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.
"Where are all the female skiers?" This is not a slam on the Big Sky Shootout (or on any female skiers, including myself), but a reminder that I am not just an observer in this community, I'm also a participant. With only one female skier on screen (Hannah Holst, who absolutely killed it with those ‘80s eyes and ripping turns), why didn't more of us ladies make movies for the first annual Big Sky Shootout? For me I think it was the time constraints, or my fear of the editing room, but mostly I didn't make a film because it did not even occur to me to make one. This stalwart mentality to age-old customs of female creative insecurity is inexcusable. Female or not, perhaps you're also kicking yourself over not making a film. Needless to say, I have nothing but respect for the four films, filmmakers, and riders as they put everything out there for us to mock, cheer, and vote for, and that takes guts. Lone Peak Cinema's first annual Big Sky Shootout sponsored by Big Sky Resort was so much fun to attend. The sense of camaraderie in the sold out theater enhanced each films' storytelling ability as they were our stories shown to us from our peers (except perhaps winning film "Higher Love," which I hope is no one's story). For those who didn't get a ticket in time or just want to watch great ski films again, here they are in order from fourth place to first. Revel in the guts, glory, and gooberish stories shot in seven days and edited in two.
4th Place: "Natural Born Doobies"
**This video contains explicit content (profanity)
3rd Place: "No Name Movie"
**The music in this video contains explicit content (profanity)
2nd Place: "Fra-Breeze"
1st Place: "Higher Love"
Big Sky Resort's 11th Annual Dummy Jump was my first Dummy Jump experience. When first place finisher, Mutt Cutts hit the lip of the jump my heart skipped a beat. Not only was Mutt Cutts a piece of artistic-wonder, it was huge. Made mostly from newspaper and cardboard, Mutt Cutts didn't look like it would make it down the jump, let alone fly as far as it did. However, its fate was sealed: Mutt Cutts would destruct into thousands of pieces of newspaper. Although many Dummies destroyed on impact, such as Belarus Ballerina Tatiana Miller, face planting way before being hauled up the hill, and others, such as Side Jumpin' Joey, who face planted on the lip of the jump, Mutt Cutts was just plain exciting to watch. Other notable Dummies included: Big Red (I helped build this one!), Sweet Home Alabama, Hiley Vyrus, Tipsy Tipy, Turbo the Snail, Wile E Coyote, Flying Photo Goose, Checking Out, Weiner Thing a.k.a. Sweet Weiner, and many others including Dummy Jump's own sponsor, popchips' Barbie Q. (I also had a ton of delicious popchips that day and cannot wait to try the nacho cheese tortilla chips). Check out the results and then take a look at photos from the event:
6- Bubbly Betty by Alpha Hot Tub Maintenance, The Cain Family
5- Tipsy Tippy by Big Sky Resort Mountain Hosts
4- Wile E Coyote by Karst Kids
3- Tobi McFly by Team Shocker
2- Weiner Thing by Grizzly Outfitters and Ace Hardware
1- Mutt Cutts by Big Sky Resort Mountain Services
Heart and Soul Award- Sweet Home Alabama by Team Allen
Team Spirit Award- Better Together by Team Retail
Repeat Offender Award- Flying Photo Goose by Crystal Images
Second-place finisher Weiner Thing a.k.a. Sweet Weiner
Wile E Coyote
Last Saturday Big Sky Resort hosted the 9th Annual Headwaters Spring Runoff. This was my first annual runoff and the first time a monoskier (two bindings on one board) took on The Headwaters. It was also a first for many competitors with 10 who had never competed in a big mountain competition before, and an additional half dozen who had never competed in the Headwaters Spring Runoff. I was not alone in my new surroundings, but gained a sense of belonging from this event's community. More than one-hundred spectators littered the snowy knoll above the finish line with youthful, albeit dirtbag, cheers. None of the 39 competitors came to the hi-vis finish without a cowbell, a yodel, or a friend handing out gummy bears to bring them home. Even Big Sky Resort's videographer, whose footage you're about to see, yelled out a congrats or two. The vibe was alive in the Stillwater Bowl that day. I can't wait to see what the juniors are going to bring this Saturday in the second leg of the Headwater Spring Runoff. Check out the two videos and the entire list of scores for the adult competition below.
Cinematography and Edited by Chris Kamman
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