Big Sky, Montana

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Big Sky is a census-designated place (CDP) in Gallatin and Madison counties in the southwestern part of the U.S. state of Montana. This unincorporated community straddles the two counties, is not considered a town, and has no town government. The primary industry of the area is tourism.

Big Sky is located approximately midway between West Yellowstone and Bozeman on U.S. Route 191 and just 15 miles from the northwestern border of the Yellowstone National Park. The population was 1,221 at the 2000 census. "The Meadow" sector of the area lies in an alpine valley formed duringthe cretaceous period. Initially called the Gallatin Canyon Basin, the Meadow is braided with small rivers that channel mountain snow run-off. Fishing is permitted on all of these Gallatin feeders. Two "ponds" are found on the Middle Fork that bisects the Meadow. Fishing there is permitted only for those 16 and younger. Since 1993, an innovative sewer system has protected the water in the area from sewage discharge. Several agencies, such as the Blue Water Task Force, monitor the health of the rivers.

The community is home to two large ski resorts that are sited in the "Mountain" sector: Big Sky Ski and Summer Resort and Moonlight Basin. Both are alpine ski and golf resorts. The combined terrain of the two resorts allows them to boast "The Biggest Skiing in America." The Spanish Peaks Resort is a private golf resort that also has surface lifts connecting it to the Big Sky Ski Resort. Another resort, Lone Mountain Ranch, is a Nordic ski and summer resort that professionally grooms over 75 kilometers of cross country skill trails. The private exclusive resort, Yellowstone Club, is located to the south and adjacent to Big Sky.

Part of the community lies in the Gallatin Canyon, along the Gallatin River, a favorite for white water rafters and kayakers. The Gallatin River, named after Albert Gallatin, who was the Secretary of the Treasury during the Lewis and Clark Expedition, is a Blue Ribbon trout stream that attracts fly-fishers from around the world. Fly-fishing outfitting firms can connect fly-fishers to renowned rivers, in particular the Madison and the Yellowstone. Several dude ranches dot the Gallatin Canyon: 320 Ranch, Elkhorn Ranch, Cinnamon Lodge, and 9 Quarter Circle, which is tucked into the Taylor Fork drainage to the west of the Gallatin.

Hiking trails thread throughout the landscape and into neighboring national forests. Camping sites are available throughout the Spanish Peaks and Gallatin National Forest. Elk, deer, black bears, grizzlies, upland birds, waterfowl, and wolves call this area home. Hunting is prohibited in Big Sky proper, but it is permitted throughout the national forests that surround the area. Recreational snowbiling is also not permitted within the Meadow and on Mountain terrain, but it is permitted in the Gallatin Canyon and in areas to the south of Big Sky proper. Snowbiling outfitters are located in the Canyon.

The area is served by a K-12 public school district, called the Ophir School District #72. There are three schools: Ophir Elementary School, Ophir Middle School, and Lone Peak High School. The district educates approximately 200 students with an innovative curriculum that includes experiential, place-based, and expeditionary education.

Health services include a dentist, a small medical clinic, a physical therapist, chiropractors, and a pharmacy. There is a local fire department with advanced emergency services, but sheriff services are provided by Gallatin County. Big Sky is highly dependent on Gallatin County services. The nearest hospiteal is located in Bozeman.

Local businesses are situated primarily in three commerce sites, Meadow Village Shopping Center, the Canyon, and The Big Sky Town Center, ranging from restaurants, clothing shops and photography to outdoor sporting stores. Real estate agents, construction and architectural companies, and property management companies attend to the burgeoning real estate industry.

Big Sky Chapel serves a number of religious denominations. The community library, housed in the Ophir School facility, is free to the public, providing thousands of books and technology access.


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