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Big Sky Rippers

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By Derek LennonEBS Contributor

The Rippers program is Big Sky Resort’s flagship big mountain program for kids. This local youth program caters to skiers and riders aged 10 and older who want to learn how to safely ski and ride Big Sky’s black and double black diamond terrain, while learning about avalanche safety and developing the skills and techniques to navigate and enjoy big mountain terrain safely.

There are two six-week sessions of Rippers every season and kids are placed into small groups based on age and skill. Each group works with the same instructor every Saturday for the entire six-week session. The first session began Jan. 7 and runs through Feb. 11, and the second session will be held March 4 to April 8.

Big Sky Rippers boot packing to earn their turns last year at Big Sky Resort. PHOTO BY MATTHEW ELLWOOD

Big Sky Rippers boot packing to earn their turns last year at Big Sky Resort. PHOTO BY MATTHEW ELLWOOD

“Many participants have been in the program for several years, and have been skiing with the same instructor each season,” said Matt Ruuhela, the Rippers program supervisor.

Ruuhela handpicks some of Big Sky’s top instructors to work with the Rippers. Besides perfecting every child’s skiing and riding techniques in big mountain terrain, instructors also work with students to ensure that they are familiar with and understand avalanche terrain, avalanche rescue skills, risk assessment, and big mountain decision making.

The goal is to create ripping skiers and riders who understand, respect, and enjoy the terrain that Big Sky offers.

Every Saturday the participants review avalanche and condition reports, then they explore the mountain with qualified instructors who know the mountain and understand the snow conditions. “This is the ultimate way for kids to safely explore the mountain while developing the skills they need to build a solid foundation for mountain sports,” Ruuhela said. It’s safety, fun, and learning at the highest level.

The Big Sky Rippers program is the perfect option for any advanced level skier or rider. Before signing up for the Rippers, every child must be comfortably skiing terrain like Marx or Cold Springs. This is mandatory to ensure that participants are skilled and ready to meet the objectives of the program.

The Big Sky Rippers Program runs out of both Mountain Village and Madison base areas from 9:15 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. One Saturday per session, the Rippers participate in Big Sky’s First Tracks Program, where they load the lift prior to the public and get the mountain all to themselves.

If your kids aren’t quite ready for the Big Sky Rippers, there are numerous other local ski programs for kids. Find the perfect program for your child and help them build the skills they need to love and experience all that Big Sky Resort has to offer.

To sign up for the Big Sky Rippers Program, visit If you have questions, contact the Big Sky Ski School at (406) 995-5743 (Mountain Village) or (406) 993-6062 (Madison Village).

Derek Lennon is a skier and writer who lives, works, and plays in the mountains of the world. He is based in Big Sky, Montana, where he lives with his wife Mia and two dogs.

A version of this story was originally published on the Visit Big Sky blog at Read more interesting content about the area on Visit Big Sky’s blog at

Big Sky Rippers program quick facts:

– Two six-week sessions (Saturdays only).
– Group sizes capped at four.
– Ages 10 and up
– Advanced skiing ability required.
– Beacon, shovel and probe required.
– Participate in First Tracks program one time per session.
– Operates out of the Mountain Village and Madison base areas

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