Skiers at the American West’s megaresorts might take one look at Bridger Bowl and its fi xed-grip lifts, dearth of condo development, and practical ski lodges and call it “charming” at best. But behind this low-key façade is spectacular terrain. The Ridge, a hike-to zone, is a cliff -hucking, chute-schralping paradise. You won’t fi nd hairier inbounds steeps than Hidden Gully and the Virtues anywhere. The vibe at Bridger is mellow and rootsy. To fi t in instantly, add a patch of duct tape to at least one piece of apparel.
THREE DAYS LATER: Head to North Bowl, off the Bridger lift, to Easy Money, a 2,640-foot-long open, 30-degree bowl that’s often overlooked.
PARK AND PIPE: Look for a 10-foot rail, a 40-foot box, and a barrel bonk midmountain between the Deer Park and Bridger lifts, but don’t look for a sign—the park’s not named. Low-snow year? Bridger relocates the park underneath the Powder Park lift, where snowmaking machines keeps the jumps shellacked.
BACKCOUNTRY ACCESS: Check your beacon against one attached to the telephone cord dangling near the patrol shack beyond Bridger lift. Then pass through the gate and hike 400 feet to the Ridge, a mile of 1,300-vertical-foot lines. Compress your spine on the south-end drops and open it up on the northern reach’s 45-degree, ultra-clean Apron.
WEATHER: Bridger’s marquee storms hit when moisture off the Pacific whizzes north across Canada until it cools, drops south, and slams into the western face of the Rocky Mountains. December, January, and March average 58 inches, but locals prefer February’s dry, deep powder (monthly average: 48 inches) and consistent coverage.
APRÈS: Weather permitting, hit the sun-drenched back porch of the Jim Bridger Lodge for a $4 pint of locally brewed Bozone IPA. If the mountain’s socked in, take shelter in the no-frills Grizzly Ridge bar below the lodge for $9 pitchers.
FUEL: Head south on Highway 86 back to Bozeman and turn left on Main Street to the Montana Ale Works—the giant pub with a converted railcar as its dining room—and savor a bison burger ($9.25) or mahi po’boy ($11).
UP ALL NIGHT: In the basement of the historic Bozeman Hotel, art-deco meets techno-industrial at the Zebra Cocktail Lounge. Stop in for urban DJ party music,
local jam bands, or visiting Latin-reggae-funk-rock fusion acts. Covers start at $5.
DIGS: Book the A-Frame Cabin ($675 for three nights; 800-223-9609) at Bridger’s base if you prefer zero nightlife. Otherwise stay at downtown Bozeman’s Best Western City Center Motor Inn ($104 double occupancy; 800-870-3158).