Exploring the Winter Wonderland of Big Sky, Montana

Big Sky Resort in Montana is exactly the majestic winter wonderland you would expect. You know the photos you see of those stunning snowcapped mountains and others of tree-lined trails right off of picturesque Christmas cards? The ones where you can practically hear the eerie and beautiful silence that only comes after snowfall? I can now officially say there’s nothing filtered about those pictures!

Our family recently visited Montana and we were so impressed, not only by the landscape, but by the way it pushed us out of our comfort zones. Our trip was full of firsts, from snowmobiling across Yellowstone Park in single-digit temperatures, to dogsledding through the forest with 75 Alaskan huskies. We went snowshoeing for the very first time and went skiing on our first real ski runs. We’re so grateful to Big Sky for hosting us and designing such a thoughtful and well-planned itinerary for us! If you’ll be traveling there soon, consider using our 5-day itinerary below.

Before the fun could begin, however, we had to get from point A to point B. We flew Delta from New York City to Minneapolis, and then from Minneapolis to Bozeman. There’s a direct flight United from Newark to Bozeman, too, if you prefer not to have a connection, but of course we are a Delta family, so we preferred this option. Now, here’s what we did once we got there:

Day 1: Bozeman

Bozeman is a small, charming town that’s experienced a ton of growth recently. Since 2010 the population has grown by 25%. You’ll see a lot of construction projects around, and a Kimpton property is slated to open in the next couple years. We found it really funny that long-time Montana residents affectionately bemoan that the town is turning into “Boze-angeles.” With all the new shops, restaurants, and hotels opening up, it’s clear that Bozeman is on its way to becoming a hot spot city like Austin or Portland.

We spent our first night at RSVP Motel, which is a super cute property. It used to be a run-down motel, but they renovated it into a very stylish motel, with a retro flair. The check-in process is fun: Adult guests are served champagne as a welcome drink and children get muffins! Our room was a queen-queen suite, with a massive bathroom, complete with pretty floral print robes. The room also had access to a patio area outside with a fireplace, but since we were there in the winter, we didn’t use that feature much.

Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi

We had lunch at Roost Fried Chicken, a delicious, Tennessee, fried chicken joint. The girls especially loved the boiled peanuts; they couldn’t get enough! The fried chicken was crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. The collard greens, mac and cheese, and baked beans (which had a bit of a kick) were also really good. Serge had the fried chicken sandwich, which came topped with lettuce, pickles and the restaurant’s proprietary “Come Back Sauce,” which was a really great mix of flavors.

Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi

Day 2: Heading to Big Sky

We started the day with breakfast at RSVP Motel’s restaurant, called The Farmer’s Daughter. It’s a gem of an eatery, and it’s extremely Instagrammable with stylish touches everywhere and lots of millennial pink and pastel. The menu is great for health-conscious folks, with lots of Paleo-friendly and gluten-free options.

Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi

Once at Big Sky, we learned there are lots of different lodging options, with the two main hotels being The Summit and Huntley Lodge. There are condos located around the resort as well. We stayed at condo 32 at the Big Horn Condominiums. Many of the condos at Big Sky are privately owned, but almost all of them are managed by Big Sky itself, which makes the booking and check-in process seamless for travelers. We checked in at the Summit Hotel’s front desk, where they gave us our keys. Then one of the bellmen at the hotel gave us a ride down to the condo, which was one of the great features of staying at a Big Sky condo. You can call the Summit hotel front desk anytime and request a complimentary ride up to the base, down to the town center, or wherever you need to go. (The bellmen just work off of gratuities.) Because of this, we didn’t feel hampered at all by not having a car.

The girls absolutely loved the bellmen at Big Sky because they’re dressed like cowboys! And at least a few of them we chatted with actually are cowboys in the off-season, which the girls were very impressed by.

We had a 3-bedroom condo that probably could have fit another two families! There was a ton of space to spread around in, beautiful vaulted ceilings in the living room, a real wood-burning fireplace, and our favorite feature was the giant picture window in the dining room that overlooked a ski slope, giving us an amazing view.

Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi

We had lunch at Montana Jack, a fantastic place if you enjoy burgers and craft beers. I had The Bae, a beef patty topped with sharp cheddar, bacon, avocado, and a fried egg. Serge had the Montana Bison Burger, which was amazingly tender and juicy. As you would imagine, beef and bison in Montana is incredibly flavorful, so while you’re here you can’t go wrong order those options on any restaurant menu.

Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi

Afterward, it was time for something I have always wanted to try: snowshoeing! I was so excited to learn that this was one of the activities Big Sky arranged for us. We headed down to Lone Mountain Ranch to get outfitted with our snowshoes and poles, and then we set off into the forest.

Snowshoeing is a lot more challenging than it looks, as it takes a while to get used to walking with the wider gait that you need with the snowshoes on. So it’s one of those activities that can be as relaxing or as intense as you choose. We went at a moderate pace, which was still pretty challenging for us. It was great getting to explore this beautiful scenery. When we were done, the girls got to see the horses on the ranch and feed them apples!

Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi

When it was time for dinner, we took a quick walk over to Horn & Cantle, a fantastic fine dining restaurant on the premises of Lone Mountain Ranch. It’s in a spacious log cabin, with lots of Western touches in the decor like cowboy boots, mounted deer heads, saddles. I’d highly recommend dining here, since it was probably my favorite meal of the whole trip! We started with a beet and citrus salad, and the steak tartare, which were both excellent. Since we had a heavy lunch, Serge and I both decided to go with seafood for entrees. Serge had the crispy skin Montana trout and I had the bouillabaise. The girls both had mac & cheese from the kids menu and enjoyed their meals, too.

Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi

Day 3: Skiing

We started the morning with breakfast at Peaks restaurant at Summit Hotel, which has a breakfast buffet, and then spent a couple hours doing a photo shoot. Even though it wasn’t yet open for the season, we took the covered chair lift up to Everett’s 8800, an elegant, rustic restaurant at the top of the mountain. The deck has really incredible views of Lone Mountain, so it’s worth the trip for that alone.

Photo: Justine Esslinger
Photo: Justine Esslinger

After grabbing a quick lunch of great gourmet hot dogs from Yeti Dogs, we began our ski lessons. The girls took a private lesson with their instructor Hannah, while Serge and I took our private lesson with Kurt. (Both were fantastic!) Kurt took us down White Wing, our first official ski run. Up until this trip we’d mostly just stayed on the ski school bunny slopes, since we’re still beginners. To be honest, I was completely terrified, but also so proud of myself that I got all the way down!

Big Sky Mountain Sports is super family-friendly. (Kids under 6 years old even get to ski for free! Book your lift tickets online for the best savings.) It’s safe and fun for the whole family, with the instructors really making sure your experience is tailored to your abilities so that you have the best possible experience. With more than 5,000 acres of skiable terrain, there’s something for everyone. There are even guided experiences, like Everett’s First Tracks Breakfast and Headlamp Night Skiing.

Photo: Justine Esslinger
Photo: Justine Esslinger

Once we’d worked up an appetite, it was time for dinner at one of the newest restaurants on the mountain: Blue Buddha Sushi. The restaurant serves entrees too, but the main attractions are the specialty sushi rolls. Two of our favorites were the Dam Roll, made of seared beef tenderloin, yellowtail, scallions and topped with wasabi aioli; and the Spicy Crunchy Lobster roll, made of spicy lobster, avocado and cucumber, and topped with spicy aioli and tempura crunchies.

Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi

Day 4: Skiing and Dogsledding

The fourth day was one of the coldest of our entire trip, so the slopes felt a little more challenging. The snow felt icy and crunchy, and my joints felt stiff, too, but with Kurt’s patient instruction, Serge and I ended up going down White Wing, just as we had the day before. This time I was much less scared, and felt much more confident going down. I even ended the run by skiing over some of those big snow bumps!

