Big Sky, Montana

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Big Sky, Montana
Location of Big Sky, Montana
Location of Big Sky, Montana
Coordinates: 45°16′12″N 111°17′59″W / 45.27000°N 111.29972°W / 45.27000; -111.29972Coordinates: 45°16′12″N 111°17′59″W / 45.27000°N 111.29972°W / 45.27000; -111.29972
CountryUnited States
CountiesGallatin, Madison
 • Total120.2 sq mi (311.4 km2)
 • Land120.0 sq mi (310.8 km2)
 • Water0.2 sq mi (0.6 km2)
7,218 ft (2,200 m)
 • Total2,308
 • Density7.4/sq mi (2.9/km2)
Time zoneUTC-7 (Mountain (MST))
 • Summer (DST)UTC-6 (MDT)
ZIP code
Area code(s)406
FIPS code30-06325
GNIS feature ID1853174

Big Sky is a census-designated place (CDP) in Gallatin and Madison counties in southwestern Montana. As of the 2010 census it had a population of 2,308.[1] It is 45 miles (72 km) southwest of Bozeman. This unincorporated community straddles both counties, is not considered a town, and does not have a town government. The primary industry of the area is tourism.[2]


Big Sky is located at 45°16′12″N 111°17′59″W / 45.269940°N 111.299725°W / 45.269940; -111.299725 (45.269940, -111.299725),[3] approximately midway between West Yellowstone and Bozeman on U.S. Highway 191 and just 15 miles (24 km) from the northwestern border of Yellowstone National Park.

The "Meadow" area of Big Sky lies in an alpine valley formed during the Cretaceous period. Initially called the "Gallatin Canyon Basin", the Meadow is braided with small rivers that channel mountain snow run-off. Fishing is permitted on all of these Gallatin feeders. Two ponds are found on the Middle Fork of the Gallatin River that bisects the Meadow, and fishing there is permitted for those 16 and younger. Since 1993, an innovative sewer system has protected the water in the area from sewage discharge. Several agencies, such as the Gallatin River Task Force, monitor the health of the rivers.

The community had two large ski resorts that are sited in the "Mountain" area: Big Sky Resort and Moonlight Basin. In October 2013, these resorts merged: both are now managed by Big Sky Resort, and both are alpine ski and golf resorts. The combined terrain of the two resorts allows them to market themselves as the "Biggest Skiing in America." The Spanish Peaks Mountain Club is an exclusive ski and golf resort that has three chairlifts and 13 ski runs connecting it to Big Sky Resort at the base of Big Sky's Southern Comfort lift. Spanish Peaks is also now owned by Big Sky Resort, in collaboration with the Yellowstone Club. Another resort, Lone Mountain Ranch, is a Nordic ski and summer resort that professionally grooms over 75 kilometers of cross-country ski trails. Yellowstone Club, a private resort, is located to the south and adjacent to Big Sky Resort.

The "Canyon" area of Big Sky lies in the Gallatin Canyon, along the Gallatin River, a favorite for white water rafters and kayakers. The Gallatin River, named after Albert Gallatin[4] who was the Secretary of the Treasury during the Lewis and Clark Expedition, is a Blue Ribbon trout stream that attracts fly-fishers from around the world.[5] Outfitting firms can connect fly-fishers to renowned rivers, in particular the Madison and the Yellowstone. Several dude ranches (320 Guest Ranch, Elkhorn Ranch, Cinnamon Lodge and 9 Quarter Circle) operate in the Gallatin Canyon.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the CDP has a total area of 120.2 square miles (311.4 km2), of which 120.0 square miles (310.8 km2) is land and 0.2 square miles (0.6 km2), or 0.18%, is water. Most of the CDP drains to the east into the Gallatin River, while the westernmost portions drain west via Cedar Creek and Jack Creek to the Madison River. The Gallatin and the Madison both drain north to the Missouri River.


This climatic region is typified by large seasonal temperature differences, with warm to hot summers and cold (sometimes severely cold) winters. According to the Köppen Climate Classification system, Big Sky has a borderline humid continental (Dfb)/alpine subarctic climate (Dfc).[6] for most of the area, but the lower elevations may be closer to a dry continental climate.

Climate data for Big Sky, Montana (1984–2005 normals)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 55
Average high °F (°C) 31.2
Average low °F (°C) 7.8
Record low °F (°C) −39
Average precipitation inches (mm) 1.42
Average snowfall inches (cm) 31.9
Source: WRCC[7]


At the 2010 census, there were 2,308 people residing in the CDP. The population density was 10.1 per square mile.


Hiking trails thread throughout the landscape and into neighboring national forests. Camping sites are available throughout the Spanish Peaks and the Gallatin National Forest. Elk, deer, black bears, grizzlies, upland birds, waterfowl, and wolves call this area home. Hunting is prohibited in Big Sky proper, but it is permitted throughout the National Forests that surround the area. Recreational snowmobiling is also not permitted within the Meadow or Mountain terrain, but is permitted in the Gallatin Canyon and in areas to the south of Big Sky. Several snowmobiling outfitters are located in the canyon.

Big Sky offers a variety of recreational venues. In addition to outdoor activities, the Lone Peak Cinema movie theater shows current blockbuster films. The Warren Miller Performing Arts Center, a community and school-based facility, is located at the school on US Highway 191. The venue attracts local, national, and international artists in every genre (music, drama, dance, visual arts, and creative composition). Known to locals as the WMPAC, the center is home to the Big Sky Community Chorus, the Big Sky Community Theater, and Big Sky Broadway, a children's musical theater company. During the summer, the Arts Council of Big Sky presents weekly free music concerts with musicians from across the nation at Center Stage in Town Center Park. Each August, the Arts Council holds a four-day classical music festival. A wide variety of music can be heard year-round at the resorts and local restaurants and bars. Several art galleries feature local and regional photography and other visual media.

