Asst. Gathermeister-- Aspen 2021
- Feb 9, 2016
- Northern Virginia, USA
View of Lone Peak from my morning bus stop on my last day of the Gathering
I thought I'd just start this trip report with maybe the most important part...
During this year's Gathering, we got... 40... freaking....inches... of... snow!
Up high, at least. It came in over several days, made everything soft pretty much everywhere, all the time. Even the groomers had several inches on them most days.
Big Sky really delivered - lots of great empty runs, minimal lift lines, tons of chopped pow and soft bumps, wide open glades, and generally fantastic skiing. Maybe the only negative was low visibility up high most days, limiting the chances to ski off the peak and higher lifts. But I don't think anyone minded too much - and I'm pretty sure all 60+ attendees had a great time.
Most folks flew into Bozeman, although quite a few people drove as well. I flew into Bozeman from DC via Dallas on Saturday, so it was a bit of a long trip. I suppose difficulty to get there is one reason that Big Sky doesn't generally get crowded.
The Bozeman airport fits very well with the town and area - it's reminiscent of a big ski lodge (or National Park lodge) with carpeting, fireplaces, and lots of big wood beams. At the baggage claim area they have a lot of elaborate ads... I particularly liked the one for Bridger Bowl.
Bridger Bowl ad at baggage claim in Bozeman
After getting my rental car I made an easy 1 hour drive down to Big Sky and got settled in and ready for the rest of the Gathering.
Day 1 - Sunday
The day started out gray and snow was expected... a good start. I decided I'd take the bus one stop from our condo to the base village. I wound up doing this every day.
View of Lone Peak from the bus stop... you can almost make out the peak, but it wouldn't really show up until day 5
The group was meeting in the Mammoth room for the first two days.... a big public room at the base that provides additional cafeteria seating. We were able to boot up and leave bags there, and it worked out well to reacquaint and say hello to new and old friends. People grouped up and headed out for some great skiing!
First morning meetup
The first day, my group explored Andesite mountain... it has several lifts and a lot of great skiing. It's a large area in and of itself, and you start to get a sense of how big Big Sky really is... I'd call it sprawling. We found a lot of soft snow throughout the day and it snowed off and on.
@Dean and @bigguyski watching others come up the new Ramcharger lift
Elk Park Meadows - this got skied quite a few days. A huge open meadow with varying pitches and bumps.
@lisamamot and @Dean on, I think, Thunder Wolf lift
Me and Elizabeth on Thunder Wolf lift
L-to-R : @lisamamot, Elizabeth, @Philpug, @bbinder in the Lizette glade. There were a lot of wide open glades of various difficulties at Big Sky... lots of fun for folks (like me) learning to ski trees more.
@bigguyski and @Dean in Lizette
@Philpug, @bigguyski, and @bbinder on Southern Comfort (the lift)
Requisite PugSki ski sticker shot I always take... this one with the cool new K2's @Philpug was on
Late in the day, after running into some other Gatherers, testing the snow depth just off the groomer (with @mdf, and a bit of @SkiDB and @Tony S thrown in too)
Every day after skiing, some of us headed to Montana Jack for apres... always nice to have a regular apres spot and just see who showed up each day. @Poolskier Vinny and his posse, including @FrozenDessert, really drove the apres - it was a great group to hang out with, though I didn't get to ski with them. Next time!
Adele, @MattSmith, @SkiDB
@Poolskier Vinny in the middle, and more of his Canadian posse
Day 2 - Monday
This was a bit of a "mountain tour" kind of day, as we wanted to get across the resort to the "Moonlight Basin" side - the part of the resort that used to be a separate resort called Moonlight Basin. This involves 4 lifts to get over to the very furthest runs, which is what we wanted to do, so it took a while. After a warm up run down some nice soft groomers, we made our way over.
Warm up run was crowded in the early morning
@bigguyski navigating around the crowds
@bigguyski ... smooth turns!
We made it over to Horseshoe, the furthest run eventually (with some great snow along the way) and it was beautiful. It's a very gentle blue run, but has a couple inches of snow on top of untouched grooming, and several inches to play around in off of either side. A few other folks decided to try some of the black tree runs in the area too... which I'd do later in the week.
Almost untracked, hero groomer
@Weegie McAdams, Meimei, and @Flying Dutchess on Horseshoe
After the Horseshoe run, we headed over to the Madison base for a break and decided to head back for lunch to the main base... it was a lot of travelling around the mountain.
@John Webb, @Dean, @lisamamot, and @BillSavage near the Madison base
After lunch we went back over to some familiar territory on Andesite mountain to finish the day.
