Private Powder at Big Sky

Starting this winter, Big Sky, Montana, is offering a chance for guided early tram rides at 8 a.m., a whole hour before the masses. We spoke with director of snowsports, Troy Nedved, to see if the program also includes shooting the Howitzer (it doesn't).
Montana: Come for the militias, stay for the powder. Erik Lovold, gunning through Big Sky.

Montana: Come for the militias, stay for the powder. Erik Lovold, gunning through Big Sky.

A few resorts these days offer early-up opportunities, a chance to load the lift (for a fee, of course) before the general public. On a powder day, it can be well worth forking over a few extra bucks in exchange for a priceless hour of private powder. Big Sky, Montana, is launching a new First Tracks Program this winter, where you, four friends, and a guide can load the lifts at 8 a.m., a whole hour before the throngs of powder hounds. We spoke with Troy Nedved, director of snowsports at Big Sky Resort, about what it’s like to get a head start on the masses.

Why is Big Sky introducing this program? First chair at 9 wasn’t early enough?
The program was designed as an option for those skiers and riders who dream of having a mountain to themselves on a powder day. Avid skiers are often chomping at the bit fighting over first chair. This program bypasses that scene and gets the guest up the mountain and into the best snow prior to the general public. The coordination between our experienced guides and professional ski patrol ensures access to the best possible early morning options. It’s amazing what a 45-minute head start will get you on Lone Peak.

So you get to ski Lone Peak. What other type of terrain can you access?
Our guide program has access to terrain that is limited to the public. And with the first tracks program a guide can get you into the best snow first as well as take you to places that the public can rarely access as the day progresses.

If I bring four friends, then we can have our own group, right? I won’t get stuck with someone slow?
You make your own group. This is entirely a private exclusive product. Max of five people, so be selective. You have complete control over who comes so choose wisely.

Is there any worry about avy danger this early in the morning? What if patrollers aren’t done clearing the area yet?
Avalanche dangers are a big deal on our mountain. Fortunately, we have one of the best pro patrols in the business. Your first turns may be delayed on big powder days but remember the key is the head start. Patrol and your guide will strategically work you up the mountain as avalanche controls permit.

If I’m paying to go up early, can I also shoot the Howitzer?
Unfortunately, handling explosives are not included but witnessing Big Sky’s morning avalanche control operation up close is quite an experience.

The price for Big Sky’s First Tracks Program starts at $500 for two people, and $35 for each additional person (max of five). To find out more, call 406-995-5743 or check out


Big Sky 2011

Big Sky

It’s not just the sky that’s big; it’s the mountain. There’s the rapidly expanding, hyper-modern village. There’s 11,166-foot Lone Mountain, soaring more than 4,000 feet above the base. There are 50-degree chutes, exposed faces, and miles of low-tuck, high-speed cruisers.

Turner Mountain, Montana

Private Powder

There’s no such thing as a secret stash anymore. So how do you keep your line fresh? Own it. It’s only $2,500 a day. You can do this at Turner Mountain.

Size Matters thumb

Size Matters

Big Sky, Montana, is out to prove that, like girlfriends, other resorts are lying if they tell you otherwise.