By Emily Stifler Explorebigsky.com Managing Editor
COOKE CITY – When the ski areas close in April, there’s still plenty of snow in the mountains. That’s particularly true in tiny Cooke City, a remote town at the end of the road a few miles northeast of Yellowstone National Park.
Celebrating its 20th year, the Sweet Corn Fest will bring hundreds of skiers and snowboarders to Cooke for three days April 19-21 for a weekend that celebrates winter and the skiing lifestyle.
This year, “we’re trying to blow it up,” said Raz Schneider, owner of the Miners Saloon, which co-hosts the event with the High Country Motel.
Founded by former Cooke City resident Bill Blackford as a small backcountry telemark festival, Sweet Corn now draws hundreds of skiers and snowboarders and with them, a party atmosphere. Since there are no chairlifts, participants must be backcountry savvy, and willing to hike or have access to a snowmobile.
This year the Bozeman production company Avalaunch is getting involved, hosting avalanche equipment skills workshops and two nights of live music at the Miners.
The majority of attendees came from Bozeman and Red Lodge the last few years, said High Country manager Benji Stone. “This year we want to market to Big Sky. It’s a giant party, and Big Sky knows how to party.”
“It’s basically a ski and snowboard community for three days, 24-hour around-the-clock nonstop action in Cooke,” Stone said, referring to the town’s main winter economy as a destination for off-trail snowmobilers.
The classic rock and jam band Eldritk will play Friday night at the Miners, a group that includes Stone, Big Sky resident Shane Stalling, Bozemanite Brian Stumpf and Travis Verditk, of Red Lodge.
Other highlights Stone noted are the avalanche transceiver park that’s new this year, swag, bonfires, grilling and a Dub Step artist playing the Miners on Saturday night.
Schneider, who’s attended all but the first year, has been planning the fest for a decade. In that time he’s seen skiers and snowboarders come for it from as far away as Colorado, Australia and New Zealand.
Because Cooke is surrounded by the Beartooth Mountains, groups are able to spread out and ski in different zones, Schneider added. “There are so many areas out there to ski.”
He hopes the partnership with Avalaunch will help expand Corn Fest. “Hopefully we can really grow the event, [bring in] serious skiers and big headline music acts to throw a party.”
Stone, for one, is just looking forward to this year. “It’s the craziest weekend of the year in Cooke City.”