Disappointed Colorado powder hounds looking north where the snow's falling can use their Epic Pass throughout January for free skiing at Big Sky Resort in Montana.
A roughly 13-hour drive or one of 35 direct flights to Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport from Denver can deliver the goods to those seeking snow. Big Sky Resort has had several large snowstorms and more than 3,000 acres open so far this season, claiming the most acreage and best ski conditions in the Rocky Mountains.
The deal gives free skiing for Vail Resorts Epic Pass holders when they book lodging with Big Sky Central Reservations and ask for the Epic Package. Friends without passes, but who are booked with an Epic Pass holder, can ski for $74 per day.
Summit County resident Christy Martin is ready to head for the snow, though she's not going as far as Big Sky. She's stopping into Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, where friends report 30 inches of snow fell last week, making for some decent early January skiing.
Martin was supposed to be in Squaw Valley this week, but slopes are hurting for snow there, too. Given the time off, she and her friend also considered Taos, but they've been dry for about a week.
"We thought about Montana, but (with) time constraints, the travel time just didn't seem worth it, and flights were pretty pricey," she said.
Even at Jackson Hole, where skiing isn't quite free, Martin isn't expecting much. Her friend sweetened the deal and tipped Martin over the edge by finding lower lodging prices and lift tickets.
"Not expecting much this week, but at least they have something other than groomers opened, and we are both dying to ski something other than our great, maintained groomed runs in Summit/Eagle counties," she said via Facebook.
"I have never skied Big Sky either and would love to," Martin added. "With our snow conditions in our local mountains, I would absolutely take advantage of the free skiing if my circumstances were just a bit different this week."
Driving for snow isn't uncommon among the ski enthusiasts who swarm the Central Mountains.
"People drive 13-plus hours and pay to ski in Colorado all the time for better snow," Facebook user Marianne Hoover wrote in an online post. "I am sure all the tourists are very disappointed about the snow this year. So what is the big deal about driving 13 hours for free skiing at Big Sky? It is an amazing resort."
One Coloradan reported driving more than nine hours to find more snow, and commended Big Sky for capitalizing on the market and driving brand loyalty.
Open terrain at Big Sky is about double what Vail and Breckenridge has open.
"With other Epic Pass resorts like Heavenly at under 200 acres, we decided to share the wealth," said Chad Jones, Big Sky Resort spokesman. "We're a skier's and rider's mountain, and no one should miss out on good snow just because they live in Colorado or California."
All of Big Sky's lifts are running, giving access to the 131 out of 155 named runs on the mountain that currently offers 4,350 vertical feet.