The Blue Light’s Blinking

by David Tucker

An introduction to becoming a Bozemanite.

My first winter in Bozeman, the blue light atop downtown’s Baxter Hotel blinked almost every day. In December, I didn’t know what the light meant; I just assumed it always blinked.

Then one day, a fellow Bridger Bowl ski instructor explained the light’s significance: every time the ski hill reports two or more inches of fresh snow, the light blinks.

It’s Bozeman’s invitation to powder.

A Bozeman winter under the Big Sky.

A Bozeman winter under the Big Sky.

Late at night, after catching a show or a bite downtown, I’d wander back to my car and see the light flashing. A smile would spread across my face. Anticipation would build inside me, excitement for soft turns and good times.

That’s our goal with this guide: we want to invite you to enjoy Bozeman’s outdoor offerings. And not just the skiing, but the hiking, biking, climbing, hunting, fishing, and floating. Whether you’re here for four years of college or plan on staying a lifetime, we want you to take advantage of all Bozeman has to offer.

With this guide in-hand, you’ll gain entry into an exclusive world of outdoor adventure that has become the Bozeman way of life. But keep in mind: with that access comes responsibility. You’re obligated to look after these forests, rivers, mountains, and trails. Be stewards, and leave them as you found them, for the next generation of students.

Main Street, Bozeman.

Main Street, Bozeman.

In between outings, venture downtown and partake in Bozeman’s unique combination of small-town hospitality and big-city possibility. To soften the blow of those big-city-like prices, we’ve also packed this guide with dozens of cash-saving coupons, good for everything from two-for-one coffees to discounted dorm furniture. Save where you can, and spend the extra on a climbing trip or fly-fishing lessons.

So now that you’re here, accept the invitation. Take the guide, make plans, and follow through. The blue light will soon be blinking, and a smile will spread across your face. The anticipation will build and you’ll have the information you need to make the most of it.

Welcome to Bozeman.

Iconic Affairs

by Cordelia Pryor

Year-round, the Bozone bustles with things to do, for every outdoor inclination. Here are some of the most iconic annual events, where you can experience the Bozeman community and have fun doing it. For many, many more, check out outsidebozeman.com/events.

King & Queen of the Ridge – Bridger Bowl
Think you have what it takes to hike the Ridge more times than anyone else? Give it your best shot at this annual fundraiser for the Avalanche Center, and you could be crowned local royalty. Last season’s Queen bagged 26 laps, and the King scored 29—so get ready to suffer. bridgerbowl.com.

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Spring Fling – Spire Climbing Center
This low-key competition is about bringing the climbing community together for a great evening with friends, while watching some of the strongest climbers in Montana throw down. Whether you participate or not, this fun event is gripping—literally. spireclimbingcenter.com.

Pond Skim – Big Sky
After another long season of shredding, it’s time to kick up your boots and welcome the spring with one last hurrah. On closing weekend in late April, watch local crazies on their skis or boards skim across a manmade pond at high speed—or, more often, face-flop into the water. You don’t need a pass for this party, and if you’re loco enough to try it out, just remember: tips up. bigskyresort.com.

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Summer Trails Challenge – Bozeman & Beyond
From the beginning of June through the summer solstice, the Gallatin Valley Land Trust challenges Bozemanites to get out and use our trails. For every mile you run, hike, or bike, GVLT gets a buck for area trails. They set a lofty goal each summer, so every mile counts. gvlt.org.

Bridger Ridge Run – Bridger Bowl
With August comes the big Bozeman sufferfest: 20 miles across the exposed ridge of the Bridger Mountains, from Fairy Lake to the M. Once among the most rugged trail runs in America, it’s still one of the most technical—and it’s a rite of passage for local runners. winddrinkers.org.

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Bridger Raptor Festival – Bridger Bowl
In October, witness the breathtaking migration of hundreds of raptors along the Bridger Range. With experts from the Montana Raptor Conservation Center leading nature walks, spotting raptors, and explaining this unique migration event, the Raptor Fest should not be missed—especially if you’ve got kids. raptorfest.bridgerbowl.com.

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Christmas Stroll – Downtown Bozeman
Get your Christmas shopping out of the way before the holidays and save some dough while you’re at it. In early December, Main Street stores stay open late to offer great deals, and there’s plenty of cocoa and hot food to keep the bitter cold at bay. The Stroll brings Bozemanites out of the woodwork for a fun, festive night downtown. downtownbozeman.org.

