Category Archives: Activities

Mad Pow Disease

by Corey Hockett

It’s no secret—at least not anymore—that Bozeman is a fine place to ski. Very fine in fact—two resorts are within an hour’s drive, and four more sit within striking distance for a day trip. Numerous mountain ranges surround the Gallatin Valley, each one holding excellent terrain for all levels of snow-slayer. So whether you’re grabbing laps at Bridger before work or bagging big lines in the Beartooths on a multi-day expedition, winter in Bozeman means skiing and snowboarding. Grab your sticks. You’ve come to the right place.

Gear
As with most outdoor activities, skiing demands a load of gear—some of which isn’t all that necessary. But other items are downright essential. So let’s start from scratch. What does it take to ski or board? First, you need the planks themselves, bindings to slap on top of them, and a pair of boots to connect you to the apparatus.

When it comes to skis and boards, the variety can be overwhelming. My advice for those starting out is to not take it too seriously. Get a size that fits you. If you’re unsure of what that means, consult your friends or the ski shop.

Boots are a bit more intricate, and a piece of gear not worth skimping on. Weight, stiffness, breathability, and comfort are all things you’re going to want to consider, and they will all differ based on your ability and the type of terrain you’re skiing.

Bindings are the same way; though if this is your first pair, don’t spend your next month’s rent on something you “hope will work out.” Play the field first. Rent from the ski hill, try your buddy’s setup, buy a cheap pair at the second-hand store. Learn how different bindings react to your movements, then loosen the purse strings.

If your heart lies in backcountry exploration, of which options are many, you’re going to need to add quite a few items to that gear list, the first of which is an avalanche course (see p. 28). Sign up and take it seriously. It may cost a couple hundred bucks, but the lessons are worth your life.

Other items necessary for backcountry travel are a shovel, beacon, and probe. Assuming you won’t be snowshoeing, you’ll need some skins as well. And if you’re serious about this, your choice of boots and bindings will reflect that. Lightweight boots with a walk mode are worth their weight in gold, and AT bindings will allow you to transition between uphill and downhill travel. Knuckle-draggers should check out Spark R&D splitboard bindings; the company is based right here in Bozeman.

As far as cold-weather clothing goes, layers are your friend. Have a couple layers, a puffy, extra gloves, and a shell. Carry a neck gaiter and goggles for the way down, and as Mama told you, “Don’t forget your helmet!”

Where to Go
Need we even mention this category? I mean, you’re here, aren’t you? You must know about the iconic Bridger Ridge and the tram at Big Sky. Within 60 minutes of town lies the best in-bound terrain Montana has to offer. Go there, friend, and if you’re yearning for more beta, know that you’ll have to find it for yourself.

Outside of Bozeman’s immediate area are plenty of mom-and-pop hills to put on the list. Discovery, outside of Butte, is a perfect weekend trip with terrain for all levels. Other mentionable ski areas are Maverick near Dillon and Red Lodge Ski Hill west of, yes, Red Lodge. Grand Targhee is also three hours away for those looking for more of a road trip.

Skinny Skis

by Jenny White

Bozeman’s Nordic opportunities.

No one cares if you call it cross-country or Nordic skiing, but in these parts, once the snow flies, skinny skis become as commonplace as running shoes. Bozeman’s Nordic scene has a national reputation, and while you’ll likely see both former and aspiring Olympians and Paralympians on the trails, our tracks are filled with people of all ages and abilities. The motto here is to “keep the people skiing.”

In-town trails make it easy to sneak a ski into a busy day, even in the dark, and a short drive will bring you to dozens of mountainous experiences.

For newbies: rejoice that cross-country skiing has a relatively low cost to entry, made even better by free access on many of the local trails and the nonprofit status held by all of Bozeman’s ski organizations. Plus, it is a relatively easy learning curve, even if you’ve never been on skis. The best part: you can shuffle down the trail at an easy walking pace or you can speed it up for a full-body cardio workout.

Where to Go

The Bridger Ski Foundation (BSF) grooms more than 70 km of community Nordic trails in and around Bozeman that are free and open to the public (but the Bozeman way is to buy a voluntary trail pass from BSF in order to keep their donor-funded groomers running).

In town, BSF has a new snowmaking system on nearly 5 km at Sunset Hills, next to the hospital. Cross the road for nearly 10 km of rolling terrain at Highland Glen.

