The rumors started floating in the afternoon that Patrol was thinking of opening the Big Couloir tomorrow. I went home and packed my avalanche gear, which was ready from a bunch of backcountry days. Needless to say, I was stoked! I felt like a kid the night before Christmas! This would no doubt be the steepest line I'd skied in months. The next morning was a work morning, which for a snow reporter, means showing up at 4:45 AM, looking at the weather stations, and writing a report to get everyone else stoked; in the meantime I found myself getting more and more excited about the potential of the day. I lined up at Swifty at 8:45 AM and saw some familiar faces from first chairs past. The stoke was high and excitement was contagious.
As we got off Swifty we quickly made our way to Powder Seeker. Patrol informed the crew up front who were all clearly hoping for the Couloir they were optimistic but there was a slight chance it wouldn't open today. We all knew that was the case, but we continued to hope for the best. There is nothing quite like that first really steep line of the season and we were all ready for it. We made it to the top of Powder Seeker and watched as people dropped into the bowl; while the 8 of us lined up with one goal in mind. We watched patrol ski down, make a few assessments, chat with each other. The suspense....What were they saying??? Patrol made their way over to us and explained for quite a few safety reasons today would not be the day. We were all bummed, but understood completely and appreciated the efforts of Patrol.
The mountains constantly teach us lessons, if we choose to listen. That day, the mountains were teaching patience. One thing I am certain of, I know exactly where I will be the day the Tram and the Big Couloir ultimately open! And in the meantime, I will be taking to the slopes as the Mountain Op's teams work tirelessly to get more terrain open.
And so it begins. Snowflakes in the air, the trees and under the feet. As the storms roll, the snow guns' blast and the accumulation grows, many of us are busy trying to remember where we put our ski pants. And some of us lucky snow chasers find that twenty-dollar bill that we stashed away for après last season. It's finally time to hit the slopes to take the first turns. This year, we felt especially fortunate to take turns on Thanksgiving. The coverage off Explorer chair lift was solid and the boon of 6-8" of fresh made it that much more awesome.
Take a look for yourself, watch the Opening Day video.
Here at Big Sky Resort we want to thank all of you for your passion and spirit for skiing and riding. Thank you for coming out or tuning in. We look forward to hitting the slopes with you this winter.
Difficulties mastered are opportunities won. -Winston Churchill
This was my first winter in Montana. Since I arrived, I have been challenged with bigger terrain, which has made me a stronger rider. This week was especially monumental for my growth. I crossed a lot of experiences off my bucket list: I hiked Headwaters, rode the gullies, and the North Summit Snowfield for the first time.
Prior to this week, I have only spoken to friends about what it is like to hike the Headwaters Ridge. They told me about the narrow path ways, safety ropes, steep terrain, and insanely awesome snow. We made the plan to hike to Firehole. Once we got above the run, he laid out our line. I strapped on by board, and felt the confidence come back to me. My friend went first, and I followed. I dug in deep, danced around, and one by one we made it down. When I looked up at where I had just ridden, I was hungry for more.
Two days later, I made the plan to ride the North Summit Snowfield with a few other friends. We decided to take a few tram laps in the meantime. On our first lap, we slid into Otter Slide to the Gullies Traverse. Once we got onto the Gullies Traverse, I could feel the wind really pick-up. Little pieces of snow were slapping into my face, and I could feel the steepness of the slope I was working my way down. We finally dropped into fourth gully and I was shielded from the breeze, but the terrain was filling in with snow. The powder was knee deep, soft, and 100% percent worth the exposure I felt riding into it. We got fresh tracks into the bowl, and just about every turn was a face shot. I met my group at the Triple, and we rode back up to the tram to wait for our 1:00PM North Summit Snowfield time slot.
I was feeling confident after a few laughs with the group. Our turn; the ski patroller on duty told us it was time to go. We strapped on our boards, and headed down to the snowfield. Being my first time in the North Summit Snowfield, I didn't really know where I was going but I knew down was in the right direction. I was cautious on my way over to Great Falls, the couloir exit from the snowfield. The snow was filling in, and when it was my turn to go, I leaned back on my board and surfed. Loud cheers of joy were shared, and high fives were passed around. When we got by the tree line the snow was mellow deep powder, and I wanted to keep riding it forever. It's an amazing feeling looking up at the NSS from Six Shooter. I was thinking "Wow, I just rode down an entire mountain side from peak to base, 4,150 vertical feet and over 4 miles!", I can't think of any other resorts in the US that offer that experience.
In 16 years of riding, this week has been my favorite to date. I got to share my experiences with some incredibly talented people, and really push myself out of my comfort zone. However, the most important thing I learned is that the best things in life, and the best runs, do not come easy. Everything worth experiencing takes a bit of work.
The snow falling from the sky has not slowed much in the past week. Big Sky Resort has seen over two feet of snow and it is still coming down.
The locals aren't surprised. In my 19 years of skiing Lone Peak it seems that late March early April always bring the stellar showers to town. But the big spring snowfall always lands on the Lone Peak a little differently each year. The variety and surprise of discovery are why people love Big Sky so much and keep coming back year after year; Lone Peak skis differently with each storm, blowing snow to fill the mountain in uniquely. Sure there are the classic lines- but boot deep powder or alpine grooming makes it feel like a new experience every time in Firehole, the North Summit, or the Dictators. The way the snow moves around the mountain can even open new terrain. Two years ago- I skied Mussolini, which doesn't always fill in, it takes the right wind direction and upsloping.
Yesterday I went out with some pals to test the goods. First stop triple chair. The storm was in its prime and we couldn't see a thing. The snow was so soft that it didn't really matter that we had vertigo, we just had to keep turning left then right. We all agreed that the trees were our next move. "Ahhhh" the relief of having a point of reference improved our confidence and let us lay the tracks down faster. With snow-covered grins we swooped through the soft bumps of lower Lone Peak back to the base area to start again.
As we made a few more glade laps, the snow kept falling. Time to get back out there.
See you on the slopes.
The other morning, I was one of the first people to make it to the base area. The air was crisp and the only sounds were from the hum of the lifts warming up. I loaded the Swift Current chair lift at 9 AM with only a few others around. The sun was still rising, painting hues of pink, orange and blue across the eastern skyline. I laid the first tracks down the fresh groomed Calamity Jane, with no other skiers in sight. Next, I headed to Ram Charger and dropped down one in the sun on Elk Park Ridge. It was just me and the mountain. This experience continued for the next 30 minutes or so until the skiers and riders found their way to the base area.
The mid-week "first tracks" was a larger than life experience. I will be back for more, and next time I will bring a friend or two.
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