Just about everywhere has their own “classic” springtime ski destination. Growing up in New Hampshire, it was Tuckerman’s Ravine. Now in Montana, there are quite a few, but none more inviting than The Great One. This isn’t the first time I’ve skied it, nor will it be the last.
The Great One (TGO) is a 1500 foot aesthetic couloir in the Bridger Range just north of Bozeman. It cuts through steep rock walls off the east side of Naya Nuki Peak and faces dead north, meaning even this time of year it only sees the sun for an hour or two a day. In some years this line is in for most of the summer.
On Friday afternoon, it was 38 degrees and pouring rain at my house in Bozeman. A quick check of the webcams at Bridger Bowl confirmed it was snowing down to about 7500 feet. Saturday morning we loaded up at 6:30 and were parked with skis on our backs an hour later. The wind was howling and it was absolutely freezing. A group of dads in basketball shorts headed out to ski were going to be quite miserable. Even the token mountain goats had taken shelter elsewhere.
Two more hours passed and we we standing atop The Great One. The approach was a mix of walking, skinning, booting, and scrambling across rimed shale rock. Most people choose to access TGO from a traverse along the summit ridge line instead of booting up. Being a popular spring ski descent, the chance of someone dropping in on top of you while climbing up is quite high.
The winds had turned the inch of two of new snow into 5-6″ in The Great One. We did a quick shovel tilt test, and everything was bonded up perfectly. It was June 1st, with bluebird skies and perfect snow and I was about to get first tracks. How much better does it get!?! Answer: Not Much.
The top half of The Great One lived up to all expectations. I ski cut the first turn and nothing moved. The snow was perfect. A brief break in the rocks turns the line into a wide open face before regaining full couloir status. The lower half of TGO gets basically no sun and was a different snow story. Things were icy with exposed rocks here and there, but nothing that a bit of caution wouldn’t fix. In the bowl at the bottom, the sun was shining, the corn was ripe, and stoke was high.
About four hours later we were back at the truck. Later that day I mowed the lawn in shorts and a t-shirt. A pretty nice little Saturday.
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