"Grab the orange rope." These are the words that were said over and over again by Big Sky Resort Zipline Guides Molly, Ross and Max on our Marketing Team Adventure Zipline outing on June 17. "The orange rope used to be black, but orange stands out better."
What exactly does the orange rope do? It's essentially the break. And it exists to make less work for the guides. Instead of having to grab us and pull us into the platform at the end of every line, the orange rope is connected to a black rope that pulls us in. Welcome to the world of ziplining. All four Adventure Ziplines go 35-45 mph and traverse treetops, valleys, and part of the Mountain Village Base Area, and a lot of time would be taken if the guides had to go out on the line and grab us every time.
On Tuesday morning, we left the base area around 10 and walked to Explorer Chairlift, which took us about a football field's distance from the first zipline, Swifty 3.0. Swifty 3.0 is the second longest line at 1,200 feet, and takes each zipliner over the run Crazy Horse. As well as the Marketing Team knows Lone Mountain in winter-quickly orienting ourselves via runs and chairlifts-I had no idea we were looking over Crazy Horse when I zipped across it. How strange and marvelous this mountain looks coated in green.
After establishing our bearings we zipped over to line two, Jerry's Terror. Eight hundred feet long, Jerry's Terror feels faster than Swifty 3.0 because it is shorter, but also because it is the highest of all four lines. I push off of Jerry's Terror Platform backwards and wave to the team as they become smaller and smaller. I feel at peace when I'm ziplining. Each Adventure Zipline takes only about 16-20 seconds to cross, but each time I zip that 16 seconds lasts long enough to clear my brain and think of nothing but the ecosystem surrounding me. Sixteen seconds is long enough to marvel at the beauty of the mountains, the trees, and possibly a moose. Ziplining is unique because it unionizes technology and nature to create adrenaline and then peace.
We repel 15 feet down off the landing platform for Jerry's Terror and walk to the third zipline, The Kessel Run. Named for the route Han Solo boasts he can take the Millennium Falcon in less than 12 parsecs in A New Hope, The Kessel Run zipline swoops low between the trees, simulating how riding a speeder through the Endor woods must feel in The Return of the Jedi or how Han must feel taking on The Kessel Run.
The final zipline on the Adventure tour is the Twin Zip where I raced (and defeated) my friend and coworker Michael Tallichet by a mere half a second. Ziplining next to someone is the most fun as the experience becomes shared.
We step off the final platform and walk back to the base area. We deposit our gear in the same pile where we picked it up two hours earlier and linger near our guides. There's a feeling of satisfaction from a great ziplining trip and we linger there because we want to hold on to that feeling as long as possible. It's a fairly simple activity, ziplining, but it's uniquely bonding, creating memories that will last a lot longer than 16 seconds.
The view from Jerry's Terror.
End platform on Twin Zip.
Lift-access mountain biking opens this week at Big Sky Resort. Summer in Big Sky means getting on the trail, in some fashion: on a bike, foot or by horse. There is some exciting new trail to talk about so I sat down with head of Terraflow Trails, Pete Costain, to chat about the latest work being done on trails at Big Sky Resort and in the community at large.
The new beginner trail off of Explorer recently opened. It's called Easy Rider.
That new beginner trail serves its purpose because it stands in antithesis to everything else that is here. It is easy, but it is a little rough because it had some weather damage over the winter. A beginner trail touches on the aspects of a freeride trail: You have subtle little rollers; you can feel your bike going up and down, really low angle, so it's a great start. Trail crew will continue maintenance throughout the summer.
What other trail work will be done in Big Sky?
We are working with BSCC to have them help complete a meadow to mountain trail. Essentially it's Middle Fork up to Flat Iron. We've rearranged its course it a little bit and it is a beautiful route. It'll still be about two miles of road and two miles of trail, but in the most scenic part of Andesite Mountain. You'll have panoramic views out over the valley, ride across Elk Park Ridge, and so many awesome views in both directions including views of the Spanish Peaks Golf Course. By the end of the summer we should have a trail from the meadow to the mountain. The new connector trail will be about 400 vertical feet of and about six miles round trip.
What are you working on right now?
The Big Sky Resort/Moonlight connector Otter Way. It will be an intermediate connector because we haven't engineered any airs into it, we've banked all the corners, everything bermed in a friendly way, and it's a 100 percent single-track-in-the-woods experience. You cross one ski run and one dirt road, but the rest puts you in the woods.
What is the vertical?
The vertical between the two is about 280. It's cross-country in a fun way. It's two miles with ups and downs in both directions, though mostly down when coming to the Big Sky side from Moonlight Lodge, and up on the way to the Moonlight side from Mountain Village.
So if you're going both directions and its single track how will bikers or hikers deal with that?
We also have approval or a bikes-only trail from Moonlight to Big Sky. Essentially you have an up-route, which is fun to ride, and then you'll also have a down-route, which is for bikes only. But we have not started that trail yet. It will also spit you out at the far end of Freeskier Parking lot and we'll build a corridor from there to bring you back to the base area. Both trails will be incredibly fun to ride down and up.
Fill me in on a few more details for the connector trail.
