While the rest of the west suffers bleak ski conditions, Big Sky Resort has gotten plenty of pow. Now, we're sharing the love by inviting Epic Pass holders to ski free at Big Sky through January.
Colorado ski conditions have been less-than-epic this season. In Montana, that's not the case - with several large snowstorms and 3,381 acres open so far this season, Big Sky Resort has the best ski conditions and most open acres in the Rocky Mountains. With such good Montana conditions contrasting with Colorado's distinct lack of snow, Big Sky Resort is spreading the love by inviting Epic Pass holders to ski for free throughout the month of January.
"Big Sky has about twice the open acreage that Vail and Breckenridge do right now, plus we've had some great powder," said Chad Jones, Big Sky Resort Public Relations Manager. "And with other Epic Pass resorts like Heavenly at under 200 acres, we decided to share the wealth. We're a skier's and rider's mountain, and no one should miss out on good snow just because they live in Colorado or California."
The home of the Biggest Skiing in America, Big Sky Resort is currently open with 3,381 skiable acres, 4,350 vertical feet, and 100% of lifts running. From rolling groomers to chutes off of the Lone Peak Tram and Big Sky's 5 new gladed runs, 131 out of Big Sky's 155 named runs are currently open.
Epic Pass holders are now able to take advantage of these great conditions and join in the fun throughout January: Big Sky Resort will honor Epic Passes by allowing holders to ski free for the duration of their stay when they book lodging with Big Sky Central Reservations and ask for the Epic Package. Big Sky Resort will extend the Bring a Buddy Coupon to holders as well, allowing friends in their reservation without Epic Passes to ski for $74/day.
So stop praying for snow, and just come find it. See you soon, Coloradans!
Laper: a cross between a ski town local and a gaper. Here, I sport a classic Gaper Gap between my goggles and helmet.
Confession: I am a Laper.
A local gaper, that is. It might sound like an oxymoron, and until recently, I thought it was. Besides costumes on Dirtbag Day, there usually isn't much crossover between a year-round, geared-out ski town local who knows the ins-and-outs of snowsports and a gaper who goes around tripping over his skis and sporting a gaping gap between his helmet and goggles.
But while skiing with my local friend Eric, he pointed out that despite the fact that I live in Big Sky, I don't quite exude the "local" vibe. In fact, he said, I was leaning more towards "gaper."
I did not take this as a compliment.
"But I've skied since I was three!" I argued. "I started skiing out West as a teen! I spent a whole semester of high school backcountry skiing through the Sawatch Range! I skied every weekend in college and have skied most of the West's major resorts! I moved to a ski town and I live in the home of the Biggest Skiing in America!"
"Yeah," Eric said, "but look at your skis..."
He was right. My once new Solomon Siam n°8's wreaked of 2005, which in ski years put them at about 150 years old. My boots, too, were a relic of 2002, barely better than rear entry (my feet haven't grown since 10th grade... If a shoe fits, you wear it, right?). While I at least rock a Patagonia coat, my frumpy snow pants were a $20 T.J. Maxx find, and underneath were a pair of tiger-striped spandex.
But I've never touted myself as a gear head, and there's more to being a gaper than having outdated or ridiculous gear. It's not even about being a novice - everyone has to start somewhere, and newbie skiers with the right attitude qualify as beginners, not gapers. It's more about being clueless - hitting the slopes while remaining oblivious to all ski etiquette, culture, and other skiers.
And gapers are a big part of the ski culture too. Big Sky ski culture even boasts less of a - dare I call it a "gaper gap?" - between locals and out-of-towners than many resorts. On a lift ride with a jeans-and-open-neon-jacket-skier and a local arc'teryx-and-fatty-pow-skis-skier, the local doled out insider tips on his favorite runs. In the plaza, a steezed out rider showed a struggling skier the easiest way to carry her gear. In Chet's bar and Grille, a local traded his recommendation on the best Montana microbrew for tips on where to eat and stay on an off-season trip to Austin.
