Tag Archives | Big Sky

A Chat with Rachel Pohl, where Skiing and Art Intersect

Have you ever skied in Montana? I have, and it’s amazing. We’ve had two Diva West gatherings at Big Sky (go here and here), and I’ve been there myself another time or two. The beauty of the landscape, the quality of the snow, the caliber of the terrain, all combine to create a ski experience that’s second to none.

Lone Peak at Big Sky

Lone Peak at Big Sky

So when Montana Tourism contacted me and asked if I’d be interested in talking to Montana born-and-raised Rachel Pohl, a 24 year old skier and artist who resides in Bozeman, I said of course. Rachel is a ripping skier who finds inspiration in the Montana backcountry. Her paintings use bold colors and shapes to create exciting, fanciful representations of the landscape around her.  In short, she embodies the intersection of art and skiing. And the results are quite remarkable.

Rachel Pohl

Rachel Pohl

SD: So Rachel, tell me. Are you a skier who paints or a painter who skis?
RP: I’ve been fighting a cold and an ankle injury, so I haven’t been skiing that much this year. At the same time, this has probably been my most fulfilling season ever, because my work has been taking off and more people have been connecting with it. So I guess I’d say I’m trending toward a painter who skis. For me, right now it’s more meaningful to share my vision of the world with others, and inspire them to get outside and have their own adventures and experiences.

SD: Why do you think skiing and art go together so well?
RP: To me, they’re each a pure expression of my appreciation for being alive. When I ski, I’m immersed in my environment, at peace, and in love with the world, with every snowflake, tree, and swath of blue sky. I have that same feeling when I paint; of feeling so dang excited to be alive that I can hardly contain myself. Also, both involve an expression of creativity on a blank canvas. Painting the places I ski brings everything full circle, although anything I paint echoes the feelings I have when I’m outside.

SD: I understand that a lot of your artwork is about Montana. So what is it about Montana that you find so inspiring?
RP: The landscapes I appreciate most are cliffs and rocky, craggy spires; the sort that are almost fanciful and don’t feel quite real. There’s a lot of that in Montana. We also have really unique sunsets, sunrises and alpenglow; I’ve heard a lot of people say you don’t see anything like it anywhere else. I don’t know how to describe it other than to say that color bathes the landscape in a way it doesn’t anywhere else. Plus it’s home.

SD: How do you decide what to paint? And what are you trying to capture in your art?
RP: I’m drawn to jagged peaks, but I think that’s also changing. I just really appreciate form and filling it in with color. I’m also drawn to certain subject matters and colors. Inevitably, I’ve have experiences where I’ve had no idea I was going to paint that thing or a place existed, and I get inspired and have to paint that. I’m trying to be a bit looser about my style but then a bit tighter about being deliberate with my subject matter. It’s such a dynamic process that I never really know. There’s no formula, and that’s what I really love.

Red Moonlight Sun

Red Moonlight Sun

American Fork Twins

American Fork Twins

SD: I understand you live in Bozeman. I’ve been there, and it’s a very cool town.
RP: Yeah, it has a great art scene, too. There’s something special about it; there’s a great focus on art and appreciation for the nuances of culture. It may be because we’re surrounded by so much ranch land and empty space. There’s room to be quiet there. You don’t have the pretentious attitude you’ll find in other places, which I really appreciate.

Bozeman, Montana

Bozeman, Montana

SD: What about sking in Montana? Do you have a favorite place? What is it about skiing in Montana that makes it so special?
RP: I love skiing Big Sky. I spent three years working with a mentoring program, called Big Sky Youth Empowerment there, where we ski and snowboard with “at risk” teens in the community. I haven’t done the program for a few years now, but it was a very special time in my life, devoting every Sunday to these kids (it’s an all year program actually). The program is flourishing and I encourage people to check it out at byep.org because I have seen first hand how skiing can change the lives of these kids. The program is completely free, mentors volunteer, and Big Sky generously donates tickets to the 80+ participants and 30+ mentors for every weekend for the entire season, every year. That makes it a pretty special place to me!

