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Event of the Year The Local Center Ballroom January 1 at 12:00 AM (EST) City, State Ticket Information PERFORMANCE

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FEATURES SECTION: SUBHEAD

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PLASTIC RUNS THROUGH IT By Sophie Tsairis Plastic pollution in our oceans is the subject of increasing global concern but, as Sophie Tsairis reveals in “Plastic Runs Through It,” our rivers, streams and watersheds are not immune to its contamination. Tsairis takes a close look at the regional efforts to both study and combat the detrimental effects of plastics to the waters of the the Mountain West and our planet’s ecosystem.

In early October, after one of the first significant Montana snowfalls this season, I set out to capture the fall landscape blanketed in snow. I headed south of Ennis, and as soon as I drove east toward the mountains, the sun rose over the Madison Range. The morning sun lit up the clouds lifting off the peaks, and four horses appeared on a far ridge, as if out of nowhere. I count myself lucky to be able to shoot on such beautiful mornings and to call Montana home.

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PHOTO BY ED COYLE

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PEACE IN THE VALLEYS By Todd Wilkinson The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem has been a beacon in the successful revitalization of native species on the brink of extinction, perhaps most notably the American bison. Less than 150 years ago, the species was on the brink of elimination and today, at least 4,500 bison inhabit our first national park. However, more could be done to protect the animals outside of park boundaries in Montana and, in his story “Peace in the Valleys,” journalist Todd Wilkinson examines the lessons that could be learned from the wildlife management practices in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.


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HOW THEY SKI IT By Bay Stephens It’s not only a mountain’s terrain, lifts and lodges that define it, but also the locals who ski there. For “How They Ski It,” staff writer Bay Stephens set out to find the quintessential personalities at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, Grand Targhee Resort, Big Sky Resort and Bridger Bowl who have helped define the culture of the mountain they each chose as “the one.”

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REWILDING CHILE AND ARGENTINA By Emily Stifler Wolfe As CEO of Patagonia, Kris Tompkins helped grow the company from a small climbing gear manufacturer to the hugely successful outdoor apparel retailer and leader in corporate accountability it is today. In 1993, she retired from Patagonia and married Doug Tompkins, founder of The North Face and Esprit. Emily Stifler Wolfe’s story, “Rewilding Chile and Argentina,” focuses on what came next—the founding of Tompkins Conservation, and the organization’s acquisition of roughly 2 million acres of private land for conservation in Chile and Argentina, and the protection of another 10 million acres of new national parklands in the two countries.

M T O U T L AW. C O M / MOUNTAIN

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DEPARTMENTS TRAILHEAD

22 Cause: Big Sky Bravery provides restorative outdoor excursions for active duty Special Ops soldiers 23 Visit: Roscoe, Montana, where explorers of the Beartooth Mountains are sure to make a pit stop at the Grizzly Bar for its laidback vibe and loaded burgers 24 Events: Marvel at museum-quality snow sculptures at Driggs Snowscapes; experience the thrills of the “wildest winter sport” at one of the many skijoring competitions around the Rocky Mountain West; and partake in the raucous revelry that is the Whitefish Winter Carnival 25 Recommendations: Dark Money, an exposé of the dark underbelly of political campaign financing, and Arbuckle, a Russell Rowland novel set in the late 19th century during the vigilante period of Montana’s history

GALLERY 28 Building Community: Shining a spotlight on six citizens of the Greater Yellowstone and their positive impacts on the world around them

NOW 36 Finding the soul of Montana with a toss of a dart: Lennep 46 Turning the tide of plastic pollution will take a unified effort

REPORTS 54 A Bozeman cricket farm strives to change the way we eat 56 Rachel VandeVoort takes the helm of Montana’s new recreation office 60 A brief history of Western skijoring 62 New technology may expedite the benefits of meditation

GREATER YELLOWSTONE 66 Looking to Jackson Hole’s example for better bison management in Montana 76 Yellowstone’s commitment to innovative renewable energy

LAND 80 Houndsmen and their canine counterparts play critical role in cougar conservation in Montana

CULTURE 87 A peek into grandma’s icebox 91 Humor: Sniveling about snow shoveling 94 Young musicians who stay true their Western roots 99 The fascinating science of fermentation 105 Four regional restaurants take spice to the next level

GEAR 113 It’s stylish to be sustainable

ADVENTURE 120 Heli-skiing pioneer Mike Wiegele’s powder empire 126 How They Ski it: four mountains and the locals that love them

OUTLAW 138 Conservation titan Kris Tompkins

A pump house and pond in Jardine, Montana, north of Gardiner, are remnants of a former gold mining town. I took this image in early October after an early snow fell on fall’s parade. PHOTO BY PATRICIA BAUCHMAN


SECTION: SUBHEAD

M T O U T L AW. C O M / MOUNTAIN

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P hoto grap her : Aud rey H al l

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MOUNTAIN Owned and published in Big Sky, Montana. PUBLISHER Eric Ladd

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CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Jessianne Castle, Claire Cella, Jodi Hausen, Brian Hurlbut, Michael J. Ober, Anthony Pavkovich, Rylan Peery, Frederick Reimers, Ednor Therriault, Sophie Brett Tsairis, Todd Wilkinson, Emily Stifler Wolfe CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHERS/ARTISTS Patricia Bauchman, Adam L. Brooks, Ryan Castle, Jimmy Chin, Ed Coyle, Jacob W. Frank, Chelsea Gilmore, Don Cole Harvey, Neal Herbert, Chelsea Kaderavek, Kirsten Kapp, Deanna Kristensen, Hazer Live, Thomas D. Mangelsen, James Q Martin, Jason Martin, Justine May, Kevin McAvey, Zach Montes, Michael J. Ober, Anthony Pavkovich, Jason Savage, Adele Scholl, John Schwirtlich, David Stubbs Subscribe now at mtoutlaw.com/subscriptions.

Mountain Outlaw magazine is distributed to subscribers in all 50 states, including contracted placement in resorts across the West, and core distribution in the Northern Rockies including Big Sky and Bozeman, Montana, as well as Jackson, Wyoming, and the four corners of Yellowstone National Park. To advertise, contact Ersin Ozer at ersin@outlaw.partners or Sam Brooks at sam@outlaw.partners. OUTLAW PARTNERS & MOUNTAIN OUTLAW P.O. Box 160250, Big Sky, MT 59716 (406) 995-2055 • media@outlaw.partners © 2019 Mountain Outlaw Unauthorized reproduction prohibited CHECK OUT THESE OTHER OUTLAW PUBLICATIONS:

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SKY | JACKSON | GREATER 14 BIG MOUNTAIN / MYELLOWSTONE T O U T L AW. C O M

On the Cover: A bison in the northern region of Yellowstone National Park trudges through a snowy winter landscape. Bison that leave the park and attempt to travel into Montana are typically killed or hazed back into Yellowstone. PHOTO BY JASON SAVAGE


F RO M T H E P U B L I S H E R

IN SEVENTH GRADE my life science teacher,

The

Ripple Effect BY ERIC LADD

Above: The sulphur-smelling sea grass, called sargassum and pictured in Tulum, Mexico, is a regional epidemic due to climate change and agricultural pollution. Below: A collection of plastic trash from around that globe that washed up on Mexico’s shore.

Mr. Wood, taught me many of life’s essential lessons, including the theory of the ripple effect. Mr. Wood, with his thicklensed reading glasses and wiry mountainclimber frame, would drop a pebble into still water to demonstrate how the effect from an initial state can be followed outward. Later, he expanded the theory to ideas like a butterfly’s wings flapping and subsequently impacting a hurricane. Standing on a quiet beach in Tulum, Mexico, this past fall, I was knee deep in sulphur smelling sea grass, sargassum, a regional epidemic. Plastic bottles and trash from around the globe nestled among the bed of the decomposing seaweed. Sargassum turned this white-sand beach into a mess, a byproduct of warming global temperatures amplified by nutrients from agricultural fertilizers and city wastewater that end up in the sea. The plastic caught in the sea grass I walked through hailed from far-off locales: an energy drink from Haiti, water bottle from the Dominican Republic, shaving cream can from United Arab Emirates. How does trash from thousands of miles away end up littering the beaches of the Mexican Riviera? Perhaps more puzzling: Why do we as super-evolved humans allow this mess to happen? The ripple effect of our lifestyle and our consumption patterns are now washing up on beaches around the world. Returning to my mountain setting of Montana, I ponder how this entire web ties together and question my role within it. Mountain Outlaw magazine decided to crack this topic open to examine the issues and celebrate risk-takers and ideas that are making our communities and world a more hospitable place.

My company is committed to being part of the solution to issues facing our community and planet, using our media as a platform to communicate with millions of readers through stories, ideas and solutions. If you have a story worth sharing, or an idea you’re passionate about, I encourage you to share it with my editorial team and we’ll try to find a home for it in one of Outlaw Partners’ publications. When will the tides shift and humanity decide not to turn our backs to the ramifications of our actions? When will we find the courage to walk toward disaster rather than run from it? To face the issues and find inspiration to embrace the impacts, decide enough is enough and work to fix it? Plastic bottles have become a symbol of the modern-day complacency of our actions. During our last dinner in Tulum, my group of friends discussed the situation we witnessed on the beach and it was hard not to feel a little depressed at the magnitude of the problem. I lobbied that it takes a ripple effect to impact change and while this theory is currently negative, we need to shift the tides and send a positive ripple. Humans are a greedy yet intelligent species capable of sending people into space for day trips; surely, we can solve these problems. Taking a lesson from Mr. Wood’s seventh-grade class and becoming inspired by the moving and powerful stories included in this magazine, I am eager to ask you, as readers, to help us make a stand: What’s your action that helps create a ripple to make the planet and your community a better place? Maybe it’s time to drop a pebble.


C O N T E N T B Y L O C AT I O N WHITEFISH P. 25

MISSOULA p. 59

M O N TA N A LENNEP p. 36 BUTTE P. 146 ENNIS P. 8 BIG SKY p. 24,105, 126, 130,131

BOZEMAN p. 22, 28, 30, 31, 54, 92, 104 LIVINGSTON p. 32 ROSCOE p. 23 W. YELLOWSTONE p. 24, 33, 69 YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK

IDAHO

DRIGGS p. 24

p. 66

GRAND TETON NATIONAL PARK

WYOMING JACKSON p. 24, 34, 58, 64, 94, 116, 126, 132

Photographer ED COYLE has found his paradise in the mountains east of Ennis, Montana (p. 8) where he lives with his wife and two children. Looking for a simpler life than the over-crowded slopes of Alta, Utah, Ed and his wife moved to Bozeman in 2006, then eventually to Ennis where he manages property in the heart of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. His love for skiing, fishing, archery hunting, and his passion for being outdoors long precede the digital photography age.

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PATTY BAUCHMAN and her husband sold their horse farm in North Carolina and moved to Big Sky full time in 2010. At that point, she had a lot more time to get serious about her lifelong love of photography (p. 10). She enjoys observing and photographing wildlife behavior and landscapes around Big Sky, in Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks, and anywhere her travels take her. Her photos have been widely published in print and other media.

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SOPHIE BRETT TSAIRIS is a freelance environmental journalist and writer working under the big skies of the West. Born and raised on the coast of Maine, she’s a passionate boogie boarder, mountain runner, rock climber and split-boarder. Committed to giving voice to all things wild, she’s driven to inform readers about contemporary issues through stories of the natural world. In “Plastic Runs Through It” (p. 46), she explores the dark reality of plastic pollution.


F RO M T H E E D I T O R

Cultivating connection Human communities are like aspen groves—with the proper conditions their roots will grow deep and intertwined. I’ve cultivated many relationships in Montana since arriving to the state in 2008, and the strength of those connections is reflected in these pages. I met David Breck soon after I moved here while working at the Mint Bar and Café in Belgrade, where he had once bartended and occasionally made cameos behind the bar. I followed his journey, both as a journalist and friend, as he helped open and build Bridger Brewing into a Bozeman institution, and I’ve enjoyed watching his success. When I commissioned writer Sophie Tsairis to write our feature story, “Plastic Runs Through It” (p. 46), about a global pollution crisis and the potential solutions emerging from the Greater Yellowstone, I was unaware that she had interviewed Dave until I received the first draft. Reading her piece, I learned that he was a volunteer for Adventure Scientists’ microplastics research project and has implemented many waste-reduction practices in his business. I would have never found Sophie without a tip from my mentor and good friend Emily Stifler Wolfe, who is also the founding editor of this publication. And without the connections she built here, Emily may not have landed the interview with our Featured Outlaw Kris Tompkins (p. 138) who has quietly and doggedly been stitching together wild expanses of South America in an effort to save our planet’s biodiversity and, many would say, our species too.

Kris Tompkins’ work echoes the efforts underway in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, as one of her projects is rewilding Iberá National Park in northern Argentina by reintroducing jaguars, much in the same vein as the wolf repopulation effort in Yellowstone. Todd Wilkinson argues in “Peace in Valleys” (p. 66) that Montana is missing an opportunity to rewild its own landscape with the park’s bison herd, by slaughtering the animals when they cross the national park’s invisible boundary. He looks to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, as a testing ground for bison tolerance, where they roam freely across the border of Grand Teton National Park. In “Building Community” (p. 28), the many relationships Jodi Hausen fostered as a former Bozeman Daily Chronicle reporter and magazine writer helped her find six remarkable residents of the Greater Yellowstone who shared stories of the positive impacts they have made on the lives around them, in turn making this region a more livable place. I encourage you to cultivate your communities. Change starts at home. And if we’re to persist on this planet, change is nonnegotiable. This 17th edition of Mountain Outlaw magazine is about hope, and I trust you’ll find plenty of reasons to believe in it within these pages.

Tyler Allen, tyler@theoutlawpartners.com

F E AT U R E D C O N T R I B U T O R S

ANTHONY PAVKOVICH is a freelance writer and photographer living in southwest Montana. Inspired by the abundance of wild and public lands surrounding his home, he focuses on crafting compelling narratives based on the landscape and people that live on it, like he did in “A New Cowboy in Town” (p. 54). He believes that thoughtful storytelling has the power to move people toward conversation and action, two key components of protecting the landscapes we value.

Growing up at the expedition-canoeing summer camp Keewaydin in Ontario, Canada, where his father was director, naturally led FREDERICK REIMERS into a career as a raft guide and Outward Bound instructor. Once he tired of the itinerant guiding lifestyle, he opened his laptop and began writing about the outdoors (“Fighting for Common Grounds,” p. 56). Now living in Jackson, Wyoming, he has covered outdoor culture, politics and economics for publications such as Outside, Men’s Journal, Bloomberg Business and Ski.

Four generations deep in Montana’s history and culture, MICHAEL J. OBER is a recently retired professor emeritus from Flathead Valley Community College in Kalispell, Montana. During his 40-year career as Director of Library Services, he also taught English and Montana history (“The Icemen,” p. 87). He also worked for 44 years as a seasonal ranger and wildland firefighter in Glacier National Park, and his freelance and professional writing has appeared in numerous regional and national publications.

M T O U T L AW. C O M / MOUNTAIN

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SECTION: SUBHEAD

Left: An elite soldier smiles as he rides through fresh snow, part of the recreational therapy the nonprofit offers these individuals when they are between deployments. Right: Active-duty special operations forces practice shooting during a Big Sky Bravery summer program. Keeping their identities secret is integral for the nonprofit to continue working with these soldiers. PHOTOS COURTESY OF JOSH MCCAIN

CAUSE BIG SKY BRAVERY

MONTANA NONPROFIT OFFERS RESTORATION TO ACTIVE DUTY SPECIAL OPERATIONS SOLDIERS

After years of top-secret deployments to obscure and dangerous parts of the world, the weight of decisions that Special Operations Forces personnel have had to make can blunt their ability to feel human, to see past their military careers and envision fulfilling futures, according Big Sky Bravery founder Josh McCain. The Bozeman-based nonprofit provides a glimpse of a rich life beyond the U.S. armed forces. Established in 2015, Big Sky Bravery is a civilian-run organization that fosters real and deep healing for our military’s most elite active-duty personnel. Excursions in Montana’s restorative landscape help these heroes find freedom of thought and self-worth through brotherhood, mentorship and therapeutic adrenaline. McCain had always been interested in veteran charities, but with over 40,000 operating nationwide, he considered starting an organization devoted to active-duty Special

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Operations Forces—SOFs, as they’re referred to in the military. McCain reached out to his brother-in-law, Jeremy, a SOF with more than a dozen deployments under his belt. “He was just blown away that someone would even think of them,” McCain said. “He thought that the recreation-based programs that we offer as a form of therapy would just do wonders for the SOF community.” Since its inception, Big Sky Bravery has brought one female and 85 male special ops soldiers from the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines to Montana for five-day programs that challenge and edify participants through activities such as backcountry horse trips and fly fishing in the summer; and skiing and snowmobiling in the winter, among others. In 2019, Big Sky Bravery will offer 10 week-long programs, five in summer and five in winter. From January to March, programs take SOFs skiing or snowboarding for four full days either at the Yellowstone Club—which supports the organization for two of the weeklong programs—or at Big Sky Resort, as well as backcountry snowmobiling for a day. In April, they have one helicopter skiing program in Haines,


