Category Archives: Around the Bozone

Idiom Index

Welcome to Montana—as you’ve probably noticed, there’s some lingo getting thrown around that you might not have heard before. Study this cheat-sheet to familiarize yourself with a few common terms & phrases, along with likely scenarios, before making a fool of yourself out there on the streets of Bozeman.

Road soda (a.k.a., roadie)
It’s Friday afternoon, you’re done with midterms or a big project at work, and it’s time to head out for a long weekend in the mountains. “Hey, pass me a roadie, would ya?”

Tag soup
You’re sitting around the dinner table, choking down the cheapest ground beef you could find at T&C, explaining to friends that you came home empty-handed from a hunting trip. “Tough conditions out there; we ate tag soup.”

No friends on a powder day
Your ski buddies stop at a flat spot to regroup and declare how great the day is. You come flying by, blasting them with snow, carving turns across the untracked meadow they were all admiring. “No friends on a power day, suckers!”

Cowboy (or cowgirl) up
Your friend’s being a ninny: “Wow, that’s a lot of whitewater! House Rock looks pretty scary. It never feels that big from the road. What if I flip?” “Aw, put on your PFD and cowboy up already.”

Whiskey ditch
You’ve got an exam tomorrow and need to slow down, but can’t leave the bar yet ’cause there’s a really hot guy who keeps checking you out. “Bartender, I’ll take a whiskey ditch.”

Ain’t my first rodeo
As you inspect your flat mountain-bike tire, blown halfway up Leverich, your new riding partner comes in hot with a patch kit and unsolicited instructions. “Easy, tiger. I got this. It ain’t my first rodeo.”

Crick (as opposed to “creek”)
You’re chatting with a rancher about hunting his place and where to leave your truck. “Should I park over there by the crick?”

Bikini hatch
Your friends want to fish the lower Madison on a blazing hot Saturday afternoon. “Are you kidding me? The bikini hatch will be full swing. You’re more likely to hook a tuber than a brown.”

You don’t have to outrun a griz, just your friends
Your friend from Wisconsin is a little worried about going backpacking in the Madison Range; she heard about all the bears in those mountains, and how fast they are. “It’ll be fine! Just remember, you don’t have to outrun a griz, just your friends.”

I’ll never leave Montana, brother
You’re a recent engineering graduate, still living on ramen and Coors Light. Your friend asks, “Where are you gonna go now, to make a pile of money?” “I’ll never leave Montana, brother.”

The Bozeman Essentials

In Bozeman, it’s impossible to do it all—but if you’re like us, you strive to. Every season presents its own set of outdoor challenges and opportunities, but there are a few activities so renowned that they bear repeating on a near-annual basis—classics, you could call them. Below are some of our favorites. Do them all and you’re one step closer to becoming a true Bozemanite.

Bike Hyalite Canyon
You may have heard of Hyalite for any number of reasons, including, but not limited to: fishing, running, hiking, and ice climbing. But thanks to all those activities, it sees more than its fair share of traffic—to the point of madness. From April 1 – May 15, however, the road is closed to motor vehicles. Hop on a bike and enjoy some of the best road riding of the year on Hyalite Canyon asphalt.

Fish Gallatin Canyon
Or “the Canyon,” as locals call it, Gallatin Canyon served as the backdrop for A River Runs Through It, and has been attracting anglers for a long, long while. It’s tough to beat casting dries to rising trout just 30 minutes from town. You’ll find everything from riffles to deep pocket water and thin eddy lines, with a plethora of hatches throughout the season. With fishing this good, though, we can’t guarantee you elbow room.

Paddle the Mad Mile
Fishing ain’t the only thing the Gallatin’s known for. Come spring, before the bugs are out ’n’ about, paddling takes the cake on this river’s frothing waters. Warm up on an easier section between Moose Creek and Lava Lake, then run a gauntlet of foamy rapids known as “the Mad Mile” downstream to Upper Storm Castle. Navigate this section successfully in a watercraft and earn a badge of Bozeman honor.

