Ski Tour: Woody Ridge
Approach Distance: 3 to 5 miles
Approach Gain: 2,000 to 2,500 feet
Skiable Vertical: 1,000 feet
Duration: 4 to 8 hours
Distance from Bozeman: 3 hours
Avalanche Hazard*: Low to high
If you haven't made a trip down to Cooke City yet, it's time to go. Even when the skiing conditions around Bozeman leave something to be desired, the mountains around Cooke reliably deliver epic powder skiing due to the area's higher average elevation. Woody Ridge is the most classic ski tour out of Cooke City, and doesn't require a snowmobile to get there. In fact, the ridge lies entirely within the North Absaroka Wilderness, so you'll have peace and quiet with epic views and few other skiers to share the slopes with.
From Bozeman, head east on I-90 and exit on Hwy. 89 in Livingston. Go south on Hwy. 89 up Paradise Valley, through Gardiner, and into Yellowstone National Park at the north entrance. Take a left at Mammoth Hot Springs onto Grand Loop Rd. towards Tower Junction, where you'll take another left on Hwy. 212. Pass through the Lamar Valley and out the northeast entrance of the Park. As you pull into Cooke City, turn right on Republic St. and into the large parking lot at "The Dump".
Head east out of the parking lot and past the trail sign for the Woody Creek Trail. Continue up the skin track along Woody Creek (A) to its confluence with Hayden Creek, then turn right (south) and follow Hayden Creek into its lower drainage. From here, head up through the open glades of Rip Curl (B) to the toe of the ridge, or continue up past a constriction (C) to emerge beneath Submarine Bowl. Gaia routes here.
If you ascended to the toe of the ridge via Rip Curl (B), peel your skins and ski back down through open glades with consistently deep snow. This run catches a lot of snow blowing off the ridge top, and its consistent pitch at around 30 degrees lets you carry some speed without posing a serious avalanche risk—just watch out for isolated terrain features like rollovers and gullies. For a longer run, if the snowpack is stable, ski off the opposite side of the ridge down the Ice Cream Scoop (E). Be extremely wary of avalanche conditions in this terrain—steep gullies here are often cross-loaded and create terrain traps that could turn a small wind-slab avalanche into a deep pile of debris.
For those opting to continue on up Submarine Bowl (D), you'll be rewarded with a variety of terrain from wide open faces to technical glades, all with easy-to-manage avalanche risk if you know what to look out for. Find your favorite shot through the bowl and be prepared to take some laps—the snow here is usually excellent and you'll want to make it worth the effort to get there.
Woody Ridge holds a wide variety of complex terrain, much of which can produce large, consequential avalanches. Our description here indicates zones that are relatively safe, but if you end up in the wrong spot, you could be putting yourself in serious danger. Do your research before heading out, and know which slopes are of greater concern. Once on location, follow all accepted avy-safety precautions, including digging pits and avoiding questionable areas. Have a backup plan in case you encounter unexpected conditions. On the ascent, choose routes that minimize exposure to avalanche terrain, and ski one-at-a-time down when descending through such terrain, keeping eyes on your partner.
*Avalanche hazard refers to terrain risk only. Always travel with rescue gear, evaluate conditions carefully, and check the forecast before heading out.