Beginners often seek out the flatter trails of the Bridger Creek Golf Course, Gallatin Regional Park, or a 1 km loop on the MSU campus.

Just outside of town, Sourdough Canyon is a mecca for skiers, dog walkers, and runners. While the lower miles are often a circus requiring excellent patience, those with endurance can find solitude and miles of groomed trail going all the way to Mystic Lake (20 miles round-trip) and the Moser pass. Hyalite boasts a massive network of both groomed and ungroomed trails, with the loops at the Blackmore trailhead being a favorite place to begin.

Up Bridger Canyon, a day (or season) pass grants you access to Crosscut Mountain Sports Center’s stunning 50 km of cross-country trails, including wide groomers and narrow-gauge trails. You can also explore dozens of ungroomed trails and Forest Service roads around Bozeman.

For those willing to drive longer, the options unfold. Go west on I-90 for trails at Homestake Lodge where you can find more than 35 groomed trails offering majestic views of the Tobacco Roots. Or, head south toward Big Sky for a day at Lone Mountain Ranch’s extensive network. Keep going to West Yellowstone to experience the Rendezvous Ski Trails, which attract skiers from across the country starting in November for early-season skiing. If you’re in the area, make sure to stop in at FreeHeel and Wheel, a top-notch ski shop that can service all of your Nordic needs and more.

If you’ve made it that far, we should mention that the Nordic skiing in Yellowstone National Park is spectacular. You can also enter the Park from the north via Gardiner and ski a groomed loop around the Mammoth Hot Springs terraces for some otherworldly scenery. Also in the area is the esteemed B Bar Ranch. Here, discover an intimate adventure—ski for the day and bed down for the night.

Come spring, there’s a little-known phenomenon called “crust cruising,” in which skate skiers set off across the cold-hardened, sun-crusted snowscape and cruise without a trail, often into remote areas. (The trick, of course, is to go early, so as not to get caught four miles from your car when the snow gets soft and you start to sink in.) Fawn Pass is a popular crust-cruising destination.

You’ll find many types of ski trails around here—some for skiers only, some that allow dogs, and some that allow multiple kinds of trail users. In Yellowstone Park, that may mean you’ll share the trail with a few post-holing bison. Know what kind of trail you’re on and the rules (and safety measures) for that location.

Learning

Good technique makes Nordic skiing infinitely easier and a whole lot more fun. You can find instruction (from a few hours to winter-long sessions) with several local groups: MSU Outdoor Recreation, Bridger Ski Foundation (BSF), Crosscut Mountain Sports Center, Montana Endurance Academy, Big Sky Ski Education Foundation, and Lone Mountain Ranch. If you want to combine shooting guns and skiing (a.k.a., biathlon), check out Crosscut’s biathlon programs.

Essential Gear

The most complicated thing about Nordic skiing is the equipment lingo. Sure, you only need boots, poles, and skis, but there are binding-compatibility issues, different ski types, and some confusing terms along the way. Lean on our local ski-shop staff to help you.

There are two types of Nordic skiing techniques; each involves a slightly different boot and ski. Most beginners start with classic skiing, which is a walking or running motion. Your skis either have scales or a grippy wax on the bottom giving you the ability to “kick” yourself forward. (This is your best option if you want to keep it mellow or explore ungroomed trails.) Some classic skis are designed mainly for groomed trails while other classic skis are wider, sometimes with metal edges, and best for ungroomed trails. Then there’s skate skiing, which uses the same motion as hockey skating. It’s faster, a bit addicting once you learn, and a great way to discover your max heart rate. You need groomed trails (or crust) to skate.

MSU Outdoor Recreation lends and rents skis to students. Arcs Ski and Bike is a great place to stop in town for gear and tunes. They specialize in high-end, race-ready equipment but can provide something for everyone looking to get out on the trail. The general public can rent or buy at Bangtail Ski & Bike, Chalet Sports, and Roundhouse Sports. Both Crosscut and Lone Mountain Ranch offer rentals at their ski centers. Used gear is also a great option. Shop the BSF Ski Swap on the first weekend of November for thousands of items, as well as Play It Again Sports and Second Wind.

For clothing, dress in layers. While the clothing you might wear on a winter run is mostly appropriate, temps drop quickly and windproof layers are your savior (especially on the downhills). If you’re headed out for a longer or more remote route, add proper safety equipment: food, water, warmer layers, a navigation device, and other backcountry essentials.

