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by Angie Ripple
My first ascents up Bridger Canyon Drive to ski at Bridger Bowl began in 1996, most of them with my significant other Brian, and sometimes with some of our local friends. It was certainly within the first few trips up the canyon that the legend of “The Whale” was brought to my attention. Just over 11 miles from downtown Bozeman, now sitting high atop a 20 foot pole carved with the words “Guardian Spirit” sits the whale. The legend, thought to begin in the late 70s or early 80s, was told to me a bit differently than many I spoke to while researching for this story. The legend was passed on to me as something like “Hail the Whale!” as the vehicle I rode in was passing the whale going 55ish mph. “What?” “Hail the Whale; wave at the whale so it will bring more snow.” “Ok.” Salute. Rest assured, although I have been ‘hailing the whale’ for the past 18 years on my drive up the canyon instead of ignoring him on the way up and acknowledging him on the way down I have had no major injuries while skiing, and many epic days.