File this under things you’ll only see in a small, tight-knit mountain town: The Grizzly Ridge Station still allows its regulars to keep a tab. There are many Bozeman locals who are trusted enough to settle up at the end of each month, carrying an old-time bar tradition not seen much in modern times.
That’s just the first indication that Bridger Bowl’s lone independently owned bar is the local’s stop. There’s a mug club that sells out virtually instantly each year, allowing the ski patrollers and assorted ski bums a chance to have their own glass emblazoned with their name or call sign.
Plus, it’s the cheapest après ski option around, with $3 Olympias and 16-ounce Old Milwaukees always available for “the dirt bags,” said Owner Don Bockhahn.
“We are just the local hang,” Bockhahn said. “It’s where everybody who is anybody in Bozeman comes through.”
The concept started by chance. Nineteen years ago, Bockhahn was an area builder/ski bum, helping construct the building that is now home to Grizzly Ridge. The person who hired Bockhahn asked if he’d like to open a little bar upstairs.
“Oh my god, thank you lord,’” was his response. “We started out and we were one little room here. It was more of a hobby store so I could come up and ski a couple times a week.”
Perhaps it’s the engrained ski bum in him that has created the true Montana ski bar, which was recently highlighted by Powder Magazine as one of the three best ski bum bars in North America.
While the cheap beer draws die hard skiers in droves after a day mastering the brutal terrain of Bridger, there are plenty of higher brow elements for those who prefer quality to quantity.
The beer list is filled with handcrafted Montana beers, including Kettlehouse’s Cold Smoke, a Scotch ale named after the fluffy powder at Bridger. Hot toddies are ordered by the tableful from the slightly older crowd that hits the bar by 3 p.m., and the bartenders have created an eclectic cocktail menu featuring several original and innovative concoctions.
Deep-dish pizzas featuring locally made dough highlight the food menu, and live music fills the bar every other weekend. Nachos piled high with fresh veggies come in close second in menu popularity.
Plus, Bockhahn began installing a rail yard outside the front door more than a dozen years ago, and it has become a major attraction. During the ski day, kids will huck themselves across the metal, while Mom and Dad enjoy an early-, mid- or late-day beer (the bar is open for breakfast, too).
Not bad work for a builder/ski bum turned bar owner.