Sunshine and solitude

Noah Poritz

Photos + Video

For high elevation kiting in the northern Rockies, there are few areas that rival the Beartooth Mountains of Wyoming and Montana. The Beartooths are unique. It is the largest alpine mountain range in the United States. They are comprised of some of the oldest rocks known: 4 billion years. In addition, the remoteness of the Beartooths insures that a sizeable population of elk, bears, wolverines and wolves can thrive.  It is a magnificent mountain range and very wild.

Every May I travel to the Beartooths to snowkite and to immerse myself in the wildness of these alpine mountains.  I sometimes come alone, as I did this year.  Every year I explore a little deeper and a little further into the Beartooths via kites and skis. It is serious exploration as white-out conditions can occur quickly.  Massive avalanche prone mountains abound. Navigation is tricky as the terrain is highly glaciated with abundant canyons and moraines. Given how far and fast one can travel by kite, I never let my guard down in the Beartooths.

Another element that makes the Beartooths unique is the highway.  Twisting high into these immense mountains is the famously scenic Beartooth Highway.  Each spring this highway is plowed over the 10,947 foot Beartooth Pass.  The walls of snow along the route frequently tower thirty feet above the road.

This year the snowpack was close to record setting, as in a record low snow depth.  Still, there was plenty of snow for exploring by kite.  Every day I would wake up in the cabin I was staying and prepare for another day of adventure.  I had four days of solo kiting before the highway officially opened and each day I relished the immensity and solitude that comes from kiting in the high mountains.  I sessioned some old favorite spots and a couple new spots as well.  Winds were perfect for flying the big kites: my 12 and 15m Ozone Summits and my special favorite wing, the 15m Chrono V2.  With these tools I covered many miles of Beartooth snowpack.  These sessions will be my last days on the snow until next autumn and the spectacular beauty of kiting here will be remembered as my pièce de résistance of a long winter of fantastic snowkiting.

On day 5 everything changes and the party really gets going:  Just as the Memorial Day holiday weekend begins, the highest highway gates are unlocked, the highway is officially opened and the tourists of summer begin their travels over Beartooth Pass.  Skiers and boarders show up to hit their favorite couloirs.  Tourists gawk at the marmots in the rocks.  And many hundreds of people stop and take photos of the handful of kiters who throw down huge flights above the snow.  Being able to session this high elevation, park-n-ride highway is unique in the northern Rockies.  It’s a trip I make every year and I hope you find your way there next May for an unforgettable snowkite experience.

Thanks for reading and see ya out there,

Noah Poritz

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