By Susan Farewell
What could be better than a week of all-out skiing in one of North America’s biggest ski areas?
Combining it with a visit to Yellowstone National Park, the country’s very first national park which not only has some of the most concentrated geothermal activity in the world (geysers, hot springs and mud pots) but is home to grizzly bears, wolves, elk and bison.
Big Sky Resort is located midway between Bozeman (where most skiers fly in and out of) and West Yellowstone, where the West Entrance of the park is located. The two experiences—visiting a ski resort and a wilderness kingdom—pair beautifully.
Here’s some fodder for thought.
Biggest Skiing in America
While the title for the largest ski area in the country is a hotly contested one, Big Sky Resort, in fact, holds that claim to fame. It has a whopping 5,800 seamless skiable acres. With their daily average of 3,000 skiers, that comes to more than a football field of room per skier.
Terrain for All
Whether your four-year-old is learning the difference between skiing “French fries” and “pizza” style, your teen is looking for halfpipes and terrain parks or you’re hoping to get in some glade runs, you’ll find there’s enough variety to satisfy everyone at Big Sky. With four mountains served by 34 lifts and an average snowfall of 400 inches…what more can you ask for?
Zipping through the Treetops
Nothing quite matches the feeling of zipping through the trees 150 feet above the forest floor. Big Sky’s Adventure Zipline Tour rockets you down the mountain on four exciting lines.
Over the Rivers and Through the Woods
All too often, the destinations that have great downhill skiing don’t necessarily have wonderful cross-country skiing nearby. Not the case with Big Sky. When you’re in this part of the world, you’ll have access to some of the country’s best cross-country skiing. Lone Mountain Ranch, which has 85 kilometers of groomed trails is within easy reach. A bit further afield (in West Yellowstone), are the Rendezvous Ski Trails which Nordic skiers flock to for ski and biathlon races or to just glide through the glistening snowcapes. Scroll down for more on cross-country skiing in Yellowstone National Park itself.
Take a Seat and Enjoy the Ride
No need to worry about slippery winter roads when visiting Yellowstone National Park. Between December 15th and March 15th, the mode of transportation is over-snow vehicles. These snowcoaches are the same vans used for summer touring (with nice big windows for viewing wildlife and landscapes), but the wheels are replaced by tracks and skis.
You can take guided day trips from Big Sky Resort that include visits to Old Faithful and multiple geyser basins or settle in the park for a few nights at Xanterra’s Old Faithful Snow Lodge or Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel.
Natural Sculpture Park
One of the coolest things about cross-country skiing or snowshoeing in Yellowstone National Park is that you’ll see rime ice. This forms from the steam of the thermal features, creating sensational natural sculptures and elaborate objets d’art. You’ll see trees with every single twig or pine needle individually coated with ice. You’ll also glide through snowscapes, steam billowing all around, and occasionally pass over a foot bridge that crosses a pool of scalding hot water.
One of our favorite trails is the Lone Star Geyser loop, which follows the remnants of an old service road. About a 5-mile roundtrip, it takes you to the cone shaped geyser, which erupts every three hours to a height of 35-45 feet.
It’s All Yours
Winter is magical in Yellowstone National Park. You get to see some of the park’s most magnificent thermal features and its steadfast wildlife–backdropped by blue skies and sparkling snow–and there are no crowds to compete with.