Category Archives: Around Big Sky

Separating the wheat from the chaff. Your time is valuable, we will help you make the right decisions.

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.

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

Big Sky Forbe’s Top 10 Ski Resorts 2014

Can’t say this is a surprise!

http://www.forbes.com/sites/christophersteiner/2012/12/03/the-top-10-ski-resorts-in-the-united-states-for-2013/

The Top 10 Ski Resorts in the United States for 2013

These are the rankings for 2013.  The NEW 2014 Top 10 Ski Resort Rankings can be found here.

Rankings have become so ubiquitous in our world – top colleges, top cities, top jobs, top sandwiches – that they’ve begun to lose

value.  Everybody has a ranking about everything.  Making matters more confusing, most rankings get so granular that nearly every person, place and thing is ranked No. 1 forsomething.

In the ski world, there’s been a bit of this specialization ranking creeping in as well.  To be sure, some of it is fair.  Winter Park, for instance, can’t compare its terrain to that of Snowbird, but the Colorado resort does offer some of the greatest access to disabled and adaptive skiers in the world – and it deserves credit for that.  Other outlets rank snow, grooming, family friendliness, food, lodging, customer service and even the quality of the booze on mountain.

All of those things matter to somebody.  But here we only rank one thing: Awesomeness.  It’s the most important thing we can measure.  If you can know a place’s awesomeness, do you need to know anything else?

Answer: No.

The 2014 Rankings for 182 U.S. resorts, including Overall PAF Score, the best family resorts, best resorts for snow, best for luxury and those that offer the easiest access can be found atZRankings.com.

We measure awesomeness with strict adherence to quantitative and scientific methods.  The rankings you see here are the product of the most honed algorithms ever unleashed on the ski world.  Being on this list means something.  It means awesomeness.

To reiterate, there are NEW 2014 Forbes rankings for the Top 10 here.  Rankings for 182 Resorts are here.  This article lists the 2013 rankings.

Wear a helmet: The home to Corbet’s Couloir retained it’s No. 1 ranking for 2013.

There’s nothing east of the Rockies on the list because no resort east of the Rockies has the snow or terrain to crack our awesomeness rankings–something that matters for both beginners and experts (soft western snow >> eastern ice).  Not that there isn’t fun to be had in the East or even the Midwest.  Ski wherever you can.  We plan to do a separate, eastern list next year.

Again, we rank awesomeness and awesomeness only.  If you want to find out what ski resort has the best hot chocolate and marshmallow bar, you’ll find that list elsewhere.  If you want the hard facts on what ski mountain gives you the best possibility of a soul-moving experience on and off the snow, then you need rankings based on our patented Pure Awesomeness Factor.  In the ski business, this is known as PAF.  It’s not something that resorts make public, but every mountain knows where it stands.  Most big resorts employ at least three data scientists who spend their days looking for methods to raise the resort’s PAF score.

Awesomeness is the only proxy for awesomeness.  It’s the critical path to a vacation that becomes legendary.  So for the second time ever, here are the top ten resorts in the United States according to PAF:

Everything is big–and awesome–at Jackson Hole.

1.  Jackson Hole, Wyoming(PAF = 98.5): 

The lift lines at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort are like those at a highway rest area bathroom at 2:00 a.m.: Almost nonexistent, except when they exist.  And just like that line at the bathroom, if a queue has grown large at Jackson Hole, then there is probably a great reason to get in it immediately.

One of the few spots where lines used to bubble up at Jackson was at the Thunder chairlift, which gets skiers to the hairier southern side of the resort.  On a powder day, Thunder was to be avoided; you planned your morning around it.  JHMR is a place run by skiers and they were more than aware of the choke point Thunder created.

So before last season, the people in charge installed a new chairlift, Marmot, whose base sits adjacent to that of Thunder’s.  It functions as a pressure-release valve for Thunder and provides the dual purpose of getting skiers back to the top of the Bridger Gondola for a snack or lunch without forcing them to ski to the bottom of this very tall mountain.  One medium-sized lift, one huge improvement.

All of the other things that made Jackson No. 1 in last year’s rankings remain true.  It’s still the best skiing mountain in North America.  It still has the best continuous fall line, the best terrain and the best backcountry of any mountain not in the Himalayas. And there’s that $30-million ascending jam fest of music, sweat and rollicking cheers, also known as The Tram, which offers the best return on 10 minutes of standing that you’ll ever be offered (all 4,139 feet of vertical, at once).

Jackson gets extra points for coming through with decent snow last winter (the winter that wasn’t) when most of the country’s ski resorts were still putting up with random patches of brown grass on January 15.  And it never hurts to have the most famous ski run in the world – Corbet’s Couloir – inside the boundaries.

On top of skiing, Jackson has come into its own as a culinary destination, a nifty feat for a place so small and thinly populated. The area is awash in new and creative eateries: Roadhouse Brewing Co., the Handle Bar at the Four Season (a Michael Mina concept), a great contemporary  spot in town in The Kitchen, and the reincarnation of a longtime local favorite, Billy’s Burgers. On the mountain, don’t miss waffles stuffed with Nutella and bananas at Corbet’s Cabin.

A minor gripe on the foot front (very minor): one of this column’s favorite restaurants in Jackson, Trio, made the mistake last winter of messing with one of the best burgers in America when it switched its meat patty from local bison to ho-hum angus beef.  It remains a fine burger, but it no longer stands out from stalwarts in New York and Chicago.

