Mount Bachelor, Bend OR March 12th to 18th

I arrived to a rainy morning on the mountain, not ideal for skiing, but I wasn’t going to let that stop me. I hoped that the temps would drop a few degrees and it would turn into snow. After a couple of hours, it did. By that time, I was drenched, but oh well. I usually spend my first day at a mountain exploring and finding where I’d like to ski so I can focus on those areas the following days. Mount Bachelor is somewhat unique as it offers 360º skiing from the top. Each side of the mountain can have different conditions. On the Southeast side, there’s the “Cloudchaser” lift. Lots of relatively mellow terrain with rolling slopes and fun turns. On the other side of the mountain, there is the “Northwest Express” with incredible bowls that lead into beautiful glades. And on the Northeast side of the mountain, there is the base lodge and the “Pine Marten” lift. There is also the “Summit Express” which takes you to the top but was unfortunately closed for most of my visit due to conditions and weather.

Despite that, I was having a blast. This place has amazing skiing. I’d found my favorite spot on the mountain and the next morning headed over that way. “Northwest Express” gives the most vertical rise (2,365 feet) out of all the lifts on the mountain. It also gives access to the lower west bowls and glades. While the skiing over this way was amazing, because of the weather visibility was poor towards the top. The good thing is that kept all of the crowds away. I pretty much had the lift to myself, and more fresh lines than I could imagine. The skiing over there was fantastic. Turn right off of the lift and traverse over the the west bowls. Take your pick on the line to ski, they are all amazing. The farther off the lift you traverse, the fewer tracks you’ll find. The bowls drop into the West Glades, some of the most beautiful tree skiing I’ve experienced.

Turn left off the Northwest Express lift, and you can take the “Northwest crossover” back towards the “Pine Marten lodge” before getting to the lodge turn off onto any one of the trails and get some incredible powder turns. Every single trail I skied off of there was awesome. Perhaps it was because I was lucky enough to be there when there was good snow, perhaps it’s always like this?
Thats not to say the other areas of the mountain weren’t also great, I was just having so much fun there that I didn’t want to leave.

Mount Bachelor was one of the first ski resorts I’ve visited that allow overnight camping in the lot. While I like the freedom of this whole car camping thing, finding places to sleep in your car is really annoying. There should be plenty of BLM land around ski areas that you would think is easy to find, but apparently I’m not the only one with this idea. Most ski resorts I’ve visited don’t even allow overnight parking. Some rest stops will let you stop for 8 hours so you can get rest on a long drive, but even that is a tossup. When I moved into my truck, I didn’t think that this sort of thing would be one of my biggest challenges on the trip. This idea of #vanlife that I’ve seen so much about seems to pose a significant challenge that I hadn’t foreseen. Being able to camp in the lot was a very welcome change.

While skiing at Mount Bachelor in itself is awesome, about 20 minutes down the road is Bend, Oregon. One of the coolest towns I’ve visited so far. People were so friendly, and they all clearly enjoyed spending time outside. Whether skiing, hiking, camping, fishing, mountain biking, there is something for everyone there. In addition, the restaurants, the beer, even the nightlife were all very good. While I was there I visited a few breweries, restaurants, and spent time downtown on St. Patricks Day. I loved it there, so much so that I stayed for 6 days, one of my longest stops on this trip.
The only other stop which was this long was Bozeman and Big Sky, Montana.

After my first day of skiing there, I decided to take a rest day and visit town. I went to a yoga class and spent time writing at the Thump Coffee. I was familiar with their coffee because their only other location is in Denver, Colorado. If you’re looking for the perfect environment to settle in for a few cups and write, this is it. And the coffee is absolutely delicious. I walked around town and

One of the more famous breweries in Bend is Deschutes, their Fresh Squeezed IPA is one that I’ve always enjoyed so I wanted to stop in to see what else they offered. Doesn’t matter the you preferred style, all of the options were good. I wanted something different so I opted for the “Bachelor Bitter”

The following day I went back up to the hill and skied almost all day. I was re-energized and able to log quite a few runs. It was just about first chair to last chair that day. I loved it, and there wasn’t a single spot on the mountain that didn’t have good snow. The skiing was excellent.

On the lift I met someone who was visiting from the Seattle area and was also car camping in the lot. At the time, I was still unsure of my next destination, but knew I was continuing north towards Canada. He suggested I visit some ski areas in that area as they have been having a fantastic snow year. I had the option of Crystal Mountain or the Summit at Snoqualmie. Crystal mountain was only about 6 hours away, and I’d have the chance to visit Portland along the way. I thought about it a bit, checked out the map, and decided on my next destination.