Etiquette
When using groomed trails, treat those corduroy surfaces as sacred snow that needs to be preserved: Keep footprints out of the trail (unless the trail allows foot traffic) and don’t track in mud. Around here, we use the Ski Kind principles (detailed below). It doesn’t matter who is speeding along, shuffling, or just learning to stay upright, sharing the trail is key.

Ski No Trace

Leave only tracks. Don’t leave poop (yours or your pup’s) or trash near the trail.

Ski Gracious
Share the trail with all speeds and abilities. Yield, slow down, and give a friendly hello to make everyone feel welcome.

Ski Aware
Know what type of trail you’re skiing and the rules for that location. Be aware of terrain, grooming equipment, and other trail users.

Ski Kind
Bring your best self to the trail and spread the joy of skiing. Share your knowledge and help others.

Ski Supportive
Give back to the trails you ski. Volunteer. Donate to local trail organizations, clubs, and groomers. The trails don’t groom themselves, someone has to do the work to make sure the roads are plowed and things are ready for the season. If you’re looking to give back, Friends of Hyalite is a great place to start.

Ski Safe
Technically, downhill skiers have the right of way, but they still need to think of other trail users as yield signs and slow down. Before you pass others, slow down and announce yourself. Give space. Use extra caution on blind corners and downhills.

Literature
The Last Best Ski MT offers a beautifully illustrated and informative look into the nearby skiing options. The book is only half the fun as videos and interviews can be found at the many QR codes throughout the book.

Events
You needn’t be an advanced skier or a speed demon to jump into the local scene around here. Here are a few of our favorite events.

Ongoing
Biathlon Races – Crosscut. Our backyard Nordic center hosts a series of fun community biathlon races throughout the winter. crosscutmt.org.

FUNSKI Community Series – Various locations. BSF hosts one race per month during the winter, usually on weeknights. Themes range from a Santa chase to a lively two-person relay. Costumes encouraged. bridgerskifoundation.org.

Clinics – Bozeman. BSF offers Nordic ski clinics throughout the winter, providing an easy way to drop in and learn a few ski tips. bridgerskifoundation.org.

January
Hyalite Tour – Hyalite. This isn’t a race, just a great day to go ski the trails in Hyalite with friends and finish with free food & hot cocoa. Pick your distance and trail. hyalite.org.

Snoflinga – Butte. This festive three-day event hosts free skiing and and snowshoe lessons along with a plethora of other activities. Sign up here.

Women’s Skate Clinic – Homestake Lodge. Incredible coaches and a fun atmosphere. Need we say more? homestakelodge.com/events.

February
Montana Cup Race, Homestake Hustle – Homestake Lodge. homestakelodge.com/events.

March
Yellowstone Rendezvous – West Yellowstone. A good portion of Bozeman heads to West Yellowstone each March for the final races of the season with a 2k, 5k, 10k, 25k, and 50k. skirunbikemt.com.

Gone Fishin’

by the editors

The Bozeman area has some of the best trout water in the world, and you have the privilege of being less than an hour from three world-renowned rivers, plus dozens of other fishing options. From alpine lakes in the backcountry to valley streams near town, southwest Montana is truly is an angler’s paradise.

If you’re new to the sport or the area, the first thing you’ll want to do is grab a copy of the Cast fishing guide. This local publication is crammed full of everything you need to know about fishing around here. With a little practice—and plenty of patience—you’ll be hooking into beefy browns and ‘bows in short order. Here’s some basic information to get you started.

Essential Gear
To the novice, the quantity, diversity, and variation—not to mention prices—of fishing gear can be overwhelming. Luckily, you don’t need to fill a whole garage with gear or take out a loan have fun and catch fish.

For fly fishing, you’ll need a rod, reel, line, leader, and tippet. A good 9-foot, 5-weight, fast-action rod should handle everything from lightweight dry flies to heavier streamers. Match it with a 5-weight reel and a WF5 (weight-forward 5-weight) fly line. A 9-foot 5X leader and a range of tippet material, from 2X-6X, should accommodate most scenarios. Confused? Don’t worry; it makes sense once it’s all in your hands.

