The Day We Caught The Tram

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March 28th 2017
Published: March 29th 2017
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Well actually it was more than one day, but that doesn't work so well for the title. Having said that I'm not sure how many people will get the song reference (look up Ocean Colour Scene if confused).

In my last, none booze related, blog I mentioned how the terrain at Big Sky was different to other resorts we've visited and how we'd found it challenging. What I'd didn't mention was some of the stuff we'd done off the Lone Peak Tram. There was a reason for that - I didn't want any of our parental units worrying about us - but now we are safely down the mountain (Paul and I sat at Bozeman airport, Katherine sat at her desk at work) it's time to come clean.

The Lone Peak Tram was introduced to Big Sky back in the mid nineties. Before then the resort was known for its intermediate terrain and the Tram was installed to provide access to some of the most difficult terrain in America. A trip to Big Sky is not complete without a ride up the Tram as the 360 degree views are jaw dropping - the kind you would happily hike for a day to get to.

As soon as we arrived in Big Sky Paul was keen to get up the Tram, but not for the views! He had his eye on Liberty Bowl, the only single black diamond (and hence 'easiest' run) down. We woke on our first Friday morning to a relatively clear day - a good Tram day. We had to queue for 40 minutes as it only takes 15 people at a time but we got chatting to a lovely couple who were Big Sky regulars. They told us that the get in to Liberty Bowl was tricky because of the rocks, but not to be put off as it was worth it. They reassured us that the slope wasn't any steeper than runs we had been doing in other parts of the resort.

The views from the top were spectacular - it felt like you were standing on top of the world. Now we just had the small job of getting into and out of the bowl. The get in was a little tricky - there were definitely a few rocks about but the run down was fine - it was steep at the very top but no steeper than other things we've done. Overall Liberty Bowl got a luke warm response - the snow wasn't much better than elsewhere on the mountain and the narly get in and Tram queue was a chore. Unfortunately we hadn't got any pictures at the top so we knew we had to go up again - but there was always the easy option of riding the Tram back down rather than snowboarding down.

Fast forwards two weeks and Katherine found herself back at the top of the Tram on her ski lesson. I think it's fair to say that Katherine was happy to have ticked Liberty Bowl off the list and leave the Tram adventures At that. But her ski instructor had different ideas and took her down one of the double black diamond runs. We're still not sure if it was Lenin or Marx (the signage was not great) but she did it and met us for lunch with a big grin on her face, feeling very proud. She vowed once again that she was definitely done with the Tram, especially as she had got pictures this time.

Paul and I had planned to go up the Tram one last time before we left Big Sky and figured we would do it on the few days we had after Katherine went home. Unfortunately the weather conspired against us and on Katherine's second to last day we had what we expected to be the best conditions for hitting the Tram again before the end of our stay. Katherine remained adamant that she wasn't coming with us but then had a last minute change of heart.

The queue the second time wasn't as bad, but the psychological build up was far worse. As we climbed up the steps there was a sign saying 'firm conditions - no first timers' and once in the Tram the resort worker told everyone to take extra care describing the conditions as 'crust on dust'. The doom and gloom continued as he explained that if you fell it would be a long time before you stopped; falling on ice generally means you will fall for longer because it's harder to dig an edge in to stop yourself. Oh joy! I missed this part (thankfully) but he also mentioned the importance of being able to 'self arrest'. Katherine and Paul heard him but had no idea what he was talking about - we 'self educated' later and decided we didn't ever want to do terrain where you needed this skill!

Once at the top we took lots of pictures; after that Tram journey this was definitely going to be the last visit. Getting into Lenin / Marx was tricky with rocks, ice and a nasty traverse and then we had the small job of getting down the actual run. Paul went ahead as usual, playing guinea pig and making it look easy. Katherine followed confidently turning (even though I know inside she was more than a little nervous). That just left me, bringing up the rear. I'm not sure what happened but I found myself on my toe edge unable to get a turn in. The 'if you fall you die' mentality of the resort worker in the Tram had totally gotten into my head. I was completely calm and knew once I got onto my heel edge I would be fine, but getting there was going to be difficult. It took me a while to pluck up the courage to do the cheating snowboarding trick of flipping your board around whilst sat down (which is harder than it sounds on very steep terrain) but I made it, and only slid down a little bit of the mountain before digging my edge in and stopping. I made it down but was incredibly frustrated with myself - the snow was in perfectly fine condition and whilst it was a very steep run it wasn't beyond my capabilites. Damn that resort worker for putting the fear of God in me.

We all agreed the build up was much worse than the reality of the run and given we were on one of the baby slopes the fear of death warnings were perhaps aimed at the crazier people doing the proper hardcore stuff. Another thing we all agreed on was that we'd definitely earned our chicken wings and beer that night! And perhaps for the rest of our stay!!


29th March 2017

Oh oh la la
Well I still don't know what "self arrest" means (but I'm presuming it means stop yourself or you'll go hurtling off the mountain to your death) but I instantly understood the title! Sounds scary! Off to China now?
29th March 2017

Knew I could count on you!
Yeah. Someone got the song reference! We're sat at Denver airport waiting for our flight back to London. We have a week back in Nottingham to organise our lives and ourselves and get ready for part 2 of the trip. Hope all is good in Thailand!

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