No time to eat?  You can still have it all: Stuff your pockets with Tram Bars, the most delicious energy bar in the world, sold all over at Jackson Hole and made just over the ridge in Victor, Idaho.

Snowbird: Best snow, epic terrain, epic lift.

2.   Alta and Snowbird, Utah (PAF = 97):

For most people, these two resorts that occupy a splendid apron of Little Cottonwood Canyon just 35 minutes from downtown Salt Lake should be the default ski vacation. Direct flights to Salt Lake can be had from most cities and the trip from the airport to the snow here is a leisurely stroll compared with the white-knuckle pilgrimage between Denver and Colorado’s resorts.

We rank Snowbird and Alta together because they aretogether.  They share a boundary line and even, for those who choose to purchase it, a joint lift ticket.  If you go to one, you should go to the other.  Unless you’re a snowboarder, in which case Alta won’t allow you to plow through its chutes and trees—and what glorious chutes and trees they are.

The terrain at Alta and Snowbird is the terrain against which all others are measured.  Snowbird’s tram, which, like Jackson’s, also traverses from the base of the resort to the top, is the only lift that compares with the tram at Jackson Hole. The lift line for the Snowbird tram on a prime powder day can get ugly—one of the drawbacks of being on top of a greater metropolitan area of 2 million people.

The good news is that not all of those people ski and, even better, this place has a lot of powder days—it gets 600 inches a year—more than anywhere outside of Alaska.  The snow is dependable and comes in a density that’s user friendly, like a stiff dollop of whipped milk on a cappuccino.  If you’re going on a trip for three days or less, it’s hard to go anywhere but Utah. We can’t stress enough how awesome the skiing is here.  If you haven’t been, just go.

Not to be missed: Snowbird’s Cliff Lodge, a wonderful modern building whose raw, reinforced concrete edifice evokes the work of architect Paul Rudolph, a brilliant shaper of glass and poured stone.

In Pictures: 12 Ski Resort Vacations For Every Budget

 

The marriage between town and mountain in Telluride is unique.

3.  Telluride, Colorado (PAF = 90):

There isn’t a more charming notch in the Rocky Mountains than the perfect box canyon that Telluride inhabits.  The nearby peaks’ proximity makes the town feel more like the Alps than another Colorado ski town. The closeness of the mountains also makes for some chilly mornings, as it can be past brunch hour by the time sunlight hits Colorado Avenue, Telluride’s main street.  But that’s a small nit when it comes to one of the America’s best ski towns.

The gondola is a centerpiece of living in or visiting Telluride. It’s free for everybody and runs from 7 a.m. to midnight, giving both town and Mountain Village dwellers easy access to restaurants, bars and shops on either end of town or the resort.

The skiing at Telluride is good and continues to get better.  The fall lines are extended and true and the peaks in the near distance are 14,000-footers. Newer terrain on the backside in Revelation Bowl gives the resort a true Western snowfield experience and there are abundant chutes and hike-to steeps, some of which are accessed by the coolest steps not on the Vallée Blanche: the Gold Hill Chutes Staircase.

For this coming winter, in cooperation with the U.S. Forest Service, Telluride gladed some pine stands along the Palmyra Express lift as well as next to the Plunge lift.  The thinning removed down and dead trees, giving skiers better paths in the woods as well as getting more light and water to healthy trees, leading to a more robust forest overall. Telluride also has further expanded its boundaries above the treeline to include more of the north side of Bald Mountain.  The resulting new run is temporarily called Bald 6.  Ski it, own it… maybe they’ll name it after you.

Telluride’s dining options are commensurate with the kind of wealth that has concentrated on its streets and slopes during the last 20 years.  La Marmotte, in old town inside a 100-year old building near the base of the gondola, is a classic.  Get the tasting menu with the short ribs. Two new foodie standouts on the mountain for this season: Bon Vivant and Tomboy Tavern.

Welcome to Flavor-Town (the better-than Guy Fieri version): Try the breakfast burrito at The Butcher & Baker Cafe, a gem of a spot on Colorado Ave.  Includes: sweet potatoes, tomatoes, beans and eggs, and sausage if you want it.

Double Bonus time: Telluride has the nicest restrooms in the ski world – the resort actually uses the word “dominate” when comparing their bathrooms to those at other mountains.  So go ahead and dominate a pile of jalapenos on your chili bowl — with a heart empty of fear.

Vail offers the best skiing on Colorado’s I-70 corridor.

4. Vail, Colorado (PAF = 87): 

Vail moved up this year from No. 5 thanks to lift and technology improvements on the mountain.

There’s nothing in the U.S. so big as Vail’s 5,289 acres.  Vail is a megaresort; there’s no getting around this fact.  Not only is it big, but it’s popular.  You will see crowds here that are impossible anywhere else.

But as it turns out, James Surowiecki’s hypothesis regarding crowds is quite accurate when it comes to Vail: there’s a good reason all these people show up.  The terrain at Vail is the best and broadest of any of the central Colorado resorts.  It also benefits from being on the west side of Vail pass, which results in more snow compared with resorts on the east side of the pass (Copper, Keystone, Breckenridge).

