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Notes from Big Sky Country

post #1 of 60
Thread Starter 
The Bears have arrived in Big Sky. These are not the same bears that broke into the grocery store last summer (not that I'd put it past them, mind you), but Bears that came prepared for -30F temps only to find spring skiing here in Big Sky country.

Today was the coaches' day to learn the mountain. Given that I have been invited to help here at the ESA by playing videographer, I had the benefit of skiing with the coaches today. The posse was Ursula Howland, our Big Sky hostess, Joan, Carolyn, Katy, Bob, Ric, Tom, Roger, Bud, Rio, and me. We started out the day blasting mach schnell down Elk Park Ridge and never really slowed down all day. Eric (Eski) joined us quite late in the day. Ursula did an outstaning job of giving the coaches a complete overview of the entire mountain in a single day (a real challenge, IMO; Big Sky is a Big Place). Even though the snow is getting quite thin in places, we were even able to ski off the tram today--and the views are absolutely breathtaking! The sidestep down past the scree into the bowl was a real trip!

If my estimates are correct, we probably skied about 30,000 vertical feet today in everything from corn to hard bumps. We found some excellent snow of many different types all over the mountain, and I am certain that the Bears who have come for coaching will experience insights and improvement that they are seeking.

As we skied down Liberty Bowl off the back side of Lone Mountain (off the tram), I was able to enjoy the sight of these excellent skiers enjoying the company of their passionate companions on silky snow just flying and floating down the mountain. Honestly, it was breathtaking! As the PGA commercials say, "These guys are good..." the one who skis like a girl not the least among them...

Ric was even in coaching mode already, giving me some things to think about on the Liberty Bowl run as well as in bumps later in the afternoon. In Liberty Bowl, I was fighting the crecendo of fear that had started unexplainably earlier in the day. His coaching: "Think about what it takes to make one turn... Then, make another..." In the bumps, I was really getting tired. His coaching: "Make two turns on every bump." After I did, he explained that it encourages precision and also reduces speed. He was right, of course. His coaching made a difference for me right away... Thanks, Ric (VSP)!!!

The snow, however, is sketchy in spots, and I managed to put a couple of new grooves right down the middle of one of my new skis. VSP thinks he may not be able to resurrect the pair that he was skiing. We have to be careful out there! Of course, Rio claims that such is the character of Montana skiing--they consider it a fringe benefit, I guess...

Tonight at the reception I enjoyed meeting many Bears for the first time. Folks I didn't know by name, but EpicSki nicknames cleared it all up. There are those you meet and think, "No way!" and others who seem to match what you expect. All the Bears met with their coaches, prepared for meeting in the morning, and then went off for victuals, drink, and/or bed.

We miss those of you who were not able to join us for one reason or another. We hope that those of you who haven't been to an ESA will make next year the time. And those that have been, will return then for more coaching and shared passion. For those on the east coast, I hope that this snow is helping your ski season. Now, please send some our way!

This is the first in a series of Notes from Big Sky Country for ESA '05... More tomorrow...
post #2 of 60
Thread Starter 

All healthy!

Oh... Should have also mentioned... No injuries to report from day 1!
post #3 of 60
Of course, Rio claims that such is the character of Montana skiing--they consider it a fringe benefit, I guess...
Natural texturing. Beats anything you'll get from a shop.
post #4 of 60
Keep the reports coming guys
post #5 of 60
I had a surreal experience yesterday. I was skiing down a gorgeous tree lined run below Liberty Bowl with perfect spring corn and crisp blue skis. In front of me were a group of skiers doing perfect turns. Behind me was the same thing. I felt like I was in the middle of a Warren Miller film. I doubt I'll ever be so lucky to ski with a group of skier like the one yesterday.
post #6 of 60
Someone please take video and photos for posting later!
post #7 of 60
Never fear gang, Predicted Snow Showers for Wed. and Thurs.

post #8 of 60
Darn you shh, that should be me. What I looked forward to the most was the opportunity to free ski with our great coaches and to read your account makes me green with envy.

I'm glad for you that you took my place but regret not being able to get the time off to be there. Keep the reports coming despite my whinning. Tell nolo and the gang I said hello, especially the Colorado crowd that was our ETU team. Warm regards to Dwight, Stewart and Chris, your video partner.

post #9 of 60
Thread Starter 

It gets even better

Day 1 of the ESA opened with crystal blue skies, alpenglow on Lone Mountain, a huge breakfast at the Huntley, and the groups gathering outside the Snowcrest at the base. It was a bluebird day, again!

