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More Big Sky

There were a few more things about Big Sky that I want to share with you. First of all, I mentioned some great lines that we took down from Lone Peak. This photo shows a couple of the runs down through the Gullies and hints at one down the side of the mountain. We had many more runs down, but I don’t have a good picture to show them.


I also made a panoramic photo from the top of the peak. It’s not quite 360 degrees, but it’s pretty close. We could see all the way down to the Grand Tetons! Click on the image for the full file (8MB) or view the nicer HDView version.

And finally, I took a bit of video on the snowmobile tour through Yellowstone. Riding one handed is a bit difficult so please pardon the shaky video. The first portion of the video is just a normal part of the ride. The last 20 seconds or so show us passing a herd of bison. While this looks very close, we actually came much closer to another herd, but I wasn’t able to get video because I was too busy trying not to die.

Big Sky Trip Report

Jay and Andy ended up staying home for obvious reasons, but Mike and I decided to press on with the trip. While it wasn’t quite what we had planned, I think we’re both glad that we went.  Photos from the trip are all in the gallery under the tags Big Sky and Yellowstone.

First Ski Day:
The trail map for Big Sky is intimidating. There are so many different runs, we had no idea where to start. Thankfully, the guy who dropped off Mike’s rental skis told us to head for the triple chair in the bowl. We were on the second chair in the morning, and, after a quick warm up run on a groomer, we headed for the triple. FRESH POW! Unbeknownst to us, there was about 8-10″ of fresh snow waiting for us. We cycled the chair quick a while, traversing out a little farther each time and getting fresh tracks on each run. We got about four or five solid runs in before it started to get tracked out.

It was starting to get windy, but we decided to hit the tram anyway. The tram is incredibly intimidating. The signs say “there is no easy way down” and I’ve never seen a place where that applies better. The pictures can’t do it justice. There were some incredible routes down from the mountain, and one in particular had been staring at us all morning from the triple chair. It’s called “Gullies” and it’s the closest I have ever come to skiing a real couloir. We were both pretty nervous when we dropped in because we were skiing a narrow and steep strip of snow between big rocks on each side. I was giggling with glee when I got to the bottom. I still look back at the pictures of that route and I’m amazed that we pulled it off so smoothly. As Mike later described it, we felt like we were skiing stuff that you normally only see in the big ski movies.

Another highlight of the day occurred while we were standing in line for the tram. There is a huge ridgeline nearby and we could see ski patrol checking out a couple of the couloirs. They careful cut back and forth from side to side when all of a sudden, one of them set off an avalanche! He skied off to the side safely and a huge slab of snow slid down. Impressive!

We finished off the day by exploring most of the rest of the resort. Well we hardly began to touch all of the runs, but we tried to ski to most of the lifts. Big Sky is ENORMOUS. Best of all, there are no waits at any of the lifts. At most, we had to wait for two chairs, and most of the time we skied straight onto the chairs. The tram had about a 5-20 minute wait but it wasn’t bad at all.

Second Ski Day:
We headed into day 2 with no fresh snow but a good idea of what we wanted to ski. Our exploring the day before gave us a good feel for the mountain so we started off much more focused. We scored first chair today and the lifty gave us a good tip: the back side of the mountain (Dakota and Sedhorn lifts) had been closed for three days but was opening today. After a quick warmup on the groomer, we made a beeline for the tram (it takes two chairs just to get up to the tram.) Once at the top of Lone Peak (11,000 feet!) we headed down the back side in a never ending powder run. Unbelievable. The top of Liberty Bowl was full of nice powder. The bottom got a bit windblown, but after that, we quickly found another nice slope that only had a few tracks. That led us down into some trees, far away from anyone else, and we had football fields full of fresh tracks. Once at the bottom, we made our way back to the tram and cycled it a bunch more. We skied the gullies a couple more times and found a few more lines with fresh powder. There were plenty of rocks that were starting to peak up through the snow and we both got some pretty good gashes in the skies. I’d happily get my skies messed up every time I ski if I got to ski terrain like that every day. Pictures hardly do it justice.

When the tram finally shut down at 3, we did a few more laps on some fast groomers and then called it a day. We capped off the day with a beer on the patio outside right at the base.

