Skier's Guide to Getting on the Mountain Quickly
By Emily Stifler Wolfe
Photos by Colton Stifler
The storm is lifting when Maria Lovely pulls into the Cedar Lot at Big Sky Resort. Snow is still falling lightly, and the morning sun reflects off the big, lazy flakes. As she pulls on her ski socks and boots at the tailgate, the peak emerges from the clouds like a monolith.
While Lovely is only 22, the professional skier is an old hand, having spent all four years of high school in Big Sky training for big mountain freeride competitions. Before that, Lovely, her parents and her two siblings drove two hours every weekend from their home in tiny McLeod, Montana, population 12. Her mom ski instructed, her dad volunteered on ski patrol, and the kids cut their teeth in the Headwaters chutes before they were even 10.
To this day, Lovely has a morning routine she follows every time she comes skiing.
Check the snow report
Before she even gets out of bed in the morning, Lovely checks Big Sky Resort’s snow report. With the detailed point forecast, she decides which layers and how warm a jacket to wear, and which skis to bring, depending on how much new snow fell overnight.
After driving up to the mountain, Lovely finds a parking spot—if she’s in the main lot, where individual lots are marked with letters from A to L, she’ll find a spot as close to the letter as she can, since that means a shorter walk to the shuttle. Guests can check parking lot capacity and status on the resort’s parking page.
Since she was a kid, Lovely has gotten ready at the car. If it’s cold, she’ll slide over into the passenger seat to change into ski socks and pull on her boots—which are warm, since she puts them by a heater on the drive. On super cold days, she’ll stuff hand warmers into her mittens and wear a puffy coat underneath her shell. If it’s warm, she boots up by the tailgate. Sometimes she’ll ski with a pack to carry water, food and avalanche gear (if she’s skiing runs off the peak that require it), and other days she stuffs her pockets with snacks. If you don’t feel like booting up at the car, there are also day-use lockers available in the Exchange.
Ride the shuttle
Once she’s ready, Lovely grabs her skis, locks the car, and walks 50 feet to the shuttle stop. With the open-air shuttles in constant rotation from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day, it’s never much of a wait, and the ride to the base area is a couple of minutes, tops.
Grab coffee and breakfast
From the shuttle stop at the base of the Mountain Village, Lovely walks up the main stairs and through the village, and leans her skis against a rack outside Vista Hall. In the newly-remodeled second-floor dining area, she orders a coconut milk latte and a muffin, while the Vista’s breakfast cooks are making veggie and chorizo burritos at the breakfast bar behind her.
Head to the lift
Since Lovely has a ski pass, she finishes sipping her coffee, walks outside, slings her skis over her shoulder, and heads straight to the chairlifts. If you bought a ticket ahead of time, stop by a Sky Card Express Station, scan your QR code, and print out your refillable Sky Card right there at the kiosk (BTW, definitely do this, because tickets are cheaper the further in advance you buy, and it also eliminates waiting in line at a ticket window.)
Lovely checks the large signboard showing which lifts are open and makes a game plan on where to go from there. For her, it’s usually Swift Current—en route to the high alpine. “No warmup groomers for me,” she says with a grin.
Emily Stifler Wolfe is a writer and business consultant based in Bozeman, Montana, and a former ski patroller in Big Sky. Find her at emilystiflerwolfe.com.