"If I had a penny for every time I found myself craving a slightly smaller and rounder-than-average peak, I'd still be a penniless ski bum. Size matters, especially when it comes to mountains."
These are the opening lines of Drew Pogge's Skiing Magazine article "Size Matters" about Big Sky Resort. Pogge covers everything big about Big Sky: The Big Couloir, Big boards, big events, and why it's the Biggest Skiing in America to local and tourist alike. But even more than that, Pogge captures everything I've felt and wanted to express when talking about Big Sky, but was unable to capture in one sentence or one phrase. Conclusion: It's best captured in one run off Lone Peak.
Whether the one run is the Big Couloir, the North Summit Snowfield, Mr. K., or Buffalo Jump, it's all about finding what the Biggest Skiing in America means to each individual. Pogge delivers this theme through insight from a local bartender, schoolteacher, mountain guide, and naming Big Sky an "iconoclastic Frank Zappa mashup" all the while recognizing the underlying Montana culture that also influences the bigness of Big Sky.
"...the prevailing style is to go big, go fast, and don't stop."
We may have a style all our own out here in Big Sky, Montana, but what can one expect when we ski a peak as gnarly, fluffy, steep, and wondrous as Lone Peak?
Pogge's Montana-spirit captures how we feel. But don't just take my word for it, check out the full article in the November 2014 issue of Skiing Magazine and decide for yourself.
Although we boast a plethora of evergreen trees in and around Big Sky, the fall foliage is still not to be missed in the mountains. Check out any of these hikes for an adventure into the Big Sky wild this autumn.
Storm Castle. Hike to the amazing Storm Castle rock formation for a bird's eye view of fall colors in the Gallatin Canyon. The Storm Castle hike is well worth the incline as the reward offers incredible views in every direction.
Lava Lake. Mystique best describes how Lava Lake looks in the autumn. A fantastic hike any time of year, Lava Lake's crisp aesthetic stands out in the fall air.
Cinnamon Lookout. Just down Highway 191 from Big Sky Resort is a 4.4 mile (one way for a total of 9 miles to the lookout and back) forested trail to a beautiful lookout in 360 degrees of the Gallatin Canyon and Taylor-Hilgard Basin.
Sphinx. Just a Paul Bunyan stone's throw from Lone Peak, Sphinx Mountain is the only peak in the Madison Range Crest that consists of a conglomerate from the post-Mesozoic era. Sphinx is also one of the most fantastic fall hikes with a decent chance of seeing a bear gather the last of the season's calories before hibernation.
Porcupine Creek Trail. Climb nine miles up to the headwaters of Onion Basin for views of Lone Mountain on this fun high meadow hike. The colors of fall may not be the bright purples and pinks of wild flower season, but the earth tones and hues of red, brown, and orange are not to be missed.
As the first snowflakes fall from the sky the ski season ahead begins in the minds of all skiers and snowboarders. Powder seekers probe the same, "Where and how will I find the best snow experience?" Big dumps don't always mean better skiing and they can fall far and few between. Factors such as consistent snowfall, elevation, location, and aspect play a big role in a quality ski experience year after year. Tony Crocker, Princeton educated statistician and avid skier, wants to know and he takes the time to pencil the numbers.
Tony Crocker has been crunching data for 30 years and reports it all on his website bestsnow.net. Tony started first with statistics then found skiing in 1976 after college; from 1978 onward skiing has become his favorite avocation. Skier at heart and statistician by trade, snowfall accumulation naturally became his fascination and quality ski experiences his passion. He found sites that gathered snowfall data, which prompted him to start his own analysis. Not only does he keep track of snowfall he also factors in aspect, elevation and puts his own mathematical touch in determining snow quality as a very important factor when choosing a ski destination. Tony also keeps track of every place he has skied, how many days, vertical feet and the snow and weather conditions. As of July 2013 Tony has logged 1,169 skier days, 12% were powder days, 22,301,000 vertical ft. across four continents and 182 ski resorts. Big Sky Resort, home of America's Biggest Skiing, boasts 5,750 acres, 4,350 vertical drop, more than 250+ named trails, and something for everyone to enjoy. Including, according to Tony's number sleuthing, consistent and reliable snow. But why is the snow so reliable?
It's more than those stellar flakes stacking up on the windowsill. Factor in the elevation, Big Sky starts at 6,850 ft. and tops out at 11,166 ft.; the location, northern US at the 45th parallel; and the temperatures, an average daily temp of 25 degrees. All of these variables aid in snow preservation. Meaning: The cold smoke snow falls and stays cold maintaining a very pleasurable surface to edge or float on.