We do a lot of line-of-sight forestry. Even though the connector is a somewhat narrow trail, you've got line-of-sight. I'm really excited about eventually creating a European-style riding experience. You have places to eat in distinct geographical areas, and we just need to tie those together in a fun and functional way.
What are the most important factors you have to keep in mind when trail building?
Water drainage. Integrating fun and flow with drainage, and done right they are one and the same, is the most important. You even engineer constant drainage just by rolling your bike up and over the trails.
Dealing with rocks has been an eye-opener, but they're manageable. It takes that much more attentiveness on excavating, and a learning of technique to navigate the rocks when building trail. At first it seems overwhelming, but then it's manageable.
Other challenges include route selection. We don't want to put things in that are going to be torn out so we're looking for geographic and technical longevity. Brian Wheeler with Big Sky Resort and Civil Engineer Eric Butts have been awesome in helping us with that.
Tell us about the crew you're working with up here.
We started with me just building trail and having the local crew watch. I've also been laying the flags out accurately and then letting them build and then coming back and critiquing, but sometimes when something really doesn't go right we just go back and rebuild it. The cool thing is this crew is super receptive.
Are there plans for more downhill trails?
In my mind, yes. My pipe dream for Big Sky would be mountain biking off Southern Comfort. Southern Comfort is off the hook for mountain biking. It's not steep, it's got perfect rolling pitches and gullies. Ohhh, it's inspiring. I could see Swift Current as remaining great gnarly expert terrain, and Southern Comfort and Ramcharger becoming the everyman big flow trail. Of course we're talking in my dream world, but it could be three-tiered lift-access mountain biking with complete connectivity.
What are some of the tools you use to build trails?
A Mini Excavator. That is what Terraflow builds with. In this terrain with rocks and trying to save as many trees as we can, a trail dozer is too much. Mini Excavators allow us to be subtle. If you've been on the Moonlight trails they're fairly wide. We're building a section from the bottom of Pony Express up to Moonlight Lodge right now with a bigger machine so it will be a six-foot wide trail, but we usually don't want more than four feet.
How did you start Terraflow Trails?
We're about seven years old. We built Whitefish Mountain Resort's original trail, Runaway Train. When Whitefish Legacy Partners was talking about building a trail system around Whitefish no one was stepping up to the plate to build it.
As a mountain biker I had built trails my whole life, but often not sanctioned and I just did it for fun. So I saw this huge opportunity and rolled with it. On top of Whitefish trails I've done a lot of forest service work and I got a little mention in Bob Allen's Bike Magazine story on the Butte biking community. So that was really cool.
Inadvertently, Whitefish is the template for what I'm doing at Big Sky because I want athletic beginners to be able to do this connector trail, but experts to also enjoy it.
Any other thoughts on the future of mountain biking at Big Sky Resort?
We're in talks to build a Pump Track down in the Meadow.
What's a Pump Track?
A Pump Track is a little bit of a complement to a skate park. It's a fairly easy BMX track for Mountain bikes or BMX bikes. You should never have to pedal, but it's an incredible workout. It's also a complement to the modern flow trail because if you're a beginner, a berm or up and over things is a little weird, but the minute you get the rhythm it's incredibly fun. So a Pump Track is a 50x80 microcosm of a flow trail. Overall, I want to work with the whole community and make Big Sky a great trail destination.
A mini-excavator working on Otter Way.
New bike carriers on Swift Current.
North Slope Deli at Moonlight Lodge boasts a plethora of delicious breakfast and lunch options not least of which is their Fast Lane breakfast sandwich with turkey and their Hot Sandwiches grilled Panini-style with choice of bread (try the focaccia). Growing up skiing and hiking at Big Sky Resort my dad and I would lunch at North Slope Deli nine days out of 10 because of its ease of access, great views, delicious soups, and quiet atmosphere. Skip the crowds and check out North Slope Deli this summer or grab a great lunch for that Beehive Basin hike. My friend Lyndsey and I went to North Slope for lunch recently, enjoyed sitting in the sun, and topped off the great lunch hour with a North Slope Americano.
Although the best summer (and often winter) seating is out on the deck, the cozy and convenient indoor seating is where my dad and I would often sit when the snow was coming down outside.
The Drover Panini comes with Roast Angus beef, pepper-jack, apple wood bacon, on aioli, on focaccia with lettuce, tomato, red onion. The Panini focaccia was something I had never tried before. It is not too greasy and balances great with the roast beef.
A House Salad at heart, the Lone Tree salad is made from all regional vegetables and a flavorful Vinaigrette dressing. The salad: green leaf, carrots, peppers, cucumbers, tomato, sprouts, red onion, herbed croutons, and a choice of chicken.
The Moonlight Lodge deck shared by Jack Creek Grille Bar and Grille and North Slope Deli has one of the best views in Big Sky. With great views from the sun or shade, it's easy to enjoy the delicious food and great service.
If someone told me I would find five blouses, a sweater, and bracelets that were trendy in Big Sky I would have said: Ok maybe, but how much money am I going to spend? Turns out, not too much at all. With new shops and new renovations popping up around Big Sky's Town Center I walked and shopped last Saturday and found quite the mother-load of cute clothes.
