Yurt Skiing With Epic Montana
evo crew member Rachel Delacour set out for Montana in the search for pow, yurts, and a whole lot of adventure. She linked up with the team from Epic Montana to document their fun times. Warning, this may cause Yurt envy…check out the video, photos and Rachel’s recap. Enjoy!
By Rachel Delacour, Montana: Around 10pm one night in December, I got an unexpected phone call from my friend David Steele. David is a talented skier and writer with the rare skill of managing local-status in both Washington and Montana. He currently lives in Kalispell, where he grew up skiing moguls competitively at Big Mountain in Whitefish. He later moved to Washington to get his degree in creative writing and fell in love with Stevens Pass. David is one of my most adventurous, fun-loving friends, and when he called that night, I knew it was in my best interest to answer.
“You’re in,” he said excitedly. David had been in communication with Epic Montana, a YouTube channel funded by the Montana State Film Board. Epic Montana wanted to make a webisode series showcasing the amazing backcountry skiing and beautiful mountain ranges the state had to offer. Once they had received funding, David and his friend Bobby organized a three-night stay at Yurtski, a system of backcountry yurts located in the Swan Range of Western Montana. Bobby is a Missoula local and film school graduate who makes a living in freelance videography. In addition to organizing all the food for the trip, Bobby was also responsible for finding an additional filmer to help him document the experience. Bobby chose Tyler Swank, another Missoula local who kills it behind the camera and on tele skis. David was responsible for finding a diverse group of athletes choosing KT Miller, Brody Leven and myself.
A week and a half later, I was driving east from Seattle, jittery with excitement. I had never met Brody or KT – but I knew who they were. Each well-respected members of the backcountry ski and ski mountaineering communities, with loads of accomplishments. Even more terrifying, I had met David, and I knew what an absolute machine the guy is on skis – going uphill and down. Needless to say I was a little intimidated, but mostly excited about the trip.
Before I knew it, I was rallying behind Bobby’s truck up a snow-covered highway to the trailhead, dodging an elk lingering on the side of the road before arriving at a small parking lot. I was greeted with hugs from the people I knew and those I didn’t, and I immediately felt at home. We lugged our piles of equipment into a gear haul on the back of several snowmobiles, and began the eleven-mile uphill tow to the yurt.
The yurt was quaint, and heaping piles of snow surrounded the small rickety door. We instantly began unpacking hordes of gear and melting snow over the tiny wood stove. It was early in the day so we decided to skin up and see if we could get some decent views. The Swan Lake snow belt promised several feet of snow over the next few days, and we were eager to explore all of the accessible terrain. Following a series of maps we had studied with Karl, the yurt-keeper, we excitedly trotted up the skin track.
Over the next few days, we spent a lot of time finding lines in what the locals call Breakfast Bowl, which offers everything from low angle, widely spaced trees, to steep, exposed airs. From the saddle in the center of the basin, a quick skin up the ridge brought you to the Swan Mountain Lookout, offering stunning views of the surroundings peaks. On our final day of skiing, David skied down the ridge adjacent to the lookout with a giant American flag flying from his pack. Afterwards we found a mellow, open face and the four of us party skied it back down to the yurt, ending the trip with big smiles on our faces.
Photos courtesy of Brody Leven, KT Miller and David Steele.
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