We've just returned from a 7 day vacation at Big Sky resort and I'd like to drop a note of thanks to Ski Patrol there.
Four of us skied together for most of the trip. I was one of the stronger skiers and took the role of route-picker for most of the trip. We are all strong skiers handling most of the blacks on the mountain with little issue. Over lunch on Day 5, I found a series of blacks on the map between the Thunderwolf and Ramcharger that we'd missed. The group agreed to go check out War Dance.
The section was marked with a gate with a black diamond designation. The beginning of the run was great, gladed with lots of powder. We saw a rope set across the glade that forced us right. When we got to the clearing past the rope, the run started to go south. Two other skiers got to the edge of a steep mogul run with very thin coverage. One other skier and I held back and tried to pick our way through with side slipping and traversing. The other skier didn't think they could handle the steep moguls and contemplated removing their skis to walk down the run. I saw another option, a path into the trees on the right edge of the run. We got into the thick trees and started making our way down. Here, we took out the radios we'd brought to let the forward two know we'd be a while getting down.
By this point it was nearly 3 o'clock and we were definitely taking a long time getting through the trees. I was coaching the other skier along helping them navigate the tight trees strewn with fallen logs. We started to hear shouts to our left. At the time, I thought it was another pair of skiers goofing around. I radioed to my brother to let him know the situation and our ETA as I continued to help bushwhack our way out of the forest. When my partner had to remove their skis to deal with fallen logs I started to get worried that we wouldn't make the 3:30 cutoff for the Thunderwolf lift. We came into a clear powder field where I encouraged my parter to ski a little faster.
At this point, my brother said something over the radio I couldn't decipher.
I replied with a "10-9."
"What's your location," he asked.
I gave him the location and asked him the time.
"Ski patrol is closing down the run," he said.
"Do me a favor and tell them where we are," I replied.
"They are right here with us and they're waiting for you guys."
"Ok, our ETA is 20 minutes," I said. "By the way, those were the best 10 turns of the trip."
"We're waiting for you guys at the bottom."
"10-4," I replied.
After clearing out the trees and back to the run we got back in radio contact with the other two skiers. My brother told me that a patroller was going to hike back up to get a visual on us. I felt compelled at this point to display strong skiing to at least indicate to patrol that we weren't completely clueless by disrespecting the gate and trail markers. After a few minutes, we were down the run and had a few minutes to chat with the two patrollers. We learned they were in fact yelling "closed!" as they descended the run. We apologized profusely for wasting their time. That's why we are here, was the rely. One of the patrollers jokingly told me he overheard my comment over the radio about the ten best turns of the trip which made me feel a bit better about the situation. Later my brother confided that our knowledge of radio codes and the seriousness with which we communicated had impressed patrol as well. Patrol had considered sending someone in to go get us but decided against it when we were able to give a reasonable timetable for clearing out of War Dance.
I felt terrible for getting the group into a situation we couldn't handle collectively.
I have to give props for how Patrol handled it.