I also love how unpretentious Montana is, that there are still plenty of ski areas with under $50 lift tickets where people still wear jeans and wool sweaters for outerwear. It is pretty refreshing to return to the essence of the sport, especially at little resorts in Montana.

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For more about Rachel and her art, take a look at the following video. 

 

 



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Snow Appreciation

With the Winter Olympics in full swing and ski season well under way, it’s all too easy to get caught up in thinking of snow as a means to an end: skiing.

But there’s a lot more to snow than just being something to slide on. Snow is transforming. It covers the world’s imperfections under a pristine blanket of white. When it snows, the world seems to stand still. It deadens sound and calls our attention to things we miss when the world is full of color. Yet sometimes when we ski, we fail to see the beauty of snow. We’re so intent on getting down the mountain, or in making our turns, or in perfecting our technique, that we don’t really notice the beauty around us. I don’t know about you, but sometimes when I stop and look around, I get a catch in my throat. It’s that beautiful.

I’m by no means an accomplished photographer, but I thought I’d take a break from the usual blog posts about gear and resorts and the like and show you some pictures I’ve taken. Some are at ski resorts, some aren’t. But all celebrate the beauty of snow.

Late Fall, Camel's Hump, VT

Late Fall, Camel’s Hump, VT

 

First Snow, VT

Early season snowfall, VT

 

Big Sky, Montana

Skiing into the clouds, Big Sky, Montana

 

Big Sky, Montana

Big Sky, Montana

 

Powder Mountain, UT

Powder Mountain, UT

 

Morning in the Wasatch, UT

Morning in the Wasatch, UT

 

Looking down the lane, VT

Looking down the lane, VT

Light pillar in Whiteface, NY

Light pillar in Whiteface, NY

 

Vermont road

Vermont road

 

Vermont cemetery

Vermont cemetery

Sugarbush ski area, VT

Sugarbush ski area, VT

Green Mountains, Okemo, VT

Green Mountains, Okemo, VT

As skiers, we’re lucky to be out in some of the most beautiful landscape on the planet. Take some time to take it in. You’ll be glad you did.



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Big Sky Redux.

When TheSkiDiva.com had its annual meet-up at Big Sky two years ago (go here to read about it), I vowed I’d be back.

And why not? The variety of terrain is fantastic. You want groomers? Check. Tree skiing? Check. Bowls? Check. Steeps? Check. You can ski for days without doing the same thing twice. Plus I love the character of the place. For a huge resort, Big Sky doesn’t have the commercial feel of  a resort like Vail or Park City. It’s big, but it has a warmer, more community ski hill vibe. Perhaps that has to do with its location; it’s not that easy to reach. Big Sky isn’t near a huge population center, like Denver or Salt Lake. And as a destination resort, well, we flew in from LaGuardia, and it was a pretty long — and indirect — haul. Which probably keeps a lot of people away. But that’s part of its charm. Low crowds, great skiing, fantastic terrain. All in all, it’s hard to beat.

So when I decided to come out west for this year’s Ski Diva meet-up — which starts next week at Snowbasin — I figured I’d get an early start. I returned to Big Sky,where I visited my fellow Diva, Laura (aka SkiSailor). Not long ago Laura moved here from Pennsylvania, and she’s now a Big Sky instructor. It’s always great to have a local guide.

TwoDivas

As you can see, our first day was glorious. Blue skies, bright sun, and moderate temperatures — a combo we don’t get too often in New England. I love Vermont, but I can’t say I’m sorry to be out of the deep freeze (-8° there this morning. Argh).

Here’s Lone Peak, the centerpiece mountain of the resort:

LonePeak

And here’s a view, looking out from the top of the Challenger lift:

Challenger

While that made for a lovely day, Big Sky needs more snow. Don’t get me wrong — it’s not suffering on the same level as Tahoe. Coverage is good, but like much of the west, it’s been drier than normal, and we did encounter a rock or two.

Then, yesterday something magical happened: It snowed………….

Snow

and snowed…………….

Snowingonskis

which made me very, very happy:

MeinSnow

So we had to ski the trees. This is the Wounded Knee glade. Doesn’t it look delicious?