Some of the biggest problems at Vail—long lines and bottlenecks—have been mitigated during the last two years.  If you ever remember waiting for two hours at the bottom of Chair No. 5 to get a ride off of the backside of the mountain, you needn’t fear such a fate again. Vail pulled that slow double chair out and installed a high-speed quad, which means things might get skied off faster back there, but at least, if you’re hustling, you stand a chance at three or four runs of face shots rather than just one—and that’s all you can ask for.

The crush at the bottom of the resort on busy days—when more than 20,000 people can be on the mountain—has been relieved by a new gondola that goes through Vail Village to Vail Mountain.  The new lift takes 10-passengers per cabin and treats riders with Wifi and heat.  No word yet if they’ll let you ride around and around without getting off.

Technology further enhances the on-mountain experience at Vail through its industry-leading EpicMix app for iPhones and Android devices. Once installed, the app tracks riders’ vertical feet skied. Volleys of bragging are easily disseminated to jealous friends and family through the app’s Facebook integration.  More than 40,000 people downloaded the app last year, which lead to 275,000 Facebook postings.

We’d be remiss to not mention Vail’s sister resort, Beaver Creek, in this spot as well. The mountains don’t touch each other like Alta-Snowbird or Park City-Deer Valley, but they share parent companies, lift tickets and the same snowfall profile—and they’re only 20 minutes apart from each other.  Beaver Creek, still one of the youngest ski resorts in the U.S. at 32 years old, was created to spar with the fanciest of the fancy: Utah’s Deer Valley, Idaho’s Sun Valley and Aspen Mountain—and it’s succeeded at that.

Beaver Creek’s lift network is comfy and thorough—and lines are well controlled, especially away from the mountain’s base.  There’s a quantity of sneaky-good terrain at the Beav as well; don’t miss the chance to test your edges on Birds of Prey, one of the more fearsome downhill courses on the World Cup. The top of the course is often studded with moguls, but some skiers can catch it groomed, slick and nasty—just like the World Cuppers like it. As you throw turns every 10 feet to control your speed at the top of the course, imagine straight-lining the whole stretch.  Then keep turning—all the way to a warm, free chocolate-chip cookie at the bottom, a Beaver Creek specialty.

Park City’s town lift.

5. Park CityDeer Valley and The Canyons – Utah (PAF = 86): 

This list is about ranking the best places to go skiing.  Park City is most certainly one of those places — and it happens to be a place with three mountains.  These are separate resorts, but they’re all within 10 minutes of each other (Park City Mountain Resort and Deer Valley actually share a boundary line) and taking a trip to one usually means taking a trip to the other.  Together these mountains surround the old mining town of Park City, Utah, which every January is also home to the Sundance Film Festival.

First, let’s tackle the town, then we’ll talk about the skiing.

Park City the town has more to offer than perhaps any other mountain town going. It’s bigger than Telluride, more accessible than Aspen, only 35 minutes from a major airport and the place is picture perfect in every sense.  Plus there is a ski run that runs right down to Main Street, serviced by the Town Lift, which carries you back up to the slopes of Park City Mountain Resort.  A good evening routine: hit up the No Name Saloon (locals still call it “the ‘Mo,” short for the bar’s old Alamo moniker) for a 24 oz. mug of Uinta  Brewing’s Cutthroat Pale Ale and then wander down to Park Avenue to Davanza’s  and grab a chicken-and-jalapeno pizza 0r a chicken parm sandwich.  If you’re feeling flusher, stay on Main Street and hit Zoom, Robert Redford’s restaurant that does a great job with local fare.

As for skiing, the best lift in town is The Canyon’s 9990.  At the very top of the resort, 9990 offers some hearty steep fall lines and a big north-facing slope that stays cold and dry even in the late spring.  A little hard work here usually yields some powder that tourists couldn’t find.  The Canyons also employs the best lift operators anywhere – this is a fact.  The Canyons spans 4,000 skiable acres, making it the biggest resort in Utah.  The resort is quite spread out, however, and a lot of time can be wasted trying to get from one end to the other.  Skiers should pick a side and mine it.

Deer Valley, the place where Mitt Romney skis, is as fancy as you might think.  But it also packs in some great shots of terrain, including the Daly chutes, which are accessed from the Empire Canyon lift.  At the bottom of that lift, at Empire Canyon Lodge, skiers will find not only the greatest ski lodge in the world, but also the greatest single dish served mountainside anywhere: Deer Valley’s Turkey Chili.  At less than $10, this mix of cumin, coriander, corn, black beans and big turkey pieces is an edible bargain at a place known for its bling.  All of the food at Deer Valley, in fact, is excellent — and no more expensive than food across the rest of the ski world.

Powder lasts a little longer at Deer Valley than other places.  Some of the best bets for long, lonely runs of untracked are some of the older, sleepier trails on the east-facing slope of Bald Mountain that are served by the Mayflower lift. Hit it early and hit it hard. Unless you’re a snowboarder.  Then, like with Alta, you won’t be hitting it at all.

Park City Mountain Resort is interesting because it backs right up to Main Street. The Town Lift is almost worth a lift ticket by itself.  But we rank it third among the three Park City resorts for its abundance of time-wasting run-outs, lack of continuous fall lines and, for Utah, something of a crowd problem.  The best spots on the mountain are those accessed by Jupiter chairlift.  There are some hikes that get skiers bigger shots and some of the terrain to the far skiers’ right is legitimately excellent.  There’s enough here to keep good skiers interested, but we don’t recommend straying far from Jupiter.

