It's an age-old question for Montana skiers, which is better Bridger Bowl or Big Sky Resort? Let us break it down for you.
Here in Bozeman, we are lucky enough to live within a short drive of not one, but two nationally recognized ski hills. If you are in the city of Bozeman, the drive to Bridger is significantly shorter than the drive up to Big Sky. The drive to Bridger Bowl takes you through the beautiful Bridger Canyon on Highway 86 and is lined with sprawling residential properties and farmland. If you’re heading up to ski, chances are the majority of the cars on the road are headed to the same place you are. When road conditions are bad, a line of cars known as the “snake” crawls its way up the canyon towards Bridger Bowl. Bad road conditions aside, traffic issues are minimal and you can get from downtown Bozeman to the Bridger Bowl parking lot in about 20 minutes.
If you are heading up to Big Sky Resort from Bozeman, the drive will generally take you a little over an hour. While the road through Gallatin Canyon is beautiful, it can be dangerous and traffic can move a little slow. Hundreds, if not thousands of people commute from Belgrade/Bozeman to Big Sky every day so if you are skiing a full day, you may find yourself stuck in a slow-moving Montana “rush hour”. The halfway point between Big Sky and Bridger Bowl is in the Gallatin Gateway area. If you are located there then both ski hills are about 45 minutes away.
After merging with Moonlight Basin in 2013, Big Sky Resort now has 5,850 acres of skiable terrain, making it some of the biggest skiing in America. There are approximately 300 runs and 7 terrain parks on 4 connected mountains at Big Sky Ski Resort with a vertical drop of 4,350 feet. The Lone Peak Tram takes skiers to the summit of Lone Peak (11,166 feet) where technical runs and difficult terrain await.
Bridger Bowl has 2,000 skiable acres with a vertical drop of 2,700 feet. There are 75 marked trails plus many unmarked runs ranging in difficulty from greens to double blacks. “The ridge” at Bridger Bowl offers some of the most challenging terrain a skier can find in the U.S. At an elevation of 8,800 feet, skiing off the ridge is expert only and contains many steep chutes, rock cliffs, and snowfields.
Big Sky Resort reports an average snowfall of 400 inches per year and Bridger Bowl is not far behind with an average of 350 inches per year. Either way, we just feel lucky to have two solid options for fresh powder.
We know how lucky we are. Waiting for more than a few minutes in a line at either Big Sky Resort or Bridger Bowl is rare. When it does happen, we have to stop ourselves from grumbling about the HUGE LINES. Because in reality, the lines at either ski hill are nothing to complain about. Crowds are not something we generally have to worry about here in Montana, and on any given day the lift line won’t cut into your ski time. At Big Sky Resort, the new addition of the first ever 8-person chairlift has the “lines” moving faster than ever.
This is the one category where the two hills vary the most. Big Sky Resort’s base area is marked with high-rise hotels and condominiums. Up on the mountain, you can spot countless rustic-style mansions in the distance dotting the hillsides. As a non-profit, Bridger Bowl operates on a much different model than your typical development-focused resort. They stand strong against this type of commercialization and we couldn’t love them more for it. Aside from one standalone A-frame standing near the base area, you won’t see anything but mountains in the distance when you’re skiing Bridger Bowl.
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