John's Report - February 13, 2006

Cruising on Big Mountain, Montana

Although I�ve been to Whitefish Montana many times in the summer, last weekend, for the first time I skied Big Mountain. I�m told Big Mountain is noted for its pea-soup fog. In January they had 27 days of near zero visibility fog. Fortunately, it was blinding sunshine that marked my first visit to Big Mountain, with �see to the end of the world� views. Moreover, like Fernie, they have an incredible base this year.

The summit is at 2,078 m (6,800 ft) with a vertical of 717 m (2,350 ft) & skiable terrain of about 3,000 acres. The weather and annual snow fall is much like Fernie�s but unlike Fernie, the skiing is primarily groomed wide steep cruisers with hardly a dimple to mar one�s high speed descents. One can ski from top to bottom without need to really apply the brakes. Although groomed runs are not generally my favoured skiing environment, I must say I very much enjoyed ripping down the runs without any real concern for my (or other people�s) safety. I noted that many of the local skiers favoured the long, nearly straight racing skis, which makes sense given it is Groomer City, USA.

There are a few bowls offering excellent tree skiing and vertical descents including East Rim, North Bowl and Hellroaring Basin. To my surprise, although it had not snowed for at least a week, there was plenty of untracked powder patches to be found amongst the trees. Hellroaring was probably the best area to ski last weekend, offering a vertical of about 375 m (1,300 ft), with a 2 km (1.5 mile) ski out through some very nice tight trees, which brings me to my other surprise. There are multiple routes out and many have been groomed by snowmobiles dragging mini-rakes behind them. Very strange but pleasant for my aging knees.

Whitefish itself is a small, friendly resort town with a youthful, lively atmosphere offering good bars, dining and accommodation. Suffice to say I took advantage, to an excess.

A nice bonus to the trip was the opportunity to observe the Nor-Am races which, at times, were seen through my skis while riding the main chair.

Big Mountain is about 1 � hours from Fernie, in good weather. If interested, take Highway 3 east and turn left just after Elko on to Highway 93. As you�ll be crossing the US border, don�t forget your passport. Big Mountain�s website is

Happy tracks.

A view to the south along the main ridge off the summit

On a clear day you can see forever - or to the the range of Glacier National Park to the east of Big Mountain

The view off the summit into North Bowl Face (which actually faces south east - go figure)

Another view along the summit ridge. North Bowl is to the left and Hellroaring Basin is off through the trees to the righ.

In Hellroaring looking up through the "Snow Ghosts" near the summit in the vicinity of Connie's Coulee. The Snow Ghosts are ice caused by fog freezing on the trees and are not soft if you hit one.

On the other side of the rim into Hellroaring Basin. Connie's Coulee is on the far right.

This southwesterly view shows the endless groomed terrain of the mountain.

A Nor-Am Canadian woman taking big air. There were French, Australian and, of course, American competitors as well.

The bottom of a sweet run through the trees of Elephant's Graveyard in the North Face Bowl.

The bottom of yet another fabulous run; off the East Rim. Note the tiny dot of a skier at the top right of the picture.