EVENTS / P. 24

READ / P. 25

REEL / P. 25

TRAILHEAD SECTION: SUBHEAD

VISIT ROSCOE, MONTANA

Alaska, with Southeast Alaska Backcountry Adventures (SEABA), a company owned by Big Sky resident Ben Anderson. SOFs are paired with carefully vetted volunteers who also act as their instructors for the duration of a program. McCain says he matches these individuals based on personality to allow mentorship, brotherhood and lifelong friendships that affirm a SOF’s value as an individual, not just a soldier. Although some might dismiss the program as a free vacation, feedback from spouses suggest the rehabilitative power of Big Sky Bravery’s programs. In an email to McCain last July, a spouse described how she’d fallen in love with her husband 12 years ago, and how the light that’d once shown in his eyes had faded over the years and his many deployments. “There are still moments where I can see the man I fell in love with, but they are fewer and fewer these days,” she wrote. “He often stares off into the distance when we enjoy family moments and struggles to connect with me and our daughter.” After a week with Big Sky Bravery, she said her husband came home more the man she fell in love with than he’d been in years. “I saw the light in his eyes again,” she said. “He had hope, hope that things could get better and hope that there are people out there that truly care and support him.” - Bay Stephens

Tucked in the foothills of the Beartooth Mountains in Montana’s Carbon County, Roscoe is a small hamlet just off Highway 78 nestled between Columbus and Red Lodge. The 2010 census reported a 15-person population. Pulling into town, it’s hard to miss the Grizzly Bar—it’s only 10 feet from the road and has a giant bear statue over the entrance. There might be some Harleys parked outside during the warmer months; the bar has been popular with bikers since the 1930s. You’ll also find bumper stickers here that read: “Where the Hell is Roscoe?” Inside, you’ll likely find ranchers sitting next to fishermen who have spent a day on the Stillwater River; hikers returning from the East Rosebud Trail, between Memorial Day and Labor Day; or during the winter, families returning from the still-affordable Red Lodge Mountain ski area, located 16 miles southeast. Roscoe’s laid-back atmosphere, along with the Grizzly’s loaded burgers and mouth-watering steaks, keep Beartooth explorers returning year after year. – Doug Hare

PHOTO BY ADAM L. BROOKS

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SECTION: SUBHEAD

EVENTS

PHOTOS BY KEVIN MCAVEY

SKIJORING

MONTANA, WYOMING / JANUARY – MARCH

PHOTO COURTESY OF DOWNTOWN DRIGGS ASSOCIATION

DRIGGS SNOWSCAPES DRIGGS, IDAHO / JANUARY 15-19

A celebration of the Northern Rockies’ most beloved winter resource, the eighth annual “Driggs Snowscapes: The Art of Sculpting Snow” is a juried competition of 10 professional and amateur snowsculpting teams, who come together to transform the Driggs City Plaza into a jaw-dropping display of large-scale public art. Were they carved from stone, the fantastical creatures, Western scenes, wildlife, and iconic characters that emerge from huge blocks of ice, would be worthy of museum placement. The festivities commence January 11 with a “community snow stomping” during which volunteers young and old prepare the sculpture blocks by packing the snow down into their square molds from 1 to 5 p.m. The public sculpting takes place January 15-18 with judging and People’s Choice voting on January 19, culminating in an awards ceremony at 6:30 p.m. The event closes with the SnowBall in Driggs City Center, a family-friendly night of dancing, blackjack, food and fun. – Sarah Gianelli 24

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Frequently referred to as “the wildest winter sport,” skijoring, once an over-snow means of transportation, is now an action-packed Western contest in which a skier holds onto a rope pulled by a horse at lightning speeds. Turn to page 60 for a full history of the sport, and once your curiosity is piqued, you’ll find numerous opportunities this winter to catch one of these exciting competitions around the Rocky Mountain West. Founded in December 2015, Skijoring America offers a series of races, including the Best of the West competition in Big Sky, Montana, February 9-10, and culminating with a final race in Red Lodge, Montana, March 9-10. Skijor USA, founded in March 2018, offers a format in which teams compete for points within three regions over a series of 10 races, including Helena, Montana, January 5-6 and Jackson Hole, Wyoming, January 12-13. Qualifiers will compete in the National Championship Finals in West Yellowstone, Montana, March 9-10. – Sarah Gianelli


PHOTO BY ADELE SCHOLL

TRAILHEAD

READ ARBUCKLE Billings-based author Russell Rowland’s novel Arbuckle is a prequel to his debut novel, In Open Spaces, the sprawling family saga about a homestead family in southeastern Montana struggling to get by through world wars and the Depression, in the same vein of Jim Harrison’s Legends of the Fall. Arbuckle is a tightly knit love story and a frontier mystery set in the late 19th century, in the fictional town of Deadwood, Montana, during the vigilante period of the state’s history. Soon after a shy ranch hand, George Arbuckle, is drawn into participating in a lynching, the spitfire woman he’s falling in love with learns of his involvement—setting off a chain of events that explores the nature of justice through acts of capricious violence and malicious sexual assault. A swashbuckling tale that looks at the darker elements of human nature with an unflinching eye, Arbuckle succeeds with an understated authenticity in its dialogue and sincerity of prose that make the uplifting moments that much more heartening and genuine. – Doug Hare

WHITEFISH WINTER CARNIVAL WHITEFISH, MONTANA / FEBRUARY 1-3, 2019

Inspired by the legend of Ullr, the Nordic god of snowshoes, hunting, the bow and the shield, the Whitefish Winter Carnival is a month of revelry that culminates on the first weekend of February with a celebration of all things winter—think Mardi Gras in a ski town. Now in its 60th year, the event includes a “Penguin Plunge” into Whitefish Lake for charity, a grand main street parade of Yetis, Viking princesses and other royalty of the snows, and winter-wonderland dwellers real and imagined; as well as ski and snowboard competitions, a pie social, torch-light ski parade, dinners, dancing and more. The entire Whitefish community and visitors alike turn out for this exuberant fête of winter’s beauty and all it has to offer. This year’s theme is “Woodstock Whitefish” so be sure to dust off your ‘60s garb and come ready to boogie. – Sarah Gianelli

REEL DARK MONEY Kimberly Reed’s disturbing political documentary, Dark Money, investigates how untraceable donations fund smear campaigns that affect Montana elections. The Treasure State emerges as a frontline battlefield of corrupted elections nationwide. For more than a century, Montanans have worked to limit corporate campaign spending due to the many outside interests that have plundered the state’s natural resources and left toxic pits and slag piles in their wake. In 1912, in response to Butte copper barons corrupting politicians with outsized donations and outright bribes, the state passed a law that banned corporations from spending money on political campaigns. That all changed in 2010 with the U.S. Supreme Court’s controversial Citizens United ruling that opened the door to anonymous and unlimited corporate political donations as protected under the First Amendment. Following investigative journalist John S. Adams as he digs through the paper trail and interviews some of Montana’s most influential politicians from both sides of the aisle, Dark Money is lucid about a convoluted and bleak subject—it also demands a sense of urgency about protecting the democratic process. Among many other accolades, the film was nominated for the International Documentary Association’s best feature award. – Doug Hare

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building community

INTRO BY TYLER ALLEN STORIES BY JODI HAUSEN

The concept of community is familiar to nearly every human on this planet, yet each of us has a unique definition of the word. You probably belong to many circles: family, friends, colleagues, the network of smiling faces you only see in the winter, and perhaps just on powder days. We all impact these fraternities we cherish, through good deeds and bad, and everyone is capable of building profound connections. In the following pages you’ll meet remarkable citizens of the Greater Yellowstone discovered by Bozeman writer Jodi Hausen. They have all influenced their respective communities with their passion and tenacity, and here we give them due credit. We hope their stories inspire you to positively impact the lives you touch, whether intimately or in passing, for both have the potential to reverberate throughout the world.

jason wickens / Music Maker Bozeman, Montana

As a boy from a central Montana ranch, Jason Wickens would sneak into his older brother’s room to play his sibling’s guitar. It wasn’t until he was 12 that he got his own strings to strum. Now 34, Wickens has turned his lifelong passion into the unusual enterprise that is Live From the Divide. A recording studio and performance space, Live From the Divide caters to songwriters from around the country who trek to Bozeman to play for audiences of no more than 50 people. It’s a cozy place where Nash and Nellie, Wickens’ pajama-clad children, greet concertgoers in the lobby and patrons mingle over cups of sponsors’ whiskey and beer. Inside the studio, a yellow banner reads, “Long Live the Songwriter.” A singer-songwriter in his own right—recently releasing his first album—Wickens is influenced by the Americana-roots tradition. Carefully curating guests from that genre, the enterprise has become a well-known entity within industry circles. Wickens believes in the power of good songwriting. “A complete stranger, in two minutes, can move you, make you cry, make you laugh, and there isn’t really anything else like that,” he said. 28 / M T O U T L AW. C O M MOUNTAIN

Earning a degree from the Conservatory of Recording Arts and Sciences in Arizona, Wickens interned at recording studios in Nashville and Bozeman. Not eager to tour as a musician, he spent three years working in oil fields until he could buy studio equipment. The venue’s diminutive size lends a familiar atmosphere, encouraging interaction between audiences and performers. Sometimes there’s even some mild heckling as Grammywinning producer and Wickens’ partner Cornell “Doc” Wiley introduces the show. Musicians say the space provides a rare intimate opportunity, “like seeing a long-lost friend,” said Missoula songwriter John Floridis, who performed there last summer. Musicians also gain exposure through a syndicated public radio show airing on eight stations in six states, including Bozeman’s KGLT where the show got its start. The studio has produced nearly 500 live shows, more than 200 hours of radio content and many podcasted interviews with visiting musicians. KGLT DJ Cathy Ebelke says songwriters don’t get enough credit so she appreciates Wickens’ mission. “I feel they’re doing something really, really important by being a home for songwriters,” she said. “It doesn’t matter how famous they are, they have the chance to play here.” >>


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mike harris / park builder Bozeman, Montana

Mike Harris is a man who loves big toys. He calls it “skid-steer therapy” and as Gallatin County Conservation and Parks Department’s sole full-time employee, he receives treatment on a regular basis. Originally from Miles City, Montana, Harris studied government at Montana State University and worked for former U.S. Sen. Conrad Burns. But it was County Commissioner Jennifer Mitchell who encouraged him to apply for his current job. Shortly after he was hired in 2003, the county purchased 100 acres of land in northwest Bozeman and the Gallatin County Regional Park became his chief mission. Now, it’s a hub of activity with a dinosaurthemed playground, ponds, climbing boulders, picnic pavilions, a beach, dog park and sledding hill. To say he’s committed is an understatement. Over the past several years, Harris, 46, logged more than 60 hours weekly and could be seen on that skid steer all times of the day. He was once questioned by police when they found him working after dark. Harris reluctantly accepts praise, usually redirecting it to the thousands of volunteers who’ve helped;

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like Bob Farrington, a retired landscape architect and Harris’ mentor, or Bozeman City Commissioner Terry Cunningham who organized and funded the dog park. “I’m just the guy kind of band-aiding stuff together,” Harris said. “It’s really guys like Bob and Terry that made this happen.” Farrington calls Harris a “jack-of-all-trades”: backhoe operator, irrigation foreman, lobbyist, nonprofit liaison, administrator and trash collector. “Mike is a different sort of animal than other government employees I’ve met over my career,” he said. “He has to wear all these different hats in order to make his position work.” County Commissioner Don Seifert says Harris has a great affection for the park and the hundreds of people who use it daily. “What he’s done with the regional park is just phenomenal and he’s done it on a shoestring budget,” he adds. Harris says Gallatin County’s trend toward developing denser neighborhoods helps preserve agriculture, but it leaves homeowners with smaller backyards. “People need a place close to home where they can recreate outside,” he says. “We’re surrounded by national forest and trails but you don’t load up with the kids at 5 o’clock and take your dog up to Hyalite every night.”


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LISA LORD / ADVOCATE FOR THE ARTS Bozeman, Montana

Some women wear rings to indicate social status. But Lisa Lord sports bandages on perpetually shredded fingers wrought by her media of choice—shards of glass and mirror. A mosaic artist, Lord’s swirling whimsical works grace Bogert Park and the Longfellow School in Bozeman, a huge retaining wall outside Missoula College and a permanent triptych inside. Rarely working alone, Lord believes art spreads joy and peace, not only in the viewing, but in the creating. Her public art is fabricated with help from community volunteers, many of whom are not trained artists. “I see a creative aspect in every person and I won’t accept otherwise,” she says. By all accounts it’s true. Her protégés appreciate her eccentric energy and welcoming mentorship. “Lisa was very open,” said University of Montana freshman Chelsey Schraner, who assisted Lord with the Missoula College project. “She said, ‘Just go with the flow, do what you think will look great.’” Lord hails from the Philadelphia area. She got her start in 1999 making handcrafted tiles and later apprenticing

PHOTOS BY JENNINGS BARMORE

with famed mosaic muralist Isaiah Zagar there. She was artist-in-residence at Longfellow School where they called her the child whisperer. While serving six years on the SLAM Festival board of directors, Lord was instrumental in initiating the demonstration and hospitality tents, the latter of which gives exhibiting artists a place to escape the crowds or grab a snack. The demonstration tent provides opportunities for people to see artists’ creation processes rather than just the outcome “so they can appreciate the value of the art,” said Salal HuberMcGee, SLAM’s founder. “She pays attention to the artist and what their needs are, and they really appreciate that. Being an artist herself, she brings that perspective.” Lord is a witty idealist, rarely taking herself too seriously. When interviewing with Missoula’s Percent for Art for her first commission, she said, “I can succeed to the level of my own incompetence.” And succeed she does in her artistic endeavors and philosophy. “An area without artists is dysfunctional,” she said. “Artists are the people who emote and are uncontrolled in their perception of what’s going on around them. They’re taking it all in and they’re translating it. So really, artists are translators.”>>


caron cooper / community closet founder Livingston, Montana

Caron Cooper isn’t simply executive director of Livingston’s Community Closet. She’s a team member running the thrift store, doing everything she expects of her employees, from stocking racks to cleaning the bathroom. “It’s like shucking peas on a porch,” she said. “We get the job done together.” On a summer day, Cooper sat on a shaded bench behind the store surrounded by bric-a-brac—a stone Buddha statue, a wooden windchime. Raised in California, Cooper, 60, earned a bachelor’s in engineering, masters in Russian studies and doctorate in energy and resources. As a consultant in the Soviet Union for the World Bank and CIA, among others, she witnessed corruption and waste, prompting her to leave the lucrative job. She moved to Livingston in 1995 with enough money to pay off student loans and make a down payment on a house with her partner. The couple soon had a son but didn’t stay together. Cooper served two terms on Livingston’s city commission and

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struggled as a single parent. Part-time work with the Red Cross became an opportunity to start and run a thrift store until it closed in 2005. “I was heartbroken,” she said. “My dream of creating a business that I could run with a child in my life evaporated.” Unfazed, co-worker Jamie Plummer asked, “‘What do we need Red Cross for? We can do this ourselves,’” Cooper said. “And that’s what I needed to hear.” Within two weeks, Community Closet opened and has since contributed more than $400,000 to area nonprofits. It has supported 150 employees over the years and generated more than $5.5 million in economic impact and $670,000 in tax revenue, according to the Rocky Mountain Economic Development District. The Livingston Food Resource Center has been a Community Closet grant recipient. “Caron has created a model for how a community can support local nonprofits in ways that are relatively painless,” Executive Director Mike McCormick said. “You don’t have to write a big check or give a lot of time. People can donate things they are discarding.” Plummer has worked with Cooper for 15 years and she’s starting to understand Cooper’s decision-making process. “Business was not my thing, people are my thing,” Plummer said. “But Caron has taught me to think about the big picture.”


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G A L L E RY bruce mcpherson / library director/advocate West Yellowstone, Montana

When Bruce McPherson became director of the West Yellowstone Public Library, “it was just a booklending place with vacant rooms full of rubbish,” he said. Before taking the job in 2012, he was writing a book he found intimidating. “So, I needed to do something else.” One of the first things he did was create a photo display of 50-some West Yellowstone residents over 65 who have survived at least 25 winters there. That’s significant in a town known for extreme cold and whose population dwindles to about 1,200 when tourist season ends. He filled vacant rooms with a collection of Montana-specific material and a children’s area. Recognizing the town’s one-third Latino population, McPherson brought in Spanishlanguage materials and language classes in English and Spanish. But ask anyone and they’ll say McPherson’s greatest contribution has been to West’s youngest citizens. He initiated a no-cost preschool which quickly filled to capacity. When the city’s only other daycare closed, the need was nearly insurmountable, particularly for Latino parents working multiple jobs. He convinced city councilors to commit land and $650,000 for Little Rangers Learning Center which opened last spring, and where 70 preschoolers now attend. McPherson, 74, grew up on a farm deep in the Australian Outback. He came to the U.S. to get a doctorate from Harvard University where he taught for three decades. He and his wife moved to Montana 11 years ago. McPherson is influenced by his father who was the mayor of their tiny Australian town for 25 years. “I just saw him do good things and it got in my DNA,” he said. City Councilor Pierre Martineau called McPherson a crusty, old curmudgeon, adding repeatedly, “He’s done a wonderful job.” Perhaps it’s McPherson’s endearing accent that sways his opponents, but it’s just as likely his political savvy. “We joke that when we see Bruce coming, you’d better put your hands in your pockets and leave them there,” Martineau said. “He’s very persuasive.” There’s a plaque hanging at Little Rangers with McPherson’s name that reads, “Thank you for carrying the torch.” “He saw a need and found a way to exceed people’s expectations,” said Little Rangers Director Katie Ostberg. “It’s been a community effort, but the plaque on the wall says it all.”>>

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G A L L E RY rosslyn “rosie” read / immigration lawyer Jackson, Wyoming

Rosie Read studied Japanese in college, but she spends more time speaking Spanish these days. An immigration attorney based in Jackson, she attended Purdue University intending to become a veterinarian. A self-proclaimed control freak, Read, 39, has never had a drink. While attending college, she joined the straight edge movement in Indianapolis—a subculture of punk-rocker social activists who refrain from using alcohol, tobacco or drugs. “The idea of straight edge is to keep your mind clear, so you can effect positive change in the world,” Read said. “I was lucky to find that community because it helped me learn about injustices in the world and seek ways to fight back against them.” Spending weekends in Indianapolis, an hour from school, resulted in grades insufficient for veterinary school. Read’s mother eventually persuaded her to pursue law, using her passions to make the world better, she said. “Once I learned what power and privilege were, I felt like I should use what I have to help people who have less than I do.” While a student at Seattle University School of Law, Read interned at the Northwest Immigration Rights Project focusing on domestic violence issues. Graduating in 2008, she moved to Jackson and worked in a Mexican restaurant where most of the kitchen staff spoke Spanish. Read said learning Spanish was more important than passing the bar, both of which she did by 2009. She simultaneously contracted with Elizabeth Trefonas, Jackson’s only immigration lawyer; worked as a case manager at the Latino Resource Center (now One22); and waitressed at The Merry Piglets. Trefonas hired Read fulltime in 2010. Former client Milessa Ortiz de Jesús recently joined the firm as a paralegal. Though she is Puerto Rican, her husband is a Dream Act recipient from Mexico. The couple anticipated a yearlong wait for an interview with immigration to get her husband’s green card. It took only months, which Ortiz de Jesús attributed to Read meticulously compiling 200-plus pages of documentation. Fighting for the underdog is what Read loves best about her job. “People don’t typically come to me because they’re having their best day,” she said. “They’re having a rough time and with a successful case, I get to take this terrible thing and turn it into something good.” PHOTO BY DAVID STUBBS

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P H O T O : D AV I D M A R L O W

w w w. m i l l e r- roode l l.com 406.551.6950


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F i n d i n g t h e S o u l o f M o n t a n a w i t h t h e To s s o f a D a r t

LENNEP I N H A B I T E D B Y H I S TO RY

BY SARAH GIANELLI

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PLASTIC RUNS THROUGH HUMOR IT / P. /46 P. 85 REPORTS ART / P./ 88 P. 54

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T h e r e ’s a l o t o f e m p t y s p a c e in Montana, so when you throw a dart at a map of the s t a t e , t h e r e ’s a g o o d c h a n c e i t ’s g o i n g t o l a n d i n a p l a c e like Lennep.

