Just north of Yellowstone National Park, the Madison Range of southwest Montana comes to a climactic point that seems to elbow away all of the other peaks. Lone Peak indeed stands alone, the dramatic 11,166-foot-high centerpiece of Big Sky's terrain. From up here on a clear, 20-degree day, you can see easily see into Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, as well as catch expansive views of Wyoming, Montana and Idaho.
Attaining that perspective also comes easy, since lines at the 27 lifts rarely seem to get truly unwieldy, not even at the 15-person tram that services the top.
But here's where things get really good – Big Sky purchased neighboring Moonlight Basin a few years back, placing 5,750 skiable acres and 4,350 vertical feet under one lift ticket. Skiing from the summit of Lone Peak can be the poorest-man's version of heliskiing: deep, steep and almost Switzerland-spectacular. Steep gullies – serious enough to warrant numbers, not names – drain from the top into wide aprons. This is expert-only turf, where double-black diamonds beget more double-black diamonds. Follow them down into the intermediate and beginner runs that fan out below and you can make it a six-mile-long run, legs willing.
Fortunately, that's just the tip of the peak, so to speak. Big Sky has more than 100 miles of runs across four mountains, eight terrain parks and 400 inches of snow a year, which makes for plenty of more relaxed options, too. The Lewis and Clark Quad chair up 8,028-foot Spirit Mountain accesses scores of beginner and intermediate runs like Chuckles and Papa Bear.
The hot shot of the clan won't be bored since blacks like Double D cross over easier runs to bring you all back to the same spot. Step it up on 8,800-foot Andesite Mountain with everything from greens to double-blacks, and ski Lone Peak when you hit your stride.
Lift tickets run around $140 a day, but they get a little cheaper when you book a stay or ski multiple days. A resort of this quality has all of the kids programs you'd hope, like day care, lessons and a "club" from 4 pm to 6 pm that seems particularly well-timed for junior (four-years-old and up) to be doing crafts while mom and dad do cocktails at reputable joints like Montana Jack.
If anyone needs a break from skiing, Big Sky has a 1,500-foot-long zip line about 150 feet off the slopes to keep days interesting. Otherwise, check out the ropes course, snowshoe tours, giant swing, bungee trampoline, dog sledding, snowmobiling and Nordic skiing – or simply head down to Yellowstone to watch Old Faithful blow.
Kids under 10 years old do ski and stay for free when you book through their central reservations portal, but the eating is on you. The choices are good, with several restaurants offering anything from homemade pizzas to poached octopus and bison short ribs. Sleigh ride dinners? You got it. Here's to your belly being as big as the sky.
The Huntley Lodge sits in the heart of Big Sky's Mountain Village and conjures up all the esprit de sport with its massive fireplaces and cushy beds. It doesn't get more convenient or comfortable than this, with slope-side access to everything.
A place named Peaks Restaurant better have killer views of Lone Peak and the surrounding landscape, and this Peaks does. Options range from eggy breakfasts to expertly prepared seasonal fare, conveniently located on the terrace level of the Summit Hotel.