In winter, there's nothing worse.
As the saying goes, “Preparedness is close to godliness,” or something like that. Who can be sure—we aren’t great with quotes. Or any words, really. Regardless, when it comes to outdoor recreation, the sentiment holds true. Being ready for whatever Mother Nature may throw at you is a divine quality, indeed, and those who come equipped—literally and figuratively—earn the respect of their community.
Those who are ill-prepared, however, are ostracized—and rightfully so. Nothing ruins a powder day at Bridger faster than someone who forgot her beacon. Come on, Nancy! You had one job!
This lackadaisical approach is rarely life-threatening; it’s more of a nuisance, or a disappointment in who you’ve chosen for a friend. But it becomes a health hazard—to you and those around you—when it involves winter driving. That’s why unprepared winter drivers are taking their turn in this season’s pillory.
You’ve seen them up Hyalite, maybe in a Toyota Tercel from the mid-’90s, spinning its tires, digging deeper and deeper into the snow, eventually rotating sideways and blocking both directions of travel. You note the license-plate number, vowing to find where this person lives and murder him in his bed for causing a standstill on this glorious powder day. You had visions of a backcountry ski tour so epic that your photos would break the internet; but alas, you’re stuck behind the idiot with two-wheel drive drilling his way to China.
Having the wrong car is one thing; vehicles are expensive and there are myriad reasons one might not have a Subaru, Tacoma, or jacked-up Chevy. But did the Tercel-trundler bring a shovel? Some sand? A tow rope, maybe a saw for cutting branches, or even a pair of gloves? Nope, he’s stoned out of his mind and hasn’t made a single move toward resolving his predicament. “If I keep revving this hog’s engine, eventually I’ll have to spin outa here.” It’s not a hog, dude, it’s a wimpy little rice-burner, and if you do miraculously make it out of that trench, it will likely be right into the idling Explorer you’ve been holding up for 15 minutes.
It’s time to aim a little higher. All that’s necessary for going from pillory to podium is a bit of preparedness. If you don’t have a powerful, high-clearance vehicle capable of plucking someone from a deep drift, that’s fine. Pack along some tools that will help a good Samaritan help you. Always have a shovel (or two) and a pair of gloves. A strong tow rope or chain is standard equipment. Tire chains should be standard, too.
If all of that is too much to ask, please avoid driving up Hyalite, out to Bridger Bowl, up Storm Castle Creek, or anywhere else other Bozemanites might find themselves on a glorious winter day. And, in the (possible) words of Conan the Barbarian: if you do not listen, then to the pillory with you!