Ski Trip Reports: Under the Big Sky

One month before the COVID-19 pandemic shuddered the 2019/20 Ski Season, I was fortunate enough to be able to spend six days skiing the legendary Ski Resort of Big Sky, MT. Located about an hour’s drive south of Bozeman, the nearly 6,000-acre ski resort flanks the Matterhorn-like peak of Lone Mountain and also extends onto three smaller adjacent peaks. The resort is home to some of the most extreme skiing in North America, as well as what is arguably the continent’s most impressive lift network. This was my second visit to Big Sky, and my first one in not spring. And after this experience, I will definitely be going back next season.

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Built in 2016, the Powder Seeker lift was the first of what will hopefully be many luxury chairlifts at Big Sky, setting a new high bar for the North American Ski Industry

A place where I spent a great deal of time was “The Bowl”. In 2016, the resort revolutionized this area with the instillation of the Powder Seeker Chairlift, a luxury High Speed Six that replaced a slow, aging Heron-Poma fixed-grip triple. The new lift cuts the trip to the top of the bowl from nearly ten minutes to just three, and every chair features bubbles, seat heating, headrests, and individual footrests.

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One of Powder Seeker’s 33 carriers transiting the bottom terminal
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Lone Peak casts a shadow on the Bowl

Awaiting one at the top of Powder Seeker is what might be some of the most legendary high-alpine skiing out there. The Turkey Traverse is a narrow, bumpy track that cuts across the perimeter of the bowl. Beneath it lies a 30-acre powder field. Few are willing to brave the treacherous traverse for it’s entire length, and those that are can find several uninterrupted powder turns even at 4:00 the day after a storm. (Don’t tell anyone about that.) The super-adventurous can board the Lone Peak Tram, a 15-passenger “beer-can” tram that takes skiers and riders from the bowl to the summit of Lone Mountain, where dizzying fall lines await. I’ll never forget the thrill of skiing The Gullies and Cron’s for the first time.

*****

Powder Seeker in and of itself is an impressive skilift. What is even more impressive, however, is the fact that Powder Seeker is not the most impressive lift in the resort.

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Ramcharger 8 debuted in December 2018. The first and to date only eight-passenger chairlift in North America, each of the 65 chairs features bubbles, heated seats, and auto-locking safety bars with individual footrests.

Ramcharger 8 transports skiers and riders from Mountain Village to the summit of Andesite Mountain in less than 5 minutes. The 4,500-foot lift was the first D-Line chairlift to be built at a North American Ski Resort, and represents a new era of Skilift technology. This behemoth lift features direct-drive technology, a monstrous LED screen built into the return terminal, a chairkit height-adjustable loading carpet, a public address system, and 65 luxury bubble chairs with heated seats, auto-locking safety bars, and individual headrests and footrests. By all accounts, this is the most impressive chairlift in North America and sets a new high standard for the rest of the industry to follow.

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By all accounts, Big Sky is an impressive ski resort. Certainly it is a place I am glad to have gotten to experience, and I cannot wait to go back, nor can I wait to see what else is in store for this pioneering mountain.