first day of skiing.
Restaurants- Big Sky Resort Mountain Village
Overall, we’ve found the restaurants at the resort to be expensive and the quality of food average. We typically eat lunch in the condo and eat dinner out just once or twice and order pizza delivery one night. For the remaining dinners, we cook spaghetti, tacos, or chili in our condo. These are the restaurants we have enjoyed:
- Montana Jack’s- Casual, pub-style food with a huge draft beer selection. Go for a beer and pretzel appetizer. The food is average. Located in the Mountain Mall in Mountain Village.
- Chet’s Bar and Grill-Good food and more expensive. Located in the Huntley Lodge, you don’t have to go outside to walk to it from the Shoshone.
- Yeti Dogs-Gourmet hot dogs in Mountain Village Plaza-outside the Mountain Mall.
- Andiamo Italian Grill- Delivery or take-out pizza is a terrific option. Located in the Mountain Village Plaza-outside the Mountain Mall.
- Hungry Moose Market- Take out deli sandwiches. Located in the Mountain Mall.
- MR Hummers is a decent option in the Mountain Mall. Kids menu
- Huntley Lodge Dining Room- Breakfast buffet. This yummy breakfast is free if you booked the ski and stay package from the resort. Gorgeous views of the mountains from the wall of windows. We really enjoyed starting our day here.
Big Sky Resort Activities
When you check-in, you will receive a list of all activities taking place at the resort for the week. Be sure to check it out. Sometimes, they have fun movies playing when the kiddos are too tired or cold to ski. Also, yoga classes for after ski stretching.
The Heated Outdoor Pool
My kids absolutely love this pool. You can walk to it through the hallways of the Shoshone and Huntley Lodge, so you don’t have to go outside. You get to swim outdoors surrounded by stars and snow. A daily ritual for the entire family.
Kids Club (4pm-6pm daily)
Kids Club is offered for free to resort guests who have booked their lodging reservations from Big Sky Resort or $15 otherwise. Kids Club is offered daily from 4pm-6pm and typically includes making a fun craft or other activity such as a snow dog demonstration. Our girls have always enjoyed it as we enjoy an apres-ski. Reservations are not needed but you can check the schedule here. Arrive on time because space is limited to 16 kids.
You can take a 2 hour guided snowshoe tour up Moose Track Trail ($50). It’s a decent workout and offers good views of the Spanish Peaks on a clear day. Make reservations at Big Sky Base Camp in Mountain Village. I have never taken the tour and have generally found the trail packed down enough for boots. If you want to rent snowshoes, you can just do that for much cheaper at the ski rental.
We have also enjoyed just walking the pathways throughout the resort.
Cross Country Skiing
Lone Mountain Ranch has been voted the #1 Nordic Ski Resort in North America by Cross Country Skier magazine. It is located a 10 minute drive down the mountain.
Town Center- Restaurants, Movies, Ice Skating, Hiking
The Big Sky Town Center is located on Ousel Falls Road, a 10-15 minute drive down the mountain from Big Sky Resort. It offers a selection of shops, restaurants, and a movie theater. Eat a pizza at Ousel & Spur Pizza Co. and catch a new release movie at the Lone Peak Cinema. You can also strap on some ice skates and skate at the Town Center outdoor rink. Rentals at East Slope Outdoors (406) 995-4369 and Grizzly Outfitters (406) 995-2939, both in Town Center. Note: Skyline Bus offers a free shuttle service up and down the mountain from Big Sky Resort to Town Center.
Lone Peak Cinema
Town Center info
Restaurants- Town Center/Meadow Village
If you want to venture down the mountain for food, these options are tasty and worth it. It’s less than a 15 minute drive from Mountain Village and the road is well plowed. Turn right on Ousel Falls Rd to access Town Center. You can also ride the free Skyline Bus Shuttle which picks up in Mountain Village. See timetables for each stop here.
Town Center-Ousel Falls Trail
An easy 1.6 mile roundtrip hike to Ousel Falls in the winter leads you to a frozen wonderland. It is located two miles from the Town Center on Ousel Falls Rd, about 20 minutes from the resort. The parking area is on the left. The trailhead is at the backside of the parking lot. This is a heavily trafficked trail, so you will likely be able to hike it in your boots. Depending on the weather conditions, you may need crampons or snowshoes. http://www.outsidebozeman.com/activities/hiking-backpacking/short-sweet
Note: You can also reach the trailhead by walking 2 miles from Town Center. See link below for more info.
Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park is roughly one hour south of Big Sky. The resort can arrange transportation to the west entrance to Yellowstone National Park to take a snow coach tour to Old Faithful or the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. During the winter, Yellowstone is only open to snowcoaches and snowmobiles. This is truly a unique and memorable way to experience the national park. It’s expensive: $145 adults and $110 children, plus national park entrance fee, and roundtrip transportation from Big Sky to West Yellowstone. This is a full day trip that can be arranged by Big Sky Resort.
If your flights allow, spend some time in downtown Bozeman to stroll its Main Street to shop and eat. Or, stay in downtown Bozeman at the Lark Hotel (request 2nd floor) or the Element Hotel. They are both within walking distance to restaurants (Montana Ale Works is our favorite) and shops. These hotels are generally more expensive than the airport Holiday Inn Express, but you can park and walk everywhere. It is a 20 minute drive to the airport from downtown.
Museum of the Rockies- Montana is one of the best places in the world for dinosaur fossils, and this museum houses the most T-Rex specimens in the world. If you have extra time, consider this worthwhile visit. It is a wonderful museum for the whole family, especially if you have dinosaur lovers.
We have tried all of these downtown restaurants and love them.
- Montana Ale Works- Our favorite! Kid friendly, great food, excellent beer selection. Daily specials from 4pm-6pm. Good kids menu. We always go here if we can. Tip: Arrive early--it gets crowded.
- Bacchus Pub- Fun pub with great burgers, salads, and more.
- Western Cafe-A cute diner serving breakfast and lunch--a great stop for breakfast.
- Nova Cafe-You can find a hearty breakfast here, and it’s served all day. Open 7am-2pm.
- Whistle Pig Korean-Get the bulgogi bibimbap bowl served dolsot stye (sizzling bowl). Yummy! Note: No beer served here.
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