An artist’s rendition of the new Lone Peak Tram, which will start significantly lower on the mountain than the current lift. Source: Big Sky


Big Sky unveiled the final plans for its Big Sky 2025 vision today, including a major revamp of its Mountain Village-to-Lone Peak lift network and improved on-mountain facilities. Plans include a Lone Peak Tram replacement, a new two-stage gondola, and two new mid-mountain lodges.

Big Sky plans to replace its Lone Peak Tram with a new, higher-capacity tram along a much longer lift line. The tram’s upper terminal will remain on Lone Peak, but its lower terminal will be extended down near the bottom terminal of the Powder Seeker lift. The new tram will be accessible to non-skiing pedestrians, and the upper terminal will include a scenic viewing platform.

The new tram will be complemented by a new gondola extending from the Mountain Village base area to the new bottom terminal of the tram. The first leg of gondola will replace the current Explorer double, which has been in operation for almost 50 years, before turning at the mid-station to extend up to Big Sky’s high-alpine terrain. From its top terminal, the gondola will provide access to most of the same terrain as the Swift Current lift.

Big Sky also plans to install two new on-mountain lodges as part of this investment. The bigger of these is a new food and beverage hub proposed at the gondola’s top terminal, which is planned to offer multiple dining options including restaurants, bars, and casual venues. A second beginner-centric lodge is planned at the gondola’s mid-station, which will host a dining area and a rental shop. Two new enclosed magic carpets will neighbor the new learning center.

Construction on the new tram will begin this summer, with completion scheduled for fall 2023. The other projects are expected to follow shortly after.

A graphic depicting the investments as part of the final Big Sky 2025 initiative. Source: Big Sky

PeakRankings Take

Big Sky has one of the best combinations of snow quality, terrain diversity, and sheer footprint of any resort in North America, but logistical issues have held it back in our rankings in recent years. These projects should go a long way towards addressing three of Big Sky’s biggest weaknesses: inadequate lift redundancy, insufficient on-mountain facilities, and the impracticality of its current tram setup.

The new gondola should go a long way towards improving out-of-base capacity, finally providing a desirable alternative up Lone Mountain to the recently-upgraded Swift Current chair. This new lift should provide relief for the often-backed-up Swift Current and make this area, which hosts a wide variety of below-treeline and freestyle terrain, more enjoyable to lap. As the replacement for the ancient Explorer double lift, the first leg of new gondola also looks to provide a faster and more comfortable avenue to access Big Sky’s dedicated learning terrain.

Big Sky currently offers very little indoor mid-mountain seating, with the facilities that do exist either requiring reservations, offering very little capacity, or being out of the way. With its central location, the lodge at the top of the gondola should be a huge benefit for resort guests, providing a practical place to stop in without going all the way to the base. While capacity numbers have not been released, the mention of multiple dining experiences suggests that plenty of guests will be able to fit inside. The mid-station lodge won’t be as conveniently located and doesn’t seem to be as big, but given the lodge’s intended purpose as a beginner-oriented hub, this seems to be by design to give first-timers their own dedicated space.

The Lone Peak Tram will be radically transformed by this investment, receiving a more easily accessible base terminal (a trip from base-to-summit will now only require two lifts rather than three), longer lift line, and considerably larger cabins. As a result of this upgrade, all zones off Lone Peak except the North Summit Snowfields will be directly lappable by the tram; currently, only the Big Couloir and Gullies can be lapped without another lift ride.

While it’s hard to imagine these investments will be anything other than a net positive for the resort, the final stage of the plan raises almost as many questions as it answers. The resort has not yet released how large the tram cabins will be—the project’s effectiveness in increasing summit capacity will heavily depend on the number of people the new lift can carry. Other resorts with similarly-shaped cabins range in capacity between 45-100 people; if the new tram cabins are on the lower end of that estimate, capacity will still be quite low—especially given the longer lift line.

Additionally, the resort has not commented on whether it will continue charging an extra-cost add-on ticket for the tram once the new lift is installed. We hope not, as we previously understood that the premium to access the tram was instated to combat out-of-hand wait times.

And finally, we’re left wondering whether the fact that these are the “final” Big Sky 2025 projects suggests that other critical resort issues will stay unaddressed for the foreseeable future. Crucially, areas that used to be part of Moonlight Basin seem to have been overshadowed with these proposals. It’s currently impossible to get to the Madison base without either taking the low-capacity tram or a slow, fixed-grip lift, and the Iron Horse lift, which provides this main access, should really be upgraded. And when it comes to getting out of the Madison area, the Six Shooter lift is the only way back to the rest of the resort; the lift has run into mechanical issues in recent years and could very much use a backup.

We’re looking forward to these new upgrades, and we’re excited to see how they affect Big Sky’s overall mountain experience.

Considering a trip to Big Sky this season? Check out our comprehensive mountain review. Additionally, check out our Rockies rankings.

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