AT THE HELM calling the shots on when to open terrain over the past 30 years is Bob Dixon. Who better to talk to about snow and what makes Big Sky the Biggest Skiing in America? We took a minute to sit down with him; here is what he had to say about snow and what he likes best.
What do you think about this year, is the snow going to be good?
NOAA is calling for EL Nino, which is not good for the Northwest. Big Sky Resort sits on the cusp of the Northern and Southern weather patterns. An active Atlantic hurricane season has shown a more active La Nina, where an active Pacific hurricane season a more active El Nino. Mother Nature is cyclical. A dry summer means that precipitation needs to come sometime and winter will bring some snow. I don’t really want an early season, however here the winds keep the skiing good.
Are there any patterns you have seen for winter conditions on Lone Mountain?
The end of November to December is the worst for avalanches. There are deep slabs and lots of instabilities in the snowpack. Then the Christmas crowds come and help the snowpack with skiing it in (compaction). Around January 6th the buses are leaving and a storm rolls in for the locals. January is good and March picks up more and April is great for snowfall. The coldest of the cold snaps come in November and early December. The coldest day ever was in 1988 and it was 62 below.
What is your favorite run on the mountain?
It’s all about the right day. Consistently 1st Gulley, especially when the upper pockets are open. It has a consistent fall line and I enjoy the hoots and hollers from the chair when I do it right.
What is it about Big Sky Resort that you love the most?
Lone Mountain. No such thing as a bad snow year. That mountain gives you good skiing somewhere. The ski culture has changed, the mountain hasn’t.
What does the Biggest Skiing in America mean to you?
The ski experience. That mountain offers so much different terrain. Southern Comfort for world class beginner terrain, to the Tram with great vertical descents, to the Couloir for the ultimate adrenaline rush. There is no waiting in line. The ski experience is more available, with so many acres per skier, this is what it is all about. We have the best ski experience, anywhere.
What has been the best snow year ever at Big Sky?
Consistent snow years add up great snow totals. But it’s the epic days that I remember that outshine all those numbers. In 1986 we received 200” in two weeks. In 1994 we had a storm cycle that delivered 150” in a week and a half. I couldn’t make a turn down little tree. That was an epic storm cycle.