HSC Big Sky Trip Report

Trip Leader: Anne Webb
Jan. 28, 2017 – Feb. 4, 2017

Big Sky Group

Lone Peak  Group at Yellowstone


Overall this trip was absolutely spectacular! We had LOTS of beautiful sunshine and some of the best skiing Montana has to offer, with no injuries, no emergencies,and no major complaints! We started with 2 bluebird days with temps in the 20’s and light winds. On our first day many of us took advantage of the mountain tours that were offered. Big Sky is SO big that they offer a North (former Moonlight Basin area) and South (‘traditional’ Big Sky) tour. The tours helped tremendously with getting around this huge resort and the guides gave great advice on best areas to ski, areas to avoid, and tips on dining out! After swooshing thru the blue bird days we had 3 snowy days that graciously left about a foot of fresh powder. During that time even though the temp dropped to highs of 8, luckily the winds stayed calm which made for terrific conditions. One night the temp went to -19 but skiing the next day was delightful! Then we ended the week like we started, sunny and in the 20’s. Despite some rocky conditions our first couple days, the foot of fresh powder improved conditions tremendously throughout the week.Some of us were still finding fresh powder in the tree runs for days.
We stayed at Big Horn condos, in 3 bedroom, 3 bath units, which were within walking distance to the Black Bear Poma lift. Overall everyone liked the condos. They were very spacious for 6 people and the kitchens were impressively stocked and well equipped.
We had an excellent group dinner on Tuesday at By Word of Mouth Restaurant. John provided us a gourmet fixed menu with choice of appetizers, options of trout, chicken or steak and completed our delicious meals with the fanciful brownie and ice cream desert; it truly melted in the mouth! Many felt it was one of the best group dinners ever!
About half of the group took a glorious day trip to Yellowstone National Park on Wednesday. Although there were some concerns about visibility with the falling snow, it turned out to be a non-factor, and we have some superb pictures as a result. All those that went had a most memorable day.
OverallI had many extremely positive comments and feedback from the group that they had an awesome time and really enjoyed the trip! And most would return to Big Sky again. In fact, one person is planning to return as soon as next year.

United flights

We flew with United from BWI to Bozeman with layovers both ways in Denver. I have to give United a pretty high rating as we had no flight delays and no lost luggage! We did have at least one person who had some issue with luggage charges, but it got straightened out and overall flying United was excellent.

Lodging at Big Horn Condos

The Big Horn Condos which were located very close to Black Bear Poma, providing ski-in, ski-out access with a short walk. The units had a grand entrance area for taking off ski boots and hanging ski clothes, and ample ski storage in a garage.  The first floor included a kitchen-dining-living room with a fireplace that was very comfortable for 6 people. Each bedroom had an entry to a private bath. The response for any maintenance issues were good. Our condo needed a garbage disposal and a toilet maintenance, and they come the next day, Sunday, and followed up Monday to be sure all was well.
While lift access was good, access to hot tubs at Huntley lodge and restaurants involved a nearly half a mile walk uphill if the bell hops had no availability. Our arrival was undoubtedly the worst part of our trip. Our arrival time coincided with the arrival with two other larger groups and we were delayed waiting for bell hops. But they did serve us well for shuttling us to our group dinner and getting us and our luggage loaded for our departure.

Dinner in Condo

Skiing…and more skiing

Big Sky did not disappoint as far as skiing goes. It was a challenge to ski all of the available terrain in one week!Starting at the top, Lone Mountain extends to 11,186 feet, where you can see 5 different mountain ranges on a clear day. At 125 miles due South you can see the Grand Tetons in Wyoming. Pat Vandrey, Linda Miller, Lee Carmen and myself rode up the tram to the summit of Lone Mountain on the first bluebird day and took some magnificent pictures.  My condo mate, Alena Schwaber, took the tram ride the next afternoon and was fortunate enough to get a picture of the resident mountain sheep on her ride back down! Unfortunately I don’t think any of us the backside of the mountain, down Liberty bowl, mostly due to lack of snow early in the week and poor visibility later in the week. But the spectacular sightseeing was well worth the trip.

Mountian Sheep

Many of us skied the lower bowl off of the Powder Seeker lift. This bowl is famously named ‘The Bowl’ and the Powder Seeker lift is a new detachable six-seater heated bubble lift. It was an awe-inspiring 3 minute ride highlighting the latest state-of-the-art lift technology! Most of us did this run several times in a row as once just wasn’t enough!

We found splendid tree skiing on Lizeete and Pomp trails off of the Southern Comfort lift. The trees were spread enough apart for beginner tree skiers to gain confidence and yet parts were steep enough to challenge more advanced tree skiers. There was also some enjoyable tree skiing on the Moonlight Basin side of the resort.

