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Biggest Skiing in America

January 14, 2008

I keep starting to write about Montana but the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad return journey appears to be blocking all the rest of my thoughts about the trip, so let me just begin with the end and then perhaps I can move on. The root cause of all our trouble was trusting the shuttle company to determine our pickup time from the hotel. We double checked when we arrived that the time was appropriate and were assured that it was. It was not; we missed our flight. There are a lot of “if onlies” that could have changed the outcome here; if only the driver had picked us up on time instead of 15 minutes late, if only United Airlines check-in had been more organized, if only the TSA were set up to handle the number of people needing to clear security in that window of time, if only I’d tried to convince 30 or 40 people to let us go ahead of them in line, etc., etc. But thinking about all that didn’t help one bit when faced with the fact that because Bozeman is a small airport (but not small enough to bend the rules and hold the plane a few minutes for passengers—and it wasn’t just us two–they know have checked in) we had very few alternatives for getting out of there. I was anxious to escape Gallatin Field as soon as possible, so we ended up rebooked on a flight to Denver that afternoon and one to Detroit the next morning. After calling a friend who was kind enough to look up flight options out of Denver that night (Bozeman has no airport internet kiosks and the travel websites we looked at were not phone-browser friendly), we considered trying to get on the only flight to Detroit that was available after we’d arrive but eventually decided that it was better to stay over. I just about had a breakdown when Sunday morning’s plane had to return to the gate for a maintenance issue, but fortunately that was quickly resolved, and we made it home only about 19 hours later than originally scheduled.

Before all that travel hassle, we had a pretty good week at Big Sky (and Moonlight Basin next door). Our hotel was very conveniently located only a few dozen steps from two high speed lifts (and the gondola, but there were so few skiers around that it only ran a couple of the days we were there). The ski storage policy needs a little work, though; the hotel gave us vouchers for overnight storage for all four pairs of our skis (two all-mountain, two powder) but the ski check would only store one pair for each of us. We could have paid $8 a night to have the others stored, too, but since we were already paying plenty for our room we figured our skis could sleep with us.

We had at least some new snow every day (which meant we only saw the sun for maybe an hour total the whole week but that’s fine; you can’t ski on sunshine). I only had my butt on the snow twice. One of those times I chose to sit down and slide sideways rather than risk falling in a steep bumpy spot punctuated with trees; the other time I did fall in a steep bumpy spot punctuated with trees—I sense a pattern here. I only lost one ski when I fell but somehow managed to have the brake disassemble itself in the process, which I’ve never seen happen before. Fortunately Mr. Karen was able to fix it right there. I got to ski with him more than usual since he came down with a cold mid-week; that meant I could almost keep up with him on the black diamonds and through the trees (and he didn’t feel up to doing much exploring of the really hard runs that I generally avoid). There were whole parts of the mountain I didn’t use–no steep couloirs for me, thanks—but I found plenty of runs I really liked. Lift lines were pretty much nonexistent most of the time; I think I had to share a chair with someone other than Mr. Karen only four or five times the whole week. Moonlight Basin in particular was sparsely populated; one day we found fresh corduroy over there after lunch, when at most places it’s skied off well before noon. Speaking of lunch at Moonlight Basin, it was there I found my favorite cookie ever. When I grabbed it out of the basket by the cash register, I thought it was oatmeal raisin, a staple of my ski trip diet. It turned out to have no raisins in it, just dried cranberries and plenty of brown sugar. Yum.

I’ve put a few more words and lots more pictures over at Flickr.

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