Tag Archives: alpine skiing art

Plein Air Painting at Ski Resorts, Part V: Big Sky Resort, Montana

Big Sky Resort in Montana was our last destination of the epic ski trip inspired by the Mountain Collective pass.  Maria and I left Wyoming behind, and drove to the wild state of Montana.  We felt like we would be needing a vacation after this ski vacation!  We checked into the most amazing motel called the Sapphire Motel in Bozeman.  I can’t believe how cool Bozeman is! We walked to the Bozeman Brewery, which was spot on, and we had great brews with views, and a meal at Mountains Walking Brewery!  Mountains Walking has a great vibe, and reminded me of Anchorage Brewing Company mixed with Glacier Brewhouse. Good beer and good food!  

The drive from Bozeman to Big Sky Resort is about an hour on a beautiful, winding road.  We happened to be there on Presidents Day weekend, so the resort was really busy.  There is a problem at Big Sky with getting from the mountain village to the ski bowl where the snow hasn’t all blown away.  The mountain planners really screwed up when they put the Ramcharger 8-seat chair lift going to Everett’s Restaurant, instead of the Swift 6-seat chair accessing the tram and Power Seeker lift.  Another problem is that there are a lot of exposed rocks all over the mountain.  You should not take your favorite skis to Big Sky.  So after a 20-minute lift line you get on the amazing heated bubble chair lift.  I hear if you go in the singles line it is a bit faster. This chair lift is so spectacular! You don’t even have to ski up to it, just stand on the magic carpet that loads you onto the lift.  The bubble is blue and the bar automatically lifts when you arrive to the top.  Amazing! 

The forecast predicted snow the next day. After gouging up my skis on rocks for a couple of runs that looked good, but were actually treacherous, I decided that I should paint really soon.  I chose a spot that I thought was great: it overlooked the tram and the Powder Seeker lift, and had a view of Lone Peak, and I was protected from wind. About halfway through the painting, ski patrol showed up. Ski patrol is really funny in Big Sky — the new uniform is all black with bright neon green plus symbols.  When driving around Montana you see similar symbols at cannabis dispensaries.  I joked with Maria that the ski patrol at Big Sky was actually weed patrol!  Ski patrol told me I was in an area where rocks sometimes slide off the mountain. This guy obviously was low on the totem pole, because he was wearing an old classic red uniform with a white cross. He asked me to move into a horrible windy area where I proceeded to almost ruin my painting with blowing snow that promptly melted on the surface of my painting. 

A bit windy at Lone Peak
Less than ideal painting conditions at Big Sky Resort

Annoyed with that painting experience, I packed up, and we took the Ramcharger chair lift to Everett’s Restaurant.  You have to wait to be seated, and we got seats at the bar.  The bartender was absolutely crazy!  It was busy, and he was the only guy making drinks, but DAMN, it was like being at a Gallagher show. Spraying ice, alcohol, and breaking glass left and right.  I was glad I wasn’t worried about my clothes, and that I had a beer in my hand, because it was not a relaxing experience. I ordered a ridiculously expensive Waygu beer burger, and Maria had the bison chili. The burger was enormous — we should have shared it. We escaped, and I put the remaining half of the burger into my pocket, and we skied a bit more before driving back to Bozeman. We went to a little brewery called Last Best Place. It was not busy and also not bad. 

The next day it was snowing on the mountain, so I was glad I had already painted.  I wanted to find the other on-mountain food lodge, so we skied over to the Shedhorn lift and then over to the Dakota 3 lift.  It was beginning to snow pretty hard and the Dakota area actually was pretty fun as long as you jumped over any super sketch rocks that were hidden behind every south-facing slope.  Maria and I found the Shedhorn Grill, which had a vibe of what skiing at Big Sky must have been like 20 years ago.  It was just a yurt with a wood stove in it, and a grill outside. Prices were much better here and I didn’t even feel like I was at the same resort.  The snow was really picking up, which made for bad visibility, but better skiing.  Maria wanted to go back to the powder bowl, so we made our way back to the busy side of the mountain.  Since visibility was bad, we had a much better time!  The lift line had disappeared. I think I skied the Powder Seeker 12 times in a row, which isn’t that much, since it is only 800 vertical feet. It was great, because it felt like skiing the Glacier Bowl at Alyeska.  

Maria told me we should get ahead of the weather and traffic getting back to Bozeman. So we left about an hour early.  We tailgated for about 15 minutes, and the snow was picking up even more.  Tailgating turned out to be a very bad idea, because as we drove out in the four new inches of snow we got stuck behind an accident, which caused a 2 hour delay while we waited for the road to be cleared.  Then the hour-long drive back to Bozeman took over 2 hours, since we could only drive 30 mph in the storm in the dark. The 2WD 4Runner was terrible in the fresh snow. It was squirrelly when accelerating, and breaking was also a problem.  Maria white-knuckled it back to the Sapphire Motel like a pro, but she wouldn’t drive to a brewery for dinner, so we walked across the street to a Mexican food truck. 