So I decided to embrace my hybrid status and fancy myself a true Laper - a crossover and bridge between two important aspects of ski culture. Sure I live in Big Sky and am a ski veteran, but I'm no Scot Schmidt, and I obviously have no problem with outdated gear. So while I recently sprang for the Rossi S90 W's and a pair of new boots (to all my gaper counterparts I will say this: the better the gear, the easier the turns), I'm sticking with my frumpy snow pants and neon flare. And my orange Bogner onesie circa 1985? It won't just be my Pond Skim costume anymore.
Most ski town locals are transplants, and we all have a little gaper in our past. So I invite you to join me. Locals, break out your old snowsuit and hit the slopes with someone less experienced in the ways of powder and PBR. Gapers, own your style while honing your skills on the mountain and spending après meeting locals at a dive bar. Join the Lapers, bridging the Gaper Gap one snowsuit at a time.
The sweetest outfit on the mountain in 1986, wearing this today would gain Big Sky skier Dave Granger full Gaper status.
How not to carry your skis.
Big Sky partiers dance at the famous SnoBar, to be held Jan. 14th and 21st this year. Proceeds from the Jan 21 SnoBar will benefit the family of Jamie Pierre.
MUSIC. SNOW. ICE LUGES. Glowsticks. Flashyblinkylights.
SnoBar, held the next two Saturdays at Big Sky, is the ultimate winter party. Some might even say it's the coolest bar they've ever been to - literally: Big Sky's SnoBar is held in an outdoor venue made completely of snow and ice. Dancing, puffy coats, and jager luges keep partiers warm - a must when the bar you're bellying up to is well below freezing.
Other bars have tried to simulate the effect. Most famously, IceBar in London is an indoor bar kept at -5 degrees year round, and guests are given thermal capes for their 40-minute time allotment in the all-ice venue.
But in Big Sky, we don't fake this stuff. Our ice the real deal, sent to us by Old Man Winter and crafted into a dance club by the Big Sky Terrain Park Crew each January. We don't hand out stylish capes, but we do hand out glowsticks, and we've braved party temperatures colder than a balmy -5 degrees. Come on, Londoners - Big Sky knows what a real winter party looks like.
Last Sunday, Big Sky ripper Dave Stergar banged out 26 Tram laps in a row, clocking 24.9 miles and 39.6k vertical feet at 51.7mph, and torching 829 calories - all off the top of Lone Peak.
Yesterday the sun, snow, and wind all aligned for one of those legendary ski days you talk about for years to come. Yesterday I skied 26 perfect tram laps in a row.
Before you get too excited, 26 isn't the record. The record, I hear, is closer to 30, and it wasn't me. Still, even on a good day skiers don't usually get in more than a handful - uncontrollable factors like weather, fatigue, waiting time, and conditions can all get in the way of double digit numbers, even if you set out with a goal. Before this weekend, my personal best was 20 - it was over 10 years ago, and even then my legs started aching around lap 17 and it took me took me 3 full days to recover.
This time, I didn't set out with an agenda - I even slept in. But luck, timing, and wind were on my side. I met my ski pal Ben at the base of the triple chair, really not knowing what we were getting ourselves into. We knew we were going to ski the peak because conditions had been incredible, so we skied down to the Tram just as it opened at about 10am. As we skied off the top I suggested we spin a quick one as there wasn't a line yet, and there still wasn't when we cruised back down to the Tram Dock. As we were loading the next cabin up to the top we overheard that the Triple chair, the only lift access to the tram, was going to be closing due to wind.
This, folks, is how 26 Tram laps happen.
Knowing that we weren't going to have to wait in line for as long as the wind-hold lasted on the Triple, we signed out for the Big Couloir and hit the Gullies again, lapping them three times before our turn on The Big. Run after run, the Triple stayed closed and the line stayed empty - we walked on each tram car like it was our own personal helicopter to a deserted powder paradise.
