Thank you for calling Big Sky Resort, this is Polaris- is what you may hear if you are calling to make a reservation. In my office at Big Sky Resort Reservation's World Headquarters I have a poster of the Headwaters Ridge- an incredibly beautiful to look at and beautiful to ski terrain area on the North Side of Lone Mountain. This past fall I gazed up at my poster and began the countdown to ski season. I would ponder how long I would have to wait for the Headwaters Ridge to open, so I can start hiking to my beloved runs.
It finally happened this past Monday, December 28.
Let me start with the hike. The hike to the Headwaters, or the A to Z chutes is my favorite place to be in Big Sky. I live in Montana because I seek solitude, and that is what I am always able to find high above the Mountain Village on my way to skiing the Headwaters. After I gained the ridge and started across what sometimes feels like a knife edge boot pack, this time it seemed wider to me than I remembered at the end of last season; yet still a bootpack on a ridge in double black diamond terrain. The huge rocks I need to navigate around did not melt over the summer, and the ropes for stability that our friends on patrol provide were greatly appreciated. I decided to ski Firehole, which is the first chute off the Headwaters hike. From the top of the chute, I made my way down to the entrance. I saw some tracks that had dropped in directly from the top, and to those skiers I give multiple high fives. After I transitioned from skis-on-backpack to skis-on-feet I took a moment to appreciate the beautiful vistas of Big Sky Resort. Looking down into Stillwater Bowl, the skiers and riders schussing their way down the slopes from Lone Tree or from Six Shooter lifts appeared teeny-tiny. I thought to myself 'I think I have one of the best views of the Spanish Peaks in town', insert huge powder eating grin.
Now, back to the skiing--the snow in Firehole was amazing! I could feel a firm base underneath, yet it was carvable-pow on top. I continued to make powder turns the entire way through the descent. The lack of sun on the dark side of Lone Peak unquestionably kept the snowflakes fresh. The exit was pretty narrow, which is to be expected as it IS only December. The exit will grow as the season progresses and the snow amasses. Top to bottom, all the way through the Stillwater Bowl, I made some incredible turns, undoubtedly some of the best this season. Which is saying something; since I have made some amazing turns on the lower mountain in our last MASSIVE storm cycle. I interrogated a former Moonlight Basin patroller to find out how the other Headwater lines were skiing and was given the beta that First Fork of Three Forks is even more wonderful than Firehole, if you are willing to take a longer walk. Typical ski town answer- the powder is always deeper on the next slope over.
I love to ski and I love to ski at Big Sky Resort. But most of all I love, love, LOVE the Headwaters Ridge.
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.
This week has been exceptionally stellar. As in pounds of stellar flakes stacking up perfectly across all of my favorite places at Big Sky Resort. We couldn't think of a better time to bring back TWISI. What is The Way I Ski It? Well, it is essentially a qualitative ski report that was formed from the brain trust of Dax Schieffer, who has just moved on to a new adventure with Voices of Montana Tourism after an 18-year tenure with Big Sky Resort. He will be missed for sure, but we plan to ski his lines and keep him in the know through his own creation TWISI.
So back to the skiing and snow. In addition to boosting morale in our ski town, the stacking snowflakes have covered more and more terrain every day. At 60% open Big Sky has 3,461 skiable acres as of today, that's more skiing than most resorts at 100%.
Thursday's snow report said 3-5" in 24 hours and 8-10" in 48 hours, I headed out at 3:15PM to see what I could find. Turns out I found a whole lot of boot top pow in Elk Park Meadows, schussing down with my friends, thinking to myself perhaps I should slow down and enjoy this a little longer. Next we headed over to Africa for some side pow (side pow: the powder that is off on the side of the run that is usually skied-up last). Two runs, of thigh-burning delight and you wouldn't know I was there because it has kept on snowing.
See you on the slopes
El Niño, Who? Of the 33 years of snow data collected at Big Sky Resort 10 of those years have been El Niño. 60% of these El Niño years have been above average or average snow fall. Based on last week, we are off to a great start. Powder to the People.