Once a stop on the Old Milkwaukee Railroad, Lennep is now nearly abandoned, but the old mercantile is still standing, a reminder of the townsite’s heyday.

Located a couple hours northeast of Bozeman at the foot of the Castle Mountains, Lennep was once a stop on the Old Milwaukee Railroad. Today, only the ghosts of a general store and schoolhouse remain and, standing in stark contrast to the time-ravaged buildings around it, the oldest Lutheran church in the state. For the second installment of this magazine’s dart toss series, I did some reconnaissance before heading up to the abandoned townsite to ensure that I’d connect with someone who lived in the area; and get inside that church, a stately white and blue steepled affair. Like many a Western town, whether thriving or a shell of its former self, I would learn that Lennep’s history runs much deeper than the paint peeling off the structures that once comprised a community. First, I called the Meagher (pronounced “Mahr”) County Sheriff’s Office, but, located a good hour away in the town of White Sulphur Springs, the dispatcher didn’t have any information about Lennep. “Isn’t that a ghost town?” she asked. Eventually, I tracked down a former pastor of the Lennep church, who lives in nearby Harlowton. He gave me the contact information for a woman named Alysha Moe over in Two Dot—later described by a local as “easy to find, hard to leave”— who, the pastor said, was acquainted with most people in the area. “No, no, I’m not the person you should talk to,” Moe said. “You need to call Gail Berg; she really knows the history of Lennep.” Over the phone, Gail told me I should meet her husband, Rick. “I’m not a native,” she said. “I’ve only been here 45 years.” Rick belongs to the fourth generation of one of the original Norwegian families that homesteaded the area in the 1870s. We made arrangements for the Bergs to meet me at the church the following day. >>

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Lennep lies on the short but scenic Montana State Highway 294, a 30-mile stretch of gentle curves and rolling hills that runs along the Pacific Extension of the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad, also referred to as the Old Milwaukee Road. Turning onto a gravel road hugged by a shrub-choked creek, the former mercantile loomed straight ahead, an old wooden Lennep sign still nailed to the pale yellow building. A row of rusty mailboxes sprouted from overgrown grasses along its base, a single Amazon package teetering on top, an indication that human life was near, if not in Lennep proper. A plaque explained that the store, which also housed the post office, opened in 1914 until shuttering its doors in the 1960s, when Lennep seems to have relaxed its grip on remaining a viable township. I circumnavigated the building, peering through the dusty storefront windows before wandering around back where precarious, half-missing steps led to a slightly ajar door. The dingy interior was thick with hazy shafts of light, bird droppings, and downy feathers that floated into the air with little coaxing. Wishing I had a respirator mask, I ascended an uncertain staircase to the second floor. One more door creaked open into a spacious empty room that probably served as the mercantile storeroom at one point. It had the look of a ballroom now, exaggerated by a curious pair of white roller skates artfully arranged like an abstract sculpture in the center of the wood floor, crispy leaves having collected around it. A stone’s throw to the west was the former schoolhouse. Windows were broken, junk was scattered around the building and, based on the tattered recliners in the front room, it looked as if someone had been squatting there at some point.

Above: Rick Berg, pictured here with his wife Gail, belongs to the fourth generation of one of the original Norwegian families who homesteaded the area in the 1870s. Below: The upstairs of Lennep’s general store was once a gathering place for community dances. Today, only a lonely pair of roller skates greets anyone who dares to climb the rickety stairs to the old ballroom.

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Just to the north was the church, prim and pristinely preserved. A few minutes after my arrival, the Bergs pulled up in a pickup. Easily 6-foot-5, Rick cut a handsome figure, a rancher in cowboy boots, hat and Wrangler jeans, but dapper too, with a bandana tucked into the collar of his blue, pearl-snap shirt like a Western ascot. He and Gail joined me on the steps, Rick striking the pose of the silhouetted cowboy before cracking open the history book in his head. Rick explained that we were standing in the heart of the South Fork of the Musselshell River valley, uninhabited by white people until 1877 when a Norwegian named M.T. Grande brought 3,000 sheep to the area from Idaho. He was soon followed by a handful of other families from the same valley in Norway. Later, Rick told an amusing story about when the Lennep Norwegians first mixed with Norwegians from another valley who had settled nearby. One of the men who came to Lennep to work returned home and said, “I don’t think this English is going to be too hard to learn; I can already kind of understand it.” He didn’t realize that the Lennep Norwegians simply spoke a different dialect of their native language.


An anomaly among the dilapidated buildings that surround it, Montana’s oldest Lutheran Church is a well-maintained gem that still hosts services twice monthly.

In 1886, silver and lead were discovered 7 miles west of Lennep in the Castle Mountains, and the boomtown of Castletown popped up around the mines. Rick’s greatgrandfather had a butcher shop there; its crumbling stone foundation is still visible in the brush across the road from nearly a dozen houses with caved-in roofs leaning at gravitydefying angles. “By 1889, 2,000 people were living there,” Rick said. “Maybe the biggest city in Meagher County history, even by today’s standards.” The challenge for the Castletown miners was transporting the ore to a smelter—it was so heavy that it took two six-horse teams to haul a single load out of the steep mountains south to Livingston. “They were crying for a railroad from the beginning,” Rick said. In the early 1890s, a man from Chicago named Richard Harlow ventured to build a railroad up to Castletown, eventually reaching within a couple miles of the encampment. But in 1893, the silver market crashed, and Harlow decided the only way to save his railroad was to continue the line down the Musselshell toward the town that would later be named after Harlow himself. “The Norwegians still are the ones who stayed around after the boomtown Castle disappeared,” Rick explained. “And of course, the Norwegians, being their state church of Lutheran, had to have a church here and they formed this church in 1891. They met in schools and little towns and people’s homes until

they finally built this building in 1914.” Narrow and tall, the church shines white in an open field, surrounded by farmland and dirt roads leading to remote ranches. Its pointy steeple reaches up toward the heavens as if in prayer, buoyed by the music its parishioners have been filling the nave with since its construction. In August 2016, Trinity Lutheran Church celebrated its 125th anniversary, and nearly 200 people came to Lennep for the associated services. Today, the church holds services twice monthly. At the time of the anniversary, the church was in need of a new roof and steps. “It’s amazing how the money flowed,” Rick said. “People really value this as part of their heritage … people that don’t live here, haven’t lived here, but their ancestors lived here,” he said. “The memories perpetuate this unique community.” Rick led the way inside the church—the interior like a red velvet-lined jewelry box, with accents of gold and stained glass. Based on the visitor log, thick with a list of names from across the country and world, Trinity Lutheran remains a place of respite and peace for passersby from near and far. After placing his cowboy hat on a high beam at the church entrance, Rick took a seat at the piano and played a Lutheran hymn, showing off the fine acoustics of the high-vaulted ceilings, and the musical heritage that has run through generations of his family. Rick’s grandfather played the organ at church services for 65 years; Rick’s been doing the same on piano for more than four decades. >>

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Just 7 miles west of Lennep is the ghost town of Castletown which sprung up in the late 1800s when silver and lead were discovered there.

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“So, we’ve got over a hundred years covered out of the 125 years of the church history,” he said. “But everybody sings, everybody plays something—music’s been a big part of this valley and still is.” The church has no running water—that’s what the outhouse out back is for—but the bell in the belfry still rings, the heavy pull of the braided rope strong enough to lift a small person up off the ground. Rick went to school in Lennep for eight years. He pointed out the “toboggan hill” they used to sled down, and the river they’d skate on during recess. His kids attended the schoolhouse for kindergarten through grade six. The passenger train stopped passing through Lennep in the ‘60s; the store and post office closed soon after. The school followed suit in 2010, the area’s dwindling population no longer able to sustain it. “Not much left of the little town of Lennep, but all those early Norwegian ranches are still going—they’re in their fifth and sixth generation,” Rick said. “It’s kind of a unique Montana valley in that respect.” The only job Rick’s had other than working the family ranch was when he got drafted after graduating from Montana State University in 1970, he said. “So, pretty narrow background, but deeply rooted in the South Fork of the Musselshell soil, that’s for sure.” His and Gail’s kids, and their children, are now carrying that heritage into the sixth generation, area ranching having

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shifted from sheep to cattle in the 1950s. Rick and Gail unloaded some hay bales from the bed of their pickup, making room for me to hop in back for a quick trip to the nearby cemetery, where the majority of headstones are etched with the names of Lennep’s original settlers: Grande, Voldseth, Zikmund and Berg, each family having selected a plot closest to their ranch. “We probably know most of the critters in here,” Gail said. “I suppose we’ll probably be buried here too.” We pause at the grave of Lennep founder M.T. Grande, who passed in 1930. Rick points to the land spread out in the shadow of a butte shaped like a rooster comb. “You can see why he picked that [property] as the first settler in the valley.” Gail untangled the branches of Lennep’s family tree, explaining that the intertwined roots of the community can be traced back to Karen and Martin [Grande], who weren’t able to have children of their own. “In those days, with all the big families, they ended up adopting a Berg,” she said. “So, the Grandes, the Bergs and the Voldseths are all kind of in this melting pot together.” Before parting ways, I thanked the Bergs for bringing Lennep’s history to life, and for being so generous with their time. “You’re welcome,” Rick said, tipping his hat. “Thanks for hitting Lennep on the dart board.”


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PLASTIC

RU N S T H ROUG H IT Turning the tide on plastic pollution will take all hands on deck

BY SOPHIE TSAIRIS

David Breck follows Black Butte Creek, tracing its flow upstream in search of its headwaters. Trudging through 4 feet of snow, he snowshoes toward the northwest corner of Yellowstone National Park. Three miles in, his GPS app shows he has reached the spot he’s looking for. He kneels down, sinking into the snow, and using the claw end of a hammer, starts digging. The snow is too deep, and unable to access the source, he walks downstream a quarter mile to find an accessible patch of open running water. Breck co-owns and manages Bridger Brewing, and has been a Bozeman, Montana resident for over 20 years. He admits that when Adventure Scientists first emailed him about helping with a microplastics project, he didn’t respond right away. In fact, at the time Breck had no idea what microplastics were.

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Life magazine’s opening photo for its 1955 feature story called “Throwaway Living,” which extolled the virtues of plastic for homemaker convenience.

NOW

PHOTO COURTESY OF LIFE MAGAZINE

IN 1955, LIFE MAGAZINE PUBLISHED A STORY TITLED “THROWAWAY LIVING.”

Montana’s iconic Gallatin River was featured in the 1992 film A River Runs Through It, and is a worldclass fly-fishing destination. PHOTO BY KELSEY DZINTARS

The article celebrated plastic as a miracle material that would save the American housewife from drowning in dirty dishes. Two generations later, we are drowning in plastics. Each spring, the blanket of snow covering the Northern Rockies and Greater Yellowstone melts, unveiling water bottles, Snickers wrappers, ski straps, and a myriad of other miscellaneous plastic, discarded or lost but far from decomposed. Plastics were first created in 1907 by Leo Hendrik Baekeland to replace a demand for ivory used for making billiard balls, but exploded onto the market after World War II. Since this boom in production, about 8 billion tons of plastic have been produced, making our daily lives easier and cheaper with lighter, stronger goods. Once used, plastics are recycled, or more often thrown in the trash. They may crumble into tiny pieces, but nonetheless can persist in the environment for thousands of years. Until January 2018, the United States was exporting at least one-third of its recycling to other countries, with half of that slated for China. For decades China has sorted through the recycling of other nations, but has recently declared a trade ban on 24 kinds of solid waste in an effort to protect its environmental and health interests. As piles of recyclable plastics build up in developed nations with nowhere to send it, the question becomes where the “away” in “throwaway living” will be in the future. Plastic has been a gateway to innovation in medicine, production, outdoor recreation and efficient living. Our consumption of it has outpaced scientific study of its impacts on human health and the environment, but research is catching up and the prognosis for the planet is dire. The Dominican Republic, known for its pristine ivory beaches, has been gaining international attention for a continuous and shocking wave of plastic garbage crashing onto its shores. The plastic is being pushed to the beaches from trash piles that have formed out in the ocean, far from any major city. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, located between California and Hawaii, is the most infamous of these piles, and has become a graveyard for at least 87,000 tons of discarded plastic and debris. The Garbage Patch and its plastic wave are only a few symptoms of the larger global problem. There is a perception that plastic pollution is a coastal problem, but people are beginning to connect the issue with headwaters communities throughout the inner-mountain West. The rivers in our small mountain towns eventually lead to the ocean and within these towns, individuals, organizations and businesses are making waves that can help turn the tides of plastic waste. >>

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Left: At the confluence of Black Butte Creek and the Gallatin River, David Breck holds water samples he took for Adventure Scientists’ Gallatin Microplastics Initiative.

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PHOTO BY CHELSEA KADERAVEK

Right: Kirsten Kapp’s research assistant Ellen Yeatman collects a water sample from the Snake River in Grand Teton National Park, as part of a comprehensive microplastics study of the waterway. PHOTO BY KIRSTEN KAPP

HAVING LOCATED THE SOURCE HE WAS SEARCHING FOR, BRECK PULLS A METAL GROWLER OUT OF HIS PACK, a vessel he is familiar with. Today he will not be filling the canteen with beer, but with water samples from Black Butte Creek. He fills it with water, caps it, labels it and puts it back in his pack. This is the third site Breck has been to in the past few months, collecting water samples for Adventure Scientists’ Gallatin Microplastics Project. He now knows that a microplastic is a piece of plastic smaller than 5 millimeters long, and is volunteering his time to collect data that will help scientists learn how they are affecting his community, and what to do about it. Adventure Scientists, a nonprofit based in Bozeman that provides researchers with difficult-to-obtain data relating to environmental issues, has been studying microplastics in the world’s oceans since 2013. The organization began looking at the problem locally in 2015, in freshwater ecosystems closer to home. The goal of the project was to collect baseline data on microplastics in the Gallatin River watershed—where they exist, their concentration, and how they might affect the local ecosystem and surrounding communities. More than 60 trained volunteers, like Breck, returned to varying sites on the Gallatin River and its tributaries, sampling for microplastics to create a profound picture of plastic pollution throughout the watershed.

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Known widely for its appearance in the film A River Runs Through It, the Gallatin River flows from a source 7,000 feet above sea level in Yellowstone National Park. Its watershed forms the headwaters of the largest river system in the Lower 48 states, the Missouri-Mississippi. “We wanted to know if this river, with it’s headwaters system located in America’s first national park, flowing through both wilderness areas and federal land, is part of a local problem as well as a global problem,” said project director Katie Christiansen. After sampling 72 sites in the watershed, the study showed 57 percent of Gallatin River water samples contained microplastic pollution. The long-term effects of plastic pollution on freshwater ecosystems are still understudied, but known threats include entanglement or entrapment of fish and other aquatic organisms in larger pieces of debris. Less visibly, microplastics can accumulate in fish and other organisms that ingest them, causing endocrine disruption and behavioral changes. The tiny plastics act like magnets, attracting other pollutants like PCBs, a group of toxic, man-made chemicals that can impair the health of aquatic organisms. Once ingested, these pollutants can travel up the food chain. “Microplastics are here,” Christiansen said. “They are in the air we breathe and in the water we drink. If we are finding microplastics in high alpine lakes and at the headwaters of remote rivers, then they are everywhere.” Christiansen says business owners like Breck are the key to getting the community involved with this issue. “He is so concerned about the way his business is contributing to the problems in our world and he has taken steps to do something real about it,” she said. Bridger Brewing has eliminated as much one-time-use packaging as possible and now uses glass mason jars and metal straws in place of plastic. “We’ve taken small steps in the right direction,” Breck said. “But the most important thing that has come of it is that it starts a conversation with people about plastic waste when they come through our door.”