Next, you’ll need waders and wading boots, especially if you plan to fish in late fall, winter, and/or early spring when the water temps are chilly. Be sure to use a wading belt so your waders don’t fill with water in the event of a slip. Polarized sunglasses are great for spotting fish.

Get a small chest-pack, butt-pack, or vest to keep your smaller gear, and organize your flies in a fly box or sleeve. Be sure to carry nippers for trimming line, floatant to keep your dry flies on top of the water, and pliers or forceps for removing hooks.

Spin anglers can keep it way simpler, with a medium or medium-light spinning rod, a light or medium spinning reel, and some 8-pound monofilament. Grab a few spoons and spinners and you’ll be catching fish in no time. 

Where to Go
Hyalite Creek
The road to Hyalite Reservoir follows this creek and there are plenty of pullouts. Small rainbow trout are plentiful, and a well-presented dry fly—or a small spinner pulled through a pool—will almost certainly entice a strike. For slightly larger fish, head up to the reservoir.

Gallatin River
The valley’s namesake waterway is a great option, thanks to its abundant public access, proximity to town, and high numbers of fish. Whether you fish the upper river in Gallatin Canyon or the lower section out in the valley, take the time to walk a ways away from your car for better, more peaceful fishing. The lower stretch holds larger fish and can provide good dry-fly fishing, especially on cloudy days. Cameron Bridge, Axtell Bridge, and Williams Bridge are all great starting points. Further south, Hwy. 191 follows the river through the canyon on the way to Big Sky and numerous pullouts access the river. Spin fishermen can find plenty of action from the mouth of the river all the way to its terminus at Headwaters State Park.

Lower Madison River
Head west and reach the fish-filled Lower Madison in less than 30 minutes. Wade in at any one of the dozens of pull-outs and work the shallow river, focusing on channels, pocket-water, and weedbeds. Although this section of river is not the best for dry flies, nymphing can be productive. Spoons and spinners tend to get hung up on weeds, but careful casts can produce fish. If you’re after voluminous small rainbows and the occasional big brown, the Lower’ Madison’s your spot.

Catch & Release
On most Bozeman-area waterways, it’s perfectly legal—and moral—to keep a few fish for supper; however, catch-and-release fishing is the norm around here. Problem is, the ethic only works if you do it right—and many people don’t. If you’re going to throw your catch back, make sure to follow the rules, so that it doesn’t go belly-up a few hours later.

  • Play fish quickly: land your fish as quickly as possible and don’t play it to exhaustion.
  • Use a landing net: it reduces the time required to land a fish and keeps it from thrashing about; try to use one made of a soft, smooth material.
  • Dunk your mitts: always wet your hands before handling a fish: dry fingers damage a fish’s protective slime layer.
  • Avoid the gills: gill filaments are sensitive and easily injured.
  • Remove the hook quickly: use forceps or needle-nose pliers for small or deeply-embedded hooks.
  • Keep ‘em wet: a wet fish is a happy fish. You can lift it up for a quick photo, but only for a few seconds; otherwise, keep it submersed.
  • Cut ‘em loose: when you can’t remove a hook quickly or cleanly, cut the line as close to the knot as possible.
  • Release with care: hold the fish upright underwater and allow it to swim away under its own power; if necessary, hold the fish out of the current until it revives.
  • Bag the bleeders: bleeding fish will almost certainly die; if regulations allow, put them in your creel and enjoy an organic, free-range supper.

Events
The fishing calendar is full year-round, but certain events are crowd favorites. Below are a few highlights; for more, check out outsidebozeman.com/events.

Fly Tying
Several shops in the area offer free classes, so you’ll be whipping up Wooly Buggers in no time. Among others, check out Sweetwater Fly Shop for Tuesday evening Open Vise Night and Willie’s Distillery in Ennis for Bugs & Bourbon on Wednesdays.

Second Wednesday, Monthly
Madison-Gallatin Trout Unlimited Meetings – Bozeman. Good fishing starts with healthy rivers and healthy trout populations. Learn more about how TU is ensuring both locally. mgtuorg.

February
TroutFest Banquet – Bozeman. The Madison-Gallatin chapter of Trout Unlimited hosts its annual fundraiser every February. The local TU chapter is instrumental in fighting for access, keeping rivers clean, and keeping trout healthy. mgtu.org.

May
Chica de Mayo – Bozeman. Join the River’s Edge for this females-only celebration of all things fly fishing. theriversedge.com.

