Big Sky, a winter wonderland.

Photo courtesy of Moonlight Basin

Tis’ the season for snow-capped mountains, skiing, snowshoeing, sleighride dinners and much more. Big Sky becomes a magical winter wonderland with ample adventures to choose from in the colder months. Here are a few of Buck’s T-4’s recommendations. 

We’ve used the ski-trail rating system to communicate the different difficulty levels of winter recreational activities in the Big Sky area. Green circle activities are designated the easiest, made accessible to beginners and recreationists of all levels. The next level up are the blue square adventures that are slightly more challenging, meant for an intermediate skill level or above. Lastly, black diamond pursuits are for the advanced and most adventurous.

Green Circle – Beginner

Snowshoeing– Get back to the basics with a trek on foot through the snow. Whether traveling alone or on a guided expedition, you’ll discover the wonders of winter - wildlife and majestic scenery and surroundings. Snowshoe rentals and trail information are available at outdoor retailers around Big Sky. 

Jakes Horses– Travel on horseback during the wintertime in Big Sky with a trail ride at Jakes Horses, located a short distance from Buck’s T-4. Running year-round, Jake’s recommends winter riders to dress warm to better enjoy the majestic mountain surroundings. Call for reservations and pricing. 

Snow Coach Tours Yellowstone National Park– Experience the grand beauty of Yellowstone National Park during the winter months on a guided tour. Snow coaches provide small groups the opportunity to access the park in comfort and style, while also stopping for guests to capture the major attractions and wildlife sightings. Accessible to all ages and physical abilities, plan this perfect activity for everyone to enjoy. 

Blue Square – Intermediate 

Cross Country Skiing– Relish in Big Sky’s alpine terrain on a pair of skinny skis. Voted Cross Country Skier Magazines #1 Nordic ski destination in North America, Lone Mountain Ranch hosts 85 kilometers of groomed trails for beginners and experts alike. Whether looking for a leisurely day with friends or a workout to get your heart beating, LMR offers both season passes and day tickets. Take a lesson, guided tour or go alone to explore this award-winning destination. 

On the flip side, Gallatin National Forest also provides a number of back country trails to venture out on cross-country skis. Rentals and ski condition information are available at outdoor stores throughout Big Sky. 

Snowmobiling (Canyon Adventures)– Throttle up! Miles of groomed trails and untouched meadows of fresh snow make snowmobiling a winter mecca for endless turns. Surrounded by the Spanish Peaks, Taylor Peaks, Lone Mountain and Madison Range, excitement will ensue in the crisp mountain air. Full and half day rates are available for rentals and guided trips at Canyon Adventures, which is right next to Buck’s T-4. Snowmobile right here in Big Sky! 

Dog Sledding– The dog days of winter! Travel into Montana’s back country on a pulled behind a dog-powered sled. Spirit of the North Dog Sled Adventures trips take off from Moonlight Basin, one mile above the Big Sky Resort Mountain Village, where you’ll take in the mountainous views of Lone Mountain and the Spanish Peaks. Located close to Buck’s, Yellowstone Dog Sled Adventures trips meet at the Rainbow Ranch Lodge in Gallatin Canyon, offering a 2.5-hour tour or one-hour dog-sled ride. Reservations recommended and required. 

Black Diamond – Expert 

Downhill Skiing and Snowboarding at Big Sky Resort– Known as the Biggest Skiing in America, Big Sky Resort has 5,850 acres of skiable terrain and 4,350 feet of vertical. One of the ski community’s best kept secrets, Lone Peak and the surrounding mountain landscape provide a big mountain ski environment and no-wait lift lines to create a skier’s paradise. Go big on the triple black ski runs from atop the summit of Lone Mountain, sitting at 11,166 feet, or take it a bit easier on the lower mountain trails. Either will fill you day with endless entertainment. With a vast spread, check out their terrain breakdown by skill level.

