January 22: Not sure where to start something like this, I don’t consider myself a “writer” and my letters, notes, texts are usually in point form at best, so I guess I’ll just keep with that. Not sure where to start something like this, I don’t consider myself a “writer” and my letters, notes, texts are usually in point form at best, so I guess I’ll just keep with that.
So ski areas are all the same, right? day lodge, with bad burgers, beer, and a few lifts, and hopefully some snow? Ya, but what kind of lifts, who rides them, local, tourist, tele-skier, helmets, fat skis? down, gore-tex?
so: what makes bridge (and bozeman) different
The lift system really separates skiers that want different terrain. Alpine ? and powder platter? are more green/blue, some groomed, some mellow trees, etc. gentle terrain for the most part.
The lower lift is just access to all the other lifts, basic green terrain, terrain parks
Bridget lift, PK, and slushmans all have some blue, but mostly ungrommed, black + terrain
BB skiers sure do like to hike, Even on a pow day, with mostly fresh snow right off the lifts, people are going up the boot packs. Sure thins out any crowds. I wonder how the area would be different if the lifts went right to ridge top, rather then the 5-30 min walks that are needed (and wanted by most locals I bet)
Hard to find a good all around ski. Very tech, rocky billy goat terrain, but still some long runouts. For me the 195cm/112mm hoji is OK, maybe the smaller size would be better? Not much true alpine terrain, but I think that banff has a very high amount of alpine, compared to everywhere else. For you something that you can slide sideways on.
The high end skiers often don’t wear helmets, and are very low key about ability, etc. Maybe this is just the independent, redneck MT culture showing thru? They also have a very relaxed skiing style, similar to Lake Loiuse.
Very limited signage on the mountain, even less on the higher end terrain that is lift serviced, and nothing on the ridge terrain. If you don’t see tracks STOP!, if you see tracks proceed with caution. Again the MT casual, self responsibly, historical feel to it.
small, "cliff" signs on top of the few entrances to this inbounds, not hike to, terrain
some good history on the area.
its a strange mix of redneck (trucks that wave to you on back roads) and collage/university kids (2 used record stores, 3 coffee roasters), and active lifestyle (2 bike only stores, open year round) Like any town/city/place, it has issues with homeless, drugs, etc, but I think almost everywhere has that. Its just if its more or less hidden, or if you do/dont look for it. Turn over enough rocks and you will find both old, worms, and diamonds.
Lots of good food options, right from $3 taco places, right to high end “impress the ladies” places. Old school “cafe” right next to tapes, wine bars, and breweries. Lots seem to do a 4-6ish happy hour prices on both food and booze.
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Wether you have weather….
So seems like the 3 basic parts of weather, that effect skiing are Wind, Temps and Snow. If you just have snow its fine, but the wind and temps can make the snow much better or worse.
Bridget seems to have mostly winds from the west, and with nothing but far land for 100 miles, there is not much to stop them or change them. As the wind picks up snow, over the flats, and then climbs from 5000-9000ft, and slows down, it seems to drop the snow on the “backside” . Other then some cornice development the snow is left on the ski hill side, mostly wind free.
The north to south bridge range, is almost bear on the west side, with 1-2 meters on the east/leeward side. Other then some cornice development on the ridge,the snow is left on the ski hill side, mostly wind free. This cornice issue is controlled by patrol and skier use, I have not seen any fencing set up to stop the cornice growth.
As the winds don’t travel much north or south, the ski area doesn’t get much cross loading of snow, so finding snow is easier, and less skill is needed to “read” the snow. Its about the same amount on either side of a run/trees (VERY unlike alpine resorts, or resorts in much bigger mountian ranges. It does help with skiing some of the more technical terrain, as the snow is the same thru out the terrain. You don’t have to worry about coming over a roll, or ridge and finding hardpack or a drift. Allows for you to focus on the terrain, and less about snow and stuffing
I would guess that an east wind would really screw the hill, and strip the snow off of everything, and make for a bad day.
I assume that Bridger will, and can get cold, but I’ve only seen the mild to warm right now. The wind keeps the ridge temps down a bit and the area is east facing, so doesn’t get a full thermal heating from the sun. Seems to be well protected from solar damage overall.
A long cold snap, should give it conditions like banff/rockies, and dry out the snow, and make depth hoar, I have not seen this much yet, and was expecting to see more. I have felt a bit of this “sugar snow” on some steep, north facing terrain, against rocks. Exactly where you would expect it to form.
So, the snow will be changed by wind and temps, but overall its about what I expected. 120-150cm base right now (about average) usually colder temps, and so a lighter dry snow….
Bridget usually gets a lighter snow then most other areas, (about like banff)
Some other random thoughts about snow. Hope much you sink into the snow is more important then the fresh snow depth. 30 cm of wet snow, you might only get 10cm of ski penetration, (and it feels like cream cheese) but 15 cm of light snow, and you might still be feeling the hard, old snow or rocks, under that.
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So, what have I learnt/confirmed from being on a solo ski trip for over a week now?
