Big Sky Implements Surcharge For Lone Peak Tram

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Big Sky Implements Surcharge For Lone Peak Tram

Postby Tony Crocker » Sun Apr 11, 2021 11:41 am

This does not surprise me.

The SkiTalk thread is full of people bemoaning that next year's Ikon has been available for over a month and this change at Big Sky was just announced this week.
I don't think that's the point. That tram's absurdly low capacity of 200 people per hour has been a chokepoint all along. I've had three visits to Big Sky and been fairly lucky. I had 8 runs in 3 days with NASJA in March 2001 and two runs in two days with Patrick in 2006 when I was tired. With Liz in 2013 the tram was down for weather one day but I had 5 runs over the other two days. I recall the lift lines I chose to wait in ranged from 20-35 minutes.

But it's gotten much worse in recent years, and of course got completely out of control with the pandemic capacity restriction of 2020-21. On a good day now you're getting one run up there and you may wait 2-3 hours for it.

The Lone Peak terrain is quite unique IMHO and Big Sky is a vast but not all that distinctive ski area without it. I fault management, which has been busy spending their $$$ on 8-packs and bubble chairs upgrading lifts that were never crowded. On good days people who have traveled far to ski Big Sky will still pay up for the tram as they do for the top tram at Grand Montets for example, and I thus see little relief to the consistently longest lift line in North America.

Yes that rocky terrain can only handle a certain volume, but capacity needs to be at increased by a factor of 5, which would bring it to the level of a 50-year-old Riblet double chair. A new tram would be ideal, but a slow lift up Liberty would be a reasonable option.

Last fall I identified Big Sky as the worst area to visit during the pandemic season. I doubt I will ever set foot on Big Sky again unless Lone Peak capacity is raised.
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Re: Big Sky Implements Surcharge For Lone Peak Tram

Postby jamesdeluxe » Sun Apr 11, 2021 3:09 pm

Tony Crocker wrote:Big Sky is a vast but not all that distinctive ski area without it [the Lone Peak terrain].

I've never been -- can you explain? I assume you're including Moonlight Basin in that statement?
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Re: Big Sky Implements Surcharge For Lone Peak Tram

Postby EMSC » Mon Apr 12, 2021 9:35 am

I agree with Tony. The reason you go to Big Sky is due to lone peak, not the rest of the terrain.

I'd go to Bridger before I'd go to Big Sky without easy Lone Peak access.

As to Moonlight Basin side of Big Sky, there is the one ridgeline that is kind of a cross between the East Wall and Pali at A-Basin. So while nice terrain, there are a number of areas with similar terrain to that. Including Schlasmans lift at Bridger just up the road. IMO Big Sky is no longer all that uncrowded the way it was 10 or more years ago either. So for expert skiers an analogy for intermediates might be, why go to vail if it removed access to all of the back bowls/Blue Sky? It would still be a large ski area, but not worth the crowds and hassle for what is left to ski.
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Re: Big Sky Implements Surcharge For Lone Peak Tram

Postby Tony Crocker » Mon Apr 12, 2021 10:13 pm

Big Sky, as large as it is, also has an ability gap in the high intermediate/low advanced range IMHO. Interestingly so does Bridger. Patrick in 2006 expressed this sentiment even more, and we were at both areas with very good conditions. Bridger in 2006 was before Schlasman's, which I think was a major enhancement.

I will not be home for awhile, but the first ski guidebook I bought in 1970's by Miles Jaffe (expert eastern skiers) has a very lukewarm review of Big Sky before Lone Peak (and also Challenger which opened in 1988). So I can't quote exactly, but they thought Big Sky was distinctly lacking in challenging terrain.

Of the expert terrain now at Big Sky other than Lone Peak, Challenger has bad exposure and much of Headwaters requires a rather sketchy hike above the lift.
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Re: Big Sky Implements Surcharge For Lone Peak Tram

Postby jamesdeluxe » Tue Apr 13, 2021 10:22 am

Tony Crocker wrote:the first ski guidebook I bought in 1970's by Miles Jaffe (expert eastern skiers) has a very lukewarm review of Big Sky before Lone Peak (and also Challenger which opened in 1988). So I can't quote exactly, but they thought Big Sky was distinctly lacking in challenging terrain.

I'd be interested in reading the review of Big Sky, if you could photograph and post it. I assume that this is the book?

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Re: Big Sky Implements Surcharge For Lone Peak Tram

Postby Tony Crocker » Tue Apr 13, 2021 3:11 pm

That is indeed the book. It had a one sentence warning about Jackson Hole's exposure that I only noticed rereading that chapter after the debacle of my first trip there over spring break 1986.
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Re: Big Sky Implements Surcharge For Lone Peak Tram

Postby q » Wed Apr 14, 2021 4:28 am

Can't really disagree with much that has already been mentioned. Without Lone Peak and the Headwaters I wouldn't bother looking near Big Sky. Other than good times with friends the groomers while long are boring IMO. That said in the last 5 years I have had some really really good days lapping the tram and been walk on even in March/April. If you are prepared to ski up there and know where you are and where you are going on low viz days then that is the time to head there.
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Re: Big Sky Implements Surcharge For Lone Peak Tram

Postby egieszl » Wed Apr 21, 2021 7:44 am

Big Sky is impressive when viewed on a trail map, but I have to agree with the other comments.
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Re: Big Sky Implements Surcharge For Lone Peak Tram

Postby Tony Crocker » Sat Apr 24, 2021 6:22 pm

Jaffe-BigSky.jpg

Keep in mind Big Sky had only been open 5 years when the book was written in 1978. Not only was there no Lone Peak or Challenger, there was not even Thunder Wolf on the backside of Ramcharger.

This was the guidebook I bought in 1979 before I first skied outside California the next season. The most useful feature it taught me was to look at the length to vertical ratios of chairlifts rather than BS trail ratings in order to determine how steep terrain is.

It's interesting how they compliment Big Sky for its northeast exposure. What was there then was the east facing gondola and north facing Ramcharger. The Lone Peak, Challenger and Thunder Wolf additions all have majority sunny exposure. Later, Moonlight added some more north facing to the mix. Completely built out, Big Sky has 37%/35%/2%/25% north/east/west/south exposure vs. an average of 42%/27%/19%/12% for North American resorts overall that I analyzed for Zrankings.

Note they also repeat the 400 inch snowfall claim. As discussed before Big Sky's early years open were good for snow. There are 16 months of Dec-Mar Big Sky snowfall stats for those first 5 seasons, which averaged 117% of normal. That would get you to 340 inches as an annual average.
http://bestsnow.net
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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
Season powder: 291K in 2011-12
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Re: Big Sky Implements Surcharge For Lone Peak Tram

Postby snowave » Sun Apr 25, 2021 10:13 pm

I also was not terribly impressed with Big Sky when I was there in 2011,(I think) but it was so uncrowded, it made it much more tolerable. I actually liked the terrain at Moonlight a little better, although conditions over there were not good. I didn't get to go up the tram because of weather, and then a reallly long line turned me off on the one clear, powder day we had. The worst part about Big Sky are the ridiculously long, flat run-outs.
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Re: Big Sky Implements Surcharge For Lone Peak Tram

Postby Tony Crocker » Mon Apr 26, 2021 1:00 am

snowave wrote: The worst part about Big Sky are the ridiculously long, flat run-outs.

Thus the advanced intermediate terrain gap I mentioned before.
http://bestsnow.net
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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