2019 Bozeman Airport to Big Sky Transportation Updates

Most likely you have stumbled upon this page in a moment of panicked research because you just learned that a safe rental car to drive from the Bozeman Airport to Big Sky is likely more than the down payment of your first house. I wish I had some better news for you other than transportation to Big Sky is extremely expensive. There have been changes this past year with rental car and bus options, so stay tuned….

The Bozeman Airport is going bananas. The construction of a massive parking structure (that will allegedly be almost exclusive for rental cars), a new Central Valley Fire Station, a visit from Airforce One and a Trump Rally, a Mike Pence visit, FU 45 mowed into a field beneath the runway- and so much more!

Well, guess what, pretty much all the fancy improvements that the Bozeman Airport does are funded by the Airport Concession Fee. The airport requires rental car companies to charge renters 10% of their total car rental amount for rentals originating at the Bozeman Airport. So if the base price of your rental SUV is $2,000, count on an additional $200 going to BZN. In many ways this is great for our community as the airport doesn’t take tax dollars, funding (last time I checked) something like 70% of annual budget from rental car concession fees. Great for the community, not so great for consumer. But let’s be honest, the prices you are paying at the ski resort are even more outrageous and all that is doing is making a private company wealthier. So kudos to BZN in this humble writers opinion.

YOU NEED FOUR WHEEL DRIVE TO GET TO BIG SKY IN THE WINTER.

Moving forward: daily rental rates for SUVs at BZN (that will most likely be four-wheel-drive, like Chevrolet Suburbans) are extremely high and not likely to go down. Rental car companies love the high prices, and the airport loves the high prices. Demand for four-wheel-drive rental SUVs is so high from the Yellowstone Club members, that price has seriously become a non-issue. Daily rates for prime ski season seem to be around $650/ day for a “Premium SUV”. This will most likely be a Chevrolet Suburban, GMC Yukon XL, or Toyota Sequoia. None of the on-airport rental car companies will guarantee a four wheel drive or all wheel drive vehicle. There is a very good chance it will be 4wd- but they will never, ever, guarantee it. If you do not need to move a fleet of people, smaller SUVs at the Bozeman Airport seem to be around $200/ day.

Note: Driving to Big Sky from Bozeman requires four wheel drive or all wheel drive. You might get lucky with a dry day and be OK in a 2WD car, or the weather may turn and you end up off the road and dead in the river. Snow tires greatly decrease your risk of accident in Big Sky.

 

ON AIRPORT RENTAL CARS AT THE BOZEMAN AIRPORT

Hertz is still the biggest player in the Bozeman Airport, but seems to have recently acquired a slew of unhappy reviews on Yelp. Thrifty, Enterprise, Avis- they all are there and seem to have the same cars and competitive pricing. Costcotravel.com is usually your best pricing. We have heard good things and bad things with Hotwire “surprise cars”. Great pricing, but sometimes you get a sweet Toyota Tacoma and sometimes a super crappy 2wd Ford Escape.

We do not have any main differentiators for the on-airport rental car companies. Most of the renters we speak with are totally happy with their on-airport experience. Some of them are not happy. It is worth checking out reviews on Yelp or Google and make your decision accordingly.

Pro: Vehicles are on-airport. Usually a fast experience getting on the road.

Con: Vehicles are on-airport. Can be a LONG icey walk to a cold car covered in snow (hence new parking garage). Count on 10% concession fee. Lines at the counter to get car can also get long when flight delays happen. You never really know what kind of rental car you are going to get.

Sometimes it is worth calling the actual desk in Bozeman Airport and talking with a human:

Alamo: 406-388-6694

Avis: 406-388-4091

Budget: 406-388-4091

Enterprise: 406-388-7420

Dollar: 406-388-6939

Hertz: 406-388-6939

Thrifty: 406-388-6694

If you haven’t noticed, Alamo and Thrifty are the same. Avis and Budget same. Hertz, Dollar are same.

