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.
Stoked for winter? I am too. And what better way to sustain that stoke for the 65 days until Opening Day at Big Sky Resort than to catch as many ski and snowboard movies as possible this fall. Here's a look at my fall of 2014 favorites:
1) Matchstick Productions' Days of My Youth
Big Sky Resort will be at Days of My Youth premiere in Missoula Oct. 3 and Big Sky Oct. 18. Come say hi!
2) Jeremy Jones' Higher
Jeremy Jones has been blazing a snowboard documentary trail for five years now as he explores the limits of what big mountain freeride snowboarding means in Deeper (2010), Further (2012), and Higher (2014). Check out Higher in Bozeman on Oct. 9 and Missoula on Oct. 10.
3) Teton Gravity Research's Almost Ablaze
TGR continues to impress with film from athletes Angel Collinson, Dana Flahr, Ian McIntosh, and Sage Cattabriga Alosa. See it with Big Sky Resort Sept. 26 in Big Sky.
4) Warren Miller's No Turning Back
Anything Warren Miller produces hits close to home as he resides in Big Sky so much of the year. Just hearing that iconic voice of ski movies makes me want to ski. This year it's no different. Check out No Turning Back in Helena Oct. 24, Missoula Oct. 25, and Bozeman Oct. 26.
As fashion week comes to a close in New York City and Los Angeles and as ski season moves to the forefront of my mind, it's time to talk ski fashion. Ski fashion is far from my area of expertise as I have worn the same winter jacket and pants since 10th grade. Last year it was new pants and a new helmet, but this year it's new goggles and a new jacket.
What can I say about ski fashion?
1) Assess what is in my closet. Does any of my gear have duct tape keeping it together? Will this keep me warm? These are my top 2 questions for gear assessment because as much as I want to look fashionable, practicality comes first.
2) Grab The September Issue (aka: the gear guide issue) of a ski/snowboard magazine. Not only do these magazines know what's best for spending the majority of one's winter outside, but they also often have cute models to display this gear.
3) Shop ski swaps. Sure fashion week in New York doesn't parade around last year's mock turtle neck, but ski swaps are home to hidden gems.
4) Figure out what is necessary to buy and what can wait until next year. I try to balance my ski gear spending with apres and groceries needs and suggest everyone do the same. After all, what's the point of fashionable ski wear without the chance to apres with it?
5) No matter what any ski bum or grommet may say, everyone in the ski industry cares about what they look like on the hill. It's in our human ego DNA. That said, I try to care less and less every year because new ski gear is not cheap, and, because, when it comes down to it fashion + skiing = style, but style only gets me so far. I still have to ski fast, ski hard, and love what I do.
As summer season at Big Sky Resort comes to a close there are still some great deals at Big Sky Sports on last year's gear (highly recommend this), and The Burton Signature Store also can't be beat on style. Check those out and shred in style this winter.
With record breaking skier visitation at 473,000, up seven and a half percent year over year combining Moonlight Basin, the mantra, Better Together, rings true. However, Better Together doesn't stand alone as a symbol of one resort or a symbol of how pulling together results in a record-breaking season, with it comes individual stories and personal reflection on the community of Big Sky and the love of Lone Mountain. Long-time local and Big Sky Resort employee Victor Deleo shares his perspective on what Better Together means from someone who cares for the community and the mountain. To read the full story, check out the latest issue of Live Big Magazine coming Summer 2014 to Big Sky Resort.
In 2003, I was like most young men in Big Sky, Montana. Skiing ruled my life. Big Sky Resort boasted over 4000 vertical feet, 400 inches of snow, and averaged 2 acres per skier. There was no better place for the skier to be. Then suddenly it got better.
That summer, more lifts were erected, more lodges were built, and for the first time in 20 years, a new destination ski resort was opened in the USA: Moonlight Basin. And conveniently, this resort was attached to our already-enormous and beloved mountain. We had more ski runs, more jobs, and more beds for guests. The skiable acres would be so huge, I was sure I'd never have to cross another ski track. But at the same time, things were changing for us that I wasn't expecting. Moonlight Basin brought another base area lodge, a new logo, and another lift system. Skiers began choosing one resort and not the other. While we were all gaining more opportunity, we were becoming slightly divided as a community at the same time. That's how it was for the folks that skied here. This was one mountain, and yet, every skier had to choose a side when he purchased his lift ticket or season pass. Even Aspen had four mountains that were a drive apart, and yet, they had one lift ticket. Then in 2005, with the collaboration of both ski resorts, came a combined option, The Lone Peak Pass. Skiers could finally ski the whole mountain on one, single purchase which was, as Christopher Solomon of the New York Times wrote in 2006, "the most you can ride in the United States without clicking out of your bindings."
Years later, the Lone Peak Pass was appropriately renamed The Biggest Skiing in America Pass because no other ski area had more acres. While this integration was a monumental accomplishment, it was still two resorts, one mountain, and three lift ticket options. Finally, in October 2013, ten years after the creation of Moonlight Basin, both resorts integrated under one name and one lift ticket. Big Sky Resort could claim with certainty, "The Biggest Skiing in America. Period." So now, guests purchase one ticket and have access to the whole thing.
Big Sky Resort's General Manager, Taylor Middleton said it best. "The integration has fueled record-breaking visitation which helps businesses and residents in our community." The integration has given Big Sky Resort the edge in the marketplace as the largest single ski resort in the US. It is now easier to book a vacation here. Our community is no longer divided. And for me, I'm still not crossing ski tracks.
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!
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