Get it while it’s fresh: On a snowing powder day, make for Deer Valley’s trees while the rich folk play bridge and the locals pound The Canyons and PCMR.

For a change: If you’re at PCMR, ski down to Main Street for an uncrowded lunch and drink a coffee to-go while you ride the Town Lift back to the snow.

In Pictures: 12 Ski Resort Vacations For Every Budget

 

Alpine Meadows and Squaw Valley offer unique vistas.

6.  Squaw Valley / Alpine Meadows (PAF = 84):

Squaw and Alpine dropped two spots in our rankings because of the combined ranking of the Park City resorts, our first time doing that, and the improved score of Vail.

Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows didn’t do anything wrong last season, but they were punished by the snow spirits as the place was bereft of a real snow base through January.  At that point, half of the high season was over.

We can’t reasonably hold such a thing against the resorts, although it might be wise on their part to file a complaint with the Department of Global Warming Problems.  The snow patterns are already mercurial around Lake Tahoe—evinced by the record 700 inches that fell during the winter of 2010-2011 and the utter dud of last winter—the place doesn’t need something else adding more unpredictability.

That said, these two resorts, now linked by a joint ownership agreement and a speedy 10-minute shuttle system called the Squaw-Alpine Express, share lift tickets, season passes and the best terrain in the Sierras.  The joining is an excellent deal for California skiers—something that was done to compete with Vail Resort’s Epic Pass, the best deal in skiing. (Vail owns three Tahoe-area resorts — Heavenly, Northstar and Kirkwood — that are included on the Epic Pass.)

The SquawAlpine megaplex has been aggressively updating its base areas, with plans to spend $50 million over 5 years adding restaurants, bars and all the fixins that go with big boy resorts.  For people who find that their ski-charging caffeine is better served in coffee than in a can of Red Bull, Squaw has a treat for you this winter: the first ever ski-in, ski-out Starbucks. It will be located at mid mountain.

On to the important stuff, skiing:  As always, if you hit Squaw/Alpine with the right conditions, there are few places with comparable terrain.  There’s a reason that many of the world’s best extreme skiers are bred on these lifts. Squaw sports one of the few true mountain trams in the United States (Jackson Hole, Snowbird, Big Sky, Jay Peak) and the only U.S. funitel, a high speed gondola that runs on two wires, which allows it to continue operations in rougher weather and when wind events kick up, as they often do in the Sierra.  For this year, Squaw has installed a new high-speed six-pack lift (they’ll fill all of those seats on Saturdays) that will get people to Shirley Lake and Granite Chief’s chutes and trees all the quicker.

Because we find it bizarre and fun every time we mention it: Squaw Valley hosted the 1960 Winter Olympics.

Spots No. 7 – No. 10

Silverton Mountain (PAF: NA) – Silverton’s PAF score is, in fact, off of the charts.  We covered it in the magazine here.   It’s a mountain only fit for expert skiers and people who are comfortable with the spartan amenities of an outhouse and a yurt with a keg on wheels.  We’re good with that.  Very good.  Silverton isn’t a destination resort, which is why its PAF score doesn’t calculate, but it’s most certainly a destination.

Silverton: holy ground

Brighton/Solitude (PAF: 83) – These side-by-side Utah mountains are the light versions of Alta-Snowbird.  They’re one ridge north, in Big Cottonwood Canyon rather than Little Cottonwood Canyon, but they get the same copious snow that annually buries Alta and Snowbird.  Solitude and Brighton aren’t as vertical, but there are lots of spots, especially at Solitude, worth an expert’s time.  And the best part about these two mountains: they’re remarkably uncrowded.

Solitude has world-class trees and snow.

Big Sky (PAF: 81) – Montana skiing doesn’t get the love it deserves.  We’re going to change that soon.  Big Sky has some great terrain, but it loses points on accessibility (you have to fly to Bozeman) and the fact that the place is always cold and has a weaker base village.

Big Sky delivers on its moniker.

Wolf Creek (PAF: 80) – This Southwest Colorado resort, if it had more vertical and steeps, would be one of the legendary ski destinations in the world.  It’s still a great spot as it is and it receives the best snow in all of Colorado by a big margin.  The powder can last because this place is hard to reach.  At the base, don’t miss the green chili, made with local green chiles.

Wolf Creek: Snow to the roof… and green chiles.

A-Basin (PAF: 80) – A poor man’s Alta (except snowboarders are allowed here), parking lot barbecues serve up more collective protein here than do the restaurants on the mountain.  A-Basin is the spot where gritty central Colorado skiers gather to ski legitimate steeps and epic lines on a powder day.

A-Basin: Steepest spot in central Colo

Bozeman’s Brilliance at it again.

Thanks Sunset Magazine. See the full article here.

 

24 Best Places to Live and Work 2014

Bozeman, MT

Audrey Hall

21 OF 31

VIEW ALL

Bozeman, MT

Winner: Best place to reboot your life

Set between the Gallatin and Bridger Ranges, Bozeman offers easy access to thousands of acres of Gallatin National Forest, hundreds of miles of blue-ribbon trout streams (the nearby Yellowstone and Madison Rivers are ranked among the best in the world), and three downhill ski areas, including nonprofit Bridger Bowl, just 18 miles north of town.

