As far as endurance challenges go, the one in Big Sky Resort is refreshingly mild and strangely informal: the most tram laps in a single day. The current record is unlikely to ever be eclipsed. Unless, of course, the resort management extends the Lone Peak tram hours.
The terrain served by the Lone Peak tram is Experts only - double diamonds all around. The Liberty Bowl with its single diamond is a sole exception by virtue of being slightly easier than the adjacent Marx or Lenin runs. Even so, there is always a line at the bottom of the tram, unless fog takes the visibility away as it was on the day Rob Leipheimer set his record, which in my book, makes it all the more impressive accomplishment.
Lone Peak tram is the only lift that regularly gets busy. Despite the marketing efforts, Big Sky attracts a fraction of people visiting other large resorts. And that is absolutely OK with me. The low number of visitors makes for empty ski runs, no lift lines, and a family-ran resort vibe. The Biggest Small Resort in America or something like that is a well deserved marketing catchphrase.
Big Sky Resort has big plans adding lifts, expanding lodging, increasing flights, attracting visitors. It has big ambitions to match Vail Ski Resort. To achieve that it will have to quadruple its 500,000 skiers to 2 million that Vail enjoys. But at the current growth rate of 100,000 ski visits a decade it has an awfully long road ahead.
A whole new level of lodging, shopping and dining rivaling the best of Europe says the online brochure full of glossy pictures. You may just believe it if you’ve never actually been to Europe. The current dining options in the mountain village are limited to a range of mediocre restaurants and pubs. There is of course a gimmicky Everett’s 8800 on top of the Andesite Mountain accessible by ski lift for lunch, and snowcat - for dinner. Good food and bad decor can be found at the Cabin Bar & Grill. And a passable Carabiner lounge will keep you inebriated after a day on the slopes. Luckily the surrounding area offers much better options: Buck’s T-4 and Horn & Cantle do not disappoint.
If shopping is your thing, among obligatory selection of serviceable ski and snowboard gear stores, you’ll find a fur shop and and an upscale ski and après-ski clothing boutique. You may not rub shoulders with president’s daughter who prefers to take her pretend I can ski trips to Aspen but Big Sky has its selection of resident celebrities: Gisele Bunchen and Tom Brady, Ted Turner, Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel to name a few.
Big Sky is strewn along Route 64 traversing the canyon. Stephen Kircher, the CEO of Boyne Resorts (the owner of Big Sky Resort) seems to believe that main obstacle to its popularity is lack of a proper downtown. Or, to be honest, the lack of a town. $1 billion investment in the so called town center to expected to rectify this shortcoming. The result, while not unpleasant, resembles a bastard child of an unholy alliance of Swiss alpine village and airport terminal. Friendly locals make up for the architectural fiasco.
All in all Big Sky is a really great place with few people, expansive views and challenging terrain. Big money is pouring in but it looks like you still have a good couple years to schedule a trip and enjoy the solitude of the Lone Peak.