Bridger Bowl Guidebook – Second Edition

Post by blogger | May 26, 2009      
Bridger Bowl Ridge

Bridger Bowl Ridge

Bridger Bowl in Montana has been a legend for years now. Ski film pioneer Scot Schmidt [Scot is correct spel.] grew up there. Doug Coombs built his foundation of technique and style there, not to mention his cardio base due to the human powered access required for the best runs, along with making extra coin by portering the planks of more well-off hikers.

Yes, what sets Bridger apart is “The Ridge,” a hike-to area you reach via a short (for fit individuals) walk. Due to the variety of terrain on The Ridge, skiing it has become a cult activity that for some devotees nearly ascends to religion.

But the Bridger Ridge runs are complex, even intricate. Skiing the area as a newcomer (or even less experienced local) can lead to confusion and danger.

Guide to Ridge at Bridger Bowl

Guide to Ridge at Bridger Bowl

While skiing the “Ridge” terrain is still an adventure, things got easier for the newbie in 2005 when Tavis Campbell and Sam Cox published Stepping Up, their guidebook for Bridger’s sidecountry. Their first edition sold out in 2008, so they went ahead and published their second edition a few months ago. The book is 102 pages, with 90 greyscale photos that include spirited images of Scot Schmidt and Doug Coombs. The amount of detail is stunning — obviously of biblical import for anyone aspiring to be a disciple of “The Ridge.”

More, a sprinkling of historical info makes this a tome worthy of any skier’s library. In that I find the book’s only small flaw: While the included history is appreciated, an overall lack of historical anecdotes about the individual routes is for me a disappointment. I’m of the opinion that guidebook authors should make an effort to find as much historical back story as possible and combine this with their route descriptions. To be fair, the authors do this a bit with routes such as Kanzler’s Dive, in sharing about the death of Mike Cavanna on that route, but such details are rare.

Why is this important? If nothing else, history makes for an even richer read, and it’s surprising how many people will simply read guidebooks for relaxation and amusement, even when they’re not planning on doing the routes. Yep, armchair.

Yet more importantly, any experience we have as skiers is shaped by those sliders who came before us, and knowing details about that shaping only adds to our enjoyment. This is especially true for newer generations, who’s body of knowledge may not include oral history stored in the craniums of the pioneers of such places as Bridger. While the cost of ink and paper no doubt limits how much print you can do in a short-run book, we’ve got the web now, so I’m hoping authors Campbell and Cox record the details on their website some day even if the book must remain brief.

My penchant for history aside, as a guidebook author myself I know how much work goes into these things: A lot more than appears on the surface. In Stepping Up the results of that work are obvious and appreciated. Way to stick with it Tavis and Sam, WildSnow three thumbs up!

Purchase Stepping Up, Guide to The Ridge at Bridger Bowl


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18 Responses to “Bridger Bowl Guidebook – Second Edition”

  1. jerimy May 26th, 2009 2:02 pm

    The website link for stepping up is broken, it contains an erroneous double quote at the end of the hyperlink.

  2. Lou May 26th, 2009 2:10 pm

    Thanks Jerimy, fixed.

  3. Mark May 26th, 2009 9:41 pm

    I grew up at Bridger, and it has terrain that got Scot ready for places like the Palisades at Squaw. His style and technique are fairly artistic in a singular sense–there’s only one Scot Schmidt. My understanding is that he’s never had an injury while skiing. Also amazing.

  4. Sean May 26th, 2009 9:57 pm

    dang it, I don’t see such promotions as good. does Bridger have a problem selling lift tickets? or the other extreme, too many skiers? should western mountains look like the ones in the NE, resembling Los Angeles highways at rush hour?

    doesn’t anyone value the well-kept secret any more?

    never mind, I don’t need answers. I’m just thinking out loud, wondering why someone would want to popularize and increase the density of people in a place that’s special because it’s not crowded.

    glad there isn’t one about my local hill, that’s for sure.

  5. Lou May 27th, 2009 6:33 am

    Sean, your point is well taken. Whether guidebooks really cause much of a use increase is an open question in my view. Sometimes they simply follow the increase in popularity, and just enhance people’s experience who would be there anyway. Other times logic says they do increase the number of people in a place. Hard to know one way or the other without a scientific stats study. In the case of Bridger, my guess is the guidebook is not that big a deal in terms of use increase. Now mentioning it on, that’s another matter entirely (grin).

  6. Shane May 27th, 2009 10:39 am

    I have some of the same feelings as Sean. Many locals are of the opinion that Bridger already has become too crowded. I for one have been limiting my time up there over the past few seasons in favor of the other 2 nearby resorts and the BC. Even without a guide book the secret stashes are bound to get more attention just due to the increased number of skiers.

    I don’t think the book is the cause of increased usage or the changing attitude up there (ie “my mountain go home” stickers etc). I blame the general growth of Bozeman and the MSU marketing strategy (your home for an EXTREME education) for that.

    I do worry that the book, like any guide book, may lure some underprepared folks into tough situations but this is also happening a little bit with the new open gate policy and there is no guide book for that terrain.

    FWIW. I have the first edition of the book and it’s a great to read before drifting off to sleep or while on the pot.

