It’s in the name. Big Sky Resort is big and its massive terrain bears serious consequences. To honor that challenging landscape, which is epitomized by big mountain runs spilling off the stark Lone Peak, this Montana ski resort broke the mold by creating its very own triple black diamond rating to warn guests about some of its especially challenging terrain.
According to Big Sky Resort Ski Patrol, “the methodology for designating trails as triple black diamond includes: exposure to uncontrollable falls along a steep, continuous pitch, route complexity, and high consequence terrain.”
Something they also mention is that many of these areas, which include The Big Couloir, North Summit Snowfield, and Upper A-Z Chutes, are managed access areas that require individuals to sign out with ski patrol, wear a beacon, and most importantly ski with a partner.
If you don’t know, don’t go!
The South Face:
A steep descent that delivers skiers and riders to the popular Yeti Traverse and Lenin’s, Otter Slide’s triple black rating is mostly due to its high consequence terrain, which is littered with rocks. If you’re not careful, your skis will take a beating and the ski tuner will make a killing. Otter Slide is a great run in its own right and allows leads to a long descent off one of Lone Peak’s best-known ski runs, Lenin.
The final of the ‘Dictator Chutes,’ Castro’s 50-degree slope make it a world-class run for those experienced skiers and riders who love the steep and deep.
North Summit Snowfield + Headwaters
North Summit Snowfield
The North Summit Snowfield is a local’s favorite and if the wind is blowing hard out of the south, expect this slope to hold great, wind buffed powder even if it hasn’t snowed in days. Beyond its jaw-dropping, alpine setting, The North Summit Snowfield descends the northern aspect of the mountain, where it feels more the backcountry than it does a ski resort.
Be sure to get up the Tram early and head to the “penalty box,” a 180-square–foot shack at the top of Lone Peak to sign out with ski patrol. Skiers sign up for time slots that allow groups to head down the Snowfield every 15 minutes.
Great Falls, Rips, Summit Direct, Trident Chutes
Not for the faint of heart, the chutes that lay below the North Summit Snowfield all demand technical ability and physical prowess. Known by Big Sky skiers as the “gum wall” for its references to Trident and Orbit, these chutes open up into the wide-open Deepwater Bowl.
The Headwaters are accessed via the Challenger or Headwater lifts. From there, a ridge hike delivers even more steep and deep terrain that also serves as a popular venue for Freeride competitions. If departing from the Mountain Village base area, skiers won’t be able to see the Headwaters lines before they begin the hike. Ride the Six Shooter lift before taking on the Headwaters to get a great view of the chutes and understand why these steep and technical chutes are triple black diamonds.
The Bowl and Big Couloir:
The Big Couloir
The Big Couloir is Big Sky’s most famed ski run. Those riding the Lone Peak Tram can not help but stare at this 1,400 vertical foot couloir, whose beauty is simultaneously inspiring and terrifying. To ski “The Big” as locals refer to it, you must first check-in with ski patrol, who require an avalanche beacon and an experienced partner to drop in.
Along the ridge top, the couloir reaches upwards of 50 degrees in steepness. Both style and technical ability are required to make this top section look good for those heading up the Lone Peak Tram. Halfway through, the steepness drops to 35-40 degrees and offers wide-open turns for the remaining 1,000+ vertical of descent.
If you want long, sustained steeps, it doesn’t get much better in North America than Big Sky’s A-Z Chutes. These tight chutes deliver over 1,000-foot descents that will have you considering a move to the great state of Montana. Beware, some of these entrances are technical.
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