That Friday night after some skiing I went back down to Bend and visited “Bend Brewing.” While I was there, I met 2 very nice ladies who commented on the fact that I was writing at the bar. They started the conversation, “I hope you’re not working.” I thought it was funny, because I absolutely was not working, I was writing about my time in California. We got to talking about my trip, and what brought them to Bend. The both suggested that a trip or time like this is something everyone should experience at some point. I truly enjoyed meeting them, and many of the other locals as they were all very friendly and welcoming.

I was also lucky that some of my old colleagues from New York happened to be skiing at Mount Bachelor that weekend. It was nice to ski and ride with them for a few days. We had dinner at Brother Jon’s, the food there is delicious and they have tons of beers to choose from. We also spent the evening out in the town on St. Patricks Day. It was plenty busy at the bars, and not nearly the mob scene that we’d previously experienced in NYC.

Saturday morning, we were back out on the slopes. At the base there was a huge party with live music and giveaways. A pretty busy weekend, and the first time I spent a significant amount of time in a lift line. But that was only on the front of the mountain. After a few runs from the Cloudchaser lift, I ventured back over to the back side of the mountain. It had snowed on and off the whole week I was in Bend, and the conditions were still fantastic. And although it was busy at the base because of the party, it was still empty on the Northwest lift. I assume there were a few factors contributing, visibility at the top was poor, and there is only expert skiing back there.

The next morning was a bluebird beautiful day on the mountain, but by midday I was ready to get going. I wanted to be skiing the next day and I had a long drive ahead. The drive through Oregon was stunning. Not just on my way to Bend, but also from Bend to Portland. I drove through Mount Hood national forest. It was absolutely gorgeous. It was sunny, then it rained, then it snowed. All in one drive relatively short drive over the pass, so cool. I can’t wait to go back to Oregon, visit the coast, spend more than an evening in Portland, and for sure to go back to Bend.
Next stop, Crystal Mountain, Washington.

Outside of my comfort zone

I’ve had so much on my mind recently, and the loneliness of being on the road for so long and so far away from everyone I know has been starting to wear on me. I’ve met many nice people, but I’ve also had plenty of days where I don’t talk to anyone, at all. While it isn’t a big deal at first, it can be very hard at times. And the idea of car camping, I spent plenty of nights trying it out before leaving on this journey, but I was never more than a few hours from my home in Denver. I like this idea of being rent free and picking up to go wherever I would like on a whim, but at what cost? It’s just becoming more and more challenging. I thought that I would be able to sustain like this for around 6 months, it’s barely been 2 months. I still have this idea that I’ll keep living this way and perhaps find some kind of meaningful work along the way. We’ll see.

I’ve been trying to remind myself what inspired this trip to begin with, and a big part of it was a personal challenge. Can I ski 44+ mountains in a year? Sure, but would I enjoy it? Can I ski the most challenging terrain at some of these resorts? Sure, but hasn’t that been done before? Can I get rid of everything I own and move into a truck? Sure, but what would I be giving up by doing that? It feels that each of these goals, while attainable, have become meaningless. I’m starting to figure out whats important. The challenge is not the skiing, it’s finding where else I’m uncomfortable and tackling that.

With that in mind, what’s important for one person is not the same as it might be for someone else. I left on this trip to go ski, I’ve since realized that while I love skiing, it isn’t about the skiing. It was the idea that there is more to life than waking up to go to work each day. I was doing well at work, but I was not moving ahead. And I was saving for something I didn’t want. A house for me and my dog? Then I’d be stuck somewhere and I’d still want to explore. Perhaps for a future with a spouse? I’d love to meet her, but wouldn’t she want to explore as well? I can only imagine that she would.

We all have fears, some are crippling, some are good and self preserving. My friend Carolina recently wrote about fear on her blog, which I would encourage you to read. 

“When fear debilitates, it can hinder, weaken or all together halt you from acting/doing. Fear can stop us from speaking our minds, can stop us from standing up for what we believe in, can cause us to feel stuck, or even worse powerless.”

I remember when I started skiing in Colorado, I was so far outside of my comfort zone. I looked at these crazy lines around Loveland pass. I saw ski tracks and questioned, can I ski that? At the time the answer was absolutely not. Not only was I physically unable to, it would have been unsafe for me to try. But, it was a goal.

