Bozeman vs. Missoula

In honor of the November gridiron meeting between our beloved Bobcats and the hated Grizzlies, this season’s battle of college towns goes Montana-style. How will Missoula, the artsy hub of 70,000, dubbed by John Updike as “the Paris of the ’90s,” fare against the smaller, ski-bum paradise that is Bozeman? An outdoor mindset defines both towns, and mountains, lakes, and rivers provide weekend relief for MSU and UM students alike. Like the grueling battle of yards and inches, this matchup will be decided by precise measurements and unbiased officials, er, editors. Let the game begin.

Grizzly Bear Habitat
Bozeman: Gallatin Range
Missoula: Unknown & Unlikely
Local officials have allowed the awe-inspiring quadrupeds to repopulate freely in the GNF. Sadly, due to paranoia-fed restrictions, the only grizzlies around Missoula are the ones wearing cleats and helmets. The occasional sighting near Missoula is typically a lone bruin wandering down from Glacier National Park.
Edge: Bozeman

Notable Alumni
Bozeman: Craig Kilborn
Missoula: Mike Mansfield
Though the former MSU cager and SportsCenter anchor had a good run on the Late Late Show, he’s chopped liver when compared with the longest-serving majority leader in the history of the U.S. Senate.
Edge: Missoula

Book-Born Tourist Invasions
Bozeman: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
Missoula: A River Runs Through It
Though no one debates the narrative prowess of Norman Maclean, Montana has his story to thank for its ongoing infestation of obnoxious anglers who don’t know their asses from a roll cast. The effect of Pirsig’s two-wheeled adventure and philosophical treatise? Perhaps a few Mad Max look-alikes stopping in on their way to Sturgis, or the Wild Joe's resident pre-Socratic scholar.
Edge: Bozeman

Famous Musician
Bozeman: Dave Walker
Missoula: Jeff Ament
Walker, a one-time Fleetwood Mac and Black Sabbath guitarist (and Bozeman resident) doesn’t hold a lighter to Pearl Jam’s bassist.
Edge: Missoula

Three-River System
Bozeman: Jefferson-Madison-Gallatin
Missoula: Blackfoot-Clark Fork-Bitterroot
Though Missoulians may argue, consensus has it that the fly-fishing’s better on the tributaries of the Missouri. And perhaps more pertinent: there are no mine tailings sitting in Ennis Lake waiting to infiltrate our ecosystem if the Madison Dam is released. The Clark Fork? Does the phrase “largest superfund site in the U.S.” scare anyone?
Edge: Bozeman

Bozeman: Three
Missoula: Five
Understandably, an artsy town like Missoula requires more coffee houses, but five Starbucks? At least Bozeman tucks away two of its cappuccino-oozing bedsores inside other, larger stores.
Edge: Bozeman

Traffic Headache
Bozeman: N. 19th
Missoula: Reserve Street
No doubt that Reserve Street is a microcosm of all that is wrong with America, with two Wal-Marts bookending the strip-mall-laden inferno. But what were Bozeman planners thinking when they essentially modeled 19th after the Missoula debacle? This one goes to Zootown for being first in failure.
Edge: Missoula

Nearby Ski Areas
Bozeman: Bridger & Big Sky
Missoula: Snowbowl & Lost Trail
Snowbowl’s got excellent tree skiing and a no-frills attitude, and Lost Trail's local feel can't be beat. But this matchup isn’t even close when it comes to terrain. The Bridger Ridge on a powder day is as about as good as it gets. Big Sky's got more snow, way more terrain and, oh yeah, happens to be the best skiing this side of the Alps.
Edge: Bozeman

Rock Climbing
Bozeman: Hyalite & Bozeman Pass
Missoula: The Bitterroots
Both towns have excellent climbing within a short drive, but the abundance of multipitch climbs in the Bitterroots gives Missoula the edge. And the recent parking ban on I-90 makes the Bozeman Pass climbs much more difficult to access.
Edge: Missoula

Local Economy
Bozeman: Construction jobs
Missoula: Wait List for Waiters
Knock the Bozeman boom if you’d like, but even high-school dropouts can make $15 an hour banging nails. Unless you appreciate a side of Betty Friedan with your chicken Alfredo, Missoula’s overqualified waiters and bartenders are not a selling point.
Edge: Bozeman

Motor Trends
Bozeman: Luxury 4-Wheel-Drives
Missoula: Subarus and VWs
Say it ain’t so, but Audis, Volvos, and (gasp) Escalades are popping up at Bozeman-area trailheads like locusts before Pharaoh’s palace. Missoula has enough beat-up Subies and VW busses with dancing-bear stickers to assume that the town hasn’t sold its soul to the Joneses just yet.
Edge: Missoula

Trademark Hikes
Bozeman: the “M”
Missoula: the “M”
Both hikes are requisite for residents of either town. Bozeman’s hike leads to a panorama of the Gallatin Valley and miles of trails through the Bridgers, but the view of Missoula from Mount Sentinel and the proximity of the trail to town are hard to argue with. This one depends on your degree of nausea when overlooking Washington-Grizzly Stadium.
Edge: Even

College Co-Eds
Bozeman: 53% Male
Missoula: 54% Female
MSU may have its math-and-science reputation to thank for its abundance of testosterone. Its comely co-eds are certainly visible during the summer months, but where do they go during the school year, anyway? Grizzly girls win.
Edge: Missoula

Best Brewery
Bozeman: Bozone
Missoula: Big Sky
Big Sky Brewery has a much bigger distribution area than its Bozeman counterpart, and it’s easy to find bottles of Moose Drool, Scape Goat, and Summer Honey throughout the state. But it’s hard to argue with the homegrown quality of Bozone Amber or Hefe, and an ice-cold growler more than makes up for Bozone’s lack of bottles.
Edge: Bozeman

Final tally: Bozeman 7, Missoula 6. The Griz flub an extra point and Bozeman wins. Go Cats!