Between 2000 and 2012, Bozeman’s population grew more than 40 percent, and a good deal of that growth came from urban refugees seeking a smaller-city pace and daily access to the outdoors. For some, the move is part of a grand plan to finally work on that big idea. For others, new ventures are born out of ​necessity; in the absence of major metro jobs, many newcomers create their own.

Winters are long and cold—think average lows of 15° in February—but locals bundle up and embrace them. They flock to such events as the Wild West WinterFest (“Flakes Welcome!”), a February tradition that includes ​everything from a quilt show to a dog keg pull, in which Fido hauls a sled loaded with one or more kegs of beer.

Tips for Big Sky skiers through the Bozeman Airport

6-winter tips: Bozeman Airport to Big Sky

 Bridger Bowl Trail MapIt is always an exciting time in Bozeman when the snow arrives, and this year the snow is arriving in spades. Bridger Bowl and BIg Sky are already (as of mid-December 2013) posting base depth of four feet. This bodes well so far.

The Bozeman Airport does an excellent job dealing with oversized luggage, AKA skis and boards (hint: big bags come off last). We do have a couple of hints for winter visitors that will hopefully make your life a little easier when you are passing through.

1) Transportation to Big Sky. Options are limited. It is typically less expensive to rent a car than to take a shuttle/ taxi to Big Sky. Plus, a rental car gives you flexibility to check out different areas of town, Bozeman, and Yellowstone. It is highly, highly recommended to rent a car versus a shuttle. Here is an article about BZN Ground transportation. 

2) If you are on a late flight, eat before you get to Bozeman. There are few restaurant options, other than McDonalds, on your way to Big Sky open late. The grocery store, Albertsons, is open to 1AM and on the way. If you can muster, it is worth stopping here to stock up.

3) If you have rented a car through one of the franchise companies on airport, send the primary member of the party to get pick up the car IMMEDIATELY. Lines can and will be long, and the cars are far away. Drive the car up to arrivals to pick up the rest of your party and their luggage.

4) Ski racks. On airport companies do offer ski racks on some of their rental cars. However, these are the clamp style racks. So if you are traveling with board/ ski bags plan on removing the contents to strap in. The independent car rental agency, Phasmid,  offers rental roof-top ski boxes on their cars, as well as if you just want to rent a roof box. They are located about a mile from BZN and pick people up at the airport privately, right outside of arrivals, if you are renting a car from them.

5) Gear. Soft sided bags are a lot easier to pack and if you did book too small of a rental car (or got shafted with getting something you did not book) are a lot more comfortable on your lap then a suitcase! If you are tight for packing space, carry your ski boots on the plane.

6) Rental cars and the drive to Big Sky. Four-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive cars are required in the winter. You may get lucky if you rent a 2WD car and the road to Big Sky is dry and safe, or you may end up with a snowy/ icey road and in the Gallatin River.  They do an excellent job maintaining the road to Big Sky in winter, however, sometimes it is impossible to keep it perfect.  Supposedly they stopped putting up white crosses marking where people died because there are so many already it started to freak people out.

Pony up and get a 4WD or AWD rental car.

If you book a SUV through a Bozeman airport rental car company, call and make sure 100% that the car you will be getting is 4WD or AWD.  If they will not guarantee this, book a rental car through a different company.  A couple of the companies have been renting 2WD Ford Escapes and Ford Explorers- veritable deathtraps in adverse driving conditions.

When you do book your rental car, book in advance as possible. Winter rental car prices in Bozeman can be insane. Don’t hesitate to think out of the box and go through an independent company off-airport. Here is a recent screen grab of Bozeman airport car rental agencies over Christmas, 2013:

Bozeman Suburban Rental

6) Drive safe. If you are arriving one of the late flights and are not comfortable driving in winter conditions and/ or at night- get a hotel for the night! It is not worth the stress, or worse and accident, to race to Big Sky. Stay at a hotel in Belgrade or Bozeman and go in the morning- you won’t miss anything at all!

Reviews of Car Rental Agencies Servicing Bozeman Airport

What is the best car rental agency in Bozeman, reviews

We decided to do a little research on publicly posted reviews of the car rental agencies in Bozeman. Most of what we can find is via Yelp.com and Google Places/ Local. Below you will find copied text directly from Yelp and Google (and wherever else available) as well as screen shots and links. Please note these were all captured 2/13/13, and of course subject to change. Use as you see fit. We will soon do another post comparing the pricing of all rental car agencies in Bozeman.

The Results:

Car rental agency reviews Bozeman
What is BZN’s best car rental agency?

If one is to judge reviews posted on the internet, here are the results.
1) Phasmid Rentals. TOTAL: 63-points

  • Yelp 12 reviews, 5 stars. 1-review, 4-stars. Google, Excellent x 3.

2) Journey Rent-a-Car. TOTAL: 12-points

  • Yelp 0 reviews. Google, Excellent x 3.

2) Ressler Rentals. TOTAL: 8-points

  • Yelp 0 reviews. Google, Excellent x 2.

4) Budget Rent-A-Car. TOTAL 5-points

  • Yelp 1 review, 2-stars. Google, Good x 1.

5) Hertz Rent a Car. TOTAL 3-points

  • Yelp 7 reviews, 4-stars x 1, 2-stars x 1, 1-star x 5. Google, Excellent x 1.

