For our fourth installment of the Town Ski Area Series we’ll explore a ski area that could serve as the poster child to small, community ski areas nationwide because of its success as a 501(c)(4).
Bridger Bowl Ski Area, just 25 minutes outside of Bozeman, Mont., is operated by the Bridger Bowl Association. Its nonprofit status has allowed the mountain to funnel all profits back onto the slopes.
After opening in 1955 with a single t-bar lift the mountain has grown exponentially. In the past decade alone Bridger has installed three new lifts and an on-mountain cabin.
It is worth noting that Bridger is far from your traditional mom and pop ski area. It is blessed with 2,000 acres of world-class terrain that has bred professional skiers like Scot Schmidt and Doug Coombs and drawn filmmakers like Warren Miller and Greg Stump.
The mountain’s close proximity to Bozeman, a college town with an avid ski culture, certainly doesn’t hurt business either. A blue light on top of the downtown Baxter Hotel even alerts residents when there’s a powder day on the mountain. A 2010 study performed by the University of Montana found that Bridger Bowl contributes about $12.4 million to the state’s economy annually.
Bridger’s angulation towards “hardcore” skiers is obvious with its top “ridge” only accessible upon the Schlasman's Lift which requires wearing an avalanche beacon and shovel to ride. Black diamond and expert’s only runs litter the mountain steeped with playful gullys, chutes and bowls. Each February the mountain hosts a King and Queen of the Ridge big mountain competition that raises money for avalanche education in southwest Montana.
The lower half of Bridger offers a diversity of terrain with a smattering of intermediate runs, a beginner-specific lift, warming hut and two conveyor lifts.
For more information on Bridger Bowl including a well-chronicled history and daily video recaps dating back to 2003, check out bridgerbowl.com