Float the Lower Madison
Whether in a drift boat, raft, inner tube, or with nothing but a life jacket, floating the Lower Madison is a staple Bozeman experience. Known to locals as the “bikini hatch,” this mid-summer lazy-river float is a Mecca for dirtbags, yuppies, weekend warriors, and college students alike. Grab a sixer and hit the water.

Climb Neat Rock
With routes ranging from 5.6 to 5.14, there’s something to suit every climber’s fancy at this near-roadside crag on the banks of the Madison River. The rock is solid gneiss and the dry environment makes for good climbing conditions almost year-round. Make it a double-header with the aforementioned float, or spend a night at one of many nearby campgrounds for a weekend getaway.

Bike Leverich
On two wheels, you won’t find a more quintessential ride. This dirt singletrack loop climbs for nearly a thousand feet, then bombs right back down—just make sure you ride it in a clockwise fashion. Serious bikers have been known to lap it, and don’t be surprised if you get passed by these fellers your first time out.

Ski Bridger Bowl
Just 16 miles from downtown, the skiing doesn’t get much better than this. With the “Bridger Bowl Cloud” often hanging over the mountain, the snow’s decent, too. Ski a few laps before work, or play hooky from school to bootpack 600 feet to “the Ridge.” Don’t tackle it as a beginner, though, ’cause you’re likely bound for some serious airtime.

Hike Sacagawea Peak
The queen of the Bridgers rises to just shy of 10,000 feet in elevation, while a convenient access road to Fairy Lake makes tagging this summit a fairly casual outing. You’ll start below treeline, but soon emerge into the alpine zone dotted with crystal-blue lakes, snow-choked gullies, and jagged ridgelines. Fret not; the trail itself follows easy terrain, and the views from the top are impeccable.

Code of the West

by Courtney King

Many folks are moving to Montana through a great migration from cities and areas that are experiencing wildfires, riots, and hurricanes. If you are among the newbies, welcome—and help us preserve our Montana lifestyle through the Code of the West.

The Code of the West is a set of informal laws that originally shaped the cowboy culture of the Old West, and is still active today. What are these unwritten rules, and why are they important? If you come from a bigger city where it’s more acceptable not to speak to strangers and keep to yourself, know that it’s basically the complete opposite here. If you come from California and wonder why you feel shunned all of a sudden, there’s a backstory to this behavior. Previous newcomers tried to bring Californian ways to Montana that simply were not well-received.

The pioneers of the West, agree with them or not, paved the way to civilization using laws of the land. While things have changed with the times, in Bozeman we stay true to the best of those values. Statutory morals centered on hospitality, fair play, loyalty, and respect for the land and each other. We treat others as we want to be treated, and we still hold the contract of a gentleman’s agreement to a high standard. Most folks still consider a handshake a contract.

The Code’s implications can be as simple as waving to a passerby driving down your road, to striking up a brief conversation with someone out on the trail. Montana is not a hurried lifestyle; take your time and enjoy it. If you’re coming from out of state, embrace your new different life.

Back in the day, anyone who broke the Code became a social outcast. Here is a brief list still applicable today as it was back then—if not in the literal sense, at least in the figurative.

  • Don’t inquire into a person’s past. Take the measure of a man for what he is today.
  • Don’t ask a rancher how many cattle she has; that’s like asking how much money she has in the bank.
  • Close the gate when you open it.
  • Say howdy to folks on the trail (and pick up your dog’s indiscretions).
  • Never order anything weaker than whiskey.
  • Always fill your whiskey glass to the brim.
  • Do not practice ingratitude.
  • A cowboy always helps someone in need, even a stranger or an enemy.
  • Real cowboys are modest. A braggart who is “all gurgle and no guts” is not tolerated.
  • Respect the land and the environment by not smoking in hazardous fire areas, and not disfiguring rocks, trees, or other natural areas.
  • Honesty is absolute—your word is your bond; a handshake is more binding than a contract.