6) Enterprise. TOTAL 3-points

  • Yelp 0 reviews. Google, Poor to Fair x 1, Excellent x 1.

3) National Car Rental. TOTAL 2-points

  • Yelp 2 reviews, 3-stars. Google, Poor to Fair x 2.

9) Dollar Rent A Car.  TOTAL 0-points

  • No data.

8) Avis Rent A Car. TOTAL -2 points

  • Yelp 1 review, 1-star. Google, Poor to Fair x 1.

7) Thrifty Car rental. TOTAL -4 points

  • Yelp 2 reviews, 1-star. Google, Poor to Fair x 2.

How we assign total points:
5-star review or Excellent from Google = 4 points

4-star review or Good from Google = 3-points

3-star review or OK from Google = 2-points

2-star review = 1-point

1-star rating or Fair to Poor rating Google = -1-point

Breakdown of Bozeman Car Rental Agency Reviews

BUDGET Rent-A-Car, Bozeman Airport

Budget Rent A Car Review Bozeman
Budget Rent A Car reviews Bozeman Airport

Budget Rent-A-Car”I get annoyed when you get to the counter of a rental car place only to find out that they don’t have the type of car you reserved and payed for. I had paid for a full size car only to be greeted with a Chevy Cruz. Being on vacation and trying to go with the flow- I gave it a shot- even though I was pretty sure it was a compact car. It was, so I went back in to the counter.  Matt at the desk was helpful, but still tried to tell me that was all that was available, and luckily a Chevy Impala had just gotten cleaned– a full size car was now mine for the week (thanks to Matt) just like I had reserved.  I would not call the car clean, but after I wiped down the inside we were good to go.” Yelp reviews Budget, Bozeman

Here is the lone posted Google review of Budget Rent A Car Bozeman:

Overall Good
“We had a confirmation for a Grand Cherokee 4WD or similar. We got a Hyundai Santa Fe which is a boring car in all repects (and sold new at a lower price than the Grand Cherokee). Budget argued that both cars were in the same category and that they had no alternative to offer. We were extremely disappointed, especially after having rented a Grand Cherokee from Budget in Toronto the day before. We’ll think twice before renting from Budget again.”
Budget
850 Gallatin Field Rd
Belgrade, MT 59714
(406) 388-4091

HERTZ rental cars, reviews Bozeman Airport

Hertz is by far the biggest rental car agency at the Bozeman Airport. At one stage (not sure if it is true anymore), Bozeman was Hertz’s most profitable franchise in the entire Northwest. Anyway, here are the Yelp reviews of Hertz Bozeman:

Hertz Bozeman Airport Reviews Hertz-Bozeman-Reviews2

There are some very shocking reviews/ statements of the Bozeman Airport Hertz franchise. Overall of 7-reviews gained a 2-star average. Here is an excerpt from one: “I will never rent from this Hertz location again.  My friends and I rented a car from here.  We had a 7:00am flight out of the airport, and so we arrived at the airport at ~5:45am and left the car in the designated off hours rental car drop off area.  The desk wasn’t open (which it should have been at that time as the security line was already ~30 minutes long for a very normal time for a morning flight – 7am…).  When we arrived home, we received a call saying that we left the car with thousands of dollars of damage, which is absolutely false.  Another car in the parking lot must have hit us or something.

The parking lot either has no security cameras (which can’t be the case…it’s an airport where security is critical!), or Hertz is just too lazy to pull the tapes, so we are helpless to make a case.  Completely ridiculous.  Very poor management.  No way I ever rent from these guys again.”

There are numerous reviews listed on Yelp of Hertz BZN charging for damage that the renters did not do to the vehicle as well as being overcharged at the rental counter.

There is one review posted via Google: A Google User reviewed 11 months ago

“Overall Excellent
Very good customer service! Rented cars here two separate times during a vacation. Both reservations were for compact cars. I received a Subaru the first time, and the second, a brand new Camaro and didn’t have to pay a penny more! Fun and unexpected way to spend my last two days in Bozeman. Only downside is the limited mileage policy. Very nice service representatives.”
Hertz
850 Gallatin Field Rd, Ste 8
Belgrade, MT 59714
(406) 388-6939

NATIONAL Car Rental, Bozeman Airport

National is one of the smaller franchises at the airport. Overall Yelp rating of National Car Rental Bozeman 3-stars on 2-reviews. National Car Rental Bozeman ReviewsTheir Google reviews, overall ‘Poor to Fair’:

Quality Poor to fair
This company shows no loyalties towards its long time returning customers. Everytime I rent from them they come up with some bogus charge days after I return the car. I would advise anybody looking to rent a car to go elsewhere.

Was just notified 2 days after I returned my rental car that I am being charged for a rock chip in the window…this will be the last time I or or company ever rent with National/Alamo

I’ve heard from multiple sources that these guys will look to nickel and dime you every way they can. I would advise you to take your business elsewhere!!
Quality Poor to fair
Shady business practices. Charged me for something several days after I returned my car. “We noticed it a few days later.” Thank you for being the worst place to rent from!”
Contact:
National Car Rental
850 Gallatin Field Rd
Belgrade, MT 59714
(406) 388-6694

THRIFTY car rental, Bozeman Airport

Thrifty at the Bozeman Airport was certainly once thought to be a very strong franchise. We found 2-reviews on Yelp for Thrifty Car Rentals Bozeman.Thrity Car Rental Reviews, Bozeman One of these in particular, is pretty rough:

Don’t do it. I like the poeple who run the joint but Thrifty Rent A Car are unethical and ruthless.
I rented a car and got a flat tire driving on the highway. No off road, no dougnuts in the driveway.  When I returned the car the staff said no problem and had me fill out an incident report.
I’ve since received a bill for a new tire and “administrative fees”!

