Music on the Mountain

A bluegrass bonanza. 

With Big Sky's nearly 100-inch base, this is the year to go all in. And with the resort's après options catching up to the ski scene, resistance is futile.

Every year, Big Sky hosts several great events, and I've had my eye on the Big Sky Big Grass festival for quite some time. This year's lineup included music from Billy Strings and Keller & the Keels—bands I know and love— and I knew I could't pass up the opportunity. Planning ahead, I booked a room at the Huntley, ordered tickets, and got ready for a weekend to remember.

I hit the slopes early Friday morning, enjoying an entire day of amazing views, soft powder, and the freedom of a weekend off. As the lifts closed, I returned to my room, ditched my gear, and cleaned up before the shows. My stomach growling in anticipation of a hot meal, I stopped by Montana Jack's for an après-ski burger and watched roadies set up the stage. After demolishing my food with the speed of a starving wolf, I moseyed on over to the Missouri Ballroom, where I found a party like no other.

A massive crowd gathered around the stage, euphoric and cacophonous as Keller & the Keels—and copious amounts of booze—took them to bluegrass heaven. Fingers flew, voices rang, and feet pounded to the music. Keller’s nimbleness with the guitar was one of the most impressive things I saw all weekend, rivaled only by Billy Strings's later performance. As the show wrapped up, I bounced back to Montana Jack’s, grabbed a drink, and sidled up to the stage. I knew the show was going to be good, and I wanted my spot staked out well before Billy’s show began.

I was not disappointed.

Billy Strings, an unassuming 20-something with sloppy hair and a "mom" tattoo, is one of the most talented guitarists you will ever see. His energy is contagious and his skill is breathtaking. What’s more, he makes it seem effortless, something that is both brilliant and incredibly frustrating.

The crowd went wild as Billy and his band took us straight through the night and into the early hours of the morning. After the show, I wandered in a daze back to the hotel, content with my decision to splurge on the festival. Thinking of bed and the next day's skiing, I was surprised to find the lobby of the Huntley Lodge packed. Billy Strings had started a jam session, and I knew I couldn’t pass up the opportunity. We drank, sang, and laughed our way to 4am when the crowd finally dispersed. People stumbled back to their rooms, bluegrass running through their brains as they drifted off to sleep.

There is no doubt in my mind that I will be at the Big Sky Big Grass festival next year. Big Sky seems to have dialed in what it means to have a good time in Montana, and I plan to be at as many of their events as possible. Over the next few months, they'll be hosting the Snowshoe Shuffle, Shedhorn SkiMo, and the annual Pond Skim—and they will assuredly be just as fun as Big Sky Big Grass. They've already extended their season a week, so don't miss another minute—get up there and see for yourself.