Terrain breakdown:

  • Beginner - 15% 
  • Intermediate – 25%
  • Advanced – 42%
  • Expert – 18% 

Back Country Skiing– Daring and dangerous, back country skiing isn’t for the faint of heart. Be prepared. It’s an absolute necessity to have an avalanche beacon, shovel and probe at the very minimum. Better yet, it’s smart to have avalanche knowledge from a certified course and go with a like-minded partner. 

With mountains all around, Big Sky’s back country becomes almost endless for the accelerated adventurer. Beehive Basin and Yellow Mountain Meadows are two favorite local spots.  

Make sure to review the Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center’s daily avalanche forecast before heading out at

There's a Bear In The Lobby Bathroom


We had a surprise visitor last Saturday evening in the hotel lobby. A yearling black bear found its way through a window into the ladies' room in the hotel lobby. Huge shoutout to Gallatin County Sheriff's Office and Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks for keeping our guests safe, while recognizing what a once-in-a-lifetime experience it was. They were professional and safe, and provided a great opportunity for folks to learn a little bit about wildlife management. 

Copyright Buck's T-4 Lodge

Ashley and Britney at the Front Desk were busy checking in guests when they heard a loud thump against one of the lobby windows. It happened to be right in the corner where the Alaskan brown bear standing mount is. He put his paws on the window a few more times, but when the girls went outside and peeked around the corner to look, he appeared to have moved on.

Within a few minutes of their returning to the Front Desk, noises coming from the lobby ladies' rest room seemed to indicate that he had actually found a hiding spot.

Norm St. Onge photo

Ashley called 911 and deputies were dispatched. In the mean time, Chuck and Norm attempted to provide an exit path for the bear to make his own way out the door, but he was happily perched on the bathroom sink, and promptly went to sleep.

When Gallatin County Sheriff's deputies arrived, they assessed the situation and quickly determined that it was best for the bear to be sedated and removed. This being a little outside the purview of a sheriff's deputy, they called in a warden from Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

The warden was located in Three Forks, MT, about an hour and a half away from Big Sky. As he made his way to Buck's, equipped with a holding trap and the proper tranquilizing equipment, the deputies took up station at the bathroom window and at the door from the lobby.

The deputy outside was able to see the bear in the bathroom, and, using FaceTime on his phone, was able to share that view with the deputy (as well as the gathering crowd of hotel guests) inside. As the bear snoozed, the FWP warden arrived and ascertained that his best plan would be to sedate and remove the bear.

He prepared his first dose, and, reaching around through the bathroom door, delivered the sedative. After another dose and a ten minute wait, a loud 'thump' indicated the bear had fallen asleep. The warden was then able to carry the bear outside and to the waiting container. The bear had been seen recently moving through local neighborhoods, so the warden planned to move the bear to another location and release him.

Buck's T-4 Recognized with Wine Spectator's Award of Excellence for 2019

Buck's T-4 Wins Wine Spectator's 2019 Award of Excellence

Big Sky's Buck's T-4 Lodge has been presented with the prestigious "Award of Excellence" from Wine Spectator magazine, the only Big Sky restaurant so recognized.

Wine Spectator's Restaurant Awards recognize restaurants whose wine lists offer interesting selections, are appropriate to their cuisine and appeal to a wide range of wine lovers.

To qualify for an award, a wine list must present complete, accurate information, including vintages and appellations for all selections. Complete producer names and correct spellings are mandatory, and the overall presentation of the list is also considered.

These wine lists feature a well-chosen assortment of quality producers, along with a thematic match to the menu in both price and style.

Buck's has been a recipient of Wine Spectator's award since 1996. Please join us in congratulating Wine Director Porter Elliot.

Buck's T-4 Welcomes Events Coordinator Rachel Anderson


Buck's T-4 is proud to announce the newest member of our leadership team. Big Sky's Rachel Anderson assumed the reins as Events Coordinator June 1. Rachel will be responsible for planning and execution of all group events at Buck's. Rachel takes over for Haley Rowland, who is now Buck's Director of Sales.

Raised in Wisconsin, Rachel Anderson obtained an associate degree in marketing from Western Technical College and looked towards moving west. Spending her early twenties exploring, she discovered a passion for the mountains. Her love for snowboarding, hiking and every aspect of mountain culture eventually led her to Southwest Montana.

