In 1999, Baz Luhrmann (yes of 2013's The Great Gatsby) wrote the bizarre and popular "The Sunscreen Song (Class of '99)." I recorded this song off the radio onto a tape so I could memorize the lyrics, later that same year I got the worst winter sunburn of my life. I was skiing at Big Sky Resort with my family, and my dad told me to put sunscreen on my face. Dads know best, but multiple factors led to this sunburn: Time of day, altitude, reflective surface, and a lack of sunscreen (because even though dads know best, daughters don't always listen). At the time I did not realize that the sun was most intense from 10am-4pm or that UV exposure increases about 4 percent for every 1,000 feet of vertical, according to WebMD. Thus, we mountain-living folks are like Icarus, sometimes just a little too close to the sun. It's too bad Luhrmann's "one tip for the future" didn't stick with me better on that day in 1999 when I got sunburned while skiing.
As summer approaches in Big Sky the snowy reflective surface fades, but the sun becomes more intense during this time of year and the days are longer. As a redhead the sun and I have a tumultuous relationship, making my freckles pop out without a moment's notice, and can burning my freckly skin as late as 6pm on a peak summer day. Last summer while stand-up paddleboarding on Lake Levinsky (another reflective surface) I neglected to wear any sunscreen at all. It was 4pm on one of the hottest days of the year, yet I thought it was late enough to be out on an adventure without sunscreen. The sun: 2; Me: 0. I highly recommend the paddleboarding, but just with sunscreen.
Protecting ones skin is as important as staying away from salty snacks or greasy foods, and it's a lot easier to do. I managed to stave off any serious sunburns this winter in Big Sky, but summer's just around the corner and the sun taunts me.
This time around I'll be wearing sunscreen (especially at 11,166 feet), and I'll take time of day, altitude, and my dad and Baz's advice into consideration.
After all "the long-term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists ... trust me on the sunscreen."
When Big Sky Resort closes for the winter season I feel like spring should immediately come upon us. This feeling comes from years of low-land living where April showers bring May flowers. Unfortunately that's not how weather systems work in the mountains. With multiple days of new snow since we've closed for skiing, I took to the trails to seek out the hope of spring. Ousel Falls is still significantly frozen when I took these photos about a week ago, but melting had begun. I looked to Ousel Falls, which is located just south of Big Sky's Town Center, for spring because if the falls are melting I know it can't be far away. With spring and summer comes camping, fishing, hiking, climbing, sun tanning (and sun burning), and long sunny days that bring happiness. I have many more hikes to take this summer, including Beehive Basin, Castle Rock, and Garnet Peak. I can't wait for spring and summer.
The 2-mile hike to the 100-foot Ousel Falls took me across multiple bridges and past beautiful Engelmann Spruce trees.
The mid-April afternoon I hiked Ousel Falls I only saw three tracks other than my own. After the first bridge I passed two women and a dog headed in the opposite direction, which meant I was hiking alone from there on in. Normally I hike with friends and bear spray, but this day was just me and the bear spray. This photo shows the other "falls" that can be seen along the hike.
Frozen Ousel Falls from the upper lookout.
Ousel Falls again from the upper lookout. At the coldest times during winter the entire South Fork of the West Fork of the Gallatin River in front of the falls is frozen. Ousel Falls was named for the Water Ouzel Bird, which can be seen throughout the Gallatin Valley.
A close up of the right side of the falls reveals that melting has begun. Although we continue to get snow in Big Sky into June (and sometimes later), it won't take long for the falls to completely melt.
As the days grow longer and the snow storms grow a bit smaller and less frequent I am nostalgic for winter. Someone recently asked me what my favorite season was, and I had no direct answer. With winter comes skiing, magical movements of the mountain, and engaging personalities of a ski town set out to make this the best winter yet. On the other hand, summer brings wild flowers, sunshine, long days that turn into longer nights of fun, carefree camping, whitewater rafting, and a unique sort of happiness that only Montana summers bring. Fall and spring are also a wonder with changing tides, colors, and local produce that changes my recipe choice (squash soup, Mmmm). Even though I still do not have an answer for my favorite season I know I will miss winter. Here are two of my favorite Robert Frost winter poems, in honor of one of my favorite seasons at Big Sky Resort:
I had for my winter evening walk-
No one at all with whom to talk,
But I had the cottages in a row
Up to their shining eyes in snow.
And I thought I had the folk within:
I had the sound of a violin;
I had a glimpse through curtain laces
Of youthful forms and youthful faces.
I had such company outward bound.
I went till there were no cottages found.
I turned and repented, but coming back
I saw no window but that was black.
Over the snow my creaking feet
Disturbed the slumbering village street
Like profanation, by your leave,
At ten o'clock of a winter eve.
Dust of Snow
The way a crow
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree
Has given my heart
A change of mood
And saved some part
Of a day I had rued.
A Big Sky Moment by Kyle Nicholson
I awoke and looked outside
What the doctor ordered,
My eyes did abide.
