A Ridge hike for every decade.
One of Mom’s favorite things to do is ski at Bridger Bowl—in particular, the Ridge. Hiking the final 600 feet to the top is her way of getting in some cardio during winter. But two years ago, she fell in Bridger Gully and tore her ACL. That put on the brakes for a while.
Her birthday is in February, on which we usually go skiing. This past year, she turned 60. With her recovering from more than just the knee, I wasn’t expecting to celebrate the milestone in our typical fashion. But when I asked her what she wanted to do, the answer was short and sweet: a Ridge hike for every decade.
Mom is cut from good stock. Her parents, who are 83 years old, get groceries by riding their bikes five miles into town. They chop firewood, tend a garden, and butcher elk and deer with little help. My grandma thinks electric bikes are for lazy people. It’s easy to see why Mom would feel the pressure to uphold some arbitrary physical standard, but still, six Ridge hikes in a day? At age 60, with a recently torn ACL? Bold, I thought.
The way the universe usually works in these sorts of scenarios is that parents worry about their kids. You know, like getting in over their heads on some overly ambitious adventure. When Mom mentioned her goal, I felt a strange reversal of roles. She likes to work out, push it, and find her limits, even if she goes past them—all of which I can relate to. But she also has a history of overuse injury, and with a goal like this, I expected she wouldn’t say anything even if her body took a turn for the worse. Nevertheless, I happily agreed to join her.
The day before her birthday, my girlfriend and cousin drove in from Missoula to partake in the festivities. That night, it snowed seven inches.
We howled like wolves and laughed like children and reveled in the feeling of hard-earned powder turns.
“February always delivers,” Mom said, grinning ear to ear. By morning, the storm had given way to bluebird conditions and the sun was sparkling off fresh powder in the parking lot—deliver, it did. Though just another day, the group atmosphere felt like it was the start of a big event.
On the way up the first chair, we half-humorously talked strategy on how we’d achieve our goal. The obvious answer would be to just ski Patrol Chute over and over again, but Mom admitted she didn’t want to do that just to get a number. At the end of the day, quality of the run took precedence—it was a powder day after all—and it was okay if we didn’t actually get six hikes.
We headed to the Nose first, and it was so good we went right back there for lap number two. After Bridger Gully for our third run, we arrived at the bottom of Bridger lift right around noon. Being a fresh-snow Saturday, there were plenty of folks out. The lift line took 15-20 minutes and the Ridge was closing at 2:30pm—this was going to be close.
We skied untracked afternoon powder in Stupor Couloir, but decided to go back to Bridger Gully for our second-to-last. The fifth hike was slow. When Mom got to the top, we skipped summit conversation and transitioned with purpose. She knew exactly what time it was, exactly how long the run should take, and barring any double ejections, that we’d make the cutoff time by 10 minutes. We did just that.
At 3pm, with skis on her shoulders, Mom topped out on the Ridge for the sixth time that day—one for every decade. We howled like wolves and laughed like children and reveled in the feeling of hard-earned powder turns. With jello for legs, we hiked just short of the northern boundary to Hidden Gully, Mom’s favorite run. She dropped in from the top and skied just as well as she had the first run. I was proud, and honestly a little intimidated, about any expectations she might have for me on my 60th birthday.
That night, we celebrated with beers and pizza and stories from the day. While eating dinner, my grandparents called to wish Mom a happy birthday. After hearing of the achievement, Grandma offered her congratulations. “Good for you,” she said. “Now you’d better do seven on your 70th.”