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Moonlight Basin - First Impressions

post #1 of 6
Thread Starter 
I just spent the morning skiing the new ski area by Big Sky. The highlight of Moonlight Basin is it Sixshooter Chair. The top terrain off the Sixshooter Chair is fun and contains some true single diamond black runs. Unfortunately, the diamond parts of the runs aren't very long and there aren't any double diamond runs. The terrain on the bottom two thirds is basically meandering blue & green groomers.

While the ski area is full of trees I didn't see any place where you could get any decent tree skiing in. The trees towards the top are spindly and dense. The trees towards the bottom are bigger and more spread out but they are full of major debris which will make skiing in them impossible even with a deep snow base. Big Sky has similar trees and they have thinned the trees out in several areas to create glade runs which have proven to be very popular. (They have also put in glade runs in the cat skiing area besides Moonlight.) If Moonlight made some glade areas it would greatly enhance the area and greatly increase the availablity of their off-piste skiing. Putting areas to ski the trees in the lower terrain would also help relieve the monotony of the lower runs.

The biggest disappointments of Moonlight Basin is much of the best terrain in the area is reserved for cat skiing including 1/2 the Headwaters Bowl which is the only bowl skiing there. This is a big mistake I hope they correct in the near future.

One of my biggest fears about Moonlight was flat light because Moonlight is almost totally nothern exposure. The areas of Bridger Bowl and Big Sky with northern exposure can get vertigo inducing flat light early in the season. It was cloudy at Moonlight this morning but because almost all the terrain is surrounded by trees I didn't have any problems dealing with the flat light.

Moonlight does have going for it is a very friendly staff. It reminds me of the staff at Bridger Bowl and Discovery. Another thing is the runs are much better cleared than at Big Sky. After a couple runs I switched from my rock skis to my good skis and only nick one rock while skiing steep ungroomed runs (and I probably wouldn't have nicked the rock except I took some air coming off a roll).

This year Moonlight would be a good change of pace for someone staying at Big Sky who likes the terrain serviced by Swift Current and Thunder Wolf. If you are coming to Big Sky for the terrain serviced by the Tram and Challenger Chair then Moonlight is probably not for you.

(As a sidenote, the highlight of the day was finally finding some skis to replace my worn SuperMountains. I bought some V-Pros hoping they would do the job and they turned out to be an ideal replacement. They handled the boot deep powder, powder over cat-tracks, chunky crud created by patrollers side-stepping a run, sloppy seconds, sloppy thirds..... basically, everything I normally encounter during a day skiing at Bridger. They ski with my weight balances on them like I do for my Pocket Rocket so switching between them and the PRs will be no problem.)

[ December 12, 2003, 02:27 PM: Message edited by: Rio ]
post #2 of 6
The curmudgeonly cynic in me mutters, "dang well better be a friendly staff on Opening Day Number One."

thanks for the report, rio. looking forward to a pic or two(?) as the season progresses.

[ December 12, 2003, 02:30 PM: Message edited by: ryan ]
post #3 of 6
Rio thanks for the report. That full northern exposure could make for a long season if they want one I suppose. Is there any above tree line skiing at MB right now?

How many acres are inbounds now and are there expansion plans? what about interconnect possiblities with the Sky via the Iron Horse or Challenger chairs?Any idea how they feel about out of bounds skiing at Moonlight? Sorry for all of the questions. Guess you can tell I am a big fan of Lone Mountain.

Your comments on the tree skiing possibilities at MB cover more or less similar thoughts I've had about the mainly southern exposures directely beneath Liberty Bowl at Big Sky--think they call it Bavaian Woods or something like that--and off the Shedhorn chair. If they can open that part of the mountain up just a little bit, it will be awesome gladed skiing (already is pretty good, but wear a helmet, there ain't much room between trees).
post #4 of 6
Sounds very interesting. Is it possible to use the same lift ticket for both Big Sky and Moonlight Basin? Is there some ski-in/out lodging for MB? I could see staying at MB and going over the ridge into Big Sky for lunch and a long ski circuit type day and return to MB.

BTW, how does MB prevent people from traversing into the snowcat zone to poach the goods there? It looks like you could ski back "in bounds" without much difficulty.


post #5 of 6
Thread Starter 
There is some skiing above the tree line but it is accessed via foot. It is an easy grade to get to the bottom of the chutes in Headwater Bowl but a steep climb to get to the chutes themself. They show all the bowl and chutes as in boundry but I doubt many people are going to do the chutes. The best access to them is via Challenger Chair which is in Big Sky.

There is no sharing of tickets between MB and Big Sky. They do share the Iron Horse lift but according to some friends that were up there yesterday they aren't sharing runs off that lift. Not being able to ski both is much more of a detriment to MB which will probably inspire Big Sky to keep it that way.

There are places all over Big Sky where they can thin the trees to create more terrain but they really don't need to. They have thinned them in numerous places plus they have enough steep terrain above the trees to keep people amused. Moonlight, on the other hand, doesn't have a great deal of challenging terrain and with so few runs it will get skied out quickly on powder days. They need to open up some tree areas to add more challenge and more powder skiing.

As for poaching in the cat area, it will be hard. Much of the cat terrain is easily seen from the 6-Shooter lift and the MB runs plus MB has a lot of patrollers and mountain hosts.

[ December 14, 2003, 05:54 PM: Message edited by: Rio ]
post #6 of 6
You cannot access Moonlights chutes from the challenger lift. you need to hike from the top of the six person lift.
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