Big Sky is known for its big mountain skiing. There is no comparison to the in-bounds terrain accessible off of the Lone Peak Tram, the North Summit Snowfield, or the Headwaters. It's absolutely incredible what you can ski and ride in Big Sky. But when you stand at the top of Lone Mountain and you see endless mountains in every direction, it's easy to start dreaming about skiing those peaks.
Photo: D. Lennon
Have you ever stared at the mountains in Big Sky country and thought it looked fun to ski over there? Of course you have. It's what skiers and snowboarders do.
Big Sky is safely nestled into the middle of the Montana's Madison Range, which is home to the Lee Metcalf Wilderness. From the top of the Lone Peak Tram you can easily see the towering peaks of the Taylor-Hilgard and Spanish Peaks units of the Lee Metcalf. You can also spot mountain ranges like the Tobacco Roots, Bridgers, Crazies, Gallatins, Absaroka-Beartooths, the Tetons, and other smaller mountain ranges. It's like standing in an endless sea of mountains. It's every backcountry skier's dream.
There are plenty of mountains, cirques, couloirs, bowls, faces, and meadows mixed into this mountainous landscape - and it is covered in snow for the majority of the year. There are countless easy access backcountry areas to go ski touring, but there are also plenty of places to go ski mountaineering - as long as you're willing to work for it.
Ski mountaineering is the human powered ascent and descent of snow covered mountains on skis or splitboards in an attempt to ski steep couloirs, remote faces, or towering peaks. Usually ski mountaineering focuses on a single objective, while ski touring is more about making laps in good snow.
Photo: D. Lennon
Ski mountaineering combines the art of ski touring with mountain climbing. It requires fitness, endurance, mountain sense, snow pack knowledge, route selection, specialized ski gear (harnesses, ropes, crampons, axes, touring gear, etc), technical skills, and expert skiing abilities. It's a risky mountain sport that certain individuals love.
Spring time is prime time for ski mountaineering in Big Sky Country. The snow pack is deep and the snow is typically more stable than it is during mid winter. Always tune into the Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center's daily avalanche advisory to find out about avalanche conditions. It's also prime time to carry bear spray in the backcountry.
Tune into the usual social media outlets and you'll see that lots of Montana locals are getting after it in their mountainous backyards. There are no backcountry ski guiding companies based in Big Sky, Montana, but the culture is here. There is uphill skiing in-bounds at Big Sky Resort and the ski area features the ShedHorn Ski-Mo Race in April.
If ski mountaineering sounds intriguing to you, take a ski mountaineering course with Beartooth Powder Guides in Cooke City or out of the Bell Lake Yurt in the Tobacco Roots. Their qualified guides will teach you proper techniques while ski mountaineering in Big Sky country.
Learn more about ski touring and ski mountaineering in Big Sky country from the following guidebooks:
- Backcountry Skiing Bozeman and Big Sky by Ben Werner
- Select Peaks of the Greater Yellowstone by Tom Turiano
Enjoy the mountains safely and responsibly. When in the backcountry you and you alone are responsible for your own safety.
Disclaimer: Ski touring and ski mountaineering can be hazardous. Anyone attempting these activities needs the proper training, experience, and knowledge. Visit Big Sky does not encourage anyone to participate in these activities.