 Returning to school at Montana State University, Rachel completed an undergraduate degree in liberal studies. With a diverse background in hospitality, sales and marketing, Rachel is excited to be joining the Buck’s T-4 team as events coordinator and is looking forward to helping create a one-of-kind experience for each and every guest.

 Off the mountain and out of the office, Rachel enjoys spending time with her boyfriend, Jaritt and dog, Maverick Cedar.

Buck's Wine Program Recently Featured by Montana's Yellowstone Country


Posted on May 11, 2018 by Kali Gillette

David O’Connor and Porter Elliot

David O’Connor and Porter Elliot

Yellowstone Country is a hidden wine destination, full of people who love good food and good wine. Across the region, you’ll find wine lists that rival the best, all paired with amazing local cuisine. We sat down with David O’Connor, co-owner and general manager of Buck’s T-4 Lodge & Restaurant in Big Sky, to get his thoughts on what makes a good wine list.

“What’s unique about Yellowstone Country,” O’Connor begins, “is that many winemakers enjoy coming here, so they make their wines available in this area. Combine that with a wine community that is savvy enough to take advantage, and it makes for some unique and well-rounded lists. With people coming to visit from all over the world, many are pleasantly surprised to find selections they can’t get in their hometown.”

YC: In your view, what does a great wine program look like?

DOC: Anyone can assemble a huge list of hundreds of wines if they have the budget and storage to do so, but that does not necessarily make a great list.

My favorite wine lists are those that demonstrate a sense of thoughtfulness and intentionality. There should be some stylistic relationship between the wines, the food menu and the restaurant as a whole.

I think diners are not only looking for a bottle they know and love; they are also looking for that element of curation that goes with a well-thought-out list. People are very open to trying something unfamiliar if we can explain why they should stray from their comfort zone for a given wine. If we think it’s a good wine, chances are they will, too.

Details matter on wine lists. Each and every label represents a great deal of thought and passion on behalf of a winemaker, a grower and their team; it’s important to represent this.

YC: How would you describe the personality of your wine list?

DOC: Our list is managed by myself and our wine director, Porter Elliot. Porter’s love of food, wine and traveling through wine country is infectious. He has a great appreciation for the stories behind the wines. You’ll often find him showing guests around the wine cellar and pointing out his latest finds. He has a particular affinity for winemakers and growers who are doing cool things and it’s reflected all over the list. Each wine on our list is there for a reason.

We shoot for a combination of familiarity and adventure in our selections. If Napa cab is your favorite, we have a selection of cabernet that we feel is truly representative of what makes Napa the world-class wine producing region that it is.

If you tell us you are into trying something new, we can use that taste to drive a recommendation from a different region, grape or winemaker. We will cheerfully serve the familiar, but what we really love is to share these new discoveries and experiences with our guests.

Our menu often features meats and ingredients that are perhaps unfamiliar, which is one of the core reasons people come to Buck’s. We are working to present a wine program that expresses that same desire; to try something new, and delicious.

YC: What’s your favorite thing about the list?

DOC: I am particularly proud of our appreciation for the myriad stories behind every bottle, and our goal is to try to connect those stories to our own.

Knowing the research, relationships and experience that goes into those selections, I’m proud that our guests appreciate what we are trying to express through our wine program.

Buck’s T-4’s wine list has been the recipient of Wine Spectator’s prestigious “Award of Excellence” since 1995. They feature over 175 selections from dozens of wine regions around the world.

Yellowstone Country Article

Charcuterie Class with Chef Brian Polcyn


This June, we are offering a very special opportunity to learn the finer skills of charcuterie and whole hog butchery from one of the industry's most renowned experts.

Chuck and Scott learned just how much Chef Brian Polcyn has to teach when they traveled to Dallas to take this very class. Both Chuck and Scott are quite well versed in the ancient art of smoking and curing meats in their own right, but they recognized a true master when they saw one. They found the class to be eye-opening, bringing back skills and techniques we now use in the kitchen every day. They began the process of bringing Chef Polcyn to Montana.