After a couple years of pushing my boundaries in the resorts, I got my first touring setup, and skinned into Watrous Gulch with my friend Wil. Along the way in, Wil pointed out the “Tuning forks” an awesome line down the front range 14er, Torrey’s peak. 2000’ vertical feet, a big line of snow. I knew absolutely nothing about backcountry skiing, but I knew I wanted to ski that. Far outside of my comfort zone.

A couple of years later, I decided to go for it. I figured, worst case, I’d hike a 14er, best case, I’d get some spring/summer skiing in. I drove up the night before and camped up the road. I arrived to find a group of campers who’s all met on a facebook group and were camping the night before hiking Gray’s peak the next morning. They invited me to camp by them, we enjoyed a good campfire and some music before the early morning hike. I think many of them were surprised when they all headed in one direction to hike the popular route up Grays, and I then grabbed my skis from my car and I told them I was heading in the exact opposite direction. The route up the “Tuning forks” is listed as a “Difficult class 2.” I’d also only hiked a couple of 14ers until then. All were a “Class 1.” Class 1 14ers are still quite challenging, for an out of shape east coaster like me. I was making the haul to a relatively high elevation, and along a fairly steep route, in snow.

When I arrived at the bottom of the snowfield, looking up a 2000’ tall 35º slope of summer corn skiing. Unlike other 14er routes where you can often hike on a trail, the tuning forks on Torreys requires a bootpack up the snow. On each side there’s a bunch of scree which can’t easily be climbed. Something I hate to admit, I’m actually afraid of heights, not an uncommon fear, but its all about perspective, right? Hiking up is like a huge staircase to the top. But if I slip, and fall, how far will I slide before I can stop?

I was lucky. Although it didn’t appear this way when I set out, once I was on the snow I found a decent size group that had decided to do the same route that day. Some were faster than others, but we were all encouraging each other up this route. At the top, we all helped each other put our skis on and get back down this awesome line. I’m in the middle of the group in the photo below.

I returned the following year around the same time to ski the same line. The conditions were pretty much the same as the year prior, but minus the party ski, it was just me. A few miles hiking in with skis, boots, and avy gear on my backpack. I’d done it before, and I was confident that I could do it again. Without the presence of others though, it’s a lot scarier. I was surrounded by silence, and views for many many miles. When there is someone in front of you setting the line to follow, and someone behind you to encourage you, it becomes a lot easier. When you’re alone, you have to be both of these voices.

The views up top, breathtaking. The skiing back down was awesome. The sense of accomplishment, priceless. 2000’ vertical feet of corn skiing. It was late June and later that day I’d be sitting by a pool in Denver. Where else in the world can you experience that?

Heres the thing, this line has been skied 1000s of times, and overall it’s not a big deal. But it was for me. It was something that I couldn’t have imagined possible when I first saw it, let alone years ago when I was walking around New York.

While I’ve been struggling recently, I was lucky enough that tonight my good friend Ryan called me right I needed that reminder. His call and our conversation reminded me of my goal on this trip all along. I’ve been close to giving up, but I’m going to continue on.

I would encourage every person with the desire for a change in their life, step outside of your comfort zone, do something that scares you but that’s in line with what you love. Take a risk that you’ve thought through (not an unnecessary one), and then try it. Right now, I’m thinking that worst case, I’ll jump back to my comfort zone. Best case? I’ll find just how far I can go next.

California and Oregon Coast drive March 12th

Leaving Sacramento I had a couple of choices for my route to Oregon. I wasn’t in a rush, so I opted to drive along the California coast line. I looked at the estimated drive time and figured I’d make it to Bend late that evening. I didn’t take into account just how many times I would want to stop along the way. Only a couple of miles in land, and I was surrounded by Redwoods so tall they felt like buildings in Manhattan. Then I turn a corner and arrive on these beautiful coastlines. As I headed in land, there are twists and turns through the trees.

The following morning I continued on through Oregon. I drove past Crater Lake and through the Deschutes National Forest. More incredible forestry. Long roads through the woods that felt like tunnels. As I drive further inland and gained elevation the scenery went from very green to snow covered. Here’s a cool video I took from that drive.

Sebastapol and Sacramento, CA

After a visit to the coast, the Redwoods, and the prior evening out in Santa Rosa, my sister and I spent Saturday afternoon and evening in her new hometown, Sebastapol. I’d never heard of Sebastapol until she said she was moving there. It’s only about 90 minutes outside of San Francisco, and right in beautiful Sonoma County. While this town isn’t well known, it felt like it was a “best kept secret” in Sonoma. Everyone is incredibly friendly, the surrounding area couldn’t be more beautiful, and downtown has a charm that’s very inviting. I completely understood why she wanted to live there.

In town, it was about 70º and sunny, a perfect afternoon to visit some places in town. After our hikes, we enjoyed some ice cream at “Screaming Mimis.” My sister sometimes pokes fun at me because I have trouble deciding what to order at places like this. When there are incredible options like they have, you have to choose wisely. I chose the Praline Pecan, if I spent too much time thinking about it I would have wanted 4 other scoops.

In town there is a beautiful outdoor market called “The Barlow.” They have some nice coffee shops, restaurants, shops, wineries, and breweries. We sampled a flight of some of their beers and enjoyed live music for the afternoon.

Before checking out the rest of the town that evening, we went back to the vineyard to enjoy the sunset. Much different view from the foggy morning I woke up to, but just as peaceful in a different way.

The we went back into town for dinner went to “Woodfour Brewing”. It is a small town so there aren’t a ton of places to choose from, but they were all really good.

My sister had to work the following morning, and although my visit was brief, it was time for me to continue on. I went back to Sacramento for the afternoon to visit my friends before continuing on up the coast the following morning. We stopped at a couple of breweries Yolo Brewing Company and  Jackrabbit Brewing, and got delicious BBQ at a place called “Tank House”

The following morning, I got on the road early, before sunrise. Next stop, Bend, Oregon.

California March 8th to 11th

After spending some time in Utah, I reached out to my sister who somewhat recently moved to California. I wanted to visit her for a couple of days, and see what the skiing was like around Lake Tahoe. As I mentioned in a previous post, the M.A.X. Pass has limited options for skiing in California, but no matter where it is, it’s always good to go skiing.

I drove from Powder Mountain in Utah to Truckee, California. The drive across Northern Utah and Nevada was pretty long but it was beautiful.

When I arrived in Truckee walked around town, grabbed a beer at “Mellow Fellow” and got some much needed rest after the long drive. The following morning, I grabbed a coffee at “Dark Horse Coffee Roasters” and walked by the river. A beautiful crisp morning.

Along the way, the only ski area on the M.A.X. Pass was right off of I-80, Boreal. Compared to the other Tahoe resorts, this is a very small ski area, but fun. I spent a couple of hours on the slopes before heading to Sacramento then Sebastapol.

I stopped in Sacramento to visit some friends from work, well my prior work. They were promoted earlier in the year and moved out to California. We got lunch, and caught up in the afternoon before I continued on. The drive through Sonoma was beautiful. I was coasting through wine country as the sun was setting on a gorgeous evening.

 That evening, my sister and I went to “Russian River Brewing Company.” A place famous for their “Pliny the Elder Double IPA.” This beer is so popular and hard to find that I’ve only ever come across it in the store once. My friends know this about me, and I’ll admit it, I’m also a bit of a beer snob, so don’t be surprised if I post more about some of my favorite breweries that I find along this trip. Their beer was delicious, not to mention the pizza.

The following morning I woke up early and walked outside. There was a thick fog over the vineyard, it was very quiet and beautiful.

We had plans to go on some hikes that day, but we weren’t in a rush to get going. Our first stop was a bakery called “Wild Flour Bread” It was delicious. I’ve never had bread so fresh in my life. It was literally right out of the oven, delicious.

We continued down the road to the coast. I loved being back by the water, it was pretty cool to have skied the day before and be walking along sandy beach the following morning. It was also quite foggy by the water, my sister said that she’d not ever seen it like this and you could usually see for miles down the coast. The beaches in California are quite different from the east coast. Cold water, and stunning rock formations.

From there, only a 20-30 minute drive in land and the fog cleared completely. We walked through the “Grove of Old Trees” in Occidental. I knew that redwood trees were big, but wow. It was awesome. We walked through the groves, and even stood inside some of the trees. I’ve never seen anything like it.

The rest of the afternoon was spent in Sebastapol. I’ll share more about where we else we visited and the rest of my tine in California in another post. There was a lot for one weekend, and I can’t wait to go back.

