My fist memories of skiing are my parents waking my sister and myself up in the darkest of hours on a Saturday morning. We would drive for what seemed like an eternity to get to one of two ski mountains closest to Roundup by 9:00 am. We were extremely fortunate to ski once or twice a year, either at Red Lodge Mountain or Showdown — 2 or 2 ½ hours away.
When our family moved to Helena, my parents signed on with the Big Sky volunteer ski patrol program. Now instead of skiing twice a year, we were skiing almost every weekend. We packed our car with sleeping bags, pillows, and a cooler on Friday nights and returned home Sunday evenings. We stayed at a converted medical clinic a few miles from the ski mountain. It was akin to a hostel for ski patrollers, with a communal kitchen and bathrooms.
By high school, I was burnt out with the ski/camping weekends. When I met my boyfriend, now my husband, in college I hadn’t really skied in seven years. Since he was an avid skier we got season passes at Bridger Bowl and started skiing again. That lasted a few years, until we both got burnt out.
Today, my husband and I live in Livingston, an easy 30-mile jaunt to Bridger Bowl. Our kids are old enough, four and seven, that we can enroll them into Bridger’s fabulous youth ski program. Every Saturday, we wake up, make lunches and are out the door by 8:30 am. My husband and I drop our kids off at the Mighty Mites or Mogul Mice ski schools and run off as fast as we can for two hours of skiing together, giddy as if we were 15 and just ditched our own parents.
I’m surprised at how much and how little Bridger Bowl has changed over the years. What hasn’t changed is the super friendly mountain staff. On the busiest of days, I’ve seen all these wonderful people have infinite patience and amazing customer service.
What’s new is the Alpine Cabin, or as some refer to it – Alpine warming hut. Located mid-mountain it has restrooms and serves brats, soup, chili and other fare, as well as beer and wine. You can warm your toes and fingers at the Tulikivi soapstone fireplace, and of course enjoy the sweeping views of the Bridger Mountains.
At the base, you won’t be disappointed with the menu or the portion sizes at Jimmy B’s Bar & Grill in the Jim Bridger Lodge. Along with a variety of ½ lb. beef or buffalo burgers, they also offer grilled tuna with wasabi aioli, a plethora of chicken or beef sandwiches, and one of my favorites, the Island Chicken Salad — a curried chicken salad with pineapple, roasted walnuts, celery and sesame dressing. I usually relish a good micro brew from their large selection of beers on draft or bottle, but occasionally I opt for something on the lighter side. The Nobilo Icon Sauvignon Blanc pairs nicely with the Island Chicken Salad.
I love a good powder day, but I’m no powder hound. I have yet to hike the ridge or ski Schlashman’s lift. In December 2008, Schlashman’s opened, adding an additional 300 acres and 1,700 feet of steep & deep terrain accessible from the ridge-top. I’ve always enjoyed skiing the expert terrain that Bridger and Pierre’s Knob lifts offer, but this year I think I may have to dig out my husband’s transceiver to see for myself what all the fuss is about.
Thank goodness our family ski days are a far cry from what my parent’s went through. Looking back, I am so very grateful for the memories, life’s skills and privilege that they provided my sister and I. I‘m looking forward to many family ski days with my children, as well as three generations of skiing together at Bridger Bowl.