June
Gallatin River Festival – Bozeman. Celebrate the waterway we all love with neighbors, friends, and fellow fishing fanatics. All proceeds go toward ensuring the Gallatin stays clean, cold, and clear for generations to come. gallatinrivertaskforce.org.

August
Fly Fishing & Outdoor Festival – Ennis. If you fish, odds are you’ll be spending lots of time in Ennis, about an hour southwest of Bozeman. Celebrate the end of summer with vendors, fly-tying demos, casting clinics, and more. ennischamber.com.

September
TwoFly Benefit – Bozeman. At the end of the summer, 30-some boats set out with 60-some donors, slinging their favorite two flies in support of the Museum of the Rockies. A fun event for a great cause: our local museum. museumoftherockies.org.

Editor’s note: Dates are subject to change based on weather and other factors. For the most updated information, visit outsidebozeman.com/events.

Finding the Flow

by Corey Hockett

If you haven’t noticed, Montana is home to a unique and dynamic web of water. It’s likely one of the reasons you’re here, to some degree or another. Be it a meandering stream or furious, technical whitewater; whether it’s a committing excursion deep in the backcountry or a float after work—in Bozeman, there are paddling opportunities abound.

Purpose
Before shoving off, there are a few obvious questions you’re going to have to ask yourself. Two of them being, what are you interested in doing, and how are you interested in doing it? ‘Round here, there’s a river for every craft, but your experience level is going to narrow your options on where to go. For whitewater fanatics, the Gallatin, sections of the Yellowstone, and the Madison’s esteemed Bear Trap Canyon are your go-tos. If adrenaline pulsation isn’t your thing, or you’re just starting out, head out to the Jefferson or lower Madison. These waters are great for canoes, paddleboards, and a six-pack in the cooler. If you seek something between these two extremes, a float down the lower Yellowstone offers calm stretches between short bouts of big waves and fast water.

Gear
With every activity comes a spread of accessories, some of them necessary, some of them not. Don’t buy the newest whitewater getup with all the bells and whistles your first season just to show everyone how hip you look. You’ll likely be called upon to do something you have no idea how to do—and you’ll make a fool of yourself. Get some experience first, then reassess on what it is you actually need.

There are some fundamental things you needn’t leave without, however. Number one: the PFD. Do not venture on the waterways without a suitable life jacket, even if you don’t plan on wearing one. Montana law mandates one in possession, anyway—for every vessel under 16 feet, that is. Next, you’re going to have to decide what type of craft you plan on going in, and in turn, which paddle you need. Kayakers and packrafters wield double-bladed paddles, while canoeists, paddleboarders, and rafters use single-blade models.

Depending on how much water you want to run, and how often you want to do it, there are plenty of other items to add to your gear list. I never leave without a dry bag, usually filled with an extra layer, lunch, and a small repair kit. Unless you only want to float in July and August in the sunshine, you’re going to have to dress warm. A splash jacket, dry-top, or drysuit will work wonders when it comes to Montana’s frigid waters. If you’re running anything more than Class II, you should get a helmet, serrated river knife, and possibly a throw rope. We’re starting to reach superfluous territory now, but river booties and gloves are nice luxuries to have on colder days.

Game Time
When it comes time to hit the water, have a plan. No matter how mellow you anticipate the float going, it’s always good to have at least something skeletal in place. Rivers are not where you should get in over your head, ever. Booze cruises can turn into Type 3 sufferfests as fast as a canoe can tip. Scout rapids if you’re pushing your skillset or haven’t been through them before. If you’re new to a certain craft, or unfamiliar with the water, go with a partner you trust. And when testing your capability, try hard things in easy water—you’ll thank yourself when you find out that hitting your roll in the Mad Mile is much different than the college pool.

The swollen streams of spring are coming, no matter if you’re waiting through winter for them, or riding their very currents. Grab a paddle and a partner—Bozeman’s blue arteries await.

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.

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
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

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.

Trail to Everywhere

by the editors

Few places rival Bozeman’s accessibility to trails. Like a spider web from city center, hundreds of miles of dirt paths lie at our fingertips—we only need to hop on and take off. In and around town, the Gallatin Valley Land Trust manages dozens of miles of trail. In the mountains, the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, State of Montana, and National Park Service handle thousands more. There are options for all seasons and all inclinations, so no matter your passion, Bozeman’s got you covered.

