Last week the snowfall was generous in the Spanish Peaks. Nearly half a meter of fresh powder made us all freak out in our own special kind of way.
It is days like March 25 that the old adage, "there are no friends on a powder day," shows its truth and power. I was excited enough for the five or so inches that fell the day before the big dump, but as I woke up with the sunrise and checked the morning snow report finding an additional 15"+ of snow, all bets were off for the day. I was going riding, and nothing was going to stop me, not even a telephone job interview I was scheduled for at 11am.
On days like this I usually drive straight over to the Madison Base to avoid any "crowd" (as small to non-existent as the lift lines are on the mountain village side, they're even smaller out of Madison). I had to be diligent about checking the time though, as I needed to be at the Big Sky base in order to get a signal for my interview.
By 11:45 I was on my way up to spend the rest of the day doing laps on the tram, and later Challenger. Run by run I was entranced by this bottomless freedom. I don't know how many more days like that we might get this year, but I do know that if we do I will be dropping almost everything for those few perfect turns. Perfect turns all day long and the job interview went great. I can't let anyone tell me it's not possible to make work and doing what you love coexist.
Big Sky Resort won onthesnow.com's Best Resort Terrain Award in 2014, and for good reason. Not only does Big Sky have diverse terrain for every skill level, both alpine and sub-alpine, but it boasts skiing more than 300 degrees around iconic Lone Peak.
I love the run length Liberty and Dakota Bowls offer, taking me from powder fields to trees back to fields a half a dozen times in one run. But I also love the expansiveness of the terrain off the very top. Feeling adventurous? Check out the North Summit Snowfield or the Big Couloir. Feeling a day of tram laps? Don't miss the Gullies. Want to get into the backcountry? Check out easily accessible Dakota Bowl. The possibilities from Lone Peak are nearly inexhaustible, and the diversity of terrain means great snow no matter what month in the winter it is. Here's a sampling of shredding those 300 degrees around Lone Peak:
1. North Summit Snowfield. Start on the North side with one of the longest runs with epic views the entire way down to Six Shooter Lift.
2. Liberty Bowl. Neighboring Dakota Bowl, Liberty is a must shred for any skier. It's long, powder-filled, and fun.
3. Marx. This double black diamond takes you to the Dirtbag Wall, but has its own right to be skied top to bottom without any stops. Marx is just over from Lenin, but often has completely different snow. The wind is Marx's friend.
4. Dirtbag Wall. These short and steep chutes are a blast. Try ‘em all!
5. The Gullies. Just above The Bowl, The Gullies are a great and fast run down the northeast side of Lone Peak.
6. The Big Couloir. A bucket list line for experienced skiers. It's technical and fun. Being in eyesight of The Tram is what intimidates riders, but sometimes I ski better when people are watching (except for the times I don't).
Photo: Chris Kamman
On Wednesday, March 4 Big Sky Resort had a few inches of fresh snow and a few hours of sunshine. I took to the terrain parks and to the groomers over my lunch break for some fast and sunny laps on Lone and Andesite Mountains.
My first mission was to head up Swift Current Lift and over to Zero Gravity Terrain Park, hoping to hit the first and newest jump in the three jump line. Since the second and third jumps are a little out of my skill level I was stoked when the Terrain Park Crew put the first jump in. My first take I did a few too many speed checks, hitting the landing a little short, so I made my way down to Six Shooter, enjoying the rest of the fresh corduroy in Zero Gravity and a little of the off-piste powder on the edges of the run.
For time's sake I had to put on hold my second attempt on the first jump because I wanted to get back over to the Mountain Village Base Area and head up Andesite for some fast runs down Elk Park Ridge and Big Horn. Big Horn was fun and fast, taking just a few turns into the groomed lines, sharpening my edges like a super G racer. Elk Park Ridge is always a blast with its long rolling pitches. I always make a point of looking across at Lone Mountain Trail for the skier's perspective from the hill because I look at Elk Park Ridge every morning from the driver's perspective. What beautiful symmetry Andesite Mountain gives.
With the first Sunset Saturday under our belts, I can't wait for longer sunny days on fresh groomed runs, exploring the feel of my skis on untracked lines.
Skier: Dani Menter Photo: Michael Jezak
Before my son and I arrived at Big Sky, one thing was clear. We weren't going to be able to ski it all.
Big Sky is an enormous resort with 5,800 acres, 30 chair lifts, and terrain draped across four distinct mountain peaks.
And while we weren't even sure we'd make it to each lift, we pledged to get up early, ski all day and explore as much of this Montana mountain as possible.
And for two days, we did just that.
Led by a friend, and inspired by the trail map, we spent our first day doing everything from skiing untracked corduroy on Andesite Mountain to hiking the Headwaters boot pack to the A-Z Chutes. We made at least one run on each of the resort's mountains, and rode about half the lifts, including the Lone Peak Tram with its breathtaking "don't miss" views.
By evening we were beat.
Waking up to fresh snow on the ground and more falling from the sky revives even the most tired legs, and day two found us repeating some of our favorites, while continuing the exploration on Lone Mountain's South Side.
And while we certainly saw a lot, we didn't even come close to seeing it all.
Here's why we'll be back and why your family should definitely plan a trip to Big Sky.
Whether you've got two days or a week, or (even better!) two weeks, you don't want to miss "America's Biggest Skiing."
Check out more stories from The Brave Ski Mom here.
Like many people around here, I moved west in search of big mountains and deep, cold, soft snow; when I moved to Montana five years ago from Kansas I had never skied on a real mountain, or real snow for that matter, and my transition from a Midwest park-rat to a big mountain rider had quite the steep learning curve. Today, I live to ride Headwaters, Big Couloir, or back in Beehive Basin, so it should come as no surprise that I tended to get frustrated when the Tram, Triple or Shedhorn would be on wind hold. That is until the other day, when my buddy Jonathan called me up and wanted to just cruise around and ski all the terrain lower on the mountain that we always pass over on our way to the peak. Something clicked in my head that day that reminded me why I do this: because it's fun, because friends are awesome, and because life shouldn't be taken too seriously.
Old man winter brings us great snow year in and year out, I am thankful for what we have each season, remember not to take it too seriously, and remember that it could always be worse, trying to ski ice covered mole-hills back in Kansas.
Photo: Patrick Larson
Photo: Erik Morrison
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