Mike and I left dark and early to head an hour down the road to the West Yellowstone entrance to the park. We found Two Top Snowmobiles with no problems and got geared up. The short story is that we spent 7 hours in the park on a great snowmobile ride. It was a leisurely ride with speeds below 35mph for most of the way. This trip was about seeing wildlife, not trying to make it into the XGames. We were NOT disappointed. Along the way we saw trumpeter swans (extremely endangered), bison, elk, and bald eagles. Saying that we “saw bison” is a bit misleading. They like to travel down the roads and at one point, we came across a heard that was occupying the two lane road. We squeezed all the way over to one side, tightened up the formation, and slowly inched by. At one point, I was looking directly into the eyes of a humongous male bison that 5 feet away from me. What an incredible feeling!

The ride took us to Old Faithful where Mike and were lucky enough to watch it go off twice (even though we were the last ones back to the sleds because we took a little extra time.) It’s an impressive sight, but there are so many lodges and buildings around that it lost a lot of charm for me. If that was something you had to hike 2 miles to see, I think I’d like it a bit more.

If you follow in our footsteps, try to get a tour with Vic as your guide. He took us on a number of little extra side roads to see some great waterfalls and was stopped at excellent wildlife viewing points.

I was a bit curious to see how snowmobiles in the park were regulated. It’s a hotly contested issue in the courts right now. As it turns out, we had to pay $20 for a park pass and only guided groups are allowed in. All snow machines (there were lots of vans and buses with tracks) must stay on the roads. When we stopped at one of the warming huts, our snowmobiles and paperwork were checked by a park ranger. I’m quite happy that they take it so seriously. Now that I’ve seen the sights that a small piece of the park has to offer, I want them to do everything they can to preserve it. However, I hope that they continue to allow the snowmobiles in because it’s a great way to experience the park. It made me want to come back on my motorcycle (with Tyla!)

Overall Impressions:
Big Sky is an amazing resort and we were amazed that there weren’t more people there. I’ve never skied anywhere with terrain that is so intense and so easily accessible. The only explanations I can come up with is that the resort is relatively young and there isn’t a big population center nearby.

We stayed at a great condo (Stillwater 1033) which gave us about a 3 minute walk to the lifts. It allowed us to cook dinner a couple nights to save some money. We ate out twice at Whiskey Jack’s and M. R. Hummer’s. Both are in the Mountain Mall right down the street from the condo. Whiskey Jack’s is good if you only order the nachos. The rest was overpriced and not that special. I wish we had another shot at M. R. Hummers as they had a great menu and a very nice staff.

If you’re looking for a lot of night life, Big Sky probably isn’t your place. It’s very, very quiet in the base area, but that suited us fine. It’s all about fantastic skiing with none of the frills. We can’t wait to go back!

Big Sky, MT

Today marks the start of my big winter adventure. For the past few months, JayA, AndyC, MikeDu and I have been planning a ski vacation in Big Sky, Montana. I’m driving to Spokane tonight and then I’ll meet them at the Bozeman airport on Wednesday around noon. Thursday and Friday we’ll ski Big Sky and then Saturday we’re going to take a snowmobile trip into Yellowstone to see Old Faithful. We have reserved a condo right by the lifts so this should be an incredible trip.

None of us have been to Big Sky before, but it has a great reputation for challenging terrain and very short lift lines. They also have a tram up to the top of Lone Peak so I’ll get to add that to my list of lift technologies that I’ve experienced. If you want to know more about the ski area, check out this article from Powder magazine. (It’s the same one I linked to a couple months ago.)

Big Sky

In seven weeks, AndyC, JayA, MikeD and I will be converging on Big Sky, Montana for a fun weekend of skiing. Big Sky is a huge resort that gets very little traffic. I’m dreaming of deep untracked powder and empty lift lines.

While the exact details are still being sorted out, plane tickets have been purchased so we’re getting closer. The current plan is to ski two days and spend one day snowmobiling in Yellowstone an hour down the road.

The last issue of Powder Magazine had a long story about Big Sky which you can read here. They also had two smaller articles about Stevens Pass and Crystal Mountain. It was like the issue was written for me!