OFF AIRPORT RENTAL CARS AT THE BOZEMAN AIRPORT

The Off-Airport rental car segment continues to grow at BZN. Journey Rentacar (AKA Ace Rent a Car) and Explore Rentals continue to be the main players. Toyota Rent-A-Car (AKA Ressler Toyota) does a great job with the full line of Toyotas. Yellowstone Car Rentals is part of one of the Vacation Home Rental companies and offers rental Suburbans to its home renters. Rocky Mountain Expeditions rents Jeeps, and I guess does a pretty good  job. The new kids on the block are Bozeman Rental Cars, they seem to rent more of the ‘cheaper’ alternatives. Hatch Adventures has followed the Explore Rentals model of offering rental outdoor gear.

Bozeman Car Rentals. 10.3 miles. Brand new, no history. 406-587-0933.

Explore Rentals: Locally owned. 1.2 miles from BZN. Uber/Lyft/Taxi about $13. They are all about guaranteed AWD and Four Wheel Drive cars, and snow tires. Subaru Outbacks, Toyota Tacomas, Chevrolet Suburbans, and Mercedes 12-passenger vans. They have been around the longest for the locally owned companies and have the best reviews. 406-922-0179

Hatch Adventures. No address listed. Brand new, no history. 406-223-4224.

Journey/ Ace Rent A Car: Locally owned with a Franchise associated. 10-miles from BZN. Uber/ Taxi ride about $40 if you want to avoid BZN concession fee. Hyundai, Jeep, Dodge for SUVs. Ford Expeditions or Suburbans for large SUVs. 406-551-2277

Toyota Rent-A-Car/ Ressler. Locally owned TRAC franchise. 14-miles from airport. All new Toyotas, solid service. $50 or so Uber Ride. 406-585-2010

Rocky Mountain Expeditions. Jeep Rentals only, no physical address listed. 406-530-5337.

Conclusion: We like local businesses! Plus, all of the Bozeman off-airport rental car companies have overall more positive reviews than on-airport rental car agencies.

UBER/LYFT/TAXI

For getting around locally, and sometimes you can even squeeze a driver into going to Big Sky; Uber and Lyft are working well. We generally prefer Lyft as they are not quite as evil as Uber corporate. Gallatin Valley Taxi is also a decent bet for the non-tech saavy out there. Vexi Ride, sadly, seems to no longer exist.

Bus and Shuttle Service to Big Sky:

Karst Stage: They have been around forever. Best option for moving large groups, not cheap. 406-556-3540

Shuttle to Big Sky and Taxi: Moves A LOT of people to Big Sky. 406-995-4895

Big Sky Shuttle Inc.: “Five Star Luxury” whatever that means. Maybe a fancier bottle of water than your Uber driver? 866-661-6836

North of Yellowstone: NKOTB. They are listed on the BZN Official Website. It looks like they specialize in more the long-haul trips to Yellowstone or Big Sky. 406-580-2286

So what is the best way to get to Big Sky from the Bozeman Airport?

Easy, private helicopter! Rental cars cost more, but give maximum flexibility. Just please, please make sure you get a Four Wheel Drive or All Wheel Drive vehicle. If you can get one with snow tires, even better. There are two many white crosses along side the road to Big Sky already.

 

Bozeman Airport Ground Transportation Options: 2016 UPDATE

It has been a while since we have done an update on the Bozeman Airport ground transportation options, and some thing have recently changed, so here you go!

Bozeman Airport Taxi And Shuttle Service

The biggest news is that Montana has taken major steps to deregulate the Public Service Commission on transportation. This means the taxi Monopoly has been broken and competition can enter the market. Great news, because Bozeman Taxis are terrible!

The first to enter the market has been Big Sky Shuttle.  They have a long history in transportation and have entered the market with new Nissan 15-passenger 4wd vans and GMC Yukon Denalis. All black of course.

Rumor has it that Uber has recently been approved in Montana, and the Bozeman Hipsters are lining up to earn some money driving mommy’s lexus for some extra bucks. Good news there.

Prices do not seem to have adjusted much with the going rate for a Suburban from the airport to Big Sky is right around $225 each way. Plus tip, you are right around the same price of renting a car.

It looks like Shuttle to Big Sky and Taxi has updated their fleet of Suburbans (finally), and it looks like they have peeled off the “Yellowstone Rental Cars” stickers on the windows. This is good news as using the same vehicles for livery (aka Taxi service) and rental cars requires two separate insurance policies- and you can’t do that on one car.

