Big Sky Resort

Coordinates: 45°15′0″N 111°25′0″W / 45.25000°N 111.41667°W / 45.25000; -111.41667
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Big Sky
Big Sky Resort in 2006
Big Sky Resort in 2006
Big Sky is located in Montana
Big Sky
Big Sky
Location in Montana
Big Sky is located in the United States
Big Sky
Big Sky
Big Sky (the United States)
LocationBig Sky,
Madison County,
 United States
Nearest major cityBozeman - 50 mi (80 km)
Coordinates45°15′0″N 111°25′0″W / 45.25000°N 111.41667°W / 45.25000; -111.41667
OwnerBoyne Resorts
Vertical4,350 ft (1,326 m)
Top elevation11,166 ft (3,403 m)[1]
Base elevation6,800 ft (2,073 m)
Lone Moose
7,500 ft (2,286 m)
Mountain Village[1]
Skiable area5,800 acres (23.5 km2)[1]
- 15% beginner
- 25% intermediate
- 60% advanced
Longest run6 miles (10 km)
Lift system36 lifts
SnowmakingYes, 10%

Big Sky Resort is a ski resort in the western United States, located in southwestern Montana in Madison County. An hour south of Bozeman via U.S. Highway 191 in Big Sky, Montana.

Opened in late 1973, Big Sky Resort has more than 5,800 acres (9.1 sq mi; 23.5 km2) of terrain and a vertical drop of 4,350 feet (1,330 m).[1] In July 2013, Big Sky Resort acquired 200 acres (0.8 km2) on Spirit Mountain, which were previously owned by Spanish Peaks, a private club.[2] In October of the same year, Big Sky Resort acquired the terrain and facilities of Moonlight Basin, a neighboring resort that shared the northern exposure of Lone Mountain.[2]

Big Sky Resort also offers meeting space for conferences, weddings, and corporate retreats.[3]

Resort history[edit]

The resort was founded by Montana native Chet Huntley, the retired co-anchorman of The Huntley–Brinkley Report of NBC News.[4][5] Big Sky opened in December 1973, with its main base area at an elevation of 7,510 ft (2,290 m) above sea level, on the eastern face of the 11,167-foot (3,404 m) Lone Mountain, the sixty-seventh highest mountain in Montana, and the seventh-highest mountain in the state outside of the Beartooth Range.[2]

The first three lifts installed included a gondola and two chairlifts.[5] The enclosed gondola carried four skiers per cabin, and climbed 1,525 feet (465 m) to an elevation of 9,040 ft (2,755 m). The nearby Lone Peak triple chairlift provided the lift-served maximum of 9,800 ft (2,985 m), unloading at the bowl 1,366 ft (416 m) beneath Lone Mountain's summit, providing a vertical drop of just under 2,300 ft (700 m), and the Explorer double chair served novice terrain just above the base. The fourth lift was the Andesite double, which climbed the north face of adjacent Andesite Mountain to 8,700 ft (2,650 m); it was renamed Ram's Horn in 1978, and replaced with the Ramcharger high speed quad in 1990.[2]

Boyne Resorts purchased the resort in 1976, following Huntley's death from cancer in March 1974,[6] and the decision of owner Chrysler Corporation to divest its real estate development assets.[2]

Lone Peak, the top of the resort mountain

The resort grew steadily over the following decades, adding lifts and more than tripling the terrain available for skiing and snowboarding. The fifth lift, a second chairlift on Andesite Mountain, was installed in the summer of 1979. The Mad Wolf double climbed Andesite's eastern face and lowered Big Sky's minimum elevation 540 ft (165 m) to 6,970 ft (2,125 m). This increased the area's vertical drop to over 2,800 ft (855 m). The Mad Wolf lift was replaced with the Thunder Wolf high speed quad in 1994.[2]

Two lifts were added in the 1980s, Gondola Two was installed in parallel to the first gondola, and the Challenger double chair served upper-elevation expert terrain on the north edge of the ski area. A tow was later added above this lift. Gondola Two was replaced with a Doppelmayr high speed quad, Swift Current 4, in 1997. The eighth lift at Big Sky was the Southern Comfort on the south side of Andesite Mountain, a Heron-Poma triple chairlift acquired from Copper Mountain in Colorado, installed in 1990 and upgraded to a high speed quad for the 2004-2005 ski season.[2]

