A Big Sky Summer

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If Montana had a state fly, it would surely be the caddis.Like the state mammal, the grizzly bear and the state flower, the bitterroot, the caddis fly emerges from its aqueous hibernation each spring. The aquatic larvae cocoons all winter in stony enclaves at the Gallatin River’s stream bottom until spring when water temperature warms. The caddis emerges winged and voracious.  


Fish love them. And fishermen love it that fish, like the native Yellowstone cutthroat, the brown trout and rainbow favor the caddis as it hovers over the water and touches the surface. It is then that fly fishermen and women tie one on — an artificial caddis fly tied via fisherman’s knot to tippet. In Big Sky, several guide services such as the Orvis Endorsed Fly Shop at Lone Mountain Ranch, offer fly fishing lessons, float trips and walk-and-wade experiences. 

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“We have several rivers to choose from,” says guide John Hall. “And nice fishing spots just a few minutes from Big Sky on the Gallatin.”

The ranch’s fly shop provides the Orvis waders, wading boots, fly rod and reel, to tease the Mayflies, stoneflies, yellow sallies, spruce moths and of course, the caddis that flourish in the Treasure State.

Big Sky, the mountain town on the east slope of the 11,166-foot Lone Peak also emerges from quiet spring into a flower-flocked summer of golfing, hiking, biking, and other activities, so many in fact, it would take a week or more and long days to try all the active happenings — a worthy pursuit indeed.

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Red Indian paintbrush, purple lupine, and yellow arrowleaf balsamroot nod in the breeze as hikers explore a few of Big Sky Resort’s 16 miles of trails, such as a self-guided trail from the top of a summer chairlifts or one of the resort’s guided hikes from the mountain’s summit.

More trails meander through meadows and mountains, such as the locals’ favorite, Ousel Falls Trail, a .85-mile canyon cruise to the cataract, aptly named for the “dipping bird,” the ousel that flits here along the South Fork of the West Fork of the Gallatin River. Ousel Falls Trail is a pleasant introduction to hiking for folks not acclimatized to woodsy walks as well as a hiking primer for families who are rewarded with the 100-foot falls, and perhaps a glimpse at the rare fairy orchid at trailside.

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Lots of Big Sky activities encourage kids to get active, including the Big Sky Resort’s Plaza-area pursuits from the Bungee Trampoline — go ahead and try a backflip — to the Climbing Wall, High Ropes Course and Ziplining. Archery, Skeet Shooting, Scenic Lift Rides and Disc Golf provide exhilarating adventures under the watchful eye of trained guides, there to check harnesses, interpret the scenery, and even snap photos for guests. (Not for kids only.)

“EEEiiiiieeee,” shouts 16-year-old visitor  Abe Muwali as he feels the adrenaline-surge on the Giant Swing, where swingers climb the 30-foot-tall structure, are harnessed into a swing seat, and launch off the platform’s ledge for a heart-stopping thrill.  “So fun! You’ve got to try this!”

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So many things to try, Abe noted, and one of the don’t-miss adventures, he says, is the Lone Peak Expedition to the summit where he and friends boarded a chairlift, then expedition vehicle, and finally the Lone Peak Tram to 11,166 feet elevation. “We threw snowballs in July!” he laughed. “And we saw the mountains in Yellowstone.” 

Yellowstone National Park’s 2.2 million acres of wild lands roll out just 18 miles south of Big Sky. It’s here among the bison, bear, elk, and wolves that visitors witness one of the most intact ecosystems in the lower 48. One of the best ways to experience Yellowstone is with an outfitting company whose experts drive Yellowstone’s back roads while guests glimpse the park’s famous headliners, 67 mammal species, and of course, the geysers: Old Faithful, Steamboat, and Echinus Geysers, are some of the 10,000 thermal features here. Outfitters offer hike trips and trail rides too.

