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Big Sky 2016-2017 - Page 5

post #121 of 136
Originally Posted by tdsarg View Post
 

Hey all, planning a trip in February coming from Melbourne, Australia.

Big Sky is a consideration. We would either begin there in early Feb, arrive on the 6th or so, for 5-7 days, or finish up in Big Sky, around Feb 16-22nd. However, we've been deterred somewhat by an impression that the Lone Tram suffers from closures quite often, and that there isn't a huge range of advanced terrain apart from the Tram.

 

Is this totally wrong? How often does the tram close, particularly on storm days?

We've skied Jackson Hole twice, and are heavily considering returning... However, Big Sky sounds like it's less crowded than JH is becoming (all relative of course).

 

I should add that our group are strong black skiers, with a couple of adventurous types, but for the most part exposed double blacks/terrain requiring avy gear etc is slightly beyond us.

Is there much in the way of challenging black terrain apart from the Tram? And off the Tram, besides Liberty bowl? Liberty Bowl seems comparable to Rendezvous Bowl at JH? 

 

Big Sky snowfall versus Jackson Hole, versus Telluride CO? (From the stats I've seen, and some of the comments in this discussion, JH>> Telluride, which is probably on par with Big Sky?)

We've been to AltaBird, amazing skiing but we won't be returning to Utah.

 

Thanks in advance for any insight.


Gday mate (sorry, had to do it).

 

When the Tram was 1st proposed the best guess was it would be fortunate to operate 50% of the time. It quickly became apparent that wasn't the case and the terrain and weather could be managed. Ballpark guess is the tram is available for skiing more than 90% of the days from about Christmas week until closing. If it is snowing hard or really windy then it can close but the patrol will put a lot of effort into keeping it going as long as safely possible.

 

The Challenger Chair has excellent black and 2x black diamond skiing, the south wall in the bowl is good single black terrain and the Headwaters is a challenging as your group could ever want, so yes, there are alternatives.

 

Snowfall amounts vary by the year. The time you are planning is usually very reliable for good snow and conditions. Keep in mind Feb. 16-22 is right around Presidents day, in the States that is a very popular ski week and anywhere you go is going to have crowds.

post #122 of 136
Quote:
Originally Posted by tdsarg View Post
 

Hey all, planning a trip in February coming from Melbourne, Australia.

Big Sky is a consideration. We would either begin there in early Feb, arrive on the 6th or so, for 5-7 days, or finish up in Big Sky, around Feb 16-22nd. However, we've been deterred somewhat by an impression that the Lone Tram suffers from closures quite often, and that there isn't a huge range of advanced terrain apart from the Tram.

 

Is this totally wrong? How often does the tram close, particularly on storm days?

We've skied Jackson Hole twice, and are heavily considering returning... However, Big Sky sounds like it's less crowded than JH is becoming (all relative of course).

 

I should add that our group are strong black skiers, with a couple of adventurous types, but for the most part exposed double blacks/terrain requiring avy gear etc is slightly beyond us.

Is there much in the way of challenging black terrain apart from the Tram? And off the Tram, besides Liberty bowl? Liberty Bowl seems comparable to Rendezvous Bowl at JH? 

 

Big Sky snowfall versus Jackson Hole, versus Telluride CO? (From the stats I've seen, and some of the comments in this discussion, JH>> Telluride, which is probably on par with Big Sky?)

We've been to AltaBird, amazing skiing but we won't be returning to Utah.

 

Thanks in advance for any insight.


How much have you looked at the new Big Sky trail map?  The newer version has more detail for the Dakota/Shedhorn and Moonlight areas, as well as the area next to Liberty.  People mention Liberty more often because it's the easiest way down (not easy, just easier than the other ways).  Since you don't seem interested in steep chutes, there is plenty of advanced terrain when the tram isn't running.  Note that the new Challenger lift will make that ride a lot quicker than before.  Nothing blue off Challenger either.

 

What Big Sky doesn't have is anything like the town of Jackson for fun after the ski day is over.

post #123 of 136
Quote =tdsarg:
but for the most part exposed double blacks/terrain requiring avy gear etc is slightly beyond us.

