Big Sky vs. Jackson Hole: Honest Ski Resort Comparison

big sky vs. jackson hole

Are you debating whether you should visit Big Sky or Jackson Hole?

I’ve got your back.

I’ve taken multiple ski trips to both of these mountains, and I’m here to share all the insider’s scoop that you need to know when comparison Jackson Hole and Big Sky.

General Thoughts – Big Sky vs. Jackson Hole

Big Sky and Jackson Hole are the two largest and most popular ski resorts in the Montana/Wyoming area, so they are frequently compared against each other. Here are my quick thoughts:

  • Both have amazing locations in stunning, scenic parts of the country.
  • Jackson Hole has a more interesting town to explore, while Big Sky has a unique, remote atmosphere.
  • Both are incredible for advanced and expert skiers
  • Big Sky has better runs for beginner skiers, and more variety for intermediates
  • Jackson Hole gets more snow
  • Big Sky has less crowds

And here’s a quick look at my detailed rankings, before we dive into more detail:

wdt_ID Ski Resort Ovr. Rating Beg. Int. Adv. Expert Trees Bowls Crowds Snow Ski Town
3 Big Sky 97 9 8 9 10 9 8 9 6 6
4 Jackson Hole 95 2 6 9 10 6 9 6 8 9

Mountain Stats Comparison: Big Sky vs. Jackson Hole

wdt_ID Category Big Sky Jackson Hole
1 Size 5,800 acres 2,500 acres
2 Vertical 4,350 ft. 4,139 ft.
3 Avg. Snowfall 287 inches 306 inches
4 Summit Elevation 11,166 10,450 ft.
5 Base Elevation 7,500 6,311 ft.
6 Lifts 39 16
7 Runs 300 131

(Stats Source: Big Sky Stats, Jackson Hole Stats)


Big Sky and Jackson Hole are the two largest ski resorts in the Wyoming/Montana area, and they sit relatively close together, at less than 4 hours apart.

Ease of Access: Big Sky vs. Jackson Hole

I find Big Sky is usually a little easier to get to, but it will likely depend on where you’re coming from.

The nearest airport to Big Sky is Bozeman (BZN). The Bozeman airport has direct flights from about 20 major U.S. cities. Once you land in Bozeman, the ski resort is only a 1 hour drive from the airport. If you can score a direct flight, it’s really one of the easiest travel set ups in skiing.

On the other hand, Jackson Hole is most commonly accessed from the Jackson Hole airport (JAC). JAC has less direct flights than Bozeman (currently less than 15 U.S. cities) and it’s also on my notorious list of skiing airports with the most frequent delays and cancellations. That said, Jackson Hole’s airport is only 30 minutes from the slopes, so if you can score a flight without issues, it’s an amazing setup.

Ski Towns: Jackson Hole vs. Big Sky

I prefer Jackson Hole as a ski town.

The Jackson Hole ski resort is located in Teton Village, which is a modest ski village. However, most of the action happens in the nearby town of Jackson, which is 20 minutes away. Jackson is a really cool town that’s been built up over the years as the gateway to Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Park, so you’ll find tons of western bars, saloons, and restaurants. The place has a real authentic feel that’s hard to find.

Big Sky, on the other hand, has one of the weaker ski towns among the major U.S. destination resorts. The whole area is a pretty new development, and I find that it has an odd, almost suburban feel. Dining and drinking options are pretty limited, and most visitors have a tendency to hole-up in their big Montana ski cabins.

Unless you’re looking to “get away from it all” then Jackson has more going on.

Mountain Vibe / Atmosphere

Jackson Hole and Big Sky give off similar, yet uniquely different vibes.

Over the years, Jackson Hole has marketed itself as an extreme skier’s playground. Not surprisingly, this has developed a pretty legit skier and rider’s vibe. At Jackson Hole, most skiers are here for the steeps and the powder, and this feels apparent most everywhere you go.

Big Sky also has some of the most legitimate, extreme in bounds terrain in the country, and you will certainly find these types of skiers here. But in my experience, the resort is also a tale of two mountains… below the extreme terrain on Lone Peak, you are more likely to find a more spaced out, family friendly vibe, along with the many cruisy green and blue runs. In fact, a large portion of the Big Sky’s clientele are vacationing families from the many nearby mountain home development areas, such as Spanish Peaks, Yellowstone Club, etc.

Both mountains are filled with world class lift systems, including legendary Aerial Trams and huge express chairs all over the mountain.


big sky vs. jackson hole scenery
Jackson Hole’s remote mountains and plains
big sky scenery
Big Sky remote mountain ranges

Both mountains are absolutely stunning in their own ways.