Classic/ Bozeman Limo is still running their AWD Lincoln Towncar wagons and also have some nice new 2015 Suburbans.

The only Karst Stage ‘Premium’ (their private shuttle service) vehicles we have seen are their slightly long in the tooth Cadillac Escalades.

Conclusions: New players have entered the market, which is good news. Bozeman Taxi services still stink and are not recommended. Shuttles to Big Sky are still expensive, but more options will certainly enter the market soon forcing more competition.

Bozeman Airport Rental Cars

Not a ton has changed with available rental cars at the Bozeman Airport. This past summer Hertz Bozeman Airport added a few Maserati Quattroportes to their fleet and some Cadillac Escalades. Sweet if you are one of those guys that just have to have it. It is worth noting that most cars with values over $75,000 are specifically excluded on the ‘Rental Car Coverage’ of your personal auto insurance policy- meaning if you want to rent one of these things you have to have a rider added to your policy to get any coverage- or risk being out of pocket $3,000 for an Escalade headlight (yup, that is how much they cost). Lord only knows how much a new windshield for a Maserati would be….

We have been continually seeing a number of the abysmal Chevrolet Captivas and Ford Escape 2wd’s from the airport franchises as their options of mid-size/ compact SUV class. These are terrible cars, be careful if you intend on going anywhere except on pavement in dry, sunny conditions.

The long standing dominant Big rental car, the Chevrolet Suburban was updated in 2015. The on-airport  fleets seem to all have the new models (although some inferior Ford Expeditions still exist). The new models are great, except they have even worse 4-ply highway tires than before. It seems that in order to get the most fuel mileage possible out of the Suburbans, GM has put on the most fuel efficient tires possible: tires that are AWFUL in snow and on gravel. We saw a lot of 2015 Suburbans returned with flat tires this past year. And we all know the Kardashians ‘slid’ off a perfectly flat road in Four Corners last year driving a 2015 Suburban with these tires… You have to wait for it at the end:

Also proving the point, Al Roker got a flat in a 2015 Suburban on his Montana weather tour this fall:


Although the on-airport franchise companies still dominate the Bozeman rental car market, but the off-airport companies continue to gain market share. We assume that this is due to social media reviews of these smaller, locally owned companies. Last time we checked Yelp! Car Rental Bozeman, off-airport rental car companies  Phasmid Rentals had a total of 57 – five star reviews, Journey Rent-A-Car had 13 five star reviews, and no other rental car company in Bozeman had ANY five star reviews. Frankly, if we were going to rent a car in Bozeman it is clear who we would rent from!

We know Ressler Toyota-Rent-a-Car has continually increased their fleet size, and have even added some new Cadillac Escalades, however it seems that they are concentrating more on the local business rather than incoming airport visitors. Rarely have we seen their vehicles at the airport over this past year.

Journey Rent-A-Car seems to have bought into an Ace Rent-A-Car franchise or done something else similar. Regardless, we have seen the same guys roll up to the airport in ‘shuttles’ with big Ace Rent-A-Car magnets on the side. It seems the direction of their fleet has been moving to the cheaper/ more economical options with some new Korean cars (Kias and Hyundais) in addition to their Chevy Malibus and similar. We have also noticed that their options through Ace are now visible through major booking engines like Expedia and Orbitz. On that note, we did see over the Christmas Holiday they had posted the highest rate of all companies for a Suburban rental. “Economical” this is not.

Ace Rent A Car Bozeman
Ace Rent A Car Bozeman Pricing

 

 

 

The other off-airport player, Phasmid Rentals, seems to have a smaller but much more specific fleet. They only rent AWD Subaru Outbacks and 4WD Chevrolet Suburbans. We have noticed they are putting SNOW TIRES on their rental cars in the winter. So far this is the only rental car company in Bozeman  to offer this awesome safety feature. Not a wonder Phasmid Rentals is the best rated car rental agency in Bozeman.

That is all the news we have for now!

BZN Sets new Passenger Records

Here is the press release from the real Bozeman Airport Site:

“Record Passenger Numbers in 2015

BOZEMAN, MT (January 8, 2016). Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport (BZN) handled 1,021,155 passengers during 2015. This is up 5.6% compared to 2014 and sets another passenger record for BZN and for Montana. It is also the first time a Montana airport has handled over 1 million passengers in a calendar year.

