The skiing and snowboarding at Big Sky Resort has been fantastic this year (I can attest to the skiing, the snowboarding is hearsay). With nearly a 100" base on the upper mountain, conditions are solid and powder can be found off of every lift. Mother Nature and Father Sky continually look kindly on Big Sky Resort as we have received snow 24 of the last 27 days, yet the sun has also shined through providing plenty of goggle tans.
Last Saturday, I skied off of Moonlight area lifts all day. As someone who grew up going to Big Sky Resort from the early 90s until today, I have been fortunate to explore the Moonlight side of Lone Peak this year. The first few runs of the day I stuck close to Moonlight Lodge (ensuring to get some of those Parmesan Garlic Fries on my ride break), mostly skiing in the trees through Upper Bearcat Gully, Hollywood or Snake Bite to Lower Bearcat Gully, Iron Maiden, and Dogwood. One word describes these runs, especially on a powder day: Contagious. Skiing in the gully near Iron Horse Lift is a unique experience few mountains provide. Sweet snowy turns through the trees give me an infectious delight. Although these runs are not as long as so many others up here off Lone Peak, they're worth exploring.
After my fries at Moonlight Lodge I ventured over to Lone Tree Lift to huck some cliffs. Kidding! But I did take a few hops off of small rocks on Lone Tree and enjoyed the subtle black diamond Grizzly Meadows.
The days I spend skiing pass by in a blur. How very lucky we all are to be able to welcome and enjoy all the fresh snow we received at Big Sky Resort, about 90" this past February. March is just getting started and I'm looking forward to yet another month of making the best of a great snowy situation.
Photo by Ryan Turner Photography
Inside Moonlight Lodge
I've been skiing Big Sky Resort since I was three years old. However, the 2013-2014 winter is my first thorough exploration of all Lone Mountain has to offer, and what a winter it has been. We've had snow 15 out of the last 15 days, and each day I go out I take a Tram lap or two, but always find myself seeking new trails in the trees. I hope this list of my favorite runs at Big Sky encourages a bit of adventure-seeking through the boughs of old Evergreens as well as discovery of new terrain from the top of Lone Peak to the bottom.
Buffalo Jump and Buffalo Trees. Although Swift Current Lift glides directly past Buffalo Jump, it is a run often untracked, especially skier's left in the trees. The spacing of these trees allows for a perfect three-or-four-turn line before taking the fall line into a gully that eventually falls into Crazy Horse. I love tree runs, and this is one of the best. Named after the American Indian ritual of herding buffalo to their deaths by running them off of cliffs, Buffalo Jump (or Pishkun) is not filled with cliff bands although there are a few jumps to be found.
Challenger Trees. Powder stashes galore. I skied Challenger Trees just a few days ago and found line after untracked line. BRT (Big Rock Tongue) Road, which takes skiers over to Moonlight Lodge or Iron Horse Lift, breaks up this series of tree stashes skier's left of Challenger Lift: Like separating the wheat from the chaff.
Mr. K. Mr. K is everyone's favorite. OK, maybe not everyone, but it's a fantastic run with perfect pitches and fun to be had for skiers at all levels.
Elk Park Ridge. Elk, also known as "Wapiti," which means light-colored deer in Shawnee, could be found grazing in open meadows much like this one. I love Elk Park Ridge because I can ski it multiple times in many ways: a warm-up cruiser or go a little off-piste and find some freshies to skier's left.
Crazy Raven. Just a few runs skier's right from Elk Park Ridge lies Crazy Raven, a fantastic tree run with something new to explore every time. Named by John Kircher, Crazy Raven gets its name from the flock of lunch-stealing ravens residing in the area when the run was being cut. Even though the ravens stick closer to the top of Andesite these days, I don't recommend sitting down for a picnic lunch on this run anytime soon. Just point ‘em downhill and find fresh powder on this beautiful Andesite tree run.
Dirtbag Wall. To skier's left of Marx the Dirtbag Wall holds wonderful snow from top to bottom. The Dirtbag Wall fills in nicely this time of year and with a variety of chutes to choose from (specifically called Ace, King, Queen, Jack, and Wild Card) skiing Dirtbag Wall over-and-over again is quite satisfying.