Post Wisely

by Corey Hockett

We live in a funny time. An age where announcing one’s experiences outweighs living the experience itself. If you don’t have a picture, did your trail run even happen? If your photo wasn’t affirmed with 1,000 cyber hearts, was your bike ride even worth it? If you climb a mountain, but fail to take a reel of it, were you there at all? So goes the thought process of the digital age.

Let me preface this by saying that I am a millennial who has social-media accounts and does in fact post from time to time. I have a camera and I understand the appeal of sharing images with one’s community. But must we do this with every last activity, every single outing? Is it too much to exercise a little discretion? We in Montana are still lucky enough to enjoy places to ourselves. Let’s do our best to keep it that way.

For the locals out there grumbling aloud about busy trailheads, head to the next drainage over. The one without a parking lot. Sure, it might be a little further from where you intended to go, but isn’t that what we’ve loved about this place all along? The opportunity to explore and discover?

Now, for those of you who have stumbled upon an area seemingly unbeknownst to others, please, for the love of all that is holy, keep it to yourself! Recognize the sacredness of such a thing and don’t ruin it by advertising it to your whole social network. Step back and realize that the reason the place seems so lovely and enjoyable is that there’s nothing around but the natural world. Crazy, huh?

As bewildered as I am over this, it’s clear that some folks are unable to move through their days without providing constant updates to their digital followership. Slaves to their vibrating, attention-sucking, brain-numbing devices, they need affirmation from others that the life they live is in fact a good one. To this, I say fine. If you want to post a photo of all the fish you caught in your secret hole, great—just don’t include easily recognizable landmarks. This same stretch of water could be quietly enjoyed by others, too. Choose a frame with an indistinct background and a caption that conceals the location’s identity. You get to show off your fish and preserve the solitude for others. Win-win.

I understand that as an outdoor guidebook, we play a role in the increased visitation to certain locations. There’s no way around it. However, we do so judiciously. No place that we promote, in print or online, is a secret spot—they’re all well-documented on maps and in other guidebooks; they’re all well-known among the local outdoor populace. “Secret” and “favorite” are not the same thing. Part of our job is to facilitate outdoor recreation—and newcomers (to town, or to a certain activity) need to know where to go. Sometimes that helps protect a place from mankind’s ravenous propensity to rape, pillage, develop, and commodify; other times, it simply leads to overcrowding. This is a conundrum, and if you think we could do a better job, tell us.

The point is, we live in a time where social media is everywhere. Like it or not, this includes our outdoor spaces. Thus, our responsibility—and I mean everyone here—is to use it in a manner that encourages healthy engagement with nature. What does “healthy” mean? In loose terms, it’s creating awareness for wild places under threat while keeping quiet about the so-called “undiscovered” spots. As for knowing which is which, it can only be up to the individual. But it ain’t that tough.

Post wisely, my friends.

Birds of a Feather

By Jamie Rankin

Bozeman brims with not only outdoor-recreation opportunities, but also close-knit communities dedicated to getting outside. If you’re looking to get involved in the outdoors and meet new people along the way, here are some local groups and clubs to scope out.

Big Sky Wind Drinkers: started in the 1970s; they hold races year-round, as well as weekly fun runs in the summer and winter.

Hunting & Fishing
Backcountry Hunters & Anglers: is dedicated to protecting fish & wildlife habitat, public land, and public access.

MSU Fly Fishing Club: brings folks together to fish, tie flies, and get involved with local conservation events. @bozotroutbums on Instagram

Gallatin Valley Bicycle Club: holds training events, races, and group rides; and keeps members apprised of other local biking events.

Southwest Montana Bike Association: is a nonprofit dedicated to maintaining trails and organizing group rides for those of all ability levels.

Wave Train Kayak Team: teaches adult paddling courses of various skill levels.

