Big Sky, MT 2/16/20-2/20/20

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  1. #1
    NY DirtBag's Avatar
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    Big Sky, MT 2/16/20-2/20/20

    Family spent 5 days skiing and riding Big Sky this week. It was a low tide year for Big Sky this season until around February 1st this year and they have received 80'' this month which was enough to cover most of the rocks and open up everything except for the sketchiest chutes off of the headwaters area.

    So, Presidents week holiday of course crowds are a concern. I had no real idea how crowded it was going to be. I've read trip reports here and on other forums. Would lift lines be manageable? Would we be skiing and riding on crowded trails?

    From what I have read, besides the constant 30+ minute tram line on holidays, weekends and powder days, the only lines really form on swift current and Ramcharger. And that's mostly when Shedhorn, Dakota, Powder Seeker and the Tram are closed for Avy control work. That's pretty much what we found out as the week transpired.

    Flew in Sat night and got to the condo right as it started to really snow. Winter storm warning started 8pm that night and we got in a couple hours after that. It was supposed to snow for the first three days of the trip. Sat into Sunday was the heaviest with showers lingering for the next couple of days. Sounded good to me. I think they claimed 18'' over the 3 days depending where you where on the mountain. I think the biggest surprise was Monday night overdelivered so the first three days were great.

    Didn't get too many pics from the first couple of days. It was snowing on and off and grey. The top of challenger lift was just consumed by the clouds, so I didn't think it would be the best day to try and hit the tram. We got on Ramcharger at about 9:15 and we stuck to Andesite trees and trails in the AM. Mostly widely spaced trees with a consistent pitch. A couple of places that get a bit steep but they are marked Double Black on the trail map.

    Andesite trees.jpg


    Andesite tree run- top entrances

    and then my oldest and I headed to Shedhorn to spend the afternoon. It was a pretty awesome day. Bowls and tree runs everywhere, untracked and lightly tracked runs. Nothing too crazy over there so I wasn't worried with my 11 year old. watching the people come down from the peak, we could only see them after they emerged from the clouds about halfway down. I would imagine the top 1/2 was unpleasant skiing. Maybe, Maybe not.

    We were pretty much wiped by 2:30 and agreed that we had 1 more run in us. Of course we took one of the bowls to untracked trees to get stuck in a flat spot which required a 10 minute hike out in waist deep snow. WE were soooo wiped out. To the Hot Tub!

    We awoke day 2 to another couple inches. Did a few early ramcharger to thunderwolf laps with the family

    andesite.jpg

    Andesite Cruiser


    and then again took the oldest to check out the challenger lift. I absolutely loved this area. So many options with great steep terrain. And you can drop over and do a few headwaters chutes as well. There were a few sharks lurking but they were mostly at the top traversing to the right bowl or line. This was my 11 yo's favorite area too. He loved the carpet loader on the fixed grip. We came back here many more times throughout the week. Open bowls and chutes funneling down to tree runs that ranged from pucker worthy to just plain fun depending where you went at the top. We had another full day and I could tell my Son was getting tired from looking at his technique.

    Then took the youngest for a few late laps in the Southern Comfort area. Very fun beginner area with varied terrain. Very low angled tree runs fun for a few runs. Lots of kids and beginners over here, so I wouldn't recommend this area unless you had young kids or were with a beginner. But it twas much fun in the soft snow with the 7yo

    sc trees.jpg

    Southern Comfort area trees

    Day 3 was the sleeper pow day. I think upper mountain got 6+ They were bombing the first hour or 2 and the Dakota, Shedhorn, Tram, Powder Seeker, Headwaters, and challenger lifts were on hold. The plan was to take a lap on the tram with the oldest today but once everything was open and by the time we got over there the line at the tram was obscene. So we took family laps on the Powder Seeker for a bit (very mellow bowl area) and then a few laps at challenger. After lunch back to Dakota area. The sun was starting to peek out and I heard this area gets baked out with its southern exposure. We wanted to hit it before the sun really affected it and we scored. Very lighty to untracked bowls and trees for the first hour or 2. . All pretty much single black level so it was very fun. Everone was pooped so I headed to the tram late to see if I could take a lap. still a long wait but I zoned out, turned up the tunes and eventually took a run down otter slide to marx. Very fun and you could finally see! A plus in my book.
    Last edited by NY DirtBag; Feb 22, 2020 at 1:59 PM. Reason: spelling

  2. #2
    Edd's Avatar
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    Looks reeeaaallly nice. Never been. Kinda bummed Iím not going Ikon next year. Vail buying Wildcat (my official home mountain) kinda locks me up. Hmmm. Wheels turning. Got a week in late March off. Was planning on Quebec but...I do have an Ikon this year. F**k.


