Hippies And Rednecks And Cows, Oh My!

Hippies And Rednecks And Cows, Oh My!

Montana’s a lot like heaven-it’s like a fantasy land non-country-livin’ people dream of going to when they’re done living in the “real world.” Montana-angels sing, the clouds part. Montana-the air’s clean, the water’s pure, the buffalo roam, the deer and the antelope play, little children in clean white gowns run barefoot through endless rolling grass fields, the sun glinting off their blond locks casting halos above their giggling, carefree bodies … it’s kind of like a pamphlet some Jehovah’s Witnesses once gave me.

The belief in the inherent purity of Montana is like a religion: Only people not corrupted by the sins of city living can make it in Montana. For some worshipers, a property deed is like a church donation. But you can’t buy your way into heaven-you either belong there or you don’t.

The truth is, I couldn’t hack it in Montana. Not many people really can, but at least I’m honest about it. Most of this story’s pictures were taken of local riders by Stan Evans, a local photographer, over the course of an entire winter. The plan was for me to roll into town on the down-low, solo style (i.e., no imported pros and media circus hoopla), hook up with Stan’s posse, and just chill. But after four days I panicked and ran back to my familiar, pseudo-isolated, blown-out ski town like a little homesick child.

While in Montana, I never traveled more than an hour and a half outside of Bozeman. Located in the southeastern corner of the state, Bozeman is home to Montana State University, and (like many college towns) attracts a semi-eclectic mix of our nation’s lighter-colored inhabitants. Its close proximity to two mighty-fine ski resorts, Big Sky and Bridger Bowl, also makes it home to a number of skiers, snowboarders, East Coast transplant self-proclaimed mountain-people, and hearty mountain hippies. I would imagine that the scene surrounding Bozeman isn’t a true reflection of what the rest of Montana (possibly excluding Missoula) is like. But then again, I don’t really know.

However, this much I do know to be true: Montana is full of the nicest people you’ll ever meet-on the snow and off. The snowboard paparazzi haven’t really tainted the place yet. It’s kind of like the anti-Tahoe. All the media hype that comes through Montana is self-contained. Pros and photographers from somewhere else travel in a cluster, do their photo shoots, and get out. What’s going down with the existing snowboard community is virtually ignored.

This attempt to right that wrong was only semi-successful. While waiting for patrol clearance to hike some rarely opened chutes at Big Sky, I watched a posse of anonymous riders strap in, high five, and rip off into the distance. At Bridger Bowl, I spotted a few duct-tape clad phantom-shredders hidden among the droves of aggro telemarkers (“Ridge Hippies”-I suspect trust-fund involvement) sprinting past my pathetic, wheezing carcass on the short, steep, shitty hike (subliminal message: a lot of the goods are foot-accessed, not lift-accessed) to the infamous Ridge run that I’m not supposed to write about because it’s supposedly a local secret. I don’t know who the unknown rippers are because they don’t hang with the photographer who shot most of these pictures-I wonder if they even care. Either way, the people who are pictured here represent a cross section of Montana riders, and I’m going to let some of them tell the rest of this story now.

-Melissa Larsen

Ross Peterson: “Once in awhile I catch myself wondering why I’m still in Montana. It usually happens in the fall when I’m itching to get out of here. It gets damn cold, and sometimes it doesn’t snow for weeks. My home resort, Big Mountain, is always icy with south-facing runs and two used double chairs to get you to the top as slowly as possible. A few years ago they put up some Christmas lights, now apparently they have night skiing. But this is where I learned tsnowboard, with all my pals-where I’ve had my best days riding. This is where I belong. I belong here so much that I need to get out of town each winter to remember everything Missoula has for me-plus, it’s difficult to make it as a professional snowboarder here because there isn’t a photographer for miles.”

Justin Mooney: “I came to Montana because I was going to be an architect, and I wanted to go to school near an awesome ski area. I can’t remember who I heard it from that Bozeman was really good, but it was the closest to home Idaho. I think Ross Peterson and Casey Marks were the ones who told me that Bridger Bowl was the place, so I just ended up coming here-and yeah, it’s pretty cool.”

Ross Peterson: “There’re two schools in Montana that are for real-University of Montana in Missoula and Montana State in Bozeman. Missoula’s bigger than Bozeman, but there is not a snowboard scene in Missoula-like none. And then here Big Sky and Bridger Bowl is rad, everybody’s out taking pictures, building jumps-having fun.”

Noah Parriot: “When my friend Ethan and I first got to Big Sky, we were driving along, and people were waving at us. We thought maybe we had a car that people recognized or something, but we didn’t really know what to think, so we just started waving back. It was just the Big Sky vibe-super friendly. It’s awesome. I love the tram-it’s like heli skiing. The night life sucks out here, though. People just drink. It’s sketchy laughs.”

Travis Byerly: “All those guys up at Big Sky are just on a different program. There’s not even a town there. There’s like a couple little bars, and that’s it-and they just hang out there all winter. I’d go crazy.”

Noah Parriot: “There’re all kinds of rippers up here, but it feels like Big Sky’s just getting started. Even with the night life. We’re getting a halfpipe and a park this year. We got a Scorpion, and there’s supposed to be fifteen-foot walls. It’s going to be really funny. We’ve never had a halfpipe, and then all the sudden we’re going to have this huge one, and all the boys are going to drop in and be like, 'I can’t ride it! I can’t ride it!’ I have a feeling the Bozeman community’s going to be coming up more because of it. They don’t come up as much now because Bridger’s a lot closer.”

Jason Schutz: “Bridger’s a little more magical. It retains the magic of what is Montana because it’s not a corporate-owned place. It’s community owned. Everything’s voted on by the community and by a board made up of community members. That’s why up until a few years ago you could ski for 21 dollars. It’s a far cry from what any other 50-dollar resort is. The Ridge has some of the steepest and most amazingly featured terrain you’ll ever see. It’s short, granted, but it’s neat-there’s a certain magic to it. It’s only like a five-minute hike, and the powder is so dry and so good. I can do fifteen to twenty laps on a powder day and have fresh tracks every run.”

Nel Boshoff: “Montana’s completely undiscovered. There’re so many huge mountains around here and nobody rides them. The backcountry here is where it’s at.”

C.L. Boshoff: “When a storm comes through, some mountains will get a little bit of snow, and some will get dumped on. Like if Big Sky didn’t get any snow, you can go to Bridger. If neither of those got any snow you can go to Cook City, or Tobacco Ridge. There’re so many options to choose from, you can always get fresh tracks somewhere.”

Travis Byerly: “I miss it. I miss it all the time. I didn’t think when I moved that I would, but even in the summer I missed it-and I don’t even ride in the summer. It’s just funny. I talked to Stan Evans and was like, 'Ah man, I want to be back there.’ And Stan’s like, 'Ah man, I want to get out.’ You don’t realize what you have until you leave it. The quality of life and the way people live there is so nice-there’s no BS. It’s not about what you do and who you know, it’s just about having fun.”

Noah Parriot: “Justin Mooney pretty much blows doors, but there’s a posse of rippers who ride around-Eric Heaps, this girl Jill Jackson, Annie Fast, Corey Kasimerik … “

Travis Byerly: “Corey drives a snowcat and enters a lot of the extreme competitions. No one really know who he is, but the guy’s nuts-goes down anything as fast as he wants. He’s a ruler. Eric Heaps lives in West Yellowstone. His dad owns a little snowmobile/hotel business, and that’s all he does all winter-backcountry snowmobile stuff.”

Jason Schutz: “There’re so many ripping riders here who are just doing their own thing-just doing it because they love it.”

Travis Byerly: “If you’re riding on the chairlift with someone, and you said you’d never been there before, they’d tell you where to go. It’s not like, 'I know where all the secret spots are, and I’m not going to tell you.’ That’s what’s cool. You can have fun riding up the chairlift with a stranger.”

Jason Schutz: “Back in the day, the people who settled in Montana were looking for something a little bit different. They were looking for that tranquillity that comes from being separated from the rest of the world. That feeling of exploration and getting away from it all still exists today. It’s not like you’re running away, but you’re definitely separating yourself. If you come to Montana, come here with an open mind-like you would travel anywhere. Come with a spirit of adventure and a spirit to explore, and I think you’ll find the certain magic that a lot of us here have found.” who you know, it’s just about having fun.”

Noah Parriot: “Justin Mooney pretty much blows doors, but there’s a posse of rippers who ride around-Eric Heaps, this girl Jill Jackson, Annie Fast, Corey Kasimerik … “

Travis Byerly: “Corey drives a snowcat and enters a lot of the extreme competitions. No one really know who he is, but the guy’s nuts-goes down anything as fast as he wants. He’s a ruler. Eric Heaps lives in West Yellowstone. His dad owns a little snowmobile/hotel business, and that’s all he does all winter-backcountry snowmobile stuff.”

Jason Schutz: “There’re so many ripping riders here who are just doing their own thing-just doing it because they love it.”

Travis Byerly: “If you’re riding on the chairlift with someone, and you said you’d never been there before, they’d tell you where to go. It’s not like, 'I know where all the secret spots are, and I’m not going to tell you.’ That’s what’s cool. You can have fun riding up the chairlift with a stranger.”

Jason Schutz: “Back in the day, the people who settled in Montana were looking for something a little bit different. They were looking for that tranquillity that comes from being separated from the rest of the world. That feeling of exploration and getting away from it all still exists today. It’s not like you’re running away, but you’re definitely separating yourself. If you come to Montana, come here with an open mind-like you would travel anywhere. Come with a spirit of adventure and a spirit to explore, and I think you’ll find the certain magic that a lot of us here have found.”