I lived in Big Sky for so long that when I returned this week, locals still said, "Welcome home." It's a comforting greeting, but it's bigger than that. The mountains themselves, the lift towers, my personal powder stashes-they all seem to greet me with that same familiar voice. But now that I live in New York City, after one lap from the Tram, my legs hurt so bad that I felt like I'd been rejected. It became abundantly clear that I was a visitor.
On my first day skiing Lone Peak, my thighs hated me, my lower back reminded me that I was old, and the rest of my body cursed me for not embracing yoga. So this is what it was like to not be a local.
But the mountain is still my home no matter how much it hurts. And the way it had been snowing, the heavans seem to welcome me back too. Or maybe they were teasing me and all the other visitors who suffered the same aches. C'mon, the snow nagged, just one more run.
On my last Tram lap of the day, I must have wiped out a hundred times. Granted, my crashes were soft, but I was so tired, I was sure I'd never walk again. The snow kept coming, and somehow, something bigger than myself, lifted me up for one more.
That's the magic of a ski resort like Big Sky. No matter how much its enormous mountains challenges us, we still abide to its snowy call. And when we run out of steam, plooms of powder will welcome us back, just like home.
It's the Monday after Christmas and I am riding the Swift Current Chair Lift with a family from Georgia. As the family scans the slopes beneath the chair they ask me why it appears no one is skiing. This sounds like a simple question, but for the same reason that I am writing a qualitative ski report is why the question remains complex- the Biggest Skiing in America is far more than numbers. The five minutes remaining in the lift ride is not enough time to explain the phenomena that is Big Sky Resort and I manage to shrug my shoulders saying "more for us".
I part ways with the Georgia family at the top of Swift Current and load the Triple Chair glancing at my watch, it is 1:20 PM. I have to meet my ski partner at 1:45 PM in the base area. My thoughts are on the Lone Peak Tram that opened yesterday. I begin to do the math in my head and determine that if I unload the Triple Chair, ski up to a tram station without a lift line at the exact time that a tram is loading, and then ski six miles with no breaks, I could possibly make it to the base area at my scheduled meeting time (every friend, parent, or spouse of a ski fanatic who has wondered, ‘what was going through your mind why are you always late'... well there it is). I won't bore the reader with the details except to say... Amazing- it's a Christmas Miracle, I AM ON THE TRAM!
The tram has a bit of breathing room as half the guests have left their skis at the bottom, opting for the scenic ride. Exiting the tram, we are greeted with unobstructed mountain top views and the voice of the top tram operator announcing "Big Couloir and Liberty Bowl only, Liberty is rocky at the top".
I begin my decent behind a local who looks to have navigated the peak before, slipping and sliding past snow fences down to the wide open expanse of Liberty Bowl. The clock is ticking. My ski partner is waiting. I have never been a ski racer and if you see me skiing out on the mountain, know that in my mind, I look every bit as good as the racers at the Olympics. The snow in Liberty has been skied, yet as I look downhill toward Screaming Left Hand Turn I see not one skier. I am in first place; Lindsey Vonn eat your heart out. Liberty Bowl still has its soft forgiving qualities allowing for easy edging and large radius turns. My legs are burning when I make it down to the Middle Road. At this point I have under three minutes to keep my word as a responsible adult and arrive in the base area to meet my partner; but as I glance to my right I see what appears to be a large line at the Shedhorn Grill and boot top powder on the trails leading down to the Shedhorn Chairlift. Between the burn in my "ski racing" thighs and the mental strain of exercising self-control around powder, I push on to the base area.
As I come around the final turn I imagine the scores of people in the base area shopping, hot tubing, and eating to be my grand audience cheering for me. I throw up my hands as if to say, ‘Hey, look at me, I made it! Only a few minutes late'! My legs are so tired from dropping about 4,000 vertical feet in one run that I can barely fathom to ski another run. As I look for my ski partner among the base area crowd, I realize what was so difficult to explain about Big Sky Resort. This Holiday season you might wait for a breakfast burrito or your ski partner, but you won't have to wait for your ski dreams to come true.
Ok! So you've got your new snow gear, boots, hat, gloves, ski's and/or board is waxed, season passes purchased, condo booked... you're set! Oh, but wait... you haven't been riding or skiing since last season... orrr really going to the gym (and running to work because you're late doesn't count, but way to be optimistic!)
This year you told yourself you really want to hit the slopes without getting muscle cramps, but now snowflakes are beginning to fall and it's just about go time for The Biggest Skiing in America!
Worry not! Because I've compiled a dandy list of workouts that you can do to get your body ready to shred some serious pow.
Active.com asked a personal trainer whose trained skiers and professional athletes for his two cents on the subject and found out it's the secondary muscles that you need to pay attention to. These are your muscles that aren't used every day in constant motion, and by strengthening them you'll help avoid injury.
They identified the 6 muscles used the most in skiers as hamstrings and glutes, inner and outer thighs, abs and back, calves, quadriceps, and arms. You can click here to get their 6-week workout plan.
Shape.com focuses on balance as a MUST HAVE skill whether you ski or snowboard. They say we begin to lose our sense of balance at the age of 25, so maintaining it with exercise is essential.