That afternoon, we drove over to Moonlight Basin, where we’d try dogsledding for the first time with Spirit of the North Dogsledding. This had been a bucket list experience I’d wanted to try for a long time, so I was really excited! Unfortunately, Ella is pretty scared of dogs, and this ended up being too overwhelming of an experience for her. Before the dogsledding begins, the dogs are super excited about going for a run, so they’re all jumping, barking and howling. If it was just a couple dogs, this might not have been that bad, but here were 75 Alaskan huskies there, all going crazy at the same time. And because a couple of them were not on their leashes (though they were very sweet and totally safe), Ella freaked out big-time. She was crying and terrified, and refused to go. Seeing Ella so scared got Sean scared too, so she decided to sit it out as well. Luckily at the last minute, Sean changed her mind and decided to join Serge in his sled.

Dogsledding was a really great experience. The scenery was amazing, and once the dogs start running, they are completely silent and focused. It’s a pretty amazing transformation. About halfway through, we took a break to warm up with some cookies and hot cocoa, and I got to play with the dogs, which were all super sweet. It was also sweet to see how loving and playful the guides were with all the dogs.

Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi

That night, we had a really fun dinner experience. We took two snowcats (named Rosie and Ginger!) up the mountain the Montana Dinner Yurt. When we arrived, there was French onion soup waiting for us, perfect to warm up after the cold ride up. While they got the entrees going, we got to play outside in the snow. Sean did some sledding, while Ella and Serge warmed up by the outdoor campfires. After entrees, there was more time for socializing and stargazing, before the dessert of chocolate fondue was served.

Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi

Day 5: Snowmobiling in Yellowstone

This was our last day in Montana and by far the most epic experience. We checked in at Backcountry Adventures, where we got fitted with boots, helmets, and warm snowmobile suits. These suits were really amazing because it was in the single digits that day, but it didn’t feel that way at all with these suits on! After a quick tutorial on how the snowmobiles worked, we headed off towards Yellowstone.

Snowmobiling through Yellowstone was truly incredible. It was like driving from one perfect landscape painting into the next perfect landscape painting. I was awestruck through the entire ride! Between the snow-covered trees, the steep mountains, and the river winding gracefully through the landscape, the beauty was just unreal.

Every once in a while, our guide would stop to show us wildlife. We saw everything from bison to coyotes to bald eagles. We got to see Old Faithful, probably the most famous geyser in the world, erupt. We also really enjoyed exploring the hot springs area. I’ve never been there in the summer, but in the winter it’s really striking how intense heat and intense cold co-existing in one place. Some parts of the landscape really felt like we were on Mars, with the strange bacteria, gurgling geysers and red mud!

Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi
Photo: Carmen Sognonvi

Before we knew it, we had to head back to the hustle and bustle of the concrete jungle, which seemed so very far from the tranquil beauty of Big Sky. I’ve rarely felt as one with nature and so lucky to be able to experience it, as I did during those five days in the snowy mountains of Montana. Between the snowy adventures, the confidence-building activities, the breathtaking landscapes, the spacious accommodations, and delectable dining, Big Sky will be hard to say goodbye to. If you can whisk your family away for a few days, I would definitely recommend it!

Receive Your Free Guide:
THE 10 BEST VACATIONS FOR KIDS
IN THE U.S.

Enter your email below to receive The 10 Best Vacations for Kids in the U.S. You'll also be subscribed to our weekly newsletter, filled with luxury travel inspiration for you and your family!

About Carmen Sognonvi

Carmen Sognonvi is a luxury family travel and lifestyle digital influencer at Top Flight Family. Her insights on travel have been featured in Wanderlust Travel Magazine, TravelPulse, HOTELS Magazine, Seatrade Cruise News and more. Carmen firmly believes that you can (and should) travel with your kids from a young age. She offers families practical solutions for travel, as well as tips on how to travel in luxury for less. She lives in New York City with her multiracial and multicultural family of four. Follow her on Instagram, FacebookTwitter and Pinterest.

Click here to read Carmen's articles

Some posts on this site may contain affiliate links, meaning if you book or buy something through one of these links, Top Flight Family may earn a small commission, at no extra cost to you. We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. Read the site's full disclosure and privacy policy here.
No Comments Yet

Comments are closed