Winter is for skiing, no ifs, ands, or buts. Everyday without class is another glorious day to get up to the mountain and shred some runs with friends, mess around on tree trails, and gawk at all the hot skier boys absolutely sending it. Needless to say it’s one of my favorite seasons. This season, however, has been slightly lacking on the snow front. Whereas all you lucky skiers in Mammoth have been getting hammered, Bridger Bowl up here in Montana has seen better days. With temps in the fifties up at the mountain and reports of rain, skiing has honestly been depressing most days. Corn and beach days are a little less desirable when it’s February and you should be skiing pow.
So, what do I, the best skier on the mountain (shout out to Shane McConkey, RIP), do in the winter months without skiing? Well it turns out there are a few other options, who knew! Homework, for one, has been a great choice. Not nearly as fun as skiing, but I am paying to go to school so it’s probably good that I finally have time to spend on classes. I also recently discovered a love of thrift shopping; one Saturday without skiing and next thing I know I have two pairs of mom jeans and an antique dress I’m somehow going to cut and hem with all my crafting experience. I’ll keep you updated on how that one goes. Without skiing, I’ve turned to other forms of exercise as well. I actually went on my first run since eighth grade track the other day, and it was exhilarating! I can’t say I’ll be making it a regular thing, but it helped get me moving instead of laying on my bed eating my mom’s care package cookies in sorrow for the rest of winter.
Even with all these new hobbies, I’ve been a little stir crazy. So onto my next winter no-skiing activity: backpacking into hot springs. While I only have one awesome experience to speak from, I’ve got to say this one is my favorite.
With a three-day weekend fast approaching, and no plans on the horizon, my friends suggested a spontaneous trip to Goldbug Hot Springs near Salmon, Idaho, a quick four hour drive from Bozeman. I was hesitant, what with my new commitment to spending all my free-time doing homework and the midterms I hadn’t studied for the next week, but I decided I needed to get out soon or I’d go insane. It would no doubt be better than sitting at home sadly looking at Bridger webcams. So, with little to no planning and a backpack full of smuggled dining hall food, we hopped in the car and drove to the trailhead.
Of course, it being President’s Day weekend, the road was lined with 40 plus cars spending the day at the hotsprings. Luckily, as we were hiking in, a constant flow of these day-trippers were sliding their way down the trail back to their cars, giving us a little more seclusion in this backcountry excursion.
We made it up the first snow/mud/slush covered hill, managing not to fall on our backs from the weight of our packs and flounder like upside-down turtles, and were quickly on our way to a perfect little tent site by the creek about a half-mile from the springs. We setup our tent in a dry spot under a tree, donned our swimsuits, covered ourselves with the proper amount of Febraury layers for the hike up, and make the final trek up the slippery trail to the springs. And boy was it worth it! Or I guess I should say it was totally awful and you should never come here. That way I can have it all to myself.
The warm little creek from heaven itself flowed down a series of waterfalls into six or seven perfect sitting pools of bliss. We soaked into the night, hopping to warmer pools as the temperature dropped, and basked in the glory of this weekend retreat from finals and sad skiing conditions.
The way down was absolutely treacherous. Walking at the back of the group, I managed to avoid completely slipping in the ideal combination of slush, mud and darkness, but my two other comrades were not so lucky. By some miracle of the hot springs gods we made it to the tent, and, bundled up in our multicolored sleeping bags, we fell asleep to the sound of the creek.
The next weekend, Bridger got absolutely dumped on. Like-storm-of-the-century, 40-inches-in-one-weekend, cold-smoke type of snow. Maybe winter was like, “Yo, Audrey, remember it’s February? Ski season, man! What’s this hot springs, backpacking nonsense?” Or maybe winter was like, “Good job, you found something else cool to do instead of sitting inside crying about global warming. And you’ve remembered how cool summer activities can be so you won’t go into a full depression with the fast-approaching end to ski season. Now that I’ve taught you this valuable lesson about branching out, we’ll give you a hella ton of snow!” Either way, I appreciate the return of winter and will be more than happy to go back to my obsessive lifestyle for a few more weeks until the snow has melted and the camping gear comes out again. And with the end of March on the near horizon, this transition back to summer sports is fast and coming. So enjoy the time on the slopes while we’ve got it, and then see you all soon on the trails.