At first appearance The Rhinestone Cowgirl looks exactly like its name sounds: Rodeo Queen Attire. However, The Rhinestone Cowgirl carries Mystree, a Vernon, Calif., brand with western simplicity in mind, and a number of not strictly western-looking clothes. Rhinestone also had an excellent sale rack collection with a number of winter items available for under $30. They also carry leggings and tights (something that's hard to find in Big Sky), and they have a variety of cute boots. The best part: My mom and I both found things we liked. In general not many stores cater to the 50-something and the 20-something.
Without an extensive fashion knowledge (beyond what I see on Pinterest and what my sister tells me what part of my wardrobe is out of fashion) I rely on local boutiques and buyers to help with my style. Mountain Maven and Big Sky Shirt Co. are no strangers to cute style. Big Sky Shirt Co. supplies the casual and cute, while Mountain Maven has the I-need-a-dress-for-a-wedding-this-summer pieces. The great thing about Maven is that the dresses I could buy for a wedding also work for business attire. These are the sort of versatile pieces missing from my wardrobe, but were found right here in Big Sky.
All three boutiques also have a plethora of gift ideas from soaps and hand creams at Rhinestone, to bow ponytail holders and rings at Maven, and hand-made fair trade African bracelets at Big Sky Shirt Co.
Needless to say, I was pleasantly surprised. A few shops I failed to mention that also have great winter and summer options are the new Signature Burton Store in the Mountain Village, Grizzly Outfitters in Town Center, a few dad-like options at East Slope Outdoors, and more.
Big Sky has a lot to offer for a town of 2,000, and I couldn't be more content with a town that prioritizes the outdoors, but doesn't forget other fun things in life like fashion.
Shirts from The Rhinestone Cowgirl, Big Sky Shirt Co, and Mountain Maven.
A new style for me, off the shoulder blouse from Mountain Maven.
A long sleeve black shirt, touch of western shirt from Mystree, and the sweater my mom purchased. All from The Rhinestone Cowgirl.
In most cities there's a wide range of special events and activities, which often lead to debilitating decision-making. But in small towns like Big Sky the entire community comes out for almost every event.
One of the first events of the summer was the Big Sky Wide Open on Saturday, June 8. The third annual putt-putt tournament Ophir School fundraiser took place from shop to shop around Big Sky's Town Center the second Saturday in June. Raising funds for our public schools couldn't be more fun. With holes designed around snowboards, slack lines, movie theater cut-outs, taxidermy Grizzly Bears, and old skee ball machines each par was more unique than the next. If only we could raise school funds more than once a summer...
Another great summer event I'm excited for is Brewfest on July 12. Big Sky Resort's Brewfest is in its 9th year and promises to be the largest beer festival in Montana. My favorite part is being outside, enjoying great beers with friends, and the live music. Roadkill Ghost Choir, who played The Late Show with David Letterman earlier this year, will perform at Brewfest alongside Hollow Wood.
Although I spend my fair share of time fly fishing in solitude, I love the annual Big Sky Fly Fishing Festival on July 26-27 because it combines one of my favorite hobbies with my love of socializing. I'll spend two days tackling the difficulties of fly fishing while sharing in the camaraderie. This festival makes for a fantastic way to enjoy food from the Gallatin Riverhouse, watch fly fishing films at Lone Peak Cinema, and, of course, catch some fish.
New this summer is Vine and Dine Festival. If there's one thing I like it's food and wine and someone telling me how to pair that food and wine. In particular I'm looking forward to the Big Sky Mountain Village Stroll because I'll have the chance to try a wide variety of wines from dozens of vineyards (including Green and Red Vineyards in Chiles Valley) as well as socialize with friends and wine reps. I intend to ask a lot of questions to learn everything I can about the ins and outs of wine tasting. With only a handful of other tastings under my belt, I'm looking forward to increasing my knowledge of wine and finding new appreciation for the art of wine tasting. Vine and Dine Festival is August 14-17 at Big Sky Resort.
Big Moon Rising Music Festival replaces Spruce Moose this year with its debut over Labor Day Weekend (August 29-30). I have not had a chance to see any of this year's bands live before and I cannot wait for the funk of New Orleans' Dumpstaphunk. Check out "Gas Man" performed by Dumpstaphunk in San Francisco.
Lastly, The Rut. In only its second year, it is now the International Skyrunner Federation's World Series Final, The Rut Vertical K, 12K and 50K promises to be even more impressive than the last. National Geographic Adventurer of the Year Kilian Jornet will make an appearance, and is sure to set a fast pace, in this ultramarathon of ultramarathons. Running is not my sport of choice, but I plan to cheer each runner on, cowbell in hand, and enjoy the Saturday afternoon BBQ, beer in hand. The Rut is one of those events unlike anything I have ever seen. It's too simplistic to say that it is impressive, it's a feat of physical fortitude, but more than that it is a feat of human spirit.
These are just a few of my favorite summer events around Big Sky. More info on these and other events can be found at bigskyresort.com/events
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