A Travellerspoint blog

Big Sky Adventure: Bozeman, Montana

View Wyoming ski trip 2023 on zzlangerhans's travel map.

The route to Bozeman took us back into Idaho and up Route 191. I would have loved to drive straight through Yellowstone National park but those roads had already closed for the winter, even though there was barely any snow on the ground. Apparently snowstorms in that region can be quite unpredictable. Even though we didn't get to see any of the park the scenery on our route wasn't bad at all.

The highway deposited us right onto Main Street in Bozeman. I was pretty excited about this spot because my research had uncovered a lot more restaurants and activities than I would have expected for a city this size. We went straight for an Asian fusion restaurant for lunch but the food was a disappointment although the decor was interesting. Afterwards we set off by foot down Main Street which was lined with atmospheric old brick buildings and whimsical little stores. A restaurant called Burger Bob's proclaimed in neon cursive "Sorry, we're open".

We continued east and pretty quickly we came to the end of the commercial center. We took a right after the brewery to see the Bozeman Sculpture Park, which has been an artistic institution in the city for a little more than ten years. Ian found an oversized Humpty Dumpty reading on a bench and decided to keep him company while Cleo and Spenser chucked snowballs at each other. Back at the parking lot we found a swing for two that had been installed on the sidewalk for an indecipherable reason.

Our accommodation at the Fox Hollow Inn turned out to be an entire small house, about ten minutes north of the town. Across from the house was a large open field and beyond that was the unbroken line of the Bridger Mountains. We had self check-in and there was no sign of the owners, but a greaseboard in the entryway welcomed us to Bozeman.

We had reserved our New Year's Eve dinner at Feast Raw Bar & Bistro far in advance. It felt a little strange to be eating at a seafood bistro in the middle of the Rockies but it was the best reviewed restaurant in Bozeman. Inside the bistro every table was full with groups that seemed to be local and very familiar with each other. It was a very warm and convivial atmosphere. We decided to splurge on the shellfish tower which was good except for the razor clams, which seemed to have been preserved in brine. It was one of the better New Year's dinners we've had when traveling.

Back at the house all the neighbors had turned on their Christmas lights. Some of the displays were quite elaborate. Mei Ling and I took the bed in the living room and the kids got the upper level. Even though they're well on their way to being teenagers they still don't mind all sharing the same bed.

We woke up quite early to make sure we would be at the ski rental shop when it opened. We had a very narrow window of time to get our equipment sorted before the lessons started. This time round I had decided that Mei Ling, Cleo, and Ian would take lessons in the morning and then we would join up for lunch. Afterward we would all ski together except for Spenser who would be in lessons all day except for the afternoon of the third and final day. The sun was rising in front of us as we drove north on the empty two lane road.

Our arrival at Bridger Bowl went according to plan and we were the first ones inside when the doors of the rental shop opened. By the time the attendants were finished with us a small line had already formed, validating our strategy. We hooked everyone up with their ski instructors and I began to explore the mountain on my own. It wasn't a very large resort but it was adequate for our needs. I didn't take the final lift that went all the way to the peak because there were only expert runs that led downward from the top, but the skiing was still decent from the penultimate level. The sun was still rising through the clouds when I began my first run.

I had been acutely aware of the lack of snowfall since our arrival in Salt Lake City six days earlier. On the one hand this had made our northward travel much less perilous, but I was concerned how it might impact our skiing enjoyment. The entire winter thus far had been one of the weakest in recent history for snow. The locals had clearly decided to wait until later in the season because there was hardly anyone on the slopes. The resort had snowmaking machines going full tilt but there were still some disconcerting bare areas and ice patches. I quickly figured out the best routes down that avoided most of the hazards and realized that once I reached the bottom I could pretty much ski right up to the chairlift boarding zone for the next run. It wasn't ideal skiing but the situation had its advantages as well. After lunch my family joined me and I showed them the best parts of the slopes. It had been a year since we last skied but Mei Ling and the kids had picked up right where they had left off and even made some new progress. Overall it was a pretty successful day of skiing.

We went back to Main Street for dinner that evening. We had hoped to eat at a dim sum restaurant we had spotted but when we arrived we discovered they were closing early. As we slunk back out to the sidewalk we could see people eating in the grill across the street. Steak didn't seem like a bad option at that point. The restaurant was located inside The Baxter, a restored historic hotel that housed the grill and a pub and also functioned as an event space. While we waited for to be called for our table Cleo and I checked out the handsomely decorated two story lobby of the renovated building. The food at the grill was good if not particularly memorable.