What!!!!!!!!!  Your tire blows out and I have to pay for it?  Why am I responsible for normal wear and tear on your vehicle?  Even if I do have to pay for the tire what about the 20,000 miles it had on it?  Why do I have the privilege of buying a new tire and paying you an admin fee on top of that?
Would my family have to pay for my funeral AND the tire if I went off the road from the blowout? Can they charge you an admin fee from the funeral home?

I’ve since checked to see if I’m responsible for this on the web and, to be fair, the results are mixed.  However the overwhelming number of complaints on http://www.consumeraffai…  from rental companies are about Thrifty.

Local owner dude you are probably O.K. but find another company franchise because Thrifty are scumbags.”

Google Reviews, Thrifty BZN:

“Overall Poor to fair
I have never taken the time to right a review before, but given the negative experience I felt compelled. I travel to Bozeman often on business and have found it convenient to pick up a rental at the airport. I have used Thrifty because my company has a great rate with them. I called today to extend my rental two days and was told “no way…I need that car back at 4pm”. When I asked why the manager could not extend she said “…its Labor Day weekend we are over booked and that rate is way too low”. I’m not objecting to Thrifty making money – but don’t treat a customer poorly b/c you didn’t manage your reservations properly. How about suggesting other rental car companies that might have availability? Her rude behavior has insured that I won’t ever use Thrifty again (in Bozeman and elsewhere) and I spend 70-80% of my time on the road.”
Thrifty
850 Gallatin Field Rd
Belgrade, MT 59714
(406) 388-3484

AVIS Rental Cars, Bozeman Airport

Avis is the second largest franchise at the Bozeman Airport next to Hertz, even though still roughly half the size. Overall one star from Yelp and Poor to Fair from Google. They only have one review listed on Yelp for Avis Bozeman, Airport.Avis Reviews, Bozeman Airport Granted, not a good review: “Avoid at all costs.  The most uncooperative staff I have ever dealt with.” However, being that they are the second biggest at BZN and only have 1-review is maybe a good sign? Looking at the lone posted Google Review, one may think differently.

“AVIS Rental Car in Bozeman Montana Airport, is seriously the worst rental experience in my life. I had a reservation that was made through my insurance company for a Premium Car, when I arrived to get the car I got a Mid Size car, which I would classify as a compact car. A Chevy Cruze. When I called two days before the reservation to find out what type of car I was getting I was told a Lincoln Town Car or Cadillac. This was a far cry from one of those. I have 3 children I need to haul around town, plus two huge band instruments including a Tuba. Monday was fun taking the kids to school. I went to return the car two days early stating that I had to rent something else because it was not big enough I didn’t get a I am sorry or hello or anything. I got a lady in the office making faces at me and the young guy at the counter not saying a word. Just typing something into the computer and then giving me my paper work. I then went next door to the Enterprise counter and rented a bigger vehicle. From the very beginning I never got a hello how are you, how is your day, I got nothing. To be treated rudely and then to be placed in an unwanted car was just unexceptable.”

PHASMID RENTALS, Bozeman Off-Airport

Phasmid Rentals is an off-airport rental car agency located about a mile east of the Bozeman Airport. They are an independent rental car agency in business since 2010. Phasmid rents Chevrolet Suburbans and Subaru Outbacks only. Both new vehicles and used vehicles.  Phasmid Rentals is the only Yelp listed review for Bozeman that is positive. Two Yelp reviews are listed, both 5-stars. Additionally, we noticed on their Yelp review page that they had numerous ‘filtered reviews‘.  Phasmid Rentals Reviews BozemanUpon entering the Captcha code we found 11 additional reviews for Phasmid Rentals. 10 were 5-star reviews, 1 was a 4-star review. Reviews for Phasmid Rentals Phasmid-Reviews-2

Here is one Yelp review:” This is an excellent company.  They will not only rent you a clean, new, vehicle (I had an Outback which was like new) but also any gear you need.   Fishing rods, coolers, tents, bear spray and prob anything else you need.
Nice personal touch as you will be picked up at baggage claim and don’t have to deal with an anonymous corporation.   The owner, Will, is also an excellent source of info for your trip/vacation.
All at competitive prices.  I will use again.”

Looking at Google reviews, there seems to be the same positive thoughts for this rental car company.

“I really want to help see this business grow, because Bozeman Rental Cars/ Phasmid is hands down the best rental car agency I have ever used. I rent from them pretty regularly for business and am always pleased with the Subaru Outback they give me, the fact they know my name and have a super easy contract, there is no waiting in line, no going through the airport hassle, etc. This is the way renting a car should be!”

“Way better than any franchise experience, and a great locally owned company.”