Solitude and Powder Mountain, Utah March 3rd – 7th

On the morning of March 3rd, I was still at Big Sky in Montana. Even that morning, I was considering heading west to Washington State, Oregon, or going north into British Columbia.  I kept seeing this amazing forecast for Utah. I decided to head south and hope to hit the storm. Posts on “Open Snow” “Unofficial Networks” and elsewhere said that the resorts in Utah were expecting over 2 feet of snow. Given that I was only 6 hours away, I had to chase it. I’ve visited Utah in the fall for some amazing hikes there, but I’d still not skied there. Utah is known for the “Greatest snow on Earth” they even have that on their license plates. I soon understood why.

I finished up skiing at Big Sky and got on the road that afternoon. The snow was not supposed to start until around 8 or 9 and I was hoping to get to Salt Lake before then. After passing Yellowstone, the weather in Idaho got bad, the roads were not plowed and barely visible. The highway was down to one lane of traffic and slow. I really didn’t want to get stuck there, and if it was snowing this much, I also really wanted to ski the following morning. For about 2 hours, my drive was pretty scary. Once I got to Utah, it was a lot smoother, clean roads and the snow had let up for the time being.

That evening, I made it to Salt Lake and was lucky enough to have a place to stay. My friend Ryan previously lived in Salt Lake City and had many friends there. He introduced me to his friends Will and Jamie who very generously invited me to stay in their guest room. This was a very welcome change having spent as much time as I had in my truck. It was also nice to spend a few days with some new friends and people with mutual interests.

The Max Pass offers a lot of access to ski areas throughout North America, but unfortunately it is somewhat limited in Utah and California. In Utah, I had the option of going to Brighton or Solitude. Solitude and Brighton are often over shadowed by bigger ski area like “Alta” and “Snowbird” but it’s still an awesome ski area. Solitude has even been listed as one of the “Top 5 Underrated North American Ski Resorts in The USA” and “One of the top 20 ski resorts in North America” Sunday was relatively busy for a place with the name “Solitude,” but I was still able to find my own place on the mountain.

I caught one of the first chairs and on my way up, I could easily scope out where I’d spend most of my morning. A line called “Paradise” off the Powderhorn lift was fantastic. As the lines under the lift became skied out, I just had to venture a bit further for fresh turns. I spent most of the day with a grin ear to ear, an unforgettable powder day. I was unfamiliar with the mountain, but I found incredible skiing in the “Headwall Forest” throughout the afternoon.

Solitude didn’t quite get the 2+ feet that was forecast but it snowed a lot, close to 20″ in just over a day. It was a Sunday afternoon, and as I drove back down the canyon, I was thinking about the following morning. It was still snowing and there was a lot of terrain that was closed all day. I knew that if that area opened tomorrow, there would be TONS of untouched snow.

We went out in Salt Lake for a bit evening, but I still managed to get up early that Monday. My friends thought that a lot of people were going to take a 3 day “powder” weekend. I’d better get up there early. I did, and was again on one of the first chairs of the day.

The entire part of the mountain known as “Honeycomb Canyon” was still closed. At the top of the “Summit Express” lift I was able to watch patrol traversing out across the canyon and detonating avalanche explosives. Anyone who has hiked through snow like that can appreciate just how difficult a job that is. And scary, the explosives were unbelievably loud from the top of the lift, I can only imagine what it was like where they were. Always say thank you to ski patrol.

I wasn’t the only one excited about this terrain opening. A decent size group had gathered by the rope and were waiting for Honeycomb to open. Just after 12, patrol walked out to drop the rope. It was a stampede, almost like opening day. Instead of following the crowd, I hiked along the traverse with a few others. 15 minutes hiking along the traverse that patrol had tracked out and we had our choice of 2′ + deep fresh snow. Fantastic. This was when I realized what Utah meant by “Greatest Snow on Earth”

Once I skied out of Honeycomb canyon, it’s a bit of a trek to get back there so I took my time. An hour or so later I arrived at the top of the same line, and it still wasn’t skied out, not even close.

So so good. I skied out to the “Eagle Express” and did a few more runs on “Sunshine Bowl” and “Inspiration.” My legs were shot, and I needed rest. I made my way back to SLC and considered my next stop.

I spent the following day catching up on some much needed rest and planning where I’d go next. I also had the opportunity to visit and tour Black Diamond headquarters. I’m a big fan of their gear, my  entire backcountry ski setup is from them. It was great to have the opportunity to visit and check the place out.

