Improving Your Cross Country Skiing Experience

Dave Pecunies Photography

The town of Big Sky, and Big Sky country in general, is a mecca for Nordic skiing. Between Lone Mountain Ranch and the miles of groomed ski trails around the greater Gallatin County region, nordic skiing, and specifically skate skiing, is one of the best activities for getting into the woods and away from the crowds, fast. But unlike downhill skis, skate skis require more frequent waxing and at-home care. This may sounds overwhelming, but don’t worry; waxing is one of the sublime pleasures of being a nordic skier. Here’s a quick primer on the basics of waxing skate skis:

Lone Mountain Ranch

Lone Mountain Ranch

What you’ll need:

  • Ski vice or clamps, homemade or store bought
  • Glide wax
  • Scraper
  • Waxing iron
  • Cork block

Tuning supplies available at local shops like Grizzly Outfitters, East Slope Outdoors and Lone Mountain Sports. They also offer tuning services if you don’t want to do it yourself.

The Process:

Before being stowed away every spring, skate skis should receive a coat of “storage wax”, which needs to be removed every fall. After affixing your skis to your chose work surface, set your wax iron to medium heat and begin slowly heating the base of your ski. As the iron and the ski get hotter, the existing wax with turn ghostly white and stand out. Scrap off all the old wax to give yourself a new start.

After the ski is stripped and ready for wax, it’s time to give your skis their first coat of glide wax for the winter. Begin the waxing process by holding your wax block at a steep downward angle to the face of the iron, allowing hot wax to drip onto the ski.

Cover the ski with little blotches of wax from tip to tail. After the ski is fairly covered, begin spreading the wax around the ski’s base by running your iron in circular motions across the ski’s base. You will see the wax melt and spread. Continue this waxing motion until the ghostly white wax covers the ski base entirely. Because nordic skis have relatively soft bases, be careful to not melt the ski’s base.

Now it’s time to scrape. Hold your wax scraper at 45-degree angle to the ski as you pull the scraper towards yourself. You’ll see satisfying curls of excess wax pull from the ski. Once the excess is pulled from the ski, the bases should appear shiny and smooth. If you want to put some additional elbow grease into the work, buff the skis bases with a cork block to work the wax into the base.

Now get your skiing clothes on and get out the door!


Photos © Dave Pecunies Photography


Free Summer Entertainment in Big Sky Montana

Music in the MountainsThe Arts Council of Big Sky is gearing up for a fantastic summer entertainment season in the Town Center Park located in Big Sky, Montana with a free concert series.

Beginning June 25, Music in the Mountains offers a free concert in the park every Thursday through August 27. The fifth annual Classical Music Festival is set for August 7-9 and will feature world-renowned classical musicians from around the country. The Arts Council of Big Sky will also offer a free baroque concert at the Big Sky Chapel on July 28 and host Montana Shakespeare in the Parks on August 7.

Arts Council Executive Director Brian Hurlbut says that Music in the Mountains has grown from its humble beginnings to become the best weekly music series in Montana. After the council found a way to offer the event free to the public, Hurlbut says the biggest change to the festival has been its relocation to a permanent home at the new Big Sky Town Center Park stage.

Hurlbut says that when booking musicians for Music in the Mountains, he looks for little-known but first-rate performers.

“I really designed the series to showcase up and coming artists from around the country,” he says.

This year, he says concert-goers should look forward to The Tiny Band, a feel-good Motown and soul act out of Bozeman that performs on July 4.

“Everybody from 7-year-old kids to 80-year-old grandparents like it,” says Hurlbut.

One of the bands Hurlbut is personally excited about is The Suffers (July 16), a 10-piece “Gulf Coast Soul” band from Houston, Texas. Hurlbut says that since he booked them last fall, The Suffers have “blown up”: they recently appeared on Letterman and will be playing several major festivals around the country in addition to their debut in Big Sky.

This summer’s season also includes the critically acclaimed roots-rock band Sons of Bill; and Juno award-winning country artist Corb Lund, who Hurlbut says “puts on a really, really good show.”

For those who enjoy classical music, the Big Sky Classical Music Festival offers three days of mostly free music and events for young and old alike. This year’s lineup includes violinist Rachel Barton Pine and cellist Matt Haimovitz, “two of the most in-demand soloists you could get,” according to Hurlbut. Festival events include discussions, an open rehearsal, a performance of Brahms’ String Sextet No. 1 at the Warren Miller Performing Arts Center (ticketed event) and a final free performance on Sunday afternoon.