The Air Traffic Control Tower handled 80,559 aircraft operations during the year, down 0.2% from 2014. General aviation accounts for 74% of aircraft operations at BZN. Scheduled passenger and cargo airline service accounts for approximately 19% and corporate jet operations account for the remaining 7% of all aircraft operations. There were 129 general aviation international arrivals handled at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Office at BZN during the year.

During 2015, Alaska Airlines expanded seasonal non-stop service to Portland, Oregon; Delta Air Lines added non-stop service to Seattle/Tacoma; and both United and Delta increased use of mainline size aircraft to Chicago, Denver, Minneapolis/St. Paul and Denver. Work was completed on the new I-90 Interchange that serves the airport and the airline terminal ramp and the east general aviation ramp were expanded to accommodate the increasing airline and corporate general aviation traffic at BZN. BZN is now the 8th busiest airport in the 7-state Northwest Region of the Country (Region including Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington) and the 117th busiest airport in the nation in terms of passengers.

Passenger totals in and out by airline brand in 2015 were:
• Delta Air Lines – 421,304
• United Airlines – 335,761
• Alaska Airlines – 152,490
• Allegiant Air – 57,657
• Frontier Airlines – 50,921
• Chartered Airline Flights – 3,022

About Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport
Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport (BZN) is Montana’s busiest airport and serves as a year-round gateway to Yellowstone National Park. BZN also serves the recreation areas of Big Sky Resort, Moonlight Basin and the Bridger Bowl Ski Area as well as the business centers of Bozeman, Belgrade and Livingston and higher education at Montana State University and the Gallatin College. BZN handles more passengers than any other Montana airport and is served by five airline brands with coast to coast non-stop service including Atlanta*, Chicago, Denver, Houston*, Las Vegas, Los Angeles*, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Newark*, New York LaGuardia*, Phoenix-Mesa, Portland*, Salt Lake City, San Francisco*, and Seattle/Tacoma. Over 700 people are employed by the 30 entities with offices at the airport.
* Denotes seasonal service

For more information about Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport visit bozemanairport.com or follow Bozeman Airport on Twitter.”

How to use Bear Spray

In recent light of the international coverage of the black bear and cubs on the bridge in Yellowstone National Park, here is a video on how to correctly use bear spray.

The National Park Service highly recommends visitors to Yellowstone carry bear spray. It can be purchased from almost any sporting goods and most grocery stores in Southwest Montana for around $50/ canister. However, it is ILLEGAL to fly with bear spray, both in checked luggage or carry-on.

Another option is to rent bear spray.

There are a couple of reputable businesses that rent bear spray in Bozeman. Phasmid Adventure Rentals, located next to the Bozeman Airport is the first company in the US to rent bear spray and they have an excellent reputation.

Arrive 2-Hours before your flight- for real this time!

The Bozeman Airport is making a tremendous effort to have departing travelers arrive at least two hours prior to their scheduled departure time. There is construction on airport and on the way to the airport, and well, it is just plain busy! The airport has television commercials and newspaper ads stating so. Here is the official press release:

 

Press Release

Summer Update – June 19, 2014

Travelers departing out of Bozeman can expect road construction delays between the West Yellowstone/Big Sky and the airport as well as road construction and possible detours in the airport vicinity. Please check www.mdt.mt.gov for road construction updates. Travelers can also expect heavy passenger traffic throughout the day and are advised to be at the airport at least 2 hours before departure. The terminal doors open at 3:30 a.m. daily.

Bozeman Airport Busier Than Ever

This article has been extracted from the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, author Jason Bacaj.

Bozeman Yellowstone Airport set for busiest summer yet

Posted: 

Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport is following up its first year as the busiest airport in Montana with what is being described as its busiest summer season yet.

About 500,000 people are expected to pass through the terminal outside Belgrade from May until September, said Brian Sprenger, airport director.

The bulk of departing passengers are expected to leave between 6 a.m. and 6:30 a.m., as tweaks to different flight schedules and plane sizes have resulted in almost 800 seats scheduled to leave every morning in that half-hour span.

