Top 10 Bozeman-y Things to do this Winter

Alex Sokol

Here are ten ways you can enjoy the month of January.

Ever seen someone on a skateboard being pulled around by a dog? Skijoring is the same thing, with skis. The indigenous Sámi of Northern Europe were the first to throw a harness around a reindeer, strap on a pair of skis, and high tail it across the Arctic tundra. As the practice spread throughout the continent, Europeans opted for horses and dogs to drag them along the snow. When Americans were introduced to skijoring, they naturally saddled up the horses, transforming the sport from a single person race into a highly technical obstacle course involving two people: a rider and a skier. When I first heard about it, I wondered how many trained cats it would take to match the speed of a 500-pound reindeer in a dead sprint. If you’re looking to witness this sport first-hand, Whitefish, MT, hosts its next skijoring competition on the 26th and 27th of January.

If you’re tired of being the only one taking snowball fights seriously, then Yukigassen is for you. This frenetic sport was created and codified in Sobetsu-cho, Japan in 1987 by young people looking to spice up their little town for the winter. The game is simple: two teams duke it out with snowballs for control of the enemy team’s flag. If you get hit, you’re out. Three-minute rounds consist of players sliding on their knees for cover and pelting one another with perfectly packed snowballs with inhuman accuracy. Oddly enough, the official rules don’t mandate post-game beers. Despite there being chapters across the world, Bozeman has yet to form a league.

Go for a Polar Plunge
Go jump in a lake! Cut a hole in the ice at Bozeman beach and take a dip (or ask an ice fisher if you can use their hole). Make sure to have a towel ready, and park close by so you don’t get frostbite. Athletes do it all the time, so it’s probably good for you. If you’re not into frozen duck poop and runoff, let water chill overnight in a horse trough for a less septic plunge. Cold water makes for the best baptisms!

Hit Up the Hot Springs
Plan your polar plunge near a hot spring for quick relief from the cold. Thanks to Yellowstone’s network of underground hydrothermal vents, there are plenty of natural hot springs in and around Bozeman to explore. Bring some friends and a case of beer to Renova to decompress after a day of skiing, or head to Norris with a date or two for a romantic evening beneath the stars. Bozeman Magazine contributor Pat Hill has an article on the Top 10 Regional Natural Hot Springs in the area. Best not to dunk your head below the water at any hot springs; there are harmful bacteria in the vents that are worse for you than the black mold growing in my rental.

Make a Snow or Ice Sculpture
Chances are you’ve made a snowperson before, but what about a snow-octopus? A snow-Subaru Outback? With such a forgiving and plentiful medium, you can make whatever you want! Or leave a bucket of water outside to freeze overnight and try your hand at ice carving. You can even start preparing for Bozeman’s 8th annual Sweet Pea Ice Carving competition, held on Saturday, January 27th. If you aren’t confident enough in your abilities to submit, take their beginner’s course to learn from the pros.

Become a Regular at Bozeman Doc Screenings
Catch a documentary with Bozeman Doc Series every other week at the Emerson Center for the Arts & Culture, or the Museum of the Rockies. Go to for a complete list of upcoming screenings. This past season’s roster of films included Pianoforte, a film that follows the high-pressure lives of piano protégés as they compete at the Chopin Piano Competition, and American Symphony, which follows American singer-songwriter Jon Batiste’s musical rise as his wife, Suleika Jaouad, battles leukemia. Not all the documentaries are about music, but each one is sure to leave you entertained, thanks to documentarian Jason Burlage’s carefully curated selection of films.

Maple Syrup Pop Race
Most people who grew up with snow are familiar with syrup pops: empty a bottle of your favorite (real) maple syrup onto (clean) snow, let it harden, then roll it up with a popsicle stick as you would spaghetti. For a great drinking game, make it a race—whoever rolls their syrup pop last loses. Pairs well with hot toddies or cocoa. Doubles as a great skill-based alternative to drawing straws.

Keep a Snow Journal
For four decades, billy barr kept a detailed journal of the snow conditions around his cabin in Gothic, Colorado. His observations have since been used as an invaluable resource by scientists at the Rocky Mountain Biological Lab. If you want to (potentially) help with climate research, keep a similar journal: record how much it snows each day, what it looks like, how it sticks to things, what it sounds like, and how well it rolls into a snowball for your Yukigassen matches, now that you’ve started a Bozeman league.

Host a Stone Soup Party
Soups are best enjoyed around good company. Keep things cheap by taking a note from the classic European folk tale: ask everyone you invite to bring one item to add to the pot. For a mystery soup, abandon all attempts to coordinate ingredients amongst your guests. If you’re lucky, maybe everyone will bring garlic!

Go for a Walk
Too antsy to stay at home but don’t have the energy to be dragged behind a Clydesdale like a tin can on the back of some newlyweds’ car? Go for a walk! Leave your phone at home and enjoy Bozeman after a fresh snowfall. With its diverse architecture, ubiquitous parks, and easily accessible trails, Bozeman is a beautiful place to be a pedestrian in the winter. Wear your grippiest shoes for the icier patches, and bring a thermos of that garlic soup you conned your friends into paying for to enhance your walking experience. Peet’s Hill is easily one of my favorite places to walk for the sheer number of off leash dogs I get to play with along the way.   

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