Ten Ways to Navigate Winter in Bozeman
Steve McGann | Sunday Jan. 1st, 2023
When I began a list for this article, some of my potential suggestions seemed familiar.
I looked back to an article I had written for Mental Health Month last fall, my recommendations looked like some of the same ones with a hat and gloves. Still, it seems worthwhile to carry on. For one thing, I will be in Bozeman for over a month this winter. Usually I am a snowbird who spends as many of the cold months as possible in Arizona or California. So, if I record some advice for winter survival it is possible that I will follow it myself. Also, to avoid giving guidance to go play bingo and other old-person pursuits, I have consulted with younger people who live and work in Bozeman year round. All we have to do is take care of three things: Mind, Body, and Spirit.
First, the obvious. Rather than trying to defeat winter (good luck with that), join in the fun. Get out and do something. Ski downhill; we have two premier hills: Bridger Bowl and Big Sky. Both have a variety of tickets, passes, programs, lessons, runs, and terrain to suit skiers and snowboarders of any skill level. Ski cross-country, in town or in the mountains. There are many kilometers of groomed trails and unlimited backcountry in the mountains. Go snowshoeing in these same areas. Ice skating and hockey are available at Gallatin Ice, as well as at other venues and at free rinks around town. Sledding and tobogganing are possible anywhere there is snow. Still, cold does not always mean snow, even in Bozeman. Fat tire biking is a great winter sport. My favorite sport is winter hiking. The trails, the mountains, the very air; all are totally different in this season. Remember to bundle and layer up. Just being outside provides a feeling of righteous accomplishment. Body, Spirit.
Go to the library. You can access books, podcasts, magazines, newspapers, and blogs right at home on the couch, and some days, in the deep cold, you will. But Bozeman has a great library, and going there is a fun experience and gets you out of the house. Oh wait, I just remembered, the library is under some extensive renovation in order to better serve our community. Some services are not available, so check online for updates. The children’s room is open during the entire period of construction. I believe the timeframe, which began last fall, is about a year. Meantime, Montana State University is a land grant college, which means its library collections and resources are open to the public. Check it out. Mind.
Hang out and socialize. There was a TV show with the theme of “go where they know your name.” In the show, the place was a tavern, but it could be anything. My spot was a coffee shop. For a time, I showed up there most days. Often it was just the owner and I. We would talk about the weather of course, and sports. I did not have to order, he poured me a cup; 12oz, black. Once I asked for a latte. He looked at me and asked if I knew what that was. I replied that I was not sure but was feeling a little wild. It was different, but pretty good. At other times there were more patrons, and a sense of community. If you walked in, you were part of the gang; there were no strangers. Spirit.
Hit the gym. Being outside is great, but the colder it becomes, the time out there tends to shorten up. I would rather hike than do anything else for exercise, but when the snow is blowing sideways and the temperature is hovering around zero, even I develop the sense to retreat sooner than later. Bozeman has many gyms and facilities for indoor activity. Some have pools, hot tubs, and saunas. Most have classes and trainers available for instruction or consultation. All have the machines that I call “the go nowheres.” They come in a variety that simulate walking, running, skiing, biking, rowing—whatever kind of locomotion is desired, while remaining in the same spot. The Spire offers indoor climbing, including instruction. Spire also provides yoga and fitness classes. The gyms offer social interaction along with good old effort and sweat. Body, Spirit.
Enjoy a movie night. Many of the suggestions on this list are intended to get you out of the house. They describe activities that are designed to minimize the effect of the cold and the dark of winter—ways by which to forget the environment. Yet, those conditions can be part of the charm of these months. Being warm and cozy inside is a great feeling, especially if you’ve been outside for work or play. So schedule it. I spend most evenings in a recliner under a lamp, reading. A good change is to take one night a week, sweater up and watch a movie or a couple episodes of a streaming series. Spirit.
Join a book club. This is something I have not done since junior high, when I participated in the Great Books program. I read all the books, but never spoke a word at the discussions. Pretty sure I could overcome the old shyness at this point. A specific assignment would get a reader to expand their genres and explore new concepts; not everyone reads for enjoyment. There are other activities to consider; fantasy football is very popular, done both formally and casually. Bozeman has a chess club, and there are clubs for video gaming and fantasy role playing. Getting together with others who are as passionate as you are is a lot of fun. There is no limit to the different online groups available for games and clubs. Mind, Spirit.
Cook a meal. Another great indoor activity is cooking. There is nothing quite like coming in from the cold to a kitchen filled with the warmth and smells of a hot meal on the stove. Try some new recipes, attempt to duplicate a favorite restaurant dish, or stick to the comfort of well-known hearty soups and stews. Take some time; use scratch ingredients. Make it a group effort with friends or family. Spirit and Body (you get to eat it).
Attend a play or concert. We hear various slams on Bozeman pretty much every day. Traffic, crowding, newcomers, changing neighborhoods, high-rises (five stories is a high-rise only in Montana). In my opinion, the positives of our town outweigh any drawbacks, to the point that the negatives are simply jokes. The outdoor opportunities are first-class, and endless. The educational systems are wonderful. Then there is the talent and culture. From school and college productions to professional-level theater and concerts, we are treated to an amazing variety of high level entertainment on virtually a daily basis. Don’t take my word for it. Check out Bozeman Magazine’s Events Calendar for a comprehensive and descriptive schedule. Mind, Spirit.
Take classes or volunteer. Weather and the seasons are something we are all in together. Winter is tough, and just forging through it gives us a sense of achievement and camaraderie. An even better feeling is to get out and learn something new with a group, do a task, or provide a service for someone else. MSU offers many courses through its Osher Lifelong Learning Program (OLLI) and, by clicking Education in the left column of the Greater Yellowstone Events Calendar, you’ll see many organizations offering classes with an emphasis on the outdoors, including REI, OLLI, and the Belgrade Community Library. Mind, Body.
Go back to Arizona. Just kidding, but a good way to love Bozeman more is to get away occasionally for a reboot. A week in Hawaii sounds best, but that may present time or money issues. It could be as simple as a weekend at a different ski resort; try Jackson Hole or Big Mountain, for example. The old change of scenery. Even an overnight in Billings or Missoula for some shopping or museums would suffice. The other great thing with this strategy is that, once a trip is planned, there is pleasure in anticipating it. When a trip is complete, coming home offers comfort, along with a fresh attitude. Mind, Body, Spirit.
This article is a bit light-hearted by design, but its recommendations are serious enough. Winter can be tough. Some people suffer from a malady called SAD, or Seasonal Affective Disorder. This is caused by the change of seasons and the lack of light in winter. All of the above ideas can help, but if you feel depressed anyway, SAD could be the cause. It is real. There are light therapies and medications that can help. If you feel unduly down, it may be a good idea to consult with your medical professional. All times of the year are meant to be enjoyable, and Bozeman is a wonderful place to experience the continuities along with the changes.