Our visit to Big Sky, Montana was a serendipitous surprise. I had never heard of it until three young women from Wisconsin told us on the Yellowstone River that they were planning a vacation to “hang out” there. We looked it up on the map, discovered that it was on our route, and phoned for reservations. We found that we could get a “deal” and decided to stop over. We weren’t there an hour before we had decided to extend our stay for another night. It was a delightful reprieve from what was otherwise a very busy road trip.
Visiting a ski resort in the summer is a bracing experience. There is no snow, but the major lifts are operating and sightseers can reach the summit with minimum effort. Guide Pete Owens took a tour of three (including me) to the top of Lone Mountain. He recounted in great detail stories of the local scene, including the origins of the exclusive Yellowstone Club, which we could see on the adjacent mountain. Riding the first chairlift was no big deal. Clearly, Big Sky is a mountain bike paradise and many bikers were going up with their bicycles sent ahead to roar down the mountain on two wheels. Once we had reached the first plateau, we were then loaded onto a bus which then drove 20 minutes over a narrow mountain road to the base of a gondola to the summit. We were half way up the gondola when Pete told us that the base had been built on a glacier that had moved several feet since it was first installed.
Lone Mountain at Big Sky offers the highest vertical foot ski drop in the United States. At 4,350 feet, skiers sign in at the Jackass Creek Saloon on the summit and only four skiers every fifteen minutes are allowed to descend down the trail. We’re told that skiing that particular run is an unparalleled experience. In the summer, we can only stand in awe at the heights. We were also blown away by the young couple we met at the summit who had climbed to the top in less than three hours.
A local guide is an invaluable resource. Pete recommended we eat at the RiverHouse Grill on the Gallatin River, just south of the Big Sky turnoff. It was a super restaurant with barbecued steak, ribs and chicken, potato salad and fresh corn to die for. We arrived early and were well into our meal before many families descended for the food and for the large playground by the river where young people and adults played volleyball until dinner. Not a bad way to spend a warm summer evening.