I’ve learnt that I’m a planner,
I like to be solo a lot of the time.
I like driving, long distance is great.
I feel best outside, and in the sunshine.
So I’ve been on the road for almost 10 days now, skied 7/9 of them, just about all of them solo. Like anyone, at anytime in there life, some of its good, some bad, but mostly I’ve been enjoying my time, My daily routine is up at 7, drive to the hill, ski 9-1+ straight, then back to the hotel room, eat, shower, go for coffee, eat again, and in bed early to repete. Its a lot like life in banff really, just a new hill to explore, and less hellos while walking in town.
For the past few years, and most of both my, and Brenda and my trips, the planning is left up to me. I like to plan, and have a bit more flexible time to do the planning, and have the most “need” for a plan too I’m realizing too. So what is the plan for a trip, that just involves following the snow around? can’t really say that in 11 days I’ll be skiing at a certain mountain. So www.snow-forecast.com and www.powderchasers.com are my new favourite sites. I like to have plans, a few of them, but be able to switch plans as needed. Better to have plans A, B, C, and use them as needed, then just stick to plan A, or not have any plans at all
my basic plans are:
ski 5+ days a week, and ski at least 3 hours a day.
explore new terrain, and seek out interesting terrain that will challenge me physically, and get me to think. about it.
ski as many new ski areas as I can. Both large and small.
happy to be shown around the area, but also happy to explore on my own, Odds are the terrain will be all new to me anyways
I don’t mind driving to get to the ski area. I’m in my truck, have my music, (in my hamster bubble)
.Groups are not a bad thing, but I just don’t need them as much as others seem to. Being around people, but with no expectation to interact, is fine too. Like a coffee shop where others are talking, texting, face booking or studying is great too. Not that I’m afraid of others, or anti groups, I just don’t seem to need or want them as much as other people seem to. Also skiing is not a team sport. Bridger is a medium sized hill, and the terrain spreads people out, so you often have the place to yourself, both the chair lift ride up, and the ski down. I’m exploring some of the ridge terrain, and this was fun the first day to get shown around, the self exploring is more interesting. Picking what YOU want to ski from the bottom of the lift, and then trying to find that terrain once you are on the top of the ridge.
Lots of times like this www.youtube.com/watch?v=Db32S0yXoDc
I like driving, its usually going some where, to do something. Its like the excitement a dog must feel in a car, but I don’t stick my head out the window as much. Its the pregame show, its an appetizer, I have my music, with my snacks, going to where I want. Plus lower gas prices really help that too.
I’m happiest outside, in the sun, doing stuff. Grey skies effect me, and seem to effect me (no way I could live on the BC coast) I also feel best as I’m exercising and doing physical activities. It doesn’t always have to be hard and difficult, but just cruising around on a ski hill, not thinking, or challenging my ability is not that interesting. Bridger is good in that it seems to challenge by ability, and the terrain is mostly unsigned, so its a challenge to find, and pick your way down thru the ridge terrain too. You need to scope the line from the chair(s), find features on the ridge, that you can see both form the bottom and the top, and then remember all that when you are on the ridge, looking down. Before is the biggest time to worry and plan, but once you are skiing the terrain, most of that goes away, and you are just thinking about the skiing, and where to go. Remembering the game plan for the run. Not all runs/day/ski areas have to be like this, but it does make it interesting and keeps me thinking and challenged. Everyone likes to be good at what they do, be it hitting a bullseye, writing a paper, or growing a garden.
Feb 2 After skiing quiet a few areas, some big giants, and some very small, local areas, I have come to find a soft spot in my heart for a fixed grip double chair. I guess this is to write down some idea on why I like them so much, or at least why they have a place still in ski areas of all sizes.
Just so the non-skiers have a clue what I’m talking about, its a non-high speed chairlift, that holds just 2 people. So no carpets to help you load, no chairs coming off the main haul rope, slowing down, and then speeding up to get you to the top of the mountains again quickly. Up until about 20 years ago this was the only real option for a chair lift. A few fixed grips where triples, a few singles, but most where doubles.
Maybe part of the magic is my first job in the banff ares was a lifty on standish double at sunshine, I got to know that lift, and that terrain very well over the two seasons working and living on hill. So other then the romantic, “good old days” what makes them better in some ways then a high speed lift?
We all like to ski fresh snow, and for as long as possible, and with a fixed grip it takes longer to get to the top, so the terrain stays untracked for longer. With high speed quad chairs, you might get the same number of runs as a double, but with 4 people on a chair vs 2, you have twice the skiers per lift ride, and the lift ride can take 2-4 times as long (anyone remember the 22 minute rides up teepee town at sunshine?) so the snow lasts so much longer. Its also a slower ride up, so you have time to look around, see the runs, see whats been tracked, talk to you buddy, or enjoy the solo ride up for longer. Who knows, maybe you will finally get to ride up the chair with that cute mogel skiing girl, or that hot telemerk guy. You have a long lift ride to get to know them.