Group Shot

Some of us made it over to Shedhorn and Durango Lifts and ate lunch at the Shedhorn grill. One club member said they had the best grilled cheese they ever had, and you could get a grilled Bison burger for $12. This is a unique circular shaped lodge is heated by a wood stove and food is cooked on a grill just outside on a covered deck.

The Black Bear Poma lift was decent, even for those that aren’t big fans of surface lifts. It was actually a nice short run always with good snow. Some of us took advantage of the fresh powder while waiting to meet others at the lift. One morning there was a short delay. Evidently someone hit the trip at the top of the Poma, and the poor lift attendant had to climb the hill to reset the trip! Seemed there should be a better way to handle this – he really liked my idea of requesting a snow mobile!

One disappointment was the lack of non-restaurant style lodges on the mountain. There were several choices for lunch stops, but many frowned on bringing your own food. However, it seemed as long as you purchased something they didn’t complain about having your own food as well.

Overall I feel everyone enjoyed the mountain and would go back again. Many had been to Big Sky on previous trips.

Group on snow

Yellowstone Day Trip

About half of us took day trips to Yellowstone Park. Many of us felt it was one of the best day-off activities we have ever done! We took snow coach or snow mobile rides to either Yellowstone Grand Canyon or Old Faithful. We booked our trips thru Yellowstonefun.com and our main contact was Charlie. We found Charlie to be very helpful and he can tell you anything and everything Yellowstone! It was an all day trip, leaving the condos at 7 AM and returning around 6 PM. We entered thru the West Yellowstone entrance, which was about an hour ride from the condos.

Having snowmobiled to Old Faithful in my past, I decided to take the heated snow coach tour to the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone (GCY). Once past the Madison Junction stop (all tours stop there) we continued traveling thru 26 miles of winter wonderland to our stops at Norris Geyser Basin, Gibbons Falls, GCY and more. Visitors in our outdoor arena consisted of one snow mobile tour group, a pair of scientists studying some bison and the rest were all locals (bison, elk, swans, eagles, ducks, etc.)Everyone loved their trips and got lots of magnificent photos of wildlife, majestic geysers, shimmering waterfalls, and just breathtaking scenery…just a smidgen of all that Yellowstone has to offer.

Yellowstone Grand Canyon  swan  Lower  Falls

Dining Experiences

We had a great group dinner at By Word of Mouth restaurant. I found them on tripadvisor.com, and was very glad!  They were about 5 miles away and the food was very good gourmet quality and the price was within our budget. I could not say the same for the restaurants closer to us! Some folks did dine at The Cabin, which specializes in wild game. Most dinners were in the typical mountain pricing range, but how often do you find Pheasant or Elk on a menu? Most of us Yellowstone day trippers were there along with others from the Washington DC Club and it the good times rolled! Also some dined at Montana Jacks and had good meals there.

dinner at the cabin  Bull Elk

On the Lighter Side

Overall I really enjoyed all the aspects of being a trip leader, but of course there were some stressful times. One of those times was towards the end of the trip and multitasking - trying to pack, we were jointly getting leftover dinner ready, and I was looking for phone numbers for bell hops and the bus company and needed my eye glasses. I saw them on the table and put them on and realized I wasn’t seeing very well. Many thoughts went thru my head – was I THAT tired that I couldn’t see straight or maybe my eyes were really dried out from skiing? And then, much to my relief, my roommate Linda asked if anyone had seen her glasses! And sure enough, I had hers and mine were sitting in the case where I had left them J.

One of our last days of skiing our small group (Steve Landry, Ernie and Rose Braue, Lee Carman, Linda Miller, Bob Litter and myself) had lunch at the Shedhorn Grill. We had some great food there and this was my first time I had the pleasure of using a Johnnie on the mountain in ski attire! Not sure how they empty that thing way up on the mountain, but anyway, just as we were finishing our meal, a ski patrolman told us they were closing the lifts due to wind and we needed to take the ‘road’ back. This was NOT an optimal way back and lots of poling was involved. When we finally got back to civilization, we all decided to follow Steve thru the trees on Bear’s Lair, which started out great, but ended up steep and moguled glades with some rocks thrown in (we later discovered this was a double black diamond trail).  We all conquered that with no falls at all, but Lee insisted that the next run be an easier ‘cruiser’. So we all enjoyed that next run, except for Lee, who crashed and lost both skis (no injuries though!).

Other than that, word is out that Kim Fleishman occasionally forgot to take her wallet skiing. Luckily her roommates bailed her out for lunch and she was very grateful for the short term loans!