The lifts at Bridger Bowl start spinning today for the first time this winter.
After feeling the brunt end of a couple of early season snowstorms, the non-profit ski area expects to open with a settled base of 42 inches at mid-mountain. The entire mountain, with the exception of the Schlashman's lift and terrain, will be open.
Subzero temperatures are expected — a high of minus 1 degree is forecast for Bozeman — and Bridger officials ask that riders dress warmly and be aware of frostbite.
The biggest change for Bridger this year is the two new SkyTrac triple chairlifts replacing the old Alpine lift. The old 1967 Riblet double chair was flown out to its new home outside Spokane, Wash., this summer while crews worked to install the new lifts on the northern end of Bridger.
In addition to ferrying more riders up the mountain, the new lifts are positioned differently and expected to open more beginner and intermediate terrain, said Doug Wales, director of marketing and sales at Bridger.
A sort of “V” is formed by the new lifts. The one angled north will keep the Alpine name, while the one angled south is called Powder Park. The quad lift at the base area now sports the new name of “Sunnyside.”
The new lift layout along the northern boundary allowed Bridger to knock out the old cat tracks below Bridger Gully and the Apron, which should allow expert riders much longer runs off the ridge.
“There's a lot of enthusiasm on a wide range of ability levels, so that's pretty cool,” Wales said.
The new season also marks the 20th anniversary of the Grizzly Ridge, the modest bar below the Roundhouse's store. It started out as a simple one-room dive bar that had space for about 10 people at a time — a dream come true for a ski addict who first skied Bridger in the 1970s, said owner Don Bockhahn. As it grew in popularity, the bar expanded until it eventually took over the entire bottom floor.
“I get so enthused about ski season every year,” Bockhahn said. “We're the only place the ski bums go.”
Jason Bacaj may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 582-2635.