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  3. #3
    NY DirtBag's Avatar
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    Day 4- Tram morning. Not a cloud in the sky. plan was to head to the tram 1st thing. Lined up at 9am for swift current with 100 others who had the same plan. Get to the tram asap.

    We had about a 25 minute wait once we got there but the views made the wait a bit more tolerable

    lone 1.jpg

    Lone peak from the lower tram station

    I could tell my 11yo was nervous but having been down from the peak yesterday made me confident he could handle it no problem. The plan was to take Otter slide to Lenin

    lone peak 2.jpg

    Summit of Lone peak with YC in the background.

    Lenin.jpg

    Lenin

    Of course, if you are waiting for your kids, you are going to get sprayed..

    lenin2.jpg

    After that we took a run down to Shedhorn and sure enough, the bottom 200-300 vert feet were noticeably sun affected. A bit heavy with a noticeable crust forming. Glad we hit this area during the first couple of storm days.

    So in for an early lunch and the family was pooped. So the plan was to meet them later at Moonlight while I went for a bit of a hike in the headwaters area. I got to the three moons run and took a run down the bowl side. Decent coverage and great turns but not a lot of vert that way. Joined the family back at moonlight and we did a few six shooter to lone tree laps. I loved this area. You are at the boundary of the ski area and it feels that way. A bunch of tree run options through on your way down and over. Think like a longer more vert run down the eastside at magic ducking in and out of tree runs. Not extreme or anything. Fun for the family type stuff. A bit of a long runout but what can you do. More eastern like tree spacingmoonlighttrees.jpg
    Last edited by NY DirtBag; Feb 22, 2020 at 3:11 PM.

  4. #4
    Edd's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Edd View Post
    Looks reeeaaallly nice. Never been. Kinda bummed Iím not going Ikon next year. Vail buying Wildcat (my official home mountain) kinda locks me up. Hmmm. Wheels turning. Got a week in late March off. Was planning on Quebec but...I do have an Ikon this year. F**k.


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    Fahk, flights ainít cheap or direct. Donít like it.

  5. #5
    NY DirtBag's Avatar
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    So the family was pretty much toast by day 5, So I was up early for a Headwaters Hike. Three Forks looked so inviting while we were in moonlight yesterday and the route down looked pretty straightforward

    3forks.jpg

    Above - Headwaters from Moonlight Basin. Three forks is on the shade/sun line at the top of the ridge

    Below, where I'm heading just under the rocks at top right

    headwaters1.jpg

    View down the ridge towards headwater lift top terminus. You can hike from challenger too its just another 50 feet of vert maybe

    down to hw.jpg

    The hike was tough but the views along the way were solid

    Lone peak 3.jpg

    Looking down at lower tram dock from HW ridge

    moonlight from hw.jpg

    Looking down at moonlight from HW ridge
    Last edited by NY DirtBag; Feb 22, 2020 at 3:51 PM. Reason: pics

  6. #6
    NY DirtBag's Avatar
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    Another view of Lone peak from further up the hike giving you a good look at the steepness of The Big

    lone peak 4.jpg

    So, yeah by the time I reached the top of 3 forks, the wind was kicking up and the phone was put away. I can say that this excursion was pushing the edge of my comfort zone. Mainly the hiking part. scrambling around the rock outcroppings holding on to worn out ropes over rocky chutes was exciting.

