O/B Hit List: Cooke City Avalanche Safety

Take an avy-education course in one of the snowiest, wildest, and most beautiful spots around.

Much can go wrong when skiing or boarding the Montana backcountry—but it doesn’t have to. A little preparation and knowledge goes a long way toward avoiding danger, which is why we recommend that all our backcountry brothers and sisters attend an avy course. Or three. Hands down, it's the best way to mitigate risk and stay safe when setting out on an alpine ski tour. And if you choose wisely, you can learn in a picturesque and inspiring setting that feels more like vacation than education.

Outside Bozeman Cooke City Avalanche Education

Who: Anyone who enjoys powder turns outside ski-resort boundaries. Avalanche-safety certifications are not required, but neither is a helmet. You wouldn't expose your tender noggin to trees, rocks, and other skull-splitters—don't expose yourself or your backcountry partners to unnecessary danger, either.

 Outside Bozeman Hit List Cooke City Avalanche Education

What: These multi-day courses are intensive (as opposed to introductory seminars), following guidelines established by the American Avalanche Association. They cover topics such as snowpack layering, identifying and managing avalanche terrain, weather elements, decision-making, rescue skills, understanding how avalanches form and release, collecting data, and more. There are different levels of certification, as well as a ladies-only class. Fees range from just under $500 to about $800, and food is provided.

Outside Bozeman Cooke City Avalanche Education

When: Avy classes generally take place from December through February, with the occasional session in March, and Cooke City is no exception. Courses are generally two to four days, though some specialized classes are single-day affairs. Specific dates are posted on the course-providers' websites.

Outside Bozeman Cooke City Avalanche Education

Where: In Cooke City, all avy courses are based out of the Woody Creek Cabin in the Absaroka Range. The cabin is owned and operated by Beartooth Powder Guides and is about 2.5 miles from town, at almost 9,000 feet. The cabin has a wood-burning stove, year-round water sources, and similar amenities to a Forest Service cabin. Other avy courses are available around the region, with some closer to home; but it's worth the drive to make Cooke your classroom.

Cooke City Avalanche Education Outside Bozeman

Why: Because avalanches happen and people die every year. Because Big Sky is expensive and Bridger's crowded, especially on weekends. Open up your skiing options and treat yourself to some peace of mind in the backcountry while having a blast in one of the coolest small towns in Montana. The snow is deep, the mountains majestic, and the people friendly: everyone loves Cooke City. Regardless of your level of knowledge, there's always more to learn, and hanging out with like-minded snow-lovers is a pretty spectacular way to spend a few days.