Restless to devour some white gold during Thanksgiving, the Freeskier North office left the Tetons for Bozeman after learning that Bridger Bowl was firing up the lifts for a â€˜sneak previewâ€™ opener over the weekend. Due to stellar coverage facilitated by a dose of the same storms that pummeled the northwest throughout November, this was Bridgerâ€™s first Thanksgiving opening in decades and doubtless one of their best ever.
We hopped in the car on Black Friday, saying later to bare lower elevations and early season snow depths at about 60% of normal. We wanted something a little steeper, deeper and softer. We found all that and much more than anticipated at Bridger Bowlâ€™s opening.
The stoke-meter rose as we pulled into Bozeman on Friday afternoon to find about a foot of settled snow on the valley floor. Thankful that we werenâ€™t Black Friday heffers in line at Kohls or Best Buy, we enjoyed a the ped tour through the friendly, charming town â€“ cruising around MSU, stopping for a quick bouldering sesh in a picturesque city park, grabbing java in one of the seemingly hundreds of coffee shops and even getting an impromptu piercing by a very large, very inky gentleman at Bozemanâ€™s Tattoo Alley. How could this day get any better? A kickass london broil cheesesteak at Bacchus Pub, an easy $56 room at Dayâ€™s Inn (including doggie charge, a private hot-tub, and a made to order breakfast) and the anticipation of shredding Bridger on Saturday morning.
Accustomed to â€˜Jackson paceâ€™ on a shred morning, we decided on an early start to get in line first thing. However, our arrival at the mountain was strangely similar to Clark Griswold pulling into Wally World. Despite the white mountains towering above us and the promise of some sweet terrain openings, we were the first in the lot with only about 30 people in line when the lifts finally opened.
Bridger serves it up mellow style vs. most resorts, but donâ€™t be fooled, because the main course is legit. Rapid fire shredding in the trees off the Pierreâ€™s Knob lift confirmed that coverage was amazing for a 30 something inch base-depth. We were having a damn good time as it was when patrol defied our expectations by letting us at the real goods, Bridgerâ€™s famous Ridge. The Ridge is a dominating north to south monster with countless distinctive lines and a â€˜youâ€™re on your ownâ€™ backcountry feel that puts Bridgerâ€™s terrain into the elite category.
After an easy 10 minute boot pack, we wasted no time putting first tracks down Job #4, a couloir that culminates in a 4â€™ wide choke before dog-legging into a glorious pow filled chute that I will dream about till the next time I get in there. Never thought weâ€™d be skiing something like that on November 28th.
Ecstatic, but far from content, we busted out two more Ridge laps in as many hours, hardly a problem when an easy hike from the top of the lift puts you on a line that you will never forget. We were glad that we didnâ€™t leave our packs in the car, because you canâ€™t hike the Ridge without your gear and a partner â€“ another example of how Bridger does it just a little different than other places. As a matter of fact, you canâ€™t even ride the Schlasmanâ€™s lift (closed this past weekend) without your stuff, so plan accordingly.
Bridger is currently set to re-open for good on December 11th and they offer ski/stay deals as amazing as their terrain. Their Powderhound (link) package gives you three days of lodging and tickets for as low as $52/ day with your fourth day and night free. Keep tabs on conditions and plan your trip at Bridger Bowl.com.