by Ted S. McGregor, Jr.
The pride of Whitefish, Mont., is counted among the top 20 resorts in the nation by Ski magazine; in sheer skiable acreage alone, it is the largest in North America.
The resort's Hellroaring Basin is legendary, and you can even book a snowcat trip into the backcountry right there on the mountain. There are some great slopeside accommodations, and just eight miles down the road is Whitefish, just the kind of town that makes big city types pine for life in the Big Sky Country.
This winter, conditions are perfect at Big Mountain for those who are learning, or want to learn, to ski or snowboard. Opening in the 2001-2002 season is "Easy Rider," the triple chairlift that is replacing the "Platter," next to Chair Three. This new lift will more than double the beginner lift service, making it that much easier to take advantage of the whole day. What better way to practice your way to perfection?
As a bonus attraction, consider Big Mountain's Thrill Sleds. The all-season sleds convert from wheels in the summer to four small skis in the winter and offer full suspension, braking systems and handlebars to keep your four skis on track. The Thrill Sled course descends almost 500 vertical feet and is 3,000 feet long, traversing through ski slopes, glades and banked turns from the Chair Three area down to Big Mountain Village. For $38 a day, riders get Thrill Sled rental, a guided tour, a helmet (with optional head lamp for the dark winter months) and hot cocoa or cider. Tours are daily at 4 pm from mid-December to mid-March. Reservations are required.