All summer concerts and events are “very family-friendly,” says Hurlbut. For Thursday Music in the Mountains events, the park opens at 6 p.m. and music begins at 7 p.m. Organizers ask that attendees do not bring pets or glass containers into the park.

Hurlbut says this great lineup of summer entertainment wouldn’t be possible without the Big Sky businesses and individuals who have believed in and supported the Arts Council’s vision in a variety of ways.

“[Music in the Mountains] really has become the single most popular event,” says Hurlbut. “Everybody looks forward to it.”

Mark your calendars for the summer entertainment series in Big Sky, Montana. View a list of events here

Winter in Yellowstone

winterynpThere’s nothing like Yellowstone National Park in the winter.

In the winter months, the thick layer of snow that blankets the once lush, green summertime landscape of Yellowstone National Park creates a dramatic backdrop for the quiet solitude that awaits the park’s few lucky winter visitors. A winter day in the park is a truly magical experience; there’s steam shooting up from the hot pots surrounded by fields of white, grazing snow-crusted bison and elk and, best of all, no crowds.

For Big Sky, Montana residents and visitors alike, a winter park excursion is a must, and there are many ways to explore.

Snowcoach Tours
There are a few different tour operators offering half and full-day interpretive snowcoach tours through parts of the park that are closed to vehicles during the winter. The coaches also serve as transportation to Old Faithful Lodge, Mammoth Hot Springs, West Yellowstone, and Flagg Ranch. Wintertime lodging is available in some of these areas, where people stay to cross-country ski or snowmobile (see more on that below). The snowcoach is a comfortable and warm way for the whole family to experience the park in winter. Here are some vendors:

Yellowstone Snowcoaches

Yellowstone Vacations

Yellowstone National Park Lodges

Snowmobile Tours
Cruise through the snowy landscape on a guided snowmobile tour to really experience your surroundings first hand with a dose of adventure thrown into the mix. Designed for all ability levels, from first timers to advanced riders, many of the trips are full day excursions that travel to Old Faithful Geyser Basin or the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. Here are a few of the authorized Yellowstone National Park snowmobile concessionaires:

Two Top Yellowstone Winter Tours

Yellowstone Vacations

Old Faithful Snowmobile Tours

Ski & Snowshoe Tours
A variety of ski and snowshoe tours are offered in different areas throughout Yellowstone National Park. Departing from Mammoth Hotel or Old Faithful, there are trips to the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone and tours around Old Faithful to Delacey Creek and Fairy Falls.

Ranger-led snowshoe trips through the Lamar Valley are also a popular way to spend the day, or try a tour around the Mammoth Hot Spring Terraces with a geology talk and through the northern ranges for a wolf reintroduction tour.

For more information about exploring on your own, check out

For information about ranger-led programs for 2015, go here

For guided tours, check out

How about spending the night in a winter wonderland? Winter lodging is available in the park at both Mammoth Hotel and Old Faithful Snow Lodge. Hotels just outside the park, in West Yellowstone and Gardiner, are also open throughout the winter. For reservations and more information for all of the above programs, call (307) 344-7311 or (866) GEYSERLAND.

Custom Tours
Want to do a little bit of everything, and have a private guide to show you the ins-and-outs of the park? Choose your own adventure with custom guided tours that can include skiing, snowmobiling, or snowcoaching. For more information, see

Top 10 Things for Non-Skiers to do


Top 10 Things for Non-Skiers to Do on a Big Sky Winter Day

If you’re a non-skier, it’s easy to feel like an outcast amongst the hardcore Big Sky winter fanatics. Maybe you don’t ski because of an injury or health condition, or maybe it’s just not your thing. But you don’t have to let those powder days go to waste. If you’re not planning to hit the slopes, or if you’re taking a day off, there are many other equally rewarding winter activities to take advantage of on Big Sky winter day. Try these:

  1. Ousel Falls: This low-key hike is a great way to get out of the house on a beautiful snowy day. Less than two miles out and back, the trail switchbacks down into a canyon before crossing the Gallatin River to the falls. The Ousel Falls hike is accessible to people of all abilities, and well worth it to see the magical frozen falls. If there’s snow or ice, try using ice traction cleats (such as Yaktrax), snowshoes, or cross-country skis.
  2. Fine Dining: Big Sky is known for its world-class skiing, but its dining is top notch too. Start your day at the Blue Moon Bakery with a yummy pastry or, if you’re a late sleeper, try their excellent homemade pizza for lunch. For fine dining Montana style, visit the Rainbow Ranch Lodge Restaurant, Buck’s T-4, or Olive B’s; or for a more casual experience, try or the Gallatin Riverhouse Grill or Ousel & Spur. For a complete list of dining options, go here.
  3. Winter Ziplining: Brave souls seeking an adrenaline rush should check out Big Sky Resort’s Adventure Zipline Tour. Expert guides will acquaint you with safety equipment and procedures, and accompany you up the chairlift towards Lone Peak. Glide your way down through the epic scenery solo, or try “racing” a friend on the twin line. Reservations are required, call 406-995-5769.
  4. Sledding and Tubing: Sliding fast down a snowy hillside never gets old. Plenty of area businesses offer tube and sled rentals, and Big Sky even has its very own “Tube Park.” For an especially unique sledding experience, check out Spirit of the North Dogsledding Adventures, which offers guided dog sledding for the inexperienced.
  5. Rest and Relaxation: Get a little rest and relaxation by taking advantage of one of Big Sky’s numerous spas, which offer massage, facials, and other treatments for both men and women. Rainbow Ranch Lodge and Big Sky Resort both offer spa services; OZssage Therapeutic Spa will send a masseuse to your home or hotel.
  6. Snowshoeing: For those who prefer more laid-back winter recreation, snowshoeing is a great way to take advantage of winter weather. Explore the trails on your own or try a guided tour. Lone Mountain Ranch even offers moonlight snowshoe tours.
  7. Ice Skating: The Big Sky Town Center Ice Rink offers daily open skating, a kids’ rink, classes and other programs, including adult drop-in hockey and broomball. Go to for more information.
  8. Entertainment: The classy Lone Peak Cinema shows films daily and also offers a full bar, with happy hour from 8-9 p.m. Ousel & Spur Pizza Co. hosts live music every Friday through the winter, not to mention fantastic coffee, cocktails, and pizza. And check the local event schedule for up to date entertainment here.
  9. Shop and See: Stroll your way through the Meadow Village, Mountain Village, and Big Sky Town Center’s unique boutiques, cafes, galleries, and restaurants. Whether you’re looking for sports gear, western art, or souvenirs, there are many options that cater to all ages and tastes.
  10. Learn to Ski: You won’t get kicked out of Big Sky for not being a skier, but if there’s no good reason to avoid it, maybe it’s time to give in. Start slowly with a few lessons on the bunny hill, and you’ll be well on your way to hitting the slopes next winter.

Roundup: Big Sky’s Slope Side Après Ski


After the energetic hours on the sun- or snow-filled slopes, it’s heavenly to spend some time sipping a drink or two at one of Big Sky’s après ski watering holes. Skiers (and non-skiers) can unwind, get cozy, soak up the sun from a patio or rooftop, enjoy live music, and try some of the Treasure State’s most innovative beverages at these popular hideaways. With a variety of enticing après ski options in Big Sky, it’s tempting to get the actual skiing out of the way in a hurry and experience the refreshment, camaraderie, and fun that follows at any one of these spots, right off the slopes.

Scissorbills – This lively ski-in/ski-out bar and eatery offers tasty appetizers to accompany its cocktails or micro-brews, and live après ski music every Saturday & Sunday. Located in the Big Sky Mountain Village, in the Arrowhead Mall (next to the Summit Hotel).

Whiskey Jack’s – Skiers in need of a boost should try the Challenger Coffee at this warm and welcoming spot just beneath the Swift Current Lift in the Mountain Mall—the perfect post-ski preparation for a night of fun. Also Southwestern foods and live après ski music.

The Carabineer – Regular live après ski music, appetizers, and an extensive wine list, cocktails, and micro-brews in a more intimate setting at the base of Ramcharger in the lobby of the Summit Hotel.

The Jack Creek Bar – Lux environs, plush seats, great views of Lone Peak, and an enormous stone fireplace lend this bar in the Moonlight Basin Lodge a regal, lodgey vibe. Try on of their made-from-scratch cocktails, or enjoy a warm beverage on the deck on a sunny day.

Chet’s – Ski right to the door for après ski drink specials, tasty bar food appetizers, and live entertainment in the Huntley Lodge, right off of the sunken lobby.

The Cabin – Enjoy après ski/happy hour drinks and a laid back, small bar atmosphere, or stay for a delicious dinner. Located in the Big Sky Mountain Village, in the Arrowhead Mall (next to the Summit Hotel).