While other resorts in other states struggled with warmer than average temperatures and stingy snowfall, there was enough snow on Big Sky’s opening day to open the Tram and the mountain’s iconic Big Couloir.
Skiers took notice and the bookings began. When we visited in early February, we heard anecdotally that visits were up about 15%.
The word was out. For skiers and snowboarders looking for snow, Big Sky was unmatched.
A week after I returned home, I randomly met a skier who discovered Big Sky this season.
“It’s the best place I’ve ever skied,” he sighed. “I need to go back.”
This sort of uptick in skier and snowboarder visits might raise concern at some resorts, but not at Big Sky.
With the exception of the Tram, Big Sky lift lines are rare. On average days the skier load is not two skiers per acre (which would be exceptional at many mountains), but two acres per skier.
The numbers tell the story.
Three years ago, my son and I visited Big Sky aiming to ski as many trails as we could in just two days. Following that trip, I wrote an overview of skiing Big Sky. You can find it here.
Big Sky’s Classic Runs
If our previous goal was a bit lofty, this time my husband and I set a more realistic goal. We hoped to ski five of Big Sky’s classic lines.
Using a list compiled by former Big Sky patroller Emily Stifler Wolfe as a starting point, here are our recommendations for skiing Big Sky and finding your own classic lines.
First Tracks On Elk Park Ridge
Elk Park Ridge on Andesite Mountain is Big Sky’s classic blue run. A wide groomer, with varying pitch and bold sweeping curves, Elk Park Ridge skis best when the corduroy is fresh. Hop on the Ramcharger lift at 9:00 a.m. and carve immaculate turns for nearly a mile.
Andesite Mountain could easily be a ski resort unto itself, so since you’re here, ski here.
Take the Thunder Wolf high speed quad back up and mix in trees and bumps in Elk Park Meadows. From the top of Thunder Wolf, ski Ponderosa and then lap the Southern Comfort lift, where you’ll find more beautiful groomed terrain and Freemont’s Forest, a favorite with kids. On the front side of Andesite Mountain, don’t miss Congo to Congoline (glades) and Africa (bumps).
When you get hungry, relax and refill in style at Everett’s 8880 at the top of the Ramcharger and Thunder Wolf lifts.
After exploring Andesite Mountain, take the Swift Current lift from Mountain Village and explore intermediate runs leading back to the base. If you’ve got a second day (or more!), head across the mountain and explore terrain served by the Six Shooter high speed lift and the Lone Tree quad.
End Your Day with Mr. K
Mr. K is the classic beginner run at Big Sky.
A long, wide run, Mr. K is skier’s left of the Swift Current lift, just off of another green run called Jaywalk. Because it is fun, and a great way to get off the mountain at the end of the day, Mr. K attracts skiers and riders of all abilities.
For more isolated beginner terrain, it’s all green, all the time, under the Derringer Quad chairlift at the resort’s Madison Base. The Madison base has parking, a lodge, a restaurant and a ski and ride school. Note to parents: the deck at the Headwaters Grille offers a good view of the magic carpet and teaching terrain.
Back on Andesite Mountain, ski Sacajawea, Deep South and El Dorado.
Big Sky’s Boundless Advanced Terrain
While no single-black trails made the “classics” list, three lifts, Lone Tree, Thunder Wolf and Powderseeker, have abundant advanced terrain. These lifts are easy to get to and you can pack a lot of skiing into just a few hours.
As a starting point, ride Powderseeker, with its heated seats and blue bubble covers, and make lap after lap in The Bowl.
When you’re ready to mix it up, the mogul runs on Andesite Mountain, including top-to-bottom Broken Arrow, are a must.
Big Sky’s Steepest and Deepest
Of the double black classics, 17th Green is the most accessible. Take the Challenger Triple and ski the steep, steady pitch directly under the lift. Challenger was Big Sky’s original advanced terrain lift and it’s combination of off-piste steeps and intermediate glades is enticing. Plan to spend some time exploring this area.
The remaining classic lines require either a boot pack above the Headwaters Chutes or the Tram.
The Tram is a must do, especially on a clear day with 360° views. However, before you get in line, be prepared. If your goal is to ski the Big Couloir or the North Summit Snowfield, you’ll need a partner and avalanche gear. You’ll also need to check in with Ski Patrol at the top and get a time slot.
Get a Guide
When we visited, we were fortunate to ski with Ben Brosseau, a Big Sky mountain guide, who provided safety gear, expert knowledge, tips and encouragement. With Ben, we skied the North Summit Snowfield and hiked to the third of the Three Forks chutes. Undoubtedly, Ben took us places on the mountain that we would never have skied otherwise.
While anyone with skills can ski Big Sky’s expert terrain without a guide, local knowledge goes a long way. Ben found the best conditions for the day, got us organized at the top of each pitch, and clearly explained what we’d be skiing, so that none of us was dropping in blind.
On my previous visit to Big Sky, I’d hiked the vertiginous Headwaters boot pack with my son, at times thinking I might not make it to the skiing. I did, thanks to a patroller who encouraged me to hang onto the rope handhold and keep going.
Following Ben, there was no trepidation. I knew he had our backs, he would help us meet our goals, and he’d get us where we needed to be, skiing our own classic Big Sky lines.
Spring Skiing at Big Sky
Big Sky is open through April 22, 2018. For spring Big Sky offers the Catch 22 April Pass. Adults can ski all 22 days in April for just $199. Prices are less for youth, junior, college and senior passes.
Once you’ve got your pass, book your travel to Bozeman. With direct flights from fifteen cities, it’s an easy airport to navigate. Rent a car and drive 70 minutes, with no traffic, to the resort.
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