Ice Climbing Festival – Hyalite Canyon
Cold weather doesn’t have to keep you indoors. To experience some major below-zero baddassery, check out the annualIce Fest in mid-December. Get your heart pumping at the on-ice clinics, or just enjoy second-hand adrenaline watching the pros on the big screen; either way, the Ice Fest has it all. bozemanicefest.com. 

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Watchable Wildlife

by the editors

Animals of the Montana forests.

Montana is a wildlife hotbed. Unless you’re from the Serengeti, the wildlife-viewing opportunities around here probably surpass anything you’ve seen before. Any given hike can produce half a dozen megafauna sightings, and all the major species seen by Lewis and Clark are still around. Here are some of the usual suspects.

Deer
Hike, bike, run, or ride any mountain trail between Big Timber and Dillon, and you’ll likely see mule deer. Their ubiquity doesn’t make them any less impressive. These ungulates are built for mountain travel. Tell them apart from white-tailed deer by their black-tipped tails, donkey-like ears, and hopping gait. Whitetail tend to stick to the agricultural lowlands, and when spooked, their fluffy white tails flare straight up as they bound away.

Mule deer raise their heads from grazing.

Elk
While it’s rare to see elk on the trail, it does happen, especially if you hike in the sage-flecked meadows of Yellowstone Park. More likely, you’ll see huge herds on your way to and from the trailhead, often grouped on private land in the valleys, safe from hunters’ bullets. Dawn and dusk, fall, winter, and spring are the best times to spot elk, and Paradise and Madison valleys are both full of them.

A bull elk in velvet
Birds of Prey
Eagles, falcons, and hawks enliven Montana’s big, blue sky, and fall is an excellent time to observe them in huge numbers. Many hawk species migrate along the Bridger Range in October, so hike up to the ridge and bust out the binos. Along our many rivers and streams, look for bald eagles, a formerly endangered species that has made a huge comeback. Out in the open fields, hawks and falcons perch on power poles and fencelines, looking for rodents scurrying through the grass.
A common sight along Montana Rivers

Canines
Foxes and coyotes are fairly common sights around these parts. They’re similar in size, but the former’s bright-orange coat makes it unmistakable. While folks new to town might see coyotes as majestic wildlife, many locals see them as a nuisance. Still, watching one lope across an open field as the sun sets on the mountains is a sight to behold. Wolves are far less common, especially outside Yellowstone Park. Inside the Park, if your goal is to see Canis lupus, head in early and follow the naturalist tour-guide vans. The Lamar Valley is a good bet.

Jenny Golding

Small Mammals
Small critters get much less fanfare, but they’re worth mentioning. A few standouts are marmots, pikas, and gophers (aka, Richardson’s ground squirrels). Marmots are fairly common in the alpine, and you can find them by following their high-pitched chirps. Their call is a warning cry, and they’ll start screaming as soon as you’re on their radar. Pikas are far less common, and indeed, they’re in trouble, due to warming temps. They occupy large rock clusters and if you spot large splotches of white droppings, odds are a pika is inside. Gophers are the pigeons of southwest Montana. From spring through mid-summer, they’re everywhere and no local would fault you for picking off one or two with a pellet gun.

Small animal tracks through the snow.

Ursines & Felines
The “coolest” animals are usually the toothiest. Around here, that means bears, cougars, bobcats, and lynx. Our area has good populations of grizzly and black bears, but odds of seeing a grizzly are pretty low outside of Yellowstone. Black bears are far more common. Tell them apart by the shape of their faces and the telltale hump above the griz’s shoulder. Bobcats are also fairly common, but far stealthier than bears. For one, they’re much smaller—about the size of a medium-sized dog—and they tend to stalk their prey silently, whereas bears are primarily scavengers, wandering around from smell to smell in search of their next meal. Cougars and lynx are extremely hard to see in the wild. Their stealth is unrivaled in the animal kingdom, and if you see one, count yourself among the lucky few.

Up close and personal with a cougar.