But taking advantage of this opportunity did come with some sacrifice - to be able to make it back to the Tram each time, we had to ski shorter laps that didn't require skiing below the closed Triple chair. Every time we skied across the top of Liberty Bowl and Lenin, runs leading away from the base of the Tram, we looked down at the creamy goodness and were tempted to drop in. But we traded one 2,500 + vertical drop off the West and South sides for 20 1,400 vertical drops above the bowl. We had to put off that long incredible run until it was our last, hoping that our legs would hold up that long. It would be like the icing on the cake or the cherry on top of the sunday.
So we continued our quest, first hoping to make it to 15 runs. Our goal of 15 turned to 20, then 25 as we kept lapping the Gullies; third shoulder, first all the way through, back to third, over to Crons. As a day like this unfolds, a skier starts by trying to be first out of the tram cabin. By the end, we wanted to be first into the tram cabin for one of the few precious tram seats in an attempt to save our legs.
After we reached our goal of 25 laps, we had to do one more just to make sure. The cherry on top - that last, long, 26th run - was the most delicious end to a Sunday I've ever had.
- Dave Stergar, Big Sky skier and TWISI guest writer
Even expert skiers like Big Sky's Katie Grice can be taken down by the terrifying Snow Snake.
HALLOWEEN HAPPENS once a year, but you don't have to wait to visit a haunted house each October to get your adrenaline pumping. Get your fear-fix all winter long on Big Sky's scariest runs:
10) Wounded Knee: Dodging in and out of trees and over bumps, legend has it even Big Sky General Manager Taylor Middleton has stayed away from this run ever since the knee injury that prompted him to name the trail.
9) Bear's Lair and Snake Pit: Did you hear that rustling in the conifers? It may just be Big Sky's resident black bear waking up from his hibernation. Take one wrong turn and you might just end up in the middle of a hungry bear's den. As for Snake Pit: Beware! The snow snakes on this one are truly killer.
8) Mad Wolf: Staring down at this never-ending field of moguls can get anyone's heart racing, and it won't stop as you pound bump after bump, getting one of the biggest ski workouts of your life. Proceed with caution, as these moguls run top to bottom without a break.
7) The Shack of Dirtbags Past: On frosty winter days it's said that a small cabin or shack may appear before you on the trail - it's the haunted shack of dirtbags past, often hidden from view in a cloud of mysterious vapors.
6) Huntley Hollow: The ghost of newscaster and Big Sky founder Chet Huntley is rumored to dwell on this spooky trail. On gusty days you may just hear the faint voice of Chet reciting old newscasts as the wind whips through the trees.
5) Lenin and Marx: These steep runs off the tram aren't named after brutal dictators for nothing. By the end of Lenin and Marx you'll be swearing your American patriotism and reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.
4) A-Z Chutes: No matter which of these scary cutes you choose, it's the hike that makes these runs some of the more terrifying at Big Sky. Skis over your shoulder, a sheer wall to your left, and cliff to your right, you'll be relieved to click back in and start making turns.
3) Little Couloir: Don't let the "Little" part fool you - this run is one of the biggest fright-factors for local skiers. Open only a few times a year when the conditions are right, there are still serious consequences for one wrong move on this terrifying run.
2) Big Couloir: The classic hardcore run at Big Sky, you'll need to bring your avalanche gear and sign out with ski patrol to hit this slope, which reaches over 50 degrees at its steepest point. The secret is to make it past the no-fall zone to the Dog's Leg, where you wait for your ski partner to drop in. But the most bloodcurdling part of our number two scariest run isn't even the terrain - it's the eyes that are watching you from the tram as it passes above, and the pressure to perform can be more frightening than anything.
1) Natural Half-Pipe: Green circle it may be, but this run might just also be a secret deathly ski-trap. Exhibit A: the neck brace I had to wear after coming in contact with a tree there in the winter of 09/10, one of the worst ski accidents on the mountain that year. Don't let the grooming and easy grade deceive you - the trees on this run will jump out of nowhere, and I'm convinced this is the scariest run at Big Sky.
Skiing on these scary runs can make Frankenstein's monster out of anyone - this one is a result of the secretly scary Natural Half Pipe.
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