The Wild Wild West Adventure Final episode - FWQ 4* Subaru Freeride Series Big Sky Montana: April 2nd-7th
April 7th: The morning started out with the roar of the avalanche blasting in the background. Today is my last day here and I can feel the nostalgia creeping in already as I have been having fun hanging out with the locals here, meeting likeminded people is always great. I guess my sore feet will be appreciating a short break in boarding but my heart will sorely miss my new made friends here.
I had plans to meet up with some more local riders, Corey and Jacob, as arranged the night of the party. Jacob couldn’t make it but Blair had time again which was cool. I met up with the guys around 10:30 at the bottom of the resort. We headed straight off towards the tram line in the group of 3. It was a total New Englander crew and we had a blast together.
We rode the tram straight away and took some runs down from the summit, new lines which we hadn’t done the day before which was cool. We got a little break in the visibility for much of the descent having a fair amount of contrast at least albeit still flat-ish light. The snow felt a little better as fewer people had ridden these lines, that plus the visibility just equaled fun together. We were able to get 3 total mountain laps in, which doesn’t sound like much but try getting from one place to the other at that mountain!! It required taking a series of lifts to make it even back to the bottom of the tram where you wait in line for a few. On the second run, we ran into a girl Michele at the top in the patrol hut: I had met Michele 2 days before at the Lib Tech demo stand and we had chatted back then, so we invited her to join us on that second decent which she did. Michele has fantastic technique and it was nice having another female snowboarder along with the boys who both ski. She could only take that one run with us as she had to go to work pretty much straight away thereafter, but we headed one last time towards the tram line to get a nice long run in, the Mullet. For some reason I could remember that name, but forgot what everything else was called. It was kind of funny how they named literally every possible line you could take of the mountain… even during the competition they asked me where I intended to ride and all I said was pretty much “over there near those trees” pointing to it… he started rattling off names, oh you mean Three Forks or Elbow or blah blah blah… and I was saying, “hey man, I have NO idea of what these names are, I got to Montana yesterday for the first time ever haha!!” They don’t really name the runs in Europe, although there may be a special trail with a name here and there.
The snow at the lower altitudes started getting really sticky and warm, as it was, the last two descents back to the Six Shooter chairlift were essentially like riding a giant boarder cross trail… not taking a single turn more than needed but just following the ideal line as fast as you could go on the board to avoid having to one-foot or getting stuck anywhere. I could really feel the snow grabbing the base of the board and sort of slowing me down in jerky motions. Having used winter wax on the board wasn’t likely the biggest help either but what can you do at this point.
We headed up to the tram for one final run, the run down Mullet. When we got to the top of the tram, the Montana “White Bird” sky was actually clearing up a tad and allowing some sunshine and some big panoramic views through… we were able to take a few pictures from the top of the mountain for the first time, forget that, I got to see ANYTHING from the top of the mountain for the first time on my last day of shredding. We headed on over along the ridge down towards the back side of the mountain, into an area, that I have since learned, is called Lost Lake. I’m guessing there must be a lake at the bottom of the face J
It was one of the longest runs we could take off the peak and required a short hike back to the resort, which was totally worth it. Along the ridge it was so heavily windblown, that these crazy sharky volcanic rocks were pointing out all over making a scratch-free passage, an impossibility on a snowboard. The skiers could kind of sidestep around them and transfer their weight… I actually had to butt cheek it and sort of lift by board up over and scoot around the rocks to save the edges. It really felt extremely exposed there with that sugary snow and a layer of those hail balls from yesterday’s lightning storm, working like ball bearings on the very top layer… Below us was essentially a long and rocky steep slope. If I messed up here carrying my board walking, I wouldn’t have stopped falling til the bottom. So I strapped one foot into my board and felt much safer. In general I feel so much safer actually on my snowboard than on foot, that might sound strange but I think most riders would concur. We navigated the rocky entrance to the gully and as Blair had promised, it turned out to be our longest descent by far. It was interesting in the fact that from the top, the gully didn’t appear to be that long. It is when you watch someone go and go and go, while you wait to drop in yourself, that you get an appreciation for the magnitude of it. It had to be a good few minute run even, Blair just kept getting smaller and smaller but still wasn’t all the way down. Corey and I realized how long it was by seeing a little black speck at the bottom of the hill, finally come to a stop. The sun had started peeking through the clouds during Blair’s run and stayed strong for mine. I dropped into the face, which was not really steep for what I am used to in Europe but still was a nice steady long couloir which you didn’t want to mess up in for sure. The snow was even better than the last 2 runs as hardly any tracks were in it making it so much smoother on a board. It was still rather solidly wind pressed and kind of spongy, but you could really set an edge in it. It had a good grip and I even got some confidence to just point it a little straighter and even jump carve turn some of the face. Around the middle of the gully, I saw a fresh patch of snow on my right which looked a little thin but not wind effected and I aimed for it. It was really nice snow and gave me an authentic freeride feeling of being able to slash around a little. I even found a small knee high wind lip which I jumped.
