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40 Montana Winters

by Angie Ripple  |  Tuesday Mar. 1st, 2016

I recently heard the retelling of an old saying “You aren’t a true Montanan until you’ve lived here forty winters.” I’ve never thought of myself as anything but a Montanan, but this being my fortieth winter on Earth, and all of them in Montana​ I guess I’ve finally reached native status. Turning forty isn’t all that bad when it gives you street cred, right?​!​ Honestly, these “winters” we’ve been having the past few years can barely count compared to the first winter I lived in Bozeman. On Halloween 1995 there was two feet of snow on the ground, icy walkways on campus, and I had to trade in my Birkenstocks for Sorels quick​ly​. I’d had plenty of winters in Butte, Helena, St. Ignatius, and Missoula.  However, winter my first year in Bozeman has really stuck with me. In late February​​, when quite frequently, we experience below zero temps and never see a blade of grass, this year our streets and lawns are bare, flies are landing on us on the chair lift and I cleaned dog poo from my front yard. But, let’s not turn this into a global warming debate, it’s about being a Montanan.

Most of my high school friends, many of whom I still keep in touch, have already turned forty over the past ten months or so. Many of them have lamented their pain about the number on social media, crying out for sympathy and comfort. Some though chose to celebrate, going big and honoring the fact that not everyone is so lucky. I seriously considered a quick trip to Vegas to commemorate the occasion - maybe another month this year. Turning forty is truly only a little worse than every other birthday has been lately, and getting old should be celebrated rather than lamented. Neither of my parents are still here to celebrate with me, which gives me another reason to live life to the fullest and be grateful for every day, especially in Montana, where they both grew up as well.

                                                                                                     My dad & I 1977

What I do have is both an 81 year old grandmother and a 98 year old grandmother. Thinking of them puts my own age in greater perspective. My 98 year old grandmother was born in Grey Cliff, Montana near Reed Point. She has wintered all but about the last four years in Montana! She still spends Easter through early October in Montana and now is an Arizona snowbird with my aunt. She is probably the most inspiring and resilient person I know, riding four wheelers and jet skis in her late 80’s/early 90’s and making a quick recovery from a broken pelvis just a few years ago. I doubt she cared much at all about turning forty, but is always happy to hear from me on her birthday each year, exactly one month before mine. I can’t wait to celebrate her 100th birthday!

Bozemanite Molly is also a huge inspiration to me. Molly was recently featured on the Miller’s Jewelry Facebook page where they told the story of Molly coming into their store requesting that they remove a ring from her finger. Probably not the most odd request of a jeweler, but Ms. Molly is 93 years old and the reason she wanted the ring removed was so that she could compete in a skiing competition. After leaving with her request granted she proceeded to race successfully in the 2016 Community Duel Series at Bridger Bowl. Not only did she compete, she won her race, and posted her best time yet! I’m not certain how many winters Molly has spent in Montana, but I think she is on the Montanan registry.

Whether it’s your first or fortieth winter in Montana I hope you’ll slow down and be grateful that you are here, territorially, physically and spiritually. Really, slow down, enjoy your life and your loved ones and have a great March!   

Angie is a third generation Montanan, seen in this photo with her dad skiing the Montana backcountry in 1977. Catch her this season teaching her youngest to ski at BB.

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