Bridger Bowl's Out-of-Bounds

It's the ever-looming question: When will Bridger Bowl allow access to the backcountry from its north and south boundaries? Bridger Bowl and the Forest Service have been in discussion over this for many years and there are several issues influencing the decision-making process.

For one, there are liability concerns because the entire area is rated Class A high-risk avalanche terrain. For example, the south boundary of Bridger Bowl borders a known avalanche path. As Bridger Bowl ski patrol director Faye Johnson says, "the risk is just too high to have inexperienced or young skiers pass through easy-access gates on top of the mountain." For this reason, if access points are ever established at Bridger, they would be placed down low or at midmountain and not at the top of the lifts. According to Nancy Halstrom, resource assistant for the Forest Service, the long, arduous hike would not only discourage those incapable of skiing or boarding the dangerous terrain, but it would also promote safety as those more experienced would have time to study the snow and any instability in the mountain as they climb.

Private land is also an issue in that it is just that, private. Basically from the "M" all the way to Brackett Creek you must cross private land to get off the mountains' eastern slopes. "Trespassing is not an option," says Halstrom.

Finally, there is the issue of administration. While the Forest Service would be responsible for the access points, Bridger Bowl would be responsible for assistance in search and rescue and/or ski patrol should an accident occur. What this means is a higher demand on employees of both organizations.

So, is it ever going to happen? Possibly, says Halstrom, if these issues can be resolved. However, the idea is very much in the planning stages and will not be in effect for the 2002-03 ski season.