“It’s not a sleepy little airport by any means,” Sprenger said.

Sprenger recommended that people flying out at those times get to the airport 1 1/2 to 2 hours before takeoff to ensure all passengers make their flights.

Work building the new Interstate 90 interchange at Belgrade is going to change traffic patterns during the summer. Sprenger said the different traffic patterns “may surprise people,” which is another reason to give yourself extra time to get to the airport for an early morning flight.

“There are times in the year when you can certainly sleep in and make it to the airport an hour before departure and be fine, but that won’t be the case this summer,” Sprenger said. “We ask for everybody’s patience as we go through this process. This summer will be more difficult because of it, but we anticipate that all of it should be pretty much finished this year.”

Great Article from Montana Mint!

Published on May 11th, 2014 | by Montana Mint Staff.  Original article HERE

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5 Small Town Montana Summer Events You Won’t Want To Miss


Reed Point Boat Float: Yellowstone River (Livingston, Big Timber, Reed Point, Columbus MT) July 10-13

The annual boat float is a three-day float with two overnight stops where hundreds of great people hop on their tubes, rafts, and anything else that floats and let the river take their worries away for a few days. With beach parties, partying like Lewis and Clark,  and a killer street dance in Reed Point this event is a sunny, sandy, sometimes sun burnt path to the best days of your summer.


Pony Duck Races: Pony, MT May 24th

While attendance to this event and most of the others on this list is growing every year, it is still very much an event for the locals. Whether your first time or not, the people you will find in this one horse town are sure to leave you with a cornucopia of memories. For roughly ten bucks you can buy a beer, a plate full of amazing home cooked barbecue, and a little rubber duck with a number on it. Put your duck in the creek and if you are lucky enough to have your duck beat the rest to the finish line, you will be handsomely rewarded. After the races the beer flows all night long, centered around the legendary Pony Bar with live music.


 Miles City Bucking Horse Sale: Miles City,MT May 15-18

The 64th annual Bucking Horse Sale will be taking place this summer in Miles City, and while horses may not be your thing, if you like good people, music, and atmosphere don’t miss this event. You may be up to your knees in mud and beer by the end of the night but it is all in the experience of this full-blown party. During the day you can find yourself watching about every cowboy event under the sun, including some of the most outrageous such as the wild horse race and sheep shaving.


Darby Logger Days: Darby,MT July 18-19

Located right in the heart of the Bitteroot Valley just follow that smell of fresh-cut timber and you will find yourself in one of the more impressive events of the summer. The Ma and Pa race is something you will not want to miss(Google it) as well as the self-explanatory boxing over water competitions. Like all great events live music plays all night long and other than a little sawdust in your beer this event is the cat’s meow.


Augusta Rodeo: Augusta,MT June 29th

Bulls and blood, dust and mud, this is the rodeo to go to this summer. If given the chance to go to any rodeo in Montana this summer I wouldn’t pass it up anymore than I would a free chalupa on Cinco de Mayo. If you are going to pick one though, Augusta is the one to choose, what has been named as the Tourist Event of the Year, this event truly lets you immerses you in the experiences of small town Montana.

Originally posted by Evan Clemens on Unbelievab.ly

Yes, Montana is pretty cool.

32 Photos Of Montana That Will Make You Want To Move There

Don’t believe me? Wait until you see number six. And nine. And 20.

1. In Montana, you’ll see the sun lurking beneath the mountain tops…

Photos of Montana

Source: Flickr user thor_mark

Glacier National Park

2. … before it finally bursts through the clouds of the big sky.

Photos of Montana

Source: Flickr user Isolino

3. Until the clouds decide to swallow it again.

Photos of Montana

Source: Flickr user 5oulscape

Paradise Valley

4. The water seems to be about the only thing in a rush here.

Photos of Montana

Source: Flickr user Stuck in Customs

Glacier National Park

5. You can breathe in the cool mountain air…

Photos of Montana

Source: Flickr user AlbertaScrambler

Chief Mountain

6. … and catch the aromas of the flowers nestled below the mountains.

Photos of Montana

Source: Flickr user Stuck in Customs

7. Even a Montana forest fire is beautiful when you view it from up here.

Photos of Montana

Source: Flickr user NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center

Gallatin National Forest

8. And while winter in Montana is amazing…

Photos of Montana

Source: Flickr user Nomadic Lass

9. … the other seasons explode in colors you could only imagine.

