Crafted in Northern MI, Skied Worldwide

As a Sparty, there’s only one MSU in my book and it’s in East Lansing.  But after a recent visit to Bozeman, I have a new-found respect for the “other” MSU – Montana State University.

The great thing about being a ski coach is that I’ve had the chance to follow my former athletes to ski areas across the country (and even around the world).  During this trip, I was invited to visit my former pupil, and current Montana State student (and ski team member), Ben Trudgeon; and join him and his dad, Dave, on a Spring Break trip to Whitefish, Montana.  However, prior to heading north to Whitefish, Dave and I made an excursion over to Bridger Bowl, while Ben stuck it out in the classroom finishing his mid-term exams.

I’ve been patiently waiting to ski Bridger Bowl and it’s legendary “Ridge” for more than 15-years.  After two previous failed attempts to ski Bridger, I wasn’t going to let this opportunity pass me by – especially considering the area received almost 3-feet of snow during the previous week and we awoke to bright sunny skies.  

“The Ridge” that runs the length of Bridger’s summit is a maze of steep chutes and cliff bands that must be navigated and solved like a puzzle.  Plotting your line is critical or you’ll get “cliffed out”.  Mandatory airs, narrow straight-lines and numerous no-fall zones make “The Ridge” a proving ground for the “best of the best” skiers.   A few years ago, Bridger made a controversial move by adding a double chair in Schlasman’s Ravine, offering lift served access to the southern half of “The Ridge”.  In an attempt to curtail posers, Bridger made avy beacons a mandatory requirement for ridging the lift.

No matter what their age, skiers at Bridger are hardcore.  The morning was filled with gray haired over 60 somethings crushing the area’s most challenging lines.  We even ran into a group of women pushing 70-years old skiing Schlasman’s.  When classes got out in the afternoon, park rats and gate bashers hit the slopes for some afternoon fun in the sun.  

After a couple runs cutting the corduroy, our legs were warmed up and ready to tackle Schlasman’s Ravine.  The eastern and southern exposure of the lines we skied provided for heavy powder and spring-like bump conditions.  We spent most the morning and early afternoon perfecting our 1980’s style jump turns through the tight chutes that descend into Mundy’s Bowl in honor of Montana’s original extreme skiing legend, Scott Schmidt.  

I promised Dave’s wife that I wouldn’t “kill him” during this trip, however, our journey wouldn’t be complete without at least one hike to the summit of “The Ridge”.  After a little coaxing, I convinced Dave that with the Ahmeek’s under his feet anything is skiable. Starting from the top of the Bridger Chair we checked our avy beacons and made the steep ascent up the roughly 500-ft vertical climb to the top of “The Ridge”.  The blue-bird views from the summit were well worth every laborious step.   

We surveyed the terrain and plotted our course, which would take us down the Hidden Gully and into the Apron.  The narrow entrance into the steep rocky chute required some technical “Scott Schmidt” like turns but quickly opened into a wide bowl with a few powdery north facing lines still left untracked.  As the sun fell lower in the afternoon sky, our smiles grew bigger and our joyful hoots and hollers could be heard throughout the valley below.  Needless to say, Bridger did not disappoint, and like a delicious appetizer, made me hungry to dig deeper into the main course!  

-Dan Fredricks

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