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Big Sky’s visitors will find elegant dining and evening activities. Between the resort and the community, some 40 eateries serve savory and sweet such as Tuscan lamb at Andiamo Italian Grille, giant steaks at Bucks T-4, best burgers ever at The Corral, and fresh-caught fish at Arata Hawaiian Style Sushi.  New this summer is mountaintop dining at Everett’s 8,800, open for lunches and group functions.

Fluffy pillows also await Big Sky guests at a few dozen mountain lodges and local hotels and resort cabins, among which Big Sky Resort’s Signature Collection of slope-side villas just might have the fluffiest of four-star amenities from pools to pillows and more activities just out the door. Play 18 holes on the Big Sky Resort Golf Course, a 72-par Arnold Palmer-designed public venue. 

Nap after a spa session at Solace Spa and Salon where massage therapy and body treatments leave guests rejuvenated and ready for more summer fun, such as a rafting float on the Gallatin River.  This is the perfect way to see Montana from the caddis fly’s viewpoint, inches above the flecked river rocks, and with stops at swimming holes for splashing battles.

Now Big Sky is not just famous for its winter skiing but also for its variety of offerings in the summertime where the living is easy.



Music in the Mountains: The Arts Council of Big Sky hosts performances at the Town Center stage on The Meadow or in the Big Sky Chapel and includes Sons of Bill July 2; The Tiny Band July 4; Incendio July 9; The Suffers July 16; The Whiskey Gentry July 23; Baroque Music Montana July 28; Montana Shakespeare in the Parks Aug. 2 for two plays at 2 p.m. and 5 p.m.; Corb Lund and the Hurtin’ Albertans Aug. 6; the Big Sky Classical Music Festival Aug. 7-9; Royal Southern Brotherhood Aug. 13; The Brothers Comatose Aug. 20; and Eufórquestra Aug. 27.

The Arts Council also hosts a very special event, NPR’s “From the Top with Host Christopher O’Riley”in the Warren Miller Performing Arts Center. Tickets are available for the Sept. 27 show at www.bigskyarts.org or 406-995-2742.


Big Sky PBR Bull Riding and Concert runs July 30 and 31, and live music by Robert Earl Keen on August 1. Tickets: www.BigSkyPBR.com, 406-995-2055.

Big Sky Resort’s 10th Annual BrewfestJuly 10-11, 2015, showcases about 20 Montana micro breweries and another 20 national craft breweries with frothy ales and ambers and the defending champions, the winner of last year’s “People’s Choice Award,” Lone Peak Brewery’s Lone Peak IPA. There’s a $25 tasting fee, free music and activities, 3-9 p.m. www.bigskyresort.com

Vine & Dine at Big Sky Resort is four days of regional and international wine tastings, local fare, and mini classes from Master Sommeliers and chefs. There are even wine tastings on the Lone Peak, and the  Zipline to Zin’s zinfandel-samplings as well as an elegant resort plaza wine stroll with two dozen award-winning vintners, locally raised food samples and live music. Aug. 13-16, 2015. www.bigskyresort.com

Kids Adventure Games Aug. 28-29, challenges kids aged six-14 with fun outdoor problem-solving tasks at Big Sky Resort. Teams of two complete the challenge course and outdoor obstacles, such as a ropes course, biking, and climbing. The $150 team fee includes safety instruction, goodie bag, and raffle tickets. www.bigskyresort.com 

The Rut Skyrunner World Series Ultra Final Sept. 4 is a race through the peaks for serious international competitors and intrepid Big Sky Resort visitors. The mountainous courses cover 11 kilometer, 25 k and 50 k routes of steep and technical trail and off-piste terrain. Spectators enjoy the Lone Peak Vertical Kilometer, elevation-grabbing race, a 3-mile long mountain climb along Bone Crusher Ridge and other dizzying heights. For registration and other information, see www.bigskyresort.com

* In the archives find articles about other Montana cities:  Helena, Bozeman, Missoula, Whitefish

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