Friday, June 20, 2008

Day 2 of Beartooth Trip: Welcome to Cooke City

We rolled out of Yellowstone Park and through the tiny town of Silver Gate on our way to Cooke City, excited for the possibility of good skiing and good snow. Kurt had read that Cooke City is the snowmobiling capital of the US, and we were eager to find a spot over 10,000 ft with good access to the snow. We scouted some lines as we drove in, unsure of access, and decided to go hit up the chamber of commerce for some local info.

Cooke City is a very cool little town, right near the border of the park, and because its not incorporated, there's really no law there. We wandered down the street, stopped in at a local watering hole, where some folks were already getting to it, and asked around a bit for info.

We eventually ended up at the new Super 8 Motel in town, Joy, the proprietress, was a real character, when we walked in, she was telling a government employee that she didn't care that he was a government employee, she still needed to see a credit card! Apparently ever since she got her economic stimulus check, she's been pretty pissed. "I don't care that you work for the federal government, I don't trust you guys, you sent us money in the mail when we are in debt and at war. That doesn't make any sense to me, so I'll need to see a credit card." Most excellent, we knew we'd found our place to stay.

We wandered back up the road, stopping in at the General Store in Cooke City for some groceries and other essentials (ie: trout slayer ale: Kurt: "Can we drink these while we are walking around town, or will we get hassled?" Proprietor: "Well, its against the law, but seeing as how there is no law here, you can do pretty much as you please." Kurt: "Excellent! Do you have a bottle opener?")

As we were walking down the street, craning our necks to try and find the snow line in the trees, we came across the Chamber of Commerce, which was now open. We asked her if she knew of anyone who had local knowledge for back country skiing in the area, and she immediately sent us up to Silver Gate, the little town up the road, to seek out Jay, owner and proprietor of the Log Cabin Inn and the SilverTip Mountain Center.

Happy for another adventure, we rolled into town and saw a terrific little shop, which was closed. Right across the street was the Log Cabin Inn, so we sat ourselves down to a terrific trout dinner, hoping for a word with Jay if he was around.

How happy were we to see this ridge hippie walk in the door? I felt just like I was back at Bridger Bowl. Jay, with full tele-man beard, and wild goggle/hat head hair walked in, smiling broadly and filled us in on the skiing to be had. Kurt pulled out our map (I'm working hard on my map and compass skills after this trip, believe me!) and we made a plan to ski the Beartooth Plateau outside Cooke City the next morning.

After dinner we were going to drive up the pass to see if it was open yet, our plan being to drive across the Beartooth Scenic Highway to get to the Red Lodge side the next day and ski Gardener and etc. over there. But rumors were flying: the pass is open, its only open to Wyoming, its closed again... we had no way of knowing what was really going on.

Due to a broken down truck, a six week old puppy and a lovely damsel in distress, we called it a night early, set the clocks for the crack of dawn and hit the hay.

I was excited to ski a new location with someone who really knows what they are doing in the back country, but this would be his first trip up this area as well. I felt like an explorer, adventurer... and I was nervous because this was going to be my first time back on skis since I was in the slide at Bridger.

Maps and Gear in the Cooke City Area:
Silvertip Mountain Center
115 Highway 212
Silver Gate, MT 59081

Great Place to eat:
Log Cabin Café Bed & Breakfast
HC 84, Box 22
Silver Gate, MT 59081

Terrific, large, clean rooms and a nice breakfast (just not open at 4am!)
Super 8 Motel of Cooke City
P.O. Box 1231
Cooke City, MT 59020

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