BOZEMAN, Mont. - Not many cities can brag about having a world-class ski resort just 16 miles from town, but Bozeman can thanks to Bridger Bowl Ski Area. The iconic ski slope celebrated 65 years of operation over the weekend, though its official birthday isn't until January 16th.
Bridger Bowl exemplifies home-grown outdoor enthusiasm. Locals skied its slopes for years before the state caught on, buying 120 acres to use as a ski area and state park. It was those early local ski enthusiasts who formed the first organization supporting Bridger Bowl (an early version of what is now the Bridger Bowl Association) and opened the original platter lift for skiers.
Decades later, and it's still Bozeman die-hards who keep the Bowl going. Having a reasonably affordable ski area so close to town opens up the world of skiing and snowboarding to more people, and gets so-called "snow brains" hooked on the sport from a young age. Many will stick around its slopes for years to come.
When Riley Cack lived in Bozeman, he was a regular at Bridger Bowl. And even though he's moved away, he says he still visits Bridger's slopes 5-6 times a year. He credits the Bowl for establishing a strong skiing culture and camaraderie in Bozeman.
“People recognize each other on the mountain and say hello, it’s just like an extended family," says Cack. "Like, everyone’s very pleasant with each other once you just get out and have some fun and get at the snow.”
In just six-and-a-half decades, Bridger Bowl has gone from one rope-tow and a hut, to eight chair lifts, three lodges, and 2,000 acres of skiing. Along the way, it also established a tight-knit community known for embracing all that the slopes have to offer.
“We’ve got the MSU students who get married, become parents, and then start teaching their kids to come ski here," says Bridger Bowl Marketing Director, Erin O'Connor. "We’ve got people who have been skiing here for a really long time - since Bridger Bowl opened - and they still ski here. Some of them ski here every single day, which is awesome.”