All I knew about the Yellowstone Club, in Big Sky, Montana was that it was the Winter home to extreme skiing legend Scott Schmidt and and the iconic film maker Warren Miller.
So off we headed from London to Seattle (9 hour flight) finally arriving into snow covered Bozeman Airport, Montana (2 hour flight) where we were greeted with images and warnings about the locals, what to do, and what not to do if confronted by them. Thankfully at this time of year they are usually dormant but an unusually warm winter meant that a Snow Lion was still about in Big Sky. Thankfully there was no such talk about the bears! We collected our bags and jumped into our transfer up to Big Sky (45 minutes -1hour).
We passed through Big Sky town centre and continued on the snow covered road up through security gates into Yellowstone Club and to our final destination the Warren Miller Lodge which was situated at the bottom of the picturesque Pioneer Mountain 9,860 feet (3005 meters). I should perhaps at this point mention that the Yellowstone Club is the world’s only private ski community and it’s situated in the Rocky Mountains. Yes, a private ski resort, and we were here just for the weekend.
For the first time ever I had flown without my faithful ski boots and was nervous about the skiing as a result. I needn’t have been. On the mezzanine floor of the Lodge in the ski shop Gus fitted me into (almost) the same boot that I had left behind and gave me my Dynastar skis and I was off…
No need to collect to a lift pass. No need to pass through a turnstile. You just stepped out of the Lodge, up one step, had a quick chat with the liftie about the temperature and then you were winging your way up the hill over perfectly pisted ‘Groomers’ and untouched powder. It felt almost disney-like, it was pretty perfect.
There are 18 lifts and over 100 runs in Yellowstone Club resort with the longest being 3.36 miles (5.4km). This season has seen a whole new (beginner) area open on Eglise Rock (9573 feet, 2917 meters). We skied on our own in the morning which was easy enough to do as all routes, trails and groomers led to the bottom of the same hill. There was never a lift queue and we saw hardly anyone else on the hill.
The snow both on and off piste was the best I have ever skied on. We came off the peak off Pioneer Mountain down the Shoulder, skied through bowls, gullies and had fun in the untouched ‘private powder’ in the trees. I’d heard people say that the snow in America is different to Europe, I thought it a myth – it’s true. Off-piste was light and fluffy and flattered your every turn.
I am not usually a fan of fast skiing but when the pistes are this perfect and empty you can carve your heart out in the snow – so after lunch we did several high speed ‘groomers’ before heading back down to the Lodge.
Day two we headed over to Big Sky resort skiing out from Yellowstone. Again the pistes were perfectly groomed, the lifties all had a good word to say and the only difference was there were turnstiles and lift passes needed to ski here. There are three mountains to ski and the choice of groomed runs and trails was enough to keep you busy all week.
So if I was putting a list together, trying to dream up the perfect ski resort here are few things I would include:
I would have heated seats on the lifts, politely spoken lifties asking how my day was going and recommending yet another good run.
I’d like off-piste areas to be clearly marked and easily accessible. I would have endless trails through the trees where you would bounce off powder, avoiding all low branches.
For beginners there would be blue and green runs that flatter those starting out. With a luxury gondola to take them back up the hill. Giving them the the chance to get their breath back after each run, and to warm up.
On the mountain would be ‘Comfort Stations’ where you could warm up and refuel. As you enter the cosy shack on one side you would have help-yourself soups, ‘Above-average-Nachos’ and hot drinks. On the other side of the room sweets and cakes, jar after jar after jar of them.
And of course, there would be intricately carved boxes hidden within the trees in the woods, that you can open with a secret code to grab yourself a tipple to warm your cockles.
And at the end of the day, after sitting around the outdoor open fire, you could leave your kit safe in the knowledge it would be there in the morning. And better still, someone will have turned your skis around and planted your poles so you just step in and ski off.
Oh and every now and then Justin Timblerlake would ski by… Now does that sound too dreamy?
Ok, so my body-clock had succumbed to the seven hour time difference and maybe the elevation and thin air was getting to me and was making me feel a little light-headed (not helped by the glass of fizz I had for apres ski). I wasn’t sure if I was in a dream or in heaven…