This past Saturday, April 16 marked Big Sky’s annual pond skim, the day that everyone in Bozeman goes up to Big Sky to ski and get roaring drunk. For many, it marks the ceremonial end of ski season, and as such provides an opportunity to celebrate the culmination of a long cold winter. It is a day loved by all, from the skiers and riders to the inebriated spectators who line the pond’s edge to watch the carnage that ensues.
Saturday turned out to be a gorgeous day for skimming, albeit the air temperature remained a little chilly, even under the warm April sun. This small detail did little to deter the 100 skimmers who culminated at the top of the hill at 12 p.m. eagerly anticipating their turn at skimming the pond. The setup for this year’s pond skim featured two ponds separated by a small spit of land in the middle, and it proved itself to be a worthy adversary. Successful skimmers were few and far between, as only a talented few managed to skim the length of both ponds safely to the other side. As such, crashes were numerous, much to the delight of the drunken onlookers.
However, this year’s pond skim was organized differently than years past, and not necessarily for the better. The principal complaint of the day, repeated by spectators and skiers alike, revolved around the decision to move the pond skim start time to 12 p.m. from its usual start later in the afternoon. Many felt it was better for the pond skim to act as the day’s conclusion, rather than just a blip in the middle of the day. The decision to start the event early was universally lamented and is something that Big Sky management should consider reversing in the future.
On a similar note, noticeably lacking from this season’s pond skim were poachers attempting to skim the pond without paying. This year, Big Sky decided to truly crack down on poaching by building a double fenced barrier around the upper reaches of the course to prevent illegals from entering. This development angered many would-be poachers, but several still managed to sneak past patrol and poach the pond. I watched a skier and snowboarder go right past the patroller guarding the drop-in entrance at the top, narrowly avoiding his attempt to tackle the pair and prevent their poaching attempt. Is this really necessary?
Pond skim is a fun spring skiing celebration. Big Sky does an amazing job putting on the event each year, but if it ain’t broken don’t fix it. The decision to start the event earlier was criticized by all and should be reversed. Similarly, when it comes to poaching, the resort probably shouldn’t be surprised that people don’t want to pay $30 to crash into a big pool of water. If the resort is really so paranoid about stopping would-be poachers, they should consider lowering the cost and opening registration up to more than the first 100 people. Big Sky made their pond skim into a much-anticipated event, but they should be careful not to take it too seriously. After all, the guests certainly aren’t, and that’s what draws people back every April.