Top spots to earn your turns.
When snow blankets the valley, our gazes—with eyes and mouths agape—look longingly out at our white-laden landscapes with one thing in mind: skiing. But between the dream state of imagining weightless turns through powder fields and the reality of actually getting to the top of a good line lies a great deal of planning. High on that list is figuring out where to go. Here’s a list of some Bozeman go-tos, depending on if you’re new to town, or new to skiing.
Telemark Meadows. When it comes to learning in the backcountry, a safe environment goes a long way. About 30 miles south of Big Sky, within the boundary of Yellowstone Park, Tele Meadows is just that. Learn the dynamics of skinning on a mellow approach with a reliably deep snowpack. Dig snow pits in safe conditions and enjoy glade skiing a short distance from the car. With historically low avalanche danger, big snowfalls, and a quick approach, Telemark Meadows is a great place for neophytes to cut their teeth.
Goose Creek. For those just getting their backcountry feet under them and who want to stick close to town, check out the Goose Creek Meadow. Accessed via Trail Creek off I-90, a skintrack takes off from the trailhead and meanders 1,300 feet up through broken timber to an open meadow. This close-to-home classic is a great spot to build backcountry confidence while scoring low-angle, and quite enjoyable, turns.
Texas Meadows. Just north of the Bridger Bowl boundary, Texas Meadows offer playful glade skiing with a magnificent backdrop. There are some steep sections and rollovers to be cautious of, but for the most part, this area is beginner-friendly. Access it via the Brackett Creek trailhead, or the Bradley Meadows backcountry gate near the top of the Alpine lift.
Once You’re Comfortable
Mount Ellis. Another close-to-home classic, Ellis is quickly accessed from Bozeman, but the approach is a bit longer than your average walk in the park. From the New World Gulch trailhead, take the second drainage on the right, switchback up the face to the saddle between Mt. Ellis and Lower Mt. Ellis, then continue south to the summit (around four miles total). On the east side, an old burn funnels into three avalanche paths that lead out to an open meadow. These 1,600-foot runs can be gems, but be wary of snow conditions, as the avy paths are there for a reason.
Beehive Basin. This is quite possibly be the quintessential Bozeman backcountry locale. Beehive’s claim to fame is variety: ski gladed tree runs on the east face into Middle Basin, or take the ridge to steeper terrain and couloir access leading to Bear Basin. Whatever your path, keep in mind that you’ll need to climb the ridge to ski back to your car at the end of the day.
Mount Blackmore. Just south of Bozeman, Blackmore is an obvious choice. With a five-mile approach past beautiful, dense forest and an alpine lake, Mt. Blackmore and neighboring Elephant Mountain are easy to reach via the well-traveled Blackmore Trail. The saddle between Elephant and Blackmore offers an excellent selection of routes that stay good late into the season on some aspects. With spectacular views of the surrounding Gallatin Range and nearby Spanish Peaks, this area is a staple for many Bozeman residents nearly year-round.
Hyalite Peak. While similar to Blackmore in a lot of ways, Hyalite Peak is slightly less traveled and a bit longer of an approach, with most of the descents in prime avalanche terrain. To ski this safely, excellent navigation and snowpack-evaluation skills are necessary. That said, planned right, this summit is a Bozeman classic.
The Fin. Unlike most of the approaches in Cooke City, the Fin does not require a sled to get there. Access it via Republic Creek. Climb the east flank of Republic Mountain and finish by traversing the ridge to the summit. The top of the Fin is extremely exposed and prone to large loading events—it should only be attempted by experienced and educated backcountry skiers; however, with a stable snowpack and a clear day, it’s one of the best runs in Montana.
Emigrant Peak. Rising tall and solitary out of Paradise Valley, Emigrant Peak is hard to miss when passing by on Hwy. 89. While both sides of the peak have plenty of skiable lines, the preferred route is the southeast couloir, offering a beautiful, sustained descent from the peak. Emigrant’s high elevation—just under 11,000 feet—and varied topography mean you can generally find snow well into June. Access the eastern route up Emigrant Gulch (past Chico Hot Springs) and park near Emigrant Creek. It’s a long slog to the top, but thoughts of a soak at Chico and some well-earned beer should keep you going.
Much of this information was taken from Backcountry Skiing Bozeman and Big Sky by Ben Werner.