The triple black diamond rating signifies “high consequence terrain.”  PHOTO COURTESY BIG SKY RESORT

Movement on the mountain

Big Sky Resort introduces new trail, new rating and new snowcats

As the snow flies and the base deepens, skiers hit the slopes for opening weekend. Big Sky Resort moved forward with initiatives for greater sustainability and safety this year. 

Known for some of the steepest terrain in North America, the resort unveiled a new Triple Black Diamond rating to “increase guest education and awareness of the risks of skiing high alpine, high consequence terrain,” a resort blog post said. 

According to the resort, triple black diamond classification includes exposure to uncontrollable falls on a steep, continuous pitch, “route complexity, and high consequence terrain.” 

Big Sky resident Jana Sargent does not foresee the shift to Triple Black Diamond rating as causing much change for the locals. 

“We are going to ski the mountain as we always have.  Locals have respect for her. That's why we are still here. I hope that the rating will underline the consequence of underestimating her, and keep people out of areas where they have no business,” she said. “My fear is that in search of bragging rites, visitors will put our patrollers into riskier rescue situations in search of a triple black 'status.'” 

Big Sky Resort’s three Managed Access areas of the Big Couloir, North Summit Snowfield, and Upper A-Z Chutes require signing out with ski patrol, skiing with a buddy and carrying a beacon. “These areas require thoughtful management of the number of people that can safely travel before conditions and timely rescue deteriorate,” the resort blog post stated. 

On the sustainability side, the resort unveiled a new fleet of Printhon Bison S snowcats for “meticulously groomed slopes.” These feature low fuel consumption and “a 90% reduction in nitrogen oxide and fine dust emissions,” according to the resort. 

“The investment in the snowcat fleet allows our grooming team to hit more trails, more often. Giving these trails a grooming refresh each night provides a more reliable snow surface for skiers and riders each morning,” Adam West, director of Mountain Operations, Big Sky Resort said. 

With improvements to the fleet an estimated 16% more acreage will be groomed nightly and will make Lupine – a new blue-rated trail on the South Face – possible. It starts midway down Shedhorn lift line and connects back to Cow Flats, so skiers will end-up at the bottom of Shedhorn 4 lift. 

“The trail traverses through existing open terrain to create another intermediate access trail to Shedhorn 4,” the blog post stated.

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