Big Sky Country: Skiing in Montana

The snow comes down, 10 inches, 20 inches, the skier’s dream of endless powder, and I am terrified. As a West Coaster, I have no idea how to ski in this. The avalanche guns echo as I go up the chair.

This is why they call it Big Sky

Skiing in Vermont at New Year’s, I reconnected with my love of the sport, and when a new skiing buddy told me there was space on a group trip to Big Sky in south western Montana, I was tempted. When I saw that Alaska was the airline that flew into the nearest airport at Bozeman and that I had enough frequent flyer points for the flight, the decision was made.

For me, skiing has always been a family affair. We liked it and felt our children should learn when they were young, so it became something that we would do at least once a year. When my son decided to join a freestyle ski group, I was up at the mountain almost every weekend with him. I’d always been a decent skier, but sitting in the lodge was boring so I decided to take lessons myself, and improving my skills made me love the sport even more.

And the snow keeps coming down…

When my husband left, the kids mourned the loss of our annual ski vacation. Last year I went with my son. We did not stay on the mountain and we only skied two days, but I realized that I could still share this sport with someone who loved it, and that was what was important.

This week in Montana I found out how much fun it could be to be selfish. Our trips had always been about family; staying in a cabin meant I cooked most of the meals, and I planned them all. I organized the ski gear, shopped, arranged lessons, packed the vehicle and coordinated with others who might be on the mountain. The occasional drink or meal at the lodge seemed like a huge luxury.

Most of the gang I was hanging out with on the mountain.

This week we skied hard, we partied hard, and the group was surprised and appreciative when I cooked a dinner and a breakfast at the cabin. One dinner for 12? Pretty easy compared to being responsible for a family for a week, although I did slip without thought into buckling boots and pulling on mittens for the group member with his hand in a splint. I found out that most people who ski are active, enthusiastic, fun loving, and welcoming.

On the run at Big Sky, not afraid anymore!

And yes, I did learn to ski in powder. (Lean back a bit, skis closer together, tips up, smoother, longer turns.) I was not skiing with the people in our group who carried beacons and avalanche shovels, but I felt a glow of competence in what I learned, and there was joy in pushing myself and flying down the mountain.

My travels will definitely include more skiing.

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