Season Opener

Maybe it’s just me, but there seems to be way too much whining going on around Bozeman these days. The temperature dips below freezing, or we get two inches of snow before Thanksgiving, and everybody’s in the doldrums. Plaintive cries emanate from coffee shops and bookstores all over town: “Why can’t it just snow in the mountains, like it does in Denver?”

Anybody remember the winter of 1988-89? It was late January when a bitterly cold Arctic air mass invaded the Rockies. Record lows appeared across Montana, including a nasty–52 in Wisdom. With wind-chill, Bozeman temps hung around –75 for four days. MSU and many other schools shut down after pipes froze and students refused to leave their dorm rooms. It was my first winter back in Bozeman, after living here as a kid, and to me it seemed perfectly natural. This was Montana, by God, of course it got cold once in a while.

That’s not to say I enjoyed it. Seventy-five below sure cuts into one’s skiing time. But I and every other Bozeman resident understood that 1) we’d survive, 2) it wouldn’t last forever, and 3) it was part of living in Montana. We accepted it as a fact of life and waited it out. When it was over, we bolted up to Bridger Bowl with renewed enthusiasm.

I’m not sure we’ve had a truly cold winter since then. Sure, many locals have gotten soft; but more than that, the newcomers haven’t been forced to toughen their hides. They have yet to see what Old Man Winter can do when he gets a Montana-sized burr in his bum.

In tribute to the ice-cold, snow-filled seasons of yore, we’ve put together a winter issue that’s bigger, burlier, and designed to keep your butt planted in a chair for longer periods of time. We’ve added eight more pages, incorporated new, recurring sections, and expanded the Inside Bozeman section so you’ll know how to spend your time if we do get a cold snap this year. As always, we’ve covered some great area attractions, explored classic winter activities, and included a run-down of cool winter books and gear. Be sure to check out the Local Lore section, where longtime Bozeman resident Pat Hill describes what it was like back in 1886-87, when Montana really had a mean streak.

We’ve also added a new contest this issue. In addition to the ongoing Cool Ad and How Far Will You Go contests, you can now enter to win great prizes, and have your story published in next summer’s issue, by documenting your Subaru-bound adventures this winter. It’s the Suby Tales 2005 contest, where we celebrate the inimitable accomplishments of one of Montana’s oldest and most venerable vehicular residents. Check out the ad on the facing page, or go to for rules and a complete contest description.

And here’s to a butt-cold, snow-filled, hide-toughening Montana winter.