    But anyway, the run. I dropped in to the lookers right of the sun/shade line of the top pic of the last post. There was a 4 foot of so wind lip to drop in and then it was all soft snow the entire way down. I stopped twice just to make sure I was heading the right direction, but was all good. The chute at the bottom was about 1 snowboard wide, so a couple of hop turns and then straightline through to the finish.

    3forksfrombottom.jpg

    After meeting the family for lunch at Madison base, we did the six shooter / lone tree laps I talked about before. After 3-4 laps we were completely done and headed back to Bozeman. A great week.
    Last edited by NY DirtBag; Feb 22, 2020 at 8:44 PM.

  7. #7
    NY DirtBag's Avatar
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    A couple of thoughts after spending the 5 days there


    1. Lapping challenger lift with no line is much more preferable (to me) to waiting 40 minutes for the tram. If you could lap the tram with a 10 minute line it would be awesome, but I guess those days are gone due to us IKONers.
    2. I would have loved to do the Big couloir and the north summit snowfields but if you don't have a buddy (my 11yo isn't quite there yet confidence wise) they make you pay for a guide for the entire day which is about a grand. Too rich for this dirtbag when there is other good stuff for free.
    3. The terrain the Powder Seeker lift accesses is pretty weak, except for the tram access. It is beautiful in the bowl, but there really isn't anything exciting that you access from there. And the heated bubble is worthless on a 3 minute lift.
    4. The lift system is superb (save for the tram) and they are putting in a super lift 6 pack bubble, etc. to replace the HSQ swift current for next season. Crazy.
    5. Storm/low vis days over in Shedhorn / Dakota area are awesome. I think my favorite from the week along with the areas off the challenger lift. The yurt is great for a quick bite and a bathroom break.
    6. If you are there for a holiday week with a family (more than 2), make your dinner reservations early unless you like eating at 5pm. (which we didn't mind that much with young kids on EC time)
    7. Big portions and great food at the Riverhouse BBQ. Worth the trip. I thought I could put down a lot of food after a big day on the mountain, but wow.
    Last edited by NY DirtBag; Feb 22, 2020 at 7:05 PM. Reason: grammar

  8. #8
    Whitey's Avatar
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    Great TR. I am glad you discovered the Shedhorn area on a low light day. That's a find. Many don't spend enough time there as it takes a while to work your way over there and then they don't give themselves enough time to explore it once you get there. I like how you describe Moonlight as well. Another way underutilized area of the mountain.

    I give you a lot of credit for the hike to 3 forks. Just standing on the landing at the the top of the Challenger lift made me a littel anxious. It falls off from that ridge pretty fast and steep. So could you or I. . .

  9. #9
    NY DirtBag's Avatar
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    The soft snow made the hike less treacherous. Footing was mostly solid.

    With the hsq at shedhorn you can get a crazy amount of runs in with no lines all week. I didnt think getting over there and back was an issue. If you head all the way skiers right off of swift current you can cut through some woods and make the way over more enjoyable. One the way back, the higher traverse puts you right back at the top of swift current. Easy peasy.

    I actually found getting around pretty simple for a large place.

    Of course Dakota lift takes another round to get to. I loved the top lift house at Dakota bunker style in the side of the mountain.

  10. #10
    Whitey's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by NY DirtBag View Post
    The soft snow made the hike less treacherous. Footing was mostly solid.

    With the hsq at shedhorn you can get a crazy amount of runs in with no lines all week. I didnt think getting over there and back was an issue. If you head all the way skiers right off of swift current you can cut through some woods and make the way over more enjoyable. One the way back, the higher traverse puts you right back at the top of swift current. Easy peasy.



    Of course Dakota lift takes another round to get to. I loved the top lift house at Dakota bunker style in the side of the mountain.
    Yah, actually I meant to say "Dakota & Shedhorn" as the place where ppl don't spend enough time, but said just "Shedhorn". The last time I was there was 3 yrs ago and it was the last winter before they put the HSQ in at Shedhorn. So working that area wasn't quite as easy. Some friendly locals pointed out the cut thru off of the swift current lift. That was a win as I had done it via the long cat track before that and that kind of sucked.

    If you had worked your way around the other side of the caldera, you could have skied the "Dirtbag Wall". You could have claimed it as your own.

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