"Big Mountain"

Would you believe that this was once part of my daily commute? Before I go on, I've learned that a little clarification with this one is sometimes needed. This is not a road, it's the top of a mountain. A very big mountain. THE Big Mountain, actually. This photo was taken at the summit of Big Mountain, home of what is now called Whitefish Mountain Resort (historically and locally Big Mountain Ski Resort) just outside of Whitefish, Montana. For many winters I worked as a lift operator here on the remote backside of the mountain. To get to my post, each day would begin well before dawn with a shuttle bus ride from Whitefish to the resort village, followed by a lift ride to the top of the mountain, and finally I'd snowboard to the bottom terminal of my lift. I think it had to rank up there with one of the coolest morning commutes anywhere, and it's no exaggeration to say that I loved every minute of it.

That morning ride also put me at the top of the mountain right around first light, which is another employee benefit you're not going to find many places. I only had a compact little point and shoot camera at the time, but it was in my pocket every single day, and I often lingered at the summit a little extra to catch scenes like this to send to my family back home. I loved being able to show them the snow ghosts (trees taking on distorted appearance as they became packed with snow in this harsh environment) and valley inversions (when temperature differential causes dense clouds to settle in the valley, but the mountain tops rise above.) Both can be seen in this photo, looking down a groomed run toward old Chair 5.