Big Sky Pano
Radventure Part 10: The Big Sky Vortex Written by Alex Thornburg on April 6th, 2015

You may be thinking: another week in Big Sky?! But before you judge me, just keep in mind that Big Sky can be like a vortex of awesome, especially with the right group of people. Sure, there are a bunch of tourists running around acting like tools, the bellmen at the hotels are required to wear cowboy hats, and you may accidently ride into the backyard of some rich well-to-do’s unoccupied mansion if you take a lower mountain fresh line at Moonlight Basin. However, there are plenty of great people living the dirtbag lifestyle in Big Sky, who are just my kind of awesome. Even with it being my fifth week I still shredded new lines (new to me), visited new shacks, and even made a few new friends.

Just another #shacktour at big sky. #mountainvibes #haveboardwilltravel #snomad @usoutdoor @polerstuff @smithoptics

A photo posted by alex thornburg (@thornburgmedia) on

Early week was characterized by hardpack, and midweek by dust on crust. I was ready to leave, and I had a ride lined up to get me about halfway home. That ride was Thursday, and as I sat in the Mtn Lodge (dorm style employee housing, somewhat like The Scummits in Govy) twiddling my thumbs with all my things packed, it started snowing. At the point when I had 5 minutes before I had to walk out the door, I decided to stay, and lots of dude hugging ensued.

Mountain Lodge

The Scummits of Big Sky, just a bit “dormier” (shot with the Lensbaby Sweet 50).


The accumulation wasn’t much, but certain places on and around the Big Sky Resort were favored. As the week turned to the weekend, a friend and I decided to search for some rippable snow, even if it meant braving variable conditions and icy traverses through no fall zones to get it. We made our way to the peak and over to the ski patrol shack to check in for entry into the North Summit Snowfield. The snow was pretty decent, and definitely the best and deepest on the mountain (aside from backcountry). The most rippable was probably in the bottom of Great Falls (there’s much less snow there than shown in the linked trail map), which we used to exit. Later on we hit the Gullies and Cron’s. The lines we took that day were the kind you just don’t find everywhere else.

Great Falls Panoramic

As the weekend progressed, more stormy weather came in and mother nature decided to give Big Sky a little more winter flavor. The resort reported an inch or less, but that was not the case. If you knew where to go, there was 6-12 inches. It was plenty rippable, and I spent the day with a pleasantly cold face and a shit eating grin. Headwaters hotlaps were the jam, with loaded lines and complimentary face shots if you could stomach a rocky traverse. There was also plenty of goodness off Challenger.

Snow On Trees - Challenger

Free refills, yes please!


Saturday marked my 4th “last night in town,” and at this point no one believed me anymore. But, it was true. I had a ride lined up for Sunday that I had to take in order to be back in Portland in time to fly out the following week to LA for grown up stuff. Mother nature must’ve heard I was leaving again, because she started dumping snow on Big Sky. Leaving Sunday was the hardest thing I’ve had to do all season, but it had to be done (life’s hard, sometimes).

US Outdoor Beer Coozie

Looking back, my time in Big Sky was awesome. There were plenty of impromptu bluegrassy jam sessions, questionable sleeping arrangements, and on mountain high fives. It may be the dry air, or it may be the abundance of pro wrestler impressions that became a common greeting amongst friends, but I have no voice as I type this. Big Sky is a big place, but it reminded me that the world isn’t so big, with the most blatant reminder being a random encounter with someone who lived in my room in a janky cabin (by janky, I mean you had to crawl through a window to get into the room, and some of the walls looked like an old fence) in Welches after I had moved out. I would be lying if I said I wouldn’t miss doing lobby tours (rolling around to all the resort lobbies drinking, with a posse of 10+), or a plethora of other things, but it’s time to move on. Next stop: Mt Hood!


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