Essential Gear
Depending on your choice of sport—walking, hiking, running—your gear will vary slightly, but there are some common items all trail users need. First, food and water. This varies based on the length and difficulty of the outing, but for anything more than a quick jaunt up Drinking Horse, fuel and hydration are good ideas. So are layers. In Montana, the weather can change in the blink of an eye, so pack a good rain shell and a light fleece. As summer turns to fall, swap out the fleece for a down coat. Store all this stuff in a small daypack, along with sun protection (cap, shades, and/or sunscreen) and a small first-aid kit. Depending on the activity, the right footwear may be your most important consideration. Runners should invest in trail shoes with burly lugs on the soles; hikers, get boots with good ankle support. Always remember that you are in bear country. Pack bear spray, know how to use it, and be smart.

Where to Go
Before heading out, know your fitness level, use it to guide your trail choices, and don’t rely on one website to be entirely accurate—do your research. Here’s a rough guide to some of the most popular trails by difficulty level.

Easy
History Rock
Where: Hyalite Canyon
Popularity: High
Round trip: 2 miles
Best for: Shady jaunt

Bozeman Creek
Where: Gallatin Range
Popularity: High
Round trip: Up to you
Best for: Casual run or ride

South Cottonwood
Where: Gallatin Range
Popularity: High
Round trip: Up to you
Best for: Creekside sauntering

Moderate
Sypes Canyon
Where: West Bridgers
Popularity: High
Round trip: 4 miles (to overlook)
Best for: Quick-hit escape

Lava Lake
Where: Gallatin Canyon
Popularity: High
Round trip: 6 miles
Best for: Close-to-home backpacking 

Sacagawea Peak
Where: North Bridgers
Popularity: High
Round trip: 4 miles
Best for: Mountain-goat sightings

Difficult
Storm Castle
Where: Gallatin Canyon
Popularity: Medium
Round trip: 5 miles
Best for: Gallatin River views

Lower Mt. Ellis
Where: Gallatin Range
Difficulty: Medium
Popularity: Medium
Round trip: 6 miles
Best for: Sweeping views

Events
Bozeman’s outdoor calendar is full of trail-related events year-round. There are always ways to get involved and give back, not to mention the dozens of races, community hikes, and weekly fun runs to be aware of. Here are some highlights (a comprehensive calendar can be found at outsidebozeman.com/events).

May
Cleanup Day – Hyalite Canyon. After a long winter, Hyalite needs some love. Pitch in for a morning, bagging trash and tidying trailheads. hyalite.org. 

May-June
GVLT Discovery Walks – Bozeman. Meet new people and make new friends on these one-hour, guided walks along the Main Street to the Mountains trail system. 80+ miles await, all of which are right here, in and around town. gvlt.org.

June
Summer Trails Challenge – Bozeman. Every mile you log on area trails earns real money to support GVLT and its mission. gvlt.org. 

June 5
National Trails Day – Bozeman. This is the best day to give back to the trails that give us so much. Almost every trail-related nonprofit in town has a work day scheduled, so you’ll have plenty of options to choose from. gvlt.org.

June-August
MWA Wilderness Walks – SW MT. When you’re ready to go deep, sign up for a guided hike into a Wilderness Area near Bozeman. Naturalist-led, these outings instill a greater appreciation for our protected landscapes while imparting useful information about wild nature. wildmontana.org.

August
Hyalite Fest – Hyalite Canyon. Head up to Bozeman’s favorite backyard rec area for a fun run, day hikes, and a general celebration of all things Hyalite. hyalite.org.

September 26
National Public Lands Day – Bozeman. Around here, we use public lands all the time, which means they need a little TLC every year. Use this last Saturday of the month to go for a hike, do some trail maintenance, or find a new trail run. gvlt.org.

October
Cleanup Day – Hyalite Canyon. Summertime is hard on Hyalite, so help give the place a facelift by picking up trash at trailheads. hyalite.org. 

Editor’s note: Dates are subject to change based on weather and other factors. For the most updated information, visit outsidebozeman.com/events.

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.

