Not quite Gallatin Canyon: Traffic on I-70 from Aspen to Denver. These cars aren't moving.
WITH LAST night’s storm, Big Sky just reached a benchmark 200”of snowfall this year – 37% more snow than last year at this time and 11% more than the average at this time. The stats are huge, but one powdery run off the peak will speak for itself: snow conditions this year have been stellar.
It’s been a good snow year for some other resorts too, and when the representatives from the ski industry all got together last week at the Snowsports Industry Association Snow Show in Denver, the words “La Nina” were the buzz throughout the giant convention center. Of course there was gear talk too (Blizzard’s new “upside down” Bodacious ski with true reverse camber molding? Cool!), but snow was the topic of the weekend: good snow means good business.
High off of the SIA buzz and 60-degree weather in Denver (“Why do I live in Montana again?” I asked Chad. The memory of frigid temps back in Big Sky was giving me shivers), Mad Chad and I decided to head to Aspen for the weekend. I’d never been, but I grew up hearing my mom talking about skiing Snowmass in the 1960s, and a bit of nostalgia mixed with the allure of the Powder Video Awards, the X-Games, and the prospect of spotting a few Gucci-clad celebs was enough motivation for Chad and I to jump in the car for the 3 hour, 45 minute drive.
Six hours later, we were a mile outside of Aspen, stuck in stand-still traffic. I turned to Chad: “Oh,” I said. “This is why I live in Montana."
All hope of catching the end of the X-Games events lost, we pulled right up to the Powder Video Awards. But the venue was at fire capacity and we were turned away. Dejected and exhausted, we tried to look on the bright side: at least we had friends in Snowmass to visit and a good day of skiing ahead.
And the skiing was good. You really can’t complain when you get to spend a bluebird day on the slopes with friends. But already I was missing Big Sky. At the ticket window, when the cashier rung me up for a $96 lift ticket, I turned to Chad for the second time that weekend: “Exhibit B.” I said “Why I live in Montana.”
The 96 bucks did get us comparable acreage to our home mountain, but the layout was much more spread out: we were spending our runs trying to get from one lift to another instead of just pointing our skis downhill and going for a great run, and a snowboarding Chad was getting disgruntled with his cramping feet by our fifth cat track. We took a hike for some side-country access, but the run felt like it was over in an instant (where was my 6-mile run from the top of the tram?). Snowmass has had a decent winter, but the runs were fast and hard, and the “stashes” we found were extremely tracked out.
I was having a good time, but it’s hard to feel excited about a ski day when you’re used to better conditions and better runs for $15 bucks cheaper. By my last run, I felt both spoiled and humbled - how lucky am I to live in the home of the best and Biggest Skiing in America, where prices are actually less than most other comparable resorts? I had clearly been taking Big Sky for granted.
So I packed up after a decent ski day happy to hit the road and get back to Montana, where a huge snowstorm was rolling in with even more powder. In the standstill traffic driving back to Denver on I-70, I looked out at the trail of red break lights winding through the mountains and turned to Chad once more. This time he knew what was coming, and chimed right in: “This.” We said to each other, “is why we live in Montana.”
Sking with friends in Snowmass: fun, but no Big Sky A lift ticket at Snowmass set us back $96