Tag Archives: skiing

Photo by Ryan Krueger

Deep Thoughts

by the editors

A guide to Cold-Smoke College.

From many a window on campus, no matter what direction you’re facing, you’ll be staring directly at a snow-capped mountain range. Seven are visible from the Gallatin Valley, and during the school year, they’re more than just snow-capped—they’re snow-covered.

Whether you’re getting in a run or two at Bridger Bowl between classes, splurging on a weekend at Big Sky Resort with the family, or busting out skate-skiing laps on Lindley Park, if you ski, you’ve come to the right place. If you don’t ski, you will soon. Bozeman is centrally located for the winter-sports enthusiast; but before you hit the slopes, get the information you need to maximize your stoke.

Skiing with a view.

Skiing with a view.

Essential Gear

If you’re skiing at the resort, you’ll need all the basics: skis, boots, poles, helmet, outerwear, and accessories. If you’re starting from scratch, hit up the second-hand stores like Second Wind and Nu2u, especially for big-ticket items such as skis, poles, and outerwear. If you’re going to splurge on one item, make it your boots. Used boots are fine for beginners, but the right fit is key once you’re aggressively skiing more technical terrain. Also, buy a new helmet—lice are gross. All of the same advice applies to snowboarders, although you won’t need poles for resort riding.

For the backcountry enthusiast, gear is a bit more complicated. The first thing you should buy is an avalanche course. There are a few fully certified guide operations nearby, such as Big Sky Backcountry Adventures at the Bell Lake Yurt and Beartooth Powder Guides in Cooke City. Courses are pricey, but your life is worth a couple hundred bucks. Once you’ve booked a course, you’ll need safety gear like a shovel, beacon, and probe. (This safety gear is also required for Bridger Bowl’s more technical Ridge terrain, so you’ll most likely be purchasing it regardless.) This safety gear goes in a pack, so you’ll need one of those as well. For day tours, something between 25-35 liters will do.

Beacon search practice during an avalanche safety course.

Beacon search practice during an avalanche safety course.

To get uphill, you’ll need some skins, touring boots or boots with a walk mode (unless you snowboard), and some AT bindings. Snowboarders should check out the splitboard-binding company Spark R&D. They’re the best in the business and their headquarters is right here in Bozeman. For skiers, if you get tech bindings, make sure your boots are compatible. If all this has confused you, go to a shop and talk through your options with a sales associate. Because you’ll be traveling uphill in varying terrain, adjustable poles are nice, though not required.

If Nordic skiing is your thing, you’re lucky—there’s less gear and it’s much cheaper. To get started, you just need skis, boots, and poles. Again, buying used skis and poles is a great way to save a lot of money. Better yet, rent equipment from somewhere like Chalet Sports or Round House, then buy once you know the style of skiing you like. For classic skiing, softshell outerwear works great. Use what you have before buying activity-specific items. For skate-skiing, you’ll want something that breathes well as you’ll be sweating up a storm. Racers wear spandex, but that’s overkill for the recreational skier.

Remember that all these items and more are available for rent at the MSU Outdoor Rec Center, for great prices.

Mile Creek

Cross country skiing Mile Creek.

Where to Go

For downhill skiers and snowboarders, the obvious choice is Bridger Bowl. It’s 20 minutes from campus, meaning you can get in a half-day between morning econ and your afternoon physics lab. They also have a great rate for students, and it’s a good place to land a part-time job. That way you can ski for free.

If you’re feeling the need for some serious big-mountain skiing, pick a weekend or two and splurge on Big Sky passes. They’re expensive, but the amount and quality of the terrain is worth the price of admission. Save a few bucks on gas by taking the bus, and pack a lunch instead of gorging at the resort.

For a completely different experience, hit the road and make your way to any of the small-town ski areas within a few hours of campus. Red Lodge, Maverick, Lost Trail, and Discovery are some of our favorites, but there are several others that are worth a visit. Most are closed Monday through Wednesday, so watch the weather and head out after an early-week storm.

Making the most of Bridger Bowl's closing day.

Making the most of Bridger Bowl’s closing day.

Outside the Treasure State, other options abound. Grand Targhee is about three hours away and gets hammered with snow, and about four hours away is the legendary Jackson Hole.

If you cross-country ski, Bozeman has more options than you’ll be able to cover in four winters (or seven, as the case may be). Right in town, there are the hospital trails, groomed by the Bridger Ski Foundation and perfect for a lunch-lap or three. Out Bridger Canyon, check out CrossCut Ranch. This Nordic center has trails for all skill levels and even features biathlon. More on the wild side, the trail network in Hyalite is periodically groomed and nestled deep in the Custer-Gallatin National Forest.

Backcountry enthusiasts can cut their teeth in Bradley’s Meadow on the north boundary of Bridger Bowl. It’s a short skin from the ski area’s Alpine chair and offers a few safe, mellow turns. Up Hyalite, History Rock and Lick Creek are local favorites, and if conditions are right, Mt. Ellis is another close-by standby. Obviously, the options are endless, but we can’t do all the work for you. Go explore—safely.

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

Cross country skiing

 Events

As students, your schedules are jam-packed, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make some time for fun. Skiing is inherently social, and the following events are the highlights of the season.