The next day was a problem, because the rental car return was not at the airport, and Bozeman was experiencing a snow-day.  We couldn’t get a cab or a Lyft/Uber to the airport.  Maria asked for a ride from a nice guy who was out buying feed for his chickens.  Our flight was delayed, making our layover in Seattle about 15 minutes long.  We have never sprinted that fast through an airport before. It was like that airport scene in Home Alone. We made it to our seats and then back to Anchorage. Three of our four bags miraculously were loaded onto our flight, and I picked up the large duffel bag the next morning.  I was so happy to be back in Anchorage and driving my 4WD, 4- studded-tire-shod, Chevy truck.  Phew! I had a great time, but I will think twice before I buy the Mountain Collective pass again.  It is hard to go on ski vacation! I hope you liked all the little paintings! Stay tuned for larger versions with….you guessed it beer! 

This painting is available at my Etsy shop. I’m selling it for the price of a lift ticket at Big Sky Resort.

Lone Peak at Big Sky Resort, 7″ x 5″, oil on panel.

Plein Air Painting at Ski Resorts, Part IV: Jackson Hole, Wyoming

Rocking down the highway! Maria and I made the longest leg of our journey in mild snow — seven and a half hours.  Did I tell you our all-wheel-drive rig turned out to be a rear-wheel-drive 4Runner with Texas plates?  I don’t know anything about Toyotas, except I know a lot of people love them.  When we got to Enterprise Rent-A-Car in Albuquerque, and the attendant was helping us pick out an AWD or 4WD vehicle, he suggested the 4Runner. It looked tough, and had a lot of clearance.  It didn’t occur to us that Toyota makes two-wheel-drive 4Runners. Well, I learned that it is common to sell RWD versions in Texas. Basically, it was a 4Runner-shaped minivan, worse though, because it wasn’t front-wheel-drive. We figured this out a couple days into our trip, and didn’t feel like wasting our time on vacation to exchange the vehicle.  The light snow wasn’t a big deal, but when the Google Maps directions took us on a dirt road over a mountain pass, I started to get the nervous sweats.  “No problem,” I told Maria, “This thing has decent tires, and probably has a good posi-track in the rear”.  Well, we made it fine, fishtailing up the dirt hills at 45mph on the dirt road in a 55 mph zone. 

Surprising enough, when we hit Wyoming the “highway” we were on became paved.  We drove into a pretty steady snowstorm right next to Yellowstone NP, and were enjoying watching the snowmobilers run along the side of the road.  I had already experienced the lack of traction the “2Runner” offered in the snowstorm back in Silverthorne, CO, so I was glad to see the road was still free of ice and snow.  The snow picked up as we hit the Hoback Ranches and had yet another mountain pass before Jackson.  We made it into the Jackson Super 8 and parked for the night hoping it would only snow in the mountains and not on the roads.

Our friend Melanie met up with us to go skiing at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, and we had high energy as we parked in the HOV (high occupancy vehicle) parking lot at no charge, because we had 3 passengers. When I told my friends I was going to be skiing at JHMR I received a lot of texts about The Corbett’s Couloir, and the Kings and Queens of Corbett’s event.  I watched the videos and decided if I were to drop into Corbett’s Couloir, I would want to have a much softer powder day. That run is crazy!  In order to access it you have to make a leap of faith, about 15ft in icy conditions and 5ft in soft powder conditions, just to access the narrow chute. A very cool coincidence is that the Kings and Queens of Corbett’s happened on our second day there!  We watched from the top of Tensleep Bowl, where a small crowd had formed to watch the Reb Bull sponsored event. There were no blue runs down from this view spot, only steep off-piste mogul-entrenched black diamond runs. It was clear some of the spectators were out of their comfort zone when descending, as they sat there at the top looking down with worried looks on their faces. The event was crazy!  Basically anything sponsored by Red Bull is something I will not even consider competing in.  I got a cool video of a skier doing some inverted aerials down the cliff infested couloir.  And later in the day I painted from inside the Rendezvous Lodge while I had an afternoon beer. It was very windy out, so I was happy to be behind window glass. I could see the competition from the window and also on a TV monitor, sporting a 15-second delay. It was lucky I did the painting at that time, because the blue skies faded to whiteout conditions before I completed the painting. I was able to put Corbett’s Couloir in the painting, so I felt like this painting was a success! We had mixed snow conditions for the two days we were skiing JHMR.  It was actually pretty great!  A couple of inches of snow covered up some of the icy patches.  Enough to make skiing a joy, but not enough to make me feel comfortable hucking cliffs. 

Pointing at Corbett’s Couloir
Painting at the bar, because it was so windy outside.

The town of Jackson is cute and awesome! We went to two different breweries: Melvin Brewing, which started in the back of a Thai food establishment, and the Roadhouse. Both were quite good!  The Super 8 was okay, and we were not too sad when we drove out of town towards Big Sky, MT.  I was happy because I still had two days of skiing left and Big Sky has the largest skiable terrain of all the mountains we were visiting on the trip. I felt like I had ridden everything in JHMR I was going to, with the way the conditions had been.  Very glad to not be injured, and stoked the trip was still underway! Our friend Melanie stayed and skied for a third day, and said she had a killer time on the mountain, and afterwards at the rough and tumble Million Dollar Cowboy Bar!     

This painting is available at my Etsy shop. I’m selling it for the price of a lift ticket at Jackson Hole.

Jackson Hole, 7″ x 5″, oil on panel.