Most of the terrain off the tram other than Liberty Bowl falls into this category IMHO.  Much of Headwaters too.   Challenger is less extreme but its snow is also less reliable. 

 

If you are arriving Feb. 6, I would suggest going back to Jackson for your first week. 

 

Why not return to Utah?  If it's due to lack of nightlife at AltaBird, Big Sky may be somewhat better, but not as good as Jackson.   For the later week Telluride is a reasonable choice, as is Aspen. 

post #124 of 136

Plenty of challenge off of Challenger lift.  Also along the ridge towards Moonlight Basin - the aforementioned Headwaters chair.

 

We are heading out there Feb 6.  

 

However, as mentioned above, Jackson Hole ain't a bad option.

post #125 of 136

The Moonlight run off of the Challenger lift and the trees on either side have some of the most dependable snow on the mountain-one of my favorites. The northern side of BRT is also consistently good. The east facing runs off the Challenger chair will deteriorate more quickly.

The runs close to the Headwaters chair are probably within your capability. The hike-to runs are more risky. The Lone Tree chair offers a selection of assorted short (by Big Sky Standards) but steep runs worth considering.

IMHO the Tram restricts traffic more frequently from difficult snow conditions than wind. If the snow is good you can get there 99% of the time. Conditions vary off the tram. The Big may be open but Liberty may be closed due to wind, visibility (flat light) or snow conditions. It's key to understand that Lone Peak is true High Alpine terrain and conditions can vary significantly due to many different conditions. Ask the Ski Patrol or Mountain Hosts for up to date info.

I'm sure Jackson is great but it's unlikely to be worth the drive for a short ski trip unless you know they have significantly better snow than Big Sky. 

post #126 of 136
Thread Starter 

FWIW, lift ticket prices have been posted.

 

https://bigskyresort.com/the-mountain/lift-tickets-and-season-passes/lift-tickets

 

They've added a "dynamic pricing" offer, which appears to provide a discount for tickets on days when expected demand is lower.  Looks like the savings run from ~30% to almost nothing during expected peak days.

post #127 of 136

All things being equal what is the best time to visit Big Sky? The balance of snow & weather.

post #128 of 136

IMHO, Late February to late March.

 

Longer days, it can be warmer, deep base and everything can be open wall to wall.

post #129 of 136

I would back the above recommendation up about half a month: February through mid-March.  Yes, Big Sky is a cold mountain, but it also has a lot of sun exposed terrain.  The sun angles move swiftly in March, with more terrain vulnerable to melt/freeze each week depending upon exposure.  Only the former Moonlight terrain is primarily north facing at Big Sky.   

post #130 of 136
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tony Crocker View Post
 

I would back the above recommendation up about half a month: February through mid-March.  Yes, Big Sky is a cold mountain, but it also has a lot of sun exposed terrain.  The sun angles move swiftly in March, with more terrain vulnerable to melt/freeze each week depending upon exposure.  Only the former Moonlight terrain is primarily north facing at Big Sky.   

 

I've had really good skiing in mid-Feb. and really good skiing in late March there.  And mediocre at both times too.

 

The risk in February is that it will be bone-chillingly cold, although last year when I was there it was enough above freezing that the precip created a lovely glaze in places.

 

The risk in late March is that it will be warm and conditions will have started to deteriorate.  Two years ago there was a snow drought and it had gotten pretty warm - conditions weren't great, at least until they got 16 inches overnight on what was my last day there.  Of course, the two years I went in late March before that were great - long days, great snow.

post #131 of 136
Like most of the Rockies, it snows more in March than some other winter months. Timing is everything. The day after 16" it's great, the day before maybe not so good. "What a difference a day makes!" Also depends on where you ski. Higher and steeper often lasts longer.
post #132 of 136
:rolleyes

Edited by Studebaker Hawk - 10/22/16 at 10:59am
post #133 of 136
Quote:
Originally Posted by steveturner View Post

Like most of the Rockies, it snows more in March than some other winter months.

