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Big Sky Resort welcomes skiers, riders to a unique season

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After an abrupt halt to last ski season, Big Sky Resort opened on Thanksgiving Day for the 2020-2021 winter season. OUTLAW PARTNERS PHOTO

GM Troy Nedved: “It felt amazing”

By Brandon Walker and Mira Brody EBS STAFF

BIG SKY – On a crisp Thanksgiving morning, 257 days since mountain operations were forced to an abrupt halt by COVID-19 in March, Big Sky Resort opened for the 2020-2021 ski season. Chairlifts on Ramcharger 8 and Explorer hummed, while face masks and neck gaiters covered the faces of skiers and riders eagerly awaiting their turn to hit the slopes with the Swift Current lift opening later in the day at approximately 2:30 p.m. Opening day looked and felt a little different this year, but one thing remained the same: gratitude to be on the mountain.

Big Sky Resort General Manager Troy Nedved closely observed as the resort came to life, slightly earlier than anticipated—approximately 8:45 a.m. according to resort personnel—on Nov. 26 following a coating of six inches of fresh snow the evening prior. 

“It felt amazing,” Nedved said in reference to seeing the first chairs spin after the lengthy layoff. “You know after closing on March 15 in that fashion, I think everyone’s been looking forward to this moment and it’s been a lot of hard work to get to this point. Months and months of planning and figuring out systems that are going to make sense in this situation.”

Prior to opening day, Big Sky Resort had been hard at work, compiling protocols and precautions for the season with the overarching goal of staying open and ensuring the safety of all who attend.

“Things have been going pretty well as planned. We’re working to communicate all of our plans and requirements to keep us safe through the winter,” Nedved said. “You know it’s taking guests a little bit to wrap their brains around how this looks and feels at a ski resort, but people are happy to do what they need to, to keep us open.”

Nedved’s testament was echoed by some opening day guests. “We are so excited to be here,” said Big Sky resident Lauren Knox. “We’re so grateful for everyone getting this mountain open and getting us here, so we’ll do anything to keep it open.”

Boise, Idaho resident Evan Sprengel, joined by his daughters, Brinley and Ashlyn, described favorable snow conditions on opening day and said he wasn’t bothered by face covering requirements.

“We’re excited for sure,” Sprengel said. “This is our first time out this year, like most people, and we’re all the way from Boise, Idaho, so we came all this way to check it out.”

The Sprengel’s on opening day at Big Sky Resort. From left to right: Brinley, Ashlyn, and Evan. OUTLAW PARTNERS PHOTO

Skiing with his family for the first time on Thanksgiving day, Sprengel said he’d like to make it an annual tradition. Ultimately, Evan, Brinley and Ashlyn all shared the same sentiment when asked what their favorite part of the day was—aside from the skiing: Family.

Nedved said that the resort’s safety protocols and procedures will be reviewed and updated accordingly throughout the duration of the ski season. He didn’t have an estimated total of how many guests were in attendance for opening day. 

This season, visitors are encouraged to purchase lift tickets in advance, Ikon passholders are asked to make reservations prior to arrival and any area that does not allow for social distancing requires a facial covering. If they wish, parties who arrived together, may ride a lift solely with their immediate party, but there is also the option for skiers and riders to mount a lift with anyone in attendance.

Georgia native turned Big Sky Resort ticket checker for the winter season, Mason Puckett, exuberantly described his excitement and never having experienced the amount of snow that was present at the resort on opening day.

Puckett at Big Sky Resort on opening day. OUTLAW PARTNERS PHOTO

“Since it’s my first year, I’ve heard it’s a bit different from before,” Puckett said. “So you know with all the things going on, the pandemic and such, and then [with] Swifty being closed, people are kind of sad about that. But overall it’s been great. Our guests have been amazing.”

The Swift Current lift was opened in the afternoon, after Puckett’s interview with EBS. Resort personnel say the lift will be in operation on Nov. 27 as well.

“So far we’ve had [a] great vibe. People are pretty excited,” Nedved said. “What I continually hear is congratulations on getting us open. People, they want to ski and get out there and enjoy this fresh snow.”

According to a Nov. 25 letter from both Nedved and COO and resort President Taylor Middleton, the mountain has plans to offer, “a new bootpack route up Lone Peak, starting at the top of Dakota and heading up the skier’s right side of Liberty Bowl to the Yeti Traverse, alleviating pressure on the Tram,” the letter reads. In the letter, it was added that there are plans to add a skin track for morning use on the Hangman’s run, that will open at 6 a.m. and is available until 8 a.m. Beginning at 8 a.m., there will also be a First Tracks pass option on Ramcharger 8, according to the letter.

Despite any wait to hit the slopes throughout the day, spirits remained high. Locals and visitors alike were happy to return to the mountain with friends and family and enjoy the quintessential pre-Thanksgiving Montana tradition of riding down the mountain.

“From a snow and operational standpoint, we couldn’t be happier,” Nedved said.

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