  7. Scott May 27th, 2009 1:45 pm

    Gott love the irony of “locals” xenephobia. Most moved in from out of state. Most depend in some way on the business the local hill generates. Yet they feel ownership of the (usually federal) public lands that “their” hill sits on and don’t like others visiting.

    I understand how they can feel like that, but it is pretty funny.

  8. Mason May 27th, 2009 9:50 pm

    I’m pretty selfish, I love guidebooks because they open up new areas for me to “discover” that I never would have known about otherwise. But I’ll never write about my secret little spots! Ha! Did you know there are entire mountain ranges in some states that MAYBE get skied each winter? There’s this one I know about, my friends and I go there, it’s similar to one I read about in a blog somewhere… but it’s mine!

  9. Mark May 27th, 2009 10:17 pm

    I was born in Bozeman and lived there 30 years, but I don’t really see much point in trumpeting that to all the world as there are so many fine people who moved there from elsewhere. Here in Colorado, there is some NATIVE resident touting, but I guess that can get old too. Do some areas get crowded? In a relative sense, perhaps, but I have yet to see the Ridge overrun and totally tracked out. Perhaps the new Schlasmans chairlift is more of a concern to overcrowding an area than a guidebook, but that is another question.

  10. LZ June 3rd, 2009 11:02 pm

    The idea that Bridger is already anything but crowded is laughable. Even weekdays the powder locusts track it out before they have to go to work. Another guidebook wont change this. Good to have more references.

    And by the way, Bozeman is Boulder light these days. Ego’s prevailing.

  11. dave downing June 3rd, 2009 11:18 pm

    funny anyone would think a guidebook would “make” a place like bridger more crowded. that is such a classic mtn that pretty much ALL skiers know of. i’ve known about it since i was in grade school. only skied it twice though. it’s still not crowded (as of this winter). i’m pretty sure schmit made it popular a while back, had some film segments in the 90s. sick terrain. yeah, this guidebook will probably blow it out 🙂

  12. Mark Worley June 4th, 2009 10:05 pm

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t Scot Schmidt leave for Squaw in the early ’80s? As I’ve mentioned, I grew up skiing at Bridger and started skiing in 1982 and only saw him there when he came back to visit. Anyway, I understand how people feel about things getting tracked out there, but heck, I’ve backcountry skied in Bozeman’s mountains and scarcely encountered more than a couple other people on a few occasions; often no one at all. Guess my point is to go backcountry and get all the fresh tracks you could ever want. Oh, and back in the day Kanzler’s Dive was dubbed Kanzler’s Couloir. The alliteration works better. And Dave, Scot wasn’t just in a few film segments in the ’90s. He was in a whole slough of movies throughout the ’80s and into the ’90s. The guy’s smooth technique and flowing grace on the mountain have never been duplicated.

  13. dave downing June 5th, 2009 8:11 am

    Hi Mark. I was referring to “some film segments” from Bridger. Not Schmidt in this case (though I didn’t write it clearly). I also meant to be a bit sarcastic, but don’t think everyone saw me *wink* as i typed my comment.

    From what you wrote above, I’ll be careful regarding my ski culture in the future as your knowledge is FAR superior to mine 🙂

  14. EricP June 6th, 2009 9:12 am

    i spent a winter at Bridger, I think it was 91-92. Every skier I’ve talked to about it knows the place. I don’t think one more guide book will be the death nail.
    the place has always had a locals only attitude. I even had one guy say “we don’t normally like people from Cali, but you guys are pretty cool.” He was a dark skinned fellow so I replied “yeah we don’t normally like black guys, but you’re pretty cool too.” He was drunk and didn’t see my irony, needless to say we were forced to make an emergency extraction from that party. Gotta love rednecks with big guns!

  15. Mark June 8th, 2009 10:27 pm

    Dave, I didn’t mean to sound condescending or superior in my comments. Sorry if it came across that way. As to the comment from EricP regarding “a locals only attitude,” I’ve never seen that at Bridger. The mountain has been used by people from all over for decades because it is 16 miles from Montana State University. If things have changed and there is some local bad attitude, I’m sorry to hear that. Bridger has always been about keeping skiing affordable for everyone, not exclusive to a select few.

  16. dave downing June 9th, 2009 9:23 am

    Hi Mark.
    Didn’t get any condescending feelings here. I was just clarifying my comments. I’m always glad to get a little ski history lesson on my favorite topic 😉

  17. Bill Wellcome January 26th, 2013 11:18 pm

    I remember in the early 70’s skiing fresh tracks at Bridger all day, on a powder day, and not hiking anywhere. There were maybe 20 hard cores who hiked the ridge every day. Now, hundreds of people go up there on a powder day.

  18. Matt White February 6th, 2013 10:02 am

    As to this book’s contribution to over-crowding, I’m of the opinion that people are going to go to the Ridge regardless of owning this book. I’ve been skiing Bridger for 25 years (I’m a native), and I’ve seen a lot of people get in trouble up there. Books like this help people that don’t have the luxury of skiing with someone who’s a Ridge pro know how to stay out of trouble… Of course people should always try to go with someone who knows the area, but the reality is that’s not always going to happen… This book helps the less experienced have fun safely, which is a bonus for everyone.

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