If you are serious about learning and practicing better charcuterie, don't miss this opportunity to learn from one of the best in the country.

Over the course of 2 days, Chef Brian will butcher a whole heritage breed hog, demonstrating European seam butchery techniques and making 8-10 recipes each day. Attendees will learn fresh sausage, pate, and terrine making, proper curing and smoking techniques, and receive an in depth education on the intricacies of dry curing and the importance of heritage breed pigs for Charcuterie.

The two-day class will be held at Big Sky's Buck's T-4 Lodge June 3-4, 2018. Space is limited to 20 students only. Tuition is $599. For students traveling to Big Sky for the class, we offer a special room rate of $99.

For more information or to register, email Chef Polcyn, book online or call 248.953.9833. PLEASE NOTE: Tickets are available from Chef Polcyn's office only.

As Chef Polcyn would say...PRAISE THE LARD!!!

Buck's Culinary Team Helps Guide ProStart Students to National Competition


'The future of our industry': High school students take part in cooking competition at Missoula College

High School Cooking Contest
 Chefs talk among themselves and judge the presentation and taste of food prepared by a competing team at the Montana ProStart Invitational culinary art competition on Sunday.

The sweet aroma of bacon and perfectly cooked steak pierced the nostrils on the third floor of the new Missoula College building on East Broadway on Sunday.
Seven high schools from around the state sent teams to compete in the Montana ProStart Invitational: A Cooking and Business Competition.
ProStart is a two-year high school program developed by the National Restaurant Association Education Foundation that teaches students about the culinary and management sides of the restaurant business.

 [su_pullquote align="right"]"When I was their age, we didn't have a program like this. So at this point of my career it's just time to give back to the industry, it's just the right thing to do."
-Chuck Schommer, Buck's T-4 Lodge[/su_pullquote]
The program began in the state in 2007 and currently there are 17 schools across Montana that teach the ProStart curriculum and the program is trying to add schools yearly.

ProStart Programs Manager Megan Jessee said it's important for the kids to work with industry professionals in the classroom, like Executive Chef Scott Mechura, who works at Buck's T-4 Lodge and Restaurant in Big Sky and mentors students at Belgrade High School.

"The really important part is to have someone like Scott come in and show them how this applies to the kitchen," Jessee said. "Work with them on menus and timing and flavors and those kinds of things."

Jessee went on to say a lot of the teams have been practicing for months and what they produce in the end is "incredible."

For Mechura, he said it's about helping the students learn new things. "This is the future of our industry, these kids," Mechura said. "Even if they don't have any interest beyond high school, they're learning a practical skill in school in a field I know about. So I can contribute and help them learn."

Amanda Matdies has been a ProStart educator for three years and brought her students to compete from Whitefish. She says the program teaches kids skills they can use in life, even if they don't pursue a career in the restaurant business. "The curriculum is so rigorous and relevant, it's basically AP culinary," Matdies said. "That's how I describe it to people."

For the culinary competition, teams all started with perfect scores of 100 points. They were deducted points for things like missing an ingredient or going over the allotted cooking time. The young chefs were also judged on sanitation, knife cuts and communication, among other things.

The teams of four had one hour to cook an appetizer, entree and dessert with two butane burners and no access to running water or electricity. Competitors were confined to a 10-by-10-foot cooking space and couldn't speak to educators or mentors throughout the process.

Riley Allen cooked the entree for the team from Drummond and thought everything went well. He cooked a grass fed beef tenderloin with a red wine reduction alongside buttered romanesco and golden beets — all topped with crispy onions and a soft boiled quail egg.

Drummond ultimately took second place in the culinary competition, finishing behind the team from Belgrade.

The group from Belgrade went with a theme of "trios" for its dishes and said communication is key in the kitchen.

"You got to be talking," team-member Austin Rollins said. "If you're moving around, we say 'behind' when you're behind someone or 'hot behind,' just that talk so whenever anyone turns around we don't run into each other."

The winning three-course meal consisted of a trio of scallops as an appetizer. A trio of lamb chops cooked with browned butter and an herb sauce served as the entree with a triple layered dessert to wrap it all up.