Single Jack. Montana was founded on the backs of miners, and Single Jack is no exception to this history. A single jack is a hammer, essentially, with a four-pound head and 10-inch handle used for striking steel for drilling. This is not at all what it feels like jumping into Single Jack from Lookout Ridge off of Lone Tree Lift. Single Jack is a pleasant and wonderful tree run.
Pixie Trees. Pixie Trees is untouched. Between Far South and Eldorado on the Southern Comfort Lift side of Andesite lies wide open tree skiing among beautiful Lodgepole Pines. Since Far South and Eldorado are both Green Circles few beginners ski into the trees and few moderate to expert skiers find it beneficial to explore the fantastic terrain off SoCo.
*Historical facts courtesy of Dr. Jeff Strickler's The Skier's Guide to the Biggest Skiing in America.
Photo © Ryan Day Thompson, 2014 | www.ryandaythompson.com
Photo © Ryan Day Thompson, 2014 | www.ryandaythompson.com
"Skiing is a dance and the mountain always leads."-Anonymous
"You don't make a photograph just with a camera. You bring to the act of photography all the pictures you have seen, the books you have read, the music you have heard, the people you have loved."-Ansel Adams
Ski photography has a history as long as skiing itself. The following photos are from the past two weeks at Big Sky Resort. A place where sunny bluebird powder days and snow falling powder days both mean beautiful photos and smiling friends enjoying the mountain dance.
Photo: Chris Kamman
Dan's Cookies now open at the Tram.
Photo: Perry Rust
I grew up in Great Falls, Montana. Great Falls sits on the banks of the Missouri River in the high plains of Central Montana, nestled near the eastern edge of the Rocky Mountains. Between the plains, the edge of the mountains and the Chinook winds (Chinook means "eater" or "snow eater") I often did not have white Christmases. A lack of snow is hard to believe considering Great Falls averages 50 inches a year of snowfall. Nevertheless, Great Falls could be as barren as a brick on Christmas Day.
Christmas 2013 will be different.
Not only has Big Sky had snow for about a month now, but it has had a lot of snow. Christmas in Big Sky is not going to be like Irving Berlin's White Christmas, where it doesn't snow in Vermont until Christmas Eve. Christmas in Big Sky is not going to be like a Caribbean Cruise, where it may be warm, but the only skiing that could possibly happen is behind a boat. Christmas in Big Sky is going to be epic-with white flakes floating softly to the ground, evergreens covered in snow, with the historical Huntley Lodge surrounded by Christmas lights like the night sky, and with a fresh turn or two to break in those new skis. Big Sky Resort offers a white Christmas for everyone, and I couldn't be happier.
Photo by Jen Rook.
Part of me feels unoriginal and predictable in writing about things to be thankful for on Thanksgiving Day. However, I actually do have a lot to be thankful for and why not take at least one day a year to write those things down. I am thankful for:
1) Opening Day! Today is opening day at Big Sky Resort. Get out there and ride with us.
2) Snow. Perhaps snow should be first on the list, as one can't have an opening day at a ski resort without it, but I am so thankful we are open for skiing once again. I have a pen pal in Fortaleza, Brazil, who has never seen snow. It is so hard for me to imagine her life-a life without snow. I see and play in snow every winter, and have a job thanks to snow, yet I am always surprised by it and thankful for it.
Photo: Ryan Day Thompson
3) My family. They are always ready with a good joke after I've had a rough day.
4) My Big Sky Resort family. Not only do I have an amazing job, but I have great teammates and managers. The managers at Big Sky Resort truly care about where I am headed in my job position and in my career. This isn't something that happens everywhere and it is easy to take for granted so I am thankful for this great team at Big Sky Resort.
5) Skiing. Enough said.
6) Big Sky Resort purchasing Moonlight Basin. I can't wait to ski Moonlight Basin all the time this winter. I respect and thank all those involved in the merger who have a vision for Lone Peak and the Big Sky Community.
7) A sense of humor. This can really help an office and a small resort community when stress is high. Something as little as a team member pranking every team member in the office with a plastic cockroach. Of course if we had cockroaches in Montana it might be a different story.
8) The lack of cockroaches in Montana.
9) Montana Wildlife. Even in winter you might see a Big Horn Sheep or a Pine Marten.
10) Pumpkin Pie (with a dollop of Cool Whip).
I have much more to be thankful for, but enough writing, it's time to give thanks out on the mountain.
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