Conditions Report: Beehive Basin, MT. Grizzly Bears and Corn!

Mike Lavery | | Conditions ReportConditions Report
beehive basin
Peak 10,602 dead center. Dogleg at the sun/shade line to the right. Photo: Mike Lavery

Across the country, Memorial Day is the unofficial start of summer.  In Montana it’s the official start of the summer ski season with the opening of the Beartooth Highway. I’d planned to make the 3.5 hour drive today, but bailed after reading the pass is only open to the Montana/Wyoming border. Most of the good skiing is 5 miles into Wyoming, so that is on hold until next week.

We went with plan B and headed to Beehive Basin, just north of Big Sky. It’s not the most remote skiing adventure, but with the parking lot at 8,000 feet, it’s quick access to big alpine terrain. The first mile in was mud, but after 15 minutes we were in ski boots sliding on snow. The objective for the day was Peak 10,602, or at least that’s what it’s called on the streets. We toured 4 miles out to the end of the basin and up to the saddle just to the southeast in an hour and 40 minutes.

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Huge ass bear tracks, just another hazard of backcountry skiing. Photo: Mike Lavery

As we approached the ridge line at 10,000 feet, we came across an odd set of tracks; too big to be a mountain goat, too illogical to be a human, too small to be yeti. Upon closer inspection we could see clear toes and claw marks from a curious grizzly bear. Bear Spray: a Montana spring skiing essential!

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Looking south from the saddle. Big Sky Resort in the background. Grizzly bear location TBD. Photo: Mike Lavery

Today ended up to be all about changing plans. We had a closer look at Peak 10,602, and decided against it due to thin snow, lots of rocks, and rapidly warming temperatures. The northeast side of the saddle looked like delicious corn, but we’d have to climb back out, and things were already pretty cooked. From where we were standing our best option was a short but fun line I call the Dogleg that would drop us back into Beehive Basin.

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Yeehaw! Harvesting that sweet corn. Photo: Mike Lavery

The Dogleg starts out as a nice mellow bowl, before taking a hard right, choking down and dumping you right into Beehive Lake. This turned out to be the right call for the day, as the snow was perfect corn just waiting to be harvested. Once at the lake, we made quick time back out of the basin and were back at the truck in just over 3 hours. In the parking lot, a couple headed out for a hike gave us an odd look and asked “is there still snow out there?” Montana ski season is far from over.

Overall, far from what we’d planned for, but a day of skiing is never a bad day!

Photo Tour

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The dogleg. Starting lookers left above the big rock face. Photo: Mike Lavery
Beehive Basin
Lower turns. Avoid the chunder. Photo: Mike Lavery
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Looking NE from the saddle at Gallatin Peak. Montana isn’t ugly. Photo: Mike Lavery

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