Off The Beaten Path: Bridger Bowl – “You call it luck, we call it living in Bozeman”
I just got back from a 5 day excursion in Montana to put my first ever tracks down a mountain West of the Mississippi. Everything I experienced on this trip is the culmination of what it means to Ski Till I Die.
After spending a week in Bozeman, skiing Bridger, I can understand why people head out there… and have no motivation to ever come back. It can quite simply be described as heaven.
From the snow, to the people, the the mountain, to the lifestyle – Bridger Bowl was an unworldly experience.
This post was going to start out as a Mountain Review, but after 5 or 6 rewrites I realized that it needs to be different than a review of the mountain… because Bridger and the lifestyle people live out there deserve something more – they are off the beaten path.
We had no car so we took the shuttle. The Bozeman Shuttle is not a bus, it’s not a van, it isn’t anything formal. You put your skis on your shoulder and start walking. I was in awe. About 25 minutes into our walk this guy slowed down next to us on the highway and asked if we were on our way to the mountain -lucky us. Apparently skis hanging off your back is the equivalent to having your thumb in the air. Hitchhiking is illegal, but the Bozeman Shuttle is a perfectly acceptable mode of transportation in these parts.
We got to the mountain and all you saw were smiles. The are no friends on a powder day, but something about 13″ of fresh powder will make even the most modest man blush. We were lucky to get a day of pow pow – it was the first big snow they had gotten in a while. A lot of hi’s, a lot of hello’s, and a lot of people with their powder skirts buttoned up ready for the tracks that lay ahead.
The snow was heaven. I had never skied anything like it, I had been living in purgatory prior to this. Heading down a 40 degree pitch was effortless, traversing the bowls was magical, and every turn I made felt like I was floating through the clouds.
Riding the lift with the locals was just as welcoming as the blanket of snow covering the mountain. I met a girl Michelle; a 10 year transplant from Memphis, TN. She told me about how when it snows all day they call it free refills, she told me about the ridge & where to find the powder stashes, she told me about who hucked what cliffs & when, and she told me about the game of gnar. Chairlift conversations seemed like second nature to the people who call Bridger home. Was it really luck that everything was falling into place like this?
We stopped in at lunch to grab some free refills of our own: homemade chili in a bread bowl and a local Montana brew called Face Plant seemed appropriate. Our long standing bartender, Miss Katie, even put a Ski Till I Die sticker on the fridge behind the bar. Did they know this is my first time?
Back to the hill to play the game of GNAR (a creation of the late Shane McConkey) at Michelle’s suggestion. Shane McConkey is a living legend, but he might take the place of God in places like this. I knew all about the gnar gnar, but I didn’t know there was a game associated with it… here is the preview for your viewing pleasure – http://unofficialnetworks.com/2010/12/16/g-n-a-r-the-movie-trailer/ . If Ski Till I Die were a religion, the gnar would be its cathedral and what better place to worship it than at Bridger. It was the perfect cap to a day we were lucky to catch the pristine powder and terrain Montana is known for.
I consider it a privilege to have been able to ski a place like Bridger, with the locals from Bozeman. Everyone I met could rip with the best of them and were as humble as could be about it. We came back and forth from the mountain 4 times and didn’t take the same car twice. These folks not only embraced the Ski Till I Die mentality without any explanation from me, but they had been living it at Bridger long before I got there. Now they have a name to associate with it…
Before I left to head back home I told my buddy Eric thanks for everything and that I was lucky to have had such a legendary time out there. With a grin he responded simply with, “you call it luck, we call it living in Bozeman”. A fitting tribute to a gem off the beaten path. I can’t wait to go back, and I am sure that luck won’t be the only thing helping me find my way.