Trip Ideas: Beartooth Pass

Montana's backcountry is the perfect springtime spot for a week of shredding.
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Montana's backcountry is the perfect springtime spot for a week of shredding.

Why you should Ski the Beartooth Pass

I grew up in Montana, and growing up in Montana means skiing the Beartooth Pass every summer. If you haven’t skied the pass, I think you should probably do so very soon. Maybe tomorrow… your boss will understand. 

So here’s the lowdown.

The Beartooth Highway is a 68-mile National Scenic Byway that winds it’s way though southern Montana and northern Wyoming and eventually spits travelers out in Yellowstone National Park. The Beartooth Plateau is highest point on the highway at almost 11,000 feet and is what you’ll be skiing off.

WHERE TO STAY


One of the best parts about skiing the pass is the free camping. So much free camping. Nestled in between two 10,000-foot plateaus lies the main fork of Rock Creek, which is lined with camping spots for a good 4 miles. On weekends, the spots fill up with a diverse crowd of rednecks hauling ass down the dirt road on four wheelers, families in RVs looking to get out of town for the weekend, and you people. Skiers.

WHERE TO GET SUPPLIES

About 10 miles north of the campground you’ll find yourself on Main Street in the quaint town of Red Lodge, MT. Red Lodge is equipped with a grocery store (Beware: It closes at 8 p.m.), a few bars (I’d recommend Snow Creek), and a kickass candy shop. And Voila! All your needs are taken care of: Beer, food, and skiing.

Oh yeah, let’s talk about skiing.

THE SKIING

From the campground you can get to the top of the pass in about half an hour. There are a ton of ski options but I’ll name three: The first is the Poma lift. Yes, for 45 bucks you ski a steep headwall all day and not have to hike a step. It doesn’t open every year (like this year) but when it does you can expect more crowds, park skiers, and children. The second is the full value terrain in Gardiner Headwall where you can ski anything from a mellow bowl of corn to an adrenaline pumping 50 degree couli. Disclaimer: If you don’t have a sled it’s a short slog out of the basin back to the road. And probably the most famous of all is Rock Creek Headwall. This headwall sees the most traffic and requires a shuttle or hitch hike but is well worth doing— the entrance into the main couloir will definitely make you pee your pants a little bit. 

The real beauty of the pass is the many different types of ski folk, from park junkies building kickers, to hardcore backcountry babes, to that ski bum dad and his 10-year-old kid who is better than you’ll ever be. You can get shit done and ski something crazy or go low key with your buddies while throwing back a few PBRs—and who doesn’t love a bonfire after a day of skiing?

 Just keep in mind, the locals don’t really want you there, so be polite, don’t litter, and tread as lightly as possible on the delicate Beartooth 

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