The Bozeman Code

by Drew Pogge

Hey you! Howdy. Welcome to town. Now that you’re here, it’s your responsibility to help us keep Bozeman the kind of place that attracted all of us here in the first place. There are plenty of examples of places that have been loved to death—please don’t Boulder-up our town. Here are a few things you should know about living here so it—and we—will survive.

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#1: Slow it down. Everything. There’s no need for road rage or impatience at the coffee shop. We’re all headed in the same direction and you’ll get there when you get there. A relaxed pace is a benefit of living here—don’t be an uptight ass.

#2: Lend a hand. Forget the East Coast “What’s in it for me?” attitude. Here, we look out for one another. Hold that door, let that car into traffic, and if someone looks like they need help, ask. The next time you’re stuck in a ditch, we’ll surely return the favor.

#3: Make eye contact. Nothing makes city-folk more uncomfortable than direct eye contact, but here, it’s worth something. If you can’t look us in the eye, you’ve got something to hide.

#4: Buy local. For the love of all that is good and sweet and dear, don’t let Bozeman become like Colorado’s Front Range chain-store purgatory. Just because we have an Olive Garden doesn’t mean you should eat there.

#5: Don’t take this place or its people for granted, ever. You’ll regret it when you’re (or it’s) gone.

#6: Don’t kill yourself or anybody else on Saddle Peak this winter. You’re not gonna ski or ride out of that thing if it rips; you’re going to die. Straight up.

#7: Learn about the history of this valley and its residents. More genuine badasses have graced these canyons than almost anywhere else, from Jim Bridger and John Colter to Jack Tackle and Alex Lowe. Emulate them.

#8: Try something new every season. Hunt, fish, climb, bike, ski, ride—there’s always a new challenge.

#9: Work harder than you play. But play pretty damn hard.

#10: Enjoy every day in what many of us consider to be the greatest town, in the greatest state, in the greatest country in the world.

 

 

School’s Outside

by Dawn Brintnall

Here in Bozeman, we are fortunate to have abundant outdoor recreation in every direction. With this good fortune comes a responsibility: to educate ourselves, so that we can stay safe, help others, and connect more deeply to the natural world. Here’s a rundown of a few local outdoor-education organizations.

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Montana Outdoor Science School
At MOSS, adults can study useful subjects like plant identification, animal tracks, and ecology in a Master Naturalist course. For the kids, MOSS offers in-classroom programs and field days during the school year, as well as science camps over the summer.

Montana Wilderness School
This is a great way to introduce your teenagers to multi-day trips, and help them build confidence and skills under the direction and care of outdoor experts. MWS expeditions foster kids’ outdoor ethics by connecting them to wild places for several weeks at a time. With alpine adventures like backpacking, mountaineering, and backcountry skiing, there’s an adventure suited for each child’s interests.

Yellowstone Forever Institute
The official nonprofit of Yellowstone Park has many year-round educational opportunities, from youth- and college-level programs to adult field seminars. You can hone your animal-tracking skills, learn to ski or snowshoe, or immerse yourself in Yellowstone’s rich geologic history.

Crossing Latitudes
This outfit’s niche is combining outdoor education with cultural experience. Crossing Latitudes hosts NOLS wilderness-medicine courses here in Bozeman, as well as programs that take place in Europe and Nepal. These courses—Wilderness First Aid (WFA) and Wilderness First Responder (WFR)—teach outdoor-oriented folks the skills to react to and mitigate wilderness emergencies. 

Aerie Backcountry Medicine
Aerie is a Missoula-based company offering experience and training in wilderness medicine to military and medical professionals, as well as outdoor enthusiasts. They offer classes in Bozeman and Missoula, plus semester-long programs for college students going into the medical field. Aerie is another great source for your WFA, WFR, or Wilderness EMT certifications.

MSU Outdoor Recreation
For students, faculty, and staff, MSU’s Outdoor Rec Program is a great resource for clinics and courses offering education in avalanche safety, climbing, paddling, and more. They also have a great stash of rental equipment if you’re trying to familiarize yourself with a sport before committing to buying the gear. MSU graduate? Join the Alumni Association and you too can partake of Outdoor Rec’s offerings.

Extra Credit

by Cordelia Pryor

While skiing may be the crowd favorite of Bozeman’s winter scene, it’s not all the area has to offer. There’s a variety of wintertime activities to partake in, no matter your inclination or experience. Here’s a partial list of alternative cold-weather activities.

