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Big Sky, Montana

by Sue Purdy


It seems as though Montana is on everyone's itinerary these days, especially the town of Big Sky. Located in the southwest corner of the state, just south of Bozeman, this little piece of paradise seems to have it all. This is a four season destination and it's easy to fall in love with the mountains, the rivers and the people. After all, this is where the movie A River Runs Through It was filmed.

I stayed at the Big EZ Lodge and was pampered beyond belief. The Lodge, built two years ago, is the cherished project of husband and wife team Steve and Donna Stockton-Hicks. They selected a location for its perfect view of the Madison Mountain range and then built a 12 bedroom, one suite lodge. The structure is made with Lodgepole Pines taken from the property itself.

Donna, an interior designer who is presently working on actor Dennis Quaid's home located just over the ridge, put her heart and talent into making the Lodge the type of place where guests can wander into the great room, throw their feet up and sip a single malt scotch whisky. Working with local architect Frank Cikan, Steve and Donna employed local artisans to ensure that the flavor of Big Sky was evident at the Big EZ.

Donnna Stockton-Hicks said, "I wanted to use the artisans of Montana as much as possible. David Fjeld, who did the stained and etched glass, is located in Bozeman and the timber framing contractors were from the area. Stonemason Bill Ward who lived on-site for three years. We really got to know the artisans and the wonderful, talented people in Montana."

When I first entered the lodge I stepped into the "Circle of Life" anteroom where a circle of pines supports a wooden valance hand-painted by Julia Dworschak. Julia painted all the animals indigenous to Montana, as well as trees that grow on the property. On the floor inside the circle is a marble and slate star shaped like the star of a compass. In the center of the great room is the most magnificent fireplace built of river stones which were placed to resemble bear claws.

Big EZ Chef John Rolfe and sous chef Chris Kimmell are known for their culinary artistry with game. I tried caribou, bison, and a roulade of free range chicken, rabbit, and quail that was a five-star treat. I did some fly-fishing with local guide and expert Jeff Labbe from East Slope Anglers, in one of the two stocked ponds on site and caught a Rainbow Trout, which I promptly released.

The lodge also offers a fully equipped workout room and when I heard they could arrange on-site treatments and classes such as yoga, Pilates, facials, massages, and salt scrubs, I opted for a massage. Lianne arrived with table in hand, which she set up in my huge bedroom. She played some wonderful new age music, and used aromatic lotions throughout the massage. It was blissful. She managed to work out all the kinks in what I call my "mouse arm" -- the one I use to move around my computer mouse. This was more luxury than a woman could expect in this elegant wilderness.

Big EZ Lodge is only 15 minutes from the entrance to Yellowstone National Park, the first national park in the world. So Saturday morning I set out to see just one of the five regions or "countries" located in this 2.2 million acre park -- Geyser Country. My guide, nationally known biologist, Kevin Sanders, is called the "Bearman." With his knowledge of the park and animals, I was able to learn a great deal in a short period of time.

Built on an active volcano, Yellowstone has 10,000 hydrothermal features that bubble and seethe from below its thin crust. We visited boiling mud pots that sent up so much nontoxic steam that I felt as if I was in a sauna. And we visited Old Faithful who spews thousands of gallons on water into the sky with each eruption. Park rangers post the time when this world famous geyser will blow, and she has rarely missed an eruption during the more than 120 years of observation. She lets off steam first and then let's her blow approximately every 81 minutes.

I stayed at the new Old Faithful Snow Lodge with their award-winning accommodations, and visited the original Old Faithful Lodge built in 1903-04, when guests would arrive by stage coach. The center room at the Old lodge is a must-see, open to the sky and approximately eight stories high, the Lodgepole Pines and the 500 ton stone fireplace speak of another in time in the history of this park.

Skiers love Big Sky Resort because with 18 lifts accessing 100 runs, there are no lines and there is no wait. I rode the gondola to the top of Lone Star Mountain and looked out upon this area first conceived and built by newsman Chet Huntley. Shopping, accommodations, golf, fly-fishing, spa, and skiing make this a wonderful year-round destination. Local places to eat include the Corral Bar, featured in many a western movie, and the Big Horn Cafe, where ice cream flavors include Montana Moose Moss and Moose Tracks, both delicious.

Side Bar: Websites mentioned in this story >>


Susan Purdy is a freelance writer specializing in travel, food, and lifestyle. She is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors and her work has appeared in many publications including the Saturday Evening Post, Brides, Good Housekeeping, Womans Day, Meridian, Ms., Womans World, First for Women, Country Accents, and Country Inns. Susan Purdy can be emailed at for comments and questions.


Copyright© 2001 Susan Purdy for SeniorWomenWeb

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