Winter’s just around the corner, and it’s a given that dedicated skiers in southwest Montana will hunt down a few turns before the season gets started. For those of you who just can’t bear the thought of waiting until December to hit the slopes, here are a few good bets for early-season powder that’ll hold you over until the resorts open.
In the Bridgers, Sacajawea Peak is great for some quick turns before the rest of the mountains get covered. Drive up to the base of Sac at the Fairy Lake campground and follow the trail to the peak. Similarly, Slushman’s and Bradley’s Meadow, located on the south and north boundaries of Bridger Bowl, are popular year-round attractions with good potential for early-season powder.
In the Madison Range, next to Big Sky, Beehive Peak offers several great couloirs. Drive one mile past the turnoff for Big Sky Mountain Village and turn right just before the turn for the pass into Jack Creek. Follow this road for about two miles and park at the trailhead, where it’s a four-mile hike to Beehive Lake. From the top of the peak, you have your choice of both northern- and southern-exposed couloirs.
A little closer to home, in the Gallatin Range, Mount Blackmore and Hyalite Peak are good for turns in the fall. To reach the former, park at either the reservoir or the new parking area about a half-mile prior; the trail leads to the saddle between Mount Blackmore and Elephant Mountain. For the latter, follow the road around the reservoir to the Hyalite Creek trailhead, which leads to the summit of the peak.
Avalanche danger should always be a concern, especially in these unpatrolled backcountry spots. Do your research before heading out, and always be prepared with the proper safety equipment. The Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center has advisories posted on its website (mtavalanche.com). For more info and maps, check out Thomas Turiano’s Select Peaks of Greater Yellowstone.