Zipping Across the Big Sky

Among the vacationers donning new hiking boots to play mini golf at Big Sky Resort Basecamp, a new adventure emerges for the young and old alike. If you’ve been to Big Sky Resort, you’ve heard the screams and squeals as people soar overhead on the twin zipline. This year, the resort added three new cables, creating a series of four ziplines for over 5,000 feet of zipping adventure.

big sky ziplineWaiting in line for the first ride

In true Outside Bozeman fashion, we wasted no time trying this new Montana toy. The third group to ride the new line, our enthusiastic guides admitted that we were their first real tour.

“But don’t worry,” they assured us, “we’ve done this before... once or twice.”

The guides herded us in a circle, and after hasty group introductions, helped us make sense of the tangle of gear. Once we suited up, we harness-bumbled our way to ride the Explorer Double Chair to the first platform. We got off the lift and followed our guides on a short, easy hike across a dry ski run to the first platform.

If there’s one thing in the world I’m afraid of, it’s heights, and staring at the thin cable I would be hurling down at breakneck speeds, I felt more than a little apprehension.

One guide zipped to the other side to catch us as the other guides gave us the rundown. They showed us how to use the wind in order to control which way we faced as we spun down the line, using tricks like "the egg beater" in which you spin your legs in a clumsy circle until you face the correct direction.

“The only thing you absolutely need to remember is to grab the black rope at the end,” they said. “That’s how we pull you in.”

Maggie, our fearless Senior Editor, took the first ride. We cheered her on as she went down the line, hit the end, and began to drift back.

“What happened?” one of the ladies in our group asked as Maggie stopped a good 20 yards from the opposite platform.

The guide laughed. “That’s what happens if you don’t grab the black rope. It’s good, though, we haven’t had to rescue anyone yet. Good practice.”

We watched as one of the guides on the other side zipped slowly to Maggie and pulled her back to the platform.

One by one, our group made its way to the other side, until it was my turn. The guide clipped me onto the line, checked my harness, and waited for the thumbs-up from the other side to send me acroos the canyon. The crackly confirmation came from the walkie talkie, and the guide nodded at me. I stepped up to the edge, kept my gaze straight ahead at the tips of the waving evergreens to avoid looking at the ground, and stepped into thin air.

The fear vanished as I soared across the line, trees passing on either side. The wind spun me around and I laughed as I quickly learned that the egg beater was much more difficult than I imagined. I flew sideways towards the black rope and grabbed at it frantically, terrified I would miss it. As soon as my hand caught it, the guides grabbed my harness and reeled me in. I stumbled onto the platform, exultant.

“How was it?” the guide asked as he detached me from the line.

I beamed. “So awesome.” I said, and shaking with adrenaline, joined the other group members on the crowded platform.

The next line started from the same platform, and I had stopped being afraid, just excited for my turn. 

The second line was shorter than the first, but at up to 300 feet off the ground, it was by far the tallest. The guides encouraged us to check out the creek below as we rushed past. I had not fully conquered my fear of heights and ignored this suggestion, but I was able to relax and enjoy the breathtaking mountain views only Montana can afford. As a skier, I have explored the resort many times before, but summer offers a unique perspective on the familiar area.

Throughout the rest of the trip, we joked with the guides—even convinced them to participate in staged photos pretending to push each other off the platform—cheered each other on as we made our way through the zips, and rapelled off one of the platforms. The course ended with the already-established twin zip across the base, and we partnered up to race each other down the line.

Having survived the third-ever trip on the Adventure Zipline, facing our fears, and acting as an initiation for our green guides, at the end of the line, we all felt a little closer. We concluded the tip with fun group photos to commemorate our time together, discarded the gear, and reentered the Disneyland-esque Big Sky Base Camp.

The Adventure Zipline opened to the public this past Saturday. Bring family and friends of all ages and explore Big Sky from the big sky. Make a day of it and check out the resort’s other summer offerings such as their scenic lift rides, mountain biking, folfing, and much more.