Sparse population, rugged mountains and wide open meadows have earned Montana, USA, the moniker ‘big sky’. Big Sky Resort is Montana’s best known and biggest resort, indeed the biggest resort in the US, and it is appropriate that it takes on Montana’s epithet. To work a season at Big Sky is to work and ride a combination of huge terrain and sparse crowds which is essentially unmatched by any resort in North America.
Photo: Big Sky from the Sky - Michel Talichet
Big Sky Resort is 7 miles from Big Sky’s Town Centre and about 50 minutes from Bozeman (pop. 40,000) and the entrance to West Yellowstone National Park. It is in the Madison Mountain Range which is part of the Rocky Mountains. To get there, the Skyline Bus runs from Bozeman to Big Sky, as well as around the town of Big Sky to Big Sky Resort.
Bozeman has flights from several major airports including Denver and L.A.
The resort village is a great tight-knit mountain village with wonderful restaurants/bars, a small movie theater, unique shops and a full service space. The resort is very family friendly and pretty laid-back, there are a good crew of powder loving locals and everything is pretty centrally located right in the base area. As the most popular resort in Montana, the infrastructure and amenities are more developed – however, Big Sky is still less glitzy than the super upmarket resorts in Utah and Colorado like Vail, Deer Valley and Aspen.
Photo: Looking up towards Lone Peak from the village - Glenniss Indreland
There is usually live music somewhere in town or up at the resort during the winter and it's fun to have so many options to meet up with people.
In the summer, every Wednesday is the farmer’s market and Thursday is the Music in Mountains with amazing bands brought in through the Arts Council of Big Sky. It’s free to all and food and beverage vendors line the grassy area where people bring camp chairs or blankets.
50 minutes away, Bozeman is a college town home to Montana State University and is a much livelier and cheaper option for those who are able to get a lift in each day to work or have a car.
Staff at the mountain come from all over the United States. Other staff working in the area work for Yellowstone Club, Lone Mountain Ranch, Property Management companies, restaurants and real estate companies, to name a few.
Late November to mid-April each season.
Big Sky is the largest ski resort in the United States with 5,750 acres of skiable terrain, a 4,350 vertical drop and it receives and a yearly average of 400” (10m) of powder snow. In all of North America, only Whistler has more skiable terrain. Big Sky was recently combined with Moonlight Basin (now Big Sky’s northern exposure) which took Big Sky to its current massive size. Current and new employees from Moonlight were psyched to receive a season pass to all the combined terrain of these two resorts.
There is an enormous variety of terrain at Big Sky, including 5 bowls and an access gate to the back country off of Lone Mountain, to keep seasonal workers going for several seasons over on your breaks and days off. Over 2,400 acres are beginner and intermediate with plenty of cruisers and gentle beginner areas.
But it is the expert terrain that brings a lot of people here. The terrain from the top of the Lone Peak Tram at Lone Peak Mountain (11,150) is steep, technical and adrenaline inducing. It is home to the famous ‘Big Couloir’, one of the most well-known expert lines in the entirety of the USA – it’s an extremely narrow, sharply pitched chute (40 degrees) with rocks on either side.
Photo: Lone Peak. Big Couloir is through the rocks on the right - Michel Talichet
Lone Peak is also around 2,000 feet higher than any of the peaks around it, and therefore provides incredible views from the top. On days where Lone Peak is closed due to wind or snow conditions, you can then head to Moonlight Basin and the Headwater which is north facing and retains its snow quality a little better as packed powder or windbuffed chalk. There is also a bit of hiking to do here along the ridge.
The best mogul lines are at Big Rock Tongue, Little Tree and Highway.
Bavarian Forest is a nice little gladed area on your right at the bottom of the Liberty Bowl. A few of the runs off Moonlight Basin’s Lookout Ridge were designed as gladed trails, in thinning the dense forest rather than cutting full-blown trails.
There are 9 terrain parks split into 3 beginner, 3 intermediate, and 3 advanced. These are dotted over the mountain and are the best parks in Montana.
There are just so few crowds at Big Sky that the resort is seemingly all yours, except at the Lone Peak Tram which has a limited uphill capacity.
