Can Mom (74) Adapt To Big Sky Skiing?

Heather, her son, and mom have a knock-out three-gen ski vacation at Big Sky. Credit: Greg Burke
Correspondent Heather Burke, her son, and mom have a knock-out three-gen ski vacation at Big Sky.
Credit: Greg Burke




 welcomes Correspondent Heather Burke, Ski Journalist and

Big Sky is just as massive and scenic as it sounds, with over 5,750-acres and a skiable summit soaring to 11,166’ and dropping 4,350’ vertical feet to the base village. Boom. This Montana ski resort is as intimidating as it sounds, or at least it was to my 74 year old mom. She wanted to join us on a family ski trip, but she had serious alpine anxiety. Would she be able to keep up with us, my husband and me, and our 21 year old son? Would she remember all her skiing skills? Would it be like the proverbial bike after missing a season or two of alpine skiing?

She flew from Florida, a reverse snowbird, to meet us in beautiful Montana. Our first ski day together, I could tell she was wound up, and a bit winded from the elevation (Florida’s highest point doesn’t acclimate you to Big Sky country). As we walked to the Swifty high-speed quad (I carried her skis), I assured mom she had done this thousands of times before, and taught me to ski four decades ago.

As I made those first few gentle turns in sparkling soft snow on Mr K under brilliant blue sky, she followed. I looked over my shoulder to see her skiing fluidly, in perfect form, a pretty big smile on her face. She was feeling the elation of skiing, at 74, and I was feeling pride (and relief). To think that she’d been apprehensive seemed silly now. But her Florida friends had warned her, “don’t break a leg,” and “you’d better come back in one piece.”

Many senior skiers like wide groomers. Big Sky has some beauts. Credit: Greg Burke
Many senior skiers like wide groomers and big turns. Big Sky has some beauts.
Credit: Greg Burke

We skied four fantastic days on Big Sky’s gorgeous groomers—Elk Park Ridge to Calamity Jane.  Mom had her faves—Sacajawea and Ambush. We skied with my son and husband on Big Sky’s Moonlight Basin terrain, three generations sharing comfy quads. Over lunch in the spectacular Moonlight Basin Lodge, we laughed about how our gear and technique had revolutionized during our three generations, and told crazy ski instructor stories – all of us had taught skiing at some point. Mostly we had a blast. I can’t think of another sport than can span 50 years age difference. Senior skiing sure has changed, so has age… 70 is the new 40 for skiers.

The other change, now I’m the over-protective parent, of my mother. I controlled my mom’s ski environment during our week in Montana, leading her down ego-pleasing, beautifully groomed boulevards—Big Sky has many. Our last day brought soft glittery powder and she skied it like a champ. “I have never skied such amazing powder,” she said. I’m pretty sure she had in her six decades, this woman skied on barrel stave skis with trap bindings after all. But who am I to correct my mom though.

Big Sky was the best venue for our three generations, big mountain terrain for the boys, big blues for mom and me, and a compact village at the base – so she could ski back to the slopeside condo mid-day and I could catch up with my guys for tram laps and steep chutes. At après ski, with well-earned scotch in hand at Big Sky’s Carabiner Bar, mom toasted to our skiing legacy.

We returned her rental ski equipment and returned her on a plane safely back to her cynical Florida friends (in one piece, no broken leg). Big Sky made a big impression on these three generations of skiers.


One Comment

  1. Terry Kureth says:

    Morning Heather,

    A very nice article, thanks.
    As a former Boyne Resorts employee, my wife and I have skied at Big Sky quite a few times, and loved it every time we went. Simply put, as Heather implied, if you can’t find exactly the terrain you’re looking for, impeccably groomed (or powder stashes), at Big Sky, you won’t find it anywhere. And short to non-existent lift lines.

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