Big Sky, MT February 27-March 1, 2019

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Big Sky, MT February 27-March 1, 2019

Postby tseeb » Sat Mar 02, 2019 7:37 am

I left Calgary about 6:45 and arrived Belgrade, near BZN, about 8 1/2 hrs later at 3:15. There were some interesting effects before and during the sunrise over the plains.
6772PreSunrise.JPG
6778SunriseRainbow.JPG
I checked into motel before my wife arrived on Alaska via PDX. It’s about 500 miles, but almost all 4 lane. The slow lane was usually clear, but passing trucks required using snow-packed lane.
6780PlainsHighway.JPG
The speed limit on a lot of I-15 in Montana is 80, but I was good going about 10 under and went a little slower after Helena where road crosses some hills, even though it generally follows the Missouri River. Calgary was single digits below 0F as was most of my trip. The only sliding I did was exiting I-90 in Belgrade where it was snowing hard.
6783BozemanTemps.PNG
Since it was my wife’s first day of the year and we thought it would be cold, we did not leave motel in Belgrade until 9. There was some traffic to the Big Sky turnoff and the access road was slower. We probably should have turned into and parked at the Lodge at Big Sky, where we were staying for two nights. Day parking was full all the way to the Q lots which required a shuttle that quickly arrived, filled and dropped us a base. It was 11 AM before we got to the top of the most advanced lifts in the world, Ramcharger 8-pack with heated seats, blue cover and footrests that automatically raise a couple of feet before unloading.
2217LonePeakRamChair.JPG
Picture was taken about 3:45 PM on 2/28 when clouds cleared over Lone Peak
We skied one run that returned to the chair base, then one to base of longer with more vertical Thunder? Wolf chair. At the top we returned to the base and rode Swift Current where we finally found a somewhat groomed run, Calamity Jane, that my wife enjoyed more than other runs that had a lot of new snow. We went into and eventually found where the Pugski group had conference room, but my wife had to return to Mountain Mall to get something to eat.

After a long for me break, I went out and joined a Canadian/Boston group of about 5 skiers and one snowboarder where I was usually holding down the tail spot. I was skiing my powder skis and they were a lot of work in tight trees and chopped up powder that we skied on the Moonlight side. My watch counted 13 runs and 17K. We joined group at poker table in rear of Montana Jack for a beer or two before I caught which may have been last shuttle to parking at 5. While taking off my boots, I heard and saw the rebound from a hard crash between SUV exiting parking and pickup truck going down the road. Since they were blocking the exit, I found another way back to base to get my wife.

The rest of this will be quick summary. Big Sky had 12” new the day before we arrived and reported 11/7/5” new the three days we skied. Upper lifts including the tram did not run on Tues or Wed. My highlights on Thursday were being at the right end of the rope raise getting first tracks into Steep and Deep under the Powder Seeker chair (a 6-pack with cover and heated seats), and catching tram with short line and sun at the top a little after 2. Only Liberty Bowl was open and I found I few rocks skiing deep snow along right edge. I had 17K before lunch and finished with over 28.5K. Sorry, but rest of my report and pictures will have to wait as we are in West Yellowstone, where it is -3, and have a snowmobile tour to Old Faithful to catch.
Last edited by tseeb on Tue Mar 05, 2019 5:07 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Big Sky, MT February 27-March 1, 2019

Postby tseeb » Sun Mar 03, 2019 7:59 am

Added a few pictures, but need to get going as we are skiing JHMR today and are in Driggs, about an hour away
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Re: Big Sky, MT February 27-March 1, 2019

Postby Tony Crocker » Sun Mar 03, 2019 10:46 am

tseeb wrote:the most advanced lifts in the world, Ramcharger 8-pack with heated seats, blue cover and footrests that automatically raise a couple of feet before unloading.

Austria has had quite a few of those for some time. Awhile back I looked on skiresort.info and found that Austria has 55 of the world's 94 8-pack chairs. Ramcharger is the first in North America.

tseeb wrote:a lot of work in tight trees and chopped up powder that we skied on the Moonlight side

Interesting. I thought Big Sky was known for low skier density. Moonlight was often deserted when the areas were separate. I have not been there since Big Sky bought Moonlight and Spanish Peaks out of potential bankruptcies. How was the powder skiing vs. Stevens and Apex?
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Re: Big Sky, MT February 27-March 1, 2019

Postby Tony Crocker » Sun Mar 03, 2019 11:08 am

This image with the two points of brightness either side of the Sun
Image
is perhaps a sunrise version of the halo effect.

