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The "Off-the-Mountain" experience

Story by Lynn Rosen; Photos by Larry Turner @   April 1, 2011


Yes, it’s hard to believe, but four of our owner/contributors, who are constantly going in seventeen different directions at any given moment, wound up this season on the same fabulous ski trip to Moonlight Basin and Big Sky. In an unusual, once-in-a-lifetime arrangement, they’ve put together a collective story in order to bring our readers a multi-faceted story with contributions from all.

Let’s kick off our adventure with a great photo of the four adventurers from Larry Turner who contributed most of the photos for our story (some by Steve Giordano). High On Adventure journalists visit Moonlight Basin and Big Sky Resorts, Montana—Steve Giordano, Lynn Rosen, Lee Juillerat and Larry Turner.

Steve Giordano, Lynn Rosen, Lee Juillerat and Larry Turner of

Moonlight Basin Ski Resort

The Larry Turner and Steve Giordano images in this story are from this 2011 season at Moonlight Basin Ski Resort and Big Sky Resort that share opposite sides of the spectacular 11,156 foot Lone Mountain in Big Sky, Montana.

Some of our days there were sunny, some were overcast and snowy, but no matter what the weather, the skiing was wonderful and so were the people—both staff and guests. Montana is a universally friendly place.

  Checking in at the Huntley Lodge in Big Sky, Montana  
Checking in at the Huntley Lodge in Big Sky, Montana

We all stayed at the legendary (Chet of NBC fame) Huntley Lodge at Big Sky’s base village and at East-West Resorts slope side mountain condos at Moonlight Basin...both big pieces of paradise. We had five inches of new powder our last day there and were out the door at the crack of light.

But back to our first night together at Big Sky. A welcoming reception at Basecamp, just down the heated walkway from the Huntley Lodge in the Village, provided us our first taste of Montana hospitality. Staff and guides shared not only wine and cheese treats, but also stories and opportunities for our group in the next four days of our visit.

  Above the intermediate Swift Current Chair at Big Sky  
Above the intermediate Swift Current Chair at Big Sky
  Big Sky has a friendly Mountain Host program for free tours of the mountain. Meet at the base area next to the bottom of the Swift Current lift right at the Village at 10:45am and 1pm. Intermediates and beyond, please  
Big Sky village
  Big Sky village  
Big Sky village
Big Sky village
  But you don’t have to be out on the slopes to enjoy Big Sky or Moonlight Basin. Either “instead of” or “après” sloping, in Big Sky’s friendly, walkable village, you can find a dozen restaurants and pubs; shopping at the Mountain Mall; Solace Spa just off the lobby in the Huntley Lodge, where you can book just about any spa treatment in the lexicon; ziplining and high-ropes adventures; tours to Yellowstone; bungee trampoline; snowshoe tours; mountain dinner yurt excursions and too much more on the wish list. There are also daily classes at the Wellness Center in cardio, pilates, yoga and other disciplines. Many of these activities can be arranged right at the Basecamp,, 406.995.5769.  
  Reflective chrome ski helmet   Reflective chrome ski helmet  
Reflective chrome ski helmet
Some of the first condos

Our lodging at the Huntley Lodge put us right in the center of what was happening: great access to our ski shop, the Performance Demo Center in the Snowcrest Lodge as well as all restaurants, spas and shopping. The Explorer lift is just out the back door. Did I mention there’s also free high-speed internet access at Huntley Lodge for those of you who need to stay connected?

The Huntley Lodge buffet breakfast in their dining room is another legend at Big Sky. Fabulous, fantastic, elegant, easy and so very convenient. You can get anything you want at “Chet’s Buffet Breakfast.” Especially fab are the made-to-order omlettes—even egg-white options for those of us watching the waistline and cholesterol.

  Whiskey Jack server at Big Sky   Artistic dessert plate  
Whiskey Jack's server at Big Sky
Artistic chocolate dessert

For another dining must, visit Whiskey Jack’s right on the plaza with a southwestern twist and live music. THE place to meet for lunch and/or dinner. We had a most sumptuous lunch with Big Sky PR Manager, Chad Jones, of nachos, tamales, enchiladas, taco salads and so much more. We could hardly make it back to the ski slopes after such a repast.

For late night snack and emergencies, there is also a small grocery story in the Mountain Mall—C&P Grocery and pizzeria featuring food staples, beer and wine. Check with your concierge for hours.

Kid-friendly children’s programs, both lessons and childcare, operate out of the Snowsports Schools in the Snowcrest Lodge with a great staff of pros. Be sure to check out their programs in advance at 406.995.5847.

