By the time I buckle my boots, the people wearing Hefty bags are already skiing. They are having an awesome time.
The sleet is coming down almost horizontally. It’s just cold enough that it freezes on contact, coating the railings of the tram dock with a solid, immediate layer of ice. I have come home to Cannon Mountain, N.H., for Christmas after becoming one of those people who leave New England for bigger mountains and deeper snow out West. I thought the Rockies had made me tough—patrolling at A-Basin, backcountry missions that call for two kinds of crampons, that kind of thing.
In the wide-open spaces of Montana, a busy day is a chance to catch your breath and the local gossip.
The blinking blue light atop the Baxter Hotel, Bozeman’s highest building, means one glorious thing to the residents of this southwest Montana town: powder day. Another lumbering highline storm has arrived to deposit that famous cold smoke on Bridger Bowl. As a listless college student in Bozeman, I’d watch it pulse through the darkness on my frigid walks home from one of Main Street’s fine drinking establishments. It would fill me with hope for a deep and lucid tomorrow, as my buddies and I struggled for clarity through all the bottom-shelf whiskey we’d just shot.
Here’s the thing about those icy, flat slopes: They absolutely make you a better skier.
I’m about to talk about Stratton Mountain, the ski resort that’s just 10 minutes from where I grew up in Vermont, and I know what you’re thinking: Ice. Bitterly cold temperatures. Liftlines crowded with New Yorkers and Bostonians. Terrain that’s, well...the place is known as “Flatton.”
Yes, it’s all those things. But it’s also my home ski area, and here’s why I love it.