Not really.  December-March average monthly snowfall at Big Sky over the past 39 years: 48.9 in., 50.0 in., 43.8 in., 50.1 in.  Even with Big Sky's unusually low standard deviations of 15-20 inches per month, those 4 months are essentially equal.  As at nearly all destination resorts, the best time to schedule a ski trip there has little to do with snowfall incidence and everything to do with two basic questions:

1) How well covered is the terrain I want to ski?  This is the compelling argument for later is better on Lone Peak type terrain.

2) How pleasant are the surfaces, especially if it hasn't snowed recently?  Altitude and exposure are the key drivers here.  Big Sky is among the elite in terms of altitude but well below average in terms of exposure. 

Quote:
Originally Posted by steveturner View Post

Also depends on where you ski. Higher and steeper often lasts longer.

Higher lasts longer. Steeper lasts longer if north facing but deteriorates faster if south facing.  Thus south facing steeps are rare in North American ski areas.  Jackson Hole is the poster child exception.  Big Sky is less severely affected because its south facing steeps are on the highest part of the mountain, about 3,000 feet higher on average than Jackson's Lower Faces.  That does not mean unaffected though. Late March is much safer at Mammoth, Alta/Snowbird and many places in Colorado than at Big Sky.

post #134 of 136
Quote:
 Late March is much safer at Mammoth, Alta/Snowbird and many places in Colorado than at Big Sky.

 

I cannot comment on Mammoth, never skied there. Alta/Bird gets good snow in late March and April, some of my best days at LCC were late season.

 

That said, with 21 years of skiing on Lone Peak, 100+ days a season, the consistently best skiing I have experienced has been in mid-late March.

post #135 of 136
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tony Crocker View Post
 

Higher lasts longer. Steeper lasts longer if north facing but deteriorates faster if south facing.  Thus south facing steeps are rare in North American ski areas.  Jackson Hole is the poster child exception.  Big Sky is less severely affected because its south facing steeps are on the highest part of the mountain, about 3,000 feet higher on average than Jackson's Lower Faces.  That does not mean unaffected though. Late March is much safer at Mammoth, Alta/Snowbird and many places in Colorado than at Big Sky.

 

It undisputed that south and south steeps in particular melt faster but a lot of the time that is a good thing... 

 

Personally, I like ski areas that have exposure variety.  The only snow condition that is a big time downer for me is refrozen.  A common snow condition in the spring is south facing terrain is refrozen and the north is not, in which case I would avoid the south facing runs like Tony would.  Another common snow condition is that all runs refroze overnight.  On those days the south facing runs will unfreeze which is ideal.

 

I suppose it all comes down to snow condition preferences.  If it's powder or bust, the more north facing the better.  If you love non-powder conditions (which are much more common than powder BTW), having some different exposures is ideal

post #136 of 136
Quote = nathanvg:
A common snow condition in the spring is south facing terrain is refrozen and the north is not, in which case I would avoid the south facing runs like Tony would.

This the first phase of transition.  The snow retaining winter packed powder is pleasant to ski all day while the snow that has been through a melt/freeze needs to be timed for the window of hours between refrozen and too slushy. For the steepest north facing terrain at at Mammoth, Alta/Snowbird and many places in Colorado, the winter snow is usually retained a week or two into April.  For more intermediate pitched terrain the average transition period comes a week or two earlier. 

Quote = mathanvg:
Another common snow condition is that all runs refroze overnight.  On those days the south facing runs will unfreeze which is ideal.

If all runs froze overnight, usually that means it's late enough in the season that the entire mountain has experienced a melt/freeze and the process will recur during most spring days.  In this case the sunniest terrain will have its pleasant snow surfaces early in the day and the more sheltered terrain later in the day.  This is what I usually see at Mammoth in May/June.

 

If you get a hot spell to create the melt/freeze followed by slightly cooler days which soften the sunny exposures but not the more sheltered ones, then you get the scenario where the sunny terrain is more desirable all day.  In my experience this scenario is less likely than the other two.  You need either an abnormal hot spell creating a premature melt/freeze or below average spring temps after the normally timed melt/freeze.  With weather variability we have all seen this happen, in my case most recently at Mammoth last April 13.  On my next trip April 26-27 there had been a shot of new snow so once again the high north facing had the best snow.


Edited by Tony Crocker - 10/24/16 at 11:42am
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