Snow banks and fields abound
As yet more fluffy white flakes
At the site of this true winter wonderland,
Holds no bounds!
At the lift I could, and did,
At the top,
The whole world greeted with open arms!
Ski for days
And not the same run.
Ski for miles
All the same run.
I'm gonna be a little bit late!
Behold this paradise!
Behold this Big Sky!
I saw down with first-year snowreporter Joe Schufman to discuss weather stations, how Big Sky Resort's snow report is gathered each day, and what it feels like to provide the world with great powder news from Big Sky Resort.
What time do you usually wake up in the morning?
I wake up at 3:45 a.m., but usually don't get out of bed until about 4:00 a.m. Once you are used to waking up this early it's no different than waking up at 8:00 a.m.
What's the very first thing you do when you get into the office?
I head straight to the computer to figure out how much snow we received overnight and what is going to happen with snow and weather today. To figure out snow totals we use automated weather stations and an on-mountain camera. These stations provide accurate totals for most of the mountain below treeline, for upper mountain totals we need to wait until about 8:00 a.m. for Ski Patrol to get on Lone Peak, and then they radio us with what the upper mountain snow totals are.
We use the best information we have available to determine snow totals, but it's not an exact science when 5,800 acres of terrain is combined with wind, aspect, and elevation. To counter the variable snowfall totals we report a range of snow - the lower number of that range represents the amount of snow the entire mountain received, and the upper number represents the areas that received more snow due to wind loading or elevation.
Can you give me a step-by-step of who you talk to in the mornings to get the snow report out to the public? Where do they get the snow report from?
Once I have the weather information I record a message on the Snow Phone with the pertinent information for the day: Current temperature, expected high temperature, low temperature, winds, skies, snowfall and snow totals: since lifts closed, 24-hour, 48-hour, and 7-day. If there are major events happening at the resort I include those too.
Next, I send out the information via a fax and an email and then I update five websites: Beta Scout, OnTheSnow, SnoCountry, Ski Montana, and a European site, Ski Resort Service International. Then I re-update the Snow Phone and the call two local radio stations. Depending on how hard it's snowing in the morning we can update our channels as frequently as every 30 minutes.
After this we start building the grooming report, which also reports similar weather, snow, events, and, obviously, groomed trails. Paper and electronic copies are distributed around 7:00 a.m. resort-wide.
Where are the weather stations located?
Our automated weather stations are located all around Big Sky Resort, and we even use some of the Yellowstone Club's automated weather stations. I use the instruments at Bavaria, Andesite, Lobo and Lookout Ridge. If you check out http://www.mtavalanche.com/weather there is a map with the locations of all the weather stations in the area pinned.
Where do we pull temperatures from?
Sten, our web guru, programmed the temperature feed from our Lobo Weather Station. Lobo is a mid-mountain weather station that is more or less an average temperature for the entire resort. The difference of the peak and base area temperature is about 10 degrees, so the peak and base area are + or - 5 degrees of what is reported by this feed. Typically Lone Peak is slightly cooler than Lobo, and Mountain Village Base Area is slightly warmer than Lobo, but sometimes Big Sky Resort experiences temperature inversions. When an inversion occurs it means that higher elevations are warmer than lower elevations. Make sure to check out Big Sky Resort's online Snow Report or call the Snow Phone as we report inverted temperatures.
What's your favorite thing about doing the snowreport?
It's really cool to be the first person awake on a powder day and getting to report the great news to the world. Other perks of the job are I get to work in an office with an outstanding team, I get time to ski almost every day because I have half of my work day done by 9:00 am, and finally we get to work on projects that we find interesting. It's great to work in many areas of the resort and learn how many departments operate.
Least favorite thing?
No secret here, waking up early and getting to ski every day means you go to bed early and are almost exclusively dedicated to the job and skiing.
People often ask the snowreporters or other team members at Big Sky Resort why we have one report for the entire mountain. Why do we do this? Or why do you think we do this?
We have one report because it adequately describes the conditions. The nature of any mountain means different snow conditions exist in different areas depending on winds, aspects, and elevations. Big Sky Resort is bigger than most mountains, but this doesn't mean we need to have four separate snow reports for the different areas of the mountain. What we do, that most mountains don't, is use a range of snowfall to accurately represent the minimum amount of snow the entire resort received and the maximum amount that skiers and riders can expect to find.
What is the trickiest part about reporting on snowfall over 5,800 acres?
Figuring out the right numbers. Conservative or liberal snow numbers mean that people won't get what they expected, which may lead to very dissatisfied guests. The reports that we create need to accurately describe what is happening at Big Sky Resort, so that people know what to expect.
Any other comments?
The office that I work in is great. Everyone is dedicated to their job, and watching the Sales and Marketing Team work together is like a v12 engine running on all cylinders. Ana, a second year Big Sky Snow Reporter, is an amazing coworker. She is an exceptionally fun person with tons of character. She applies her personality and passion for skiing and riding to her job, and the results are great.
Snowreporter Joe Schufman
Snowreporter Ana Dostert
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