First they recommend finding a BOSU ball for some powerfully effective exercises.
(This a BOSU ball, but I just like to call it Harvey.)
They recommend balancing on one foot on the top of the BOSU while doing bicep curls, or start with both feet on the floor and alternate toe taps in a quick series while aiming for the top point of the BOSU, or Harvey.
Another balancing exercise they recommend is standing on one foot, with the other foot raised just barely above the ground. Feel free to do this while brushing your teeth, talking on the phone, watching TV, or deciding to name your ball something other than Harvey. You can read more about that here.
Speaking of balance, yogajournal.com says being aware of our feet is a critical factor in stability. By standing in the "Extended Sides Angle Pose" or Utthita Parsvakonasana (rolls off the tongue), they say to practice putting even pressure through the entire foot, observing how the slightest shift to one side can cause you to become unbalanced.
Here is what this looks like, and you can click here to read more and see demonstrations.
Theactivetimes.com called on some snow experts, personal trainers and yogis to weigh in on the topic as well. They list the 7 most important moves for building total body strength that will help you power down the mountain along with a guide to show you how to execute the move perfectly. Those moves include lunges, burpees, push-ups, squats, chair pose, single leg Romanian deadlift, and last but not least... planks, baby!
Even though you're pretty confidant you know how to do a lunge properly, make sure you check out the guide for each move to avoid hurting yourself in the process of trying to help yourself. Nobody wants that.
Need another incentive to get off the couch and get started? Tell yourself you'll allow one extra plate of food on turkey day if you get the ball rolling now! Or... just think of that time when you were trying to be cool and wrecked HARD in front of all of those cute girls or hot guys... if only you had taken the time to hang out with Harvey! :)
You've got this!
I started snowboarding in 2003, but my love for the sport developed in 2006 when I got my hands on David Benedek's 16mm film 91 Words for Snow.
My world revolved around urban and park riding, inspired by the likes of Darrell Mathes, Justin Bennee, and Nicolas Muller. I craved every moment that my board was touching a fresh groomed pipe or sliding down a rail. I hurt inside knowing that the nearest ski hill was at least five hours away from my home in central Illinois, and that the "fun" hills were even further into Wisconsin or Minnesota; the passion was real, the fire burned inside.
As time went on I became more aware of big mountain riding and became increasingly aware of the people pushing the sport to new limits. This was what I needed, to explore these most majestic, most improbable mountainous landscapes with a board under my feet. It would be all too perfect to experience. But the idea of ever riding on real snow, on a real mountain larger than 300 feet, could not exist in my mind, no matter how badly I wanted them to exist.
My dreams were to only be further repressed: finding out my family would be relocated to the state of Kansas. It wasn't until I came to Bozeman in the fall of 2009 to see Montana State University that I began to allow my dreams to grow. The idea that I could explore the snow-covered high peaks was now not only a possibility - I would make it my reality.
Over the last few years here in Montana, I have realized my dreams through Lone Peak starting with Moonlight Basin and now Big Sky Resort. Lone Peak has been a place for me to learn, and to shed my skin and transform from a Midwest park rat into a big mountain snowboarder.
Even as I skin up the peaks in Hyalite Canyon, Beehive Basin, or Cooke City, I continually return to the resort as a place for personal progression. Lone Peak grounds me in my quest to climb higher, and ride more challenging terrain. For me, the true essence of riding at the resort means giving 100 percent, something you can do regardless of how hard the terrain that you ride is. Some of the most inspiring skiers and riders I know project the same run over and over until they have mastered it. They might not be skiing the steepest, most technical lines, but their motivation is pure and they love what they're doing. In the end, it's all about having a good time with your friends, being in a beautiful place, and doing a little riding.
Photo: Erik Morrison
Photo: Chris Kamman
When my officemate Michel and friend Candis asked me to go snowshoeing I was skeptical. What I knew about snowshoeing came from National Geographic Alaska TV specials and Jack London novels. What I didn't know, or expect, was how much I would learn about Lone Mountain, the Spanish Peaks and snowshoeing from our Basecamp guide Bea.
Bea taught us about the flora and fauna around Big Sky, such as the Indian Paint Brush wildflower grows at different colors at different elevations or that the Spanish Peaks are one of the only ranges in the Rocky Mountains that run east to west and are the oldest peaks in the Madison Range. Bea was a wealth of knowledge, keeping us on our snowshoe toes with funny quick-fire quizzes of what we'd learned so far.
We hiked up Moose Tracks, the trees near Middle Road, and then went even a little further to an open area with spectacular views of Lone Peak and the Spanish Peaks, the tallest of which, Gallatin Peak, stood prominently out overlooking both Madison and Gallatin Counties.
Breaking our own trail from time-to-time, I found snowshoeing essentially to be winter hiking. I love hiking and had no idea what I had been missing out on all these winters by not taking up snowshoeing.
Not only is snowshoeing great exercise, but it put me out into nature in a different way than skiing does. I don't stop to look around enough while I'm skiing because I'm continually in search for that great line, but snowshoeing forced me to pause and listen to the beauty that surrounds me every day.
For more information on snowshoe tours at Big Sky Resort check out bigskyresort.com/activities
Video: Michael Jezak
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