With incredible terrain and two world-class ski hills within an hour’s drive, this place will change your life—here’s a quick rundown of what our area has to offer.
The Beta: Since merging with Moonlight Basin in 2013, Big Sky now offers 5,750 acres of world-class skiing framed by one incredible backdrop. Big Sky’s vast and varied terrain is home to some of the best skiers in the nation. Beginners can cruise the long, wide groomers while experts explore the extreme slopes accessed from the tram and by hiking to the Headwaters area. With aspects from south to north, there’s nearly always good snow somewhere on the mountain.
The Deal: Students receive discounted day passes and season passes. Buy your season pass before the snow flies for the best discount. The Sky Card is also a great option for those who want a taste of Big Sky at a fraction of the price. With this card, you get two weeks of free skiing, discounted day passes, and many other money-saving benefits. Gold Season Pass: $699 before 9/30, $859 thereafter.
The Beta: This local hill may seem small, but its steep, rugged terrain has produced some of the best skiers in the country—Scot Schmidt and the late, great Doug Coombs among them. Inbounds terrain is rewarding enough, but if you’re willing to hike the Ridge you’ll be rewarded with epic stashes. Don’t miss the recently renovated Bridger lift, as well as Schlasman’s lift that accesses endless bowls, steeps, and chutes. MSU offers ski classes so you can get credit for skiing—how cool is that?
The Deal: Students taking 12 credits or more qualify for a $100 gift card with a season-pass purchase ($599 prior to 9/15, $699 thereafter). Stay away from the weekend crowds and buy a midweek pass for nearly half the price ($390 prior to 9/15, $490 thereafter) of a regular pass. Think fresh pow, short lift lines, and no gapers. Bridger also has a frequent-skier card and plenty of combo deals.
Backcountry skiing is not for everyone. It can involve long, hard climbs, nasty weather, bad conditions, and high risk. For the dedicated few who partake, the natural experience of earning one’s turns is more rewarding than a thousands laps at the resort. While there are many prerequisites to backcountry skiing, surprisingly enough, the ability to ski is not one of them. Here are a few.
Enjoy a Good Sweat
However trite, “earn your turns” is a phrase that accurately describes backcountry skiing. Every turn you make must be climbed for. If you’re lucky, that climbing will take you through a foot or two of fresh snow, making the ascent much more difficult. Steep slopes, rocky ridgelines, and variable conditions are expected. Anyone who enjoys endurance and pushing the body to its physical capacity will enjoy this aspect of backcountry skiing.
Understand the Snowpack
Snow science cannot be summed up in one article; however, anyone traveling in avalanche terrain should have a basic understanding of the season’s snowpack. Throughout the winter season, Mother Nature lays down a wide variety of snow layers. Wind and temperature can drastically change each layer. Sometimes these changes strengthen the snowpack, but just as often these changes weaken it. When the snowpack is weak, a backcountry skier could be the trigger that sets off an avalanche.
A great way to keep tabs on the winter snowpack is to check your local avalanche-forecasting center. It’s not enough just to check the day before an outing, though. Log on to the center’s website a few times a week for the updated avalanche report (the Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center has a daily email you can sign up for). Continually check conditions to keep updated on how the snow is stacking up.
But remember, checking the forecast is only one step. Carry all proper avalanche rescue gear, ski with a partner that you trust, and take an avalanche class before traveling into backcountry terrain.
Desire for Adventure
Any outdoor activity that requires an individual to sweat profusely, understand snow dynamics, and endure various extremes is an adventure. If your main goal is to learn how to ski or get a lot of turns, then backcountry skiing may not be for you. However, if your goal is to connect with skiing in a completely different way, then get out there and earn your turns.
Head to outsidebozeman.com/activities/skiing/backcountry for more information.