Friday, March 3, 2017
Big Sky,MT: 02/20 - 02/24/2017
When I skied Big Sky, Montana four years ago, I knew it was a place I'd eventually want to return to with the family. After a great week-long trip to Steamboat, CO two years ago, I know we were ready to make the jump up to Big Sky.
Outrageous airfares to Bozeman nearly scuttled our Montana plans until we found out our local ski shop (Alpine Sport Shop) had availability on a trip they were planning to Big Sky for the February vacation week. Hello Montana!
We lucked out with a week of great ski conditions. No huge powder days, just a consistent 1 to 3 inches of new snow every night, with snow showers and sunny intervals every day. While Tahoe and Jackson were grabbing headlines with their record-breaking storms, the snow just quietly piled up at Big Sky.
There are a lot of reasons to go to Big Sky - the snow, great tree skiing, big vertical, no lift lines - but it's the huge variety of expert terrain that really calls me to Lone Peak. There's the stuff off the tram of course, but there's also incredible north facing hike-to terrain above the Headwaters lift on the Moonlight Basin side. Moonlight was not part of Big Sky when I visited in 2013, so this terrain was new to me.
The tram runs were pretty good too. South-facing aspects (Liberty Bowl, Lenin, Marx) had gotten pretty wind scoured, but the snow piled up deep in the Gullies and Cron's. We even got Sylvie in on some of the double-back action.
We also had a ton of fun finding some of the "gondi shacks" hidden all over the mountain. The story on the gondi shacks goes back about 20 years, when an older gondola was replaced with the current Swiftcurrent HSQ. A bunch of locals talked the mountain into letting them “adopt” the old gondi cabins, which were then stashed in various hidden locations all over the mountain. According to local lore, there up to around 30 of these shacks (nobody knows for sure). They’re not on any trail map and you’re not likely to just stumble across one unless you already know where they are. The locations are a guarded secret.
We were constantly impressed not only by the size of Big Sky and it's terrain diversity (I guess that's why it's called "the Biggest Skiing in America") but also by how easy it was to move around between the terrain pods. Big Sky's owners are in the beginning phases of a multi-year plan to upgrade the mountain's infrastucture, hopefully BigSky2025 doesn't spoil the uncrowded Big Sky experience by attracting more skiers and depositing them too easily in places they don't belong.
With two great family ski trips out west in the past 3 years, consensus seems to be that we will save our pennies and try to make it work to do a western trip each winter. The hard part will be deciding where - Big Sky's already got a bunch of votes for a return visit.