Photos of Montana

Source: Flickr user Stuck in Customs

Glacier National Park

10. Although, sometimes the absence of color is stunning, too.

Photos of Montana

Source: Flickr user Nomadic Lass

near Havre, Montana

11. See what I mean?

Photos of Montana

Source: Flickr user Nomadic Lass

12. Montana is so big, you’ll feel free even when you’re fenced in.

Photos of Montana

Source: Flickr user USFWS Mountain Prairie

Bridger Range

13. The frozen formations alone are worth the trip…

Photos of Montana

Source: Flickr user Nomadic Lass

14. … even if you travel by train…

Photos of Montana

Source: Flickr user Loco Steve

Two Medicine trestle

15. … but sometimes the riskiest travel is by car.

Photos of Montana

Source: Flickr user Loco Steve

“Triple Arches,” Glacier National Park

16. But in Montana, even vehicles that have stopped working are stately.

Photos of Montana

Source: Flickr user LoneWolfMontana (Catching up!!)

17. And the work that is unfinished seems to be the most remarkable.

Photos of Montana

Source: Flickr user LoneWolfMontana (Catching up!!)

Garnet Hotel

18. Until you see something like this.

Photos of Montana

Source: Flickr user LoneWolfMontana (Catching up!!)

19. Montana is so large, the trails seem to go on forever.

Photos of Montana

Source: Flickr user Stuck in Customs

20. In fact, the lakes are so lovely in Montana…

Photos of Montana

Source: Flickr user Loco Steve

Wild Goose Island, Glacier National Park

21. … that only the rivers can top them.

Photos of Montana

Source: Flickr user Stuck in Customs

Glacier National Park

22. Montana has wildlife you’ve only seen on the Discovery Channel…

Photos of Montana

Source: Flickr user numb – Hey Man Nice Shot

National Bison Range

23. … that go walking wherever they please.

Photos of Montana

Source: Flickr user Rich Flynn

Yellowstone National Park

24. Literally, wherever they please.

Photos of Montana

Source: Flickr user jankgo

Glacier National Park

25. And then emerge where you least expect to find them.

Photos of Montana

Source: Flickr user Jeff Pang

Glacier National Park

26. They feel free to stand where Custer made his last stand…

Photos of Montana

Source: Flickr user Devin Westhause

Little Bighorn Battlefield

27. … and some of them might follow you around.

Photos of Montana

Source: Flickr user Forest Service – Northern Region

Nez Perce National Historic Trail

28. But if the thought of them being close by makes you uncomfortable…

Photos of Montana

Source: Flickr user OnyxDog86

Yellowstone National Park

29. … just imagine how they feel.

Photos of Montana

Source: Flickr user Nomadic Lass

30. As the sun sets, the Big Sky State shows you how it got its name…

Photos of Montana

Source: Flickr user Nomadic Lass

31. … the stars explode into the sky to send you off to sleep…

Photos of Montana

Source: Flickr user theqspeaks

Ennis, Montana

32. … and dream about the next gorgeous Montana sunrise.

Photos of Montana

Source: Flickr user markbyzewski

Ski Run at Big Sky Resort gets new name:

Shared from the Daily Telegraph: 

Putin joins the likes of Lenin and Castro in the Dictators ski area Photo: AFP

By Helen Coffey

11:43AM GMT 27 Mar 2014

 

Vladimir Putin, the president of Russia, has had the dubious honour of having a new ski run named after him in the US resort of Big Sky. Dubious because the run, Putin, will join the Marx, the Lenin and the Castro pistes to form the area known as Dictators (clearly a loose application of the “dictator” label).

The Putin will be the new name of a run currently called the First Dictator, located off the top of the 3,400-metre Lone Peak.

The Dictators area is so named because the runs are technically challenging and very steep; determined local skiers christened them back when they had to hike up to them during the Cold War, before the construction of the Lone Peak Tram in 1995. In the resort’s words: “The area was so steep, the skiers who skied there had to be really bad dudes to ski those lines” – hence the Dictators moniker.

Skier does his best topless Putin impression