You Belong Outside Spotlight: Skiing the Blaze

Jeff Lee skiing the Blaze June 9th (c)K. Dean 2012
Blaze Mountain, Spanish Peaks. Long after most people put their skis away for the season a few people won't quite give it up. That is where "the Blaze" comes in; a nice northwest facing snowfield that holds snow into August and most years it holds snow year round. This is a great objective for someone who wants to get another ski run in and is willing to work for it.  It is about a 7 mile approach and its a great way to introduce yourself to the Spanish Peaks.

The Approach following Spanish Creek (c) K. Dean 201
 It is recommended to have a good ski carry system on your backpack. Also wear comfortable shoes or hiking boots for the long approach.  You shouldn't need skins or AT gear but having self arrest gear and avalanche gear are always recommended any time you go backcountry skiing.    The long approach can be done as a single day or an overnight. Mirror Lake and the Spanish Lakes are two excellent camping options but most people will elect to go lighter and make it a long day (6-12 hours for most parties). 

August 2010 conditions (c)Jeff Lee

 Getting there: Getting there is pretty simple, head south on 191 from 4 corners and once you enter the canyon take the Spanish Creek Road on the right about half a mile from the entrance to the canyon. Follow the road through private land several miles until you reach the Spanish Creek trail head.  Watch out for Buffalo on your drive especially if you are headed out early in the morning.

The Approach:Take the Spanish Creek trail (not to be confused with the Hellroaring trail head) along Spanish Creek, there are several forks in this trail but you should follow the signs for Spanish Lakes.  Blaze Mountain is about 6 miles up the trail with about a mile of bushwhacking to get to the top of the snowfield.  Typically you can see the Blaze from the trail and finding a route up to it is relatively straightforward.  The Blaze is the obvious snow line on the Northwest face and will run anywhere from 800 to 1800 vertical feet.  Hike up the scree on either side of the snow to the top.

The Blaze in the middle of June (c) K.Dean 2012

The Descent:  From the top you have great views of the rest of the Spanish Peaks, the summit of Blaze mountain is a short scramble away.  The descent is straightforward, stay on the snow and get in some turns.  The difficulty varies depending on the snow pack, when it is full the Blaze will ski like a moderate but later in the summer it can become more difficult. Typically the top stays in good condition but the lower you get the skinnier the line gets. 1500 vertical feet is nice but it is pretty easy to lap the Blaze and get several runs in if the weather is clear.

Crossing the stream on the way out.

The Beartooth Publishing map Big Sky Area shows the trails and mountains and is the recommended map if you are headed into the Spanish Peaks area.  Depending on the time of year you need to be wary of the weather and snow conditions.  It is a good idea to always travel with a partner and to let someone know where you are going.  For more info on local outdoor areas check out the Our Backyard section of our website.  Your comments and critiques are welcome as we spotlight areas of Southwest Montana we know and love.  Email Kevin with any thoughts, corrections, or suggestions.

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  1. Hello awesome information do you think this hike can be done by a 70year old man in decent shape?

    1. A 70 year old man like, say...Forrest Fenn??? :)