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Sledding
Tearing down a hill on a sled isn’t just for kids—it’s quite the thrill for anyone with a pulse. Throw in affordability, and an afternoon of sledding becomes an even more attractive pastime. Bozeman has a number of popular sledding spots, including the Snowfill Recreation Area, Peets Hill, and the Langohr Campground up Hyalite. Outside of town, suitable slopes rise in all directions. If regular sledding seems too mundane, you can always step it up a notch and go Clark Griswold–style, hitting light-speed on a greased trashcan lid.

Want to show off your sledding skills? Head to Red Lodge Winter Carnival in March. Construct a sled made only ofcardboard, tape, and glue, and race down the slopes for glory.

Snowshoeing
If you can walk, chances are you can snowshoe—and have fun doing it. To get started, just pick a trailhead and go. Once you’ve got your balance, veer off-trail to find your own path, enjoying the quiet solitude of the winter woods. A beginner snowshoeing setup (shoes, poles) runs about $200 brand-new; if you’re on a budget, pick up a pair of hand-me-downs and use your ski poles.

Once you’ve got your technique down, grab your furry four-legged friend and join Heart of the Valley Animal Shelter for the Snowshoe Shuffle, a torch-lit group snowshoe and raffle with all proceeds benefitting the shelter.

Snowmobiling
With the power of a snowmobile underneath you, there’s a lot you can see. Whether you’re flying around West Yellowstone, Big Sky, Paradise Valley, Cooke City, or Island Park, you’ll have incredible access to some beautiful, remote places without having to work for it—and you’ll get a pretty killer adrenaline rush, too. Most places that rent snowmobiles have snowsuits, helmets, and other required accessories.

To expand your snowmobiling knowledge and explore deeper into the backcountry, take a snowmobile-specific avalanche-education course. Riders trigger almost as many slides as skiers, and it’s just as dangerous—don’t put yourselves or others at risk. 

Skating
Every winter, three outdoor ice rinks pop up at Bozeman parks: Bogert, Southside, and Beall. Once the ice has set up for the season—normally in late December—the rinks stay open until 10pm every day. Southside and Bogert have warming huts for a cozy cup of hot chocolate, as well as a comfortable place to put on and take off your skates. Additional skating can be had at the Haynes Pavilion, home of the local hockey league; they rent skates for $5, plus a $5 entry fee.

If you like hockey, or want to give it a try, register for the Hocktober Scramble at the Haynes Pavilion. This fun series gives players of all levels the chance to test their skills—and have a blast doing it—in competitive pickup games.

Ice Climbing
If you’re new to mountain country, it may seem that ice climbing is for hardened experts and crazed adrenaline junkies. But in the last few decades, ascending giant icicles has become a pastime almost anyone can enjoy. Whether you have some climbing experience already, or have only ever summited a ladder, you too can tool up and tackle the ice. Mix in a few hot-cocoa breaks and a knowledgeable friend to show you the ropes, and your once-intimidating adventure becomes both pleasant and safe. You don’t need to go far, either. Some of the world’s best ice is right down the road in Hyalite Canyon. As with other climbing equipment, avoid buying used gear from pawn shops or Craigslist. Instead, borrow from friends, rent, or invest in a setup of your own.

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This one’s a no-brainer: attend the Bozeman Ice Fest! Every winter (except this one), climbing enthusiasts from all over the world flock to Hyalite to celebrate the sport. There’ll be gear demos, clinics, and tons of resources to help you learn and grow, not to mention meet some pretty cool folks.

Deal Me In

by the editors

The true dirtbag ski/trout bums of Old Bozeman may be gone, but the spirit of spending every last dime on gear remains. Sure, some things are worth full price; but for others, it pays to shop smart. Here’s how to maximize enjoyment while minimizing cash outlay.

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Coupons
First thing, start with this guide. Part of its purpose is to make life easier for newcomers to Bozeman’s outdoor scene, and one way we do that is by dedicating a large section to cash-saving coupons. Flip to the back, clip the coupons, save money—it’s that simple.

Sales
For straight-up retail shopping, hunt around for the big sales. Downtown Bozeman hosts summer and winter Crazy Days, a long weekend each season dedicated to inventory-liquidating sales along Main Street, including outdoor stores. Big holiday sales occur throughout the year, as well. To really save cash, buy gear post-season—for example, snagging new skis in the spring, when stores are trying to scuttle leftover winter gear, can mean up to 50% off.