NOW: PLASTIC RUNS THROUGH IT

REGIONAL INITIATIVES KIRSTEN KAPP HOLDS A BACHELOR’S DEGREE IN WILDLIFE AND FISHERIES MANAGEMENT AND A MASTER’S IN CONSERVATION BIOLOGY . She spent years studying bear-human conflict. Now Kapp is a professor at Central Wyoming College where she studies and teaches about how fish are affected by water pollution. Nobody seemed to be doing research on plastic pollution in freshwater rivers, so she turned to a source in her own backyard. In July 2016, Kapp began a study sampling and documenting microplastic pollution in the Snake River, which flows for 1,078 miles and is the largest tributary of the Columbia River. Beginning at its headwaters at the boundary of Yellowstone National Park in the remote Wyoming mountains, she took samples along every 50 miles of the river as it flows through Idaho, Oregon and Washington, where it meets the Columbia River. Kapp’s study provides baseline data of microplastics in a freshwater river and locates several hotspot areas that stand out for the quantity of microplastics found. “Microplastics and marine debris are solvable problems, but we need data, and we need to raise awareness,” she said. Kapp’s study on the Snake River detected some level of microplastics in nearly all of the water samples. She found that fibers were the most dominant type of microplastics in the river, and that the highest concentrations of plastics were in areas of low population density but high agricultural use. She doesn’t think sampling rivers for microplastics is as different from studying bear-human conflict as people might expect. “Often when we received calls about a nuisance bear it was often an animal getting into someone’s garbage,” Kapp said. “We ended up setting traps around dumpsters to catch the bears and relocate them. I always thought it was odd that we had to relocate the bears instead of trying to change human behavior.” Kapp thinks nuisance bears and plastic pollution have some things in common. Both issues require better understanding of the problems, and the willingness of people to change their behaviors. “And,” she added, “I’m still dealing with people’s trash.” >>

This year, the weekly summer festival, Music on Main, in Teton Valley, Idaho, went plastic free by introducing a reusable steel cup rental service. At the beginning of the evening, you pay a $10 deposit for the cup, and at the end of the night if you can return it for your full deposit.

Missoula, Montana is well on its way to a zero waste resolution, Zero by Fifty, making it the seventh community in the Rocky Mountain region to pass a zero waste initiative, and local companies are jumping on board. Logjam Presents, a Missoula-based entertainment company, launched its Going Green Initiative in 2017, implementing a comprehensive composting and recycling program across its venues.

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SECTION: SUBHEAD Thermophiles that grow in Yellowstone’s hot springs, such the Morning Glory Pool pictured here, are being studied for their potential in recycling plastics. PHOTO BY NEAL HERBERT/NPS

YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK LODGES

FEW CREATURES CAN SURVIVE THE CONDITIONS OF YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK’S ICONIC GEYSERS, which appear to the naked eye to be devoid of life. However, Brent Peyton and Dana Skorupa have been studying thermophiles, or heat-loving microbes, specifically adapted to living in a hot spring environment. Peyton, the principal investigator on the project and director of Montana State University’s Thermal Biology Institute, and Skorupa, assistant research professor, are working with the Thermal Biology Institute at the University of Montana to understand these exceptional organisms. Their goal is to grow these thermophiles in their lab and use them to develop green technology for recycling plastics. The microorganisms flourishing in Yellowstone’s hot springs are dining on the same “plastic soup” that can be harmful to most other creatures. The team has found that they are breaking down plastics that fall into the hot springs and using it for food. To test this, they are collecting a mixture of sediment and water from hot springs in the park, and transporting it back to their lab at MSU. In the lab, they’re growing these microorganisms with only plastic as a food source in an environment that replicates that of a hot spring, in temperatures around 150 F. With the help of Park Service rangers, Peyton and Skorupa collect plastic trash that has fallen into the geysers. Under a microscope, the team will be able to tell if the plastic samples are already being colonized and decomposed by microbes. “When we go to the hot springs to get samples for DNA extraction, at least half of the organisms we detect are so different that we can’t even name them,” Peyton said. “There is a lot of unknown, but I think in the next year or so we will hear a lot of discoveries of organisms that can degrade plastic.” He is optimistic that some of the organisms could naturally break down plastics into their raw components. This would allow them to be used to make new plastic products. The research is still in its beginning stages, but Peyton says the potential of finding long-term stability of the world’s plastic problems is hopeful. “If we can use microorganisms to biologically degrade plastic materials and form the degraded compounds into a new plastic bottle or packaging material this would lower the level of plastics we either send to the landfill or incinerate,” Skorupa said.

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runs accommodations, food and beverage, and transportation programs in the park. Dylan Hoffman, director of sustainability, says having a “softer footprint” is part of the company’s founding values. In 2016, they stopped selling plastic water bottles and have since adopted a canned water bottle, made of aluminum. The can, which is easier to recycle, is outfitted with a re-sealable aluminum screw top. Hotel lobbies and food service outlets are outfitted with water bottle filling stations, so guests can use their own refillable bottles in place of buying new ones. Before Yellowstone Lodges stopped selling plastic water bottles, they were going through about a quarter of a million plastic bottles annually. “The water in Yellowstone is amazing; it is coming from the top of the watershed. It is free, clean and quality water. We are encouraging guests to drink it,” Hoffman said. Yellowstone Lodges is working with the Philipsburg Brewing Company in Philipsburg, Montana, to bring “Yellowstone Water” to their patrons. The owners of the brewery bought Montana Silver Springs, an old bottling plant, in 2014, and are working toward commercially canning water. Hoffman said the next order that is put in for canned water will likely be filled by Philipsburg Brewing Company. “We are always trying to find the latest and greatest in sustainable action,” Hoffman said. “Some of it may seem small, but low hanging fruit grows back.”


NOW: PLASTIC RUNS THROUGH IT Yellowstone National Park Lodges, a concessionaire in the national park, stopped selling plastic water bottles in 2016 and have since adopted a canned aluminum water bottle. PHOTO COURTESY OF CANNED WATER 4 KIDS

GIANNA SAVOIE, A SCIENTISTTURNED-NATURAL HISTORY FILMMAKER, grew up in the Ocean State of Rhode Island and moved to Montana in 2010 to teach at MSU. After establishing the nonprofit organization, Ocean Media Institute, she received a grant from the Bozeman Community Area Foundation to launch a middle school program called Mountain Mermaids and Mermen, which explores the impact of mountain communities on oceans, and vice versa. As part of the program, eighth graders from Headwaters Academy approached local Bozeman businesses, asking them to stop offering plastic straws to their patrons. The students convinced 16 local businesses to sign the pledge. “Every community has a plastic problem,” Savoie said. “We work with communities to learn about the plastic problems most affecting them and then create a locally led, solutions-driven campaign with them to solve it.” She considers recycling to be a good first step, but to really make an impact, she suggests that consumers avoid as many single-use plastics as they can, and to continue to educate future generations about the problem. “Ocean issues are not on many people’s radar here in the Rockies, but they do impact us intimately in terms of the rivers we fish, the food we grow, and even the powder we shred,” Savoie said. “Plastics work their way into our fish species and right up the food chain; they are even being detected in beer! This is definitely a wake-up call for those of us in the mountains.”

MOST OF US USE, WEAR AND SPEND OUR LIVES SURROUNDED BY PLASTIC. As we walk, hike or ski, we are unknowingly leaving behind invisible trails of microfibers. Knowing this, we can choose to participate in the many solutions it will take to reduce plastic pollution. It is going to require scientific research and creative initiatives that can be applied locally, as well as globally, to make a dent. As individuals we can encourage progress by voting for elected officials who prioritize the environment, supporting local businesses that minimize their use of single-use plastics, staying up-to-date on research, and supporting local initiatives. In our daily lives we can practice conscious consumption by avoiding disposable products and those that contain excessive or non-recyclable plastic. Throughout the Northern Rockies, innovative solutions in research and education, and simple shifts in business practices are making strides in the right direction. Americans have come a long way since the “throwaway living” era, and most would agree that a sink full of dirty dishes is preferable to a sinkhole of plastic waste in our oceans. The solutions are endless, even exciting, and they begin with each and every one of us.

Bozeman’s Mountain Merkids appeal to business owners to curb the use of single-use plastic. PHOTO COURTESY OF OCEAN MEDIA INSTITUTE

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Above: Chocolate Chirp Cookies are baked with roasted and ground crickets in Belgrade, Montana. Below: Smokey Jumpers, made of barbecue-flavored, whole-roasted crickets.

A New Cowboy in Town Bozeman cricket farm seeks to change the way we eat STORY AND PHOTOS BY ANTHONY PAVKOVICH VISITING JAMES AND KATHY ROLIN’S FARM, there are

no odors of manure, bales of hay or grazing cattle. In a single building on the plains of Gallatin Valley, they hope to provide an alternative to how the West produces and consumes protein. In a nearly 1,100-square-foot warehouse behind Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport, this young couple is taking the lead in researching, planning and raising crickets for human consumption. “We can grow the [protein] equivalent of 20 cattle per year in an area where you couldn’t fit 20 cattle,” James said. “It’s a very sustainable, environmentally friendly business practice.” Raising livestock, the world’s main source of animal protein, uses approximately 70 percent of the agricultural land on Earth. As the West continues to grow, rapid urbanization is consuming valuable farmland and providing a challenge to how we feed a ballooning population on diminishing agricultural space. Nutritionally, crickets are nearly two-thirds protein by weight and they’re rich in iron, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, fiber and vitamin B12. Outside the United States, bugs are a common component of the human diet. Approximately 80 percent of countries practice entomophagy, or the eating of bugs, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. The U.N. touts insects as a potential solution to food insecurity and as an alternative to the large carbon footprint of cattle, especially the powerful greenhouse gas methane. 54

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According to Dr. Florence Dunkel, an associate professor of entomology at Montana State University, “Western cultures’ aversion to the use of edible insects as a food source is a serious issue in human nutrition. But insects for food and feed are on the path into a sustainable world environment.” Through her work Dunkel has estimated that raising crickets is six times more efficient than cattle; they produce 80 times less methane; and that crickets require six times less feed—all to produce the same yield of protein. “We have almost zero waste, other than heat and a little bit of water,” Kathy said about their farm. “It’s very, very efficient, it’s better for the environment and it just makes sense.” Kathy hatched the idea for Cowboy Cricket Farms while attending Montana State University as a nutrition student. During her studies, Ian Toews, director of the documentary Bugs on the Menu, visited her alternative nutrition class and shared his expertise during MSU’s annual Bug Buffet—an event showcasing edible insects and their nutritional value. Kathy soon began researching cricket farms around the country and learned that their products were nearly always sold out. This was due to a limited number of suppliers and a growing demand, and she saw the business potential right away. She shared her idea with James and, “at first, he thought I was crazy,” Kathy said. But after doing his own research, he realized the business opportunity too.


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“We have almost zero waste, other than heat and a little bit of water. It’s very, very efficient, it’s better for the environment and it just makes sense.”

Following James upstairs to the cricket nursery, he tells me, “We’re not trying to change the economy or agriculture here; we’re trying to add to it.” In a dark, 90-degree room, the Rolins are breeding and rearing thousands of common crickets, but they can’t grow them fast enough. To meet market demands, the Rolins have been working to develop a model for startup farmers: they’re offering a guarantee to potential farmers across the country that they’ll purchase all of their crickets, to roast and process here in their Belgrade facility. In their commercial kitchen they produce roasted insects, cricket flour, and cookies under their brand Cowboy Crickets. While their roasted crickets have a mild, nutty flavor the cricket flour in their cookies is indistinguishable. Rearing and growing the insects is surprisingly low maintenance compared to typical ranch chores. In large plastic bins males and females are allowed to mingle on a soft bed of dirt. The next day, the bed and hundreds of eggs are removed and placed in a new container where they are kept humid for 10 days until they hatch. Then, provided plenty of finely ground organic chicken feed and a sponge full of water, they grow for six to eight weeks until ready for harvest and roasting. The insects do require regular inspection for feed and water every other day, but to improve efficiency, the Rolins are working on automating their facility to minimize the demands of farming and to devote more time to their three children. Partnering with Boulder, Colorado-based Boomtown Accelerators, Kathy and James are hoping to make selfcontained units that they would only have to change and check every six weeks. In addition to this technology, they plan to provide their partner farms with a proprietary cricket strain that they’re breeding for enhanced nutritional value. Cowboy Crickets was recently awarded a $57,000 research grant from the Montana Board of Research and Commercialization Technology to develop their breeding program. Kathy and James would like to see at least 20 independent farms raising their crickets over the next two years.

Left: Cowboy Cricket farmers, James Below the nursery and Kathy Rolin. room, the Rolins recently Snacking on insects doesn’t completed a 600-square-foot Right: faze 4-year-old Liam Rolin, whose commercial kitchen where parents hope he’s an indication of how future generations might eat. massive freezers stand against the wall. There, they slow the crickets’ metabolism and put them to sleep. After the freezers, the crickets go to the oven to be roasted, then ground, and some are loaded into a mixer to become Chocolate Chirp Cookies. From farm to kitchen, the insects produce a quarter-yield, meaning for every pound of crickets the Rolins are able to produce 1/4-pound of flour or powder. “If you show people a roasted cricket, not many will eat it. If you show them cricket powder, some would. If you give them cookie, lots will,” James explained. The couple’s success and growth rests, at least in part, on people overcoming the social stigma of eating bugs and the “ick factor.” To help tackle this issue, Cowboy Crickets has an opendoor policy inviting journalists and tour groups to visit, hoping to normalize this food source. The Rolins encourage school groups and children to visit as well, hoping to capitalize on the willingness of this age group to try new foods. Liam, their 4 year old, is their No. 1 cricket consumer, and they hope he’s an indication of their future market. “We’ve gotten nothing but support; the reception has been crazy,” James said. “Especially in a place like Bozeman, where people are open-minded, they are at least willing to try it.”

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Fighting for Common Grounds Rachel VandeVoort leads Montana’s new recreation office BY FREDERICK REIMERS IN 2016, RACHEL VANDEVOORT TURNED DOWN A bigger job with a bigger salary because she didn’t want to move. “So, you’re telling me that you are embedded in Montana like a tick,” the recruiter joked. “I’m so stealing that line,” the jocose VandeVoort told him. In 2017, alleged parasite VandeVoort actually took a pay cut in order to serve her home state as its inaugural director of the Office of Outdoor Recreation. Appointed by Gov. Steve Bullock, the Whitefish resident now acts as the state’s coordinator of all things outdoorsy in Montana, from Glacier National Park and Big Sky ski resort, to hunting rifle manufacturer Kimber America, for whom she’d most recently worked as trade relations manager. “I’ve never been particularly political,” VandeVoort said, “but public lands issues have become critical lately. Outdoor recreation has the ability to unify people politically—it is our common ground, and conservation on the land and in the water that supports our way of life, and our industry, needs that.”

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Outdoor recreation is having a political moment. VandeVoort’s job is one of nearly a dozen such positions that have emerged in the last five years as states such as Utah, Colorado, Oregon and North Carolina recognize the economic importance of the industry. A 2017 Outdoor Industry Association report pegged outdoor rec—from national parks tourism to mountain biking to charter fishing—at $887 billion in annual contributions to the national economy, supporting some 7.6 million jobs. That’s larger than the auto manufacturing industry or pharmaceuticals. In Montana, it accounts for $7 billion and 70,000 jobs. In July, eight state outdoor recreation directors signed an accord to share best practices and to support a litany of conservation goals like preserving clean air and water and access to public lands. Under the Trump administration, there have been increasing efforts to defund agencies in charge of national parks and other federal lands, as well as to strip some of those


REPORTS

Left: Montana’s first director of the Office of Outdoor Recreation, Rachel VandeVoort, pictured during a hunting trip in Mexico. Right: VandeVoort hiking with her husband and two children in Glacier National Park. PHOTOS COURTESY OF RACHEL VANDEVOORT

lands of protections. The outdoor industry is well positioned to fight for public lands. “Republicans and democrats both agree that the outdoor recreation business is important,” said Luis Benitez, VandeVoort’s counterpart in Colorado. “It’s the rare bipartisan cause.” VandeVoort is just the right person to explain that to Montanans. “Rachel brings amazing energy to the job,” said Marne Hayes, executive director of Businesses for Montana Outdoors. “Her passion for it comes naturally.” Little wonder—the fourth-generation Montana native grew up hunting and fishing under the wing of her father, a professional guide, before pulling stints as a raft guide, fishing guide, and an organic grocery buyer for ski resort Whitefish Mountain. The self described “river rat” would rather hold discussions “around a campfire with a bottle of whiskey going “Outdoor recreation “What would it look like if Choteau owned round,” but now finds herself toggling has the ability to unify the ski area?” VandeVoort wondered. More than between conference room meetings with the people politically—it is 100 people showed up to find out, and it remains Montana Department of Labor and the state’s our common ground, an option for re-opening a treasured community and conservation on Department of Transportation. In the latter, institution. the land and in the for example, she may be figuring out where to Finding the funding for such projects water that supports build river access on right-of-ways owned by is another priority for VandeVoort. One our way of life, and the state. potential source is the Federal Land and our industry, needs Where bridges have been replaced, there Water Conservation Fund, a pool of money that.” is often an adjacent strip of state property from offshore oil revenues that has provided that can become an access point for boaters nearly $20 billion for projects like boat ramps, and fishermen. In Montana, there are hundreds of such spots, bike paths, and parks over the last 50 years. The Trump and VandeVoort has helped join state agencies to create a map administration is working to defund it despite wide bi-partisan of them. “That project would never have gotten done without support. “LWCF is something every Montanan can benefit someone helping cross boundaries of different agencies,” she from,” VandeVoort said. “My job is to fight for that program said. alongside other state recreation directors.” Last February, she set up a meeting to help the tiny town of She’ll also be fighting for the viability of Montana’s outdoor Choteau, northwest of Great Falls, try to re-open Teton Pass recreation industry within state government. “The backbone Ski Resort, which was closed last winter when the owner ran of the industry lies in healthy lands and waters, and access to short of cash. Locals met with VandeVoort, representatives those lands and waters,” VandeVoort said. “We rely on natural from the Forest Service, the state development office, and from resources like other industries, we just use them differently.” Bozeman’s Bridger Bowl, which is community owned. And like a tick, she’ll be tenacious. M T O U T L AW. C O M / MOUNTAIN

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The Pull of Pounding Hooves A brief history of Western skijoring BY JESSIANNE CASTLE

LEADVILLE, COLORADO, 1949.

