Summer skiing at Beartooth Basin Ski Area has been on my to-do list for a long-long time and I recently found the time, and great weather, for a visit to this gem of an area perched at almost 11,000 feet on the Montana/Wyoming border. Two self- served bio-diesel fueled, high-speed poma lifts provide access to 1000’ vertical of 35-40 degree alpine chutes and snowfields along with stupendous views of the surrounding Beartooth and Absaroka mountain ranges. It’s a true alpine wonderland for summer shredders.
Driving from the historic ski-town of Red Lodge, MT. the world famous Beartooth Highway switchbacks over 4000 feet up and onto the 11,000’ high Beartooth Plateau. Around a bend, about a mile past the Wyoming state line, a ski lift bull-wheel comes into sight and you soon see the small parking lot that marks Beartooth Basin ski area. You will be parking at the very top of the ski area at roughly 10,900’ so from here it’s all downhill into the basin via the Twin Lakes Headwall. At around 35 degrees of steepness off the top of the headwall, the ski area is recommended for strong advanced and expert riders only.
The two self-served poma lifts (yep, you gotta grab em’ and stick em’ between your legs) start spinning at 9am with last platter at 3pm. Because of a couple of hard-freezes the mornings I skied, my timing onto the hill was a tad later to allow for a little softening for my dullish edges to get a grip on the steep headwall. After 10:30am the snow softened up into large kerneled corn snow that smeared and carved nicely in the increasingly warm June sun. For big line freeriding, two rock-walled, 40+ degree chutes can be scouted lookers right from the bottom poma of the basin. Another steep headwall to the right of these chutes also provides pucker-factoring lines with 10-15’ drops off the overhanging cornices – all conveniently funneling back to the pomas. The main headwall closest to the upper poma offers a short mogul “zipper” line, but also several smooth steep lines that angle to the riders left off the top of this poma. The lower poma’s runs have two lanes of nicely groomed and salted slopes for firm carving alongside the slalom courses set by visiting ski race training camps. All in all, a lot of varied terrain for shred starved snow riders out there.
Coronavirus precautions are in effect with the area limiting lift ticket sales to 80 per day to allow space to breathe … and you will be breathing a bit harder at these elevations. To ensure your spot to ride go to www.beartoothbasin.com and purchase your lift ticket ($45) at least 24-hours before for the day or days you plan to ride. If the daily quota is not reached, tickets will be available on a first come, first served basis at the ticket window with cash or check only. Both days I skied were sold out several days ahead of time so I highly advise purchasing on-line as soon as possible.
Also of importance to the planning process, check out our summer mountain weather site https://opensummit.com and search for Pilot Peak Wyoming for the closest detailed short and long-term high-elevation forecast for the nearby Beartooth Plateau. Beartooth Basin is scheduled to remain open daily through June 21st but could stay open even later on a day-to-day basis until July 5thif the weather and snowpack cooperate. Please check their website and Facebook page for the latest info on daily operations. Get out there and enjoy the mountains but remember to stay safe and always respect others.
Powder Out – Bob
Some images of Beartooth Basin Summer Ski Area below:
Looking into the Basin from the top of Twin Lakes Headwall
Looking up the Twin Lakes Headwall from the lower Poma lift
Snowpack still holding on as of June 12th
Hold on it's a STEEP Poma ride...
Excellent backcountry skiing is also available about 2 miles down the road from Beartooth Basin (into Wyoming) at the Gardiner Lake Headwall. 1000 to 1500' feet of "steep as you like" alpine riding with an easy hike out of 30-40 mins. It's obvious as seen from the Beartooth Highway.
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