A Free Ride

A nice little touch/ plug by two of my home resorts.  Big Sky and Moonlight Basin are offering killer deals to those of us with season passes at resorts around the country with pathetic snowpack (if any at all).

Less-than-great snow conditions are killing season pass holders around the country from Colorado and California to Vermont, while Montana is enjoying good ski conditions compared to the rest of the west and east…and central for that matter.  A few large storms this year have dumped close to 100 inches, and Big Sky has 3,381 skiable acres open so far – which is the most in the Rocky Mountains.  Because of Colorado’s lack of snowfall, Big Sky and Moonlight are offering great deals.  Colorado EPIC ski pass holders can ski Big Sky for the month of January for FREE, and may ski Moonlight for only $49!

Hiking Headwaters at Moonlight Basin

“Big Sky has about twice the open acreage that Vail and Breckenridge do right now, plus we’ve had some great powder,” said Chad Jones, Big Sky Resort Public Relations Manager. “And with other Epic Pass resorts like Heavenly at under 200 acres, we decided to share the wealth.  We’re a skier’s and rider’s mountain, and no one should miss out on good snow just because they live in Colorado or California.”

That’s not all.  Moonlight Basin is also getting in on the act, offering ALL season pass holder from ALL resorts around the country to ski their pristine glades for only $49.

So stop praying for snow, and just go get it!

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Saddle Peak Bozeman, MT

Having been back to Bozeman a few times this summer, I figured I could do a couple write ups on some of the hikes we were able to do while back in God’s country!

Nee and I decided to bag a summit in the Bridger Range that is clearly visible from my parents kitchen window. Why the hell not?  It’s there!  So Saddle Peak it was.

Our Route

Saddle Peak sits at the southern end of the Bridger Range outside Bozeman, MT.  At 9100 feet it’s not the tallest in the range, but easy to ID features and the scramble seemed like fun!  We woke early the day after arriving and threw down some of my Dad’s tar-black cowboy coffee, filled our hydration packs and had my Pop’s drop us at the trailhead.

We began out ascent of the peak from Middle Cottonwood Creek Trailhead at 6:45 AM.  I was happy to be on the trail in the cool, damp, early Montana morning, and it made it even better being the first on the trail.  The trail follows the bottom of the drainage and creek for the first 45 minutes with very gradual (almost unnoticeable) elevation gain.

Wildflowers
At the 45 minute mark, after passing sheer cliff walls, the trail opens to a large meadow covered in every wildflower imaginable.  A true awe-inspiring sight at 7:30AM!   Once the trail leaves the creek bed, it traverses the northern hillside gaining elevation quickly.  After another 30 mins or so you open to another small meadow at the base of a rock slide, which is at the base of Saddle Peak.
Looking north to Sacajawea Peak
Looking south to Baldy

It is at this point that your climb starts!  From the high meadow (almost looks like a small wanna be alpine lake) you follow switchbacks until you reach a high bench, which runs as a spine towards your summit.  From this spine you have great sweeping vistas of the Northern Bridger range, and great views of the western slopes of Mount Baldy and Saddle Peak, not to mention Bozeman in the distance.  The entire area looked as though it would be a fun backcountry ski destination, with its ease of hike and proximity to town when the snow flies.

Looking South
Final Scramble

At the spine is where the trail peters out, and the scramble begins.  As we got above the treeline the trail pretty much heads straight for the summit.  After about 25 minutes and a few Class 3 scrambles, we were at the final pitch.  Nee hit the summit first and I right behind her.

Hiking back from the “dual” summit

We stood on the summit, on a cloudless, cool Montana summer morning.  The temperature difference was over 20 degrees from base to summit, and a few wind gusts cause my breath to vaporize reminding us that fall wasn’t far off.  All-in-all we spent about 40 minutes on the summit, hiking back-and-forth between the dual summit piles (hence the name Saddle Peak).

After a Clif Bar and some H2O, we scrambled back down and were back to the trailhead by 12:30.  Saddle peak was easily one of the best hikes I have done in the Bozeman area!