Even that day, I was still considering where to go next. While it’s not on my pass, I really wanted to go to Jackson, WY. Any skier has this place on their list, and I was so close. I drove north with that in mind and the following afternoon stopped at “Powder Mountain.” What a cool place.

Powder Mountain is huge, and they limit their daily lift ticket sales to 1500 people. Skiing there, I felt like it was limited to 150. I arrived later in the day, so I was pleasantly surprised to find out they also offer night skiing. While the night skiing is limited to a very small portion of the mountain, after a day off I was just thrilled to get turns in later in the evening. I wanted to ski there more. The snow was fantastic, the views for miles and miles, and no crowds.

I looked at my drive time for my next destination and I made the call to head to California. I had a couple of days planned that weekend to visit my sister and had just over a day to get there. Jackson had to wait. I know I’ll be back there in the future, and for a longer visit than I was able to commit to at the time. Next stop, California.

Big Sky, Montana | March 1st-3rd

After spending a couple of days in Bozeman, I drove back up to Big Sky for a few more days of skiing. The drive through the canyon is beautiful, but I can also see why it’s dangerous. A fast “speed limit,” sharp corners, narrow roads, blind turns, icy spots, and of course wildlife. I saw some big horn sheep on my way down into town, they didn’t seem to mind me driving by, but I also was aware that they could be around any corner.

I got back up to Big Sky and I knew I hadn’t spent any time over towards Andesite or Shedhorn so I headed over that way. As I mentioned in my last post, Big Sky is huge, and I wanted to see what else the mountain had to offer. It was a beautiful bluebird day, perfect for cruising around the groomed runs and finding my way around the rest of the mountain. On a clear day like this, the Shedhorn lift gives you a stunning view of the South face of Lone Peak. It was beautiful. It offered another perspective of some of the other ski routes available from the tram. They looked really nice so I planned on taking another trip up there before the end of the week.

The following morning was that day. I had already skied the north side, so I wanted to ski the lines I had scoped out the day before on the south side of the peak. I was waiting until the tram lines looked reasonable, and the following morning was one of those times. On my way up the “Powder Seeker” lift I spoke with one of the locals and understood why. It was cloudy and the light was pretty flat, visibility was poor, he said that most visitors avoid the tram on those days, but you can skip the lines if you don’t mind the weather. He also told me that KT Tunstall would be playing a benefit concert for “Protect Our Winters” (POW) that evening, sounded like a fun way to send the evening.

I jumped on the tram and I was psyched, I was at the front with an amazing view of the “Big Couloir.” Having skied the North Snowfields a couple of days before, I really really wanted to also ski this famous line, but with the lack of visibility and given how steep it is, I wasn’t up for it. Oh well, I’ll save it for my next visit there.

The wind at the top was brutal. I saw a sign warning about self arrest falling on hard snow. I knew how dangerous a fall could be. Wind was brutal, conditions were hazardous, and falls on this steep stuff could not happen. There was a small group heading towards the south face, so I also headed that way and skied down “Liberty Bowl.”
I made my way back over to “Shedhorn” I decided to stay towards the lower part of the mountain where visibility was better.

I skied until last chair then went into Montana Jack bar for the Protect Our Winters (POW) benefit concert I’d heard about earlier. I’m a POW supporter, and I’ve even had the opportunity to volunteer with them in the past. KT has some pretty popular songs that just about everyone has heard, but she even joked how not many people actually “knew who she was” I got the joke as I remembered almost all of the songs she played from TV shows, but I wouldn’t have noticed her as a celebrity.

She also told a funny story about when she moved to California, she was walking around Santa Monica and noticed an Irish pub where she could hear her song being played by a cover band. The guitarist started a solo in the middle of the song. She was happy to hear her song playing as a cover, but went up to the window a gestured to him “what are you doing?” He looked back at her with a look like “what are you talking about, and who the heck are you?” I found it amusing, although, if I was a celebrity, I’d like this kind of celebrity where everyone knows my work, but nobody knows my face. I obviously can’t speak to it, but it seems like this would offer some kind of freedom, perhaps from paparazzi, etc.

I knew I only had one more day of skiing here and was still torn on where I’d go next. My initial plan was Canada, but there was a storm forecast just 6 hours south in Utah. The resorts were expecting 24”+ in 24 hours. Utah powder, and more than 2 feet of snow, hmmm. I could always come back north, right? Yes, head south.