Swaps
Another option is gear swaps. There’s a ski swap in November hosted by the Bridger Ski Foundation, a bike swap in spring put on by the Gallatin Valley Bicycle Club, and a boat swap in May at the Barn. All three swaps have huge inventories at massive discounts, and you can sell your used gear, too. Just make sure to show up early, ‘cause the best stuff goes fast.

Second-Hand
As one might expect, Bozeman’s pawn shops teem with used gear and apparel. There are even a few second-hand stores devoted entirely to outdoor equipment. Area thrift stores are loaded with hidden treasures, too. Spend some time perusing the inventory, and make it a habit to stop by different stores every so often—new goods arrive daily, and the best deals are all about timing.

Rentals
Sometimes gear is cost-prohibitive regardless of the price. Or maybe you’re not sure you’re going to like a new sport, in which case it pays to try before you buy. If you’re an MSU student or alumnus, hit the Outdoor Rec Center for the best prices. Otherwise, check out any of the half-dozen rental outfits around town, for everything from mountain bikes to whitewater rafts.

Lend a Hand

by Cordelia Pryor

Although you may not be a longtime local, while you’re in Bozeman, you’re part of this community. What better way to say thanks than to volunteer your time at local nonprofits? Throughout the year, they need your help doing the important, altruistic work that they do. Whatever gets you out there, remember there are few better feelings than contributing to a cause that’s making a difference.

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Cleanup Days
At different points throughout the year, local groups get together to tidy our trails, clean our rivers, and keep Bozeman beautiful. Give back by joining them and learn about proper outdoor etiquette while you’re out there. Friends of Hyalite hosts two cleanup days—one in the spring, one in the fall—to tidy Bozeman’s backyard playground. The Gallatin River Weed Pull keeps our valley’s namesake river clean, and Cleanup Bozeman is a city-centered service day before summer. Poke around the internet to learn more.

Big Sky Youth Empowerment
BSYE pairs mentors with 8th- through 12th-graders to participate in activities such as skiing, rock-climbing, and hiking to build confidence, create connections, and teach teens how to overcome challenges in both the outdoors and their own lives. By becoming a mentor, you’ll provide a role model for young people as they navigate life’s sometimes-muddy waters.

Eagle Mount
Eagle Mount is another powerful organization right here in Bozeman that has made a huge impact. Every year, more than 2,000 volunteers serve over 1,700 youth participants who are disabled or battling cancer. Volunteering for Eagle Mount gives you the opportunity to empower young people who otherwise might not have opportunities to ski, horseback ride, or otherwise spend time under Montana’s big sky.

Gallatin Valley Land Trust
Our public lands get plenty of use, which means they need a little TLC from time to time. Every spring, the Gallatin Valley Land Trust hosts maintenance days on the in-town trails to prep them for the long summer ahead. And every summer during the Trail Challenge, Bozemanites take to the trails and log miles, each one donating real money to GVLT and its mission.

Warriors and Quiet Waters
At Quiet Waters Ranch, volunteers aid post-9/11 combat veterans and their families, military caregivers, and active-duty special-operations personnel. By eliminating physical barriers, they promote healing and resilience through participation in a therapeutic fly-fishing experience.

DIY
Acts of service don’t have to be big or even organized, really. One of the best things you can do for our community is small acts of TLC around town and on the trails. If you see trash, pick it up. Reassure a nervous or exhausted hiker, help a fellow biker fix his chain, pull a stuck vehicle out of the ditch. One of the things that makes Bozeman so great is the people—you’re one of us now, so take that seriously.

Winter’s Delight

by Corey Hockett

Some of the greatest moments of winter outings come as anticipation before and ravishment after. Indeed, fueling up and winding down is a big part of what makes these excursions so attractive. What beats raising a glass with your buddies at the end of an epic powder day? How good does that first sip of coffee taste before a weekend road trip? These periods of transition provide your getaway with wholesomeness. And in Bozeman, where there is no lack of adventures to choose from, après (and avant) is no different.

