Backcountry ski etiquette at Fairy Lake

Each year, the first snowfall in the Bridgers signifies the opening of Fairy Lake Mountain Resort. No, it’s not actually a resort; it lacks the typical amenities found at mainstream ski areas. There are no chairlifts, no trail markers or any avalanche control of any kind. This is a backcountry ski area encompassing the bowls surrounding Fairy Lake, a ski area where you have to earn your turns, one step at a time. So why should one ski Fairy Lake Mountain Resort? Well, it boasts one of the earliest opening dates of any location in the country, with the Bridger Bowl Cloud reliably firing up the snow guns each October. One can drive almost all the way to the runs, which beats hiking ten miles to make some subpar turns on a remote peak. Furthermore, there’s no pesky ski patrol to tell you what you can and can’t do. However, that doesn’t mean one shouldn’t abide by the Fairy Lake Code of Conduct.

First and foremost, don’t try and drive up Fairy Lake Road without four wheel drive. You won’t make it. You’ll inevitably spin out, get stuck and become a hazard to other cars on the road. Let’s say you try anyways. Chances are you’ll make it to the Death Hill, about four and a half miles up the road. About half way up the Death Hill it will become apparent that your car won’t be able to make it to the top, and it will then slide uncontrollably back down to the base of the hill. This brings us to the second statute of the Fairy Lake Code of Conduct: don’t park at the base of the Death Hill! A parked car at the base of the Death Hill is an easy target for other cars sliding down. There is plenty of space along the road to park before Death Hill, where your car won’t become collateral damage.

Arrival at the resort proper is where the real fun starts, and our next statute takes form. Unless there’s been a phenomenal early season dump, bring rock skis. It will be difficult to avoid every single rock, so bring skis that you’re not afraid to ruin. It’s more fun to just shred than to ski conservatively around rocks anyways. And speaking of rocks, don’t knock scree down onto other people! When there are only a few inches of snow separating the bootpack from the rocks lurking beneath, it can be easy to knock a few rollers loose. Be careful where you step, and try to avoid knocking rocks down onto skiers climbing below you.

Perhaps the most important statute, however, is to have fun. Most people aren’t afforded the opportunity to ski before Thanksgiving, let alone ski long, wind-buffed couloirs. Take advantage of the awesome early season riding conditions that materialize each fall at Fairy Lake Mountain Resort, but do so responsibly. Fairy Lake is a special early season location that deserves respect and demands good judgement. The resort is now open for the season, so get up there and earn some turns!