Fire and Corn

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Author, Steven Drake, arcing big GS turns down the Gardner Headwall

“We are having way more fun than they are,” said Jake. He wasn’t kidding!

On the 4th of July weekend, I found myself perusing through Yellowstone Park en-route to my family’s cabin just east of Cooke City. I had no expectations for the weekend and expected nothing more than a lackadaisical few days, all while enjoy the beautiful scenery that the Beartooths have to offer.

Pilot and Index Sunset

With that said, you’d be a fool to drive into the Beartooths not toting ski gear. I’m no fool! On the morning of the 4th I drove up to the Beartooth Plateau in search of snow. Things were looking grim at the Wyoming summit. After descending the last switchback before the Gardner Lake pull out, I turned around and was treated to a pleasurable sight. Gardner Headwall’s north and south lines were very skiable!

Gardner Headwall from Gardner Lake

With my gear on in minutes, I hitched a ride back up the switchbacks to the summit and then anxiously trekked across the plateau to the top of the southern aspect of the headwall. The line hadn’t been skied for at least a week – I was more than happy to track it up with some big GS turns. Smooth, steep, corn laden turns funneled into a tight dog leg; followed by big turns down to Gardner Lake.

At the shore of the lake were two guys who had just descended the north line. While sharing our enthusiasm I realized that one of the guys was none other than Paul Gleason, a Mystery Ranch pack designer. Paul was there skiing the headwall with his friend, Jake. We were all wearing Mystery Ranch packs. After a steep climb out from Gardner Lake we piled into a truck and hitched a ride back to the Wyoming summit. A smooth shot between a set of switchback, followed by a second descent of the headwall, awaited us.

Paul Gleason Skiing the Beartooth Plateau

At the top of the headwall, while preparing for our second descent, Jake looked across the drainage to the onlookers and said, “We are having way more fun than they are.” It was a very fitting comment. It was mid morning on the 4th of July, the sun was shining, the snow was perfect, and we were about to drop into one of the most aesthetic lines on the Beartooth Plateau.

Author, Steven Drake, navigating the dog leg on the south line of Gardner Headwall

Big grins were plastered across our faces.

Jake full of smiles after run #2 on Gardner Headwall

After a great day of skiing I headed down to Cooke City for the fireworks. The Cooke City Fire Department, while parading down Main Street on 4-wheelers and retro fire trucks, sure know how to entertain!

Cooke City fireworks over the 1988 Yellowstone Park burn area

The steep canyon walls that surround Cooke, made for an incredible light show. It is the loudest 4th you’ll ever experience.


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