Move over Vail. Montana’s Big Sky Resort just got bigger, scooting into position as the largest ski area in the U.S.
With the acquisition of Moonlight Basin and Spanish Peaks, Big Sky now boasts 5,750 acres. Sprawled across the immense terrain, 23 chairlifts and 10 surface lifts cart skiers to the tops of four mountains—Spirit (formerly Spanish Peaks), Flat Iron, Andesite and the tallest, Lone Mountain. More than 250 runs drape the mountains, with 60 percent of the terrain luring advanced and expert skiers.
For skiers and riders, the new Big Sky means more than just the biggest, seamless blanket of snow between what used to be three resorts. It also means easier travel planning. “Combining Moonlight and Spanish Peaks into Big Sky just solidifies and simplifies things for travelers,” explains Big Sky’s Sheila Chapman. “The acquisition has been really well received.”
PHOTO GALLERY: WHY BIG SKY SHOULD CHANGE ITS NAME TO HUGE SKY
A skier descends the double black diamond Dictator Chutes at Big Sky.
Copyright: Lonnie Ball/Big Sky Resort
So what are the benefits for skiers and snowboarders?
Lift tickets just pulled in more value. With one ticket rate, all skiers can hop back and forth between Big Sky, Moonlight and Spanish Peaks. Last year, the Biggest Skiing in America ticket that combined access for Big Sky and Moonlight lifts priced out at $103 while other cheaper options forced a choice between the two resorts. But this winter, the adult $99 lift ticket covers the entire resort, including all terrain in the new acquisitions. For those purchasing ski and stay packages, lift tickets run even less.
Lone Peak Tram now descends to Moonlight and Big Sky without a special ticket.
Copyright: Michel Tallichet/Big Sky Resort
Finding lodging just got simpler, too. With separate resorts, visitors had to choose where to stay based on which resort they planned to frequent. Comparing options involved researching multiple lodging companies. Now, Big Sky Resort Central Reservations (800-548-4486) handles all bookings, from the Cowboy Heaven cabins at Moonlight to the Village Center condos at Big Sky.
Hotels, condos, cabins, chalets and homes: From budget to luxury, they’re all available now through one central reservations source. As an added bonus with lodging packages, kids 10 and younger can ski free, and plenty of lodging specials are available online.
Big Sky’s Mountain Village lights up at night.
Copyright: Chris Kamman/Big Sky Resort
Getting lessons is also easier. Big Sky now has two instructional bases with equal ski and snowboard lessons available at both. Madison Village and Mountain Village play hosts to the ski school. With the addition of a new Magic Carpet this year at Mountain Village, beginners can access four carpets and two beginner chairlifts. Parents putting kids in lessons can save a few dollars as children 10 years old and younger can ski free.
Big Sky offers kids camp lessons.
Copyright: Lonnie Ball/Big Sky Resort
Since not everyone needs a full mountain lift ticket for all 5,750 acres, beginners can buy a cheaper ticket with limited access to the terrain suited for their skills. The base-area specific lift ticket costs $35. Newbies can choose to have their ticket valid on the three carpets and Explore chairlift at Mountain Village or the one carpet and Derringer chairlift at Madison Village.
For freeriders, the merger of Moonlight and Big Sky produces a boon of terrain parks. The resort now tallies up nine terrain parks spread across the mountains. Three are available for each ability level, including the unique natural rock and tree Freestyle Forest at Moonlight. Among the options, Big Sky has added a new terrain park that targets beginners and families with six-inch-high rails and boxes, low enough to the snow to build confidence. The new Explorer Park is located under the Explorer chairlift.
THREE BASE AREAS
Three different base areas now provide access to the entire resort. Mountain Village, located at the base of Big Sky, provides the main center with shops, restaurants, bars and hotels. The village also houses the lift tickets, ski school, ski patrol, rentals, the Solace Spa and Salon, plus all activities, including guided snowshoeing, tubing and ziplining.
This winter adds a new adventure zipline, and new shops include a deli and Burton store. On the Moonlight side, Madison Village contains a restaurant, lift tickets, ski patrol and ski school. The Moonlight Lodge base area has a restaurant, lodging and the Moonlight Spa.
In addition to the benefits of combining Big Sky, Moonlight and Spanish Peaks, the resort created two new gladed areas. Thinning for forest health opened up another 15 acres of tree skiing. Find the two gladed zones flanking the side of Dakota and Shedhorn lifts on the south slope of Lone Mountain.
It's true, Big Sky now pulls rank as the newest big boy on the block. But talk to any local—they’ll tell you not to worry, the ample elbow room's not going anywhere.
Drop into Whiskey Jack’s in the Mountain Village at Big Sky for après.
Copyright: Michel Tallichet