Tony's calculations also indicate that in a La Niña year Big Sky will see 112% of average snowfall, and 97% in an El Niño year. Big Sky Resort has eight automated weather sites on Lone Mountain. Three of the eight sites collect snowfall numbers: Lobo located at an elevation of 8,900 ft., Bavaria at 9,600 ft., and Look Out Ridge at 9,000 ft. These sites are complex in that they require a remote connection, constant attention, and an actual person to swipe the boards clean every day. Each site costs ~$7,000 initially and needs consistent maintenance. The sites are used daily to assess wind speed, wind direction, snowfall, snow water equivalent, and temperature. The automated weather site's information is available to anyone on bigskyresort.com/snow and also mtavalanche.com.
In the ski industry snow is our greatest asset. The snow brings with it morale and the hero ski trip stories that will be told and retold for years. At Big Sky Resort, the business is commonly referred to as snow farming. When the crop is good, people come to harvest it with sticks and smiles and whoops under the chairlift. According to Tony Crocker's calculation Big Sky Resort is the destination for a consistent and reliable harvest.
For the full story and more stats on Big Sky Resort's consistent and reliable snowfall pick up the Winter issue of Live Big Magazine at Big Sky Resort.
When I graduated college a year ago, I never thought I would move back to Montana much less still be living in Montana, but I wouldn't have it any other way. All through college I was determined to end up in a big city with a fast-pace and a high-profile job, but that wasn't the calling for me.
I grew up outside of Bozeman where I was always hiking, skiing or camping with my parents. I enjoyed that lifestyle, but I also enjoyed traveling to those fast-paced cities I wanted to live in some day. When I graduated, like most people my age, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my degree. I came home and got a job at the closest faraway place I could think of: The Huntley Front Desk. Now that I am wrapping up my third season in Big Sky I couldn't ask for a better place to be than in this beautiful mountain community.
There is something great about living in a resort town like Big Sky. You get the hustle and bustle of a city from time to time with peak seasons of guests, but you can also get away from it all within 10 minutes and find yourself in the middle of nowhere with no one in sight. Having that balance in life is something that not many people can say they have. The locals here all say that "we live where others vacation" but it is so much more than that. The people here all have things in common, but the best and most important thing we have in common is that we all really want to be here.
When socializing with these great people, I love to enjoy the activities and things that motivated me to move here in the first place. Such as walking to Ousel Falls, hiking up Yellow Mule or just sitting on my back deck enjoying an evening, there's always something to enjoy or discover outside. I also love trying out new restaurants and revisiting old favorites, and going to Music in the Mountains on Thursdays in the summer. For such a small town, we sure do have some great food and music to share.
In my new position as the Owner Communication Manager, I work with the owners of our hotel rooms and condos. Basically, I get to work with people who love this place as much as I do. I can go on a new hike in the area and tell someone about it and they are just as excited to discover it as I am. But overall, it is the people who live here and vacation here, people who legitimately love what they do and where they get to do it, that are the reason this place is so great. While I had other big city plans for my life, I would not change where I am at right now for anything.
Ellie (left) on the Ousel Falls hike in Big Sky.
The Rut 2014 kicked off on a brisk Friday morning at the Mountain Village Base Area at Big Sky Resort. The Vertical Kilometer promised to be challenging but a quick race to the top of Lone Peak. Salomon team runner Kilian Jornet impressed spectators and fellow racers with a Vertical K time of 46 minutes 12 seconds and a 50K time of 5 hours 09 minutes, taking first in both events. The Rut doubled in size since its inaugural year in 2013. Not only did the race bring out regional and local running fanatics, but brought the best of the best in the Ultramarathon world as the SkyRunning World Series Ultra Final. Congrats to all runners. Check out a few photos and highlight video from The Rut and see you next year.
Filmed and edited by Michael Jezak.
Captain America nearly at the Vertical K finish line at the top of Lone Peak. Photo: Anna Husted
Madison Base Area check point of The Rut 50K. Photo: Anna Husted
Kilian Jornet arriving at the 50K finish line at the base area of Big Sky Resort. Photo: Anna Husted
Emelie Forsberg crosses the 50K finish line, winning the women's overall division. Photo: Anna Husted
Men's overall second place finisher Sage Canaday shakes hands with first place finisher Kilian Jornet. Photo: Anna Husted
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