By Renae Counter, explorebigsky.com Editorial Assistant

MONTANA—On Jan. 1, Cory Birkenbuel, with the help of MSU film student Kevin Hilton, set out to ski all of Montana’s 16 ski areas in 16 days. Birkenbuel coined the trip Montana’s Sweet 16, and used it as part of his senior project as a business student at the University of Montana Western.
“To be able to plan something for so long and then have it work out just way I dreamed it [was] perfect,” Birkenbuel said. “Montana Ski Area Associations was awesome with getting me tickets. I had sponsors with gas and hotels, tons of support from friends. Then meeting and skiing with athletes and people along the way, it all just came together.”
Although the snow has since melted, the trip is far from over. Both Birkenbuel and Hilton are now hard at work producing the Montana Sweet 16 promotional film.
“A film takes a lot longer than 16 days,” Birkenbuel said.
He hopes to have it finished by September, and send it out to as many film festivals as possible. Cold Smoke Awards, which sponsored Birkenbuel’s internship, has already agreed to air the finished product.
“The process of making the film has been a dream come true and has helped me in life by setting a goal and accomplishing that goal,” Birkenbuel said.
With proceeds from the film, Birkenbuel wants to set up a scholarship through Montana Western’s foundation. The scholarship, which would be under his name, would support future students’ exploration of Montana.
“I want students to dream even bigger than I did.”
Birkenbuel also expressed gratitude to Hilton for dedication to the project. The two have been friends since Birkenbuel taught Hilton how to ski at Maverick Mountain.
Montana skiing is Birkenbuel’s passion, and he’s already stoked for the 2012/13 ski season, he said. He has ideas about how to make more connections and networks in Montana’s ski communities.
“In the first trip I found the passion for Montana skiing—I know it’s there. Now I want to do the trip again to promote Montana skiing even more. It’s a great thing to spark people to think ‘if he can do it, I can do it too.’”
But this time, Birkenbuel is planning something even bigger.
To follow the film’s progress, check out the Facebook page Montana’s Sweet 16.