Local Beta: Big Sky Resort

Here’s the inside line on where to eat, sleep, ski, repeat

Local Beta: Big Sky Resort

Here’s the inside line on where to eat, sleep, ski, repeat

Ryan Day Thompson

Ryan Day Thompson, despite being very successful, has only been a ski photographer since 2012. After growing weary of shooting weddings, he moved from Denver, Colorado to Big Sky, Montana and hasn’t looked back.

When he relocated, he had no idea how to ski. So he spent his first season in Big Sky progressing on a pair of planks. By his 34th day on-hill, he was shredding in the Headwaters zone—an expert skiing area—and by the end of the season he was skiing and shooting near Hatcher’s Pass in Alaska with Icelantic Skis. Thompson lived at the base of Lone Peak for four years before relocating to Bozeman, 45 minutes from Big Sky, last May. The talented photographer is an ideal source to tap for the local know-how in Big Sky.

For more from Ryan, follow him on Instagram or visit his website.

Photo: Ryan Day

Best place to catch the sunrise: So the way that Big Sky is situated Lone Peak from the classic billboard view is photograph-able from almost anywhere along the way to Big Sky. Personally, the ridges that form Beehive Basin—whose trailhead in the Spanish Peaks is a stone’s throw from BSR’s entrance—were always my favorite for photographing the peak.  It only takes an hour or so to feel like you’re directly across from Lone Peak and as the peak lights up it’s pretty easy to shoot. Just kind of set the camera up and close your eyes and fire away. For someone who doesn’t want to make an effort, though? Big Sky is one of the easiest places I’ve photographed for working a sunrise.  There are easy (and classic) shots all over drive in on Lone Peak Trail.

Best inbounds line: I refuse to say the cliché Big Couloir. “The Big” is f#cking classic, no doubt, but it was never my favorite line at Big Sky. Honestly, the best inbounds lines are off the backside on the shoulders of Lone Peak. If you can deal with the 45-minute hike go over to Three Forks in the Headwaters. It’s unlikely anyone will be willing to show you where that is on a map but if you look closely enough, you’ll find it. They used to run Freeride World Tour qualifier finals in that zone every year.

Best out-of-bounds line: I hope I don’t get death threats for this but off of the back of Lone Peak is a cirque called Lost Lake. There are über-classic “locals only” lines in there that will blow your mind. Locals get pissed when people talk about Lost Lake so don’t be at all surprised if you’re on your own finding it. Lost Lake holds a cirque that takes about 12 days to get skied out.


Best groomer run: I love this little run on the Moonlight side called Cimarron. It has all these fun rolls and side features and no one is ever on it.

Best place to scare yourself: One time I met Glen Plake. He asked me where I was from. I told him Big Sky. He got really excited and started gushing about how if an American wants to get ready to go ski in Chamonix they need to ski at Big Sky. Literally everywhere you go above treeline is a pucker fest. If you go up the tram and ski anything other than Liberty Bowl you are going to be scared unless you’re a hard local that does it every day. Lone Peak is a real mountain.


Best breakfast spot at the mountain: I never really bother to slow down enough to eat breakfast. The thing about Big Sky is that it is broken into sections. If you’re on-mountain, Chet’s in the Huntley Lodge and the restaurant in the Summit Lodge have badass breakfast buffets. Now, down mountain in the Meadow Village I love going to Blue Moon Bakery for a “Benny.” If you start your day in Bozeman you need to go to The Cateye, which is really unique and has the best breakfast I’ve ever had. 

Best lunch spot on the mountain: I like the menu at The Carabiner in the Summit Hotel. Another local favorite is Yeti Dogs next to the ticket windows. If you want pizza Andiamo’s is pretty good. In the Meadow Village you have Hungry Moose making the best damn sandwich in town and Alberto’s serving up legit Mexican food.

Best dinner spot in town:  Everyone will agree: The Lotus Pad. Just seriously shut up and do not even debate if your group is trying to figure out what to do for dinner. You’re going to the Lotus Pad. No. Seriously. You are going to the Lotus Pad.

Best après spot at the mountain: Finish your day in the quiet Headwaters Grill. You can grab a drink, dry your boots for free, talk sh#t with friends and, when it’s warm, you’ll find all of the locals out on the deck with a PBR.  I love that place and they’re the only place that knows how to make my frou-frou drink called a Klondike.

Best place to grab an afternoon drink in town: Pick a bar, any bar. I’m partial to the Broken Spoke because I’m friends with Anderson, the owner and usual bartender. Drinks are cheaper there than anywhere else and Anderson is a local’s local—working patrol with his pups when he isn’t running the Spoke itself. If you want a spot that’s less divey, where you wouldn’t be ashamed to order a glass of wine, head over to BYOM across the parking lot from the Broken Spoke. 


Best nightlife spot:  On a weekend or a karaoke night the Broken Spoke, Scissorbills or Milkies are bumping. If you want something where maybe you plan on learning the name of whoever you might be hitting on that night, go to the Riverhouse all the way down in the canyon or head to the Carabiner.

Best ski shop: The ski shops are all good. However, I’m partial to Grizzly Outfitters. That may be because I have business dealings with people associated with it but I just prefer it. Kenny Lancey, the owner, knows outdoor retail with the best of them.

Best spot to “get the shot”:  It causes me some pain to say this because most photographers will never give this information up but I will give you some vague directions and let you explore.  First, pack your skins. Then take the tram to the peak. Ski away from everyone and out into the wilderness behind Lone Peak. Angle to the southwest, ignore the two miles of scree fields you’re going to have to quest through and you’ll have Valhalla.

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