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.

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.

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.

Try Before You Buy

by the editors

If you’re new to the outdoor scene or just keen on a new activity, you may not know the nuances of gear acquisition. Bozeman’s local outdoor shops can steer you in the right direction, and used gear abounds on Craigslist; but to avoid buyer’s remorse—and a pile of unused items in the basement—we suggest trying out an activity before investing in all the equipment. Here are some ways to get geared up for your outdoor test-drive.

Better Biking
If you’re into singletrack, you probably cry at night, saddened by the $5,000 price tag dangling from the mountain bike of your dreams. Luckily, most of the shops in town host free demo days. You can test entire product lines before going deep into debt. For regular ol’ rentals, several shops will rent a standard mountain bike for around $40 per day; for a little more moolah, you can opt for better suspension and other upgrades. If you’re just looking to bob around town, consider a cruiser for about $20 a day.

Frugal Fishing
If you’re used to chucking lures for bass in Minnesota and want to try your hand at fly fishing, you’ll need the right kit. Lucky for you, a few local fishing shops not only rent gear, but also offer well-priced (and occasionally free) clinics for beginners.

Float the Boat
If flowing water is your thing, rent a watercraft for the day or weekend, then get a taste of river life—including all the associated gear and logistics involved. A raft or driftboat is a huge expense and a few hundo is a small price to pay to avoid a $6,000 mistake.

Motor Mode
There’s no greater fun-machine than a snowmobile—but which one is for you, and what style of riding do you prefer? Find out by renting a sled from a local outfit and tooling around in the snow for a weekend. Then, make an educated decision about where to spend your hard-earned dough.

Powder Promotion
Odds are, you’ll spend some quality time at Bridger Bowl in the winter. For most of the season, any pair of skis will do. But once in a while, when the Bridger Bowl Cloud descends on our community ski hill, you’ll want something fatter to keep you afloat. Before shelling out cash for portly planks, rent when the time is right. All the local shops have high-end demos for fair prices—and oftentimes, if you end up buying, they’ll deduct the rental from the purchase price.

Collegiate Concessions
If you’re an MSU student or member of the Alumni Association, you have unlimited access to the on-campus Outdoor Recreation Center. That means rafts, canoes, backcountry skis, ice-climbing kits, and more—all at ultra-low prices. Plus, the center hosts clinics, float-trips, and overnighters for very reasonable fees.

Park It

by Maggie Slepian

Montana’s weather is notoriously volatile—not to mention brutal—so when the sun comes out, it makes sense for you to get out, as often and for as long as possible. On those bright, warm days, take advantage of Bozeman’s many parks by setting up a hammock, taking the dog out for a jaunt, or lounging under the trees. Remember to follow all posted leash rules, pick up after your pup, and be considerate of other park-goers.

Beall
This northside park has picnic tables, lush green grass for napping or Frisbee-throwing, and basketball courts for working up a sweat. On-site is a charming old building that’s available to rent, on the cheap, for meetings, receptions, seminars, or dance parties. In the winter, the city floods the park for outdoor skating.

Bogert
Bogert has tennis courts, a pool and playground, a huge expanse of grass, and a creek flowing behind the pavilion. Just a few blocks south of Main Street, on the east side of downtown, this park is a hub for local events.

Bozeman Pond
Practice casting flies at the pond, wander around the trails, or hang out under the large pavilion at a picnic table. This park has a small fenced-in area for letting dogs run and swim, plus a climbing boulder for aspiring ascendants to practice their moves in a low-pressure environment. For something more vigorous, round up all your pals for a rousing beach-volleyball game in the sand court.

Cooper
Just a few blocks south of downtown, Cooper Park is ideal for dogs. Large shade trees provide prime relaxation opportunities, plenty of picnic tables make for excellent impromptu gatherings, and the allowed off-leash play means Fido can tire himself out.

Regional Park
This expansive complex has multiple ponds, a fenced-off dog park, looping trails, a pump track, and a climbing boulder. It’s basically a multi-sport destination in and of itself. In the winter, bring a saucer or inner-tube for some good clean fun on the sledding hill.

Langhor Gardens
Langhor Gardens is a community garden with a climbing boulder—what could be more Bozeman than that? The Gallagator trail crosses through the park and will take you all the way downtown, and a nearby creek makes for a nice respite after a stressful day.