Irishman Tom Schroeder and “Mugs” Ossman, a quarter horse breeder just north of town, breathed deeply before letting loose on a run for the history books. At the cue, Ossman’s horse plunged through a pasture of deep snow, while Schroeder clung tight to the rope, leaning into his skis. This practice session was a precursor to the inaugural Leadville skijoring event, held that same year and recognized by many as the first organized iteration of the competition sport in the West. Skijoring, in one form or another, has been an important enterprise in snowbound lands for hundreds of years. A word with Norwegian origins, skijoring can be spelled many ways— skijøring, skikjoring, skijoering—and its meaning is as open-ended as its practice: ski driving. Traditionally, dogs, reindeer or horses were harnessed and driven by skiers, a mode of efficient transportation when snow might otherwise impede travel. Skiing historian E. John B. Allen, the author of The Culture and Sport of Skiing: From Antiquity to World War II, places the first reference to skijoring in China, at least 400 years ago, when teams of dogs were used. It wasn’t until much more recently, though, that skijoring in the Western sense—where a skier clutches a rope, tethered to a horse and rider— truly emerged.

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LOREN ZHIMANSKOVA, the founder of the race series Skijor USA, has been passionate about equine skijoring for over a decade, fascinated by the way two very different lifestyles have come together to create the sport. Zhimanskova, who splits her time between Colorado and New York, said skijoring probably arrived in the U.S. sometime in the 1930s when tourists returned from winter visits to Europe. Enjoyed as a leisure activity, it became wildly popular at winter carnivals, spreading from the East Coast to Steamboat Springs, Colorado, and Jackson Hole, Wyoming, as well as other snowy Western destinations. Historic photographs portray both men and women, either driving a riderless horse, or being pulled by a human-equine duo. “I guess it just depends on if somebody told you [that] you could trust the horse,” Zhimanskova said, explaining the use of a rider. Zhimanskova also noted that skijoring’s single appearance as a demonstration sport at the 1928 Winter Olympic Games in St. Moritz, Switzerland, probably contributed to its popularity—she describes it as a “quirky sport” with staying power. “I think it’s beautiful,” she said. “Anyone who sees a horse in snow, it gives you that awe feeling. Skiing is fun, it’s a great feeling gliding on snow. When you combine those things, it’s like magic.”


Left: A horse and rider tow a skier in Big Sky in March 2018, during Montana’s first nationally sanctioned skijoring event.

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PHOTO BY KEVIN MCAVEY

WESTERN SKIJORING HAS EMERGED AS A popular, adrenaline-filled sporting event in recent decades with two major racing series: Skijoring America and Skijor PHOTO COURTESY OF TREAD OF PIONEERS MUSEUM USA. Traditional competitions pit horse, rider and skier against the very snow itself, with a horseshoe-shaped or straight course roughly 300 yards in length. Skiers must incorporate combinations of jumps, gates or grabbing SKIJORING GAINED TRACTION —and speed—In the 1950s rings, working with the horse and rider to adjust speed following the Leadville race. for the fastest, cleanest run. Often reaching 40 miles per “That was what we call the Granddaddy of Skijoring,” said hour, the most competitive teams can accomplish this in 15 Scott Ping, a 68 year old from Whitefish, Montana, who might be to 20 seconds. the oldest active skijoring competitor in the West, riding the oldest At most events, snow is brought in by the truck loads. competing horse. Today in Leadville, for example, approximately 100 loads Having taken the reins as a rider, skier and organizer in his fair of snow are dumped on Harrison Avenue, beginning at 4 share of races—and breaking his neck in 2011 in what he described a.m. the day of the race. Paul Copper, the owner of Bill’s Ski as an accident that “damn well killed” him—you could say that and Snowboard Rentals, has been building the course for Ping has been around the snow-covered block a time or two. The roughly 35 years and he said it’s become an repeat winner of several national championships exact science. in Red Lodge, Montana, Ping won six of eight “It’s three heartbeats “This has all been designed and thought competitions that he entered last year. that have to pull of and engineered over the years … for the “I do it because my horse loves it and I do together in order to safety of the horse on that course. If you can it because of the camaraderie of everyone who make a good run.” get the horse through, you’re also protecting competes,” Ping said. “It’s three heartbeats that the skier,” he said. have to pull together in order to make a good run.” Once in place, the snow is left to settle, According to Ping, the shift from a recreational and heat from the street melts the bottom layers, creating a activity to an organized sport is likely linked to World War II. Men solid base. Several hours after sunrise, a snowcat grooms a from the U.S. Army’s 10th Mountain Division, fondly called the 12-foot-wide centerline, leaving precisely 8 inches of loose Soldiers on Skis, returned home at the culmination of the war, snow on top. This allows a horse’s hooves to punch down having fought the German army in Italy’s Apennine Mountains. and hit the base without slipping. “They were mountaineers. Skiers with guns,” Ping said, Skiers typically don the same alpine skis used in adding that once stateside, these men had little opportunity to slalom events, built for speed and fast turns. You might practice their new-found passion, as very few ski resorts had been see competitors wearing motocross face masks and chest established yet. Some of these men opened new ski areas, while protectors, and men have been known to wear athletic cups. others sought out cowboys to pull them across the snow and were “Coming off the back of the horse’s feet, you’ve got able to experience nearly any speed they craved. four clumps of snow and they hit hard,” Copper said with a laugh. The course and equipment are built for speed, but there’s a unique team dynamic that gets the fastest competitors across the finish line. “It’s supposed to be, not who’s got the fastest horse, but who’s got the better team,” said Dave Schilz of Missoula, Montana. “We never wanted it to be just a horse race.” Schilz has spent a lifetime organizing skijoring events, working as a track consultant after he competed as a skier and rider at Red Lodge in the 1980s. He said communication is critical, and riders have to know when to slow up their horses to allow a skier to make a gate, or when to quicken the pace and prevent slack in the rope. While hooves pound and powder flies, those who pay close attention might hear the skier call to the rider, or witness the rider’s hands gently adjust on the reins. This dance, complete with footwork and proper timing, is over almost as soon as it begins, but for a moment, three beating hearts become one. Right: A ring and spear event during the 1975 Steamboat Springs Winter Carnival.

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Calming the Sea

Neuromodulation offers hope for deeper, restorative meditation BY RYLAN PEERY

“AMYGDALA, OFF,” MY WIFE SAYS. These are our code words for putting down the day and relaxing into the present moment. The amygdala is the part of our brain often contributing anxiety to our lives, and in our modern lives, it is engaged far too often. My mind races forward. These words from my wife don’t instantly calm my anxious thoughts like flipping a switch. Where are my meditation skills this evening? I wonder. After an unending stream of conversations, phone calls, texts, tweets, news, and whatever else, my thoughts race forward unbridled, like a racehorse straining toward a finish line that never arrives. Most of my stress is generated by my own mind, by the stories I silently tell myself moment to moment. I run through to-do lists in my head, consider problems that need solving. My mind is constantly at work: analyzing, labeling, narrating, and yes, of course, worrying. For me, meditation is my time to set the world aside—a time to relax and bathe in the quietude of breathing. I have spent years sitting daily, on meditation retreats, practicing “real world” metacognitive awareness; calming the mind, quieting the stream of thoughts, and focusing my attention. It’s just not easy.   From the perspective of neuroscience, I’m working to get out of “fight or flight” mode, that instinctive physiological response hardwired into my anatomy, readying me either to resist danger forcibly or to run away. But with all the stressors bombarding me throughout the day, I’m wired. All the time. Modern life has conditioned me with what we might call a “maladaptive stress response.” My sympathetic nervous system is working too hard and my health is prone to suffer—whether it’s high blood pressure, a depressed immune response, irritable bowel syndrome, or a host of other health problems caused by stress. When I meditate or do yoga, I’m training my mind to calm my parasympathetic nervous system. If only it were that simple. For my 16-year-old son, who’s immersed in social media, YouTube, gaming and computer programming, quieting his mind seems like an impossible task. “Dad, I’ll never be able to do that,” he recently told me. And yet scientific research shows that we can rewire our brains through neuroplasticity, the ability to create new neural pathways via our life interactions. In Robert Sapolsky’s 2017 book, Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst, he writes, “Manipulating

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“... basic mindfulness practices, developed during simpler times, may not be sufficient for inner peace without additional support.”


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neuroplasticity for recovery of function [has] enormous, exciting potential in neurology.” While that potential is unlikely to be infinite, Sapolsky writes, “neuroplasticity makes ... it ‘scientifically demonstrated’ that brains change. That people change.” But rewiring our brains through meditation takes dedication and effort. And let’s be honest, it’s often neither fun nor easy to sit still and breathe. We have been programmed to crave distraction, things for our mind to grab onto and turn over, and problems to solve. Quite simply we have overdeveloped the analytical aspects of our brain, and with it our pathways for happiness weaken. After years of training, if I still struggle to mitigate the negative consequences of ongoing stress responses, what hope do our teenage children have? We certainly can and should encourage our children to take up regular meditation practice. A 2011 Harvard University study showed that even short daily meditation practice increased the brain’s gray matter density in regions associated with well-being and compassion, while areas associated with stress literally shrank. Daniel Goleman, a science journalist and author of the best-selling book, Emotional Intelligence, suggests that through regular practice and adjustments in our worldview we can transform our brains into qualities that resemble “traits” rather than “states” in his review of recent research in the book, Altered Traits: Science Reveals How Meditation Changes Your Mind, Brain, and Body. It’s possible to shrug off negativity, a difficult co-worker, client or classmate, with our family mantra: “no big deal.” But building a daily meditation habit and mitigating the full stress consequences of our modern society, are challenging tasks. My conclusion thus far is that basic mindfulness practices, developed during simpler times, may not be sufficient for inner peace without additional support. Today, we’re awash in short tempers, polarized discussions, clickbait advertising and sensational media; we’re swimming against a massive current of anxiety that is

Neuroscientist Jay Sanguinetti uses transcranial ultrasound on meditation teacher Shinzen Young. PHOTO COURTESY OF JAY SANGUINETTI

deeply affecting us and our children. We need new approaches to address the problem. Neuromodulation is one of these new approaches to consider: a technology that acts directly upon the brain by stimulating the nerves with ultrasound, electricity or magnetic fields with the potential to smooth the steep learning curve associated with meditation and make the associated health benefits more accessible. Neuromodulation is currently used to treat and improve the quality of life in individuals who suffer severe chronic illness due to persistent pain, movement disorders, spinal injuries and more.   According to the Weill Cornell Medicine Center for Pain Management, “Our experts are hopeful that neuromodulation will continue to help bring relief, hope and increased function to patients with a variety of debilitating diseases and conditions.”   The severity of our current crisis warrants cautious experimentation with these technologies as part of a mindful research approach. My hope is that one day we might readily access a neuromodulation experience that calms our minds and offers deeper moments of serenity in a world gone slightly mad.

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PEACE IN THE

VALLEYS Can Jackson Hole’s bison inspire tolerance from BY TODD WILKINSON Montana for Yellowstone’s herd? 66

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G R E AT E R Y E L L OW S TO N E

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AMONG THE WORLD’S MOST PROMINENT CONSERVATION BIOLOGISTS, THE GREATER YELLOWSTONE ECOSYSTEM

is considered a touchstone for “post-Pleistocene rewilding,” a concept playing out in a region where native species once prolific in North America still find a home and wander freely. Rewilding isn’t about bringing back now-extinct species that existed on the continent such as saber-toothed tigers, camels and woolly mammoths through genetic engineering a la Jurassic Park, but rather fostering conditions for their closely related descendants—which some call “charismatic megafauna”—to still persist. In the Lower 48 states, Greater Yellowstone remains unparalleled, boasting the full complement of large mammals that inhabited the landscape just prior to the arrival of Europeans. On a September night in 2018, we set out with ambitions of having a primeval predator encounter—to catch sight of an active wolf pack in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. At the old Elk

Ranch in the northern reaches of the valley, dusk is advancing. For a moment, the sun appears to balance perfectly still over the Tetons. Before us smoky mountain air fills with guttural murmurs that grow in intensity, but these aren’t the timbres of howling lobos. Instead, the vocalizations carry a different call of the wild, one arguably even better. In these final throes of summer, several hundred wild bison pepper the tawny grasslands of Grand Teton National Park. Emanating from the herd is a chorus of deep bellowing. If you close your eyes and listen to the collective sound of rutting bulls, it could easily be mistaken for roaring African lions. I’m here with other nature-craving pilgrims, led by guides with Jackson Hole EcoTour Adventures, a homegrown American wildlife safari company. Together we muse out loud: Imagine the acoustics when tens of millions of bison blanketed the prairie, drifting across it in massive herds, subherds and extended families. >>

Bison plod over deep snowdrifts in Yellowstone National Park’s Hayden Valley on an endless forage for grass buried beneath the snow. Bison leave the higher meadows in winter and gather in open meadows near thermal areas or along streams like the Yellowstone River, where less snow and protection from the wind make feeding easier. PHOTO BY THOMAS D. MANGELSEN / MANGELSEN.COM

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GREATER YELLOWSTONE COMMANDS HISTORIC STATUS AS THE REGION THAT HELPED RESCUE BISON—ONCE THE MOST POPULOUS LARGE LAND MAMMAL ON EARTH—FROM THE VERY BRINK OF EXTINCTION.

Less than 150 years ago, the species came close to elimination by meat and hide hunters; a deliberate military campaign of annihilation, to subdue indigenous people by decimating their primary sustenance; and to clear the West for domestic cattle and sheep. Yellowstone National Park, created in 1872, was the last refuge for two dozen wild survivors at the end of the 19th century, among the last known to exist. Today, at least 4,500 bison inhabit our first national park. More remarkably, America is now in the midst of a renaissance of appreciation for the woolly-coated giants, punctuated in 2016 by Congress voting to declare bison as the nation’s official land mammal. “It’s a miracle we still have bison, given how we almost lost them, and the comeback of the species is a dramatic success story with this region being right in the center of it,” said biologist Keith Aune, a retired advocate who spent years with the Wildlife Conservation Society and Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks in Bozeman. He is one of many individuals who helped push for the Congressional designation. The coalition of organizations and citizens to which Aune belongs are also trying to achieve another momentous feat: enabling Yellowstone bison to enter the state of Montana without encountering lethal malice. Since the late 1980s, more than 11,400 bison have been shot by hunters or sent to slaughter when they’ve wandered into Montana, based on the now-disproved assertion that they’re an imminent threat to pass a disease, brucellosis, to domestic cattle herds. According to Aune, there are about 500,000 bison in Canada and the U.S. today—300,000 of which reside in the Lower 48 and the vast majority of those in private hands. “I think we could be headed toward a new golden age,” he says. Aune credits Ted Turner, the legendary media-mogul-turned-bison rancher, with 68

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playing an important role in elevating the public profile of bison. Turner, who just turned 80, is proud to call Greater Yellowstone his adopted home. All told, he has 55,000 bison spread across more than a dozen ranches in the West and operates 45 different outlets of his restaurant, Ted’s Montana Grill, across the country that features bison on the menu. Up the Gallatin Canyon from Bozeman on Turner’s flagship ranch, the 113,000-acre Flying D, wildlife watchers can see 5,000 bison roaming behind a large perimeter fence. The ranch is accessible via a public road leading from U.S. Highway 191 to Spanish Creek Campground, where the Custer Gallatin National Forest begins. As spectacular as the setting is, only in the heart of Jackson Hole will you find a Greater Yellowstone bison herd that holds a different kind of special distinction. Here, a herd 500-strong is allowed to move relatively freely and does so without causing major controversies or conflict. “There is an overall attitude of social acceptance for bison in Jackson Hole. We have a benign respect,” Dr. Franz Camenzind says. “What it basically comes down to is that we like having them around, we like seeing them. They are icons of the West and their presence confirms the reason we live here. It’s not the melodrama you see in Montana.” Camenzind has worked as an awardwinning wildlife cinematographer, field researcher and professional conservationist in Jackson, and he sees bison as bellwethers for assessing the ability of humans to co-exist with nature. Descended from 20 transplants brought from Yellowstone in 1948 and then held in a smallish 1,500-acre enclosure called the Jackson Hole Wildlife Park near Moran, Wyoming, the origins of these Jackson Hole bison lie with predecessors that escaped from captivity.

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It’s a miracle we still have bison, given how we almost lost them, and the comeback of the species is a dramatic success story with this region being right in the center of it.


