By Maria Wyllie
Explore Big Sky Associate Editor
BIG SKY – This winter, most ski resorts in the Rocky Mountain West suffered from rapidly melting and thin snow packs, with temperatures reaching above 40 F on a regular basis.
Patches of grass and exposed rocks had folks questioning whether Big Sky Resort would make it to the end of the season. However, with a number of April snow showers, winter managed to hang on in Big Sky. And despite an unseasonably warm winter, the resort actually fared better than most in the West.
“Our high elevation and historically low standard deviation in snowfall once again produced a respectable ski season,” said Big Sky Resort General Manager Taylor Middleton in a recent press release. “Although less snow than average, there was a lot more snow here than over much of the Rockies and West Cost, so our national visitation was strong.”
Big Sky’s 2014-2015 ski season was laid to rest on April 19, after more than 440,000 skiers visited over the course of the winter. The resort beat last year’s busiest day record by almost 600 skiers on December 31, with 8,060 skiers and snowboarders on mountain. February saw record-breaking visitation, and lodging stays were up 7 percent over last winter, according to the press release.
Riders also enjoyed more terrain with new and upgraded tree runs, two new intermediate runs off Andesite Mountain’s Southern Comfort chairlift, and intermediate and black diamond runs off the Swift Current lift on Lone Mountain. Improvements were also made to Tango Trees and Dakota Gully through extensive glade-thinning efforts.
The highly anticipated Everett’s 8,800 restaurant opened mid-December atop Andesite Mountain, and with a multitude of sunny, bluebird days, Everett’s deck was a favorite hangout for both locals and visitors.
New events this year included Whiskey A-Go-Go, a night of music and whiskey tastings from local distilleries, as well as the first annual Shedhorn Ski Mountaineering Race on April 11 – where top athletes raced each other 16 miles, summiting Lone Mountain twice and gaining 9,000 vertical feet.
“We have always wanted to celebrate the grandeur of Lone Mountain with an event that encompasses skier ability and endurance,” said co-race director Noah Ronczkowski.
This event truly embraced the “Biggest Skiing in America” slogan with athletes traveling over a variety of terrain and snow conditions by skin, boot-pack, jumar-device ascent, and downhill skiing on double-black diamond terrain, including the famed Big Couloir.
Big Sky Resort also hosted Powder Magazine’s Powder Week, Feb 22-27, which was previously held in Jackson, Wyo., for 13 years. A celebration of the skiing lifestyle, industry professionals gathered in Big Sky for what was one of the season’s snowiest weeks.
Powder’s Editor-at-large, Matt Hansen, said moving the venue from Jackson was intended to freshen-up the event, and Big Sky’s terrain, vertical drop and abundant snow made it an ideal candidate this year.
Although it wasn’t the deepest season, it was certainly an event-packed one, with still plenty of snow for big lines and fast groomers. And a snowy April made for an epic last month, providing a few powder days and decent coverage for ripping the lower mountain or lapping the tram.
Skiers and snowboarders flocked in droves over closing weekend, most donning creative outfits to celebrate the season. Saturday’s pond skim saw some top-notch performances and incredible crashes, with only a few riders making it entirely across the watery venue.
Big Sky Resort’s mountain activities for the summer season open on June 6, and the Big Sky Resort Golf Course opens on May 22. PGA Head Golf Professional Mark Wehrman will once again be holding weekly clinics for men and women – a great way for beginners to get into the sport and for more seasoned players to refine their skills.
On-mountain summer activities include mountain biking – both downhill and cross-country – the Lone Peak Expedition tour to the top of the tram, zipline tours, skeet shooting, and a high-ropes course, among others.
Locals and guests can also look forward to Brewfest 2015, which is scheduled for July 10-11, the second annual Vine & Dine Festival from Aug. 13-16, the Kids Adventure Games from Aug. 28-29, and the third annual Rut Mountain Runs over Labor Day weekend.
Visit bigskyresort.com for additional information.