The short 16-mile drive from Bozeman to Bridger Bowl set the tone for the unassuming base area and relaxed atmosphere we encountered upon arrival. Given that it was a weekday and it hadn’t snowed recently, the mountain felt as if it were ours for the day. Of course, a week prior to our arrival, Bridger Bowl received one of its notorious sleeper storms that had dumped 2 feet of fresh. Apparently, we’d just missed the mayhem; we’d just missed Bridger’s legendary “cold smoke.”
“Ski the Cold Smoke” is Bridger’s war cry, and is in reference to the wispy, blower powder that the area is known for. Combined with some seriously extreme terrain and 2,600 vertical feet of lift-serviced skiing, it was easy to see why Bridger had a cult following. I believe “love” was the word most locals used to describe their feelings toward the resort. This love affair may be due in part to Bridger’s private non-profit status, which offers open membership to Montana residents 18 years of age and older. Community donations have kept Bridger in style and even funded the new Alpine Cabin located mid-mountain.
From the base area, we boarded one of the resort’s recently updated conveyor lifts and made our way toward mid-mountain. We warmed up our legs and burned off the remainder of the previous night lapping multiple blues off the Powder Park and Alpine lifts. Riding the lift up beneath the ominous ridgeline felt like paddling out into big surf. Spread out before us stood 2,000 skiable acres, 75 trails and numerous unmarked runs.
The Schlasman lift, located near the resort’s southern boundary line, requires an avalanche transceiver to board and provides access to Bridger’s ridge terrain (the big surf). From our vantage below, we could make out a number of narrow chutes and broad bowls that spanned the 2-mile ridge. Picking out skiers in this expert terrain was difficult, as many stood cemented in their tracks in deep thought.
They didn't get the memo, but thankfully, ski patrol advised us against skiing the ridge due to a recent freeze-thaw, so we kept our boards in the beacon-free zone. For most of the afternoon, we lapped blacks beneath the Bridger and Powder Park lifts, finding plenty of challenging terrain off the High Traverse and North Bowl Road. Without any lift lines to speak of, we were able to ski our legs to putty before retiring to the comforts of the base lodge and Jimmy B’s Bar & Grill.
1. Alpine Cabin: New for the 2014/2015 season, the Alpine Cabin offers a modern and cozy respite from the cold with food, drink and a wood-burning fireplace.
2. Conveyor Lifts: New for the 2013/2014 season were two triple chair lifts with loading conveyors.
Jimmy B’s Bar & Grill: Get a seat between the wood-burning fireplace and the full-service bar, and let your dogs breathe for a spell. After perusing the pub-style menu, order up a regional micro-brew—it’s no surprise that the Cold Smoke Scotch Ale from Kettle House Brewing Co. is a favorite pour.