Proof Frontier Project: Alina Garner
Posted on by Kirsten Atkinson
My husband and I love adventuring together in the great outdoors. Fly-fishing, backpacking, hiking and birding are among our favorite activities, but we’re game for anything that gets us into that great green playground full of endless surprises. So with our recent move to Billings, MT, where winter seems to last for half the year, cross country skiing is the thing. We can ski out our backdoor, we can ski with our puppy, Kip, and we can ski at the base of the great Beartooth Mountains in Red Lodge.
With sunny skies on the forecast, we planned a few trips to soak up as much vitamin D as was humanly possible. Our first outing was to the West Fork Road just west of Red Lodge. We’ve hiked here multiple times, mostly in search of high mountain cutthroat and grayling, but never skied the road that’s currently groomed. Temperatures hit the upper 40’s as we casually made our way up the road, trailed by Kip and the constant call of a Clark’s Nutcracker. The warm conditions and minimal snowpack made for slow skiing conditions, but our moods soared with the climbing altitude and evergreens.
The day after, temperatures plunged to any icy 0º in Billings, something they do far too often. The two feet of snow we already had developed a crunchy layer of ice from such a drastic change in weather overnight. Kip decided to stay at home and we headed just north of Billings to an area called Indian Cliffs to brave the cold and ice. Indian Cliffs is a lovely area of trails, sandstone cliffs and sagebrush that we frequent during the warmer months, and had skied at a few times this year already.
By the time we wrapped up a couple hours later, our noses and fingers had all but fallen off, and my camera quit taking photos altogether. Nevertheless, we had found a way to enjoy big sky country; something I will never take for granted.