In the fall of 1995, Big Sky installed the Lone Peak Tram to provide access to expert terrain from the 11,166-foot (3,403 m) Lone Mountain summit. The Shedhorn double chair was also part of this expansion, installed in 1995 on the lower south face of Lone Mountain.[2]

The tram increased Big Sky's vertical drop to 4,180 ft (1,275 m). The minimum elevation was lowered further in the fall of 1999, with the addition of a used triple chairlift from Keystone Resort in Colorado, starting at a base elevation of 6,800 ft (2,075 m) at Lone Moose Meadows. This increased the ski area's total vertical drop to 4,350 ft (1,330 m), with the maximum continuous vertical drop increased to 4,100 ft (1,250 m) from the top of the tram to the main base area.[2]

In 1990 the Shoshone Condominium Hotel and the Yellowstone Conference Center were built.[2]

In April 2000, Boyne Resorts announced that an estimated $400 million in improvements would take place over the next ten years to the Mountain Village and the ski area. Later in 2000, the $54 million Summit Hotel was completed. In late 2007, the $25 million Village Center Complex was opened.[2]

In 2007, Big Sky expanded the skiing opportunities on the south face of Lone Peak with the reinstallation of the original Southern Comfort triple chairlift as the Dakota chairlift on the south side of Lone Peak, providing access to the accompanying out-of-bounds sidecountry, Dakota Territory. Gondola One was retired in the summer of 2008, dismantled due to the rising cost of repairs.[2]

Big Sky's neighbor on its north boundary, Moonlight Basin, merged with Big Sky Resort in October 2013.[2]

In 2016, Big Sky Resort installed two new Doppelmayr chairlifts as part of BigSky2025, a 10-year, $150-million project. The Lone Peak triple chairlift in the bowl was replaced with Powder Seeker, a six-seat high-speed chairlift with heated seats and bubble covers. The same summer, the Challenger double chairlift, which had suffered a mechanical failure, was replaced by a triple chairlift with a conveyor load.

In 2018, as part of the Big Sky 2025 plan, Doppelmayr built North America's first ever high speed eight pack in the form of the Ramcharger 8, which replaced an existing Doppelmayr high speed quad from the base area to the summit of Andesite Mountain and has many of the same features as Powder Seeker. Billed as "the most technologically advanced lift ever built," it opened on December 15, 2018. The original high speed quad was reinstalled on Lone Peak, where it replaced the Shedhorn double chairlift.[7]


Winter activities include skiing and snowboarding, seven terrain parks, zip-line, and snowshoeing. Summer attractions include zip-lines, archery, tennis, hiking, and mountain biking trails on the mountain. Golf and horseback riding are available near the Meadow Village at an elevation of 6,300 feet (1,920 m), between the ski area and US-191.[8]

Terrain aspects - skiing[edit]

Big Sky's main summit (Lone Peak) sits at an elevation of 11,166 feet.[9] All of the resorts terrain faces all four points on a compass, with most of the terrain either facing north, or east.

  • North: 37%
  • West: 2%
  • East: 36%
  • South: 25%

Lift system[edit]

Inside the Swift Current 6 lift at the resort, a six-person lift with bubble covers

Big Sky has one of the largest chairlift fleets of any ski area North America. Comprising 31 chairlifts,[10] the resort has ten detachable lifts, with five of those lifts having blue bubbles. There are also many fixed grip chairlifts as well.