I just know that I was grinning from ear to ear when I reached the bottom… regardless of the fact that it felt like my sun and wind burned lips were going to crack apart and fall off doing so, it just beamed out of me. I mean, man!! I am in God’s country here, with 2 really cool dudes, doing what I love, laughing it up and feeling so connected to these people, this place… life is good. That’s all I can say! I got to the bottom and rode over to Blair, who was just emitting the same happy, peaceful, charged…. In surfing you would call it Mana… the good vibes of life.
We watched Corey just eat up the face on his run down and he too… shined absolute satisfaction and grinned just as we still were from our runs. We traversed over to the bottom of a boot pack hike which would lead us back to the Moonlight Basin side of the mountain. The sun had really come out strong by now and that made the short 15mn hike pretty warm. We took our time and met up with really good friends of Blair’s who were just sitting in the snow at the top of the hike, relaxing in the sunshine and having a beer to toast to the great day of riding. We joined them to catch our breath and watch some people hike and ride another face opposite where we were sitting. We enjoyed the wind protected, sunny spot, chatting, reflecting, relishing.
After a short time there, we continued on all together back to the Six Shooter chairlift to head on back to Big Sky. The snow had become really sticky by now… not even the skiers were able to avoid pushing in the flatter sections. It felt like I was trying to board on a carpet by now and I was even getting stopped by the snow, going downhill let alone the flats! I think riding down this section made me sweat more than the hike did in the end haha! We traversed our way back to Big Sky where we sat outside with many others at the picnic tables and just enjoyed more sunshine. The guys grabbed a beer and I opted for a fudgesicle… something I loved as a kid but can’t get in Europe. We hung out there until it started getting a bit chilly being in slightly sweaty gear as the shadows became longer. The next stop was, big surprise, the hot tub. It’s a dirty job, but someone has to do it. One last session of soaking in the bubbly.
We joined 2 girls already in the tub, up from Colorado for the weekend who, as it turns out, had mutual friends with Blair. This is the snowboarding and skiing world though, it’s so small. Blair even played soccer against one of my best friends back in the high school days we figured out. Life can be so crazy! A few more guys joined the hot tub session and we had a crowd of 7 random people just having a blast together until we were so hungry and waterlogged that we went our separate ways and headed for some dinner. It was already 9:30pm by the time we made it to the restaurant but enjoyed a nice long meal and good conversation.
It has always been hard for me to pull the plug on such a situation to go to bed… you don’t meet soul mates that often in life, and when you do, you just want to hang out and talk about everything possible with them until the cows come home… so when we realized it was already nearly midnight, knowing we would be leaving for the airport in about 3 and a half hours, we reluctantly said good night and tried to get a little shuteye.
The end of a trip or a vacation is always difficult for me if I’m having fun, as I’m sure it is for most everyone. You are in this situation which is essentially, exactly what you want in life, but it’s only fleeting before you get back to reality. Having the opportunity to even have moments of this experience is pure fuel for your soul and ambitions and dreams in life in my opinion. It’s like a drug in that regard, you get a taste of it and you just want more and more and more. Good times with good people, on that same wavelength you’re on, they UNDERSTAND you and share that feeling with you. No jealousy or envy, no false pretenses or intentions, just people sitting together sharing their experiences and living the dream for that moment. That’s all you have, those few precious moments of connectedness in an otherwise haywire and messed up world. I can’t emphasize it enough to people I meet: life is too short to be shy and scared and reserved. It’s too short to be concerned with what others think about you, it’s too short to be bitter and upset even though that will always be ups and downs. Follow your heart and risk being too open in life. Aim for those moments that just leave you completely fulfilled, peaceful and in good company and you will never regret a day in your life.