Staking Claims Big Sky and Moonlight Basin, Montana merge to become the biggest trail system in the Lower 48.By Liam Gallagher
Despite the fact that there’re sixteen resorts in Montana, you probably still know little to nothing about snowboarding in the Big Sky State. Why? Well, there isn’t really a “scene”-and because of this, Montana has never attracted professional snowboarders and the media types who tag along. Rare is the feature story or photo from Montana that finds its way onto the pages of major snowboard mags. As a result, the state’s shred opportunities remain largely unknown, leaving the area’s myriad mountains more or less unexposed and untracked on most winter days.
However, some midsummer developments this year at one mountain could change the somewhat sleepy, locals-only atmosphere that has come to define the Montana shred experience. On June 27, 2005, Big Sky Resort and Moonlight Basin-both near Bozeman-announced that they plan on merging next winter. The two resorts share the 11,150-foot-high Lone Peak, with Big Sky situated on the southeastern aspect and Moonlight wrapping around the north face of the mountain. Together, the two resorts offer about 5,300 acres of rideable terrain.
In seasons past, shredding freely between the two resorts required throwing down almost a hundred bucks for two separate lift tickets. This is no longer the case. With Big Sky and Moonlight’s veritable marriage, snow-sliders will be able to buy one pass to ride both resorts. The merger makes this two-headed monster of a resort the largest interconnected trail system in the states-bigger than Vail, Alta/Snowbird, or Mammoth. Yep, you heard it: Montana can now claim to have the biggest resort in the Lower 48. Not bad for a state that still boasts a larger population of heifers than humans.
Next winter, anyone between the ages of eleven and 21 can purchase a ticket for 59 dollars-over 21 will have to pay 78 dollars for a day of shredding under the shadow of Lone Peak. Season passes will cost 1,199 dollars, which, while no drop in the bucket, equates to an increase of only 139 dollars from Big Sky’s pass price last winter.
With Big Sky’s continued commitment to terrain parks, the deal is sure to sweeten over coming winters-the area maintained two parks last season and has plans to add a third this winter. Big Sky also bought a Zaugg pipe-cutting machine recently to shape Montana’s only Superpipe. As for Moonlight, it has ambitious expansion plans involving opening hundreds more shreddable acres in the coming seasons. In other words, now more than ever, the state of shredding in Big Sky country seems to be poised for change.