@bigguyski in Elk Park Meadow picking a line down
@Flying Dutchess, @Weegie McAdams, and @bigguyski back in Lizette - I think I did this run about 5 times during the week
Monday night was the party at PugSki central... it was a nice time with a big turnout, but I didn't take pics. What happens at a PugSki party stays at a PugSki party I guess.
Day 3 - Tuesday
Tuesday we got a refresh on the snow (though didn't really need it ) We skied some of the groomers off of the Swift Current chair, hoping that a couple of the other areas we hadn't hit yet would open. (Shedhorn and Dakota lifts... They were closed for avy mitigation, mostly of the high terrain above them I think.) We found some more nice open glades to ski, and some good groomers and did several laps.
The area didn't appear to be opening any time soon, so we once again headed back to the Ramcharger lift on Andesite mountain. It was snowing pretty heavily off and on, and a bubble chair was welcome. As was the soft and deep snow we found in places.
Snowing heavily as @bigguyski and @Dean ski snow covered/filled in bumps
@Flying Dutchess, @Dean, @bigguyski, and @Weegie McAdams under the bubble
Later that afternoon, I met some others at Everett's 8800 restaurant at the top of Ramcharger. It's a sit down restaurant at an elevation of 8800 feet. You need reservations for lunch, but I think it's worth it. It was very nice, the food was good, and it was pricey but not crazy. One of the reasons they put in the fancy bubble chair was to allow non-skiers to come up here any time, and we saw a few who just rode up for lunch.
Inside Everett's. We got the table in the back corner with windows on both sides - nice!
Later I skied several times down Ambush Meadows, which had some deep-ish stuff all along the skier's right side among some thin trees. It was great. And I ran into a few other PugSkiers to finish the day!
Great snow all day!
@PisteOff and @ChunderBlunder coming out of the trees and bumps on Ambush Glades
@Gary Stolt carving some soft stuff at the bottom of Ambush Glade
Day 4 - Wednesday
Best Day Ever!
We got a bunch more snow - the biggest amount of the week - and skied some wonderful runs. With all the new snow, some of us wanted to head back over to the Moonlight Basin side and ski some of the tree runs over there. On the way we found some nearly untracked areas and lots of deep (for me - ankle to shin deep) snow.
The Lone Tree lift was running in fits and starts, and not running at times, so we skied a few cruising runs - and a gully - in the Moonlight area wating to go up Lone Tree. Once that started running we got into Single Jack, which I think was my favorite run and the deepest pockets of snow I've skied - knee deep in places!
@Jim Kenney joined us and "commandeered" my camera, and we got a bunch of action shots in the deep snow. Including some of me, which is nice though I'm not used to that.
@Pumba and @theNitza heading to the Moonlight side
@theNitza skiing the chopped up pow
Me in the chop
@Pumba charging some bumps and drops
Me again... I'm starting to like this "off-piste" stuff!
@Pumba driving hard
@theNitza getting a bit of air off a bump
@Pumba watching @Jim Kenney head down some deep stuff
We lapped the Six Shooter lift waiting for Lone Tree to open, and a bunch of other folks had the same idea we did. This was about the biggest lift line of the week, and was only a few minutes.
Six Shooter lift line
Once Lone Tree opened, we headed to the Single Jack run, which was mostly empty. At one point a couple of skiers cruised past us and said "please don't tell anyone about this" as they passed. I understood... Why wouldn't you want it all to yourself?!?
@Pumba in Single Jack
@theNitza at the bottom of one of the steeper little pitches
Looking down another pillow soft pitch
@Pumba in the pow
We also did some of the other little open glades/tree runs including some of the blue ones... still nice, but not as fun as the ones we did earlier.
View of Whiskey run
@theNitza in Whiskey
A bit later we ran into the @KingGrump group... which lead us to ski the face under the Lone Tree lift, which I believe is the steepest thing I've ever skied. Which was a great experience in all the soft snow, though I was tired and struggled a bit. I think I'd do it more justice if I got another crack at it!
And of course I ended the day at Montana Jack again, with some usual suspects....
@Poolskier Vinny and @MattSmith - always so serious
Kathleen (I think? Sorry if I've got that wrong!) with an impressive trick - Canadians are good with pint glasses.
Day 5 - Thursday
Thursday things started to clear, so it looked like the day the tram may really be open. So folks started heading higher. I wasn't planning to do the tram, but I did want to check out the bowl under the peak near the tram base. So we headed up high early.
@Tony S, and @Tony (who arrived to ski this day) looking at the clearing up high
At the top of the Powder Seeker lift (heated six-pack bubble, btw) you get a good view of the tram and couloirs ... it wasn't as clear up high as hoped
View of the base village from up high
We lapped Powder Seeker a few times, before they opened the bowl. Quite a few folks - 50? 100? - raced into it quickly.
After lapping Powder Seeker for a while, it was getting cloudier, foggier, and flatter light, so we headed low to do some laps on the Iron Horse chair that most of us hadn't really skied yet. We found some nice runs and glades.
