Over the Top

beartooth pass skiing red lodge

Springtime local lore.

The Beartooth Mountains outside of Red Lodge have everything necessary to be coined a “natural playground.” Their gigantic buttresses of granite hold snow well into the warm months, offering local and regional residents spring and early-summer skiing. As far back as 1939, a few hardy souls went so far as to make a competition out of it. The event was called “On Top,” a highroad ski race 32 miles up the Beartooth Highway near Dead Man’s Curve. By 1940, the event attracted nearly 500 carloads of spectators and skiers, which even now seems like a busy day. The event relocated to Willow Creek Ski Area in 1942. Now, the legacy is continued by Beartooth Basin, where every year folks congregate at the steep headwall above Twin Lakes and enjoy winter’s bounty well after the season is over.

Pictured here are two of the original participants in the early 1940s: Laura Boyannah (right), and Gaynell Loughney, secretary of the Red Lodge Highroad Ski Club.