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Northern Rockies

The Big Couloir Isn’t the Only Bucket List Run at Big Sky

We rounded up a few legit steep-skiing runs that serve up the same challenge as the Montana resort's marquee terrain.

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Big Sky Resort’s Big Couloir is everything expert skiers are hoping it will be: a tight, technical entrance, sustained vertical that sets your thighs aflame, and just exposed enough to make your knees knock. 

But it’s not the only extreme terrain at this Northern Rockies mainstay. With 5,850 skiable acres, 60 percent of which is rated single or double-black diamond, there’s more extreme experience to be sought out. We probed the experts and came away with a few runs that can hang with the Big Couloir when it comes to difficulty, exposure, and downright adrenaline-inducing vertical.

The Extreme Skier’s Bucket List: Big Sky Resort, Mont.

North Summit Snowfield

North Summit Snowfield
Amie Engerbretson lays tracks in North Summit Snowfield. Photo: Jeff Engerbretson

Located off the tram like the Big Couloir, skiers head left out the north side of the Summit instead of right to access this wide-open, north-facing terrain that funnels into a series of chutes. You have to sign out with patrol, so don’t hesitate to ask where the best snow is, because you want to choose wisely. In addition to the challenging pitch and technical portions of the chutes, North Summit Snowfield is special for its remote feel—it doesn’t seem like an inbounds, lift-served area. Keep your eyes peeled for mountain goats that traverse the area.

On That Topic: Think You Went Big This Winter? Check Out the 10 Biggest Cliff Drops From the 2021 Freeride World Tour

Obsidian

News flash: There’s extreme terrain that’s not off the tram, which is great news for the coming season as tram access will cost extra. Obsidian is located off the Lone Tree quad and is reached via a short hike from skier’s left of the lift terminal. The chute itself is the first one you’ll come to, and while it’s steep, it’s not exposed, offering a good pitch without the consequences. Feel like doing it again? Come via the same route, but extend the hike to the next chute, called Don’t Tell Mama.

Also Read: Destination Guide—Where to Sleep, Eat, Drink, and Play in Big Sky, Mont.

Headwaters/A to Z Ridge

Headwaters/A to Z
Kyle Taylor enjoying the pitch in the Headwaters/A to Z Chutes terrain. Photo: Jeff Engerbretson

Referred to as triple-diamond terrain, the Headwaters and A to Z hikes require serious skill. There’s technical hiking, avalanche danger, very exposed terrain, complicated routes, and a no-way-out clause once you’ve committed. That said, this extreme terrain off of the Challenger double chair on the Moonlight Basin side of the resort gets you bragging rights when stacked against pretty much anything else out there—including the Big Couloir. The Three Forks hike, about 30 minutes, gets you to a series of 40-or-so degree couloirs with a sustained 1,000 feet of vertical. The Second Fork is the longest one. Bonus: No tram required.

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