Woods

I think I’m in love.

Big Sky is fantastic mountain. In fact, I think I feel safe in saying it’s my favorite western resort.

There’ve been changes at Big Sky since my last visit. This past fall, Big Sky merged with the resort next door — Moonlight Basin –making it the biggest ski resort in the country, with more than 5,700 acres of skiable terrain, 4,350 vertical feet, 23 chairlifts, and 10 surface lifts.

Phew. Almost gives me the vapors thinking about it.

It’ll be interesting to see what happens. I’m hoping it’ll retain its off-the-beaten path character and not turn into another Aspen or Vail.

I guess I’ll have to come back to see.



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Big Fun at Big Sky.

As an eastern skier, I don’t get the chance to ski out west very often.  Usually once a year. Maybe twice, if I’m lucky.

Big Sky has been on my bucket list for a long time. So this year I scheduled Diva Week, our annual gathering of members of TheSkiDiva.com, at Big Sky Resort.

Am I glad I did.

Big Sky is, in a word, phenomenal. Even in a low snow year, the skiing is hard to beat. The terrain is fantastic. The variety, spectacular. And the tree skiing, ahhhhhhh, the tree skiing. Simply marvelous.

Lone Peak

Lone Peak

Compare Big Sky to my home mountain, Okemo (VT): Big Sky consists of 3,832 acres.  Okemo, a mere 632.  The longest run at Big Sky is 6 miles. At Okemo: 3.4 miles. Average annual snowfall at Big Sky: 400 inches. At Okemo: 200 inches. And the terrain, well, let’s put it this way. Big Sky has it, hands down.

No contest.

Of course, Big Sky is not without its downside. It’s not particulary easy to get to from the east coast. This is its upside, too. It’s not easy to get to, so it doesn’t get as crowded as other destination resorts.

Lodging at Big Sky consists of a mix of condos and hotel accommodations. We rented a condo at Moonlight Basin, a short ski ride away.  This was a bit of a problem, since the lift that provides access to Big Sky doesn’t open til 9, and we wanted to meet the Divas at 8:30. There’s a shuttle that runs from the Moonlight Lodge to Big Sky, but this starts later than I wanted, too. Most days we drove over and parked in the resort’s no pay lot, which worked out fine.

Despite the dearth of snow this year, the skiing was still fantastic. (Imagine how great it’d be in a good snow year.) We spent a lot of time playing in the trees of Wolf’s Den, Coulter’s Hell, Congo, Ambush Glades, Wolverine, & Stump Farm. Cruising the groomers of Lobo, Ambush, Calamity Jane, Africa, Elk Park Ridge, and more. And doing the bumps off the Challenger Lift and in the Bowl. I even made it up the tram to take a run down the Liberty Bowl and gawk at the Big Couloir, a double black with pitch of 50 degrees for more than 1,000 vertical feet, making it one of the most intense in-bounds trails in America (definitely not for me). Even caught some ski patrollers doing evacuation drills off the tram to the top of Lone Peak.

But perhaps the best part of the trip was being with the women of TheSkiDiva.com. This was the fifth Diva gathering, and I’ve never failed to be totally blown away by the strength, enthusiasm, and kindness of the women on the site. Plus they’re as passionate about skiing as I am. And though I was thrilled to be at Big Sky, the venue was truly secondary. The women are the heart and soul of the site, and I am truly honored that they took the time out of their busy schedules to get together.

Did I love Big Sky? You bet I did. I think it’s my new favorite mountain. I’ll definitely be back. And I’m sure other Divas will, too.

I leave you with some pix:

Ski Patrol doing lift evac drills at Big Sky.

Ski Patrol doing lift evac drills at Big Sky.

 

Divas in Liberty Bowl.

Some of the Divas in Liberty Bowl.

 

Big Couloir, taken from the tram window.

Big Couloir, taken from the tram window.

 

From the top of Lone Peak, off the tram.

From the top of Lone Peak, off the tram.

 

I love the tree skiing at Big Sky!

I love the tree skiing at Big Sky!

 

 

 

 

 

 



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