By Ciara Wolfe BSCO Executive Director
It has taken me two years to learn how to Nordic ski and many kilometers of practice to work up the courage to ski the Beaver Slide Trail. I had skied several sections of this loop, but had never skied the steep incline the trail is named after.
Having been a downhill skier since the age of 2, you would think that steep downhills would not intimidate me. But something about those skinny skis without edges, and my free heels makes the sport feel entirely different. But while its name and the difficulty signs are intimidating, skiing Beaver Slide trail is delightful.
With a short practice of my uphill duck walk and power wedge downhill techniques, and a small dose of courage, I mastered this trail with a smile on my face—and can’t wait to ski it again.
You can access the Beaver Slide loop from the Lone Mountain Ranch outdoor shop. From there I took the intermediate Creekside Trail for a gradual 1.1-km descent.
Following the creek back towards the highway, the trail leads to a metal skier tunnel that safely passes under U.S. Highway 64, providing access to several more trails. It’s dark in the tunnel, but the amplified sound of your skis swishing along the trail makes it one of my favorite parts of the ski.
Exiting the tunnel, stay straight following signs for Beaver Slide and Middle Fork trails. The trail heads up a steep incline before meandering approximately 0.5 km along the Middle Fork of the West Fork of the Gallatin River.
Once you begin to leave the creek, the trail gradually climbs with a sharp switchback to the left that continues upward to the Middle Fork intersection. Here you can take a right for an additional 3.5-km out-and-back, or take a left to ski the infamous Beaver Slide section of this trail.
After another 0.3 km, you will come to the intersection for the Andesite Trail. The Andesite Trail is an additional 3.0 km loop that will bring you back to the tunnel and bypass steep Beaver Slide.
If you stay straight, following the signs for Beaver Slide, you will gradually descend into the most difficult section of this trail. Around a corner is a steep curving trail that loops back to connect with the trail along the Middle Fork River. When you reach this intersection, you have survived the hardest part of the trail.
To head back toward the tunnel, take a right. After approximately 0.2 km, you will reach another intersection where a left will take you back to the ranch. This is the steep section you climbed at the beginning of the trail, but after mastering Beaver Slide this downhill is a piece of cake.
Take the trail downhill and through the tunnel while following Creekside Trail another 1.1 km back to the outdoor shop. Enjoy a bite to eat and warm drink by the fire at the Horn and Cantle Saloon—you’ve earned it after tackling that difficult trail.
Annual season passes and day passes can be purchased in the Lone Mountain Ranch outdoor shop or online at lonemountainranch.com/nordic-ski-trail-passes/. All proceeds from pass sales go towards the cost of grooming Big Sky’s winter Nordic trail system. For a complete map of the 85 km of groomed Nordic trails, visit lonemountainranch.com/the-ranch/.
For more information about Big Sky’s parks, trails and recreation programs, visit bscomt.org. The Big Sky Community Organization is a local nonprofit that connects people to recreational opportunities by acquiring, promoting and preserving sustainable places and programs for all.
Distance: 5.4 km
Difficulty: intermediate to difficult
Elevation: 6,700 feet
Surface: skate and classic groomed trails
Uses: cross-country skiing
Directions: From the canyon, take Lone Mountain Trail west from U.S. Highway 191 for approximately 4.5 miles. Turn right at the Lone Mountain Ranch sign. The parking lot and outdoor shop is 0.5 miles up the road.