When my officemate Michel and friend Candis asked me to go snowshoeing I was skeptical. What I knew about snowshoeing came from National Geographic Alaska TV specials and Jack London novels. What I didn't know, or expect, was how much I would learn about Lone Mountain, the Spanish Peaks and snowshoeing from our Basecamp guide Bea.
Bea taught us about the flora and fauna around Big Sky, such as the Indian Paint Brush wildflower grows at different colors at different elevations or that the Spanish Peaks are one of the only ranges in the Rocky Mountains that run east to west and are the oldest peaks in the Madison Range. Bea was a wealth of knowledge, keeping us on our snowshoe toes with funny quick-fire quizzes of what we'd learned so far.
We hiked up Moose Tracks, the trees near Middle Road, and then went even a little further to an open area with spectacular views of Lone Peak and the Spanish Peaks, the tallest of which, Gallatin Peak, stood prominently out overlooking both Madison and Gallatin Counties.
Breaking our own trail from time-to-time, I found snowshoeing essentially to be winter hiking. I love hiking and had no idea what I had been missing out on all these winters by not taking up snowshoeing.
Not only is snowshoeing great exercise, but it put me out into nature in a different way than skiing does. I don't stop to look around enough while I'm skiing because I'm continually in search for that great line, but snowshoeing forced me to pause and listen to the beauty that surrounds me every day.
For more information on snowshoe tours at Big Sky Resort check out bigskyresort.com/activities
Video: Michael Jezak
On the last Sunday in February I skied up to the Tram right behind Lonnie and Mary Ball. Lonnie, who is famous for being the first skier down Corbet's Couloir in Jackson Hole, greeted me with a smile and asked how my day of skiing had been.
"Amazing," I responded without hesitation. Big Sky Resort had received 16" the day before, making Sunday an epic powder day. I'd stuck mostly to the Shedhorn trees, I told Lonnie, but I needed to get at least one good Tram lap before the day was out. Lonnie then asked if I was with anyone and if I was interested in making that one Tram lap Dakota Bowl. Dakota Bowl lies on the South Face just beyond the Liberty Bowl Gate, new territory I was stoked to explore, albeit a little nervous. I had been skiing all day with my snowboarder friend Kevin, and he quickly interjected that he loves Dakota Bowl and was thinking that's the run we should do too. Between Lonnie, Mary and Kevin, fate won.
I'd only ever skied with Lonnie and Mary once before, but the key to skiing with Lonnie is: Ski for the camera.
We had just entered Dakota and scoped out some lines. Lonnie charged first to set up for some photos as Kevin followed, popping a wheelie for most of the first face, his powdery wake leaving a trail behind him.
Through Dakota Bowl we went through part of Hanging Valley (so much powder!) and cut over to the Badlands for light tree skiing with blower face shots all the way down.
I love meeting up with new people and skiing where they like to ski because I learn about new favored spots around the mountain. Obviously Dakota Bowl isn't new for a lot of people, however, I couldn't have found three better riders to introduce me to that awesome terrain.
Skier: Mary Ball Photo: Lonnie Ball
Skier: Anna Husted Photo: Lonnie Ball
Often big mountain skiing is seen through the point of view of the camera operator from distant peaks or looking up from below, capturing the rider in a perfect line. Videographer Michael Jezak worked with a team of great riders, GoPros in hand, to capture the mountain's point of view, so to speak. Shot entirely with GoPro cameras, the latest video from Big Sky Powder Networks takes viewers into the trees, down steep Lone Peak runs, tapping rails in Swifty Terrain Park, and captures the vibe of how it feels when February brings great snow storms to epic mountains. Riding Big Sky Resort has been fantastic since February 4 storm and only forecasts for more fun to come.
Video: Michael Jezak
Before my son and I arrived at Big Sky, one thing was clear. We weren't going to be able to ski it all.
Big Sky is an enormous resort with 5,800 acres, 30 chairlifts, and terrain draped across four distinct mountain peaks.
And while we weren't even sure we'd make it to each lift, we pledged to get up early, ski all day and explore as much of this Montana mountain as possible.
And for two days, we did just that.
Led by a friend, and inspired by the trail map, we spent our first day doing everything from skiing untracked corduroy on Andesite Mountain to hiking the Headwaters boot pack to the A-Z Chutes. We made at least one run on each of the resort's mountains, and rode about half the lifts, including the Lone Peak Tram with its breathtaking "don't miss" views.
By evening we were beat.
Waking up to fresh snow on the ground and more falling from the sky revives even the most tired legs, and day two found us repeating some of our favorites, while continuing the exploration on Lone Mountain's South Side.
And while we certainly saw a lot, we didn't even come close to seeing it all.
Here's why we'll be back and why your family should definitely plan a trip to Big Sky.
Whether you've got two days or a week, or (even better!) two weeks, you don't want to miss "America's Biggest Skiing."
Check out more stories from The Brave Ski Mom here.
Like many people around here, I moved west in search of big mountains and deep, cold, soft snow; when I moved to Montana five years ago from Kansas I had never skied on a real mountain, or real snow for that matter, and my transition from a Midwest park-rat to a big mountain rider had quite the steep learning curve. Today, I live to ride Headwaters, Big Couloir, or back in Beehive Basin, so it should come as no surprise that I tended to get frustrated when the Tram, Triple or Shedhorn would be on wind hold. That is until the other day, when my buddy Jonathan called me up and wanted to just cruise around and ski all the terrain lower on the mountain that we always pass over on our way to the peak. Something clicked in my head that day that reminded me why I do this: because it's fun, because friends are awesome, and because life shouldn't be taken too seriously.
Old man winter brings us great snow year in and year out, I am thankful for what we have each season, remember not to take it too seriously, and remember that it could always be worse, trying to ski ice covered mole-hills back in Kansas.
Photo: Patrick Larson
Photo: Erik Morrison
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