Lindley
Adjacent to the Bozeman Public Library, connected to Peets Hill, and providing access to different trail options, Lindley has it all. In the warm weather you’ll find folks slinging hammocks and slacklines between the trees, and the trails around Lindley are groomed for skate skiing in the winter, so it’s a year-round attraction.

Rose
If disc golf is your thing, this is your spot. Smack-dab in the middle of Bozeman—a short bike ride from most places—Rose Park’s course isn’t overly challenging, but you can play a quick round with pals and then walk or pedal to a nearby restaurant to re-fuel.

Southside
Southside Park lies near the MSU campus and is often bustling with students. Depending on the season, you can be serving up goals or aces. This 6.5-acre park has tennis courts from spring through fall, and an ice rink in winter.

Story Mill
This is Bozeman’s largest and newest park. With several miles of trails, a climbing boulder, an adventure playground, an enclosed dog park for pups to roam and play fetch, an amphitheater, a community center, and several open-air pavilions, Story Mill has it all.

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.

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.

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.

Coveted Courses

by Jack Taylor

Lucky you, to have landed in Montana’s epicenter for outdoor recreation. Soaring ridgelines beckon to be traversed, roaring rapids call for you to make a run, and blankets of cold smoke beg your legs to carve them up. No matter the activity, Bozeman offers the very best, and you’re bound to pick up a new outdoor hobby. But don’t get ahead of yourself—our mountains and rivers take no prisoners. Get started on the right foot with an instructional course, because when shit hits the fan, a little learnin’ goes a long way.

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Wilderness First Aid
If you haven’t taken one yet, a WFA course through a local outfit like Crossing Latitudes is a must. These two-day clinics (typically held on weekends) cover everything you need to keep an injured friend (or yourself) safe until the pros arrive. They’re a bit pricey, but well worth the investment. If you plan on finding yourself deep in the backcountry, hours or even days from help, go all in and sign up for a Wilderness First Responder. This professional-level, week-long course is comprehensive and covers most potential ailments and injuries.

Avalanche Education
Looking to ski in the backcountry this winter? Get some avalanche training. Each fall and winter, the Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center runs free hour-long seminars all over town, but do yourself a favor and get a more in-depth certification with one of their multi-day Level 1 courses. If you’re after a more immersive experience, Big Sky Backcountry Guides runs Level 1 and 2 courses from its yurt in the Tobacco Roots, and Beartooth Powder Guides offers courses in Cooke City.

Paddling Skills
From lazy meandering floats to Class IV whitewater, southwest Montana’s rivers provide amazing opportunities to progress as a paddler. Check out Wave Train Kayak Team’s programs to hone your skills before diving head-first into the Mad Mile. In addition to clinics and private instruction, Wave Train provides multi-day whitewater trips to members of its summer paddling teams. 

Swiftwater Rescue
For boating enthusiasts, swiftwater-rescue training is a must. The creeks and rivers most folks run in the spring are cold, full of strainers, and downright dangerous. Learn safety skills from the pros at Montana Whitewater to avoid heading up a creek without a paddle. If you plan on leading whitewater trips, Guide School is a great option as well. It’s required for Montana Whitewater employees, but open to interested members of the general public.

Rope Skills
No matter your level of climbing experience, you can always add to your repertoire of technical skills. Whether you’re putting on rock shoes and a harness for the first time, or ogling Hyalite’s multi-pitch ice, you’re certain to find a course that will up your game in the vertical realm. Spire offers a range of instruction from basic lead climbing to multi-pitch techniques. For the next level, check out Montana Alpine Guides’ assortment of rock- and ice-climbing clinics.

Navigation
Technology has made it all too easy to think that you know where you’re going, but for better or worse (read: better), most areas you’ll be venturing to in southwest Montana are devoid of cell service. Keep it simple: learn how to use a map and compass. AIM Adventure U provides online navigation courses to keep you on the right track. Or, check out a book from the library on orienteering—the art is as old as history.

Survival
Maybe you’re content with sticking to day hikes on popular trails close to town. But if you want to experience the unadulterated wilderness, you’ll benefit from picking up some backcountry survival skills. Green University, based in nearby Pony, offers immersive courses on topics such as foraging for edible plants, making primitive tools, hunting wild game, and building shelters. Who knows, maybe you’ll make a home in the mountains, drop out of school, quit your job, and become a bona fide backcountry badass.