People think of Bozeman as a ski town, and while this is true, they’re usually only envisioning a very specific type of skiing: downhill. Images of shaggy-haired ski bums ripping it down a mountain come to mind. But this vision (while awfully fun), still leaves out one of the biggest wintertime sports in the area, and one that just about anyone can enjoy: Nordic skiing.
Nordic skiing refers to two types of skiing, what’s commonly known as cross-country skiing, and telemark skiing. In both instances, the skier is usually traversing more even ground than what you’d face in downhill skiing. Nordic skiing instead takes place on flat land or rolling hills. Also, unlike downhill skiing, the boot heel of the skier is free and unattached, as opposed to being locked into place during downhill. This allows the heel to come up off of the ski during movement, aiding in more of the gliding motion required for Nordic skiing. And while this sport may be a little more accessible than downhill skiing, don’t be fooled—it’s still a heck of a workout.
One of the beauties of Nordic skiing is both its affordability as well as its accessibility. Participants can easily throw their gear in the car, hit the road, and be at a public trail in no time. No insane amounts of gear, no lift tickets or long lines, making the sport a great recreational activity. Today we’re sharing some of our favorite spots in the Gallatin Valley for those wanting to give it a go!
If you’ve ever found yourself stuck at the one traffic light near the hospital and wondered what all these skiers were doing waiting at the crosswalk, you’re not alone. Right in the heart of town just off the end of Main Street is Lindley Park, which connects to Sunset Hills. This whole area is a great Nordic skiing option for anyone looking for some quick and easy access. Skiers can be out and back on a quick lunch break. This trail is groomed from December to February and makes a loop that comes in just under four miles. Park off Ellis Street on the East side of Highland in the plowed lot.
If you’re looking for something a little on the wilder side, Hyalite Canyon is the place for you. Located about eight miles south of town off 19th Avenue, this place is packed with trails just waiting to be blazed everywhere you look. While there are lots of options, if you’re looking for a truly long trek, we suggest heading up to the reservoir for a series of loops that come in around 16 miles. This is Forest Service land, and the roads are plowed and trails are groomed as funds allow, so be sure to look up conditions before deciding to head out. We also highly recommend taking a four-wheel drive vehicle if you have access to one. It may sound a bit intimidating, but we promise the classic Montana views this place offers are more than worth it.
Tucked in the foothills of the Bridger Range, this location is a hub for new and experienced cross country skiers. Rentals are available on location, along with lessons from experts who will help you get comfortable with the technique before heading off on your adventure. You’ll find 45 kilometers of pristine, groomed trails for classic and skate skiing here, with stunning views, from sprawling hillsides to deep-cut canyons. Much of the terrain is beginner to moderate level and offers an inviting first-time experience for amateurs and families. This location does require a pass to access, which you can purchase online here.
While you may no longer be able to swing the irons once the snow settles on the ground, it doesn’t mean that the golf courses in this town necessarily shut their doors. Instead, many of them transform into the perfect Nordic skiing venues, with just the right amount of rolling hills, convenient locations, and distances that are just right. Try Bridger Creek Golf Course for a more leisurely ski that is great for beginners and offers stunning views of the Bridger Mountains, or, if you know someone with access, we highly recommend taking advantage of Black Bull if you can.
Wanting to give Nordic skiing a try but don’t have your own gear? Not to worry. There are plenty of places in the Bozeman area that offer everything you need to buy or rent. Try Chalet Sports on Main Street or Round House on West Main.