Montana is like a shell game: While most people head here in summer, the real prize might very well be hidden in winter at Big Sky, which boasts 3,600 spectacularly skiable acres, (almost) uniformly excellent conditions, vaulting Rockies views, and an average of only two skiers per acre—meaning lift lines are pretty much unheard of. Much of the annual 400-inch snowfall is the bone-dry talc that local skiers reverently call “cold smoke,” and while there’s extreme white-knuckle skiing for sure (an aerial tram to the 11,166-foot summit of the Matterhorn-like Lone Peak offers skiers a 4,350-foot vertical drop, the second steepest in the nation after Snowmass, Colorado), a good 50 percent of the resort’s 150-plus trails are perfect for the intermediate.
Big Sky abuts Yellowstone National Park, 18 miles away in southwestern Montana, where horizontal skiing can be enjoyed in an almost surreal setting of untracked snow and steam sent up by geysers that summertime visitors cannot imagine. More than 45 miles of exceptional cross-country trails are the uncontested draw at the much-ballyhooed Lone Mountain Ranch, an elegant four-seasons lodge (an official Orvis fly-fishing resort in the summer months) with an acclaimed restaurant and convenient shuttles that keep guests connected to the Big Sky area. To appease your inner 19th-century lady or gentleman, give in to the ranch’s snowy horse-drawn sleigh ride through the woods to a lantern-lit cabin and an unforgettable oldtime evening of fine food and a thoroughly delightful singalong.