Motorized use atop Beartooth Pass raises environmental concerns as forest travel plan stalls

The slow-motion video shows a snowmobiler jumping his machine across the plowed two lanes of the Beartooth Highway, taking off and landing on the snow piled several feet high on either side. A spectator raises his arms in celebration. Another rider is filmed wearing shorts as he powers his machine across the shallow spring snow.

Snowmobile and snowbike use like this has grown steadily over the past decade atop the 11,000-foot high pass along the Montana-Wyoming border, prompting some hikers and skiers to protest.

“It’s a culture around skiing and snowmobiling that I’m a part of in Cooke City in the winter,” said Austin Hart, who grew up in the nearby community of Red Lodge, spending his early summers skiing on the mountain pass.

Snowmobiles allow backcountry skiers and snowboarders to penetrate deeper into the mountains to ski and ride. Yet even Hart doesn’t see the use of snowmobiles atop the Beartooth Plateau in spring as appropriate, and said riders can easily damage the fragile tundra by riding across dry land between snowy areas.

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