Mountain Biking Big Sky

If you’re looking to ride some different trails this summer, check out Big Sky. It has more accessible downhill runs and singletrack than anywhere in the region. While most of the terrain is for advanced riders, there are several trails for beginners, too. At Big Sky proper, people usually head up the mountain from Mountain Village via the South Access Road. The wide gravel road winds gently up at first, then steep through the switchbacks, finally meeting up with the gondola on top.

Campground Crags

Hot, bluish-black smoke billowed from the end of the buzzing sawblade and swirled about me, permeating my clothes and hair. Chunks of disemboweled wood sprayed out in all directions, sticking to the sweat on my arms and face, and I glanced at my watch. Time to quit. The day had been long, hot, and unamusing: ten hours of chainsawing eight-foot railroad ties into pieces. I finished my cut, put the saw in its nightly resting place, and, feeling as though someone had beaten me with a stick, drooped back to my car and flopped in.

This Business of Ecology

I still remember the valley the way I first saw it as a kid. It had been a long heavy winter when finally, spring arrived, tentative and coy. Then the large, open fields near our house exploded with wildflower blues and yellows aching to reach up and be caught in the late afternoon breeze. Without even trying you could hear the grass buzz with vast microsystems of life. Magpies squawked, a young blue grouse chirped from dense cover, and in the stream a cutthroat twisted, then rose on a midge not half a minute old.

Northern Lights, Explained

If you've never seen the northern lights – and almost 95% of Earth's population hasn't – this year may be your best chance. Massive surges of solar activity are blasting Earth with more magnetic energy than it's felt in 20 years. This means that aurora borealis will be bigger, more vibrant, and visible much farther south than normal. Montana has already hosted a few breathtaking atmospheric lightshows this year, and if things go as expected, there's much more to come.

The Importance of Being Rugged

In 1889, Hamilton Carhartt started making pants. They were no ordinary pants, though. Designed to "endure the rigors of a hard day’s work", they were constructed with the heaviest, most durable material possible. He’d had it with flimsy fabrics and cushy clamdiggers. Even Levis were too thin-skinned for old Hamilton – hard-working men like him needed super-rugged trousers that would hold up while mending barbed-wire fences, hauling ore, repairing tractors, or riveting I-beams 300 feet up.

Season Opener: A Small-Town Montana Summer

"I wish to preach, not the doctrine of ignoble ease, but the doctrine of the strenuous life." —Teddy Roosevelt

Your Own Piece of Montana

A ticket at the local ski hills will get you many things: cold smoke face shots, miles of vertical, a nice moving chair to sit on—but one thing you will not get is access to the backcountry. It’s true that the terrain at our resorts can satisfy most of our needs, but for better or worse, the flimsy ropes that mark the boundaries of these resorts might as well be 20-foot walls for how legally impermeable they are to the adjacent backcountry.

Bearanoia

"When they saw me, wet and covered with blood, they became excusably excited and wanted to know what was the matter. I told them that I had been killing a grizzly. ‘But what did you kill him with?’ they said. ‘Your gun is here in camp.’ ‘Well,’ I answered, ‘as you fellows did not come when I yelled for help, I had to kill him with my pocketknife.’"

That was William H. Wright, writing in his 1909 book, The Grizzly Bear: The Narrative of a Hunter-Naturalist, of a little trouble he ran into in 1891 along the banks of Idaho’s Clearwater River.

Montana Wind

"Does the wind blow this way here all the time? asked the eastern visitor. 'No mister,' replied the cowboy. 'It'll maybe blow this way for a week or ten days, and then it'll change and blow like hell for a while.'"
-K. Ross Toole, The Uncommon Land

Montana lies beneath a giant weather war zone where cold winds from the north slam against warmer winds from the west. High above these air masses, the jet stream swings back and forth, adding to the unstable, unpredictable weather patterns.

The John at the Bottom

Anglers have dredged up the mysteries of the depths of western streams for decades with the use of flies graced with the occasional lead split shot. The weight aids the fly in probing deep into watery holes, beyond where our feeble land-based eyes can see, to the world of large trout with lazy, gaping maws.

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