A guide to the Bozone's most coveted ski stashes.
As Bozeman’s population burgeons alongside the increased participation in backcountry skiing, many of the locals’ favorite ski-touring spots have been overrun. And Outside Bozeman is to blame. In the time since we started “Tour of the Week” on Instagram, these once-secret spots have exploded in popularity. Places where you used to only see two or three other skiers, you now may find over half a dozen. It’s a travesty, and we wish we could undo the wrong. But since that’s not an option, instead, we’re doubling down and giving up our all-time most cherished backcountry skiing locales. Sorry, Bozeman, we just can’t hold our tongues any longer—besides, it’ll spread people out.
Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park
You’ve heard of the BBC, but do you know about the LCC? If you’re not in with the local crowd, the answer is no. Well, let the secret remain no longer: the Lewis & Clark Cloud has been known to drop as much powder on this swath of steep ravines as its Bridger Bowl cousin deposits on the Ridge. And the terrain is up to par. You see, as southwest Montana’s winters continue to become warmer and wetter, orographic lifting has shifted westward, turning this once cold-and-dry desolate land into a powder-skiing paradise. Skin up the road to access soaring ridgelines and drop into steep chutes, scoring face-shots all around. Just don’t tell too many friends; we’d hate to see this one go the way of equally-exciting Lick Creek.
Ever ridden the sweeping berms of Big Sky’s snow-covered downhill mountain-bike trails on skis? Of course not—if you’re shelling out $200+ for a lift ticket, you’re probably not up to the challenge. For those of us making less than $500k per year, Copper City’s “Neversweat” and “Motherlode” trails provide the same thrilling experience at no cost—except for maybe a few core shots. But when the snow hits hard west of town, locals convene in Three Forks to see whose quads are the strongest. If you can hang on the entire way down without throwing a speed-check or snowplow, go to the Haufbrau and tell the bartender, “I’m the best skier in town.” They’ll pin your name on the wall behind the bar and assign you a special number.
The Lewis & Clark Cloud has been known to drop as much powder on this swath of steep ravines as its Bridger Bowl cousin deposits on the Ridge.
Secret spots aren’t just for powder hounds. Ever since the endurance-athlete persona became vogue in Bozeman, Nordic spots are coveted just as closely as soft-snow stashes. If your VO2 max is over 50, don’t waste your breath screaming at beginners for getting in the way on Bozeman’s town trails. Head out to the Logan Landfill, where rolling piles—er, hills—offer challenging climbs and daunting descents. There aren’t any “groomed trails” per se, but the bulldozers do a good job of smoothing things out. The methane gas emitted from decomposing garbage is said to improve aerobic performance by depriving your brain of oxygen—like training on top of Mount Everest. Don’t worry if you get woozy and pass out; the ravens will wake you up in no time.
Everyone knows that Bridger Bowl doesn’t allow uphill travel between their opening and closing dates. But perhaps the best-kept secret in the Bozone is that there’s one spot at Bridger that’s open for uphill travel all winter long: the Snowflake Area. This zone offers nearly 50 feet of vertical rise with awe-inspiring views across the carpool lot. Although it’s a popular downhill-skiing destination with the younger crowd, if you start early, you can bang out a couple dozen laps before the lift starts spinning. Once the burn in your legs is too much to handle, grab a hot cocoa from the Snowflake Hut. This hut is named after skiers who complain about seeing a few extra bodies at the most easily accessible points among southwest Montana’s endless expanses of backcountry terrain.
If you’re tired of all this secret-talk and want to learn about some of Bozeman’s most popular backcountry spots, head to outsidebozeman.com/ski-tours.