GREATER YELLOWSTONE: PEACE SECTION: IN THESUBHEAD VALLEYS

Current Distribution (2014) 1940s Distribution Pre-settlement Distribution Park Boundary

Bison group in the road near Frying Pan Spring PHOTO BY JACOB W. FRANK / NPS

They move, for the most part, unencumbered across Grand Teton National Park, the adjacent National Elk Refuge and Bridger-Teton National Forest, and even occasionally onto private lands where there are cattle, horses and the trappings of suburbia. As long as they don’t venture beyond the vast, invisible 4,200-square-mile boundary of Teton County, they can wander. Beyond that, they can be shot. Could bison in Jackson Hole provide lessons for how to change attitudes toward Yellowstone bison moving into Montana? “I think there are lessons to be learned in the Tetons,” said Dan Wenk, the former superintendent of Yellowstone MAP ADAPTED FROM YELLOWSTONE BISON: CONSERVING AN AMERICAN ICON IN MODERN SOCIETY

who retired in October 2018 following a distinguished 43-year career with the National Park Service. Wenk was devoted to finding a way for Yellowstone bison to have more latitude outside of the park but faced stiff resistance from Montana livestock interests. It was Wenk’s advocacy for using Yellowstone bison as seedstock for other herds that, some say, led to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke acting to remove him from Yellowstone. Today, Wenk’s successor in the job, Cam Sholly, is picking up where Wenk left off, aspiring to resolve a vexing, contentious controversy that has raged for two human generations. >> M T O U T L AW. C O M / MOUNTAIN

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BOTH WILD BISON AND ELK IN JACKSON HOLE AND YELLOWSTONE CARRY THE BOVINE DISEASE, BRUCELLOSIS, THAT IN INFECTED ANIMALS CAUSES PREGNANT COWS TO ABORT THEIR FIRST CALVES.

After that, the disease does not affect reproduction, but it can He shared another observation that he knows might not mean trade restrictions for infected cattle herds. play well with many elk hunters: “Personally, based on my The longstanding rationale invoked by Montana officials observations, bison just seem to have more going on mentally for slaughtering Yellowstone bison is that they pose a danger and socially than elk do. Their interactions with each other to domestic cattle herds. However, a recent benchmark report are more complex and they are curious about what people are from the National Academies of Sciences notes there has never doing. Plus, I would say they are more resilient than elk and less been a case of wild bison passing brucellosis to beef cows, and vulnerable to predators.” all documented cases of transmission between wildlife and In terms of danger to motorists, Cole said that “elk, because livestock have involved elk. Elk are not only several times more of their larger numbers and how they move, are a far greater numerous, but they range far more widely. risk. And humans accept that risk.” The NAS study corroborated a peer-reviewed analysis from Jackson Hole ranchers know they share the neighborhood park scientists spelled out in a 2015 book, Yellowstone Bison: with publicly beloved wildlife, rancher Brad Mead—the brother Conserving an American Icon in Modern Society. “The estimated of former Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead—told me years ago. As risk of brucellosis exposure to cattle from Yellowstone bison part of that responsibility, they vaccinate their cattle against is insignificant (less than 1 percent) compared to elk (more disease and accept the likelihood that wildlife may co-mingle than 99 percent of total risk) because elk with beef cows and horses. Co-existence have a larger overlap with cattle and are between bison and ranchers might be less more tolerated by managers and livestock controversial in Wyoming than in Montana producers,” they noted.  due to fewer ranchers as well, Brad Mead “Many of the approximately 450,000 told me recently. Many in the Jackson area cattle in the Greater Yellowstone Area are have either quit the profession or gotten into fed on private land holdings during winter the real estate business. and released on public grazing allotments “I’m not sure I know why [the conflict ... a recent benchmark during summer—but throughout the year is lower], but one reason might be because report from the they are allowed to mingle with wild elk. bison didn’t really increase in numbers here Thus, the risks of brucellosis transmission until the post-ranching era in Jackson Hole,” National Academies to cattle are primarily from wild elk, and he said. “By the time the combination management to suppress brucellosis in bison of Sciences notes of herd size [increased], and the federal will not substantially reduce the far greater government’s brucellosis eradication efforts there has never been transmission risk from elk.” focused locally, there weren’t a lot of a case of wild bison Another claim is that bison moving ranchers to organize or complain.” passing brucellosis outside Yellowstone pose serious traffic One of the main culprits behind lack hazards to motorists passing along U.S. of tolerance for bison in Montana is a to beef cows and all Highway 89 north of the park and U.S. document called the Interagency Bison documented cases of Highway 191 running along Yellowstone’s Management Plan, which was ratified in west side. Jackson Hole also has a busy transmission, between 2000 and has been assailed as antiquated in stretch of U.S. Highway 89 running the face of more scientific knowledge. One wildlife and livestock, former Yellowstone superintendent, Mike through it, and bison, for the most part, do have involved elk. not cause many wrecks. Finley, said the Park Service was forced to Critics of bison in Montana further insist abide by its terms by the state of Montana the behemoths cannot co-exist in a mosaic and the federal Animal Plant and Health of public and private lands, and that they represent a threat to Inspection Service that created an exaggerated fear about disease people and property. Jackson Hole serves as a counterpoint to risk. that argument. Federal and state governments have spent billions of For 20 years, Eric Cole, who today is a senior biologist at the dollars over the last 80 years zealously trying to eradicate National Elk Refuge, has watched Jackson Hole’s relationship brucellosis from the American landscape. Today, the Greater with bison mature. “What a rare situation it is that we have one Yellowstone is the last major region in the country that still has of the largest free-ranging bison herds in North America and endemic brucellosis in animals, and the prime vector is freeit’s remarkable that it happens in close proximity to so many ranging wildlife—ironically, this was caused by contact with people,” Cole said. contaminated cattle a century ago.

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GREATER YELLOWSTONE: PEACE IN THE VALLEYS

Most experts confess that, technologically speaking, it isn’t now possible to eradicate the disease and the risk can be managed through common sense and the potential development of a better vaccine for cattle. However, some fear that if the disease isn’t aggressively contained it could spread to other parts of the country. Yellowstone bison, critics of Montana’s policy say, are victims of misperception. “For most of the 20th century, as Yellowstone bison recovered from near extirpation, they did not regularly and extensively venture outside Yellowstone National Park,” authors of Yellowstone Bison wrote, noting it led to a misconception that bison should—and could—be easily contained inside the park. In 1963, the small Jackson Hole herd being held captive near Moran was discovered to be infected with brucellosis and all adult animals were destroyed. In 1968, the survivors, then numbering 11, escaped. Franz Camenzind moved to Jackson Hole in 1970 and he said the Park Service response of letting them roam freely was somewhat controversial because ranchers claimed they’d be vectors of disease, cause property damage and be hazards to motorists. But eventually, bison began grazing on the National Elk Refuge and the doomsday scenarios never panned out. “Bison in general, as a species, passed through a bottleneck when their numbers were reduced from tens of millions to

hundreds,” Camenzind said. “All the animals alive today are descended from a few survivors.” Camenzind served a lengthy tenure as executive director of the Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance, the leading wildlife protection group in the valley. He recalls the questions raised when the bison herd began to grow, and the same issues flaring in Montana were raised as reasons to contain the animals. An early bison management plan proposed a maximum of 50 animals—one-tenth the population today—but the community pushed back. By then, ranching was on the wane in Jackson Hole. Not long ago, there were more than 1,000 bison in Jackson Hole, but slowly, by using a sport hunt, the number was reduced to its management objective of 500. Camenzind is appalled by the treatment of bison in Montana. With a little bit of tolerance, and citizens and other stakeholders working together with government agencies, many perceived problems can be overcome,” he said. Camenzind believes that the flats of Horse Butte near Hebgen Lake northwest of West Yellowstone, Montana, are analogous to Jackson Hole where there is U.S. Forest Service land and private property owners who are either friendly to bison or willing to erect fences to keep them off their land. >>

A total of 1,171 bison were removed from the population during winter 2017/2018 through hunting outside the park, capture and shipment to slaughter, and placement in quarantine. PHOTO BY JACOB W. FRANK / NPS

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AS AN ALTERNATIVE TO THE CONTROVERSIAL SLAUGHTER, WENK PROMOTED A QUARANTINE PROGRAM THAT ALLOWED BISON, DEEMED FREE OF BRUCELLOSIS, TO BE MOVED TO OTHER AREAS SUCH AS THE FORT PECK INDIAN RESERVATION IN NORTHERN MONTANA.

Former Yellowstone backcountry ranger Bob Jackson, who today has a private bison herd in Iowa, has been outspoken in his criticism of Montana’s policies. “If elk and cattle were treated the way bison are, there would be outrage like you wouldn’t believe. These are wild Yellowstone bison, members of the most famous public herd in the world,” he said. “Montana’s abusive mindset has got to stop,” Jackson added. “The way the state is treating them, in my mind, is a national disgrace.”  Other critics say the disease issue is a smokescreen and the Montana Department of Livestock’s opposition to the animals is really based on its refusal to let bison inhabit more public land where cattle can potentially graze. In the late 1990s, when several thousand more bison had yet to be killed or sent to slaughter, then Yellowstone superintendent Mike Finley told a reporter with The Los Angeles Times, “It’s the toughest Gordian knot I’ve ever known. We are witnessing the second persecution of the American bison, and it is almost as violent and prejudicial as the first.” Twenty years later, Finley told me the persecution continues, but this time it has no scientific justification based on alleged threat of disease. By all accounts, 2019 could be a momentous year for Yellowstone bison. With Sholly now at the helm of Yellowstone, some are hopeful a new era of peaceful coexistence is possible. Sholly knows he has a tough mission ahead, but in his previous stint, as director of the Park Service’s Midwest region, he facilitated the movement of bison from national parks to native reservations, and he dealt with wildlife disease issues. Yellowstone and its bureaucratic parent, the Interior Department, are currently engaged with the state of Montana and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service—which sets policy for disease strategy—in writing a new bison management plan. With public outrage fueled by the National Academies of Sciences report, the focus now turns to giving bison more flexibility—something that Montana Gov. Steve Bullock agreed to do a few years ago. It means finding areas north and west of Yellowstone that bison can inhabit year-round in peace. Glenn Hockett, president of the Gallatin Wildlife Association, and a coalition of other conservationists, including retired college professor, biologist and author Jim Bailey, have identified several spots on public land and private property where they’d be welcomed. Hockett notes the Dome Mountain Wildlife Management Area north of Yellowstone 72

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and the Gallatin Wildlife Management Area encompassing the Porcupine Creek and Taylor Fork drainages near Big Sky. “Both of those areas were established by the state legislature and managed by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks specifically to serve as winter range for wildlife,” Hockett said. “They would be ideal for smaller populations of bison that could be hunted, and, in fact, the entire west side of Yellowstone that abuts U.S. Highway 191 south of Big Sky has plenty of open country where bison could make a living and where they are presently absent.” Longer term, Hockett would love to see bison restored to Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge in the Centennial Valley. Management practices there allow private cattle grazing in order to mimic the grazing of native wildlife that is essential to maintaining grassland health. In the 19th century, a sizeable bison herd inhabited the current-day refuge, and it’s unknown how long it would take before they reached Red Rocks, if they were to naturally disperse west from Yellowstone. Patrick Holmes, Gov. Bullock’s chief natural resource

Under a sunrise, descendants from the herd of bison from the original gene pool of animals that lived here during the late 19th century, gather to graze. Once ranching lands, places such as the Triangle X Ranch have been “rewilded”, or returned to open space free of both cattle and regular human presence. PHOTO BY THOMAS D. MANGELSEN / MANGELSEN.COM


GREATER YELLOWSTONE: PEACE IN THE VALLEYS

We are witnessing the second persecution of the American bison, and it is almost as violent and prejudicial as the first.

policy advisor, told Mountain Outlaw that Montana already is exhibiting “expanded tolerance” for bison thanks to a decision the governor released in 2015. It allows bison to roam outside the national park past the former May 15 deadline, which annually resulted in bison being hazed back into Yellowstone using snowmobiles, riders on horseback and helicopters. Holmes also said the focus of disease control has shifted to elk and both state wildlife and livestock managers continue to evolve a monitoring program that complements a risk management strategy already in place for bison. Finally, he said the governor supports the translocation of Yellowstone bison to the Fort Peck Indian Reservation for conservation and cultural purposes—recognizing that bison bulls represent a low threat of brucellosis transmission, Bullock supports a shorter quarantine process for disease-free males. Already on the high plains of central Montana, the American Prairie Reserve, a non-profit conservation organization, has acquired several hundred thousand acres near the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge with a goal of stitching

together 3 million acres to create a new refuge with bison as the prime keystone species. But its plans have faced opposition from local cattle ranchers whose protests are more cultural rather than holding scientific or economic merit. With the chorus of bison advocates growing, will these Western icons finally earn treatment befitting of America’s national mammal? Prior to his departure from Yellowstone, the park’s science chief David Hallac—who has since become superintendent of North Carolina’s Cape Hatteras National Seashore—stood on an overlook at Mammoth Hot Springs in early February 2014. He peered northward at the landscape rolling away to lower snow-free ground in the Upper Yellowstone Valley and, farther beyond, Paradise Valley. He was thinking like bison. Like water adhering to the pull of gravity, bison in winter flow downhill, he said. “For all that these animals, this species, has been through, and for how special Yellowstone bison are, we owe them some accommodation. They are the only wildlife species we have in this ecosystem not allowed to free roam and punished for doing it.” Hallac was optimistic that someday Montana’s intolerance will end, and I witnessed the potential that he was imagining. Only a few hours to the south, on a different night late in summer, bison in Jackson Hole provided an inspiring post-Pleistocene vision of what once was, and what’s still possible.

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CHANGING HISTORY TO SHAPE THE FUTURE Yellowstone Forever and its partners showcase energy alternatives at Lamar Buffalo Ranch

Like the beating heart of an organism, the Lamar Valley has long been a source of restorative vitality for the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. The northeast corner of Yellowstone National Park is where American bison were rescued from near extinction in the western U.S. and where half of the park’s reintroduced wolf population now roams.

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At the Lamar Buffalo Ranch, Yellowstone’s last remaining bison, estimated at 25 animals in 1901, were protected from poachers and bred with animals from private herds. Considered one of North America’s greatest wildlife conservation stories, the park’s bison population now numbers in the thousands, and the Lamar Buffalo Ranch earned its spot on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982. While the Lamar Valley is a place to witness the Greater Yellowstone’s historical biodiversity, the Lamar Buffalo Ranch is becoming a showcase of innovations in sustainability that could be a glimpse of our future. The historic compound is 10 miles from the nearest electric source and has long been powered by solar energy and a propane generator backup when the sun isn’t shining. A collaboration between the National Park Service and Yellowstone Forever, the park’s nonprofit fundraising partner, the Lamar Sustainability Project has emerged as an

/ M T O U T L AW. C O M


GREATER YELLOWSTONE

innovative commitment to get this off-grid location completely independent from fossil fuels and utilize it as a teaching tool for the potential of renewable energy. The first phase of this project went live in spring 2015, when a new power system, designed by Toyota and Indie Power Systems, was installed to store the energy harnessed by photovoltaic panels. The custom system involves 220 recycled Toyota Camry hybrid car batteries that are no longer fit for use in vehicles but still have power storage capcity. The installation includes real-time digital monitoring, both for energy tracking and for use as an educational tool. A microhydro system, installed in summer 2015, pulls energy out of nearby Rose Creek to augment the energy produced by the solar panels.

Sharp donated 170 photovoltaic panels—at 250-watts apiece— for the solar array, and Canyon Industries provided the micro-hydro system. A backup propane generator from Kohler supplements the renewable energy sources when the power demand is too great for the solar and hydro to keep up. While this cutting-edge system has reduced fossil fuel use at the ranch by approximately 25 percent, renewables are just one half of the puzzle for a carbon-neutral future, the other being energy efficiency. “Our study shows that the right efficiency policies could alone enable the world to achieve more than 40 percent of the emissions cuts needed to reach its climate goals without requiring new technology,” said Dr. Fatih Birol, the International Energy Agency’s executive director, in an October 2018 press release. “Thanks to the critical importance of energy efficiency in building a secure and sustainable future, the IEA considers it the ‘first fuel’ and facilitates the exchange of best practices among advanced and emerging economies.” The ranch consists of a log barn, horse corral, numerous cabins and out buildings, as well as the Buffalo Keeper’s House, constructed in 1915, and used as a year-round residence for Lamar River District Rangers. The log building has no insulation under the floor, nor a crawl space to access the water pipes, which winter temperatures can freeze quickly. The walls are poorly insulated, and the existing windows are prone to cold drafts and heat loss. The current phase of the Lamar Sustainability Project looks to address these efficiency issues. A major renovation is underway which could save more than 2,800 gallons of propane and $5,600 in energy costs annually. This will have a significant effect in reducing the energy demand on propane appliances, such as heaters, as well as the renewable energy system. Thanks to a donation of spray foam insulation from the Huntsman Corporation, based in Texas and Salt Lake City, the project is currently out to bid, and the Buffalo Keeper’s House should be renovated by spring 2019. “We’re going to bring that structure in line with current building practices, so we don’t have a huge drain on the renewable energy that we’ve implemented there,” said Jeff Augustin, Yellowstone Forever’s senior director of park projects, adding that they’ve already retrofitted a few of the residential structures and a bath house at the ranch. And the progressive energy projects at the Lamar Buffalo Ranch go beyond addressing climate change and economics. The project is also incorporated into the Yellowstone Forever Institute’s educational curriculum for the 1,800-plus annual participants that come to the ranch for field seminars in native culture, art, wildlife biology and resource ecology, including the fourth- through eighthgrade students hosted as part of Expedition Yellowstone’s outdoor classroom. These students will learn that there are other options for energy consumption in the future, and Yellowstone Forever and its partners can show them what that looks like.

