June 6th, 2019

Five Classic Lines of Big Sky

By Emily Stifler Wolfe

Ask around the tram line, roam in the village, or inquire in the patrol shack, and no one will agree on the top five best lines at Big Sky. There are just too many classics to choose from.

OK, actually, I take that back. The top two are clear: The Big Couloir and Mr. K win by consensus, by a long shot. No contenders. But beyond that? If you ski here regularly, you’ve experienced nirvana: You were the first person to drop into a soft canvas of snow, the light was perfect and tiny crystals sparkled all around you, so that’s obviously the best run in the universe.

But where, exactly did that enlightenment occur? Well, I’ll just go ahead and list some of my personal favorites.

Skier in the Big Couloir

1. The Big Couloir

Without question, this is the most classic in-bounds run in the country. Dropping 1,400 vert from the summit down Lone Peak’s east face, this thing is the real deal. Avalanche equipment and a partner are required – sign out with patrol.

Headwaters Chutes

2. Second Fork to Direct

As a former Moonlight patroller, I have spent thousands of hours in the Headwaters. Each one of them is something I’d hike many miles to ski if it were a backcountry objective. Together, they are a chute-skier’s candy shop. Second Fork, the longest, stands at the apex of the cirque. Wait until the entrance for Direct is filled in, and take it fall line all the way, or bang a left into the Elbow Room. You won’t be sorry

Elk Park Ridge

3. Elk Park Ridge

If you want to feel like an eagle or a flying superhero, it’s high time you headed over to Thunder Wolf to rail a few corduroy laps on Elk Park Ridge. With a dreamy pitch and rollovers for days, you’ll be hooked.

Big Rock Tongue

4. Big Rock Tongue

Challenger rules! This is the place to go when you feel like spinning long laps and want to hit a bunch of varied terrain. Right beneath the lift, Big Rock Tongue often gets overlooked—go figure—but it often harbors some of the best snow.

Skiers on Mr K

5. Mr. K

Ask people why they like Mr. K so much (ahem, why they are completely over-the-top obsessed with Mr. K), and they’ll sputter and stammer and then get all dreamy-eyed. “It’s the history.” “It’s so long!” “I’ve skied it so many times.” “The old gondola used to drop you off there.” …Whatever it is, Mr. K has got it.

North Summit Snowfield

Bonus: North Summit Snowfield

Because this thing is amazing. Because the tram delivers you to 11,133 feet and when you drop off the north side, it feels like there are more than 2,000 feet of air beneath your feet. Because there are mountain goats that live here and there are no chairlifts or other infrastructure to block the giant view of the Madison Valley, sometimes it feels like you are skiing on a pool table at a million miles an hour. As with the Big Couloir, avalanche equipment/partner and patrol sign-out are required.

Emily Stifler Wolfe is a writer and business consultant based in Bozeman, Montana, and a former ski patroller in Big Sky. Find her at