Skiing The Great One In The Northern Bridger Range of Montana
Location: The Great One, Naya Nuki Peak, Bridger Range, Montana
Trailhead: Fairy Lake Trailhead – 7635 feet
Distance: +/- 4 miles round trip
Time: 2-5 hours
Top Elevation: 9650 ft (Top of Sacagawea Peak)
Vertical: 2100 ft
USGS Maps: Sacagawea Peak, Montana
The weather has been warm lately. Most people aren’t thinking about skiing anymore. For most it’s full on summer, but in Montana there is still some great summer skiing to be found. One classic summer ski line in the Bridger Range north of Bozeman is The Great One.
On a lazy Sunday, Opie Jahn, the king of Caliber Coffee, and I set off to ski The Great One. Fueled by the latest Caliber Coffee roast, we hit the road and headed north into the Bridgers. The Bridgers towered over MT 86 as we cruised north toward the Fairy Lake Road.
After 22.5 miles, we turned west onto the dirt forest service road. The road has two seasonal gates, so contact the Bozeman Forest Service District to find out when the road fully opens. We rocked along for about five miles, sneaking views toward Sacagawea Peak and looking for The Great One sheltered in the rocks.
We finally glimpsed the Great One from the Fairy Lake Road. When staring straight at it, the barbie angle makes it look ridiculously steep and inviting. This is going to be fun!
The Fairy Lake Trailhead (7635 feet) was filled with cars, campers, and even a handful of skiers. Accessing the Great One is much easier than skiing The Blaze, which means you’ll often see other skiers – so watch out! We loaded our skis onto our packs, double knotted our approach shoes, and hit the trail toward the pass between Sacagawea Peak and Hardscrabble Peak. The well maintained trail made for easy going through abundant wildflowers, countless flies, and happy hikers.
In about 45 minutes we reached the pass and headed southwest toward Sacagawea Peak. The summit of Sacagawea Peak sits at 9650 feet. It’s the highest peak in the Bridgers and the views are stunning. You can see the Crazies, the Madisons, the Gallatins, the Bridgers, and beyond. You do not have to summit Sacagawea to reach the Great One, but why wouldn’t you? It only takes an extra five minutes.
From the summit of Sacagawea, we followed the ridge line along old mountain goat trails to the southwest for about half a mile to the summit of Naya Nuki Peak. The sheer drops to the north excited the imagination with potential ski lines. Winter is only a few months away!
Side note: Naya Nuki is the childhood friend of Sacagawea who was kidnapped by a hostile tribe. A towering cairn marks the top of Naya Nuki Peak at 9581. Naya Nuki is only marked by elevation on the USGS Topo map. From the summit, we downclimbed about 50 feet to the entrance of The Great One, which drops between towering rock walls down the north face.
Another group was ahead of us and were just dropping into the north facing couloir. Opie and I slowly took our time putting on ski boots and watching the mountain goats frolic in the remaining snow patches to the south. What a great way to spend a morning. Looking down the Great One, it’s easy to see why people often get injured skiing this line. In this low snow year, The Great One is slightly melted out. It consists of a set of three snowfields between sheer rock walls. In between each snowfield is a short section of scree that must be walked down. This means don’t fall unless you want to cheese grate yourself over sharp rocks.
After the first group cleared out of the couloir, Opie and I dropped in. We made nice rounded turns down beautiful corn snow to a safe zone. A rough guess would say that there are a couple of turns at about 40 degrees, with the rest of the ski line being mellower.
We skied the first section, then crossed the scree and skied the section section. Then repeated it for the third and final snowfield to the bottom of the snow. The final snowfield was suncupped and pitted with rock fall from above. From top to bottom, The Great One covered about 1500 vertical feet with two short sections that had to be walked. I’d love to ski this thing when it’s fully covered!
At the bottom, we put our approach shoes back on our feet as we watched another group drop into the couloir. Jumping back on the old heel toe express, we located a draw with a decent climbers trail. The climbers trail led down a steep face and ended on the southern shores of the beautiful Fairy Lake.
Fairy Lake is a stunning, clear lake nestled into the forests of the Bridgers. There’s definitely a reason why it’s a popular hiking destination. Opie and I rounded the lake, soaking in the odd stares that our skis received. Within ten minutes we were were standing in flip-flops at the Tacoma. It’s time to go eat at Best Burger.
Car to car our trip to ski The Great One took 3 hours. We covered 2100 vertical feet in about 4 miles and skied a classic, north facing, 1500 foot, summer ski line. The Great One is definitely worth skiing. I’m certain I’ll be back to ski it again.
See the route on HillMap:
Here are some additional photos from skiing the Great One in the Bridgers of Montana:
This trip report for skiing the Great One is from June 28, 2015.