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SECTION: SUBHEAD

CHASING SECRETS MONTANA LEADS THE WAY IN USING HOUNDS FOR COUGAR CONSERVATION 80

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LAND

Mountain lions are known for their elusive character, which has led many biologists to rely on houndsmen and their tracking hounds to study these apex predators. PHOTO BY RYAN CASTLE

BY JESSIANNE CASTLE

The percussion of barking dogs rang across the landscape, echoing off the rock outcropping ahead. I could hear their distinct voices, Bay’s throaty bellow and Rooster’s sing-song howl. My husband, Ryan, was already up there and I didn’t want to miss those first moments at the tree. I sprinted uphill, cursing the head cold wreaking havoc on my nose and chest, slowing me down. A few steps farther and I heard the crack of branches and a cacophony of barks. The cat jumped, I thought, scurrying faster. But then I stopped, the barks getting closer all on their own. That’s when I saw her. The mountain lion dove down the hillside above me and I realized I stood directly in her path. My feet froze, my heart pounded, as boundless eyes and tawny fur rushed toward me. I watched her fly, hardly touching the snow-covered ground. She was coming so fast, all I could do was watch. In the last moment, I remembered to step aside as she barreled past. I’m sure I could have touched her had I reached out a hand. Seconds later, the dogs came bellowing behind with Ryan quick on their heels. “She jumped,” he said, and together we skirted down the hill to find her again treed by the dogs. Ryan made quick time loading his gun with a carbon dioxide cartridge and biopsy dart. He brought it to his shoulder and aimed steady on her hip. With a loud punch, the dart shot some 30 yards up into the lodgepole pine; it found its target in the muscle and quickly fell to the ground. The lion didn’t even move. We scrambled to the base of the tree and found the orange dart settled in the snow, a tiny sample of muscle tissue and hair safely trapped inside. This pursuit was part of a follow-up study near Phillipsburg, Montana, conducted last winter by biologists for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks. Wildlife managers were interested in further understanding mountain lion behavior and population estimates in Granite County, and Ryan was one of five houndsmen hand-picked for the job. Assigned to a specific area each day of the study, the handlers were tasked with tracking mountain lions and collecting tissue samples for later DNA analysis, or aiding biologists with radio collaring. >>

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SECTION: SUBHEAD

Lions are like secrets—

seldom are they seen or heard. They are stealthy, hiding amid trees and tucked into dark corners of rocky cliffs. Unlike elk or wolves, they’re exceedingly difficult to spot from the air, and seeking a lion without dogs could turn into hundreds of miles on the trail as dispersing males—young adults leaving their mother’s territory—have been known to travel as far as 500 miles in search of a new territory. For these reasons, many researchers looking to better understand the mountain lion work closely with houndsmen and houndswomen. Dan Stahler is a wildlife biologist in Yellowstone National Park who oversees the park’s wolf, elk and cougar projects. He has managed the cougar program since 2014 and wants to know how many cats there are in the park’s northern region, what they eat, and how they’re responding to wolves and changing elk numbers. Using cutting-edge GPS technology, the cougar team is learning about the energetics of mountain lions and wolves with iridium accelerometer GPS collars. These units are used to detect kill sites and record habitat use, and also identify behaviors like resting, traveling, hunting and feeding. The collar measures the animal’s body position along its three main body axes—vertical, horizontal, and forward and back. This activity data can be compared with results from captive cougar studies to measure caloric expenditures, allowing biologists to study the energetic costs of being a wild carnivore. “If we have baseline information on their basic energetic requirements, we can monitor that and see how they respond to broad spectrum changes in environment, climate or human impacts,” Stahler said. In addition to predicting an individual’s response to change, GPS collaring and DNA sampling is allowing Greater Yellowstone biologists to place family groups on the map and understand how they disperse, better predict what wildlife corridors need to be conserved, and count how many cougars are on the landscape. As an alternative to dogs, biologists can also capture lions with snares or box traps, but Stahler said he still prefers hounds. “I’ve found it’s a very safe, effective way to capture,” he said, adding that traps can catch the wrong animal—and with the high density of carnivores in Yellowstone, a trapped animal can quickly become a target. “There is certainly some level of stress and energetic costs that a lion experiences during the chase from dogs and humans,” Stahler said. “This is the case for any animal that experiences potential threat from an encounter with a predator or competitor who disrupts normal activities and behaviors.” Stahler added that the actual time a cougar is chased—from the time the hounds catch up to it to the time when it climbs a tree—is relatively short. And once treed, he said, the cats tend to resume normal breathing rates and take on a relaxed body posture. “Tens of thousands of years of interacting with competitors like wolves has likely shaped this adaptive response from treed cats,” Stahler said.

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This unique relationship between scientists and a dedicated user group is played out across North America, and the scientists, as well as the people running their dogs, describe the partnership as transformative. “I’ve always found that I learn a lot from the houndsmen. They have their pulse on what’s going on in the local environment,” Stahler said. “I really enjoy that relationship with these salt-of-the-earth people who are also passionate about wildlife. We all have the same end goal. That is to live and recreate in a place where we can enjoy wildlife.” Ryan has been trailing cats in Montana’s Gallatin and Paradise valleys for nearly six years, averaging between 20 and 30 treed mountain lions each year. In that time, he has harvested just one. “I do it for the dogs,” he said, adding that pursuing cougars is a small glimpse into the wild that few have the opportunity to see. “It’s the only way you can follow in the footsteps of a wild animal, a predator, and be a part of what it’s done.”


LAND: CHASING SECRETS

A cat of many names,

Left: Mountain lion and dogs Researchers believe cougars climb trees as an evolved response to being chased by wolves. Often, when pursued by hounds, a lion climbs a tree very quickly, sometimes minutes before the dogs appear. Above: Yellowstone National Park biologist Dan Stahler assesses the teeth of a tranquilized lion that was captured using dogs. Teeth measurements can be used to help with aging estimates. PHOTOS COURTESY OF DAN STAHLER/NPS

Dave Ausband, a carnivore specialist for Idaho Fish and Game, described the skill it takes to work with dogs, calling it a lifestyle rather than a hobby. He said biologists need the skill of a good hound handler. “It’s not like snowmobiles and trucks. We don’t just have hounds sitting around the office that we use,” he said, adding that dogs can track this species that has evolved to be nearly scentless, even if there isn’t a physical paw print in the snow or mud. “Humans are going to have a hard time finding a lion hiding in the brush.” Somewhat unique among state agencies, the large carnivore section of Wyoming Game and Fish is able to keep dog work inhouse. Dan Thompson, the carnivore supervisor, is one of several biologists who answer to the houndsmen call. Thompson grew up in Iowa, where he got an early exposure to running coonhounds in his youth. But it wasn’t until he came to Wyoming and was working on his Ph.D. that he first got a taste of chasing cats. His doctoral work looked at the ecology of cougars in the Black Hills of Wyoming and South Dakota, and hounds were a necessity. “We’ve got a lot of things changing—increasing [lion] distribution across North America, and we’ve got an increase in the number of wolves. Any information on mountain lions can help us understand how to better manage them,” he said. “For their work and compassion, nobody does more for the mountain lion than the houndsmen. They want to see lions on the landscape.”

the mountain lion, cougar or puma is often recognized by biologists as a conservation success story in North America. After Puma concolor was nearly eradicated in the U.S. by a bounty system in the first half of the 1900s, numbers are steadily increasing. In Montana alone, wildlife officials estimate there are between 5,000 and 6,000 lions roaming the hills and forests. This conservation success is largely due to houndsmen, says Jim Williams, the FWP regional supervisor for northwest Montana and the author of the new book Path of the Puma. Williams has over 25 years of experience working as a wildlife biologist, specializing in pumas—his preferred name for the cats—from Canada’s Yukon Territory to Tierra del Fuego in Argentina and Chile. Williams said houndsmen fought the bounty system and later advocated for mountain lions to receive game animal status, which put a season and regulations on their harvest and gave law enforcement the authority to prosecute poachers. “The houndsmen have been integral to the recovery of the mountain lion,” he said. “They live for their hounds and the mountain lions.” The story doesn’t end when lion numbers increase, though. It carries on for perpetuity, and it is the management decisions that are made today that could influence the species’ trajectory in the future. Jay Kolbe, an FWP biologist in White Sulphur Springs, Montana, is the main author of the state’s new mountain lion monitoring proposal, which is available for public review until January 11. This new plan would incorporate advanced modeling projections and annual mountain lion surveys in order to precisely predict the number of mountain lions in Montana. If approved, contracted houndsmen will conduct routine surveys in various areas of the state and collect muscle tissue samples with biopsy darts. This tissue sampling would be used to identify cougars using DNA, indicating travel patterns and ensuring they aren’t counted twice on census reports. Montana is the first state to develop such a comprehensive monitoring strategy, Kolbe said, though he added that Washington state is developing something similar, and he hopes neighboring states will be inspired to adopt comparable plans. “Before now, we had no effective and accurate method to estimate mountain lion population trends,” he said. “Wildlife is managed in trust by the state agencies. We have a responsibility to ensure that those species under that trust are managed sustainably.”

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HUMOR / P. 91

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C U LT U R E THE

ICEMEN

A glimpse into an extinct Montana industry

T

o my grandmother, Opie, it was always called “the icebox.” As my brother and I unpacked her groceries looking for tasty goodies, we learned to read by identifying words on the labels of the boxes and cartons in the brown sacks from the market. “Oh, just put that’n in the icebox,” she would say when we found something that needed to be refrigerated. We always knew that she meant the giant humming Kelvinator refrigerator in the corner of the kitchen, but as a carryover from her era in rural Montana, food items meant to be kept cold belonged in the icebox. It was one thing to have a root cellar for onions and potatoes but quite another to have an icebox to chill meat, eggs, butter, milk and cheese, and no well-appointed household would be without one. It was a mark of prosperity. In the early part of the 19th century many homes had iceboxes and the cottage industry

BY MICHAEL J. OBER

of ice harvesters occupied the workforce alongside wheelwrights, teamsters, harness makers and livery managers—now-forgotten working classes. All across Canada and northern states— anywhere there was water and cold winters— humans gathered ice to cool their food. The early 19th century ice trade industry flourished, generating nearly $700 million in today’s value. It dramatically altered the way fishing and meat packing businesses marketed their products. Most of Montana’s ice harvesting was done on the local level with small commercial markets, and the ice box became a common household appliance. Eventually, electricity replaced them with bulky refrigerator units, some with freezer compartments. But for decades, households relied on Sears Roebuck catalogs to select that ideal kitchen implement to keep things cool, with a block of ice resting on a grill inside an insulated, tin-wrapped box.>>

This photo from the 1950s depicts the annual ice harvest in Montana for Western Fruit Express, which began in 1904 and peaked in the middle of the 20th century. PHOTO COURTESY OF STUMPTOWN HISTORICAL SOCIETY

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CULTURE: ICEMEN Ice harvesters employed gas-powered saws and conveyer belts to increase their productivity. PHOTO COURTESY OF STUMPTOWN HISTORICAL SOCIETY

O

btaining the ice required more ingenuity than real skill. Just about every harvesting method that could be thought of was used. Early on, lengthy hand saws with dual handles sliced through river and lake ice blocks of all sizes. Later, harvesters employed gas-powered saws and conveyer belts to increase productivity. Skilled farmers used their tractors, modified with powered belts to drive circular saw blades with special teeth for ice chipping. Most ranchers in Montana had stock ponds for their animals and with homemade devices like these they could not only secure ice for their home, but could also keep the ponds open as a winter water source for their herds. In town, small businesses emerged to deliver ice, on regular schedules, to households in the same way that milk, mail and newspapers arrived at doorsteps. The ice, after all, was free to the harvesters and tidy profits awaited entrepreneurial souls.

Today, many small communities in Montana have a museum with an antique icebox on display, relics of the 19th century trade. The icehouse in Somers, Montana, just a short stroll from Del’s Bar, is an industrial artifact of the state’s past that looms large over the town. A paved bike path has replaced the old railroad bed adjacent to the three-story, faded wooden structure with its 3-footthick walls lined with sawdust and its louvered venting tower. Ice harvested from Flathead Lake was stored there, awaiting shipment on Great Northern Railway “cooler cars” to cities and towns along its northern routes. As a young girl in Helena, Opie recalled her mother using a cheese grater to shave the last melting chunks of ice from the bottom of the tray to fill glasses with ice chips. Over that she would pour Kool-Aid or lemonade—the original snow cone. “Our chore was to check the drip pan daily and empty it on the vegetable garden,” Opie told me. “If it overflowed

Ice harvested from Flathead Lake was stored at this icehouse in Somers, Montana. PHOTO BY MICHAEL J. OBER

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onto the kitchen floor we always got a scolding.” In the Helena Valley, the winter delivery of ice almost always came from blocks carved out of Canyon Ferry Reservoir. Most of it arrived on wagons, or by sledges in heavy snow seasons. As time went on, Ford Model T trucks with insulated bunkers brought the ice, and a numbered card in the window would tell the deliverymen how many blocks to deposit. “They would sometimes leave the block on the boulevard in front of the house and it was the job for us kids to get it into the house before it melted. They were God-awful heavy!” Opie recalled. “We would use our little wagons to get them to the back steps of the kitchen.” Opie lived to be 101, long enough to see modern refrigerators feature automatic ice makers and dispensers. I’m not sure how she felt about all that, but I do know that, to her last days, it was always “the icebox.”


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CULTURE:SUBHEAD HUMOR SECTION:

Here’s the Scoop:

I Hate Shoveling Snow BY EDNOR THERRIAULT

and the smell of burnt dog hair tells me the baseboard heaters have come on, I go out to the garage to shut off the lawn sprinkler system. I gather the rakes to carry them back to the shed where I’ll swap them for the snow shovels. It’s a grim task. It feels like the Bataan Death March, this depressing ritual that signals the end of summer. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate winter completely. If you’re a regular reader of this fine publication you may have caught my snowboarding piece from last year. And my injuries have healed completely, thanks for asking. Snow can be fun: there’s tubing, sledding, throwing snowballs and building snow individuals. I also simply enjoy looking at it from the comfort of my cozy home, gazing at the soft beauty of a sparkling fresh snowfall.

EACH FALL, AS THE LEAVES BEGIN TO TURN,

ILLUSTRATION BY KELSEY DZINTARS

I wasn’t thinking such thoughts last fall as I rattled the rakes into the corner of the shed and grabbed the pair of battered snow shovels. I like snow; I hate shoveling it. I found myself rooting for climate change to somehow divert all precipitation away from my part of the state until May. I could feel the muscles in my lower back already tweaking just a bit, preliminary baby spasms that signaled several months of Bengay, Icy Hot, and enough moaning, grunting and whimpering to cause Siri to alert the authorities that I’m filming dirty movies in my living room. Sure, I like to pull into a cleared driveway and climb the steps of a snow-free front porch as much as the next guy, but it’s like that old Louis Jordan song, “What’s the Use of Getting Sober (When You’re Gonna Get Drunk Again).” I might spend an hour or more shoveling a few tons of Satan’s dandruff off our driveway and front porch, only to go inside and crack a bottle of adult reward just as the radio tells me another “snowpocalypse” or “blizzardmageddon” or “graupelpalooza” is bearing down on us. I might consider moving to Florida if it weren’t for the giant pythons and crazy people. >>

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CULTURE: HERE’S THE SCOOP

AS WITH MANY TASKS IN MY LIFE, pleasant and otherwise, I turn to music to help get me through. It might seem weird, but when it comes to the drudgery of shoveling snow, I’m oddly comforted and motivated by seemingly counterproductive songs pounding through my earbuds, not some Beach Boys jingle-jangle to take my mind off the situation. My shoveling playlist—entitled “%#?&! Snow”—includes such driveway-clearing anthems as “Working in the Coal Mine,” “Sixteen Tons” and “Take This Job and Shove It.” One January, I was so entranced by Neil Young’s guitar solo on “Cortez the Killer” that I finished the driveway and went on to shovel the backyard. Music helps ease the burden of shoveling, but there’s an evil lurking out there beyond the driveway, a malignant soul-crusher that can send me into a shovelslinging, beanie-tossing tantrum of blood-spitting rage. I’m talking, of course, about the snowplow. It’s happened to all of us: we finally get our driveway cleared, and suddenly we hear it coming from down the street—for me, it’s usually accompanied by the Stones’ “Sympathy for the Devil.” Your stomach drops, and you choke back a couple of sobs as you hear the roar of the engine, the scrape of the blade. The sickening whoosh grows louder as a breaking wave of filthy snow is hurled from the road, burying every parked car in a berm of slush and shoving a massive foothill of Beelzebub’s Bisquick onto the foot of the driveway you’ve just finished clearing. Even though this is the same person you’ll later thank for making sure you can get to work, and your kids safely make it to school, at this moment we hate the snowplow driver. Snow shovelers wouldn’t like this guy even if the plow left a trail of candy canes and 30-year-old scotch. If you live in the Northern Rockies and park on the street, having to dig your vehicle out of a man-made snowbank is probably the second most popular excuse for being late

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It’s happened to all of us: we finally get our driveway cleared, and suddenly we hear it coming from down the street—for me, it’s usually accompanied by the Stones’ “Sympathy for the Devil.”

on a winter workday, right after the Fresh Powder Flu. A couple of years ago, my neighbor across the street bought a snow blower—a big, gas-powered beast that chewed the snow off his driveway like a starved sheep on an overgrown lawn. It looked like fun. It also looked expensive, and I am what some might call “thrifty.” My neighbor is a good guy, and we’ve loaned each other tools and things over the years. Surely he’d watched me over here struggling with the shovel, slipping and falling on the icy concrete, shaking my fist at the sky and cursing the snowflakes while they filled in the spots I’d already shoveled. He may also have heard me singing the refrain from “Sympathy” as the snowplow approached. Surely he’d want to offer up his powerful snow-throwing machine and end my suffering. But I lacked the pride and patience to wait for him to make the offer, so I trudged across the road one day after an apocalyptic snow dump and knocked on his door. “Hey, Joel,” I said, “I was just wondering if you ever returned my lawn mower you borrowed last summer.” He looked at me like I had an ear growing out of my forehead. “Your lawnmower? Yeah, I even put it in your shed, remember? Back in that corner by the rakes.” The rakes. To his credit, he offered me the snow blower and didn’t even ask about the frozen tears on my cheek.


