Cooke City, Montana: Overview and Day 1.

(Last Updated On: April 17, 2018)

One of the perks of Brittany’s job is that she gets a week off in February. Given the way this winter has gone in Colorado, we knew we’d go somewhere, we just didn’t know where. For a while, we thought we might head to Jackson, but then it started to look snowy and the snowpack started to look a little less stable than we wanted- storm skiing 30-some degree glades wasn’t what we were hoping to do. Next up was the Eastern Sierra, but the snowline there is apparently pretty high and the storm started to slide South so it looked pretty snowy there too. Enter our buddy Tony in Bozeman, who suggested Cooke City. Everything seemed to line up that way, so off we went for a long roadtrip adventure that we won’t forget anytime soon.

Cooke City is mostly known as a snowmobile destination, though it has a small and committed group of sled skiers there as well. Cooke City is located more or less between the Absaroka mountains to the South and the Beartooths to the North. This convergence of ranges leads to snow- and a lot of it- in the Cooke City area. If you’re there for the first time, you can use Beartooth Mountain Guides as you get familiar with the area. Plenty of snowmobilers end up in Cooke City from places like Minnesota and the Dakotas, so if the thought of waking up every morning to the smell of two-stroke sounds appalling to you- well then you’ll miss out on the great skiing the area has to offer.

If it looks like Cooke City barely escaped the Yellowstone fires of 1988, you'd be right.

Yep, Tiny.

From Colorado and other points South, it’s a pain to get to. Highway 212 from Red Lodge over Beartooth Pass is closed in winter, as is 296 over Dead Indian Pass from Cody, WY. This means that the only way in is via 89 from Livingston, MT through Yellowstone National Park- a two and a half hour drive to a dead-end in Cooke City, home of roughly 50 year-round residents. Because we were going for only a short time, we decided not to bring our snowmobiles, instead relying on whatever shuttle services, friendly locals, snowmobile rentals, and road trailheads we might find. (Note: If we go again, we might choose to take our snowmobiles to Cody, WY and ride 296, which is apparently a short, easy ride and would cut our drive time by 4 hours)

We rolled in at night and the first thing a skier will be drawn to in Cooke City is “The Fin”, right above town on Mt. Rebublic. Once we realized there were tracks and a skintrack already on the face, we knew we had come to the right place. Tony met up with us and his book showed the route going up the trees right below The Fin, which seemed about right, so that’s the way we went. Tony wasn’t impressed with this book in his home range of the Bridgers, and after wandering around for a bit, we realized that most skiers actually access via the opposite side of the mountain, which is why we weren’t finding the skintrack.

The Fin is on the right, as is the route we first tried to go. What we ended up skiing is from the notch on the left and through the only couloir that isn't cliffed out on the left.

We regrouped and headed off in the more popular direction, though it was obvious that we had burned too much daylight to ski The Fin that day. We had spied a line on the lower flanks that looked like it held promise, and we quickly found ourselves on top, looking down at town:

Not a bad consolation prize, eh? Frank:


It was an interesting line, and we kept switching from one couloir to another to make sure we found the one on the far skier’s right that didn’t cliff out. Tony:

Tony drops into the final choke:


The snow was pretty good, all the way down near the valley. Brittany’s smile says it all:

Cooke City is pretty amazing- just don’t expect your cell phone to work there. I kept thinking to myself “This place is more Alaska than Alaska!” The Bearclaw Bakery is highly recommended, The Miner’s Saloon makes a mean burger (make sure to ask for Ranch! {Wink}), and the Loving Cup makes a good cup of coffee. We stayed at the Cooke City Alpine- the price was right but the walls were thin. More adventures from Cooke City coming up soon…

Update: In April, 2018 our friend Tony perished in an avalanche skiing solo outside the boundaries at Bridger Bowl. Tony was a great person and we miss him greatly.

Cooke City Posts:
Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4

Frank Konsella

Frank loves snow more than anything... except his wife.  He ensures his food is digested properly by chewing it 32 times before swallowing.He is a full-time real estate agent serving Crested Butte and Gunnison and would be honored to send you his monthly newsletter.

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Cooke City, Montana:  Overview and Day 1
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Cooke City, Montana: Overview and Day 1
While Cooke City is most known as a snowmobiling destination, the surrounding mountains are also a backcountry skiers' dream!

Frank Konsella

Frank loves snow more than anything... except his wife.    He ensures his food is digested properly by chewing it 32 times before swallowing. He is a full-time real estate agent serving Crested Butte and Gunnison and would be honored to send you his monthly newsletter.

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