Big Sky Boarding
The most extreme freeride terrain is accessed from the Lone Peak Tram, with most of it visible on the three-minute ride up. For all you big Kahunas out there, check out the two couloirs: Little and Big. Both are almost straight in front of you on the way up and are accessible when the backcountry is open. (Remember to ride with a partner and carry all the gear such as a transceiver and shovels.) Depending on how brave you feel, you can either drop off Big Couloir, which has a gradient of 48 degrees, or huck off the cornice at 30 degrees. Little Couloir is the steepest line on the mountain. On your left from the top of the tram you'll see a bunch of chutes, and you can usually find a fresh line if the runs are open. The chutes are accessed by hiking straight up from the top of the triple chair, where you have to sign out with the ski patrol. Another collection of runs called the Gullies face north above the bowl and are accessible from the tram. Ride down Marx and drop in for a 38-degree slope.
The South Face has the steepest open terrain on the mountain. With fresh powder and bluebird conditions there are a huge number of sweet lines down, but it's a freaky, slide-for-life nightmare when conditions are less than perfect. Highlights include staying skier's right down Thunder, then plundering Liberty Bowl or getting fresh lines down Dictator Chutes and Vertical Reality—both are as double as a black diamond gets. Little Tree is a short, intense freeride shot, beginning on your right at the top of the challenger Chair. It starts out mellow and then gets steeper with little chutes, rocks, and small trees.
Big Sky has no real park or pipe. Lobo Laps are a popular jibbing favorite, as the run has good hits and jumps either side. The Shedhorn side gets a bit of wind and some hefty snowdrifts that can be good to bash. The attempt at a fun park is located under the Swift Current Quad. It was apparently pretty cool when it was first built but a bunch of skiers were hurt on it in '97, so they flattened the landings (actually making it more dangerous). There's also a small natural half-pipe at the top of Lower Morning Star.
Big Sky sure knows how to groom its trails. The most fun runs are the groomers on Andesite Mountain, serviced by the two high-speed quads Ramcharger and Thunder Wolf. Check out Elk Park Ridge or Big Horn for a speed fix.
The Nitty Gritty
Summit: 11,150 ft.
Vertical drop: 4,180 ft.
Base: 6,970 ft.
Annual average: 400 inches
Snowmaking: 10 percent
Total area: 3,500 acres
Advanced: 43 percent
Intermediate: 47 percent
Beginner: 10 percent
Length of season: November—late April
Number of lifts: One tram, one gondola, three high-speed quads, seven chairlifts, three surface tows.
Hazards and rules: All ways down from Lone Peak are potentially hazardous to your health and intermediates are discouraged from boarding there. Check conditions with the ski patrol before ascending.
School: Contact Big Sky Snowboard School at (406) 995-5743 for rates and programs.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication