If I can sum up this place in one word: Wow. It’s huge. They weren’t kidding when they said this place has “The Biggest Skiing in America”
I’ve visited large resorts before, Vail and Breckenridge are also huge. Skiing at large resorts is fun, but also requires some planning. It can take hours to get from one side of the mountain to the other, and taking a route that you didn’t plan might require a lot of back tracking. Heck, you might even have to take a few runs just to get back to the base area. Planning is key.
My first day there, I made my way over to Moonlight Basin. A friend of mine who had skied here before recommended I check out that area. This mountain is so huge, that area alone is bigger than some of the resorts I’ve visited. The skiing was excellent. This season, Big Sky also has some of best snowpack of any resort in the country. My first day there I figured I’d find some fun lines and explore a little bit to see where I wanted to go in the upcoming days. While it was a Sunday, even on a busy weekend day you can easily find your own lines on the mountain. It only appears busy in the lot and on the lower certain lifts.
I also took a few runs off of the “Powder Seeker” chair. A 6 person high speed quad that drops you off right by the tram. It’s a short ski down the bowl back to that chair, but it’s amazing. While I wasn’t logging any serious vert, the snow was so so good and it was just great to get fresh turns in lap after lap.
At the top of that chair, you get a perfect view of the “Lone Peak Tram.” The skiing up there is gnarly. Expert only terrain, “The Gullies”, “North Summit Snowfields” and of course the “Big Couloir”
I’d seen that line in photos, but it isn’t until you see it in person that you realize just how huge it is. I wanted to get up there. The tram is unlike many other ski lifts. It’s one lift up at a time, 15 people each ride. Don’t expect to get on it in a hurry.
I woke up early the next morning. They hadn’t reported any new snow the night before, but it began snowing around 7-8am. Lifts opened at 9, and I was ready at the base around 8.
I beelined to the tram. This requires 2 lifts to get there, “Swift Current” to “Powder Seeker.” As I mentioned, the tram only carries 15 people each ride. That morning, I was number 15 in line, which meant the first tram ride of the day. Yes…
This also meant that I’d have one of the first choices of lines for the day. If you want to ski the “North Summit Snowfields” or the “The Big Couloir”, you’re required to ski with a partner and sign out with ski patrol. Just getting off the tram, I walked alone and wasn’t sure which route I would take. Someone else called over and asked if I’d like to join him on the North Summit Snowfields. Yes, absolutely, yes.
We walked into a little hut at the summit and signed out with patrol, letting them know where we were headed. There was a photo of the line we were skiing, stay high left or you might end up on top of a cliff. You can see the line we were aiming for highlighted towards the right of the photo. “Great Falls”
The snow at the top was wind blown and hard, not ideal. Nerves were getting the best of me, I was terrified. I couldn’t see the bottom and on hard snow like this, a fall meant a long slide down. Don’t fall.
I slowly, cautiously, made my way down to the snow fence, and we finally saw the powder turns on “Great Falls”. Rocks on each side of the chute, but as I got further down the turns were wider and deeper. Ridiculously good skiing, it was deep, and steep. Some of my best turns this season. While the skiing was incredible, it still wasn’t lost on me that we were the only 2 people on this terrain. I looked back up and realized what I had just skied down. Wow.
It kept snowing, almost all day. I was still exploring a bit, but I got some great runs in off of the “Headwaters” chair. More powder turns. I recognized the lift operator from the prior day and he recommended that I hike to some of the other terrain. I was having plenty of fun without a hike but around 2pm I finally took his advice. It was worth it. A 15-20 min boot pack up a ridge line. Plenty of choices where you could drop in on either side. As I got up higher, there is a rope loosely attached to some rock. I held on, perhaps a bit too tight. Someone behind me mentioned that the rope isn’t tight in all places. Noted…
Parts of the hike are a bit scary because it’s quite steep on each side, but the lines below look incredible. We reached one called “Firehole.” There’s a small ledge where you can stop and put your skis on, and scope out your first few turns. I struggled for a min, got my skis on and traversed out to the top. Not only had it been snowing all day, a lot of snow had blown in there. One other person up there said that it was skiing the best he’s seen all season. It. Was. Awesome.
From there, I skied over to the “Lone Tree” lift for more. There’s a gate to the left off the lift. There were plenty of tracks off the lift, but a very short hike delivered more untouched snow.
My legs were finally burned out and I had to head in. I wanted to write for a bit before heading to sleep, so I stopped into “Montana Jack.” enjoyed a few beers, wrote, and thought a bit about my next stops before snuggling into my snow covered truck.
And that was only the end of day 2 at this place. My week here just started.