The world’s 25 classic skiing and snowboarding towns as selected by the editors at National Geographic.
Bozeman, MT is #4 on the National Geographic List.
Best For: Diehard skiers who wear their duct tape with pride (and beginners who look forward to doing the same someday)
The adventure capital of the Northern Rockies, Bozeman is an old Montana university town of cowboys and ski bums, pickups and unleashed dogs, and two of the premier ski hills in America. More of a working town than a traditional “ski town,” here overpriced lodges and fine dining are the exception, though there are a few high-end options and classically trained chefs. But being Bozeman, there’s nowhere you can’t wear blue jeans. You don’t come here for the restaurants, you come to ski the two wild Montana mountains. Bridger Bowl is the storied, scruffy little brother, a condo-free, nonprofit ski area 20 minutes out of town and where some of America’s original extreme skiers—Scot Schmidt, Tom Jungst, and Doug Coombs—cut their teeth and began preaching the steep skiing gospel. Hardcore skiers flock here for The Ridge, in-bounds hiking terrain with a murderer’s row of hairball chutes, and the new Schlasman’s Lift accessing expert-only, backcountry-style terrain (avalanche transceivers required for both).
An hour’s drive south of town in the majestic Madison Range, Big Sky Resort is the brash, lusty big brother, a gigantic ski area that offers joint lift tickets with the adjacent Moonlight Basin to create one of the largest ski areas in America. The tram to the vaulting, exposed 11,166-foot summit of Lone Peak opens up a Euro-style world of high-alpine, big-mountain skiing. Beginners and intermediates will find plenty of terrain at both, with Big Sky the deluxe option and the smaller Bridger a no-frills, low-cost choice. Yellowstone National Park, a 60-minute drive away, features back-of-beyond cross-country skiing and wildlife watching.
Ask a Local
Tom Jungst moved to Bozeman in 1977 to join the Montana State University ski racing team and soon began pioneering extreme terrain in the area and appearing in classic ski films by Warren Miller and Greg Stump. Today he is an educator, machinist, and product designer. Here are his recommendations.
Budget: Blue Sky Motel, which has $40 rooms and allows dogs for a small fee
Swank: The Gallatin Gateway Inn isn’t that expensive, but it’s nice, and from the inn it’s easy to head to either Big Sky or Bridger before or afterwards.
Cheap: Watanabe, across from the high school on Main Street, has no liquor license, but the authentic noodle dishes warm you after a cold day of skiing.
Best After-Ski Party Spot
Montana Ale Works is great, but the newly rebuilt Rocking R Bar is a lot of fun too. Main Street is all fun!
Best Rest-Day Activity
I’d recommend a drive up Hyalite Canyon. Bring some cross-country skis or snowshoes and check out the frozen waterfalls, ice climbers, and beautiful peaks.
Bozeman’s Classic Ski Run
“For me a classic is an old-fashioned hike up the Bridger Ridge and out to the Apron—preferably from the top—and Hidden Gully,” says Jungst. “At Big Sky, any tram lap is awesome depending on the conditions, but nothing beats a ripper down Lenin or Marx.”