In mid-summer, Big Sky hosts the Big Sky PBR (Professional Bull Riders) event, which has been awarded "PBR Event of the Year" several times. The Big Sky Farmers Market features live music, children's activities, and over 90 vendors selling fresh, locally-grown food, and crafts each Wednesday during the summer months in Town Center's Fire Pit Park. In the winter months, Town Center Park hosts Big Sky's hockey and ice skating rink that is operated by the Big Sky Skating and Hockey Association.


The area is served by a K-12 public school district, called the Big Sky School District #72, and a preK-6 non-profit private school, Big Sky Discovery Academy. There are three public schools: Ophir Elementary School, Ophir Middle School and Lone Peak High School. The district educates approximately 275 students with an innovative curriculum that includes experiential, place-based and expeditionary education. There are opportunities for formal pre-school enrollment.


Health services include a hospital and pharmacy, two medical clinics, a dentist, a physical therapist, and chiropractors. The local Big Sky Fire Department provides advanced life support emergency medical services, and sheriff services are provided by Gallatin County. Big Sky Search and Rescue operates in conjunction with the Big Sky Fire Department. Bozeman Health opened Big Sky Medical Center, an acute-care hospital, in 2015. The Big Sky Community Food Bank, located on US Highway 191 in the Big Horn Shopping Center, assists the food-insecure through a shopping model. Beyond these services, other services are obtained through Gallatin and Madison counties, various special service districts, and many volunteer organizations. A 3% resort tax, affixed to non-essentials, supports many local agencies' services. The resort tax is administered by the Resort Tax Board. Non-profit service organizations like the Rotary Club of Big Sky also support local initiatives.[8]

Local businesses, ranging from over 40 restaurants, clothing and gift shops, food markets, to outdoor sporting stores, are situated primarily in four commerce centers, including the Big Sky Town Center, the Meadow Village Center, the Canyon area, and the Mountain Mall. Real estate agents, construction and architectural companies and property management companies attend to the burgeoning real estate industry. The Big Sky Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center is positioned at the intersection of US Highway 191 and Lone Mountain Trail (Montana Highway 64). The facility provides information for the area and Yellowstone National Park, including local attractions, hotels, accommodations, and restaurants. It also houses a small museum that highlights the area's homesteading, ranching, and tourism history before the ski resorts opened.[9]

Big Sky Chapel serves a number of religious denominations. The community library, housed in the Ophir School facility, is free to the public, providing thousands of books and technology access.

A 44-acre (18 ha) community park features ball fields, a skateboard complex, a dog park, a disc golf course, and areas for biking and Nordic skiing. The park is administered by the Big Sky Community Organization (BSCO), which also oversees public trails, other smaller public parks, and the Historic Crail Ranch Homestead. The BSCO hosts summer camps for kids who reside in Big Sky or are simply visiting.[10]


Big Sky has two local newspapers, Explore Big Sky, and "Lone Peak Lookout," in addition to the regional publication, Bozeman Chronicle.[11]

The local radio station is KBZM. Other regional radio stations can be received from Bozeman.

Three television stations are available: KTVM (6) NBC, KBZK (7) CBS, and KUSM (9) PBS. is a regional daily news website.[12]

Notable residents[edit]

There are numerous year-round and part-time residents who are world-renowned athletes, politicians, physicians, and business/industry leaders, including:

  • Jessica Biel, actress, and her husband, pop star Justin Timberlake, have a home at the Yellowstone Club[citation needed]
  • Robert Peter Gale, noted cancer researcher
  • Chet Huntley, pioneering newscaster, retired to Big Sky and put together corporate resources for the financing of the Big Sky Resort; however, he died several years later, March, 1974, after the ski area opened for its first season of skiing. The Golf Course and other meeting facilities opened the prior year.[13]
  • Warren Miller, ski-film industry icon, lived in Big Sky during the winter
  • Matt Morris, former Major League Baseball pitcher with the St. Louis Cardinals, San Francisco Giants, and Pittsburgh Pirates
  • Marty Pavelich, National Hockey League Hall of Famer, year-round resident
  • Jamie Pierre, professional skier, snowboarder

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Geographic Identifiers: 2010 Demographic Profile Data (G001): Big Sky CDP, Montana". American Factfinder. U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved December 21, 2016.
  2. ^ "Visit Big Sky".
  3. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. 2011-02-12. Retrieved 2011-04-23.
  4. ^ Gannett, Henry (1905). The Origin of Certain Place Names in the United States. Govt. Print. Off. p. 133.
  5. ^ "The Gallatin River". Greater Yellowstone Resource Guide. Retrieved 26 July 2017.
  6. ^ "Climate - Big Sky, Montana". 2016.
  7. ^ "Big Sky, Montana". Western Regional Climate Center. Retrieved 2016-08-07.
  8. ^ "Big Sky Chamber of Commerce". 2016.
  9. ^ "Big Sky Business Journal". Big Sky Business Journal.
  10. ^ "The Good and Bad of Doing Business in Big Sky Country". 13 Jul 2012.
  11. ^ "Mountain Outlaw Magazine". 2015.
  12. ^ "Explore Big Sky".
  13. ^ M.W. McCulley Big Sky Visitor and Resident 1971►1979

External links[edit]