It’s not too often that you and eight of your good friends can experience a true backcountry skiing adventure based out of a comfortable yurt. Our group of friends spent a few days and nights in the Montana backcountry with Great Northern Powder Guides. We had been talking about doing this yurt trip for an episode of the Freeride Chronicles from our previous visit the year before.
GNPG has a huge tenure and tons of varying terrain, making it ideal for a buddies trip.
Located just north of Whitefish, Montana is where GNPG owners Ky and Jay Sandelin set up shop and started running cat skiing trips 5 years ago in the Northwestern Montana backcountry. This family run business is about heart and soul.
This winter has been a tough one for riders here in the Pacific Northwest, as this region is typically known for getting heaps of snow mixed with plenty of cold temps creating the perfect powder skiing environment. Well not this season as Old El Nino has been making his warm presence well known. This unwelcome visitor has been rearing his ugly head throughout the month of January, and wouldn’t you know it, he decided to show up one day before our trip. Damn him!
I’ll have to admit with temps in the high 30′s the weather wasn’t ideal for your typical powder skiing trip but the location and the crew should make up for it. The 20′ x 20′ yurt has a basement with bunk beds and it sleeps 10 comfortably. Our group consisted of long time friends Dan Herby, Devin Dufenhorst, Tommy Frey, Jeff Bengtson, professional snowboarder Dash Kamp, and Former US Freestyle Ski Team members Landon Gardner, Tim Sorenson and Desi Leipham.
On our first morning under blue skies and 38 degree temps, we started searching their tenure looking for that perfect aspect. We started hitting varying aspects and pitches looking for that perfect mix. It was either too firm or too soft and we just hadn’t found the money yet. Our guide, Evan Kreps, thought he’d bring us over to one more small basin and it wasn’t long after that we found ourselves in a fun, old burn area with corn like snow.
There were plenty of fun features and wide open cruising shots here. We played mini golf and lapped this zone numerous times working it to it’s fullest.
Between Dash, Landon, Herby and Desi anything with a boost or a drop was getting pinned. These four were sending it off everything in sight and we were all having a ball. Great Northern definitely has a good variation of steeps, rocks and gladed runs which gave us plenty of choice for the first day.
Day 2 we woke to a crisp, clear morning which meant there should be some decent Corn skiing. We ventured around to some new zones and found a nice, long rocky ridge with some fun drops and steeps.
This day was definitely warmer as temps climbed upward into the 40′s, but we were still finding fun conditions and having a great time. Before you knew it, 3:30 rolled a round and it was time to head back down to the bottom.
I learned a valuable lesson on this trip. No matter what conditions are out there, it’s not just about the skiing, it’s about the friends you are with.