Montana : Safety by City
- Big Sky
- Great Falls
- Miles City
- West Yellowstone
Say the phrase Big Sky in Montana and several things will come to mind.
First, it’s a community in Southwestern Montana.
Second, it’s the name of a ski resort offering some of the most challenging runs in the country.
Third, it’s a state of mind as Montana has long been nicknamed “Big Sky Country” for the sweeping views of skies that compete with even the prestigious mountains for your attention.
This is one of the fastest-growing corners in America post-pandemic.
While Montana overall has seen a surge of new residents, Gallatin County, which surrounds Big Sky, grow more than 35% since 2010.
It helps to have Yellowstone National Park at your doorstep, with mountains and canyons nearby to explore.
Big Sky is also a four-season destination that offers a unique combination of natural beauty, outdoor recreation, and luxury amenities.
Whether you want to spend big money or explore on a budget, there’s something for everyone.
The wildlife here is wonderful, and the nightlife is up-and-coming.
Don’t be surprised if Big Sky takes away crowds from Park City, Utah, and Aspen, Colorado.
Warnings & Dangers in Big Sky
OVERALL RISK : LOW
There's a low overall risk here with crime rates that have gone up with the growth but are still far from concerning. You can also explore so many safe places either on your own or with an experienced guide.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : LOW
The tourism website for Big Sky lists nearly two dozen ways to get around, mostly shuttles and on-demand services. Whether you want a limo or a rideshare or a rental car, there's a way to get around for everyone. All options are low risk.
PICKPOCKETS RISK : LOW
Just 10 pickpockets or purse snatchings have happened in the past five years, making this a low-risk but still a strong target for thieves looking for an opportunity. Especially with all the gear you'll need to carry here, it's easy to lose sight of your backpack or leave a car loaded with goods. Just use the standard safety precautions. Don't let a low risk mean you stop being vigilant.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : MEDIUM
There's a medium risk here that's two-fold. One is because of wildlife, avalanche, flooding, severe storms, and winter storm risks. Two, because not enough people realize the intensity of the risks in an area this rural. Ready Gallatin is the website where you can learn all the safety advice for each risk, depending on the season you'll be visiting.
MUGGING RISK : LOW
Gallatin County hasn't had more than four robberies in a year going back to 2011, so you can rest assured this is another low-risk. Don't throw caution to the wind, but you can also take comfort in knowing it's more than a one-year rating - it's a trend.
TERRORISM RISK : LOW
This is another low risk. As much as new residents and tourists flock to this area, it's still a rugged, remote wilderness that wouldn't cause the damage international terror groups seem to thrive on.
SCAMS RISK : LOW
Most of the recent scam warnings target residents with fake police officer calls or phishing emails. Any tourist attraction should come with rental safety smarts, and using the Chamber of Commerce to rent cabins while avoiding third-party websites like Craigslist will help you stay cyber-safe.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : LOW
Women who love the outdoors will love Big Sky. In addition, the luxurious amenities here are far from "roughing it" unless you really want to rough it - those options exist too.
TAP WATER RISK : LOW
Big Sky Water & Sewer District posted in its 2021 Annual Water Quality Report that the water is "very safe" while meeting all required expectations. Several categories exceeded the requirements. Use the Water Department section of the city's website to check the latest report before you visit, but this part of the country is known for its impeccable drinking water quality.
Safest Places to Visit in Big Sky
Visit Big Sky is the website that covers things to do in the community around Big Sky.
You can download a digital visitor’s guide, but you need to give your name, email address, and zip code to do so.
We recommend having a separate email account for tourism mailing lists in case it leads to excessive spam emails.
Big Sky Resort is the website just for the resort, and Big Sky Town Center takes you to the central part of the community.
We recommend starting in the town center because that’s where you can do all your shopping for accessories or food before heading into the great outdoors.
This is where many activities, festivals, and holiday celebrations are held throughout the year.
Big Sky Meadow Village is nearby, with the Gallatin River running through it.
You can visit the Crail Ranch Homestead Museum to learn the history of settlers on this land.
Guided and self-guided tours are available.
Big Sky Montana Resort covers a robust number of activities in each season, with luxury options like a spa, suites, or secluded upscale cabins.
Budget-friendly rentals and hotels dot the landscape too.
If you have special requests necessary for your trip, reach out to the concierge service at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Gallatin National Forest is a behemoth landscape covering more than three million acres.
The Forest Service park website covers everything from camping reservations to downloadable trail maps to safety alerts all travelers need to know.
Choose your level of adventure safety by coordinating a guided tour by horseback ride, sleigh rides, dog sledding, and wildlife views to spot a grizzly bear.
Shuttle rides and tours to Yellowstone are offered by several companies, and those who don’t want to walk the trails can take bus tours of the scenic routes around this mountainous region.
Big Sky Arts handles the events and entertainment throughout the year, from large film festivals to open mic performances.
You can also download the Public Art Map to see sculptures, murals, and other artwork throughout the town.
There are really so many safe and fun things to do that it’s hard to wrap them all up in one synopsis, but you can find Ziplines high above the ground or go to the bottom of a canyon for a raging whitewater ride.
Use the official tourist website for the most reliable and cyber-safe search to plan your perfect trip.
Places to Avoid in Big Sky
The only place to avoid in Big Sky is a place where you’re not skilled enough to explore.