Old man winter has been showing us love at Big Sky Resort! Thanks to a winter storm that prompted warnings all over local news last week, Big Sky is now covered in powder! We received over 30" of snow!
But did you know there are several different types of snow? Think about the snowmen you've built, or the snowballs you've thrown. When we're lucky the snow packs well together, other times old frosty just ends up looking kind of hung-over or that snowball just doesn't have the same impact on the back of your sister's head. Nobody likes that.
The snow we received from this storm was the good stuff, it was wet powder snow, with the consistency of mash potatoes... and that's good news because wet snow is a perfect base layer. Powder alone will not support a ski pole right at the surface and skis will sink until pressure forms a support layer. Old man winter, god love him, dropped powder on Monday and Tuesday for us with a 10% snow water equivalent(SWE). This is the ideal amount of stickiness needed to create a solid foundation for powder to layer on throughout the season.
We were so excited about our massive dump of powder that we just couldn't help but to open up for just one early day to celebrate.
Late on Friday night our staff in all departments was in a frenzy getting material ready for the spontaneous announcement: that we would be opening up the next day, for only that day before our official opening date! And tired as we were, we did it, and we were pumped to be back bright and early!
Our chairlifts ran early on Saturday November 7th and the air was filled with hoots and hollers as snowboarders and skiers rallied with excitement! They formed a line at the bottom of swift current as our Ski Patrol welcomed everyone and gave them the scoop on where the best powder was at. Enthusiasm was high, skies were bluebird, and the powder was perfect. We thought to ourselves, what else could go right?
As the first riders hopped on the chairlifts, it was a spectacular sight to see them carried up our heavenly mountain headed for an exhilarating day on the slopes.
After a thrilling day on perfect pow, the day ended with smiles from ear to ear! Thanks to everyone who came up and we look forward to seeing you all back on Thanksgiving!
Not only are snowflakes in the forecast... but so are turkeys! ...It's going to RAIN TURKEYS PEOPLE!
All jokes aside though, as November inches closer, Thanksgiving is on just about every American's mind this time of year, as is Christmas... as is FOOD.
We here at Big Sky Resort are SO THANKFUL to be opening for the 2015/16 winter season on this glorious November 26th day full of family, feasting and fun on the slopes but we're also thinking about the millions of people who struggle to feed themselves and their families every day.
The punch of the recession is still being felt all across the country, and in the bellies of roughly 3,000 men, women, children and seniors living right here in Gallatin County.
That's why we hope you and everyone you know will join us on Friday, December 11th as we host our 9th annual Turkey for a Ticket Food-raiser at the opening day of the Madison Base Area starting at 8:30 in the morning, this food-raiser will help the Gallatin Valley Food Bank, Madison Valley Food Bank, and the Big Sky Food Bank to provide food for families this holiday season.
So let's talk turkey... participants will get a free lift ticket valid for the day of the event in exchange for a minimum 13 pound frozen turkey or 20 cans of non-perishable food. The food banks are specifically in need of canned fruit, canned tuna, canned chili, canned tomato sauce, and canned soups.
So grab your skis or snowboard and pick up a few turkeys and consider yourself a hero, a hero we reward with free skiing! You can even wear a cape if you want! But it ends at 1pm Superman, so don't dilly dally!
Gold, Bronze, and Moonlight Pass holders... you can also be a superhero! Since you already have a pass, bring a turkey or your canned goods and we'll give you a $20 demo ski rental... regularly this is $69 bucks! Boom!
Big Sky Resort Staff, Food bank trucks, and volunteers will meet you at the Madison Base Area to unload your frozen turkey or canned food at 8:30 in exchange for one lift ticket per person per donation.
But since you're all superheroes you're probably curious how well this thing goes down... WELL, I will tell you, pretty darn well... thanks to you fine folks. Since we started doing this thing back in 2007, Turkey for a Ticket has collected close to 200,000 pounds of food for local area food banks.
(Let's all just take a moment to pat ourselves on the back... yeah; we're cool with happy dances too.)
Mark your calendars, tell your friends, send them this blog... you know the drill. It's on a Friday, so let's do this thing! We'll see you up here!
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