This insider perspective is provided by nonother than Lexi Dowall. Lexi is a skier and freelance storyteller out of Salt Lake City, Utah. She is the Director of Freeride for the IFSA and contributes as a writer for Ski Utah. Her favorite places to ski are Snowbird, Alta, and Beartooth, of course.
BEARTOOTH BASIN AT A GLANCE
The Beartooth Basin Summer Ski area is an unlikely and heroic little resort perched atop a north-facing bowl alongside the sinuous Beartooth Highway. Located near the Wyoming-Montana border, the ski area only operates in the summer months as long as the snowpack permits. Winter is so ferocious in the Beartooth Mountains, that the highway remains closed, stacking a huge snowpack for summer skiers and shredders to enjoy. Every May, it can take road crews weeks to dig out the highway, unlocking access to Beartooth Basin and one of the most scenic roadways in the world.
Beartooth Basin encompasses two platter tows and a whole lot of friendly faces from the local ski community. Having traveled from as far afield as Maine, racing teams arc around gates, freestyle mogul skiers lap bumps, and freeride athletes air off the big cornice, swiftly navigating into the jagged rock bands that dot the steep terrain. Skiers and snowboarders of all types coexist at Beartooth and the slogan “The Spirit of Skiing” rings true as you begin to recognize everyone and freely chat while waiting for your turn on the platter tow.
BEARTOOTH BASIN’S FREERIDE SCENE
Each June, freeriders from near and far make the journey to Red Lodge, MT to compete in the IFSA’s (International Freeskiers & Snowboarders Association) annual Freeride skiing and snowboard competitions for juniors and adults. Athletes are given a qualifying and finals run as they vie for points in the IFSA Junior Freeride Series and the Freeride World Qualifying Series for adults. Athletes begin their run atop Beartooth’s imposing cornice and have the opportunity to showcase their creativity as they navigate down the steeps to the finish corral at the base of the ski area. Three judges compare notes on each rider’s line choice, control, fluidity, technique, and style, and energy (just like in the FWT). Beartooth’s gnarly terrain provides ample opportunity for freeriders to showcase their individuality and athleticism. Freeride is a raw and exciting sport, permitting riders to express themselves and their relationship to the mountain in a format unconstrained by a course.
Beartooth’s Freeride Scene
Some of the most talented young riders emerging in skiing and snowboarding have deep roots in the IFSA Junior Series.
Young Winter Crawshaw (11) competes in IFSA’s rapidly growing U12 age category. Her confident and aggressive skiing style often earns her podium spots and she held her own against the U12 males competing at Beartooth this summer.
Nephew of world-famous snowboarder, Jeremey Jones, Kai Jones, is a 13-year-old skier making waves in the industry with his huge hucks, fluid style, and fearless attitude. Kai clinched 3rd at Beartooth and will likely be in contention to snap up a title at the IFSA Freeride Championships in April 2020.
THE GREATNESS OF BEARTOOTH BASIN
When visiting Beartooth Basin, it feels a bit like teetering on the edge of the world or one of the last great frontiers. There is no cell service, the weather is often unpredictable and can turn violent, and the road may close at any moment due to blizzards or drifting snow. It feels a bit like survival of the fittest but the close-knit community keeps the spirit of this place alive and humming. If and when road closures plague the highway, there is endless backcountry terrain to explore. The sight of mountain goats, expansive wilderness, and summer snow is what keeps me coming back to Beartooth every June.
BEARTOOTH BASIN TIPS
- Bring all the layers. Seriously. From blizzards to whipping wind, to sunshine and nearly tropical temps, the weather at Beartooth can shift through all seasons in one day. Be ready for anything!
- Bring cash to buy lift tickets and merchandise.
- Pack plenty of snacks and a lunch, the amenities at Beartooth are bare-bones and the ticket office is actually a truck!
- Primitive camping and campgrounds are available for economical lodging down in Rock Creek Canyon on the Montana side. Don’t even think about attempting this if you don’t have bear spray and a bear canister.
- Road conditions on Beartooth Highway are exceptionally variable. Having a 4WD vehicle is recommended and know that road closures can extend for days at a time, making access to the resort difficult.
- Set aside a few extra days and explore nearby Yellowstone National Park via Cook City, MT.
Thanks for the tips and insider perspective Lexi! Beartooth is most definitely on our radar and we look forward to another successful batch of events in 2020!