by Suzanne Schreiner & r & The summit soars 6,800 feet into the clouds, and while that may not be quite Annapurna, it is still one big mountain. Perched in the Whitefish Range of the Northern Rockies, and just a hoot and a holler from Glacier National Park, the scenery does not lack for drama. But with the airport just 20 miles away, you can still get to Big Mountain the jet-propelled way.
There have been cabins and trails here since 1937 -- but nothing quite like the new 450-foot long Super Pipe being built to competition standards, with walls 15 feet high and a 16-degree pitch. The word is that the wider, longer Super Pipes are actually safer because of the longer transition, and though riders probably don't care much about that, they will like getting even more airborne and perform cutting-edge stunts. Snowmaking, lights and a sound system will make it all even more rad. And Big Mountain is making it even easier for beginners with the new "Big Easy," a 350-foot carpet conveyor lift for first-timers.
Acknowledging that most important custom of the skiing life -- the apr & egrave;s ski part -- instructors have reintroduced Powder Hour on Mondays. They'll be pouring free beer for Big Mountain guests and there will be lots of chat about the sport of sliding on snow. They've also added a "Clinic of the Day" every afternoon that will focus on techniques or on specific interests like powder, bumps, steeps or racing.
For you winter enthusiasts who prefer not to risk your lives careening down those powdery slopes, you can set off on snowshoes or skis to explore Glacier National Park and have the tranquil experience while leaving those mogul-busting, speed-demon, Alpine crazies behind. Or perhaps in a Walter Mitty moment, you've fantasized about mushing with your crack team of Huskies in the Iditarod. Well, Dogsled Adventures will let you live the dream, though in a small way and in relative safety, with short dogsled rides on the lower slopes.
Where: Whitefish, Mont. & r & Phone: (406) 862-2900 & r & WEB: www.big-mountain.com & r & VERTICAL DROP: 2,350 ft. & r & AVERAGE SNOWFALL: 300 inches & r & LIFTS: three quads (two high-speed), five triples, one double, one platter, three T-bars, 1 carpet conveyor lift; 14 lifts total. & r & HILL INFO: 3000 acres; 93 trails: beginner 20%, intermediate 50%, advanced 30% & r & Hours: 9 am-4:30 pm daily & r & TICKET PRICES: $14-$49 & r & MAJOR EVENTS: Moonlight Dine & amp; Ski/Ride, Dec. 15; Santa's Christmas Eve Torchlight Parade, Dec. 24; Rail Jam Evening and New Year's Eve Torchlight Parade, Dec. 31; Whitefish Winter Carnival, Feb 3-5; Big Fish Freezestyle Mogul/Big Air Competition, Feb. 25-26