By Katie Morrison, Explorebigsky.com Staff Writer
A change in perspective can be refreshing.
Stand on top of a mountain on a clear, bluebird day, and take in the view from every direction. It might seem cliché, but it’s true: Mountains give you new perspective. And besides, they’re one of the main reasons I love it here.
Lone Mountain is the peak I see every morning as I take my dog for a walk. It’s what I see every evening on my drive home from work. When I turn the corner at the Conoco station, it’s there, welcoming me back to Big Sky. You might think it would be easy for me to take this mountain for granted, but instead, it has the opposite effect, pulling me closer each day.
I recently had the fortune of standing atop this beautiful peak, and remembered all over again how different the perspective of looking at the mountain is from being on its summit.
A long time skier and Big Sky resident, I’ve been on top of Lone Mountain many times during the winter. There is the first trip up the tram each season, riding in a car of giddy locals who all race to sign out for the Big Couloir or North Summit Snowfield. There’s the excitement of arriving on top with a handful of friends, preparing to ski down on a two-foot powder day in the middle of March. Even the adventure of following the ropeline down when the top of the peak is veiled in clouds and snow is blowing into my face to find a few untouched turns is a reward.
These interactions with the mountain are all special to me, but the peak in the summer is another experience.
There’s a saying that people move to Big Sky for the winter but stay because of the summer. The day I rode up the tram was perfect: 75 degrees, sunny, with a slight breeze.
My husband and I sat on the Swift Current chair in shorts and tennis shoes, with long-sleeved shirts, water and sunscreen in a backpack. Mountain bikers tore down trails below us, and hikers meandered through the woods. When we unloaded at the mid-mountain station, a truck with safari seating was waiting for our group.
After a short drive, full of its own beautiful scenery, we arrived at the tram station and piled in for the trip to the top. It felt strangely spacious compared to the winter ride I was accustomed to, with everyone having a view looking outward as the guide pointed out the mountains around us.
The real perspective change came at the top, however.
The world seemed to slow down as I looked at our little town below. From 11,166 feet, you can’t see movement in the valleys, just a quiet landscape of smaller mountains, green meadows and teal mountain lakes colored by glacial sediment.
As the valley stood still, the mountaintop came alive. White butterflies fluttered by me. A ladybug warmed itself on a piece of shale. The cool breeze felt refreshing as it chilled my legs. I picked up a handful of snow, and it melted into my hands.
Every direction I looked was a world unto itself, everywhere, contrasts.
The Tetons were just visible at the edge of the southern horizon, while the Sphinx, almost unrecognizable without its winter coat of snow, felt close enough to touch.
Bright green meadows at the base of Cedar Mountain stood out against the drying yellowish grass in the neighboring Madison Valley. A slight pinkish hue from the fires burning to the Northwest gave the midday sky a sunset-like look.
I became more aware of myself—of my heart beating slowly and my breathing as it deepened. A sense of calm came over me, and I wanted to stay there all day.
I realized that in all of the times I’d been on top of the peak before, I hadn’t really ever taken it all in. I’d been focused instead on my route to the bottom, even if I took a quick look around while waiting for my time slot on the Snowfield or as I skied toward the Yeti Traverse.
When it came time to go back down, I didn’t want to leave. Our group loaded back on the tram and quietly rode back to the lower tram station. As the others went back to the truck bound for the base area, we decided to hike instead. We just weren’t quite ready to join the world below.