Bozeman Whitewater: is a group that organizes day trips on local rivers. @Bozemanwhitewater on Facebook

Bridger Ski Foundation: offers educational and competitive ski programs for all ages.

XC Skiers of Bozeman: os a group dedicated to coordinating Nordic ski days. @XCSkiers of Bozeman on Facebook

SW Montana Climbers Coalition: is a nonprofit that advocates for climbing access and works to maintain routes.

Lady Runners Bozeman: connects runners of all skill levels in the Bozone. @Lady Runners: Bozeman on Facebook

Bozeman Pedal Project: is a biking Facebook group that coordinates group rides. @Bozeman Pedal Project of Facebook

Mountain Belles: and the MSU chapter of Backcountry Squatters organize trips of all type & activity year-round. Find the both on Facebook. @MountainBelles & @BackcountrySquatters

Sliding High

by the editors

Of all the outdoor activities available around Bozeman, downhill skiing is among the most celebrated. When that first dusting of snow comes in late fall, the upcoming ski season becomes the talk of the town. People come from all over the country to ski our famous cold smoke—fine, dry powder that stacks up by the hundreds of inches. It takes a hardy soul to get outside in the dead of winter here, but a fun day on the slopes with good friends makes it a whole lot easier. So whether you’re a lifelong skiing addict or a magic-carpet-riding neophyte, you’ve come to the right place.

Where to Go
Look around you—there are mountains in every direction, and every range offers good skiing. You’ve probably heard of Bridger Bowl and Big Sky Resort, and you can spark debate at any bar by asking which mountain is better. Go find out for yourself.

Outside of Bozeman’s immediate area are plenty of mom-and-pop hills to put on the list, most of which offer cheaper lift passes than Bridger, let alone Big Sky (got an extra $200, anyone?) Discovery, outside of Butte, is a great weekend trip with terrain for all levels. Other noteworthy ski areas are Maverick near Dillon and Red Lodge Mountain west of, yes, Red Lodge. Grand Targhee and Jackson Hole are also three hours away for those looking for a slightly longer road-trip. And don’t forget Showdown, the laid-back hill near White Sulphur Springs.

Backcountry adventures are near-limitless around here, and we’ll leave it to you to discover the hidden gems. But if you’re just getting started, check out Lick Creek, Goose Creek, or Telemark Meadows (full route descriptions can be found at All of these places have low avalanche danger and will let you get dialed in with your equipment before delving into snow science and risk assessment.

Essential Gear
There are no two ways about it: skiing is gear-intensive and it can be expensive to get started. Our local retail shops are top-notch, though, and several big sales happen throughout the year. And because Bozeman has so many skiers, there’s always a huge used market, too. Every fall, Bridger Ski Foundation hosts a ski-swap that draws in thousands of folks to buy and sell gear. If you miss the swap, you’ll still find plenty of offerings on Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, and secondhand stores around town.

So what exactly do you need? Of course, skis, bindings, and boots are the foundation. Skis come in all different shapes and sizes, and have changed a lot over the past 20 years. If you don’t know what you’re looking for, aim for a pair of skis about the same height as you are, and around 90-100mm wide underfoot. Don’t buy some old clunkers that your friend’s dad grew up skiing on; they’ll be much harder to learn on than modern skis. Look harder for something newer—they’re out there. If you’re buying used, the skis will likely already have bindings on them. If you’re buying new, take the shop’s advice on bindings.

Boots are the most important—and most oft-overlooked—part of the ski setup. They’ll make or break your skiing experience. Poor-fitting boots are the most common reason why new skiers don’t stick with the sport, but a good fit will keep you comfortable all day long. Ski boots come in many different shapes, and what fits one skier perfectly could be disastrous for another, so don’t buy boots based on recommendations or reviews. There’s no substitute for a professional boot-fit at a shop.

If you’re interested in backcountry skiing, things get a bit more complicated. First off, there are many more nuanced options for backcountry bindings compared with the generally-universal models for pure downhill skiing. Many folks are tempted by heavier, more-secure touring bindings that mimic the safety mechanisms of downhill bindings, but keep in mind that the extra weight is going to tire you out in the skintrack. If it’s your first pair, go for something middle-of-the-road.

