Somewhere around the seventh or eighth arcing turn through the untracked snow, it hit me: skiing deep powder is as close to flying as you can get. It was a bluebird day in February, and Big Sky was in prime condition-the temps were cold, all the lifts were open, and the snow had fallen every night for the last two weeks. I was on the south side of Lone Peak, weaving through tight trees, fluffy snow blowing up past my hips with each sharp turn. The powder was light, bouncing me weightlessly down the hill at top speed. Every tiny shift to my board floated me in a new direction. I edged hard, a wave of snow blasting over my head, and I sat down laughing. With endless blue skies above and miles of perfect snow under my board, it was hard not to smile.
As a Montana native, I'd been going to Big Sky since Clinton was in office. Lone Peak couldn't hold any more surprises-but in just 15 minutes, Ben proved me wrong. As my Mountain Sports guide, he found a secret forest covered in deep powder you might never find without a professional's help. He skied down and stopped next to me.
"Where do you want to go?" Ben asked, unfolding the trail map and tracing his finger over the run we'd
just done. For over ten years, Ben had spent every season on the snow, guiding guests, teaching people to ski, and sampling every one of the hundreds of runs that Big Sky has to offer. "No matter what you're in the mood for, I can make it happen." The first run we'd been on was incredible, but I wanted to stump him. Thanks to the recent integration with Moonlight Basin, Big Sky now stretched across more than 5,800 acres of powder-and there was no way he could show me it all.
"Show me everything," I said.
He laughed. "You know... I think we can do that."
By the end of the day, every muscle in my legs ached. From the top of Lone Peak to the bottom of Moonlight Basin, we'd covered untold miles of snow and thousands of feet of elevation. Part of me wanted just one more long, cruising groomer, but my quads wouldn't allow it. Ben laughed as I struggled to unclip my bindings at the base area. "You know, we didn't have to ski full-tilt all day long," he said. "But you did want to see all of Big Sky... I'd say we just about did it."
I glanced back at Lone Peak with a big smile on my face, and it was like looking at a brand new mountain.
"Thank you so much, Ben. Now... when can we go again?"
-Dave G Reuss
Contact the Mountain Village Snowsports School at (406) 995-5743, or at firstname.lastname@example.org to book a guided tour of Big Sky Resort. Also pick up the latest issue of Live Big Magazine at Big Sky Resort to read the full article on Dave's adventures.
Photo © Ryan Day Thompson, 2014 | www.ryandaythompson.com
Here's a video look back to mid-December 2012 when 60 inches fell in one week, and waist-deep powder was all we could find. If this doesn't inspire for the winter ahead, I don't know what will.
Filmed and edited by Chris Kamman
What does it mean to be in this place and time? Why are we here in Big Sky and not anywhere else? The following video asks these questions, and takes winter stoke to a whole new level. Enjoy it, absorb it, and tune into what the winter season will bring.
Edited by Michael Jezak
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 chair lift. 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.
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.
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