I love skiing new areas. In addition to that, this will also be my first time on a tram. I’m runing out of new lift technology to ride. I’ve been on a rope tow, T-bar, double chair, quad, six pack, and a gondola. Maybe some day I’ll have to go to the bunny hill and ride the magic carpet. What else am I missing? Oh yeah… a helicopter!

Inside My Head: The Big City View From A Small Town Guy

This past Thursday, I had the pleasure of flying out to Philadelphia for an interview with a very interesting company.  The interview was scheduled for Friday.  Nothing I do every goes smoothly, and this trip was no exception.  Throughout the trip, I took time to jot down some thoughts so I could share my experience with you.  Please note that I place no blame or ill feelings toward the company that was kind enough to give me the interview.  In fact, I had an excellent trip, and I was very impressed in the interviews.  In the event that I do receive an offer, I will definitely consider it thoroughly.

The whole story starts at the Purdue airport.  It had been raining all day which was just my luck.  I was wearing my suit on the trip because I didn't want to check any luggage.  This also meant that I got to walk around in the rain in my suit.  The plane we were talking from Purdue to Detroit was delayed getting into Purdue for 10 minutes because of the rain.  Luckily this didn't end up affecting us very much.  I love flying so I had been looking forward to the flight.  However, the rain ruined my view.  Once we left the ground, I could see the ground for a total of about five seconds.  It rained the entire way to Detroit.  There was one interesting thing that happened on the flight.  As we were preparing for departure, the pilot told us that this was the first flight he had been on that had a reinforced cockpit door.  There was a resounding cheer from the handful of people on the small flight out of Purdue.  It's a good thing they picked that plane to install the new door on.  I'm sure there are a lot of terrorists hiding out at Purdue.

Once in Detroit, I grabbed a bite to eat and then waited at the gate for my connecting flight to Philadelphia.  President Bush was on TV so of course I spent some time watching.  He mentioned that the FBI was expecting some sort of attacks for the upcoming weekend.  After the speech, CNN switched to one of their oh so helpful panel discussions.  The major topic was basically "What Can We Do?"  No one had a good answer… no one except the guy sitting next o me.  I hadn't said anything to him since I sat down, but he looked at me and said, "All we need to do is trust the Lord."  That was the best advice I heard all night.

The flight out of Detroit was delayed for an hour because they had to replace a thermostat.  Now I'll admit I don't know much about airline maintenance, but on a car a thermostat does not take anywhere near any hour to fix.  In any case, we finally left the ground for Philadelphia.

The delay in Detroit had an unanticipated effect.  I was told by the travel company that I should take a specific shuttle to the hotel.  However, by the time we arrived at the airport, it was after midnight and the shuttle company was closed.  Not only that, but every shuttle I called was closed.  After an hour of trying to find someone to take me to the hotel, I finally decided I would just get a cab.  As the driver took off, wheels screeching and the needle peeking at 90, I realized that the meter wasn't running.  I'm just a goofy kid from Indiana.  What do I know about taxis?  Maybe I said the magic words and I'm getting a free ride?  Maybe he'll start the meter later?  Nope.  We pulled up the hotel and the meter still said "Vacant."  What do you tip a driver for a free ride?  Should I tip him at all?  All I had in my wallet were 20's and three 1's.  So I handed the guy three bucks and got out.  I was almost to the door when he rolled down his window and shouted, "Hey!  This is only $3!"  Was he just happy that he could count?  "Yeah, I know."  "It's $20 bucks!"  Oops.  So I handed the guy a twenty and walked into the hotel.

The hotel was a beautiful Courtyard by Marriot.  It was right across the street from city hall, and the buildings around were amazing.  Obviously I felt more than a little out of place in a hotel of that caliber, but it was past 1 a.m. so I just wanted to get to bed.  After I checked in, the lady asked if I wanted a wake up call.  I knew I had to be in the lobby by 7 a.m., so I said 5:30.   On my way up to the room I realized how stupid that was.  An hour and a half to take a shower and walk to the lobby?!?  Oh well, I just wanted to sleep.

I stepped onto the elevator in an attempt to find my room.  My key card said 1521.  I figured the numbering was just weird so I got off on the fifth floor.  Stupid me.  The building had 15 floors.  I can't remember the last time I was in a building with 15 floors.  So I got back on the elevator and rode it to the top.  I quickly found my room and it was extremely nice.  The company had a nice basket of snack foods waiting for me.  I figured I would have a nice view from the window so I headed straight there to check it out.  I was wrong.  All I could see was the building next to us.  I couldn't even look down and see the street!  I assumed the ground was down there somewhere, but I sure couldn't see it.

