June 1st Pow Turns in Montana at 10,000 Feet

June 1st Pow Turns in Montana at 10,000 Feet

Featured Image: Noah Bourns

About 35 miles south of Bozeman, Montana, the Spanish Peaks and Madison Range ascend to the roof of the Treasure State. Covered in snow for the majority of the year, these staggering spires are home to many iconic mountains, one of which being Lone Mountain, the home of Big Sky Resort. Across from Big Sky, visible on any clear day, lies Beehive Basin, a big mountain skiers paradise. As clouds roll in west to east from the Madison Valley and surrounding vistas, they bring tumultuous storms that can make traveling in these high, barren hills difficult. Difficult, but not impossible.

Eventually, conditions line up for that perfect summit assault. It takes patience and detailed planning, but nobody said minimizing risk and maximizing reward would be easy. After all, if it was, everyone would do it. Part of this delicate dance is not knowing exactly when the snowpack will be stable enough for travel and descent. Sometimes that happens in February, sometimes April, and on the rare occasion, it will all line up in… June. Yes, there are times when soft pow, blue skies and stable snow all coincide as the summer begins. This year, that was the case. We have the evidence to prove it thanks to a couple of skiers who, as one might say, didn’t hear no bell.

Noah Bourns moved to Montana in 2019. A skier built in the gauntlet of the East Coast, he grew up in Rye, New Hampshire, skiing in his home state as well as in Maine. When college came around, he packed his bags and headed west with sights set on Montana State University, otherwise known as BBU, (Bridger Bowl University.) The affectionate nickname spawned due to the waves of skiers who have been coming to Bozeman for decades to ski the fabled terrain and cold smoke at the nearby Bridger Bowl, among other fantastic skiing opportunities in the area. Bourns’s love for sliding on snow has only grown, and it’s what led him to the summit of a peak in Beehive Basin, 35 miles south of Bozeman, on June 1st, 2024.

A cold spring has held snow quite well in the peaks of Southwest Montana. Bourns had checked off other lines throughout the spring, but after conditions had forced him to bail twice on summiting Peak 10,602 in the past, he was determined to wait for the right opportunity. A recent storm and low avalanche danger amounted to an early morning ascent with skier & photographer Dave Pecunies at the beginning of June. Judging by the GoPro footage, the expedition was, in a word, surreal. Soft snow, blue skies and green valley floors in the distance. FREESKIER caught up with Bourns to chat about the rare opportunity. Be sure to scope the full video of those dreamy summer turns below.

Thanks for talking, Noah. What was the peak you skied?

The peak is called ‘Peak 10,602’ in Beehive Basin, Montana. It’s adjacent to Beehive Peak. We skied the main (south) face.

What made it such a desirable mission?

You can see it on a clear day right from Big Sky Resort. It’s such a wide-open line that’s very inviting to look at. It has a straightforward approach in terms of steepness and route-finding. Lots of late-season snow was a big incentive too, since we had such a bad snow year. Also, I’ve been rejected twice due to bad avalanche conditions in the past, so I wanted to be patient and make it happen.

Who were you skiing with?

My buddy Dave (@davepecunies on Instagram).

Winter on June 1st in Beehive Basin, Montana | PHOTO: Noah Bourns

Walk me through the conditions heading into the day, and how the trip lined up.

I saw some footy out of Beehive [Basin] from the day before thanks to Dave, and it looked real good. I was flying back from Denver that same day and flew right over Beehive. I hit up Dave to go when I landed, he agreed, and after double checking the conditions we did it the next morning.

We started early, around 6:45 AM or so. We wanted to get ahead of the June sun and had talked about dawn patrol but decided a 6:45 start was early enough. Dave and I had the place to ourselves besides the ravens. It was surreal. We only had to walk about a quarter mile over dirt before we put on the skis and started skinning. Luckily there was a skin track from the previous day which made the final 1,000 ft. of vertical much easier. I think we summited at 10 AM. We took ten minutes on top to transition and take in the view, (and scout some future lines, likely for next winter). The two of us were back at the car by 11 AM.

The weather was friggin’ mint. We saw the sun rising on the peak, an absolute bluebird day. It was roughly 35 degrees at the bottom when we started and between 20 – 30 degrees at the top. It got warm by the time we wrapped up for sure, around 55 degrees at the bottom when we finished. The snow was super crusty down low, but above 9,500 feet or so it was fluffy pow, especially on the face itself. I don’t know if I’ll ever ski snow like that in Montana again in June, but it was incredible to get that experience. Above 10,000 feet it’s winter around here.

Noah Bourns parks an arc through summer pow on Peak 10,602 with Big Sky Resort in the background | PHOTO: Dave Pecunies

Is this a zone you’re familiar with or a first ascent for you?

I’m very familiar with Beehive Basin, been up there loads. It was my first time getting to actually ski this specific face, although not my first attempt. I’ve tried two times in the past with avy conditions forcing us to turn back both times. I’ve wanted to ski it for a long time, so this was really rewarding.

When we talked a bit ago, you mentioned that you’re aiming to ski at least once every month for 12 months straight. Is that still in the plan?

Absolutely, as long as there’s snow to go find.

What other lines do you have in mind to continue your year-long stint of skiing?

To keep the streak going, I’m only planning on hitting ‘The Great One’ off of Sacajawea Peak in the Northern part of the Bridger Range near Bozeman when the road opens. It’s a pretty popular line, and I’m looking forward to ripping it with some friends. Other than that, I have no specific lines in mind, but I’m definitely planning on hitting up the Beartooth [Mountains] a few times in the latter half of summer to get those July, August, and hopefully September turns in.

Noah Bourns is a skier, photographer, and ski instructor at Bridger Bowl Resort residing in Bozeman, Montana. Click here to view his extensive photography website.

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