All teams produced two versions of their meals, one for judges to taste and critique and the other for display.

As for the management side of the competition, teams had to make a business plan for a prospective restaurant and had an hour to pitch it to a panel of judges.
Hunter Burmeister, a senior at Bozeman High School, said his team went with a 1960s space-themed restaurant with some modern touches and a high end menu.

He said they essentially had to design every aspect of a restaurant. "My portion of it was creating the menu, creating the dishes and then doing the costing of the menu," Burmeister said. "My favorite part is getting to put my own touch on a menu that I would like to have in a restaurant."

Bozeman took second place in the management competition, coming in behind Whitefish.

At the end of the day, lead culinary judge Chuck Schommer said it's all about giving back.

"When I was their age, we didn't have a program like this," Schommer, who co-owns Buck's T-4, said. "So at this point of my career it's just time to give back to the industry, it's just the right thing to do."

Both winning teams will receive an invite to the National ProStart Invitational which will be held in Providence, Rhode Island, April 27-29.

Rodney Strong Wine Dinner March 8


[su_table responsive="yes"]

Founded in the early 1960's, Rodney Strong Vineyards was only the 13th winery bonded in the newly discovered Sonoma County wine industry. Through the years, Rodney Strong Vineyards has earned the reputation for critically acclaimed Single Vineyard and Reserve wines, stand out Estate releases and best-in-class Sonoma County varietal wines.

Please join Chef Scott Mechura in welcoming Rodney Strong Vineyards for a very special evening of culinary delight and top-notch wines.

First Course
Foie gras scallop napoleon, candied citrus, compressed honeydew, yuzu butter.
Sauvignon Blanc "Charlotte’s Home", Northern Sonoma 2016
Second Course
Oysters Rockefeller, Pernod caramel, spinach salad.
Chardonnay Chalk Hill 2015
Third Course
Seared Pekin duck breast, duck egg truffle sabayon, pickled Flathead cherries, roasted parsnip puree.
Pinot Noir Davis Bynum "Jane's Vineyard", Russian River Valley 2013
Fourth Course
Vanilla and tobacco 18-hour beef short rib, potatoes fondant, roasted baby carrots, rennaissance sauce.
Meritage "Symmetry",  Alexander Valley 2014
Cabernet Sauvignon "Reserve", Sonoma 2014
Fifth Course
Glogg poached pear, Wisconsin blue cheese mousse, pumpkin puree, almond financier.
Port "A True Gentleman's Reserve", Sonoma 2012

$90 per person
Thursday, March 8, 2018, 6:30 PM

Seating is limited/reservations required. For reservations, call 406-993-5222, or book online. When booking online, please indicate in the 'notes' that you will be attending the Wine Dinner.
Reservations at Buck's T-4
A credit card will be required at time of booking as a guarantee. Actual payment will be taken at the event.


Explore Big Sky Recently Featured Buck's Owners Chuck and David




By Sarah Gianelli EBS Associate Editor

BIG SKY – Buck’s T-4 Lodge has been a Big Sky tradition for 61 years. Co-owners David O’Connor and Chuck Schommer have a history with Buck’s that long pre-dates their official partnership in the business in 2009. Since then, they have stayed true to the establishment’s roadhouse roots while continuing to elevate the standards of the guest experience. A rustic elegance extends to the carefully conceived menu, the accommodations and the casual, yet professional service, attracting tourists and locals alike.

As part of this ongoing series, O’Connor shared his thoughts with EBS on the reasoning behind their success and longevity as a Big Sky small business.

Explore Big Sky: What has been the key to your success?
David O’Connor: Buck’s has always been known for consistency and authenticity. We have been a family-owned business—with one short gap—since our 1946 inception, and that brings a certain warmth and home-like feeling for both our guests and employees. Buck and Helen Knight had a very strong ethic of hospitality, and that love of caring for travelers still permeates the business today. Buck’s has always managed to attract employees who share these values, and those people, over the years, have allowed Buck’s to grow with Big Sky.

That basic idea was at the heart of Buck and Helen’s success, and we try our best to let that drive our decision-making day to day.

EBS: What are the biggest obstacles to operating a small business in Big Sky?
D.O.: Right now, the highest hurdle facing most, if not all, businesses in Big Sky is staffing; a challenge which is mostly driven by the dire scarcity of attainable workforce housing. Chuck and I see many daily examples of how fortunate we are to have the people around us that we do, but it grows more and more challenging every season to find those people.

Seasonality also contributes to this challenge, as it often is a detractor for career-minded individuals who might consider joining our team. Not to mention the myriad financial obstacles that arise from being seasonal.

EBS: How has the business landscape changed since you started out?
D.O.: Buck’s has two complimentary businesses: the hotel and the restaurant, and each has evolved in different ways.

Big Sky, as a community, has been working hard to position itself in a closer relationship to Yellowstone National Park, and that effort is finally yielding a gradual reduction in the shoulder seasons for lodging. It was not very long ago that all of May, most of June and the majority of the fall were so slow that we closed outright. In the past few years we have seen an exponential increase in Yellowstone visitors making Big Sky part of their trip. The result is that the hotel is now (as of 2016) open 365 days a year, which was a huge step for us. Also, Big Sky’s growth overall has allowed us to diversify and even out our market segments, so we are less dependent on any one kind of traveler. In the long run, this is the best insurance against a bad snow year, fire year … becoming catastrophic.

Buck’s restaurant has always been very fortunate to have the support of the Big Sky community at large, and we are incredibly grateful for that every day. However, increasing competition is outpacing the growth of the community right now. We are very confident this will even out, and relatively shortly, but in the meantime the slices of the pie are smaller for all of us in the restaurant business here.

The American restaurant industry as a whole has also irrevocably changed in the past couple of decades. The interest in, and access to, a wide variety of cuisine means we can really explore, along with our guests, all sorts of cool things in food. We are foodie geeks at our core, and it’s been tons of fun to be a part of the wave in this country powered by Food TV, locavore-ism, health consciousness and the rise of artisanship. From Chuck’s representation of Montana at the Beard Foundation in New York City in 2000 to the wide variety of tools and ingredients we have access to today, there has been no better, no more fun time to be in the restaurant business.

EBS: What is it about Big Sky that compels you to stick it out through the hard times?
D.O.: The people, the people, the people. The nature of the Big Sky community, both for residents and businesses, is really one of inclusivity. For the most part, when things are challenging for us, they are challenging for all of us. We’ve seen countless examples of the community pulling together in tough times, in countless ways. That’s incredibly rare in any community, and that sense of shared challenge and success across Big Sky is a huge lift when the chips are down.

EBS: Why do you think so many new businesses fold relatively quickly?
D.O.: The cash management challenges posed by seasonality are a real killer. It’s tough for many new business owners to wrap their mind around how they can be both profitable and broke at the same time. It takes a few years under your belt to get a sense of the rhythm of your business’s financial resources.

EBS: What advice would you give to small business owners just starting out in Big Sky?
D.O.: Be grateful for every customer that comes in the door and every employee that punches the clock; and take every opportunity to let them know that you are. Keep your commitments, be open when you say you will be and make a conscious effort to stop talking and listen. If you wake up every day thinking “woe is me,” find something else to do.

EBS: What’s the best piece of business advice you’ve received?
D.O.: Mike Scholz, who acquired Buck’s from the Knights and built Buck’s into what it is today, taught us pretty much everything we know about owning and operating Buck’s T-4. His mentorship has been a foundation in both of our lives. There are so many valuable pieces of advice Mike has imparted over the years it’s difficult to identify one as “best,” but one that is constantly on our minds is that this business is won or lost on nickels and dimes. It is all too easy to lose sight of the small stuff while we try to think of the big picture, and losing track of those things, when taken in the aggregate, can be lethal.

Bucks T-4 Lodge – by the numbers

  • Staff: 25 full-time, year-round; 75 at peak staffing
  • Years in business: 61
  • Longest serving employee: Joe Mama Rogers

3 Courses, 3 Wines, $49