Photo by Seth Royal Kroft, Red Lodge Mountain
Skiers and riders are incredibly excited to get the lifts turning this year. Last season, ski areas closed early to slow the spread of COVID-19. Everyone agreed it was the responsible thing to do, yet it was still a little heartbreaking to miss the spring skiing Yellowstone Country is known for; blue skies, warm days, and spring powder storms!
Yellowstone Country Montana is home to three ski areas: Big Sky Resort, Bridger Bowl, and Red Lodge Mountain. Though unique, they each offer skiers and riders great slopes. The challenges they face for the coming season are similar yet different, as are their approaches for operating during a pandemic.
Through the summer, COVID-19 ski area task forces have evaluated various plans' pros and cons, trying to find the safest solution for their employees, communities, and guests. Each area has carefully reviewed ski industry best practices to ensure social distancing, and all areas will require face coverings in chairlift lines and indoors. One thing is for sure, they have put a lot of thought and effort into making sure people feel safe and comfortable, and we are grateful.
The 5,850 skiable acres at Big Sky Resort, combined with their advanced lift infrastructure, makes social distancing much easier. Currently, the plan is not to limit the number of guests but to carefully monitor the skier volume and make adjustments. The resort reserves the right to cap the number of lift tickets sold per day if needed. Guests are encouraged to purchased ski tickets in advance online. Ikon Passholders must use the Ikon reservation; Mountain Collective pass holders may have to use a reservation system. Food options will be grab and go, with online ordering available. The Yellowstone Conference Center will be open for additional seating. And, as a bonus, you can purchase early access to ride Ramcharger 8 at 8 a.m.!
Bridger Bowl is an iconic day ski area, and Bozeman locals love their mountain. Bridger has roughly 2,000 skiable acres and a LOT of people who like to ski it. After careful consideration, Bridger has decided to implement a reservation system. Based on past indices, staff will allocate a percentage of the season pass and day tickets each day. Guests make their reservations online and show proof of reservation when they enter the parking lot. Chairlifts will operate under the philosophy, "If you arrive together, ride together." Grab and go food options will be available, as well as a shoe and bag check. However, guests are encouraged to eat and change in their car to avoid overcrowding in the lodges.
Red Lodge Mountain is another local favorite; it sports a low-key vibe with some killer shredding. This year, there will be minimal ticket sales at the window. If you want to guarantee a ticket, you'll need to purchase online in advance. There will also be a limit on the 6-tix packages, so if that's the package you like, buy early! Restaurants will be following local health guidelines with limited seating inside for restaurant guests only. Again, skiers should plan on using their car as a locker room and warming hut.
Après-ski may not be a scene this year, but it can still be enjoyable. In Big Sky, check out the Open Skate at the ice rink in Big Sky Town Center. Grab some take-out from one of their incredible restaurants and have dinner rink-side! In Bozeman, perusing Downtown Bozeman with a hot beverage is always fun; there are over 30 art galleries and numerous other retail gems, including clothing, antiques, books, jewelry, outdoor sporting goods, etc. of course restaurants. Bozeman Film Society is still going strong on a virtual platform, so watch the upcoming films' schedule! And of course, nothing is better after a day on the slopes than a hot soak, and Bozeman Hot Springs is the perfect nightcap. In Red Lodge, the town's history is entertaining in and of itself. Stop by the Carbon County Historical Museum to become acquainted with the area, then explore the Red Lodge Historic Walking Tour, which takes you to places like the site of Sundance Kid's 1897 bank robbery. This tiny mountain town even boasts its own "Little Italy" and "Finn Town" neighborhoods. Plus, the galleries, restaurants, and pubs you'll pass along the way are all charming.
This season may look a little different; it will require a little more planning, gratitude, and, as hard as it may be for enthusiastic skiers and riders, more patience. If you're planning a ski trip this year, plan early.
We look forward to seeing you!