Skiing the Bacon Rind Skillet, Yellowstone National Park
Location: 23.3 miles south of Big Sky, Highway 191, Yellowstone National Park, Madison Range, Montana
Trailhead: No trailhead, Use plowed pullout on east side of road, right after crossing the Gallatin River
Distance: 2 miles round trip
Time: 1.5 – 3 hours
Top Elevation: 9002 ft / 2743 m
Vertical: 2125 ft
USGS Maps: Divide Lake
January is a quiet time in Big Sky and it’s a great time to go exploring. After getting off from work in the AM, Jeremy Wood and I decided to go check out the snow conditions in Yellowstone National Park. We hopped in the car and headed south to ski the Bacon Rind Skillet.
Bacon Rind Skillet is a nice treat for the SW Montana backcountry skier because it offers easy access, quick vertical, a deep snowpack, a remote location, and few crowds. Just don’t bring your dog because you’re in Yellowstone National Park.
From Big Sky, we headed 23.3 miles south on Highway 191. After we entered the northwest corner of Yellowstone National Park, we crossed the Gallatin River. There is a plowed turnout that’s big enough for about 4 or 5 cars on the east side of the road directly after the bridge on the south side. There is an additional pullout another half mile or so down the road. If you reach Telemark Meadows, you’ve gone a few miles too far.
After slapping on the skins and slipping on the trusty Scarpa Maestrale RS boots, Jeremy and I looked both ways and crossed Highway 191 – heading toward the Bacon Rind Skillet. The plan is to skin up the east facing trees and ski the upper meadow that leads into an open gully that runs back to the valley floor.
On the west side of the road an established skin track lead us across the valley to the heavily treed slopes of Bacon Rind. We made good time as the skin track had a steep, unrelenting pitch. According to the The Bozeman and Big Sky Backcountry Ski Guide the Bacon Rind Skillet has a reputation for hosting steep skin tracks. Get ready for quick uphill travel and lots of kick turns. Good luck if you have lots of rocker on your skis or still tour on your skinny skis.
The greater Big Sky area has plenty of incredible skiing. The one thing that makes the Bacon Rind Skillet stand out is that there is no major drainage approach. It climbs steadily almost as soon as you get out of the car – almost Teton Pass like. It’s a welcome treat.
After 2100 feet, we reached the top. It took just over an hour – even with all of the kick turns. The view to the west was blocked by thick, tall, rime covered trees. Luckily, the view to the south-southeast was spectacular. Yellowstone National Park and the Gallatin Range spread out for as far as the eye can see. Incredible.
Looking several thousand feet below, the car looked like a speck on the snow covered valley. I ate a quick Builder Bar, ripped skins, and geared up to ski the Bacon Rind Skillet. The plan was to ski the east-facing gully as the trees on both sides of the gully are to thick to offer enjoyable skiing.
The upper skillet-like meadow is wide open and enjoyably steep – maybe 30-35 degrees. We dug a quick pit and got no results of any concern. The turns through this top meadow were deep and life changing. The upper meadow quickly funnels into some thicker trees and mellows out into a gully.
Jeremy and I leapfrogged down the gully. There were plenty of tracks as the Bacon Rind Skillet is a popular backcountry ski destination. As long as we chose our turns, we had soft powder turns the whole way down. Weaving through trees, ducking under fallen logs, and making powder turns made for a great descent.
When we hit the skin track at the bottom we carried our speed across the valley floor toward Highway 191. A few pole pushes later we were back at the road. Ten minutes later we were heading back to Big Sky with big smiles on our faces.
Skiing Bacon Rind Skillet is a fun way to spend a few hours. From car to car it took us 2 hours. We covered 2125 vertical feet and 2 miles. Highly recommend this ski.
View our route on Hillmap: