Students learn about avalanches near Yellowstone northeast gate

A participant in a 3-day avalanche course skis the 2.5-mile route uphill from Cooke City, Mont. to a remote cabin.

© Kathy Lichtendahl

A participant in a 3-day avalanche course skis the 2.5-mile route uphill from Cooke City, Mont. to a remote cabin.

Cooke City, Mont, sits less than five miles from the northeast entrance to Yellowstone National Park. For many years this unique town, cut off from much of the world in the winter months, has been known as a mecca for snowmobilers.

With park restrictions continuing to favor guided winter snow machine outings, Cooke City has become a favorite destination for those wishing a less regulated riding experience. That means the town is often filled with the roar of snowmobile engines from the first snowfall in November or December until the snow melts and Highway 212 to the east is plowed in May.

But for the last couple of years, there has been a growing number of winter visitors to the area that engage in non-motorized travel, thanks in large part to Ben Zavora and his company, Beartooth Powder Guides.

In 2012 Ben built a cabin on private property amidst U.S. Forest Service land near Woody Creek, about 2.5 miles from Cooke City. He also obtained a permit to erect a yurt during winter months on Forest Service land near Mount Zimmer, several miles north of town.

Not only are the facilities used by back-country skiers, snow-boarders, snowshoers and hikers, but Beartooth Powder Guides also uses the two locaitons to offer a number of classes on avalanche safety and backcountry travel.

Beartooth Powder Guides held an Avalanche Level 1 course at the Woody Creek Cabin, Dec. 13 – 15. There were nine participants in the class led by instructors Ben Zavora and Clark Corey. Attendees learned avalanche basics, backcountry safety, snowpack evaluation, rescue and more.

The Woody Creek Cabin sits on a small piece of private property surrounded by U.S. Forest Service lands south of Cooke City, Mont.

© Kathy Lichtendahl

The Woody Creek Cabin sits on a small piece of private property surrounded by U.S. Forest Service lands south of Cooke City, Mont.

Participants in an avalanche forecasting course practice digging snow pits and recording snowpack conditions.

© Kathy Lichtendahl

Participants in an avalanche forecasting course practice digging snow pits and recording snowpack conditions.

Participants ski through a snow-covered forest during an avalanche forecasting, survival and rescue class.

© Kathy Lichtendahl

Participants ski through a snow-covered forest during an avalanche forecasting, survival and rescue class.

Instructor Clark Corey demonstrates the proper way to dig a snow pit to inspect conditions as part of avalanche forecasting.

© Kathy Lichtendahl

Instructor Clark Corey demonstrates the proper way to dig a snow pit to inspect conditions as part of avalanche forecasting.

The interior of the Woody Creek Cabin near Cooke City, Mont. is heated by wood stove. Snow is melted for and meals are cooked on a propane stove. 

© Kathy Lichtendahl

The interior of the Woody Creek Cabin near Cooke City, Mont. is heated by wood stove. Snow is melted for and meals are cooked on a propane stove.

Students in an avalanche prediction, survival and rescue course near Cooke City, Mont. get their gear ready.

© Kathy Lichtendahl

Students in an avalanche prediction, survival and rescue course near Cooke City, Mont. get their gear ready.

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