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Fueling Up
In winter, it’s hard to leave the coziness of the comforter and strike out into the cold. Get started with hot drinks and warm sandwiches from one of our standout coffee shops and delis. If you’re headed up Bridger Canyon to the ski hill, Crosscut, or Brackett Creek, hit Ghost Town for smooth-sipping coffee and a hefty breakfast burrito. If you’re eastbound on the interstate toward Paradise Valley, pick up a warm cup o’ tea at Townshend’s. Going west, you say? Fill up at Wheat Montana at the junction of Hwy. 287 and score a serious bang for your buck with a Belt burritos. The classic rendezvous locale south of town is Slider’s Deli at the mouth of Big Sky. Grab a coffee on your way through, or, if you’re ending the day early, stop in for a sandwich or burger before your trip home. Last but certainly not least: if you’re planning a half-day at Bridger, pick up a giant Pickle Barrel sandwich and chow down on your way to the hill.

Winding Down
Ski hills are the quintessential locales for après. If you’re wrapping up a day at Bridger Bowl, you’ve got options. It’s always worth having one (just one, if you’re driving) on the hill, and for this I recommend the Grizzly Ridge Station (aka, the Griz). We’re talkin’ $3 pints here. Of Olympia, that is; but let’s face it, you’re looking for something light anyway. Face Shots in the Jim Bridger Lodge is also tried and true. Got a designated driver with you? Have one at each.

If Big Sky is your choice of exploit, you have plenty of choices as well—just be prepared to loosen the purse strings. Scissor Bills is a local favorite. Amongst the mass of infrastructure, this homey saloon overlooks the base area and has plenty of room to spread out. Have a round by the window where an upper-level perspective grants great views of the base area.

Beers are fine and dandy, but if you’re itching for something with a little more zip—something that burns the throat and warms the belly—Bozeman has an exceptional spread of distilleries. Check out Wildrye in the Cannery District and Bozeman Spirits downtown. On the way back from Bridger, stop into Valhalla Meadery for a unique, historic libation to warm your frozen insides. If you happen to be passing through Ennis, don’t miss Willie’s on the main drag—their Bighorn Bourbon rivals any whiskey in the West.

Speaking of small-town spots, some of the most pleasant après experiences are away from the Bozeman bustle—wood-door saloons, old-time taxidermy bars, and venues with no dress code whatsoever. On your next trip to Yellowstone, stop in at the Antler Pub & Grill for a western Montana meal at its finest. Heading north? Hit Canyon Ferry Brewing in Townsend after ice fishing the reservoir. In Ennis, you’ll find great beer and delicious food at Burnt Tree Brewing, across the street from Willie’s.

These are just a few of our favorite places—there are plenty more. But don’t take our word for it, get out and try for yourself. The more places you try, the better notion you’ll have of all the options to suit your winter’s day. Bozeman is a mountain town, and its après reflects that. Experience it wearing your ski pants, laughing with friends, and repping a goggle tan—the rest of us will be out there doing the same.

Slip-Slidin’ Away

by Cordelia Pryor

Winter in Montana is long, and while alpine skiing might be its most famous activity, Nordic skiing is another great way to get outside and actually enjoy the cold. It also helps you stay in shape and is simple enough for anyone to learn. Classic connoisseurs can enjoy both groomed and ungroomed trails, while skate skiers will find plenty of luxurious corduroy on which to push and glide. There’s a huge variety of terrain in and around Bozeman, and a really cool community to dive into—the backbone of which is the Bridger Ski Foundation (BSF), which maintains many of our local trails. Consider buying an optional trail pass to support their efforts.

Cross country skiing, Lone Mountain Ranch, Big Sky, Yellowstone Country

Gearing Up
One of the great things about Nordic skiing is that there’s less gear and it’s (mostly) cheaper than a downhill setup. All you need are skis, boots, poles, and some comfy layers you can move in. Buying used gear is a great way to save cash, and you can always find a setup at a secondhand store or BSF’s annual Ski Swap. Or, rent equipment from somewhere like Chalet Sports or Round House, then buy once you know the style of skiing and type of ski that suits you best.

When it comes to clothing, anything warm, breathable, and waterproof will work for classic skiing. Use what you have before buying activity-specific items. For skate-skiing, breathability and freedom of movement are more important than warmth, as you’ll likely be sweating up a storm. Racers wear spandex and other form-fitting apparel, but that’s overkill for the recreational skier.