Name Type Builder Built Notes
Lone Peak Tram Tram Garaventa 2023 Holds 75 people, and has two black and blue cabins.
One&Only Gondola Gondola Doppelmayr 2024 Under Construction - Will have a mid-station.
Explorer Gondola 2025
Madison 8 Detachable 8 2024 Under Construction - Replaces the Six Shooter chairlift.
Ramcharger 8 2018 Has heated seats.
Swift Current 6 Detachable 6 2021
Powder Seeker 6 2016
Lewis & Clark Detachable Quad 2005 One of three lifts built when the area was called "Spanish Peaks".
Southern Comfort 4 2004
Shedhorn 4 2018 Relocated from Ramcharger.
Thunderwolf 4 1993 Oldest High-Speed Quad at the mountain.
Iron Horse 4 Fixed Grip Quad Garaventa CTEC 1994
Derringer 4 Doppelmayr 2003
Lone Tree 4 2004
Dakota 3 Triple Heron-Poma 2007 Relocated from Swift Current
Sacajawea 3 Doppelmayr 2005 One of three lifts built when the area was called "Spanish Peaks".
Challenger 3 2016 Has a Chairkit loading conveyor.
Lone Moose 3 Yan / Doppelmayr 1999 Relocated from Keystone Colorado, and rebuilt with Doppelymar equipment.
Pony Express 3 Garaventa CTEC 1995
Explorer 2 Double Heron-Poma 1973
Headwaters 2 Yan 2005 Relocated from Kirkwood California.
Bear Back Poma Poma 1993

Blue highlight indicates chairlifts with blue bubbles.

Real Estate Lifts[edit]

These lifts are marked on the trail map with a Purple highlight, and are operated privately. In total, there are 10 lifts in this category.

Name Type Builder Built Notes
Cabin 3 Triple Doppelmayr 2005 One of three lifts built when the area was called "Spanish Peaks".
Highlands 3 2019
Jayhawk 3 2019 Has a mid-station, and loads in both directions.
Cascade 3 CTEC 2002
White Otter 2 Double Doppelmayr 1999
Stagecoach Skytrac 2017
Little Thunder 2 Riblet 2006 Relocated from Brighton, Utah.
Tweener Poma Doppelmar CTEC 2005
Homer 2005

Lone Peak Tram[edit]

Lone Peak Tram, January 2018

The Lone Peak Tram is an aerial tramway that transports guests to the summit of Lone Mountain at 11,166 ft (3,403 m). The original tram was constructed in the fall of 1995, with 15 passenger cabins climbing 1,420 ft (433 m) over a distance of 2,828 ft (862 m) from the summit of Powder Seeker. It provided access to the most difficult terrain at Big Sky Resort, including former Moonlight Basin terrain. Construction was completed by the high-altitude construction firm Matrix, based in Alaska.[11] Beginning in the summer 2012 season, Big Sky introduced daily summer tram rides to take visitors to the top of Lone Peak, called the Lone Peak Expedition.[8] Starting in the 2021/2022 season, access to the tram required the purchase of a tram pass pack, individual day passes between $20-$80 USD, a Gold season pass for unlimited access, or a Double Black season pass for 10 days.[12] In early 2022, it was announced that the tram would be replaced by a new tram, starting near the base of Powder Seeker and adjacent to the top station of the future Explorer Gondola.[13] The new tram was constructed and opened for the 2023-2024 season, and features 75 seat cabins.


  1. ^ a b c d e "Mountain Stats and Info". Archived from the original on 2016-10-18. Retrieved 2016-11-02.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m "Big Sky Resort History". Retrieved 2 May 2017.
  3. ^ "Conferences". Retrieved 6 June 2015.
  4. ^ "Big Sky". Spokane Daily Chronicle. (advertisement). October 2, 1973. p. 21.
  5. ^ a b Young, Larry (December 26, 1975). "Big Sky ski area is 'growing up'". The Spokesman-Review. p. 49.
  6. ^ "Ex-newscaster Chet Huntley dies". Spokane Daily Chronicle. Associated Press. March 20, 1974. p. 1.
  8. ^ a b "Activities and Things to Do". Archived from the original on 10 June 2015. Retrieved 6 June 2015.
  9. ^ Best Ski Resorts, ZRankings. "ZRankings Topographical Survey - Terrain". ZRankings. ZRankings. Retrieved 28 October 2015.
  10. ^ "Big Sky, MT".
  11. ^ "Lone Peak Tram". Archived from the original on 5 November 2013. Retrieved 18 November 2013.
  12. ^ "Big Sky's New Tram Policy Aims to Control Crowds, But It Will Cost You". Ski Magazine. Ski Magazine. Retrieved 25 February 2022.
  13. ^ "Big Sky's Ambitious Gondola and Tram Aim to Alleviate Base Area Crowds and Improve Lone Peak Access". Ski Magazine. Ski Magazine. Retrieved 25 February 2022.

External links[edit]