Tips for Bozeman newbies. 

If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten. —Jesse Potter 

The much-touted “Montana Native” appellation may be a venerable one, akin to an aristocratic rank of Countess or Baronet. But like most noble titles, the rank is titular; a much more practical position is “Bozeman local,” which confers all the benefits without the attendant attitude. For newcomers to the Bozone, this esteemed peerage may only be obtained through time, as winters are weathered and local knowledge is gained. That doesn’t mean you should rely on the slow trickle of osmosis, however, lest 10 years pass and you still scream California. Your best bet for fitting in is to get on the fast track. Here’s how.

Avoid Rookie Mistakes
Crowding other people. In the woods or on the river, give people their space. This is Big Sky country, not Disney World. Spread the f@&k out.

Being way over-kitted. Less is more, people. If you cover yourself head-to-toe in faddish outdoor apparel, you’re a fledgling. Ditto for gear: don’t overdo it.

Using bear bells. An 800-pound predator does not bolt in terror upon hearing a distant tinkle. Pepper spray and situational awareness are the best tools. 

Learn Local Lingo
Another sure-fire way to stick out like a sore thumb is to misuse or misunderstand local jargon. Some of the local patois:

  • The Canyon. That’s Gallatin Canyon, south of town between Bozeman and Big Sky. Every manner of outdoor recreation takes place there. If you’re invited to a party in the Canyon and end up in Bridger Canyon, you didn’t listen.
  • The Pass. Here we mean Bozeman Pass, a popular rock-climbing destination and a dicey drive come winter.
  • The Ridge. That’s the ridgeline of the Bridger Range; in winter, it means the expert terrain above Bridger Bowl; in summer, it’s the route of the fabled Ridge Run.
  • Sac. The iconic pyramid-shaped peak high atop the Bridgers, and the mailing address for a bunch of mountain goats.
  • The Park. Not to be confused with Lindley or Cooper, the Park refers to the oldest (and still best) national park in the US: Yellowstone.
  • O/B. Outside Bozeman, the best damn outdoor mag this side of the Mississippi. Or at least the Yellowstone.

Toughen Up
Another way to blend in is to fake it till you make it. Bozeman folk are a hardy bunch, weathered by long seasons of snow, wind, and sun. Learn—or at least pretend—to embrace discomfort and you may just be mistaken for a longtime local. For example, keep on riding your bike this fall—in the rain, in the cold, even in the snow. If you can’t buck up and go outside on a cold, snowy day, better move on. Winter starts early and ends late here. Embrace the suck and don’t complain. 

Share Your Success
Now that you’re one of us, you’ll want to capture your transformation and share it with the world. (Because what’s cooler, the humdrum Montana landscape, or glorious you?) Here’s where to get the best shots:

  • Next to a rutting bull elk. Yellowstone Park isn’t just for tourists, and elk love company this time of year.
  • On a cliff above Yankee Jim. Get right out there on the edge. In late fall. The river’s particularly beautiful on cold days.
  • Directly behind a fly-fishing guide. Sneak up in line with his back-cast. Be sure to really show the pearly whites here.
  • Beneath a bow-hunter’s tree stand. They get lonely up there. Get the hunter’s number and text the picture over, so she can enjoy it too.
  • Beside a recent bear, wolf, or lion kill. Our fellow predators love to share their bounty, especially in the fall during hyperphagia. The kill sites are easy to find—just listen for the tinkle of bear bells.