The same pattern goes for backcountry boots. Heavier boots offer better downhill performance, but lighter boots—often built with a smoother walk-mode—will take less effort when skinning. A good boot-fitter will point you in the right direction.

Touring skins come in lots of varieties these days. Skins designed for SkiMo racing are the lightest and most compact, and are usually cheaper than other models due to their minimalist design. These skins will also glide the most efficiently—again, saving you energy. You can opt for bigger skins with more grip, but as your technique improves, you won’t need it.

You’ll also need a beacon, shovel, and probe for venturing into the backcountry—and some training to learn how to use them. There are avalanche-safety courses offered all winter long around here—consider the course tuition just as important as any gear purchase. And last but not least, don’t forget your helmet!

For better or worse, skiing has a myriad of unwritten (and some written) rules. Some are arcane, but others are worth keeping in mind to ensure you don’t piss anyone off—or worse, put yourself in danger. First and foremost, remember that we’re all out there to have a good time. Keep a positive attitude, gab with strangers, and don’t hesitate to whoop and holler from the chairlift. Ski areas have a universal “responsibility code,” which many a skier, beginner and experienced, would benefit from studying up on. Know the code and it’ll be smooth sailing at the resort.

The backcountry has its own etiquette. Within your group, make sure that everyone’s voice is heard when making decisions. You’ll learn how to render informed judgements in an avalanche class, but a less-experienced person’s opinion is no necessarily less valuable. Keep your group size small—four or fewer is ideal, not only to ease decision-making, but also to lessen your impact on other groups. People are out there to experience nature, and no one wants to reach a hard-earned summit to find 10 other people hanging out. In a similar vein, give folks plenty of space. If another group is getting ready to ski an untracked line, don’t cut in front of them. A few other pointers: don’t pee or let your dog pee (or, God forbid, defecate) in the skintrack, don’t boot-pack up the skintrack (leaving annoying pockmarks for those behind you), and make sure to let people pass if they’re skinning faster than you.

Bozeman loves skiing. Here are some popular events to prove it.

Ski Swap – Bozeman. Out with the old, in with the new(ish). If you’re new to skiing, don’t miss this. Bridger Ski Foundation’s annual swap at the Gallatin County Fairgrounds offers huge discounts on quality gear. Drop your old gear off the day before.

Opening Day – Big Sky. 36 lifts, 4,350 feet of elevation, and 5,800 acres to play on. Have at it.

Projected Opening Day – Bridger Bowl. Weather permitting, chairs will start spinning for another season of winter fun at Bridger Bowl. Whether you’re first in line or last to leave, opening day is always a party.

Community GS Racing – Bridger Bowl. See how you stack up against the rest of the local crowd in this series of two-run GS races. Categories for ski, snowboard, and telemark.

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.

Editor’s note: dates are subject to change. For the most updated information, visit

Bozeman Bucket List

by the editors

It’s impossible, even in a lifetime of living in Bozeman, to do it all. That being said, there are a few must-dos to tick off as soon as possible, for a proper enrollment into the outdoor life of the Bozone. Here’s a starter list to accelerate your initiation.

Hike the M

Bike to Mystic Lake

Run whitewater on the Gallatin

Rock climb at Practice Rock

Join the bikini hatch on the Madison River

Catch a trout on the Yellowstone

Hike, run, or ride the Main Street to the Mountains trails

Enter a classic local trail race (Baldy Blitz, Bridger Trail Run, Ridge Run, etc.)

Hunt elk in the mountains

Stay in a backcountry cabin or yurt

Soak in the Boiling River

Sled down Peets Hill

Cross-country ski in Hyalite

Ski the Ridge at Bridger Bowl

Ride the Big Sky tram up Lone Peak

Giving Back

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.

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.

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.