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Big Sky Summer

Montana’s premier ski resort offers summer guests big adventure and a base for exploring Yellowstone National Park.
By Jill Schildhouse

After landing at Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport at Gallatin Field, the woman behind the rental car counter told me that Big Sky Resort is a scenic 50-mile drive along the West Fork of the 90-mile-long Gallatin River on U.S. Highway 191. This tree-lined road that runs parallel to a winding river looks awfully familiar despite the fact that this is my first trip to Montana. Later, I find out this is where Robert Redford’s A River Runs Through It was filmed. On this sunny summer day, with the river sparkling, birds flying, and critters hopping around, the road is practically deserted. It’s easy to see how this picturesque location became the perfect Hollywood backdrop.

falls

In Title: Mountain Village at Big Sky Resort in the heart of summer activities. Big Sky Resort photo

Above: A Yellowstone National Park tour may bring travelers to scenic Lower Falls at the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. Donnie Sexton/Mountana Office of Tourism photo

Below: The scenic area of Montana between Bozeman and Big Sky Resort was one of the filming locations for A River Runs Through It. As expected, excellent fly fishing guides and day trips are offered to resort guests. Big Sky Resort photo

fishing

The Grounds of Big Sky Resort

Known for its 3,800 acres of ski terrain, short lines on its 26 lifts, and 400 inches of snow annually, Big Sky Resort is a skier’s paradise. But summer visitors know the resort offers wonderful warm-weather mountain activities.

Numerous lodging and restaurant options can be found at the resort’s Mountain Village, which stands at an elevation of 7,500 feet. The Mountain Mall, Solace Spa and base camp also are here. The surrounding mountains–Flat Iron at 8,092 feet, Andesite at 8,800 feet, and Lone at 11,166 feet–encase the property.

Plan onsite adventures (zip lining, a high ropes course, paintball, laser tag, archery, a bungee trampoline, a climbing wall, skeet shooting, guided hikes, mountain bike rentals, the scenic lift, and more) at base camp. Concierge assistance at the camp also can point guests to off-site activities, such as Yellowstone tours, fly fishing, horseback riding, whitewater rafting, and golf. A daily newsletter keeps resort guests apprised of special activities, such as evening movies, classes at the Wellness Studio, and s’mores by the fire pit.

After a busy day, the hungry and weary have plenty of options, both on the premises and in nearby Meadow Village. Don’t miss the grilled dry-aged bison steak at The Cabin Bar & Grill or the Huckleberry Lemonade at Whiskey Jack’s. If you’re looking to bring home a little bit of Big Sky, The Country Market in Meadow Village stocks locally made lotions, huckleberry candies, and other gifts.

Daytrip to Yellowstone National Park

While it’s easy to stay busy within the borders of Big Sky Resort, a mere 18 miles south, Yellowstone National Park beckons. We booked a full-day lower loop van tour with Yellowstone Tour Guides, and our guide was not only knowledgeable and friendly, but also kept checking the geyser predictions throughout the morning to ensure no time was lost waiting around for Mother Nature to cooperate.

The tour begins at the west entrance of the park (just inside Wyoming), and continues with stops at Gibbon Falls, the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, plus Lower Falls, Upper Falls, Crystal Falls, and the Hayden Valley.

After stopping for lunch, we arrived at Old Faithful just in time to see its more-impressive neighbor, Beehive Geyser, erupting. Immediately after that show, Old Faithful followed suit. Afterward, we visited the rustic-style Old Faithful Inn, before concluding the day with a short walk to the Fountain Paint Pots, where you can see the four types of hydrothermal features: geysers, hot springs, mudpots, and fumaroles.

Throughout the day, our guide pulled over to allow the group to view wildlife. We climbed out of the van to snap pictures, but were warned us to stay at least 25 yards from most animals. It was surprising to learn that as bison can sprint 37 miles per hour. We saw a coyote scrounging for food, a fox dog-paddling across a lake, several elk cooling off in another lake, and bison roaming freely, crossing the road mere inches in front of our van several times.

Although one could easily spend weeks exploring it was amazing how much could be seen in a mere eight-hour tour with Big Sky Resort as a home base.

Jill Schildhouse is editor-in-chief of AAA Arizona Highroads. She is based in Phoenix, Ariz.

Jul/Aug 2012 Issue

BEFORE YOU GO

Beginning this July, Big Sky Resort guests can enjoy Lone Peak’s summit in the summer by taking the Lone Peak Expedition, a guided experience up the mountain via a lift, safari vehicle, and the iconic Lone Peak Tram. Previously, only winter guests could enjoy this scenic overlook. Lift-served downhill mountain biking on Lone Peak is another addition to the summer fun. For more information, visit www.bigskyresort.com.

To visit Montana, first stop by your nearest AAA service office for maps, reservations, TripTiks® and TourBook® guides.


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