Phasmid Rentals
32 Dollar Dr
Belgrade, MT 59714
(406) 922-0179

RESSLER RENTALS, Bozeman Off-Airport

Ressler Rentals is a Toyota Rent-a-Car franchise based about 12-miles south of the Bozeman Airport. They offer all new models of Toyota vehicles to rent, with airport delivery service. Although they do not have any Yelp reviews, they do have numerous positive reviews on Google, both with an Excellent overall rating:

“Ressler is such a great place to rent cars in Bozeman! I rent regularly for business and the service is always excellent! The cars are also in great shape and price is a good value, especially compared to the options at the airport!”

“Tanya was great made sure my rental was ready to go for my vacation and that i could easily drop it off when i was heading out of time…”

Ressler Toyota Rent a Car
8340 Huffine Ln
Bozeman, MT 59718
(406) 585-2010

JOURNEY RENT-A-CAR, Bozeman Off-Airport

Journey Rent-a-Car is the newest off-airport rental car agency in Bozeman. They are located roughly 10-miles south of Bozeman Airport at the Carriage House car wash. Journey rents used vans, cars (example Chevy Malibu), and Suburbans. They offer airport shuttle service. Although no Yelp reviews have been made (no Yelp listing was even found for their business), they have very positive Google reviews as well.

“Excellent experience. The best value for a large SUV and the reservation process was seamless. They were at the airport when we arrived and brought us back at our convenience. They had the paperwork ready when we got to their so I just signed and was on my way. GREAT JOB!! Will defeinitely use them again on our next visit.”

“Journey Rentacar was great. Incredibly accommodating to my schedule for both the pick up and the drop off. Very helpful in adding a ski pod to the top of the car at the last second. Very well priced. Would definitely recommend to anyone i know needing a car in the area. Thank you again”

“Journey Rentacar was outstanding to work with! Josh was super helpful to our hunting crew and we got the best rates around on a Ford 12 person Van. Thanks Journey!”

Journey, 30 Homestake Dr. Bozeman, Mt 59718‎(406) 551-2277

ENTERPRISE, Bozeman Airport and Off-Airport

Enterprise has a location at the Bozeman Airport and also an off-airport location downtown. Recently, Expedia and other search engines are positing ‘Shuttle to location’ via rental car searches for BZN. Their off-airport location is just west of downtown Bozeman on Main Street, about 14-miles from BZN. Enterprise does not have any Yelp reviews. However, seemingly like the other franchise rental car agencies in Bozeman, has negative Google reviews, although they do also have one positive review. Enterprise Airport does not have Yelp or Google reviews.

“Watch out for this company!!! We live in Bozeman, Mt. After renting a vehicle recently at the Main Street location, we were told that we couldn’t have “unlimited miles” and would only be allowed 200 miles a day with 25 cents for each mile over, because of a new law in montana, we were also told that none of the companies in Montana were offering unlimited mileage. We trusted the agent but after checking with the other car rental companies in the area we found out that the Enterprise agent was lying to us. All of the other car rental companies offered free unlimited miles and told us there is no such law. We will never rent from Enterpise again. Please be careful if you decide to do business with these people.”

“I needed a rental for several days while my California car was being repaired here in Bozeman after it broke down while touring Yellowstone. After having the car towed to Bozeman, I rented a Bozeman Enterprise car on Sat., available only for two days. It had to be returned 8 AM on Mon, which I did. I was promised at the time, (and on the very first day by female Rep.) a second car would be available for me today, Tues. I called this morning (Tues) for a pickup at my near-by hotel but was told by the male Rep there was no record of my reservation and that no car would be available for me until Wed afternoon at best. Not only did they screw this up, but to add insult to injury, the Rep didn’t even offer an apology for the inconvenience. I even had to press him to put my name down for the very next available car if one was returned today. In contrast, everyone else I’ve had to deal with since my car’s breakdown in Yellowstone has been friendly, helpful, efficient and considerate of my circumstances.”

“I rent A LOT of rental cars,(travel for my job)Therefor I have used just about every company out there. Enterprise is The BEST by far. They have great service and honest people who will take the time to look for what is best for THEIR customers. I ALWAYS refer my friends and family to rent from the Main street office in Bozeman MT. So, if your coming for a visit our beautiful state, or just need a car for a day..Enterprise Rental car’s are the one to call. A Loyal Customer A.N. Flores P.S the airport Location Also has great service too.”

Enterprise Airport
850 Gallatin Field Rd #7
Bozeman, MT
406-388-7420

Enterprise Rent-A-Car
NONAIRPORT BOZEMAN
1238 W MAIN ST
BOZEMAN, MT 59715-3254
Tel.: (406) 586-8010
 

ALAMO car rental, Bozeman Airport

There are no Yelp reviews for Alamo’s Bozeman Airport location. Their are two Google reviews posted for Alamo, both with a Poor to Fair rating. “Was just notified 2 days after I returned my rental car that I am being charged for a rock chip in the window…this will be the last time I or or company ever rent with National/Alamo”

“Quality Poor to fair”

Alamo
5 Gallatin Field Rd
Belgrade, MT 59714
406-388-4457

DOLLAR car rental, Bozeman Airport

We are pretty they exist as they have paid their concession fees to the Bozeman Airport, however, we cannot find any reviews on Yelp or Google for the Bozeman Airport Location. They are the smallest on-airport rental car agency at BZN, posting only a 2.2% market share. Perhaps with the reviews of other on-airport rental car agencies, no news is good news.

Dollar Car Rental
850 Gallatin Field Road,
Belgrade, Mt
(406) 388-1323