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 www.big-mountain.com.