Bona Fide Bozeman

I am a man for whom the outside world exists. –Théophile Gautier

My first day on tele skis wasn’t pretty. Kent and I skinned four miles to the Potosi Alpine Yurt on a butt-cold February afternoon, arriving in time for a single run before darkness settled over the Tobacco Roots. Our beat-up loaner boots were strapped into demo skis Kent had scored from Tua on the promise we’d review them in an upcoming issue. It didn’t concern us that we’d never made telemark turns before. Kent was an excellent snowboarder, and I was no neophyte on downhill skis—how hard could this be?

We soon found out. Dropping my left knee for the first turn, I over-weighted my right ski and the tip promptly augered into the snow; in an instant I spun 180 degrees and went down hard. Brushing snow off my face, I looked up in time to see Kent face-plant amid a burst of powder. We flailed and flopped our way down the rest of the slope, poles bearing all our weight in frantic double-plants as we teetered through each turn. Near the end of the run, where the slope funneled into a long white ribbon dropping 1,500 feet down to the canyon floor, my left ski nailed a submerged rock and I went flying. It was a wild, floundering, ass-over-tea-kettle fall, the kind your friends never seem to forget about. Kent skied up and looked down at me, then at the steep, boulder-laden avalanche chute just a few yards beyond. “Nice one,” he said with a grin. “A few more feet and I’d have had the yurt all to myself.”

Lying there in the snow, my mouth and ears crammed with snow, all I could think about was how much I love winter in Montana. And how thankful I am for good friends, for the abundance of adventure-seekers around the Bozone who will gladly join you on your most impulsive, ill-prepared schemes, just for fun. They’re here for the same reason you are: to live large in the outdoors, to fully engage the season and the landscape and all it offers, no matter how much risk or discomfort may come with it. The mountains are calling, and we cannot but go to them.

Which is what separates our humble town from so many other places across the country. We aren’t into the outdoors because it’s fashionable; we don’t ski for image or ice-climb for ego—we do it because we love it. This ain’t Aspen, by God, full of Hummer-driving yuppies in designer jackets who never leave the ski lodge. Sure, you’ll see one around town now and again; but these pomaceous posers are clearly the minority. Most Bozemanites are, and always have been, the real deal.

And that’s what this issue of Outside Bozeman is about: keeping it real. From how to get gear on the cheap to the early days of Bridger Bowl when the “lifts” comprised a single T-bar halfway up the mountain, we pay tribute to both the proletarian pragmatism and abundant audacity of all Bozeman hardcores. Whether it’s a post-ice-climbing death ride up Hyalite (who hasn’t gotten stuck up there?) or low-budget entertainment and slopeside camaraderie with fellow skiers, one thing’s for certain: the true spirit of the Bozone is less about geography than it is about mentality. If it weren’t, why would we show up in droves to attend the Pinhead Classic, that fabulous freak show where beauty queens and cross-dressers commingle amid booze, bawdiness, and adrenaline-induced hang time off handmade jumps?

It’s been four years since my inaugural freeheel expedition to the Tobacco Roots, and truth be told, I still suck on tele skis. Fact is, I love my downhill gear and always will. But thanks to a handful of friends who regularly drag me into the backcountry, I’m getting better. This year I might even enter the Pinhead. I think I’ve got a pretty good shot at winning best wreck.