The next morning we returned to Bridger Bowl for a second day of skiing. Overall I was pretty happy with my choice of ski area. The snow wasn't great but I don't think it would have been much better at one of the big resorts. We were saving a lot of money on lift tickets and lessons and I liked the local atmosphere at Bridger Bowl. The lodge cafeterias weren't bad either. I was trying to adhere to my diet and I just had a bowl of chili for lunch every day. It was just as good as I might have expected to find in a restaurant. By the second afternoon Cleo had decided we were too slow for her and was off taking the lifts and skiing the runs on her own.

We had dinner that night at I-Ho's Korean Grill, another quirky restaurant close to Main Street with delicious food. One thing I love about traveling in the United States is that you can get good, authentic ethnic food just about anywhere in the country if you know where to look.

By the third morning session I was pretty tired of skiing on my own. I'd already gone down every decent run a dozen times and my muscles and feet were aching. I broke for lunch early and I was looking forward to having the whole family together for the final session. Ian showed up after his last lesson looking shellshocked. Apparently he'd collided with someone and gotten yelled at, which was probably good for him. Spenser joined us as well for the afternoon and we were amazed at ho much progress he'd made. I have to say it was a relief returning the equipment to the rental shop and leaving Bridger Bowl after the third day. I think three days of skiing in a row is about as much as any of us can handle. Next year I might skip the lessons for everyone except Spenser.

I was a little torn about where to have dinner on our final night in Bozeman. We hadn't had enormous success with western-style bistros in Jackson but I had checked out the menu at Plonk and it looked interesting. Fortunately we were able to get a table at short notice and we had by far the best meal of our trip. Everything we ordered was excellent but the real star was the succulent venison chop, which was everything we could have asked for in a game dish. The shotgun style interior was cunningly designed with shelves packed with vinyl records separating the dining area from the bar in the front. French doors connected the bistro with a busy steakhouse next door that presumably had the same ownership. Our only regret when we finished our meal was that we didn't have a restaurant like this in Miami.

The next morning we finally met our hosts after we had packed and were getting ready to leave. A woman came running out of the adjacent house to our car and apologized for not meeting us earlier, but we really hadn't given it any thought. We'd only been at the house to sleep. It seemed kind of funny that they owned a vacant house and decided to call it an inn instead of just listing it as a short-term rental but we were very happy with the place regardless. We drove back into Bozeman for our first breakfast in town. We chose a place called Jam! based on the reviews and it was exceptional, especially the fresh squeezed juices. Bozeman may not be a big city, but people there have plenty of great options when it comes to eating.

Aside from our first afternoon walking around Main Street we hadn't had any time for activities in Bozeman. I had found a fair number of things to do, with the only bummer being that the Montana Science Center was closed for some reason. We started out at the Montana Grizzly Encounter which had really good reviews but disappointed us. There are three orphaned grizzlies at the facility but since they don't get along they have to be brought out into the enclosure separately, so we only got to see one of them. I understood that these were rescued animals but nevertheless when I looked at the concrete fence around the small enclosure my brain screamed "zoo". The lecture from the staff member was reasonably interesting but hard to absorb as we were freezing in the unprotected outdoor area in front of the enclosure. We spent at most a half hour there before moving on.

The American Computer & Robotics Museum was located in a little complex of office buildings next to the campus of Montana State University. At first I thought we were in the wrong place or that the museum no longer existed because there wasn't any building around that seemed to fit my expectation. Once we found the entrance it became apparent that what the museum lacked in size it made up for in efficiency and creativity. The exhibits did a great job of illustrating the steps towards the development of personal computers with a large collection of models dating back to the earliest days in the 1970's and 1980's. There were also great displays about cryptography and the codebreakers of World War II.

The Museum of the Rockies was just a couple of blocks away from the computer museum. This museum was also better than we expected, with particularly good paleontology exhibits. There were some good interactive activities for the kids and a planetarium. We probably could have stayed for more than the two hours we ultimately spent inside, but I was hoping to make it to our next destination before dark.

We had finished all our activities in time for a late lunch so we decided to hit the dim sum place that had closed early the time we tried to have dinner there. Dim sum is a fairly tough thing to get right and the dumplings proved to be rather mediocre. We were still quite pleased overall with the culinary scene in Bozeman. After four days we could see why people would love the city since it punches way above its weight in terms of restaurants and activities while still preserving its small town atmosphere. I imagine it's just as good or even better outside of the holiday season when the theaters are having performances and all the warm weather activities are in full swing.

We had one of our longest drives of the trip ahead of us, two hundred and fifty miles to Pocatello. We gathered ourselves together and bade farewell to Bozeman. The final leg of our winter vacation had begun.

Posted by zzlangerhans 16:25 Archived in USA Tagged road_trip family montana family_travel travel_blog tony_friedman family_travel_blog bozeman bridger_bowl

Email this entryFacebookStumbleUpon

Table of contents

Be the first to comment on this entry.

Comment with:

Comments left using a name and email address are moderated by the blog owner before showing.

Not published. Required
Leave this field empty

Characters remaining: