Bridger Overcrowding

A table of skiers dines at the Jim Bridger Lodge on Jan. 2, 2020, at Bridger Bowl.

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The Gallatin County Commission approved a pair of requests from Bridger Bowl that will lead to the construction of a new lodge at the base of the ski area.

The commission approved a recreational business zoning change for a 3.54-acre property owned by Bridger Bowl next to the Jim Bridger Lodge. A change to the Bridger Canyon Zoning regulations was approved, too, which would allow buildings up to 60 feet tall.

Bridger Bowl General Manager Bob Pettit said that the changes were needed to build a new, bigger version of the Jim Bridger Lodge. Pettit said that with more skiers coming to Bridger Bowl, the existing lodge is too small.

Pettit said that the resort bought the property right next to the Jim Bridger Lodge five years ago, but couldn’t do anything with it until the zoning changes were made.

“Even though we own the property, we couldn’t build across it or near it,” Pettit said. “So this gives us the opportunity to at least be more creative in how we placed the building.”

Pettit estimated that the building would be at least double the size of the existing lodge, which is roughly 20,000 square feet. The change in the building height regulation would allow the new lodge to have four stories.

He said that all of the operations housed in the Jim Bridger Lodge — like food and beverage, ski bag check in, the lost and found — would move to the new building, and have space to expand. More seasonal lockers would be added, too.

Bridger Bowl has about 900 seasonal lockers in the base area, but there is a waiting list of about 700 people. When families rent a locker, they are more likely to take the bus rather than drive to Bridger Bowl because they can stow their gear at the lodge, he said.

“We’re trying to run as many buses as we can, and get people riding buses and getting used to that idea,” Pettit said.

Construction for the new lodge could take two summers, or roughly 14 to 16 months, Pettit said. Building would take place during the summer, and would be shut down during the winter.

Eventually, the original Jim Bridger Lodge will be torn down, Pettit said. Timber and beams from the original building would be recycled and used for the new lodge, too.

When the new lodge would be built and how much it could cost are still being determined, Petitt said. But the plan is to build something that keeps pace with the growth in the Gallatin Valley.

“We’re still relatively uncrowded,” Petitt said. “We’re trying to just keep it as comfortable as possible for as long as we can.”

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Alex Miller is the county and state government reporter and can be reached at amiller@dailychronicle.com or by phone at 406-582-2648.

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