I settled in and was all set to hit the sack when I realized that I didn't have a razor for the morning.  I left it at Purdue because I heard you couldn't take a razor through airport security.  I guess it's a deadly weapon.  Now I like to pretend I'm a manly man, but you've probably seen me after skipping a shave and you just didn't notice.  But this was an important interview and I wanted to do it right.  I called the front desk to see if they had one for me and of course they did.  I grabbed my key and headed out the door when I realized what I was wearing – plaid shorts and a white T-shirt.  That's what I wear all the time in my room back at school, but it sure didn't fit in at that hotel.  So I went back into the room and put on the only other outfit I had – my suit.  After that long trip was over I finally got to bed around 2 a.m.

When my wake up call came, I rolled over and went back to sleep.  I set my alarm for 6 and figured I could use the extra sleep.  That was the quickest half hour of my life.  But nevertheless I got up and wandered on down to the lobby to find my ride.  The rides were there all right.  They were guys in suits and sunglasses driving brand new black Lincoln's.  Nice!  I found my driver and he asked if I was all set to head to the New Jersey site.  New Jersey?  No!  I was supposed to go to a site north of Philly in Pennsylvania!  What a great way to start off.  I specifically remembered my travel agent saying to make sure I got in a car to the PA site.  So I did just that.  I rode with another interviewee to that site.

Traffic was insane.  Even the driver who drives those roads for a living kept commenting on how horrible the traffic was.  The half hour trip took us an hour so we arrived late.  I walked in the door and up to the front desk.  They had no idea who I was.  I was supposed to be at the New Jersey site… an hour away.  Augh!  Thankfully they were extremely accommodating and found some interviews for me at their site.  They also set up a teleconference with me to meet with the guys across the river.  Obviously I was very thankful!  I felt the interviews went very well and I had a very informative trip.

After the interview, I was driven back to the hotel.  I checked my bags at the front desk and walked around downtown Philly for a while.  I instantly noticed the National Guard presence on the street.  They were all carrying M-16s.  I headed down the historic district and spent quite a bit of time there.  I wanted to be sure and see the Liberty Bell.  The security there was heavier than in the airports!  It's in a glass building and they were only letting a few people in at a time.  You had to go through a metal detector with about a dozen National Guardsmen standing watch.  I didn't feel like waiting in the line so I just looked through the windows.  I also saw Independence Hall a many other history buildings.  Since I only had a few hours sleep the night before I tired quickly.  Plus I was wearing a suit and tie so it wasn't the most comfortable walk in the world.  I headed back the hotel to try and find a ride to the airport.

Lucky me!  The shuttle was right in front of the hotel.  I hopped on and we took off to the airport.  I got there very early, but it turned out to be a good thing.  It only took me 20 minutes to get to the counter for my ticket, but the security check took much longer.  The line was longer than a football field!  It took us a half hour just to get through.  Of course I set off the metal detector.  I always set off metal detectors.  They pulled me off to the side to check me.  There was a new guy being trained.  He was about four and a half feet tall.  I had to hold back a laugh as he strained to reach up and wave the metal detector over my arms.  He then proceeded to pat me down.  He did a very thorough search.  A little too thorough for me!  The guy training said, "Whoa!  Don't go above the knees!"

I have a few thoughts about the security check.  I was asked a few times, "Are you carrying any weapons or sharp objects?"  If you're a terrorist, are you going to say yes?  Oops!  I probably shouldn't be hijacking this plane.  I better go home.  And if you could somehow get through the metal detector, you could easily hide a weapon high on your thigh (unless you got frisked by the guy that got frisky with me!)  I don't really feel like the security is any better than it was before September 11th.  What they really need are reinforced cockpit doors.  Why didn't we have those before?

My trip from there on was fairly uneventful.  Actually I think this whole article is pretty boring.  And if I think it's boring, that probably means no one will make it this far.

All in all I had a good trip.  I'm very glad I had the opportunity to meet with the company and I hope to receive an offer from the them soon.  But even if I don't, I've definitely made some more memories!