Tag Archives: skiing

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.

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 26
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 4
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.

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.

ErikaMatsuda_SkatingMysticLake_Contest

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.

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.

coreyhockett_MSU_OutdoorRec-5

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.