Australians love the outdoors, and boy do we love an outdoor holiday destination. North America has long been a favourite for adrenaline junkies and nature-loving Aussies, from exploring Yosemite to shredding on the slopes in Colorado or British Columbia. While we pride ourselves on knowing where the good powder is and the most iconic hikes, there’s one place Aussie’s likely haven’t heard of - but should have. That’s Big Sky, Montana. Popular with celebrities and snowboarders alike, anglers and bird watchers, this resort town in the Rocky Mountains is the definition of a hidden gem. There’s plenty to love, read on to find out why.
The Biggest Skiing In America
Over the winter months, (November to March), Big Sky is home to the biggest skiing in America. 5,800 acres of skiable terrain spread over four mountains is serviced by 36 ski lifts. Intermediate and advanced skiers and snowboarders will be pleased to tackle the 4,350 vertical feet and 85 km of award-winning cross-country trails. And the best thing about it? You’ll practically have the place to yourself, with the average lift wait time less than 30 seconds.
If skiing isn’t your style, there are plenty of activities available, from snow shoeing to sleigh rides and snow mobile tours and dog sledding.
Summer activities galore
Big Sky is known in the USA as a highlight winter destination, but come summer the fun doesn’t slow down. As the snow melts (well most of it - Lone Peak stays shrouded in snow year round), the ski runs turn into a network of downhill mountain biking trails that draw quite the crowd of adrenaline junkies. The rivers unfreeze and fly fishing becomes the pastime of many an angler, while horse riding and golfing keep other visitors entertained.
Summer in the wilderness in North America means hiking is a given. Right in the heart of town in Big Sky you’ll find the Ousel Falls hike, a 5km return hike through dense pine forest to a peaceful waterfall. While further afield, from the slopes of Big Sky into Yellowstone National Park, you’ll find a huge network of hikes of all lengths and difficulty levels.
The first national park opened in the USA, Yellowstone is of course a major drawcard for coming to this part of the USA, and just an hour’s drive south from Big Sky will land you at the West Yellowstone entrance to the park.
Yellowstone is home to an incredibly diverse landscape thanks to its location atop one of the world’s largest super volcanoes. At one end of the park you’ll find the world’s highest concentration of geothermal features, including the Old Faithful geyser, and eerily beautiful hot springs. Away from the geothermal features, there are sweeping plains and lofty peaks, and the dramatic Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.
Yellowstone isn’t just known for its incredible landscapes, it’s also home to a hugely diverse array of wildlife, including grizzly bears, wolves, moose, bison, elk, mountain goats and big horn sheep, just to name a few! It’s not just in the park where you can expect to see wildlife either, Big Sky is located within the greater Yellowstone ecosystem, where many wildlife roam, so your chances of spotting a bald head eagle or black bear are high! In fact there is a herd of moose that live and are often spotted on the golf course right in the heart of Big Sky.
As any good resort town should, Big Sky is home to an excellent variety of accommodation options. Big Sky Resort is where you’ll find the majority of accommodation, with direct access to ski runs and resort facilities. Down in the valley, Big Sky town also has chalet accommodation, lodges and Lone Mountain Ranch, a unique luxury property with private cabins and a range of inclusive activities. A definitely highlight is Horn and Cantle, Lone Mountain Ranch’s onsite restaurant, that specialises in local, seasonal produce sourced from surrounding farms and foraging.
Big Sky has a little ‘je ne sais quoi’ you might say. Well, that vibe you’re getting is probably due to the fact that this little slice of mountain paradise is a favourite escape for many a Hollywood star. Ever heard of the Yellowstone Club? Well this is where it is. This club is an ultra-private residential estate, spread across 15,200 acres, where the likes of Oprah, Tom Brady and Gisele Bundchen, and Justin Timberlake have access to the world’s only private ski and golf resorts. With people like this living in town, you can imagine why there’s a certain level of charm and class in Big Sky.