The following morning I did a bit of skiing off of the “Powder Seeker” chair again, and got a “Ski Patrol Mocha” at the Black kettle soup shack. I’d recommend stopping in there, as well as the Black Kettle Burrito stand at the top of the bowl. Both are delicious and have spectacular views.

I loved visiting Big Sky, but it was time for me to go. Next stop, Salt Lake City, UT.

Big Sky, Montana February 25th and 26th

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.

11 years ago last week – One of my first days skiing February 2007

Growing up I wasn’t a skier, I think much of my family is still scratching their head wondering where this passion came from. No one in my immediate family skis, and I maybe went a handful of times as a kid. Once to Stowe, I was injured the first day. Another time to a place called Ski Liberty in Pennsylvania. I remember seeing a couple of Warren Miller films, besides that, my exposure to the sport was quite limited. It wasn’t until I was 25 that I really tried skiing.

A friend of mine had a company friends and family package offer to take us skiing in Canada, a place called Ski Chantecler, about an hour outside of Montreal. Considering that the bus ride from New York, hotel, meals, and skis were all included, I jumped at the chance and found that I loved it. I certainly didn’t have the right gear or equipment. If instagram existed back then, I might have even been featured on “Jerry of the day

We had taken a party bus up from New York, on a 7 hour drive from Manhattan for a long holiday weekend, it was a party. We got into our hotel past midnight but were still up early to ski. I thought that I’d easily remember how to make it down the hill. After all, I’d done it at least twice as a kid, right? Surprisingly, I kinda did. By the end of the 3 day weekend, I actually felt confident on skis. I had the hang of it and couldn’t wait to go again.

Living in New York City, I didn’t exactly have the same opportunities to go skiing as I do in Colorado. Every trip required a bus ride or carpool, expensive daily lift tickets, rentals (and rental boots are the worst), and a very early start. It’s an investment, and you have to be committed. In one season you can end up spending as much as a you do on a Colorado ski pass and you might only get on the hill 5-6 days. And this was not skiing in Colorado.

I would go whenever possible. Sometimes only 5 days a season, but it was enough for me to know that I love this sport. Whenever I was up there, I felt this incredible freedom. The peaceful silence in the cold snow, sliding down the hill.

Over the next 5 years I skied at Killington, Whiteface, Stratton, Mount Snow, and Sugarbush. I did trips with friends, and some annual bus trips with a neighborhood pub. Skiing was a different experience for me. It was my escape from the city, and I loved it. I did this for 5 years before moving to Denver and discovering what it was like to ski in Colorado.

Granite peak, Wisconsin February 23rd

On the night of February 22nd, I pulled off an exit near Granite Peak and went right to sleep for the night. After the drive around Lake Michigan, and having skied earlier that day and the night before, I  badly needed some rest. I also didn’t want to drive at night though a storm and it had just started snowing. Or so I thought. It was freezing rain. I stopped just in time. Snow and rain can be hard to drive in, but freezing rain is probably the worst and very dangerous. The road looks wet, but it can be like and ice skating rink. No traction, at all. I parked just in time for my truck to become an icicle.

Fortunately, my bed was cozy. I listened to the rain fall and went to sleep. I didn’t plan on skiing the next day as I knew I needed to get some serious miles down before a big storm held me back. I woke up to an ice covered car with a couple of inches of snow on top.

Somewhat groggy, and around 7am, I pulled into an auto shop down the road. Putting this many miles on a car requires more frequent oil changes, and mine was almost due. If I was to make it to Montana by Sunday, I had to make sure everything was in good shape. Especially if there was bad weather expected along the way. They were booked for the day but very generously made some time to take a look at the truck, rotate the tires, change the oil and get me on the road, all before 9am.

Right down the road, Granite Peak. I pulled into the lot just after 9am and figured I’d ski for a few hours before getting back on the road. The snow was great, not Colorado great, but really really good. Fresh snow, soft groomers. I loved it. I took the lift with one of their patrollers, he told me that the snowpack was very good this year.

I then met a local on the lift who started talking about skiing Colorado. I hadn’t even mentioned being from there. We did a couple of laps and he recommended some places in Montana for me to check out. At that point, I was just hoping I’d make it out there past the weather (I did).

I stopped in around lunchtime saw a t-shirt with their motto “Easy to get to, hard to leave” It was easy to get to that morning, and hard to put down another 500 miles to Jamestown, North Dakota in the same day, hard to leave. Next stop, Big Sky, MT.