Classic skiers should keep in mind that they have two very different options: in the track and out. Track skis are generally skinnier and longer, and tend to perform poorly outside the groomed trails. Non-track skis vary widely in terms of width, length, and suitability for different terrain. Some of them will fit in the track and do just fine, while others are meant for off-trail travel. A little homework, online and at your local outdoor shop, will help you determine which type of ski—and which type of terrain—is best for you.

MSU students (and Alumni Association members) can rent a range of Nordic gear from the Outdoor Rec Center, for great prices.

Where to Go
While skate-skiers need a groomed trail, many classic skiers prefer snowed-over hiking paths and logging roads to a groomed track. These off-track options can be found in nearly every direction. What follows here is a list of groomed trails in the area, for skate-skiers and classic track-skiers. For tips on off-track outings, check out the Trails section on outsidebozeman.com.

Bridger Creek Golf Course
Level: Beginner
Cost: Free (but consider buying a trail pass)
The Trails: This is a great spot for Nordic novices. With its easy, sweeping loops, you can hit the trails on both sides of the road and really get your footing.The northern side features slightly more varied terrain than the southern side, but the whole area is pretty mild and allows you to get your technique down without struggling (too much).

Highland Glen & Sunset Hills
Level: Intermediate, Advanced
Cost: Free (but consider buying a trail pass)
The Trail: Highland Glen and Sunset Hills have several different loops for you to twist together in a variety of combinations. Close to town, these spots are an easy mid-day hit. They have a few steep climbs to get your heart pumping, and the fast descents are always a blast.

Sourdough Canyon
Level: Intermediate
Cost: Free (but consider buying a trail pass)
The Trail: Sourdough is a Nordic nut’s paradise—it’s groomed for miles and climbs steadily at a mild incline along Bozeman Creek. Whether it’s a quick mile or a half-day haul, you can customize the length to your liking. Dogs are allowed, but scoop the poop and keep Bridger under control, lest you ruin the skiing experience for everyone else.

Hyalite Canyon
Level: Intermediate, Advanced
Cost: Free (but consider buying a trail pass)
The Trails: Hyalite has a great mix of almost 20 miles of groomed and ungroomed terrain. The groomed trails traverse unused logging roads, hiking trails, and connector trails with terrain for most skill levels. Dogs are allowed as well.

Crosscut Mountain Sports Center
Level: Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced
Cost: $20 adult day pass, $250 season pass
The Trails: Crosscut is basically a small Nordic resort, and you’ll be dazzled by the well-maintained and seemingly endless trails. With the wide, flowing, and color-coded trails, skiers can find the right trails for their skill level. Throughout the season, Crosscut hosts events and races, so keep an eye on the calendar.

Lone Mountain Ranch, Big Sky
Level: Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced
Cost: $25 adult day pass, free to overnight guests
The Trails: Whether you head down the canyon for just a day, or stay at the ranch for a luxurious mountain getaway, over 50 miles of trails await. If you’re up for it, tackle the big leg-burning climbs and fast downhills.

Rendezvous Ski Trails, West Yellowstone
Level: Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced
Cost: $8 adult day pass, $45 season pass
The Trails: The Rendezvous trail system is worth the drive. On these peaceful wooded trails, it’s easy to spend a whole day exploring, and there are handy maps and well-marked signs to guide you.

Events
November 14
Yellowstone Ski Swap – West Yellowstone. While Bozeman is just now ramping up its Nordic scene, West Yellowstone is a seasoned veteran, which means the town’s garages overflow with great gear. skirunbikemt.com

Tuesdays, December-February
Funski Nordic Series – Bozeman. Get together with friends and neighbors for a fun evening race or a mellow glide. These timed events always conclude with post-race refreshments, including local beer. Not a bad way to spend a Tuesday. bridgerskifoundation.org

February 16
Taste of the Trails – West Yellowstone. This fun event combines picturesque Nordic skiing and delicious food. Race the 5k, or take it slow, and stop at the four food stations along the way. skirunbikemt.com

March 7
Yellowstone Rendezvous Race – West Yellowstone. This is the big one. Head down the canyon to tackle this beautiful, winding 25k or 50k. With a nice steady climb on the way up, and fun, fast downhill to the finish, this race is a Montana classic. skirunbikemt.com