Ski Cabin Reconnaissance: Windy Pass

November 21st, 2008

The Absaroka's from Windy Pass

We saw this classic Montana sight on the way, and had to get a picture.In my quest to find the best local Forest Service Cabins for skiing I checked out the Windy Pass Cabin yesterday. I’d been eyeing this one in particular, since it’s pretty deep in the Gallatin Range and at a pretty good elevation. Most of the other cabins are down in the valley but this one… this one looked good. In the winter it looks to be about an 8 mile approach to the cabin, from Highway 191, but winter has not arrived just yet so we were able to drive all the way up Portal Creek to the trailhead. View into Paradise ValleyThis meant it was only a 2.5 mile hike. It was snowy up there, but someone had broken the trail already it was easy walking on packed snow, and we only had to post-hole the very last part of the way to the cabin. However, I remembered that the map showed some promising looking contours on the other side of the pass. We proceeded to make the day much harder on ourselves by taking a look. Windy Pass is very flat and it was a much farther than I thought it would be over to the edge. It took us about an hour to struggle through the crusty and wind packed snow to the edge and back to the cabin again. It was a sweet view into Yellowstone and the Paradise Valley, but a pain in the ass wearing trail running shoes in the snow. Anyway, here are my findings:

The Cabin

The Cabin itself is nice. It’s a small, one-room cabin with a loft. There is one bunk bed on the main floor, and two cots in the loft. There’s a small wood stove, some drying rack/wires, a table, chairs, a small counter and some shelves. Outside is a chopping block with a little wood, and a horse corral. This is no outhouse, as far as I could see, but there might be one hidden in the trees?

Windy Pass CabinWindy Pass Cabin interiorThe loft in the Windy Pass Cabin

The Ski Terrain

As I mentioned, the Pass itself is so flat it’s almost a plateau. No skiing there. There are some promising slopes on the surrounding mountains, however. To the South, Eaglehead Mountain has some potential lines. Sentinel Peak is quite a ways to the North, but the bowl on the South side is within reach of the cabin and has some nice turn potential as well. For all my struggles getting a view into Big Creek on the East side I couldn’t actually see the slopes below me, but the topography looks like there is fun to be had dropping into Big Creek. Lastly, between the trailhead and the cabin there are a few steeper sections, with some cliffs even.

North, towards The SentinelLooking South, towards EagleheadSome cliffs on the hike to Windy Pass

View South of Madions and Gallatins, Sphinx bottom rightThe final verdict? It’s not a prime ski cabin, but I think I can make it work, and it’s better than most around here. If nothing els, it’s a sweet little cabin high in the Gallatin Mountains with some nice views. There is some skiing to be had, but nothing extraordinary. Just futzing around in the bowls near the cabin, with runs topping out at 1000′-1500′ vertical. Since it’s an 8 mile+ skin in I’d want to stay for more than one night. I’ll report back when I try it out!

Sunset on Windy Pass

More info:

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