Jesse Fritz- Region 2
When we’re not buzzing across the windblown stubble fields, ditches and perfectly groomed trails of the local trail system, many of us SND riders like to head for the Rockies in search of hero snow (snow so deep even a rookie looks like a hero). Hands down one of my favorite places to ride is an area outside Park County Montana known as Cooke City. Sitting at an elevation of roughly 7600 feet, Cooke City is unique in many ways. Unlike the sounds of its immense name, the town is very small and at a population of a couple hundred residents it’s easy to feel right at home while vacationing there. One of several reasons why Cooke is such a great place to ride is the ability of its surrounding Mountains to suck every last drop of moisture out of passing winter storms through SW Montana. It’s not uncommon for Cooke to get 36” of new snow while other ranges in the area only get a few inches. Although every business inside “city limits” is within walking distance, the preferred mode of transportation on the snow covered streets is aboard a snowmobile. On one occasion our group stuffed 6 guys on a King Cat on the way back to the hotel after supper and an epic day of riding. Cell phone service doesn’t exist in this remote Alpine town, but you can make long distance phone calls in a pay phone at Soda Butte Lodge. You just need a pocket full of quarters and yes, pay phones still exist. Vehicle access is limited to a narrow highway that only comes into town from one direction during the winter months. It’s not uncommon to see herds of wild Bison and photographers while navigating this highway which twists through Yellowstone National Park. Connection to the backcountry is simply incredible in this almost mystical piece of paradise. You can be sipping coffee at your continental breakfast one moment and ten minutes later be at 10,000 feet in the most deadly avalanche prone chutes that North America has to offer. The mountains surrounding Cooke City demand much respect. Like every other western destination, understanding the snowpack and reading the daily avalanche warnings are a must. You need to come prepared to say the least. There is a small trail system that runs through this backcountry which serves as a much needed reference. Unlike many areas in the US, there aren’t any performance restrictions around Cooke and some of the most radical machines imaginable show up in town. I recall my first trip to the mountains coincidentally ending in Cooke City almost 15 years ago. I was completely blown away! The views, the snow, the ultimate riding experience, I knew this would be the first of many expeditions to this area even though my Yamaha rental sled was returned with extensive damage costing thousands. I’m not sure they make snowmobiles strong enough now days. Do they? Cooke City definitely isn’t for everybody. The terrain can be very technical with the snowpack normally deep and avalanches likely. Most would question the fun buried within the dangers of riding a place like such. For many, including myself, that’s easy to answer. There is a certain amount of risk involved with adventure. I think life should be adventurous! By the time this edition is published, I will have once again made the voyage to Cooke City, Montana with close friends in “tow”.
The Northern Lights Trailblazers and other clubs in the region once again came up short for annual fun runs due to lack of snow. A January storm blew in the night before our run dropping 3-4” with gale force winds. At present there is enough snow in some section lines and ditches to ride, but most trails in the state are still closed. Let’s hope this changes as we all need a bit of adventure to snap us from the constant grind of everyday living.
I encourage members to submit stories or pictures of your own on this wonderful pasttime we all enjoy!