Read what went down at Montana’s Beartooth Summer Session 2014

Comments by Freeskier Magazine/

Words by David Steele

The poma drop whips past my head. Before it can fly up the hill and send me to the back of the line in shame, I grab on, the reel spools out, and with a lurch, I start up. As the slope steepens, the announcer covers the action unfolding off the cornice to my right. The competitor makes a precise dodge through a cliff band, then hauls over the bumps to lay out a spectacular backflip over the fifty-foot table. The June crowd gathered below the demo tents whistles their approval, and as I crest over the top, I wonder why I hadn’t been to the Beartooth Summer Session before.

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Photo by Thomas O’Connell

Now in its fourth year, it’s a simple formula: combine the 11,000 ft winter snowpack of Beartooth Basin Ski Area with several days of demos by ON3P, set it all in sunshine on the first weekend in June, and host a free slopestyle contest that includes a monster cornice, rock drops, a rail line, and the one of the larger jumps built in Montana. Then, give out an absurd amount of prizing to the skiers and boarders navigating the slush, cook up hot dogs in the parking lot and return to the car camping, scattered around Rock Creek to catch up with friends around the fire.

Packing four people and their gear into a Subaru, we drove overnight from Seattle to catch the second half of Thursday. The booter was in final preparations, the demo was up, and friends flowed through the rail line and back up the poma. Once things closed at the hill, a small group walked out to the Rock Creek Headwall and ripped corn through the chutes that lead down to the road.

Friday dawned foggy in camp, only to burn off into an inversion on the way up the pass. Even more people had arrived to sample the demo, and more importantly, show off their loops in the Rubber Ducky Backflip-Off. Benefiting the B.A.S.I.C.S. program of the High Fives Foundation, the spirit of Timy Dutton followed well over a hundred renditions of his signature trick. Towards the end, fog moved in and the legions headed for a beer at the pig races in Belfry.

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Photo by Thomas O’Connell

Saturday came with sun and overflowing parking lots. I found myself raking and salting the course, and around 11:30, the first competitors in the Booster Strap Big-Mountain Slopestyle threaded their way off the cornice and down through the rails. A heavy winter made for fewer rocks, so creativity reigned with hairy double stagers and a memorable leg spreader to straight-line and crash into the flats. Instead of a start gate, the cornice allowed a breadth of line choice, with some skiers dropping forty plus feet into their run. The jumps and rails below made it anyone’s game, pitting flippy-spinny specialists against people who liked to ski fast and jump off things. Overall winner, Ian Hamilton, finished off a solid slopestyle season by spinning off cliffs and melting a buttery smooth switch rodeo nine over the booter.

As the course reopened to the public, a skier who had traversed into the backcountry north of the ski area fell through the rocks below the cornice. A contingent of ski patrol and other skiers stabilized and helped to evacuate him by helicopter before returning to the parking lot for hot dogs and awards. Swag flew. The grill sizzled, and as we repacked the “Subie” for the trip into Red Lodge, the weather even got into the spirit by snowing on us.

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Photo by Thomas O’Connell

Thanks to Austin Hart and the rest of the crew at Beartooth Basin for their outstanding work, and also to Kip, Sam, and Steven from ON3P for their organizational wizardry. As always, the event could have not gone off without help from the stacked sponsor list: Beartooth Basin Summer Ski Area, ON3P Skis, Booster Strap, evo, Lagunitas Brewing, Panda Poles, Marker, Outdoor Tech, Treefort Lifestyles, Phar North, Proof Eyewear, Flylow, NWT3K, Teton Gravity Research, Voke Tab, The Sports Creel, ReRack, Full Tilt, Trew, Iron Street Printing.