Big Sky, Revisited

Recreating beyond the resort.

Sure, Big Sky is the destination for awesome snow, unrivaled scenery, and kick-ass terrain—but you don’t have to be up at the resort to get your recreational kicks. Here are some other winter activities to try this season, lift ticket not required.

Down in the meadow, in the heart of Big Sky, Ousel Falls is a great winter trail. It’s just one of the trails the nonprofit Big Sky Community Corporation maintains for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and winter hiking. The BSCC website is a good resource for community hikes, park information, sports events, and opportunities to volunteer.

If you’re going to be outside, keep the camera handy, as winter provides plenty of wildlife-spotting opportunities. Moose are regulars in the red willows opposite Ophir School, or standing in the winding Gallatin River shallows, heading south on Hwy. 191. This fantastic, and free, 20-mile scenic drive through Yellowstone Park is a must. It starts just south of Big Sky and winds its way toward West Yellowstone. There are several snowshoe and cross-country ski trails in this broad picturesque canyon, including Daly Creek, Black Butte, and Specimen Ridge, and backcountry ski opportunities at Telemark Meadows. Keep an eye out for eagles, elk, and other iconic wildlife all along the way. Big Sky Adventures & Tours is a fantastic option to get you out there in a variety of adventurous ways.

If you book early, and want a unique winter experience, try out a Forest Service cabin. Yellow Mule Cabin can be accessed via a 14-mile snowmobile ride, off Buck Creek Ridge Road, 14 miles south of Big Sky on Hwy. 191. Take a look at cabins on the Forest Service website for more info. Of course, if you like your powder with a bit more power, there are guided and unguided snowmobiling opportunities in the Custer-Gallatin National Forest, and at Buck Creek Ridge, but be sure to check out winter-use rules before heading out at full throttle. For a similarly classic rustic feel but with all the amenities, check out 320 Ranch just down the road.


Not in a wandering kind of mood? Stay close by and grab a pair of skates at the Town Center ice rink. There’s open skating every afternoon and some evenings, and with the NHL season in full swing, there’s still time to be the legend you always imagined yourself to be—just show up at the Big Sky Skating and Hockey Association drop-in.

For those evenings when you want to stay inside, the Arts Council of Big Sky hosts concerts and musical events all winter and well into spring. Start the evening off at one of Big Sky’s many excellent restaurants—you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the variety and quality of food available in this little mountain hamlet.

When you head up to Big Sky this winter, consider being chauffeured up and down the canyon. The Skyline bus keeps the drama in the terrain, not in the ride, and at just five dollars at ticket, it’s well worth it. Sit back as glimpses of dark water weave through snow-covered boulders on the Gallatin, ushering you toward winter’s playground.