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

On the Rocks

by the editors

You’ve probably noticed the Rocky Mountains are aptly named. Limestone, sandstone, granite, gneiss—we’ve got rocks galore, and that means tons of climbing opportunities for those with the guts to get vertical. Whether you’re new to the sport, or a veteran looking for beta on local routes, read on—what follows is a primer on where to go, what to bring, and how to be safer and climb harder.

Essential Gear
While most climbers start by borrowing gear from more experienced friends, it’s best to own a few things of your own. Namely, shoes, a harness, and a chalk bag. Locally, both Uphill Pursuits and Spire Climbing Center can get you set up. Never buy used harnesses, ropes, or protection at pawn shops or on Craigslist—you’re putting your life on the line, literally, and you never know what used gear has been through.

Crags/Routes
First, it’s important to understand how climbs are rated. Beginners should be looking for something between 5.4-5.7, intermediates 5.8-5.10, and advanced 5.11-5.12. Right in our back yard, Gallatin Canyon has dozens of routes and bouldering problems, great history, beautiful scenery, and easy access. The canyon is largely traditional climbing, but there is a smattering of bolted climbs as well. Many of the older routes are appropriately sandbagged, so climb on with gusto. Skyline Arete (5.6, six pitches) is a crowd-pleaser, and shouldn’t be missed. Step up to the ultra-classic, perfect parallel cracks of Spare Rib (5.8, two pitches), Diesel Driver (5.9) or virtually anything on Gallatin Tower (5.6-5.13 options).

Up Hyalite Canyon is Bozeman’s pet crag, Practice Rock, great for a quick pump after work. Park in the pullout on the right and pick your way up the talus. Most of the routes can be top-roped by hiking around to the right; just use caution when doing so. Hundreds, maybe thousands of climbers have experienced their first climbs or trad leads on routes like Strawberry Crack (5.7), Jerry’s Route (5.8+), and Rosebush Crack (5.9). When you’re ready for more of a challenge, make sure to check out the splitter gear line of Theoretically (5.10c).

If clipping bolts is your jam, head to the Bozeman Pass. Limestone routes from 5.6-5.13 are clustered among fins and faces, with relatively quick and easy access off I-90 at Trail Creek Rd. If you’re looking to make a day of it, you may also want to check out Bozeman’s coolest—both scenery-wise, and temperature-wise—sport-climbing crag at Wolverine Bowl. A longer drive and about an hour-long hike brings you to the steep limestone with some of the best friction around, with many harder grades. Don’t miss The Beat Connection (5.10b) and Hate Street Dialogue (5.11b).

Events
Want to meet some new partners? There are several events each year in southwest Montana that bring the climbing community together. Here are the highlights, but keep your ear to the ground—there’s always something going on.

Thursdays
Intro to Climbing – Bozeman. If you’re not quite ready to take on climbing solo, sign up for a group lesson at Spire Climbing Center. These intro courses meet the second, third, and fourth Thursdays of the month and give you basics on belaying, commands, and technique. spireclimbingcenter.com.

Fridays
Spire Fridays – Bozeman. We’re all about deals, so here’s one of the best: the first Friday of the month is $54 climbing and gear for the whole family, the second Friday is $12 passes and half-off gear for women, and the third Friday is $12 passes and half-off gear for students and military members. Saving money ROCKS. spireclimbingcenter.com. 

Sundays
Climb for a Cause – Bozeman. On select Sunday evenings, half of each Spire pass purchase is donated to a local nonprofit. Not only can you wrap up your weekend on the wall, but you’ll contribute to a local cause, too. spireclimbingcenter.com. 

April
Spring Fling – Bozeman. Before you’re outdoor climbing for the rest of the summer, have one last hurrah on the indoor wall. Get together with friends and neighbors to celebrate the climbing community and watch some of Montana’s best throw down. spireclimbingcenter.com. 

September
Tour de Hyalite – Hyalite Canyon. In September, competitors run 14 miles up to Hyalite Peak, then climb the five hardest routes they can at Practice Rock to reduce their time—the harder the routes, the more time deducted. spireclimbingcenter.com. 

November
Full Gravity Day – Bozeman. As winter kicks off and it gets a bit too cold to climb outdoors, solve some boulder problems at Spire. This is the largest bouldering event in the Northern Rockies, so even if you aren’t competing, it’s worth checking out for the scene. spireclimbingcenter.com.

Editor’s note: Dates are subject to change based on weather and other factors. For the most updated information, visit outsidebozeman.com/events.