This year, in our never-ending quest to discover the best ski resorts for the our whole family, we tried Big Sky. Having grown up in the Alps, my husband is an expert skier and seeks more challenging terrain, while the kids are still working toward parallel skiing. Then we have a teen who likes to snowboard and ski. We are always looking for a good mountain with enough expert level runs as well as a good mix of blues and greens for the rest of the family, a good ski school, and a practical, easy ski-in/ski-out location. As for expert terrain, this mountain provides a challenge for even the
craziest most daring of skiers.
With kids and lesson schedules, we like the logistics to be as simple as possible. But we also wanted a nice place big enough to cook family dinners and get cozy apres ski.
We found just that place at Big Sky Resort in Montana. This mountain is huge. And beautiful. We stayed in an AirBnB “condo” on the side of the slopes. I write “condo” because it was really an individual chalet, in a grouping of other identical chalets. It was situated right next door (and down a little hill) to a ski rental store and a bar and grille. We were also very close to the main resort shops and restaurants, though mostly accessed by walking across the parking lot. Most mornings, we walked up a little hill from our chalet, snapped on our skis and headed to class!
Everyone finds the flag marking their respective levels for ski lessons, instructors introduce themselves and we discuss our skills and what we are hoping to get out of the lesson, and split up into groups.
Adult group size was similar to Steamboat Springs and Breckenridge, about 3-5 students per instructor. Kids’ groups were roughly 3-4 students, from what I could tell, and given fun animal names. My daughter was really motivated to move up to the next level. I loved that they were having fun being challenged and learning a new skill. They even had little races set up with those flag things you have to ski around (whatever they are called). I have photographic evidence (there’s a photographer who catches everything) that suggests my daughter actually won her race. Her brother, it’s a little murkier. This was his first year he started taking the actual ski lift with his class and in spite of complaining before the trip about not wanting to go skiing, he was totally into it and enjoying his lessons. We all made some decent progress on this mountain.
Especially cool for teens, my stepson’s snowboard instructor managed to make some cool videos of him doing tricks.
My daughter mentioned going tree skiing and first, I hadn’t realize this was actually a thing we could do there and second, that sounds both fun and somewhat dangerous. But if my kids are doing it, I could do it, right?! The very next day, my group’s instructor decided to challenge us on tougher terrain. Tree skiing with 2 – 3 feet of powder in some places, and following narrow tracks between two trees was exhilarating! Until you fall over and realize you can’t get back up so easily. I considered just resting there and eating snow if I got hungry, until someone could come by and help me before the buzzards would start circling. Are there even buzzards in Montana? Vultures? I don’t know birds. Anyway, I quickly learned that it is much safer not to do this alone!
After that, I was ready to spread my wings…on the big roller hills in the terrain park, where we practiced crouching down at the bottom of the hill and standing up at the top. Catching air optional. There’s a certain pride and maybe even a little competitiveness in a group class. At least for me. If I can’t be the best student in the class, I at least don’t want to be the worst! I am not a big physical risk taker but if the old lady next to me is going to do it, do I really have a choice? I don’t think I would have pushed myself on my own.
That day was especially tiring, but it definitely upped my confidence and comfort-level with taking risks. I even got a teeeeenny little bit of air off a jump once or twice, and even did the half-pipe!
With all this fun, who has time or energy to cook full meals for a family of 5 after a full day on the mountain? I sure don’t. And don’t even get me started on the idea of dragging everyone’s tired butts back out for dinner. My favorite family travel hack is to order groceries from a delivery service ahead of time, so when we arrive after travelling all day, our fridge and pantry are already stocked. We ordered from The Hungry Moose, a small local grocery store in Big Sky. YOU GUYS. They have prepared meals. Big, hearty, and DELICIOUS, quality prepared foods! This food was one of our major wins of the trip. One night, we had Shepherd’s Pie, another night, Chicken Pot Pie with a crust that even my discerning french husband found to be ridiculously tasty. We also enjoyed fresh, prepared salads and soups. Perfect warm, cozy food. We were set for the week.
The only issue with a small store is that sometimes they don’t have everything in stock that you need. So they try to approximate and get you something close enough. Unfortunately that meant plain frozen cheese pizzas and pepperoni pizzas can get substituted for supremes and hawaiian pizzas. Talk about risky.
On New Year’s Eve, we went doglsedding with Yellowstone Dog Sled Adventures. After some instruction, we were able to steer and ride our own sleds, or just hop on for the ride. We warmed up before, during, and after in a tent with a fire, hot chocolate, and cookies. We watched and even got to help hook up the dogs to the sled and best of all…pet them! I don’t know why, but I kind of expected these dogs to be very serious and uninterested in us. Au contraire, they were the sweetest, most lovable, excited-to-see-you pups ever! Seeing my youngest yell “Ha!” for left, and “G!” for right was such a cool experience. One to last a lifetime.