Thank you to Moosejaw for kindly sponsoring this post. All opinions are 100% honest & completely my own.
The saddest day of the year for me is usually in mid-April when the Grand Targhee lifts stop turning for the season, signifying that ski season is over until November. But since my husband Max & I learned to backcountry ski last December, the madness of skiing all summer long has opened up. So instead of hitting the beach, I packed clothing for temperatures ranging from 30-80 degrees, my backcountry ski backpack, skis and avy gear and hit the road. Destination: the Beartooth Highway along the Wyoming/Montana border for some skiing in June. My Moosejaw Madness story was about to begin, because I love skiing too much to only do it during one half of the year!
First stop: Beartooth Basin summer ski area. In our excitement to ski their rope tow lift area, Max and I bought full-day lift tickets without actually looking over the edge first. After we took our first look over the cornice in the photo above, we were both thinking “oh no, we just wasted $70.” It was really steep and scary looking, and we we considering bailing!
But we spent a few minutes summoning our courage, watching others ski down and survive, and then dropped in and wound up having tons of fun skiing soft spring corn. There was a definite learning curve involved in mastering the rope tow for me, which included two consecutive fails while the line of people watching me struggle and fall shouted advice and encouragement (after which I sent myself to the back of the line). But in no time, I was picking up someone else’s fallen gear on the way up, and helpfully motioning sideways to someone who fell off the tow in front of me and was laying there in my path. We ended the day really glad that we had stayed.
On day two we moved to the backcountry, and began with a bootpack up to Reefer Ridge. No more rope tow pulling me up the mountain – now I was hiking it myself, carrying my backcountry ski backpack from Moosejaw filled with my avy gear and with my skis strapped on for the way up.
After making it to the top, I had to admire this view of the Absarokas before skiing down. (Scrambling over rocks while wearing ski boots: awkward.)
Skiing down, facing the view of the incredible winding hairpin curves of the Beartooth Highway. The snow was fun, soft corn for the top half, and chunder on the bottom half. I quickly learned why some people were stopping halfway down before starting their next lap.
Next stop: Gardiner Headwall. The amount of snow still here in mid-June was pretty incredible! It was about twice as high as the cars driving through.
Time to pick a line down. This area had gotten icy from below freezing temperatures overnight, but had softened up enough to be fun now. I didn’t spend too long in this spot, because the wind was strong enough to almost knock me over!
Such a fun ski down! Those tiny dots below the rocks are other skiers doing a steep bootpack back up – the fate that also awaited me at the bottom of my run. So worth the burn though! I already can’t wait to go back.