We Sing the Slopes Fantastic

MONTANA :: BIG MOUNTAIN

    Photo: courtesy, Big Mountain Ski Resort

MOUNTAIN STATS:

SUMMIT, 7,000 feet
VERTICAL, 2,500 feet
SKIABLE ACRES, 3,000
ANNUAL SNOWFALL, 300 inches
LIFT TICKET, $49
800-858-4152, www.bigmtn.com

CRAVE A COCKTAIL of wide-open groomers, perfectly spaced trees, and backcountryesque meadows? Look no further than crowdless Big Mountain. And with lots of off-piste powder stashes just waiting, it's no wonder so many of the snow junkies here sport free heels.
WHY WE LOVE IT: Monster storms transform the mountain's evergreens into "snow ghosts," and locals—suited up in polyester straight out of the Carter era—love to rip through this hoary host. And it doesn't hurt that the skyline's fraught with the lofty peaks of the Canadian Rockies, Glacier National Park, and the Great Bear Wilderness.
NUMBER-ONE RUN: East of North Bowl, you'll find hundreds of feet of superb vertical, starting with the Nose, then continuing down two shots known as Performance and the Chin. Don't look for these last two on the map, though: After hogging all that fluffy stuff, you won't want to tell anyone, either.
HOT LODGE: The ski-in/ski-out Kandahar lodge, right off the mountain, just screams Montana. Think wooden beams, a river-rock fireplace, and rustic rooms with lofts and a bunch of primo down sleeping gear. (Doubles, $109-$309; 800-862-6094, www.kandaharlodge.com)
SOUL PATCH: When the lifts shut down, the planks and boards stack up outside the Bierstube, where you'll find local folks swilling pints of Moose Drool beside Seattle techniks escaping the city for the weekend. Be sure to ask your barkeep for one of the 'Stube's mysterious souvenir rings—it's a surprise—then tip at least 20 percent. But you knew that.

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