Occasionally it’s worthy to take a step back from all the great groomers, well-spaced tree runs or even the easily accessible steeps off of Challenger to boot up just to bag a big, epic run.
We’ve got a few of them, but none more unique than the North Summit Snow Field that can only be accessed with the partnership of the Biggest Skiing in America interconnect ticket with Moonlight Basin using Big Sky’s Lone Peak Tram. For lift served, and controlled terrain, this is consequential ,big mountain skiing that requires focus and respect for what the mountain can give you.
I got the invite to ski this run from “smooth turns Taylor” and I grabbed our very own “Vanilla Gorilla Chad Jones” to join in the adventure. In Chad’s case, he had never been down this run before, so it was a great opportunity to show off a different side of the mountain with the benefit of having a Biggest Skiing in America Pass.
We started in the base are with a ride up Swift Current, this was a lunch break ski session, so it was around noon and at the top we rolled to the Triple Chair. To our pleasant surprise at the top we noticed only a few people waiting for the next Tram, we wouldn’t even have a full cabin for skiing some of the most remarkable terrain in the U.S. in March, sure feel sorry for any skiers out there waiting in lines to ski.
From the top you do need to check in at the patrol shack to ski this run. They’ll limit the amount of people they put in there, and after I describe the run, you’ll know why with a few constriction points. But in reality the check-in is a great opportunity to visit with the experts on what the best routes are to take, as mountain conditions can change from day to day. Kevin gave us a clear route and gave the thumbs up that the skiing was good. If you get a chance for this run, I’d personally recommend your first trip through be with a person who has done it before.
You start with the snow field itself, definitely the easiest section of this route as it is wide and wind loaded and nice and smooth. But your instincts to let them fly are balanced with the fact that you’re skiing above a 100 foot cliff that would not be a good route to find out accidentally. The views are amazing with a clean look at Fan Mountain and the Madison Valley floor including Ennis Lake.
Proper big mountain etiquette as a group, and you should be in a group, is to tackle each section one at a time. I started with the snow field, maneuvering to a safe vantage point until Chad slashed his way down on his snowboard, throwing up nice clouds of wind loaded snow with each turn. Smooth turns Taylor, the gentleman, finished up the section as we got ourselves into position for stage two of this run.
We opted for Rips, which is a tighter section requiring precise turns. Here again it is not the skiing that will get you but the exposure, as you’re above maybe an 80 foot cliff. Taylor went first this time, I got in second and Chad pulled up the last position.
From here you have some choices to get down the last big rollover and into the powder apron below. I marked on the map the route we took, but you can see you can travel further lookers left for alternate routes.
At the bottom, once through the crux rollover, its smooth sailing and the consequences fade away as you can now take big, aggressive wide turns out the bottom. We ended this big run with a low angle groomer to the bottom of 6-shooter where at the top we could spin back around to the Big Sky base area. This run is a pure, continuous 4,350 feet of vertical drop, the second most in the country.
I hope this story doesn’t scare anyone who might think this is all we have, really, we’re lucky in that we have an excellent balance and abundance of the big stuff for the adventurous and nicely cut groomer terrain on Andesite and the lower mountain.
There are many sides to skiing this area and I’m hopeful you get a chance to join us in finding them all, and you had better give yourself a few days, after all it is the biggest skiing in America.
We’ll see you out there,