Vine and Dine guests prepare to load the Lone Peak Tram this summer during the festival’s "Pinot on the Peak" adventure tasting. PHOTO BY SARAH GIANELLI

Vine and Dine guests prepare to load the Lone Peak Tram this summer during the festival’s “Pinot on the Peak” adventure tasting. PHOTO BY SARAH GIANELLI

By Sarah Gianelli EBS Contributor

BIG SKY – The summer season at Big Sky Resort closes on Sunday, Sept. 25, following the Canyon Cup golf tournament on Sept. 24 and 25, and the resort saw record visitation for the third consecutive year.

“We had more conferences and larger groups than last year,” said Chelsi Moy, Big Sky Resort’s public relations manager. Moy added that summer food and beverage sales, as well the number of scenic lift tickets purchased, were up this year. This is partially attributed to the first summer that Swift Current, Explorer and Ramcharger were operating simultaneously.

Other firsts included Everett’s 8800 and Andiamo Italian Grille open for dining service.

Adventure Mountain expanded to a new location at the top of the Ramcharger lift, with new family friendly offerings including a bungee trampoline, gemstone mining, and the Challenger Kids Zipline.

Big Sky Resort has continued to invest in its downhill mountain biking program. For the first time, three chairlifts were running for bike haul, after $250,000 was spent to improve Ramcharger’s downloading capacity prior to the season, and a trail crew was dedicated to daily maintenance. New mountain biking trails such as “Snake Charmer” and “Joker Lips” expanded the intermediate offerings of the existing 40 miles of bike trails.

The Lone Peak Expedition, which shuttles visitors to the top of 11,166-foot Lone Mountain, was up 11 percent in volume, according to Moy. “Nice weather and the urge to stand on top of Lone Peak contributed to the increase in the number of Lone Peak Expeditions this summer,” Moy said. “Not to mention snow on the peak in July and Labor Day weekend.”

Two brand new chairlift installation projects, at a cost of $9 million, were ongoing throughout the summer and are on schedule to be fully operational for Thanksgiving’s opening day on Thursday, Nov. 24.

The Challenger lift is being replaced with a brand new conveyor-load triple chair, and the new bowl chairlift will be a state of the art six-person lift replacing the Lone Peak Triple.

Mountain operations also created four new ski runs, adding 20.5 acres to the existing 5,800 acres of skiable terrain. A new gladed run on the Moonlight side of the resort has been named “White Witch,” after naming rights were won in a Moonlight Foundation raffle.

Big Sky Resort also hosted a number of large scale social events including the 11th annual Big Sky Brewfest and the Vine and Dine Festival, which expanded its schedule to include additional seminars, mixers and activities, including a sold-out wine pairing dinner at Everett’s 8800.

The Rut ultramarathon, the only North American race sanctioned by the International Skyrunner Federation’s 2016 World Series, was held Sept. 2-4, and continues to attract increasing numbers of world-class athletes to the rugged slopes of Lone Mountain.

“Big Sky Resort enjoys hosting these public events because the summer is such a great time to visit the resort,” Moy said.