Big Birthday, Big Couloir

Looking down the Big Couloir in High Summer

Last summer, on one of many hikes up my home mountain – Lone Peak – I crossed over the 11,000-foot summit, picked my way down the precipitous east face and paid my respects at the top of the Big Couloir. The Big, as it is affectionately and ominously known, is the most famous ski run off Lone Peak: a 1,200-foot 50 degree vertical drop that slices down the peak’s east face like a white lightning bolt. Sitting at the top of that impossible chute, I swore off ever skiing it. Too steep, too narrow, too cliffy, too foreboding. I should know better than to ever say never.

For most of my 20’s, I honored a tradition of climbing mountains on my birthday. For my 30th, I upended my usual quest and hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon. What a fitting evolution to spend my 35th sliding down a mountain on one of the gnarliest ski runs in the West, loving every moment, every movement. I am, as always, exactly where I should be at this point in my life. I wonder where the next five years will find me…

Waiting my turn to drop into the Big. This photo was taken from the same spot as the one above. Amazing how a little snow can change terrain.

The End of the World- that’s actually the name of this part of the mountain.

As Big as it gets. Photo by my friend Leah Bothamley. I was too busy survival skiing to get my own shot.

Me skiing down the apron at the bottom of the Big with the Lone Peak trams overhead. Photo by Dan Whitaker, who was at the right place at the right time to cheer me on. 

Happy Birthday to me

Hiking the Headwaters ridge on Lone Peak. The Big Couloir is the chute over my left shoulder.

Watch a video of somebody skiing the Big Couloir here.

About theblondecoyote

Mary Caperton Morton is a freelance science and travel writer with degrees in biology and geology and a master’s in science writing. A regular contributor to EARTH magazine, where her favorite beat is the Travels in Geology column, she has also written for the anthologies Best Women's Travel Writing 2010 and Best Travel Writing 2011. Mary is currently based in western Colorado. When she’s not at the computer she can usually be found outside -- hiking, skiing, climbing mountains and taking photographs. Visit her website at
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9 Responses to Big Birthday, Big Couloir

  1. shazza says:

    Happy Birthday. Glad you got to spend it in your own adventurous style. 🙂

  2. Lavinia Ross says:

    Happy Birthday! And glad to see you back!

  3. Luisa says:

    Wow, such a wondrous landscape!! And you are very brave, but I hope you were not on your own, such slopes can be dangerous if you fell down without nobody at your side.

  4. ritaroberts says:

    Happy birthday and still doing what you do so well,and above all enjoying it. Welcome back. Will be looking forward to hearing of your new adventures. Best wishes.

  5. pmdello says:

    That was exciting. Thanks for the video. And, Happy Birthday!

  6. furrygnome says:

    I just can’t quite believe that people can do that and stay upright! What an adventure! Happy Birthday, and many more adventures.

  7. egghill says:

    Whew! My stomach is still doing flip-flops after the video! Congratulations for that feat and Happy Birthday!

  8. Diana Busby says:

    Happy birthday!!! Thanks for sharing the experience.

  9. My home mountain is also called Lone Peak, but not the one in Montana. 😉 Gorgeous photos! Happy Happy Birthday!


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