Big Sky’s higher altitude than surrounding resorts means good snow preservation, although the snowfall is slightly less than at Jackson Hole. In a normal snowfall year and with cold midwinter weather, the lower mountain terrain also usually stays nicely covered with packed powder.
Temperatures are very cold at Big Sky. It is a little colder than at Jackson Hole and Colorado mountains, although not as cold as the Canadian Rockies.
In the first instance, apply online at bigskyresort.com/employment/job-openings.
Winter jobs are posted in August. There are lots of seasonal jobs for people looking to come in and you could still find work if you arrived during the season, given that there are 1400 winter staff. But the earlier you apply, the better in terms of finding a job you want.
See Jobs Available at Mountain Resorts for more information on the types of obs available at ski resorts and associated ride time.
Big Sky Resort also operates the majority of the restaurants, lodging, shops, and activities in the village. Minimum wage in Montana is $7.90 an hour. Depending on the department, Skype interviews may be available so you can apply from anywhere in the country.
Big Sky Resort prefers to invest in their employees by promoting from within. If the job you want isn’t open right now, consider another position to get your foot in the door.
Photo: Lone Peak - Glenniss Indreland
See Work a Snow Season in the USA for an explanation of US visas.
Big Sky does not accept H2B applications. J-1 visas are accepted but new J-1 staff must be hired through an agency job fair. Big Sky partners with CIEE as the international job agency.
Independent J-1 visas can be hired if you are a returning employee to Big Sky.
Snowsports instructors do need to have their basic certification to get hired and with the right candidates Big Sky Resort will offer additional training to increase their certification.
Other resorts in Big Sky are the Yellowstone Club, Lone Mountain Ranch, and Spanish Peak’s Mountain Club which look for seasonal employees. Bozeman is a mid-sized town which has businesses looking for seasonal employees. Bozeman Daily Chronicle/Jobs may have job listings.
One thing about Big Sky Resort and Montana in general is people are so friendly. The staff are not drawn from a large city, so the people who work at Big Sky Resort are here because they love it. Boyne is a wonderful company to work for. They own 11 other resorts and a sky lift and encourage promotion from within.
Full time staff receive a free ski pass and part time staff receive a ski pass for $250. Employees with a Gold Season Pass receive free and unlimited access to skiing when staying in Boyne Resorts lodging, and up to 10 daily lift tickets at 50% off without lodging, and 15% off select retail purchases.
There is employee housing for 350 employees, which is first come first serve. In winter, there are normally 1400 employees. Cost of staff housing is $7.50 per day or about $225 per month with $300 initial deposit. It has easy access to the Skyline bus route to get to work.
If you don’t get into employee housing the resort makes recommendations and has postings on the Big Sky website. Most places in Big Sky are pretty nice, although renting in Big Sky is very expensive and you need to have roommates to manage.
Some of the staff live in Bozeman and Yellowstone and make the commute each day for work, which is not too bad as the roads are generally clear.
A new grocery store is being built in the village to open the winter 2014-2015, as well as, two markets. Critical Access Hospital, Big Sky Medical Center, will be opening fall of 2015 complete.
There are mostly restaurants and bars at Big Sky and not clubs.
Popular bars for younger staff include Milkie’s, the Broken Spoke, Scissorsbills and Choppers. Popular with older employees are Ousal & Spur Pizza Company, Carabiner, Jack Creek Grill, ByWOM (By Word of Mouth), and Olive B’s. Doesn’t matter what age you are, people enjoy Whiskey Jack’s, Lone Peak Brewery, First Place, and the Lone Peak Cinema which has a full bar inside. There are also welcome and end of season staff parties plus, at Christmas, the Directors serve a Christmas meal to the staff.
Bozeman is a college town home to Montana State University with a ton of bars and nightlife. If you live in Bozeman, there is plenty to keep you going for the season. Downtown Bozeman has a listing of some of the bars.
Secure lodging early.
The Lone Peak Cinema has a cereal bar on Saturday mornings where you can watch old school cartoons and have a plethora of cereal choices.