Season's Greetings

hot spring, winter

Top 10 ways to welcome the snow, sans skis.

Predictably, sometime in mid- to late October, southwest Montana gets slammed with a huge cold front that brings lots of snow to the mountains. We suddenly forget about hiking, biking, and floating. Our focus shifts to gearing up for ski season, packing up our summer gear, and, for many of us, getting out on the slopes ASAP. But hold yer horses—even if powder is stacking up, chances are you’ll be striking hard ground with no base to cover the rocks, stumps, and shrubs. You’re risking serious damage to your skis—or worse, your body. Yes, it’s exciting, but patience is a virtue—here’s how to bide your time until coverage improves.

Go snowshoeing. It’s best to stay off trails after the first snow to prevent damage, but if there’s enough snow to ski, you can tread through the high country without worrying about hitting a rock at speed.

snowshoeing, winter, dog

Soak in a natural hot spring. A fresh blanket of white and falling flakes bring a mystical experience to soaking. Hop out and make a snow angel, if you dare.

Drink a hot toddy. Hot water, a shot of whiskey, a dash of honey, and fresh lemon juice will put you at ease as you watch the sudden shift of seasons.

Head for the dry country. Even if the mountains are blanketed in snow, the drier parts west of Bozeman may still be in condition for warm-weather activities. Hike Bear Trap, bike Copper City, or climb at Pipestone.

Go fishing. Our big river valleys also tend to stay drier than the mountains, and though the fishing might be less pleasant, you’re likely to find sufficient solitude to compensate.

Take pictures. Snowflakes, icicles, frozen puddles, and frosty trees add unique elements to photographs. The abundance of white also brings an interesting challenge—you’ll need to get creative with shapes in the absence of color.

photographer, winter photos

Cook a hearty meal. We’re talkin’ braised meats, roasted veggies, country gravy—you get the idea. Head to for inspiration; bonus points if you’re using freshly killed game.

Read a book. We know you’ve got one (or a stack of them) that you’ve been meaning to read. Combine with hot toddy for added effect.

Go sledding. The closest thing to skiing without going skiing. Get your adrenaline fix on one of our several local sledding hills. The snow gets packed down by sledders, and you won’t be carving in deeply like you would on skis, so buried obstacles are less of a concern.

Tell everyone you’re not going skiing. It’s reckless and dangerous, you’re sure to damage your skis (or your body), the snow isn’t even that good, Bridger is overcrowded... Ah, who are we kidding? If you’re well and able, get after it. Just be careful—there’s a whole season ahead to enjoy.