@Flying Dutchess coming out of the liftline glade
@Dean spraying some pow
After heading back for lunch, I met up with a couple of other folks who had just arrived this day, and skied around Andesite in the afternoon with them. Of course, we skied Lizette again! It was getting warm and sunny in places by the end of the day, and the snow was getting obviously heavier and stickier down low.
@fosphenytoin in Lizette
Georgeann in Lizette
We also skied Congo Line - still a blue run, but a bit more serious glade with nice bumps. I think PugSkiers spent a lot of time on this run, as it was convenient to heading back to the base.
The sun was again returning in the afternoon. This is from under the Swift Current lift, with Andesite mountain on the right.
Finally around the end of the day we actually could see the peak for the first time all week, with a spot of sun on it... a sign of things to come
Day 6 - Friday
Friday was sunny! The only sunny day we got all week, and it was nice to end on a bluebird day. The mountain was beautiful in the sun, the runs were fast, but it was still pretty cold so there was still soft snow to be found.
The random ski rack I picked in the morning before booting up was popular with PugSkiers
A bluebird Friday can bring out the crowds. Lines at the base got this long occassionally, but weren't consistent... this line would wane to just a handful of folks a little later in the morning
Lone Mountain in the sun is pretty amazing to see
The base village mall looking perfectly wintry... Montana Jack apres spot is in the low section on the left
Part of Elk Ridge Meadow in the sun.... it stayed relatively soft and nice
I spent the morning skiing with @mdf, @Needham, and @SkiDB
We ripped some of the nice groomers in the sun... @mdf finishing up here
Then we hit Bear's Lair... a (for me) steep tree run.... tiring for me, but fun, and the others were very encouraging, like @SkiDB
Then we headed up high... and could fully see the couliors - Big Couloir on the left, and Little on the right
A few more runs, and my last ski day was done
On Saturday, I drove back to Bozeman and took a flight out. We had some de-icing problems in Bozeman, and some flight delay in Dallas because my connection was coming from Denver. I got home in about 13 hours. Big Sky is not the easiest place to get to... or to leave either!
Lift Tickets :
I was on the Mountain Collective pass, and had three included days. After that I bought a three day lift ticket, with each day at half the window rate, or ~$80 a day. It was nice that I could just get a 3 day ticket. At Taos (for instance) you have to buy a single day ticket each morning.
So far this year I've used 5 included days on the MCP, and plan to get two more. And I've bought 6 half price days, so it's worked out well for $410. But as I've also skied Sunday River and Stratton, an Ikon pass would actually have been cheaper. Have to look at that for next season.
We got a two bedroom, two bath condo walking distance from the base (a bit of a hike, but I walked home every day) for ~$1400 for the week. Not bad IMO. Others had a great deal at the hotel right at the base village. And others had nice house rentals down the mountain a few miles drive. Lots of options at Big Sky.
Rental car :
I lucked out on a great deal with Alamo that I got back in September - $216 advertised for the week for a full-size SUV (~$250 with taxes). I had a Nissan Armada which was great for the snow covered roads everywhere, and for getting in and out of our parking lot as it got snowed in throughout the week.
The food at the cafeteria was actually pretty good, I thought, and not too expensive. Everett's was very good and worth doing. At night we mostly ate in, though we did hit Alberto's in the Meadow Village one night and it wasn't bad - pretty typical mexican place. There are a few recommended restaurants in the area, but we didn't make it out to them.
Finally, it was great meeting a bunch of new people, and old friends. This was my fourth national Gathering, and they keep me coming back. So thanks especially to those who made it happen and/or I got to meet and spend time with - this list gets longer every year! @Philpug, @Tricia, @MattSmith, Steve, @Weegie McAdams, @Dean, @Flying Dutchess, @bigguyski, Elizabeth, @mdf, @KevinF, @Tony S, @Tony, Lucia, @Poolskier Vinny, @FrozenDessert, ( and @plusone and @beaver_mittens and the rest of the crew - where are the accounts?), @KingGrump, Mamie, @jimmy, @bbinder, @gardenmary, @lisamamot, Meimei, @fosphenytoin, Georgeann, @SShore, @Unpiste, @Near Nyquist, @Andy Mink, @AKMINK, @PisteOff, @ChunderBlunder, @TheArchitect, @SkiDB, @Gary Stolt, @UGASkiDawg, @DanoT, @Needham, @Shifterkart, @Jim Kenney, @Vince, @Stephen, @Pumba, @theNitza, @SKI-3PO, @Johnny V., @John Webb ... and probably several others I'm forgetting (sorry!) For those of you I didn't meet or talk to, maybe next year.
I can't wait for Jackson Hole!!