A sun halo is formed in the right atmospheric conditions by refraction through ice crystals in a 22.5 degree circle around the sun. This picture is from Mammoth in December 2011:
Image
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Re: Big Sky, MT February 27-March 1, 2019

Postby tseeb » Sun Mar 03, 2019 10:52 pm

Tony Crocker wrote:
tseeb wrote:a lot of work in tight trees and chopped up powder that we skied on the Moonlight side

Interesting. I thought Big Sky was known for low skier density. Moonlight was often deserted when the areas were separate. I have not been there since Big Sky bought Moonlight and Spanish Peaks out of potential bankruptcies. How was the powder skiing vs. Stevens and Apex?
I got very lucky with rope drop (really ribbon/tape raise) into Steep and Deep, skier's right at top of Powder Seeker chair (a six-pack with bubble cover that I think it had been renamed since it was upgraded from slow lift last time I was there). A lot of people were waiting on the high side, but patroller lifted low side where I was first one through after it had been closed since 30" of new snow fell. I had hit some trees and other untracked further lookers right on previous runs. It did not ski that deep as it was somewhat wind affected and had settled some since it fell over 2+ days. It was very sweet although since I was making a lot of turns, I was passed by some boarders.

I also took a couple of runs off the Turkey Trot traverse looker's left at top of chair and heard F-bombs on both of them. My first time on the traverse someone had lost a ski (he said he hit a rock, but it was probably only gravel from bombing). Then I ran up on a guy who couldn't handle the short uphills and stalled at least twice in front on me. My second time across, when I found a great deep line an opening or two before the end, a guy was digging for his wife's ski just below the traverse and seemed to expect everyone to stop until he found it. There were a lot of people on traverse that should have stayed away from it.

Big Sky was very busy all three days I was there, way busier than Stevens. There was an article about Ikon effect at http://www.lonepeaklookout.com/news/clues-colorado in local paper.
Last edited by tseeb on Mon Mar 04, 2019 5:41 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Big Sky, MT February 27-March 1, 2019

Postby baldyskier » Mon Mar 04, 2019 5:20 am

tseeb wrote:Big Sky was very busy all three days I was there. There was an article about Ikon effect at http://www.lonepeaklookout.com/news/clues-colorado


Sure seems like these mega-passes, along with faster lifts and the profusion of wider, rockered skis is resulting in a lot shorter powder days. At Alta and Snowbird in January this year, it was more like a powder run or two than powder days, even midweek/non-holiday (unless you have the intel and experience to catch the latest rope drops; even then you're looking at a powder run or two). I thought I scored country club conditions on January 21st when they closed LCC road behind me, but as soon as they opened the road they closed the lifts (at 12:45 PM) and told us to head down (then there was a natural slide on the road that forced us all into interlodge until 6 PM). Alta never re-opened that day.

I didn't ski there this year, but I understand that even Solitude has turned into "Crowded, Too".

I'm considering looking into backcountry skiing, although that involves added risk, a significant learning curve, new equipment, finding ski partners, etc.
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Re: Big Sky, MT February 27-March 1, 2019

Postby EMSC » Mon Mar 04, 2019 11:30 am

Pretty sure those are Sun Dogs https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sun_dog
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Re: Big Sky, MT February 27-March 1, 2019

Postby Tony Crocker » Mon Mar 04, 2019 2:30 pm

I thought this was a sun dog:
Image
This is from St. Anton in 2017. The sun glare is just touching the top of the picture. The bright spot near the ground is probably caused by the same ice crystal refraction process. To get that effect near the ground it needs to be very cold. The high in St. Anton that day was +8F. I remember seeing this at Chatter Creek in 2008 around zero F.

The halo around the sun only requires ice crystals at high altitude. This Astronomy Picture of the Day was taken in September 2018 by eclipse chaser Stephen Bedingfield at Yellowknife in the Yukon.
Image

From EMSC's reference the sun dog is the bright point of light, most common to the left and right of the Sun at sunrise or sunset as in Tseeb's pic, and less common below the Sun as in my St. Anton pic. The Bedingfield picture is a halo like mine but more sharply shows the bright sun dogs left and right of the Sun. Unlike the other pics, Bedingfield's also shows much of the parhelic circle.

tseeb wrote:way busier than Stevens

Wow! I think that would surprise a lot of people. Some of that is having Lone Peak closed though. Were Challenger and Headwaters open?
baldyskier wrote:I didn't ski there this year, but I understand that even Solitude has turned into "Crowded, Too".

I'm sure Solitude has seen the greatest impact from Ikon, as it's the only unlimited Ikon area for Utah locals. Sight unseen, I'm removing Solitude from my short list of "best uncrowded areas." Admin, does Pebble Creek qualify as a worthy replacement?

Utah must be a lock to set a skier visit record this season. I will also be surprised if 2018-19 doesn't blow away the Kottke report US attendance record of 60.5 million skier visits in 2007-08 and 2010-11.

At any rate, this is one more reason I make that Canadian trip every year. Castle Mt. looks better all the time with these developments, and there are other Canadian areas with relatively low skier density too. There are also the "q" areas in Montana.
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Re: Big Sky, MT February 27-March 1, 2019

Postby baldyskier » Mon Mar 04, 2019 4:04 pm

What are the q areas?
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Re: Big Sky, MT February 27-March 1, 2019

Postby EMSC » Mon Mar 04, 2019 4:11 pm

Tony Crocker wrote:I thought this was a sun dog:


I'm no expert, but I'm going with "Subsun" for your picture https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Subsun

There are a whole series of things that are all relatively related to halo's around the sun/moon.
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Re: Big Sky, MT February 27-March 1, 2019

Postby Tony Crocker » Mon Mar 04, 2019 5:20 pm

baldyskier wrote:What are the q areas?


