The Time Between
Celebrating Bozeman's underrated season.
“Music is the space between the notes.” —Claude Debussy
There’s an expression used in mountain towns: “Come for the winters, stay for the summers.” This adage speaks to the unique beauty these seasons bring, especially in the West. The saying accurately suggests that many newcomers and tourists are drawn by the snowy season to first visit our mountain town. For my part, it was the allure of Hyalite Canyon. The big mountains, with their seemingly infinite skiing opportunities, fascinated me. I was hooked in one season. But who doesn’t love the summers, when temperate air combs through trees, warming us after a dip in the frigid reservoir? This time of year keeps people coming back, turning two years into ten with the blink of an eye.
And so it goes. Winter starts the cycle that will drive the seasons to come. Towns turn to white wonderlands as parks freeze over and seduce the ice aficionados. The forest quiets, offering solitude to places that bustle in the warmer months. And the snow-capped summits of the Beartooths and Spanish Peaks inspire awe in even the most seasoned of mountain folk.
Then, summer arrives. Sweet, sweet summertime! From rigorous runs along the Ridge to carefree floats on the Yellowstone, everything buzzes, intense yet simpler. Options are innumerable, and the endless question begs: “What shall we do today?” If it’s nothing, we can always relax, bask in the sun, and worry about the burn tomorrow. The days last forever, evening light on the Madison reluctant to fade while pink hues shimmer on surrounding slopes.
However, I can’t help but feel like this winter-summer preoccupation, this devotion to dichotomy, is missing something. What about the mud season, the shoulder season, or the off-season as some call it? It may not be the most glamorous to the once-or-twice-a-year visitor, but for those of us who’ve just endured the hard times of winter, spring is anticipated with delight.
In the spring, time simultaneously slows down with the decrease in visitors, and speeds up as our surroundings change before our eyes. It is the spring, after all, that breathes new life into the world, filling our souls. Those unwilling to give up on winter can set their sights on higher elevations, where once-unpredictable snow turns to stable slush. The skiing is still great, albeit a bit harder to get to. The more eager of the bunch head for warmth in the arid regions, home to some of the first dry trails in the new year.
The point is, this time of year can easily be glossed over as we hold on to the snowier past or look forward to the warmer days ahead. But, when I’m able to slow myself down and embrace the season, I realize this time of year holds all the unique aspects of Montana’s outdoors, which to me is why it’s so special. So, if you will, I would like to make an addition to the old phrase: “Come for the winters, stay for the summers, and live for the time between.”