Thankfully the recent wind storm has blown itself out, so Thursday morning I donned my skis and headed straight for the Challenger lift. Even the easy groomer run "Lower Morning Star" had an inch of fresh snow above the groomed corduroy base, so I knew it was going to be a good day.
For my first trip down the Challenger area I took the run "Moonlight" and it was a dream come true. Powder had filled the gaps between the moguls on the upper section, making the turns an effortless joy. The main part of the run had the best powder I've seen all season. The snow report said Big Sky Resort received 1 inch of snow in the last 24 hours, but I stopped a couple of times and measured the fresh snow depth with my avalanche gear and the fluff was definitely 4 inches deep across the entire slope.
I made several more laps on Challenger, exploring "Midnight" and "Moonlight" and sometimes wandering through trees. The top part of the Challenger runs was soon scraped hard, but the runs themselves were still full of untracked Montana cold smoke powder. Hmm, a little bit of hard on top, a huge creamy section below, and 100% sweet - skiing Challenger sounds a lot like a Creme Brulee!
By 11 a.m. I still hadn't crossed anybody else's ski tracks on the main part of a run. And the only lift line was when two skiers and I arrived at the bottom of the lift simultaneously. I let them go first, I grabbed the next chair, and the 20 chairs after us were completely empty. Sadly, I had to leave Challenger for an early lunch, so I cut over to ski the bottom half of "Big Rock Tongue". On the final steep drop off to "Fast Lane" the fresh snow was above my boots. We need more one-inch days like this.
Although I had important appointments in Bozeman in the afternoon, I snuck in one last quick run before heading home. I rode up the Swift Current high speed quad, made short work of "Rice Bowl", and explored in and out of the trees on the "Crazy Horse" run. At the start of the cat track back to the base area I picked up speed and made a hard left uphill, following a road into the woods. The road quickly narrowed to a path that went underneath the Gondola One lift. After a little bit of uphill work I was rewarded with 32 turns (yes I counted them all!) of fresh new down-feather snow. . . at 1 p.m. . . at the bottom 200 vertical feet of the resort. I always knew I moved to Big Sky for a reason.
Note - Friday is $20 day at Big Sky Resort. That's right, for one day anybody can get access to the biggest ski resort in Montana and it only costs them an Andrew Jackson. Normally the local university does not schedule important classes on $20 Friday because attendance is so poor. But this year it has been snowing non-stop for the 24 hours prior to $20 Friday, so the county might as well declare November 30th a holiday - I doubt anybody is going to show up for work when there's $20 powder down the road.
Guest Columnist and Big Sky resident Matt Squires works as little as possible in the winter months