My sister and Brother in Law were in need of some Montana Magic. Until recently, they had been living in the beautiful Lake District of England, in the small city of Ulverston. Their access to lakes, mountains, open air, and gorgeous vistas was unbeatable- then they moved back to Connecticut. Don’t get me wrong- Connecticut has its own sort of natural beauty. But moving from a place with vast dramatic landscapes leaves you wanting… something more than some rolling hills and old rock walls. What better to satisfy those fresh air needs than a trip to the wilds of Montana? We planned an epic week of running, skiing, and adventuring around the Bozeman area, then impatiently waited for the days to tick by.
After a harrowing day of travel that involved literal hours on the phone with United, changed flights from Connecticut to Boston and a frantic last second midnight train ride, and a stop over on the west coast to avoid a blizzard in Denver, the tired travelers arrived at Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport- exhausted, punchy, and, honestly, a little smelly. What did not arrive was some of the luggage- a ski boot bag containing Lucas’ ski boots, Amandas’ helmet, and other skiing accoutrements.
No matter- It was the 2nd Wednesday of the month, which meant that the Bozeman Running Company 5k Brew Run series was kicking off at 6:00 PM. After a few shots of espresso and relaxing in our cozy (read: small) apartment, we were all ready to go.
I should mention at this point that I was feeling a little under the weather. I had no voice, and prior to the arrival of our guests I had been spending a majority of my time sleeping in hopes of shaking off my cold. Unfortunately it stuck around, which meant I would be walking the brew run. But hey, every finisher gets a beer, no matter how slow! Lucas volunteered to walk with me, and we had a nice 2.5 mile stroll on trails and roads near Mountains Walking Brewery.
Group morale improved after we found a seat and ordered a variety of beers inside the cozy tasting room. The crowd was cheery and Amanda and Lucas both were happy to finally be drinking legendary $4 craft beers that exist, apparently, only in Montana. Among favorites were “The Last Best Pineapple” and “Junegrass IPA”. We finished up the night with enormous sandwiches from the Pickle Barrel, and our exhausted travelers hit the hay.
The next morning we rose early, ate a giant breakfast scramble, and geared up- it was time to ski Big Sky! The hour long ride down the Gallatin Canyon was tight in my tiny Corolla, but we did manage to fit four people and ski gear. The sky was blue, the conditions were great, and spirits were high. I still had a very raspy voice, but didn’t let that stop me from shredding. We warmed up with a few quick laps on Andesite, then headed over to the Bowl. Amanda was anxious to get in some of the biggest skiing in the west, and Thomas and I were looking forward to hitting some steeper terrain as well.
Even Lucas, the most novice skier of the group, made his way down the groomed trails below the looming Lone Peak. Amanda was the first to fall, and I was lucky enough to catch it on camera. We whiled the day away, skiing, laughing, adventuring, only stopping reluctantly to eat quick snacks. We caught last chair back on Ramcharger, and had a nice wide groomer all to ourselves. The sun was starting to set over the gallatin canyon, and as we turned our final turns and found ourselves below the tree line, it was time to go.
A quick stop at Beehive Basin Brewery for some liquid snacks was much appreciated by all, and the hour ride back home passed by quickly. The next morning, we all slept in. Not even the thought of cinnamon roll french toast at the Western Cafe could have roused any of us, and by the time we finally rolled out of bed and shook out our post-skiing aches, we were late enough to be in brunch territory. We quaffed coffee and ate a little bit of everything- the famous french toast for myself and my sister, Chicken Fried Steak for Thomas, and a massive breakfast sandwich for Lucas. after consuming enough calories to feed a small army, we decided a walk up Peets Hill was a good idea. The popular trail starts right across the street from the Western, and winds back and up to a spectacular viewing point of the Bridgers and the Gallatin Mountains as well as city sprawl. The highlight? A young golden retreiver puppy whose owner saw us gawking and gave us treats to give to the little guy.
We strolled down peets and into town, and took some time to wander through the shops of main st- something I don’t do often as someone who lives here! It was great to explore all the funky knick knacks lining shelves of tiny boutiques. My only request was a stop at Sweet Peaks, a Montana based house made ice cream company with funky flavors.
As most of you know, Ice cream is the perfect pre-race day snack, so we each made sure to eat a healthy portion. A quiet night in was next on the agenda, as we had a busy day of running and drinking planned for St. Patricks Day!
Early Saturday morning, we met up with Amanda at the shuttle for the Run To The Pub 10k. Race conditions looked good- blue skies and temperatures in the balmy 50s! A wait in an astronomically long and seemingly unmoving port-o-potty line led the three of us to a moment of desperation- start time was fast approaching and we needed to take care of business! We hatched a plan to run off into the woods and d
o just that- only to find another set of port-o-potties with no line. Phew!
Crisis and criminal records averted, we lined up for the race. An overwhelmingly cheery green crowd of runners covered the winding point to point course that meandered towards downtown, and more than one group of spectators cheered us on with traditional Irish music on the way. The minutes slipped by and soon I found myself cruising on to Main street, towards the giant Finishing Arch and beyond that, a party already in full swing.
I eventually found Lucas (he is much taller than the average person and therefore has added crowd searching capabilities), got my free beer, and started celebrating! People were drinking on the street everywhere- the party was on, and it wasn’t even noon yet. The spring breeze started feeling cool, so we finished our beers and headed inside to the Rockin R Bar for some snacks and… more beer. In the spirit of the holiday, Thomas and I ordered Black and Tans, Amanda got a Guinness, and Lucas went for a local IPA.
We supplemented our draughts with healthy post race snacks- french fries and nachos (part of the same plan as the pre-race ice cream), and made plans for bar hopping. The itinerary included the The Bacchus, White Dog Brewery, Bozeman Distillery, the Crystal, and Map Brewing- a menagerie of experiences. As we sat on the porch at Map, drunk, happy, and a little exhausted, we watched the Bridgers bask in the rosy hue of alpenglow. Tomorrow, we would be skiing their slopes.
None of us were surprised at the hangover we all seemed to have the next morning. Still, after a quick breakfast, we managed to get up to Bridger in a very respectable amount of time. We took some easy runs to start the day off nice and slow, but eventually got Amanda to take a run down the South Bowl. After skiing Big Sky, Bridger didn’t do much to impress our visitors- Distant memories of the heated, bubbled, 8 seat Ramcharger lift that whisks you up Andesite Mountain in a minute and a half came to us as we shivered on the 9 minute ride up Pierres Knob. Still, Bridger has a certain charm to it
I always love having visitors, but when family comes out to visit it feels just a little bit better. Usually we see each other in the rush of the holidays, when everyones schedule is crammed full of holiday cheer, and we don’t have the luxury of just hanging out, doing what sisters do. The entire week was full of exactly that- a bit more extreme than what we might do in Connecticut what with the skiing and mountains and such, but still- gossiping, having real talks about life things, getting to physically lean on each other instead of relying on a phone line or fuzzy video chat to share how we’re feeling. I’m grateful that I have family that tolerates my living all the way out in Montana, and getting to share why this place is so special to me never, ever gets old.