For example, if you haven’t spent time at high elevations, don’t climb the summit of a mountain on your second day.
If you just learned how to ski, don’t take on a Black Diamond run, as the resort has the top 10% most challenging terrain.
Also, unless you own property or are a member of the Yellowstone Club, you won’t be able to explore the amenities there.
It’s an exclusive community for people who make more in a year than I will in a lifetime.
You also want to avoid ignoring safety advice.
If a trail is closed, don’t assume you are skilled enough to handle it.
If there’s an avalanche danger, don’t risk skiing in that section of the backcountry.
The biggest risks here are the ones you create for yourself by not being as safe as possible.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Big Sky
- The Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office provides law enforcement services here. There is no Big Sky Police Department. Follow them on Facebook at @gallatincountysheriffsoffice. Gallatin County Search and Rescue is another great resource to follow to see what happens when people don’t pay attention to safety warnings.
- Visit the Gallatin County Emergency Management Agency to sign up for community alerts. There are just too many safety warnings that can be issued, and you can’t afford to miss one. Whether it’s an incoming storm, wildfire burning, or avalanche warning, all of these can change your plans on a given day.
- Give yourself a day or two to acclimate to the high elevation. The elevation here can go from 8,000 feet to above 11,000 feet. Signs of altitude sickness include dizziness, trouble breathing, and passing out. Keep yourself hydrated and get plenty of sleep. Limit alcohol intake and listen to your body as you try each adventure.
- Use 511 MT to check road conditions before you venture onto any mountain road. You can also download the app for iOS or Android. This interactive map allows you to highlight any stretch of road and get immediate travel conditions.
- Look for the “How to Dress for Montana Winters” section of the tourism website. There’s a handy checklist of how to layer in the winter.
- This is a bear country, and both grizzly and black bears roam this land. Buy bear spray at a local outfitters store and carry it with you into the wilderness. You use bear spray as a last resort when a bear is approaching you. Keep away from bears by using bear-proof containers for food and giving them plenty of distance. Never try to approach or feed a bear.
- Would you know what to do if you came face to face with a mountain lion? I have a friend in Colorado Springs who narrowly escaped a very angry mountain lion. What about a moose? Do you know the difference in safety between a wolf and a coyote? It’s important to research these animals in the Montana wilderness through the tourism site and wildlife department because they all share the same hiking trails with you, your children, and your pets.
- Do not assume your mobile device will work in Big Sky Country. Check your provider’s coverage map, but also give yourself a lesson in using GPS mapping, which works via satellite and not mobile phone towers.
- If you have an accident on a highway, see another accident, or notice a road problem, call the Montana Highway Patrol at 1-855-647-3777. Keep your hands on the wheel and your eyes on the road. Wait to take in sweeping views until you get to the next rest stop or scenic pull-out.
- Montana does have speed limits on certain highways that go up to 80 miles an hour. If you don’t feel comfortable driving that fast, stay in the far right lane to let others go by. Don’t be the person driving under the speed limit in the passing lane.
So... How Safe Is Big Sky Really?
Big Sky is getting bigger every day, and that will come with some growing pains.
In 2010, the chance of being a victim of violent crime in Gallatin County was 1 in 2034.
Now that number 1 is 868.
The good news?
The risk is still 70% lower than the national average.
In 2021, just 17% of violent crimes happened against strangers, and 55% happened in homes, showing more of a domestic issue than a random act of violence issue.
Even theft rates are so low I had to check the data a few times to make sure I wasn’t missing something.
The biggest problem in Montana is drugs, which is a nationwide problem hitting this state especially hard.
Since 2019, drug crimes have gone up by 1,300%.
Overdoses are increasing as illegal prescription drugs, and street drugs are laced with an invisible, potentially deadly dose of fentanyl.
“When we looked at the number of pills that were actually seized in 2020 to 2021 combined was under 100, and in 2022, last year, we had over 12,000 seized here in Gallatin County,” Captain Eric Paulson with the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office said.
The benefit for a tourist is the growing list of amenities and experiences to enjoy in a state once dismissed for places like Colorado.
The downside in 2023 and beyond is the cost of living increases that make it harder to find working staff for restaurants, attractions, and resorts.
You’ll also need to have strong knowledge of western wilderness survival and safety skills while having the right clothing and accessories for the remote wilderness in all seasons.
How Does Big Sky Compare?
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- Visas - International visitors have the same requirements whether they cross the border or fly into the country. A passport and visa or visa waiver must be shown before boarding a flight and when you enter the U.S. through Customs and Border Patrol.
- Currency - Only the U.S. Dollar can be used here. Purchase as many tickets and attractions as you can in advance to keep from pulling out your credit card in public. Especially in all that winter gear, it can lead to rushing and potentially losing your wallet. Exchange currency at the airport or before you arrive to get the best rates.
- Weather - You won't need dressy clothing here, but you should know the basics of layering for the great outdoors if it's raining or cold. You can rent ski equipment and boots if you don't have your own, but bring worn-in hiking shoes to avoid sore feet.
- Airports - The Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport has direct flights to major cities across the United States, so don't worry about its remote location. The airport is 45 minutes from Big Sky.
- Travel Insurance - Travel insurance and adventure insurance will help cover any weather delays or emergencies. The U.S. doesn't have free healthcare, so even a sprained ankle can cost hundreds of dollars out of pocket.
Big Sky Weather Averages (Temperatures)
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