Welcome back to the second installment of our ski resort reviews series! Today I'll be reviewing three of my favorite resorts, all of which I have been to a number of times. All three are located within a couple hours of each other and make for a really strong region for skiing. Each resort makes for a great ski trip destination, but combining them make for some world class skiing. To start we'll head to the beautiful mountains of Montana to review...
Pros: Lots of runs, plenty of expert terrain, fun town
Cons: Busy and expensive
Big Sky is a great ski resort. Maybe I should just keep the review at that, but I'll elaborate. Located near the Idaho/Montana Border, Big Sky is a town and resort centered on the iconic Lone Mountain. It towers above the town and is the defining feature of the region. Though Lone Mountain is pretty to look at, it is also a blast to ski. There is a very cool tram that takes you to the very top (be ready to wait in line) and you can ski off the top of it in many directions. You also have acess to some really cool runs if you've got avalanche gear and the guts to ski them (I'm thinking of you, "the Big Couloir"). In addition to that, there are tons of expert terrain, some of which you have to hike to, such as the A-Z Chutes the Gullies, and The Dictators. If you're looking for groomers, Big Sky has plenty. If you're looking for tree runs, Big Sky has plenty. Basically you've got everything you could want in one resort. Does this sound like heaven? Yes, but it has some cons as well. Big Sky is a popular destination and so you will have plenty of "friends" to share the mountain with. Anticipate some lines, especially for the tram. With good planning and finding the right areas though, you can avoid the worst lines. It is also a pretty pricey destination and there it is fairly remote. The town of Big Sky is great and has plenty of dining and entertainment options. We at outdoorpals love to stop by Blue Moon Bakery for a great breakfast before hitting the mountain. Overall, Big Sky can be a really fun resort, we just recommend trying to go mid-week and not during holidays.
Pros: Tons of big mountain terrain, looong runs, and awesome sidecountry/backcountry
Cons: Busy and expensive, snow down low can be variable
Are your really a skier or snowboarder if you don't know about Jackson Hole? JHMR is frequently at the list for best ski resorts in the U.S. It boasts tons of terrain, an incredible tram, and wonderful Wyoming powder. Some of the top snow athletes in the world spend their time training at Jackson Hole, and after skiing it you'll know why. It's runs are steep, long, and playful. Want to drop some cliffs or hit some natural jumps? You've got plenty of options. You are going to be sharing the mountain with a lot of other people, so don't expect solitude (even when going in the backcountry you'll see a lot of people). Jackson Hole has some pricey tickets (between $160 and $180 for a day pass in 2020-2021), so be ready to spend that or utilize the Mountain Collective or Ikon Pass. In addition to the skiing, the resort's proximity to Jackson and events like the "Kings and Queens of Corbet's" make it a really fun environment. It is hard to beat the ambience of JHMR. With runs going from the very top of the mountain all the way to the valley floor, expect some variation in snow conditions especially if there hasn't been much fresh now. The bottom half of the resort can easily be in a thaw/freeze cycle during the day while the top mountain stays soft and cold. Sometimes it will be the opposite when there's an inversion in place. So be ready and willing to search the mountian for the good stuff. After a day of skiing, you have to try the Reuben from Cafe Genevieve in Jackson. Just be ready to call in a pickup order because its only on their lunch menu until 3 pm, so if you ski until 4 pm you won't make it in time. Jackson Hole lives up to its reputation and is a must ski location.
Pros: Great snow, less crowds
Cons: Smaller than some major resorts, "Grand Foghee"
Grand Targhee is my personal favorite resort and I've been making regular pilgrammages to it for years. Accessed from the Idaho side of the Tetons, Grand Targhee sits just across the state border in Wyoming, less than an hour from Jackson Hole. JHMR may get the publicity, but Grand Targhee boasts better and more snowfall and without the crowds. Targhee has a good amount of terrain with plenty of options and some good sidecountry areas (notably Mary's Nipple), but it doesn't match Big Sky or Jackson with quantity. Grand Targhee definitely has a local resort feel with a great local ski scene. I have never gone to Targhee and drove off disappointed (it is the only ski resort that I can say that for). I hesitated to review it because I want it to stay in the shadow of the region's other two popular ski resorts, but it definitely deserves some praise. Targhee usually opens the season early with snow totals well above other resorts in Wyoming, Montana, and Utah and it frequently gets fresh snow. The frequent storms and clouds have a drawback in terms of visiblity and the resort is often called "Grand Foghee" due to poor visibility. I guess you can't have it all. Snow quality may be my favorite part of Grand Targhee and it is hard to go at a bad time. Lodging on the mountain or in nearby Driggs/Victor is reasonable with plenty of good dining options. You're also not far from Jackson if you want to hop over to enjoy the nightlife, but if you're skiing Targhee you probably care more about the skiing than the social scene. You are also close to Teton Pass if you want to spend some time in the backcountry. Targhee also has a Cat Ski program if you want guaranteed powder and fresh turns. Though its smaller, Targhee punches above its weight in terms of quality and overall experience which is why it is my top resort to visit each winter.