As the groups spread out across the mountain, finding suitable terrain and focusing in on the areas the Bears in each group want to improve. The groups were diverse, ranging from intermediate to high-level skiers. The goals were for improvement on steeper terrain, bumps, variable snow, and more; as unique as the folks who are here, but clustered nicely into groups.

I am skiing with Joan and Carolyn while Rio is skiing with Ursula and Eski (and the other coaches are doing their own video work). The Bears are amazing in their passion for skiing, their enjoyment of the alpine environment, their camaraderie, and support for one another.

In watching members of Joan's group, I am amazed by the changes that have already been made by the group members. Their edging, turn shaping, and confidence have all improved already. I'm excited to see what happens over the rest of the week.

Part of the improvement came from the work of Bud, our resident boot guru. He skied with most of the groups, pulled out shims and duct tape, and gave Bears an opportunity to understand first-hand the impact of being balanced both fore and aft and laterally.

The video analysis has been very valuable for the Bears, too. I even had the opportunity to see myself on skis for the first time. There's a lot of value to that, I'll tell you!

Universally, even after only one day, the Bears are engaged, improving, and excited about both the learning and just getting out and ripping it up.

More later...

PS Thanks, Springhill Crazie! I am grateful to have the opportunity to participate at this level (note: Rio is the other videographer; Chris couldn't make it, either!). For those of you who have not attended an ESA, put it on your calendar as soon as the '06 is announced. For those who have, been before, don't forget to come back for more!
post #10 of 60
Thanks for the reports... Keep 'em coming!
post #11 of 60
Anyone else feel like this place is a ghost town without these folks?
post #12 of 60
If I were in shape, ($ and Physically) I would have probably been one of the video people. Keep the reports coming.
post #13 of 60
dchan i also need to get my wallet back in shape.
post #14 of 60
Thread Starter 

The transformation process

In watching the videos of all of the groups tonight, we're already seeing significant changes. Many of them have to do with the alignment work that the coaches and Bud have done with some of the Bears. Most of them, however, come from the coaching (as you'd expect). It's difficult for me to describe the excitement that I've seen in the Bears as they've discovered new sensations, had "ah-ha" moments, and experienced new application of skills that they hadn't known before.

One of the interesting aspects of the location this year is the proximity of Moonlight Basin to Big Sky. While the two are tied up in litigation (which I find short-sighted and silly), it is possible to ski a couple of runs on Moonlight Basin's terrain, one of which is a fun, groomed black diamond that I skied today with Joan's group.

The terrain here is so varied that I am continuously awed by the views, the aspects, and the different snow textures that the mountains of Big Sky offer. The textures off the summits are sugary, wind-groomed snow. The groomers have tilled packed powder, and corn on the sunny slopes later in the day. It does seem to be cooling down, and we're hoping to get some snow from the storm heading down from the northwest in the next couple of days.

Katy is sitting behind me right now, expressing her discomfort at my writing posts during the video analysis presentations. Seems that they're all nervous about what I might say. Funny that...

Tonight, Bob Barnes and Ric Reiter will each be doing presentations and Bud presented last night.

Ya'll coming next year?
post #15 of 60
Thread Starter 

First photo set

Here are some of the photos that Ryel has taken...

View off the back of Lone Mountain

This is a serious mountain!

Trail view from Big Sky

Moonset over Lone Mountain
post #16 of 60

I'm ready sign me up!!

My tax return is going to be used for next year! Hope that it is in the West. How about Tahoe? Sign me up. I'm ready to join in .
post #17 of 60


Thanks for the updates and the GREAT pics. Enjoy all you give!!!!
post #18 of 60
Thread Starter 
The site for next year will be officially announced Thursday evening at the closing banquet. We'll post the announcement shortly thereafter. It'll be good, of course. It always is!
post #19 of 60
Wow, it does not seem like its been a year since I was at ESA, wish I was there. Looking forward to hearing the decision about the location for ESA next year, hoping to attend if money and life oblige.
post #20 of 60
Thread Starter 
I'm continuing to upload photos into my portfolio on BigLines. I'll link to some of them here. Lots of the folks who are here...
post #21 of 60
Thread Starter 


Eric D (Eski) at the Moonlight Lodge:

Ursula Howland (our host here at Big Sky)


Tom Burch

Ric (VailSnoPro)

Katy and Bud

Roger (Arcmeister)

Joan (Nolo)

Bob Barnes (to come!)
post #22 of 60
Day 4 for me up there and I'm still having a blast. Though the snow might not be as plentiful as normal Big Sky has done an amazing job with what they have. There is a great amount and variety of terrain open with good coverage. Everyone is getting spoiled by the wide open empty runs and lack of lift lines. Its going to be hard for some of them to return to reality.....thankfully I don't have.
post #23 of 60

Postcard from Big Sky

We're having a really good time... wish you were here.
post #24 of 60
Beautiful photos, ryel and ssh!

Beautiful people, too!! We will not miss it next year!
post #25 of 60
I envy you the good times, whish I could be there but alas....(snivel) ....

post #26 of 60
Thread Starter 

Pre-Banquet post

This is the pre-"entertainment" post from the banquet. As we sit here watching pictures and videos projected on the big screen and enjoying the afterglow of a great week, Fox is only two beers into the evening.

Today has had its excitement and challenges for some of us (more on that later), but it started to lightly snow this afternoon, and we're all hoping for a nice storm across the west.

Most of the group skied the bowl today, and some of the video was taken there. The slopes on the bowl are luscious, with nice wind-groomed sugar snow. Many Bears enjoyed really learning how to ski the steeps as a result. It was very fun!

There are a number of drills that you'll hear about, some potentially with surprise. But, I'll let Fox spring that one on you all!

A few of the Bears have become infamous. One for his spectacular, explosive crashes. Another for managing to get completely lost in the woods, from which his fellow group members had to extract him. I'm sure that someone will tell you who these unfortunate folks are, but that won't be me! At least not tonight!

Ask Fox about his date last night...

We went to the Corral and had tremendous Montana steak and fixin's. And tonight we're having "yard birds" (ask Tom Burch!).

Soon, there will be "entertainment". Not that we need it. Being with the Bears is entertainment enough (right, Katy?).

C ya...
post #27 of 60
Originally Posted by ssh
We went to the Corral and had tremendous Montana steak and fixin's. And tonight we're having "yard birds" (ask Tom Burch!).
C'mon, every country boy on earth knows what a "yard bird" is.

Thanks for the updates. Sure wish I was there.
post #28 of 60
Thread Starter 

...and so it goes...

The awards have been given, the drinks have been drunk, the food eaten, and the songs sung. Thus winds down the EpicSki Academy, 2005. We have been able to put names with faces, laugh together, overcome fear together, improve our skiing dramatically, and enjoy all of the aspects of playing in the alpine wonderland together.

For those of you who really want to get better at skiing, you owe it to yourself to attend an Epic event. The improvement in your skiing will be measurable and memorable.

Besides, you get to meet many of the amazing people that you have gotten to know here!

All the best, friends, see you from Boulder, if not before!
post #29 of 60
I would like to again thank Joan and the gang for inviting me to such a great forum for learning and developing friendships. It was an honor to ski with such great coaches and skiers and meeting/working with the participants who demonstrated great changes in their skiing during the week.

A special thanks to Roger ("don't make me buy a shock collar") Kane who gave me valuable tips for my own skiing as well as jumped in every night and helped me with the boot work. Oh, and who loaned me his new skis until mine finally arrived! Sorry, about the scratches;(

I don't believe a skier could find a better group of coaches or learning environment than what I saw at Big Sky this week! Good job to the coaches!
post #30 of 60
Just retuned from ESA III. A special thanks to my coach Roger Kane known on Epic Ski as Arcmeister. Not only is he technically superb but he has the passion, imagination and patience that makes for a truly excellent coach. I only hope his patience wasn't taxed too much after having me in his group for nearly a week (BTW Coach, I am thinking of taping two of those playing cards from the deck I received as my "award" to the front of my skis, shortening my poles or both...)

It was great to see coaches like Bob Barnes, Tom Burch, Rick Reiter (Vail Sno Pro) that I met at ESA I and who were so instrumental in taking the Academy from a concept to reality three years ago.

Then there was, of course, Nolo, as well as new coaches like Eric, D., Foosh and Ursula from the Big Sky Ski School and a number of others who all helped make it happen this year. Bud Heishman of Snowind sports in Reno and a boot alignment specialist also attended and helped a lot of folks with alignment problems that included on the snow evaluations.

It was great to see Bears and Bearettes (?) from ESA I as well as meet new ones.
I was able to meet the fabled Gonzostrike in the flesh. He's a fun guy and great person to ski with.

Also notable was this friend of Bob Barnes who showed up. Not only was he featured in a ski video we watched but he made a personal appearance at this year's Academy as well. He's easy to overlook in a crowd because he's well-diminutive. But can he turn. I met him only briefly but learned that he's sponsored by Kneissl skis.

The his risk of writing a post like this is that some who should be recognized are inadvertently left out. For that I apologize.
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