Friday, September 15, 2023

Welcome to the hardest 3 Mile “run” you will ever complete. Over 1 Kilometer of elevation gain in less than 5 Kilometers of distance. Painfully simple. After you get to the top you have front-row seats to the magnificence of southwest Montana. From there we will give you a lift back down via the Lone Peak tram. From there, VK’ers will walk to the top of the Swfitcurrent lift about 1 mile away and 600 ft of descent and then take the lift down to the Big Sky Base Area.

OnX Backcountry VK Map

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Runners will begin in the Big Sky Resort base area at an elevation of 7,534 ft. It is ALL uphill from there, gaining 3,632 ft., to the lofty summit of Lone Peak at 11,166 ft. in altitude.

The first half of the course will head up the ski runs known as Huntley Hollow and Calamity Jane. The steep roads going straight up these runs will be the most direct route to the base of Bone Crusher and Alto ridge, and the top of Swiftcurrent lift.

The second half of the race along Bone Crusher ridge and Alto ridge to the summit is EXTREMELY STEEP & TECHNICAL with sections of exposure and potential rockfall hazard. We will have safety personnel along the ridge keeping an eye out for runners and assessing any objective hazards, but the responsibility falls on you the race participant to be aware of your surroundings and other runners. This is a true mountain course so please treat it with the respect it deserves!

5 Minute Rolling Start Window

We will have a 5 Minute rolling start for the Rut VK. This means you can start anytime within 5 minutes of the gun going off if you feel the need to spread out from other runners.  Those racing for overall awards and prize money must start when the gun goes off.

Course Cut-offs

For the safety of our volunteers and Big Sky Resort employees on the mountain, we will have two cutoffs for the Lone Peak VK.

  • Cutoff #1: 1 hour cutoff at the top of the Swiftcurrent chair before runners head up onto Bonecrusher and Alto ridge to the summit of Lone Peak. The top of the Swfitcurrent chair is approx 1.7 miles from the start.
  • Cutoff #2: 90 minute cutoff for the top of Bone Crusher Ridge which is the first pitch of the alpine section.

The overall race course cutoff is 2 hours and 30 minutes.

Aid Stations

There are no aid stations along this course. We will have refreshments at the top for runners to replenish before coming back down on the tram.


Top five overall men and women will receive cash prizes this year!

  • First: $500
  • Second: $250
  • Third: $175
  • Fourth: $125
  • Fifth: $75

We will also have Age Group Awards for top three in each age group. (16-19,20-29,30-39,40-49, 50-59, 60+)

Finally, we have a Jorts Division and will be awarding custom denim vests to the fastest male and female to summit lone peak in cutoff jeans!

Drop Bags

It turns out the weather can change a bit in 1000 meters of elevation change and we wouldn’t want you to get too cold in your singlet and short shorts at the summit finish line! Therefore, VK participants may leave drop bags at the race start/finish area which we will then shuttle to the summit for you to wear. At packet pickup, we will provide you with a drop bag which you must use if you choose to have a drop bag at all. VK drop bags must be dropped between 10:00-11:30 AM.

Finish Line

In addition to festive volunteers and incredible vistas as far as the eye can see, we will have food and drink at the summit finish line for VK Rut runners.

Course Markings

This is not an orienteering race. The race organizers will do everything they can to have the course marked well for race participants the day of the event. Off-trail sections of the course will be marked in a way that race participants should be able to see from each course marking to the next to help guide them along the course. Course Markings will be Pink!.

Alternate Course

We are well aware that one of these years we will need to use our back up courses due to inclement weather in the alpine zones of Lone Peak. Our plan B course for the Vertical K is really just a Mini VK with only 700 meters of vertical gain. The route would begin in the Big Sky Base Area and head up a steep ski run to close to the top of Swiftcurrentchairi before taking a bearing right through a big scree bowl to the base of the Lone Peak Tram and the finish line. Simple. Short. Painful. Consider yourselves warned!


Please be prepared for any type of weather. Though the weather in Big Sky is relatively mild and stable in mid-September historically we are still in the mountains and conditions can quickly change. This is a challenging run on challenging terrain and the race organizers reserve the right to stop the race at any time should they deem the course unsafe due to weather.

VK Fine Print

  • Pacers and dogs: Not allowed .
  • Trekking poles: Allowed
  • Headphones: highly discouraged due to areas with rockfall hazards and potential wildlife hazards along the trail.
  • Crewing: Not allowed
  • Speakers: Out of respect of others, please do not use speakers for music that other people can hear. Not everyone loves your music.
  • Downclimbing: VK’ers may not hike/run down the VK course, but instead must take the Lone Peak Tram down due to the narrowness and exposure of the ridge trail to the summit.
  • Course Changes: Due to the mountainous and technical nature of this course, race organizers may choose to make course changes on race day due to severe weather with the race participants safety in mind.

Rut Registration Policy

  • There will be no deferrals, credits, transfers to other runners, or waitlists for any Rut race. No exceptions.
  • Rut Runners who must drop out due to unforeseen circumstances may do so by June 1st and will receive a 50% refund.
  • Rut Runners in some races may also move down in distance. This must be done no later than August 15th.
  • For example, the 50K can move to the 28K, 20K, or 11K, but not the VK.  The 28K can move to the 20K, or 11K, but not the 50K or VK. The 20K can move to the 11K, but not the 50K, 28K, or VK. The VK can move to the 11K only. The 11K cannot transfer to another event. A transfer in distance will be charged a $5 processing fee.
  • Questions? Check out our Rut Registration FAQ's page.