Swanvoyage Cooke City

Posted on Mar 29, 2013
Swanvoyage Cooke City

Swanvoyage: a week long backcountry snowboarding trip in Cooke City, Montana.  The Swan is the F-350 Diesel that dragged all our shit 900 miles, to a place where we could get lost for a full week on snowmobiles.

The Edit:  We captured a lot of video footage during the five and half days spent snowboarding in the mountains.  That means we rode a lot of different slopes and spent a good chuck of time on our boards.
This is more of a disclaimer than anything else though.  The footage you see here makes the terrain look way more mellow than it rides and the weather look shittier than it was.  Maybe next season I’ll advance our video capturing equipment but for now, you’re stuck with my crappy Kodak and a few GoPro head-shots from Reid.  Sorry for the shitty video quality.

Cooke City Backcountry view


What Made Swanvoyage Cooke City an Amazing Vacation?

  1. Daylight savings happened, riding until 6pm everyday
  2. Steep snowboarding terrain
  3. Big mountains in every direction
  4. Easy to scare yourself
  5. A stable snowpack
  6. Lingering powder for days
  7. Rocks to air off in almost every run
  8. Groomed snowmobile trails right to the snowboarding
  9. Parking snowmobiles outside our cabin door
  10. The High Country Motel
  11. Big Sky Brewing beer
  12. Cooke City’s remoteness (no cell service)
  13. Meeting good people
  14. Friends showing up to ride
  15. Phill’s bachelor party
  16. The Reid, Kelso, Tyler three pack
  17. The entire trip costing less than one average, full day of helicopter riding

Reid, Kelso and I committed to a snowmobile trip in March regardless of weather.  When we left for vacation on the second Saturday in March, the weather looked like it wasn’t going to cooperate.  Montana had a stable snowpack but fresh powder seemed like it wasn’t in the cards.  After hearing a firsthand snow report from Cooke, we filled the Swan and set out for Cooke City, hopeful that rumors were true.


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  • Cooke City terrain


The trip as a whole was extremely successful.  Kelso almost totaled his sled the first night, putting it into a tree on a tight climb.  My sled rolled on a day five for the first time ever.  I had minor sled issues day 6 but otherwise, the machines put us high on top of big lines for 6 days of backcountry snowboarding.

Steep open bench laps with rock features to air, was the most frequent type of terrain we rode.  All North facing slopes held old but very good quality fresh snow.  The snow stability most of all, made the trip.  We were able to get on steep slopes that I’ve never ridden in Cooke.  We had confidence to roll off a rock in the middle of a big line and know that the snowpack could handle the force of landing.  The snow warmed up throughout our trip making for hot pow Thursday afternoon in the Goose Creek drainage.  The high 8,000-10,000ft riding elevation in Cooke makes a big difference.  Bozeman was having 65° weather for two of the days of our vacation.

Cooke City is a special place


It took me driving the 900miles from Portland, through Yellowstone park and into the remote mining town of Cooke City, Montana, to remember why I yearn to get back there each winter.  The snowmachine vibe of this rebellious, anything goes if no one is looking, little town, is like nowhere else in the lower 48.  Midnight snowmachine rides to drink a beer on a mountain pass, vacationers staying in hotels, snow focused, mountain infused.  Cooke City has a “get after it and don’t look back” mantra held by anyone visiting.  The groomed snowmobile trails that lead to amazing snowboard terrain, lures film crews and backcountry riders from all over the rockies.  You show up to this small town and see ski gear strapped to half the machines lining main street.  There is probably be two different film crews swaggering their way to the one bar.  Instantly you know you found your way to a place you really needed to be.  Standing on top of a big line, scared to drop, all else beside the Southwest Montana landscape and board on your feet, fade.

Cooke City was a good choice, I’ll be back again Montana.  So nice to see so many friendly faces.  For any Montanans who make it this far down the blog post, it was so good to see you.  The Montana crowd gets after it.  Coming from mellow Hood terrain, it was an eye opener to be in Montana riding the steeps with really solid riders.

Cheers – where to next year?