It’s Thursday Dec.1, and the opening day for both Bridger Bowl Ski Resort, and the new General Manager Hiram Towle is just over a week away. Big Sky opened on Nov. 23 and many locals' excitement levels are going through the roof as our hometown resorts’ lifts are ready to start spinning. With a current opening day of Friday Dec. 9, the snow conditions are worlds better than this time last year, and opening day is set to be an invigorating event. Bridger lies just 16 miles from Main Street in Bozeman and is the favorite resort for many locals.

“We came for the incredible opportunity I was given to lead Bridger Bowl into the future,” Towle said. “My wife Jeannine, son Hiram, and I moved to Bozeman in October and I started work on the 17th, although I was preparing for the arrival long before that.”

Towle is filling the position after the mountain has been operating under Lindsay Korth, Business Operations Manager and Jason Prasek, Mountain Manager after previous General Manager Bob Petitt retired in the spring of 2022.

The largest appeal for Bridger is the cheaper lift ticket and season pass prices compared to other resorts such as Big Sky. There is also a free shuttle running from Bozeman, Belgrade and Livingston that will bring anyone to the hill; whereas Skyline, the shuttle system that runs to Big Sky, costs five dollars a trip. In an area where it’s already expensive to live, we’re all looking for any way to save a buck.

The result of cheaper prices for lift tickets and season passes generally means older lifts and outdated buildings and although this is generally seen as a negative, it adds to the laid-back, ski-bum type feel which makes Bridger Bowl so popular for everyone in the area. That’s not to say that the resort isn’t actively looking for ways to improve the overall experience. Towle, entering his 21st season in the ski industry, has started to make improvements for both the guests and employees, he said.

“The only real change so far was to support our management team to create a better employment opportunity for all our staff. For example, I worked with them and the board of directors to approve their proposed wage increase for our team which brought an increase in our starting wage from $15 to $17,” Towle said. “I worked immediately towards understanding the ski area’s operations, finances, and long-range plans. I met with staff, and stakeholders, like the Forest Service, to get to know them and their needs.”

Over the last few months, Bridger Bowl has implemented, “improvements to the water system at the Alpine Cabin, upgrades to our avalanche mitigation equipment and weather instruments on the ridge and electrical systems upgrades on the Pierre’s Knob lift, to name a few,” Towle said. “Lots of general maintenance happens around the ski area over the summer.”

Since his arrival, Towle has been applying ideas from prior experience he gained from over two decades in the industry. Before his twenty plus years in the ski business, Towle worked in the high tech world, learning about the computer software systems that run ski resorts. Those software systems include processes that run RFID lift tickets, systems that help run lifts and snowmakers. He’s worked 13 years at Sunday River, the second largest resort in New England, which sees over half a million guests every year, and in 2014, he joined the team at Mt. Ashland, a nonprofit ski resort in southern Oregon. At these places, he worked many different jobs to help build experience to someday become a manager of a ski resort.

“At Sunday River I managed many of the outdoor operations departments such as lift maintenance, purchasing and transportation. I wanted to learn all of the different aspects of the industry so I became conference sales manager for my last few years to learn about lodging, guest service, and food and beverage,” Towle said. “I did this to one day live my dream of managing a ski area.”

All the work that Towle and the resort are doing isn’t going unnoticed. With a new wave of students coming to Bozeman for school every year, Bridger Bowl is working hard to make it convenient to both work and ride for cheap. This all starts with the free bus for patrons and an increase in pay and a free ski pass for employees.

“I'll keep it 100, the free season pass. That's the biggest draw, but the ability to make connections, become PSIA (Professional Ski Instructors of America) certified, gain valuable experience and tutoring are all close runner ups,” said Corey Goldberg, a first year MSU student and Bridger Bowl employee. “I think it's [the shuttle service] super convenient that that service is provided, and I'm planning to make good use of it.”

Bridger is popular for many in the Bozeman area because of its iconic ridgeline, or “ridge,” which is the upper part of the mountain that skiers can access with a hike or by riding Schlasman’s Lift. The lift, which requires avalanche gear, is located on the south side of the resort and is a hot spot for those who are seeking a little more thrill – with proper avalanche safety education.

“The ridge skiing is what made me fall in love with Bridger. The snow is also amazing which is another reason Bridger is so great. I have been skiing at Bridger for two years now and I still have so much to explore,” junior Brennan Gaffney said. “The ridge is the coolest in-bounds skiing that I have seen at any resort. Most of the ridge is hiking access only, but I think it makes it that much better since less people go up it.”

With great terrain, new faces, the snow piling up and good vibes all around, Bridger Bowl is set for a great opening day.

“Our family couldn’t be happier to be here in the Gallatin Valley. We consider ourselves very fortunate, and thank everyone who has welcomed us with open arms,” Towle said. “We look forward to a great season. Let it snow!”