Winter Sports - Big Mountain

by Cara Gardner

Big Mountain Ski Resort has been ranked the best resort in Montana for the fifth year running. The resort plans on keeping its rank again next year, boasting a variety of additions for this season's insatiable winter sports lovers. You'll see improvements galore all over Big Mountain.

The first phase of Glacier Village, a new year-round quarter for shopping and noshing, is completed and will be accessible to skiers and loafers alike. The Morning Eagle Lodge will have its grand opening on Nov. 27, the same day the slopes open. The lodge is home to pubs, sporting and clothing goods stores and a spa, as well as 49 condominium units.

"We're thrilled about the first phase [of Glacier Village] being completed," says Dan Virkstis, Big Mountain communications manager. "We think the new shopping options, which are all locally based, will really benefit our guests and provide a community-based feel and pedestrian friendly environment. And the beers are cheap, of course."

Cross-country skiers will enjoy 15-20 new kilometers below the Outpost, including a new beginners' loop. Three new snow guns have been added to the mountain's fleet, making a total of 19, so expect plenty of snowmaking power.

In addition to the updated equipment and amenities, Big Mountain is offering new programs, including the Big Vertical Program, where all-season passport holders can compete to conquer the most vertical feet. Big Nights offers something to those who can't get enough powder during the day. Beginning Dec. 19 (weather permitting), skiers, tubers, and sledders will be joyriding in the darkened skies.

Senior Wednesdays at Big Mountain is for those seniors (62 and up) great enough to take on the slopes. From January-March 2004, seniors can purchase discounted lift tickets and partake in some group skiing.

While Big Mountain may be farther away than other resorts, Virkstis says skiers from Eastern Washington and North Idaho will find it worth the trip.

"The advantage is that you really get everything for everybody - all ages and abilities," Virkstis says. "There's Glacier National Park, sleigh rides, snow bikes -- the list goes on and on."

Mountain Stats

Where: Whitefish, Mont.

Phone: (800) 858-3930

Web site:

Vertical drop: 2,500 ft.

Average snowfall: 300 inches

Lifts: two high-speed quads, one chair/gondola, one quad, five triples, one double, two T-bars; total of 11 lifts

Hill info: 91 trails, Beginning 20%, Intermediate 50%, Advanced 30%

Hours: 9 am - 4:30 pm daily

Ticket prices: Adult (19-61) $49; College Student and seniors (62+) $41; juniors (7-18) $36; 6 and under $20 (one-time fee season pass); Foot passenger $9; Lower lifts (all ages) $28; Nordic (all ages) $5; Night skiing: Adult, Junior and seniors $14, Tubing Adult (19+) $9 and Tubing Junior (7-18) $6.

Specials: Early season tickets, Nov. 27-29 $25; April 1, 2004, $20; Big Mountain frequent skier card (see Web site); Big Mountain Montana card (see Web site).

Major Events: This winter the 56th annual Doug Smith Memorial Race is a Continental Cup, or NorAm competition, which means that spectators will be treated to top alpine racing by both the U.S. and Canadian National Ski Teams. The Doug Smith Memorial, happening Feb. 20-29, 2004, is one of the two Downhill and Super G competitions at this level in North America (the other will be held at Lake Louise in Canada in March 2004). Big Mountain will once again host the Montana State Special Olympics. Events will take place on Tenderfoot (Chair 3) and Village Lift (Chair 6) terrain. Also this season, Big Mountain will see the return of the Ski Tee Tournament on April 4, 2004. This event includes a NASTAR Giant Slalom race and a nine-hole golf scramble. In addition, the mountain will have Spirit of Winter shows, Moonlight Dine Ski evenings, the Annual Furniture Race on April 10 and freestyle and race events throughout the season.

Publication date: 11/13/03