TIP—If it’s a clear day, take the Lone Peak Tram up to the very top of the Big Sky/Moonlight Basin World where you can see three states and eight mountain ranges from the top of Lone Peak Mountain. This is one way to access the Moonlight Basin Ski Resort that is on the other side of the mountain via double-black runs from the top. Then, after lots of amazing photography and video activity, if you’re not a double- blacker, you can always tram-it back down to Upper Morningstar and ski blues to the Big Sky base with all those memories on your data card.

Big Sky country
  Big Sky gondola  
Big Sky country
Lone Peak Tram at Big Sky
  After a stunning stay at Big Sky, we were whisked off to travel just barley around the corner to Moonlight Basin and ensconced in luxurious ski-in/ski-out East-West Resorts condos  
  Fireplace in Moonlight Basin lodging   Lee booting up for a day on the slopes  
Fireplace in East-West lodging at Moonlight Basin
Lee booting up for a day on the Moonlight Basin slopes
  Goats overlooking the Moonlight Basin Lodge lobby  
Skiers in the Moonlight Basin Lodge lobby
Goats overlooking the Moonlight Basin Lodge lobby
Skiers in the Moonlight Basin Lodge lobby
  When we checked in with our hosts, we got a nifty package of info including internet passwords for free access (we’re staying connected here) and maps marked with our “ski-in/ski-out” trails. Very cool. Except where we were billeted, it was more like “hike-in/ski-out.” The trail from the mountain came in behind and below our condo, so we worked off our amazing lunch, which we had all enjoyed earlier at The Timbers at Moonlight Lodge, side-stepping up to our lodging.  
  Pan-seared divers scallops   Designer bratwurst   Diners in Timbers Restaurant  
Lamb with garlic toast
Designer bratwurst
Diners in Timbers Restaurant

So. Lunch at The Timbers Restaurant with the General Manager, Greg Pack, and his mountain “trail designer,” John K., offered an extensive and eclectic menu of items such as braised oxtail ravioli, braised lamb shank, grilled bison, pan-seared divers scallops…the menu goes on. The chef, Devin Clark can take credit for a “Deer Valley” experience in the wilds of Montana. Again, it was a tough decision to get back on the slopes after such a remarkable gustatory event.

Shuttle service at Moonlight Basin is complimentary, quick and full of courtesy. If you need to get from here to there and don’t want to ski, just pick up the phone and their van will fetch you in a heartbeat.

Our condos at East-West Resorts were three-level, four-bedroom luxe properties with commercial grade kitchens open to spacious living rooms with fireplaces next to dining rooms, where the tables served as computer central for everyone. Flat screen TVs were scattered throughout the compounds, and hot tub steamed on the decks. Stone and timber architecture fit right in with the mountain setting.

  nterior of Moonlight Basin lodging   Rocking chairs  
Interior of East-West Resorts lodging
Reading nook next to hot tub on deck
  Madison base area   Bespoke pizza  
Headwaters Grille at the Madison base area
Bespoke pizza in the Headwaters Grille
  3-D map of Moonlight Basin   Night groomers at work  
3-D map of Moonlight Basin
Night groomers at work
  On our first night at Moonlight, we shuttled to the Madison Village base area for a make-your-own pizza night at the Headwaters Grille. Snowgroomers worked out behind the big tent building as we all put together our individual pizzas and looked at future development plans for Moonlight Basin expansion. Pizza nights are open to the public weekly and are real popular with visiting families.  
  Ski poster  
Timbers Bar
Timbers Bar
The shoppe at Moonlight's lodge
Timbers Bar
Timbers Bar

Following our last intense day of skiing (we never once waited in a lift line at Moonlight Basin!), we visited the Moonlight Spa, 888.776.5724, at the Moonlight Lodge for welcomed deep tissue massages and relaxing steam baths. A fitness center next to the quiet sanctuary and treatment rooms played the guilty card and swims in the heated outdoor pool looked inviting, but après ski in the Timbers bar upstairs called, where we met with Dale Stetson, General Manager for East-West Resorts for a final farewell.

We were again delighted by a gaggle of guests who had gathered together for a girls reunion and all wore boots specially made for the occasion by one of the friends. That's the kind of people Montana's Big Sky and Moonlight Basin draw back again and again.

Getting there: The closest airport, Bozeman/Gallatin Field Airport is over an hour away. You’ll have to either rent a car or book a shuttle/taxi to get to the resorts. or Many visitors rent cars.

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