Bridger Bowl hosts weekly community events, ranging from freeride competitions to telemark costume races. Check out their event calendar once the season starts for more details. Big Sky also hosts daily events, most notably excellent live music and several bigger festivals. Big Sky Big Grass is a highlight every February, as is the Pond Skim in April.

November 22
Big Sky Opening Day – Big Sky. Give thanks for overhead pow turns and steep terrain at Big Sky’s opening day. Services will be limited, but this is a great way to get the season started. Details here.

December 7
Projected Opening Day – Bridger Bowl. Chairs start spinning for another season at Bridger Bowl. Get your place in line, even if it means procrastinating during finals week. Details here.

For an up-to-date list of events around the Bozone, check out Outside Bozeman’s event calendar.

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King of the Hills

Pray for snow.

by David Tucker

If you’re at MSU, odds are you’re aware of Bozeman’s endless powder possibilities. But where to start? Here’s a rundown of the area’s best downhill, Nordic, and backcountry options.

Ski the cold smoke.

Ski the cold smoke.

Downhill Dreamland
Closest to campus, and to many Bozemanites’ hearts, Bridger Bowl is the epitome of challenging ridgeline skiing. While it doesn’t feature the biggest vertical relief around, the tight chutes, deep powder, and down-home atmosphere more than make up for it. Bridger’s abundant “cold smoke” powder is legendary, but the mountain is more than just waist-deep stashes. Improved facilities mean beginners are welcome, so if you’re new to the downhill game, don’t shy away—before you know it, you’ll be hiking the Ridge with the rest of us.

Not to be outdone, Big Sky, just over an hour down Gallatin Canyon, offers world-class skiing and riding, with a larger variety of terrain for those seeking a little of everything. Or a lot of everything—with the recent addition of Moonlight Basin and the Spanish Peaks Resort, Big Sky is bigger than ever, and has the options to prove it. Forty-plus-degree slopes, gladed tree runs, endless groomers—you name it, Big Sky’s got it. Most days, your legs will quit long before the chairlifts.

If you’re looking to go a little further afield, but still want the convenience of lift-access skiing, don’t neglect any number of small-town hills within a three-hour drive. Red Lodge, Maverick Mountain, Teton Pass, Lost Trail, and Discovery all make for awesome road-trips that harken back to simpler—and cheaper—times.

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Bozeman is laden with cross-country trails.

Nordic Nirvana
Not into the downhill? Fear not—Bozeman has more cross-country trails than you could cover in a lifetime, let alone four (five?) years. Start with the in-town trails, many of which are groomed by the Bridger Ski Foundation, a local nonprofit. Make your way from the Highland Glen Nature Preserve’s mellow groomers up to the labyrinthine network in Hyalite. As with all things outdoors in Bozeman, there’s a trail for every skill level, so start easy and work your way up.

For a more formal outing, head to Bohart Ranch in Bridger Canyon. Here you’ll find one of Bozeman’s most storied outdoor institutions and over 30k of groomed trail, less than 20 minutes from campus. Want to make a weekend of it? Lone Mountain Ranch in Big Sky and the Rendezvous ski trails in West Yellowstone are great options for a close-to-home getaway.

Can't get much better than untracked powder.

Can’t get much better than untracked powder.

Backcountry Bliss
If crowds aren’t your thing, or you need an adventure that goes beyond the lift line, southwest Montana will still deliver. Now, part of the backcountry experience is finding secret stashes on your own, so we aren’t going to point you to any specific location, but rather remind you of some importance considerations to make before heading out. First off, get educated. ASMSU offers excellent avalanche-safety courses on the cheap, so there’s no excuse for ignorance. Secondly, respect begets respect. There’s nowhere you’re going to go that hasn’t been skied before, by folks who are much more “rad,” “epic,” and “gnarly” than you are; understand your history and venerate your predecessors. Finally, take advantage of your access. We’re surrounded by outstanding ski terrain and it’s all free for the taking—so get out there and explore.

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Modest Maintenance

Tune-up on a tight budget. 

by Ryan Diehl

So you got to school and your gear is in shambles. Your bike needs a tune-up and your skis have core shots galore. Problem is, you’re on a tight budget—does deciding between tuned gear or putting food in your belly sound familiar? Well, now there’s a solution: bring that gear into the ASMSU Outdoor Recreation Program Bike & Ski Workshop and don’t worry about a thing. This service is provided to MSU students at a low cost to help keep your stuff in tip-top shape, so you can go back to skiing powder and ripping singletrack—I mean, studying.

The Bicycle & Ski Workshop, which is located in the Outdoor Recreation Program building, allows MSU students, faculty/staff, and affiliates to perform maintenance and repairs on personal equipment. All current students have access to tools and the facility for a small fee and are welcome to work on their own bikes, skis, or snowboards. Assistance is often available, as well as drop-off services for a reasonable hourly rate.

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You can also purchase essential tools for maintaining a smooth-running bike, or to keep your favorite pair of skis or board in good shape. If mechanics aren’t your specialty, shop attendants are happy to show you the ropes to get you started.

Skiing and biking opportunities abound in the Bozeman area. As an MSU student, you can’t always afford to keep your gear in good working order. So bring it on down to your favorite peer-run shop, feel welcome, and get back to exploring in no time.

For more information, call 994-3621.