"q" lives in Scotland and visits a friend in Phillipsburg (population 800) every March. Discovery is about 15 minutes from Phillipsburg and about 1.5 hours from Butte or Missoula. I could make the argument that Discovery is second only to Castle in terrain quality among under-the-radar areas. Discovery does not get abundant snow but preserves it fairly well, so March is the best time there.

A "q" area is anything in Montana that's not Big Sky or Whitefish (meaning a destination resort). You could argue that Bridger and Montana Snowbowl are borderline cases because there are enough locals in Bozeman and Missoula to generate weekend and powder day lift lines. But even those areas are pretty quiet the rest of the time.
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Re: Big Sky, MT February 27-March 1, 2019

Postby jamesdeluxe » Tue Mar 05, 2019 6:24 am

tseeb wrote:the most advanced lifts in the world, Ramcharger 8-pack with heated seats, blue cover and footrests that automatically raise a couple of feet before unloading.
Tony Crocker wrote:Austria has had quite a few of those for some time. Awhile back I looked on skiresort.info and found that Austria has 55 of the world's 94 8-pack chairs. Ramcharger is the first in North America.

My wife and I rode the very first lift of that kind at Lech in 2005, the Steinmähder, which I'm sure Tony knows as it serves some nice in-bounds terrain. You can imagine the novelty of it back then; she thought it was the greatest thing since sliced bread.

I found the original press release:
https://newsroom.doppelmayr.com/en/dopp ... hairlifts/
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Re: Big Sky, MT February 27-March 1, 2019

Postby tseeb » Tue Mar 05, 2019 8:07 am

It seems like what was in first picture is a sun pillar and the second picture was probably a sun dog. See https://www.weather.gov/arx/why_halos_sundogs_pillars although their sun pillar picture is missing.

Tony Crocker asked "Were Challenger and Headwaters open?" I think Challenger was open all three days and Headwaters probably was not open until Friday. While waiting in 8 tram/40 minute lift line for my last lift on Friday, we saw people dropping steep A-Z chutes that face S and require hike above Headwaters. Some of our group did hike and dropped N into Chute 5 where they said a fall could have ended in a cliff. From the top of the tram, I led a group of about 8 pugskiers into Marx, following good signage and some instruction from a local. Snow was a little crusted on top, but skied well. Visibility was OK, but light was somewhat flat as it was after 3. No pictures from Marx and no time to look for other pictures from Friday. My watch counted almost 25K vertical. Northern Snowfields and Big Couloir were not open. Mike/mdf who struggled a little on Marx did get the Big on Saturday with Alfred/unpiste.

At opening on Friday, I did not like long line on Swift Current, which was only loading from one side, so I went up Ramcharger and skied intermediate groomer to Southern Comfort which had an inch or two of dust in the sun everywhere and some deeper snow on edges. Then I skied back to base and saw Swifty line went down so I rode it then Powder Seeker (formerly was Lone Peak Triple). I did short hike to knoll above tram base where I had first tracks, I moved to Lone Pine where I found some untracked and rode it at least twice. Chair had about a 5 minute line, but since I was single loading a triple, I did not have much of a wait. I then took a couple of laps on Challenger finding some deep but mostly tracked snow, then skied Headwaters chair once before riding it again and going S in lower Pinnacles which had a very rocky entrance.

After a lunch break upstairs at Mountain Mall with my wife and her group, which required a long wait for microwave to re-heat our leftover Thai noodles, I joined her group for a run down Big Horn. After riding Thunder Wolf chair with Kevin, who is a patroller in Michigan, we planned to head for the tram, which he had never ridden. There was somebody down near top with a patroller and he stopped and crossed his skis to better protect the injured person and wait for the sled. After waiting a couple of minutes, I left him there and was able to meet up with group heading for tram in Swifty line.
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Re: Big Sky, MT February 27-March 1, 2019

Postby Tony Crocker » Tue Mar 05, 2019 5:12 pm

tseeb wrote:See https://www.weather.gov/arx/why_halos_sundogs_pillars although their sun pillar picture is missing.

I think sun pillars can be above or below the Sun. St. Anton and Chatter Creek were both below. Chatter Creek:
Image

jamesdeluxe wrote:My wife and I rode the very first lift of that kind at Lech in 2005, the Steinmähder, which I'm sure Tony knows as it serves some nice in-bounds terrain. You can imagine the novelty of it back then; she thought it was the greatest thing since sliced bread.

Steinmähder is Lech's highest chair, but it faces south. It had melt/frozen conditions in 2013 so I probably skied one groomed run on it the whole week as I was in St. Anton with guides more. Liz and I rode it a few times in 2017 but mostly to access powder terrain on its opposite north side.
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Ski Records
Season length: 21 months, Nov. 29, 2010 - July 2, 2012
Days in one year: 80 from Nov. 29, 2010 - Nov. 17, 2011
Season vertical: 1,610K in 2016-17
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