Big Sky feels like you’re in the middle of wild Montana, and you are. For as far as you can see, you’ll find towering mountain peaks, and probably some wildlife, too!

Jackson Hole also feels like you’re in the middle of the wild west, but the scenery is much more “western plains” than Big Sky’s seemingly endless mountain ranges.

I absolutely love both, for different reasons.


Jackson Hole is definitely more crowded than Big Sky.

Jackson Hole has far less lifts, so the crowds tend to back up more at lift-lines than Big Sky. Especially on powder days, I’ve seen some unreal lift lines for the Aerial Tram. (1+ hour wait)

Big Sky’s tram is also susceptible to longer lift lines, but they tend to max out around 30 minutes. Plus, there’s so many other lifts on the mountain, that you’ll almost never find lift lines anywhere else.

Snow at Big Sky vs. Jackson Hole

On average, Jackson Hole gets nearly 100 more inches of snow per year than Big Sky.

Big Sky is also a notoriously rocky mountain, so it takes quite a bit of snow to “fill in” and cover up the rocks. That said, the lower crowds at Big Sky help preserve the snow that it gets.

Terrain Comparison

The terrain differences between these two mountains is seemingly obvious in the stats, but that may not tell the full story.

Yes, Big Sky has over twice the acreage as Jackson Hole, and almost three times as many lifts. Big Sky is definitely the bigger mountain, with more variety.

That said, I find Jackson Hole feels and skis like a bigger resort than its stats lead on. That’s mostly thanks to the resort’s incredible vertical (4,139 feet from base to summit) which means you can find long, incredible runs all over the place. Plus, the mountain is so steep that even ho-hum-looking runs from the trail map pack a serious punch in real life.

By comparison, Big Sky also has over 4,000 feet of vertical, but this stat is a little misleading. The way Big Sky is laid out, you can’t really ski more than about 2,000 vertical feet at a time, so in practice I feel the mountain doesn’t feel quite as big as the numbers lead on.

Jackson Hole vs. Big Sky for Beginners

Big Sky is definitely the better beginner’s mountain. It has tons of great green runs all over the mountain, so a beginner can find endless entertainment.

Jackson Hole, by comparison, is one of the most limited mountains anywhere when it comes to green terrain. There’s basically only a couple green runs on the whole mountain, and they’re all underwhelmingly located on the very bottom of the mountain. Plus, many of the blues at Jackson Hole are very steep, making it difficult for adventurous beginners to even try venturing off the greens.

Jackson Hole vs. Big Sky for Intermediates

Big Sky has a better variety of intermediate runs than Jackson Hole.

Big Sky has endless blue terrain all over the mountain, including tons of great groomers, gentle moguls, and approachable trees.

Jackson Hole does have some awesome, underrated blue groomers, too. Intermediates can find lots of fast fun blues here, but there’s just not quite as many of them as at Big Sky. The terrain also caters for towards “advanced intermediates” than lower intermediates, since many of the blues are steeper than other mountains.

Jackson Hole vs. Big Sky for Advanced Terrain

I’d call this a tie. In fact, I rated both mountains a “9” on my 10 point scale for advanced terrain.

Jackson Hole has some of the coolest advanced terrain anywhere, with tons of really steep bowls and the legendary hobacks.

Big Sky also has fantastic advanced terrain. Liberty Bowl is amazing, although it now costs anywhere from $30-80 to ski, on top of the price of a lift ticket.

Expert Terrain Comparison Jackson Hole vs. Big Sky

In short, two of the best expert mountains in North America. I rated both a “10” on my 10 point scale.

Jackson Hole has endless steeps, chutes, and cliffs. Big Sky also has the country’s only “Triple Black” terrain, and no, that designation isn’t just a marketing gimmick – those triple blacks are serious terrain.

Final Thoughts

Jackson Hole and Big Sky are two of the best ski resorts in America, and you can’t really go wrong!

Personally, in my detailed resort rankings, I rated Big Sky a 97 overall and Jackson Hole a 95 overall, making them my #3 and #4 favorite mountains of the 25+ I have visited.

Which specific mountain you like more will probably just depend on what you’re looking for in a ski vacation.

wdt_ID Ski Resort Ovr. Rating Beg. Int. Adv. Expert Trees Bowls Crowds Snow Ski Town
3 Big Sky 97 9 8 9 10 9 8 9 6 6
4 Jackson Hole 95 2 6 9 10 6 9 6 8 9