Bridger Bowl in Montana has been a legend for years now. Ski film pioneer Scot Schmidt [Scot is correct spel.] grew up there. Doug Coombs built his foundation of technique and style there, not to mention his cardio base due to the human powered access required for the best runs, along with making extra coin by portering the planks of more well-off hikers.
Yes, what sets Bridger apart is “The Ridge,” a hike-to area you reach via a short (for fit individuals) walk. Due to the variety of terrain on The Ridge, skiing it has become a cult activity that for some devotees nearly ascends to religion.
But the Bridger Ridge runs are complex, even intricate. Skiing the area as a newcomer (or even less experienced local) can lead to confusion and danger.
While skiing the “Ridge” terrain is still an adventure, things got easier for the newbie in 2005 when Tavis Campbell and Sam Cox published Stepping Up, their guidebook for Bridger’s sidecountry. Their first edition sold out in 2008, so they went ahead and published their second edition a few months ago. The book is 102 pages, with 90 greyscale photos that include spirited images of Scot Schmidt and Doug Coombs. The amount of detail is stunning — obviously of biblical import for anyone aspiring to be a disciple of “The Ridge.”
More, a sprinkling of historical info makes this a tome worthy of any skier’s library. In that I find the book’s only small flaw: While the included history is appreciated, an overall lack of historical anecdotes about the individual routes is for me a disappointment. I’m of the opinion that guidebook authors should make an effort to find as much historical back story as possible and combine this with their route descriptions. To be fair, the authors do this a bit with routes such as Kanzler’s Dive, in sharing about the death of Mike Cavanna on that route, but such details are rare.
Why is this important? If nothing else, history makes for an even richer read, and it’s surprising how many people will simply read guidebooks for relaxation and amusement, even when they’re not planning on doing the routes. Yep, armchair.
Yet more importantly, any experience we have as skiers is shaped by those sliders who came before us, and knowing details about that shaping only adds to our enjoyment. This is especially true for newer generations, who’s body of knowledge may not include oral history stored in the craniums of the pioneers of such places as Bridger. While the cost of ink and paper no doubt limits how much print you can do in a short-run book, we’ve got the web now, so I’m hoping authors Campbell and Cox record the details on their website some day even if the book must remain brief.
My penchant for history aside, as a guidebook author myself I know how much work goes into these things: A lot more than appears on the surface. In Stepping Up the results of that work are obvious and appreciated. Way to stick with it Tavis and Sam, WildSnow three thumbs up!
WildSnow.com publisher emeritus and founder Lou (Louis Dawson) has a 50+ years career in climbing, backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering. He was the first person in history to ski down all 54 Colorado 14,000-foot peaks, has authored numerous books about about backcountry skiing, and has skied from the summit of Denali in Alaska, North America’s highest mountain.