I can never quite get rid of the smell of sweaty polypropylene from my work cubicle. In spring, summer, and fall, my trail-running shoes and extra pair of running shorts have a place of honor stuffed in my backpack, neatly tucked beneath my desk. Lush, green, wildflower-strewn summer trail runs at lunchtime yield to striding up the Story Hills, gazing down at the valley below shrouded in autumn yellow aspens and a light dusting of snow atop the Spanish Peaks and Tobacco Roots in the distance. Finally, as the valley becomes ensconced in billions of tiny, delicate flakes of snow and the daylight hours are cornered into a few, precious moments of light, my skate-ski boots and lobster mitts replace my running attire as softly as the flip of a calendar page. When we are blessed with a good snow year, southwest Montana is an oasis of local skiing opportunities, minutes from your office door.
With two groomed skate and classic trails right in Bozeman, and dozens of other nongroomed trails for lunchtime touring, any busy Bozemanite with a hankering for working up a sweat will find ample opportunities without having to venture too far from town. Here are a few favorites.
Lindley offers a groomed skate/classic trail maintained by the Bridger Ski Foundation. Buy the Lindley button from your favorite local ski shop and support grooming and maintenance of the trail.
Bridger Creek Golf Course
Another groomed skate/classic ski trail. Dogs are no longer permitted, so please respect the homeowners along the course and leave Fido at home. Donations are accepted for trail maintenance.
There is an ungroomed trail approximately two miles south of Kagy on Sourdough Road. On-leash pets are allowed.
Highland Ridge Trail
This is an ungroomed trail originating at the base of Peet’s Hill and ending at Kagy. Connect this trail with the Painted Hills trail for a slightly longer out-and-back workout.
This ungroomed trail uses the abandoned Gallatin Valley Electric Railroad track, which begins at South Church and East Story. Watch for the several road crossings.
This scenic, ungroomed trail begins at Fairway Street off of Kagy and ends at Goldenstein Road. It follows a section of Sourdough Creek through a wooded section at its finish.
Out by the landfill, this is the latest addition to the list. It's still a work in progress and allows dogs.
Ski Trails of Southwest Montana: by Melynda Harrison
Avid touring fiend Melynda Harrison and her devoted canine companion, Rigby, conjured up the idea of writing a book about what they do best in the winter months: ski. Ski Trails of Southwest Montana (First Ascent Press; $17) is spot-on with its accurate beta on 30 of the best touring haunts in the Bozeman, Big Sky, and Paradise Valley areas. In addition to driving directions, trail conditions, and potential hazards along the way, Harrison also includes recommended trails for children as well as ideas for extending a straightforward three-hour ski into a multiday mountain epic, all from the same trailhead. With the aid of exceptional maps and elevation guides provided by Mariann Van Den Elzen, another southwest Montana ski fanatic, the guide is well researched and written. There’s even some wildlife and nature trivia fodder thrown in for you flora/fauna types.