Beartooth Summer Session: Campfires and Corn

Summer skiing in Montana.

My ski boots aren’t well received by the x-ray technician at Denver International Airport. He tells me there isn’t any skiing in June in Montana. I just assure him my ski boots are harmless. Truthfully I don’t have a clue what I’m getting into. All I know about the Red Lodge Summer International Ski and Snowboard Camp is that there are two surface lifts and nearly a thousand feet of vertical to ski mid-summer.

I arrive at the top of Beartooth Pass and the Red Lodge International Summer Ski and Snowboard Camp (RLISSC) a day later. It’s been a long trip. My driver showed up an hour late and drove 10 under the speed limit. It fits. Beartooth Pass straddles the Montana/Wyoming border, but the zone we arrive in transcends geographical limits—after a few moments in the parking lot it’s apparent this place is defined more by mentality than maps. The lifts spin endlessly while a trailer serving as an office sits unoccupied. Everyone is too busy skiing to take tickets.

Image placeholder title

Moments later, I switch from sandals to my sensible plastic shoes and casually slip over a headwall, only to realize the skiing isn’t so casual. It’s steep—my first frantic turns wake me out of summer’s skiing slumber. This place is LEGIT. RLISSC packs 900-vertical, a full bump line, grooming, and some serious park features into one of the most laid-back operations on the planet. It’s been around since the mid-sixties and hosted a slew of competitive talent, most notably Tanner Hall.

I take a few self-serve laps before remembering why I’m here. The second annual Beartooth Summer Session is currently under way. I meet Kip Kirol who is here from ON3P, a small ski brand out of Portland, Oregon. Kirol is busy sculpting jumps for the next two days of skiing. In between shovel strokes he encourages me to ski more. I do. We’re supposed to be hiking in the backcountry today but the low snow year makes it difficult. No worries—the immediate vicinity has more than enough terrain.

Image placeholder title

After a couple hours of insane summer skiing we call it quits and head to camp to meet up with more inbound travelers from places as far as Park City. With so many skiers situated together I expect things to get rowdy. They don’t. The serenity of the sunset over the high snowfields lulls all to sleep before midnight. With two more days of skiing queued up, I know the rowdiness will come.

Image placeholder title

Stay tuned for pig races, pole plants and comp photos tomorrow.