Currently doubles are used at small, mom and pop hills, that don’t need to move a lot of skiers, or just at bigger ski areas higher end terrain. Most people want to cruise around on groomed blue runs, and they want to get a lot of runs in, so keeping the old doubles for the high end skiers, and for the high end terrain, makes some sense from a ski area stand point. Not only is the terrain harder usually with a double, but even riding the lift is harder (think of summit plater at lake louise) so it gives the high end skier something to be proud of, something for the intermediate to try to achive, and makes good economic sense from a ski area management stand point too.
Summer vs winter road trips
Working in a resort/tourist town, I’m usually busy in the summer and the winter, and have more time off in the spring and fall (when everyone is back at their full-time, real jobs. I works well for me to travel in the off season, and work when its busy. This is great to go into another town, on my trips, and have the parking lots empty, the restaurants on sale, and the lift tickets cheap.
But what makes a summer/warm/biking and a winter/cold/skiing trip different. They both take lots of gear, you still need food and water for the activity, and a beer and burger afterwards.
Summer trips I’m usually in my truck and camper, so I can park at the trailhead, and sleep for the night there, Its dark by 6-8pm, and too dark/cold to ride until at least 8am, so that 12 hours min, in the camper, in the dark. Good time to catch up on some reading, or math puzzles (yes, I’m one of “them” who actually buys a few math problem magazines a year) Also summer trips are warmer, so more time outside when you are NOT biking, sitting in lawn chairs, and eating chips and salsa. Biking days are usually longer then ski days, You can ride from 9-4pm on a good day. it helps that the weather is warmer, and more day light, but also I get less tired biking then skiing. The cost/day is much less in the summer. A trip month on the road can be as little as $1500/month including gas and going out for diner most nights. Overall weather is not much of an issue. Temps can vary, and if its sunny or cloudy, or +10’C or +30’C its still a nice day biking, Precipitation is about the only thing that can stop a bike ride, or force you to move on to a new location.
Winter trips will cost more, and take more planning. You need a warmer place to stay, and to dry stuff out, so my small camper doesn’t cut it. Cheap motel rooms are only $50-$80 a night in most resort town (winter is usually the off season) and you usually have to travel to the ski area, so more driving too. My ski days are shorter then a biking day. If the terrain is easy, I get board by early afternoon, If the snow is good and fresh, Its tracked out by early afternoon, and if the terrain is good, I’m tired by early afternoon. So I’m usually skiing 9-2 daily. Winter mornings can be more of a rush too, when you get fresh snow; skiing 11-3 is VERY different then skiing 9-1 on a powder day. Tickets prices are $50 a day usually, or a $600-$1200 season pass, where biking is usually free too. Planning a winter trip can be a bit harder, as the holy grail of skiing is powder, and this is not always easy to forecast or find. I can’t count the number of times I have heard, or said “your should have been hear a few days ago” Winter ski trips will be $3000/month depending on seasoni passes and day tickets, and how much you move around and storm chase.
Well, I have now done over 2 weeks skiing bridge bowl , and starting to feel like I’m getting to know it a bit more, This is taking MUCH longer then any other ski area I've been to before. Somewhat due to the expansive and unmarked ridge terrain, (3+km long and ALL unmarked/signed/closed) With the hill not signing stuff, making you hike a bit for it, and making it beacon assess only, they are moving some of the mental responsibility to the skier, and making it feel a bit more like a back country area. From a legal standpoint I have no idea if this is a better or worse thing, but it gives the hill a VERY different feel then any other that I have been to. Its something I like, and helps you slow down and think as well as just ski. Not much "just point em" here.
Some observations about the area (this is not criticizing the area, or a complement, just what I saw that is different then other areas, both large and small)
people are not concerned with new gear, and take pride in “the older the better” Duct tape, worn work gloves, and no helmets are the norm.
They are very quiet about there ability. almost no “Bro-Bra” and just people skiing around, some good, some average, some amazing. The tourist traffic is other skiers, and not many “people that ski”
People still have telemark gear at Bridger, and some even know how to make a tele turn. Maybe this is from the ridge and hiking culture, or maybe this is from the “old ways are better” retro grouch mentality. But nice to see something other then telepine, or aplinmark turns.
Not sure if this ski area would do better or worse with a different marketing goal/team. With all the “ridge terrain” being unmarked, this area only has “75 runs + many unmarked runs”. This is an understatement. This terrain compares with ANY of the large international destinations that I have ever been to. Again, this place took me 2+ weeks to start to get to know the bigger lines
With the lack of signage, you have the basic rule of “no tracks = no go” . You can ride at 70% ability, and have it feel like 95% ability, as you have NO idea what might be around the next corner, tree, or ridgeline. Go slow, take your time, and be ready to walk back up, once you are cliffed out.
With all the ridge terrain requiring beacons etc, and open ski area boundaries, do the locals have a better idea of avalanche safety, or due to all the terrain outside the area, that gets so much skier compaction, and use, do they have a false sense of security? Not sure, but they sure do like to hike for turns.