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For these young musicians, a sense of place germinates success BY CLAIRE CELLA

The definitions of “root” are many, and include to enter the earth, to become established, to begin to grow, or to search and rummage. Synonymous with “source” and “origin,” the word serves as a metaphor for the young careers of a group of American roots musicians in the Northern Rockies: Kalyn Beasley; Alysia Kraft of Whippoorwill; and Dusty Nichols and Bo Elledge of Canyon Kids. In the process of coming-of-age, they all spent time rummaging through memories and early influences, new hopes and old fears, to form a sense of self and original sound in an increasingly dynamic, and difficult, music industry.

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An industry, according to Skip Anderson, that is also trying to answer the question: What do we do with this music? Anderson is an award-winning journalist who has covered music, and specifically roots music, for nearly two decades in Nashville, Tennessee, and now, from Bozeman, Montana. He describes the genre as anchored by strong songwriting from genuine artists, independent of major record labels, who make music for the craft of it. Sometimes called Americana, roots music includes the acoustic tradition, but also blues, jazz, rock and country—flavors and sounds that don’t lend themselves to radio play or an easy place to call home, Anderson said.


CULTURE

KALYN

BEASLEY Kalyn Beasley was born, raised and currently lives in Cody, Wyoming—population just under 10,000 and known as the “Rodeo Capital of the World.” He grew up steeped in the tradition of cowboys and guitar chords, listening to his father’s country band, After the Rodeo. Beasley became a cowboy himself, competing as a saddle bronc rider throughout high school and into college at Montana State University in Bozeman. It was there that he first picked up a guitar, and also where he learned that he had a story to tell. Beasley and a few friends formed the countryrock band The Bad Intentions in 2011, and played in bars across Montana and Wyoming. They recorded an album in 2012 and moved to Austin, Texas, to try to “set the world on fire,” Beasley said with a laugh. Despite early success, something about the ease “I think people can of making music in the Northern Rockies, financially and otherwise, smell bullshit from a always called them back home. The mile away. If I tried to group disbanded in 2014 to pursue write about anything other interests, and Beasley moved back to Cody to manage a cattle other than what I ranch and write songs again. know, I wouldn’t be “I think it’s much easier to make able to sustain that.” music in a place like Cody than in Austin,” he said. “Being disconnected from my constituency, from the people I relate to and care about, that was hard.” He landed his first show as a solo singer-songwriter in 2014 at Juniper, a wine bar in Cody. No longer concerned with performing “rollicking, high-tempo, Texas-style fiddle-driven songs that get people drinking and dancing in bars,” Beasley instead shows up to sing about his life. “You go through life, you move, you break up, you mess up—if you’re like me,” he laughed. “I consider myself a nonfiction writer. I don’t try to make up stories that aren’t true. I like keeping people thinking, laughing, smiling, and I’m constantly PHOTO BY JUSTINE MAY getting better at that.” Beasley has played hundreds of shows each year across the West since 2015, and released his first full-length album, Northerner, in 2016. He calls Although the genre still struggles to find a home in the industry, it “Western Americana” because it centers on his experience living in the Northern Rockies. It’s more these musicians don’t seem to—they’ve found success with the support of a testament to place and culture than a loyalty to of their communities, and the songs they draw from their surroundings. sound; it’s an authentic experience that resonates “There’s a strong sense of place for people who live in the West. It’s with the people he’s playing to because it speaks to the place he’s playing from. a huge place with a small population—we’re here by choice,” Anderson “I think people can smell bullshit from a mile said. away,” he said. “If I tried to write about anything With a natural beauty and certain quality of life, the Western other than what I know, I wouldn’t be able to sustain that. landscape inspires appreciation and authenticity—and good songwriting, “You can broaden your audience and your reach he added. Knowingly or not, these musicians’ songs are rooted in the West by being real,” he added. “And if I take a step back, I and its culture as they write and sing about their lives in small towns, the realize this is a lot of people’s dreams.”>>

drama of open spaces and rugged mountains, and the questions of humanity.

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The members of Whippoorwill (from top, clockwise): Tobias Bank, Staci Foster and Alysia Kraft. PHOTO BY CHELSEA GILMORE

ALYSIA

KRAFT of Whippoorwill

Alysia Kraft was born in Encampment, Wyoming—a town 20 times smaller than Cody, but of a beauty “that most people don’t understand,” she said. Kraft grew up riding around in her father’s truck on their cattle ranch, listening to ‘90s country on the radio. She thinks this early experience infiltrates her music as part of Whippoorwill, the folk-rock trio she formed with Staci Foster and Tobias Bank in 2016. Prior to Whippoorwill, Kraft had been the fierce and soulful vocalist for the rock ‘n’ roll band, The Patti Fiasco. Their 2013 tour “Who I am and took them to the South by Southwest (SXSW) how I learned to be music festival in Austin, human and interact where Kraft met Foster, with other humans a local musician. The two shared the weekend at Hill is shaped by where I Country swimming holes came from.” and learned that they also both shared a yearning to write songs that dripped of Western life, its impenetrable vastness and its surprising beauty. The encounter forged in Kraft the feeling that she could finally make the music she wanted to, rich with intricate harmonies and deep intimacy. Although the two parted ways after that first fateful meeting, they were soon back together in Fort Collins, Colorado, writing and recording their debut EP, Good to Be Around, as Whippoorwill and hitting pause on work with their other bands. The stories sung by Whippoorwill are tender and true, and the wide-open enormity of the Western landscape plays a profound role. “I couldn’t imagine trying to make music anywhere else but in the West,” Kraft said. “Who I am and how I learned to be human and interact with other humans is shaped by where I came from—a cattle ranch in rural Wyoming. Staci and I are both rooted in the places we came from—it’s inevitable we’d be a roots band.”

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CULTURE: MUSIC

CANYON

KIDS

Dusty Nichols and Bo Elledge say their band was formed on the banks of the Snake River where the two friends worked as photographers, capturing guided raft trips that would float by. While they waited, they wrote songs, using the rapids as the rhythm section, Elledge joked. The duo’s upcoming 2019 album was inspired almost entirely by that time on the Snake, too. “Or at least, using water as a metaphor for other things,” Elledge said. One song, called “Indecision Ocean” speaks to the uncertain way that water moves, which mimics the decision he and Nichols made, and still question, to stay in Jackson, Wyoming, to try to make music as the Canyon Kids. Neither of the musicians grew up in the West, but when they moved here as recent college graduates in the late 2000s, they found, as many do, that they couldn’t leave. They’ve been piecing together seasonal jobs and music gigs ever since, humble and grateful for the lifestyle Jackson has afforded them, the songs the place has spawned, and the success the tight-knit creative community has helped them maintain. “We know there are other major music markets out there: L.A., Austin, Nashville,”

Nichols said. “And while those places are appealing, you’re one among thousands. The chances are that if you’re eating in a restaurant, the busser of your table is a better guitar player than you. But here you can get heard, and paid, to be a musician. We’re the ones being contacted.” The two are often joined by other bandmates to form a full ensemble, complete with a fiddle, drums, a saxophone and threepart harmony. The band sings frequently about living in a small mountain town—both the pros, as well as the cons, like getting stuck in the valley during long, harsh winter snowstorms. As a duo, Nichols and Elledge find their goals are less about making it big or keeping their music within the boundaries of genre and more

The Canyon Kids as a full about keeping ensemble (from left to the tradition of songwriting alive. right): Shawn Flemming, Dusty Nichols, Joe Rudd, Leif Because of Routman and Bo Elledge. Jackson’s relative PHOTO BY ZACH MONTES isolation, Elledge said it’s hard to feel a part of any broader musical scene, but at the same time he’s aware of the incomparable opportunities this outlying location provides. They’re one of the few folk-rock bands in Wyoming and open for many of the national touring acts that pass through. “And if you’re doing that enough, and getting paid to make music, I think you’ve made it,” Elledge said.


CULTURE

Promoted by culinary enthusiasts, health nuts and gastronomy pioneers, fermentation is an accelerating food trend in kitchens around the world. But this seemingly new trend has a rich history as an ancient form of preservation. While our ancestors may have used the process to preserve and ensure their food was safe to eat, today’s market is consuming these products for their unique and funky flavors, as well as their health benefits. While using the process for preservation is still practiced, fermentation has been replaced by more convenient technological advancements in many applications. Fermented products like kimchi, kombucha and tempeh have flooded the shelves of supermarkets, and in the following pages we’ll explore how these products are made and why they’re good for us.

fermenTAtion

FAscinaTiOn BY CARIE BIRKMEIER

tion? what exactly is fermenta Substrate

living microbes

(the product that will be fermented)

(bacteria and yeasts that will feed on natural sugars that exist in the substrate)

fermented food (end product with a unique flavor and potential health benefits)

grapes yogurt

milk

sauerkraut

ge

a cabb

wine

Debunk the funk: Aren’t fermentation and pickling the same thing? Pickled foods are preserved by vinegar in a sterile environment, whereas fermented foods are created in a clean, but not sterile, environment where live microbes are still able to grow and thrive. Pickled foods are shelf stable, but since they are sterile, they do not contain health-forward probiotics that many fermented foods do.

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reaping the benefits Preservation

Health & Digestion

-

The nutritional and health benefits present in many fermented foods are numerous. Because our physiological function requires the presence of bacteria, foods like kimchi and kombucha can help replenish, support and diversify these necessary microbes.

Fermentation has been a valuable process throughout history because of its ability to preserve food. Over time, this ancient process has been replaced with refrigeration, canning and unnatural preservatives, but it is still an applicable method to increase the shelf life of food.

Flavor Enhancer

Energy Efficiency

The process of fermentation results in bold and complex tastes, allowing culinarians to explore deeper flavors that provide a benefit less utilitarian and more pleasurable.

Since fermentation does not require cooking, heat or temperature control for storage, it can be considered one of the more energy-efficient ways for preserving food.

a cLoser look: Kombucha Kombucha is fermented tea. This is how it’s made. tea

sugar

SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast) With each batch of kombucha made, a new SCOBY is produced. You can use it to make a new batch, or pass it on to an aspiring fermenter so that they can share in the pleasure of home-brewing kombucha.

Glass Jar + Cheese Cloth Place the sweet tea and SCOBY into a clean glass jar and cover with cheese cloth. Allow to ferment at room temperature for one to two weeks, tasting the brew as it ferments until it reaches your desired flavor. The longer it sits, the more sour it will become as the SCOBY feeds on the sugar.

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Funnel + Bottles with tightfitting lids Once you’re satisfied with the flavor of your mixture, pour the mixture into bottles, ¾ of the way full. Leaving room rather than filling the bottles will allow more carbonation to form during this step. At this point, you can also add any flavorings you’d like to the bottles, such as a piece of ginger, a slice of lemon or a few raspberries. Tightly seal the bottles and leave at room temperature for one day. Transfer to the refrigerator until cool and enjoy.


CULTURE: FERMENTATION

equipment for your ferment Essential tools for fermenting at home

Large Glass Jar A vessel to keep your ferments in

Weights

To keep veggies and other products submerged in their brine while fermenting

A Sharp Knife or Mandoline Great tools for shredding, slicing and dicing veggies

Cheesecloth A barrier to keep dirt and debris out of your ferment

Bottles

To portion liquid ferments like kombucha and kefir

Masking Tape and Permanent Markers To label your finished concoctions with a name and date

Thermometer For temperature control

try it yourself: Kimchi What you’ll need 2 pounds Napa cabbage, roughly chopped 10-12 cups water ½ cup salt 1 medium daikon radish, julienned 5 scallions, both white and green parts, cut into ½-inch pieces 2 tablespoons red pepper flakes ¼ cup fish sauce ¼ cup fresh ginger, minced 6 garlic cloves, minced 2 teaspoons granulated sugar 2-quart glass jar with a tight-fitting lid

Instructions Rinse the cabbage leaves, place them in a colander over a bowl, and sprinkle generously with salt. Let sit for 30 minutes, and then mix the cabbage and salt again, letting it sit an additional 30 minutes. Repeat once more for a total of 1.5 hours. Rinse again and shake free of any excess liquid. In a mixing bowl, combine the remaining ingredients. Add in the cabbage and mix together until all ingredients are thoroughly combined and coated. Pack the mixture very tightly into the glass jar, cramming as much of the mixture in as possible. Place the lid on the jar, screwing it on but not all the way tight. Let the jar sit out at room temperature for 48 to 72 hours, until the mixture begins to bubble and become fragrant. Store in the refrigerator and enjoy for up to six months.

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CULTURE: RECIPES

Hunker Down & spice it up SPECIAL ADVERTISING SECTION

Whether from seeds or leaves, bark or berries, flowers or roots, spices are harvested from all parts of plants, bringing life and color to dishes, invigorating taste buds and delighting palates around the globe. They can add a subtle hint of flavor, pack a potent punch of heat, and can even evoke feelings of nostalgia. Spices arguably can define an entire cuisine. From the lingering heat of Thai chilis and Indian curries, to the complex fusion of global flavors that is Cajun cuisine, these flavorful plant components become defining ingredients for cultures throughout the world. Kick it up a notch as we discover four regional restaurants using spice to bring life to some of their most popular dishes. – Carie Birkmeier

Watch videos of these recipes being made at mtoutlaw.com/dining

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Feast Raw Bar & Bistro Sharing exceptional cuisine and inviting guests to participate in an epicurean dining experience is the driving force of Feast. Serving the best in sustainable seafood, as well as locally sourced meats and produce, Feast is a unique Bozeman eatery. 270 West Kagy Boulevard, Suite C, Bozeman, Montana. feastbistro.com (406) 577-2377

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Salmon Spice Rub 2 cups brown sugar 1/4 cup chili powder 1/4 cup ground cumin 1/4 cup ground ginger 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon 1 teaspoon ground clove

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper 1/4 cup kosher salt Salmon fillets

Mix all ingredients, except salmon, thoroughly until there are no clumps of brown sugar. Coat salmon well with spice rub. Heat a skillet with 3 tablespoons of olive oil on medium-high heat. Sear salmon for 1 minute on each side or until caramelized. Finish salmon in a 400-degree oven to desired doneness. Consider serving over udon noodles with spicy dashi broth, fresh spinach and cilantro. Garnish with pickled ginger, scallion and Fresno chilis. Store your spice rub in an airtight container for up to six months. The rub can be used on fish, chicken, pork or roasted vegetables.

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CULTURE: RECIPES

Lotus Pad Fresh, fun, organic: Lotus Pad proudly serves Asian cuisine and Thai specialties with local and organic ingredients in a vibrant atmosphere. Beloved by locals, Lotus Pad has also won Best Restaurant in Big Sky six times, according to Explore Big Sky newspaper readers. 47 Town Center Avenue, Unit D1, Big Sky, Montana. lotuspad.net (406) 995-2728

Lone Peak Brewery & Taphouse Lone Peak Brewery & Taphouse has been a Big Sky locals’ favorite since 2007. Their jambalaya is a spicy creole dish with Redneck Andouille sausage, chicken and shrimp over sticky rice, and it’s been on the menu since the very beginning. This dish is enjoyed by patrons every month of the year. 48 Market Place, Big Sky, Montana. lonepeakbrewery.com (406) 995-3939

Jambalaya 3/4 pound chicken breast, chopped 3 links cooked Redneck Andouille sausage, sliced in thin diagonals 1 cup onion, chopped 1 cup celery, chopped 1 cup each Anaheim, red and yellow bell peppers, chopped 4 cups chicken broth 1 32-ounce can pear tomatoes 4 ounces tomato paste 4 tablespoons Lone Peak Break Jambalaya Seasoning Garlic to taste, minced Jalapenos to taste, minced 2 cups medium-grain white rice 2 tablespoons olive oil Rinse the rice several times in cold water, drain and add to a pot with 2 cups of water on medium heat. Simmer for 20 minutes or until it’s about to boil over. Turn off stove range, but don’t remove from the heat source for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let it sit for an additional 10 minutes, leaving covered the entire time.  In a large stockpot, heat olive oil on medium-high heat and sauté chicken breast. Sprinkle jambalaya seasoning generously to coat chicken well, before it begins to cook. Stir occasionally until mostly done. Add onion, celery and bell peppers, then the garlic and jalapeno spread. Add 1/2 cup water, stir and cover to sweat the vegetables for approximately 10 minutes. Add the andouille sausage, cover and sweat for an additional 10 minutes. Add chicken broth, tomato paste and pear tomatoes, then stir and simmer for 10 minutes.

Famous Lotus Pad Larp 2 ounces oil (peanut or coconut) 6 ounces ground pork 1 fresh Thai chili 1 tablespoon garlic, minced 1 tablespoon soy sauce 1 tablespoon fish sauce  2 tablespoons sugar  1 lime, juiced 1/4 teaspoon cayenne Small handful basil, chopped Small handful shallot 1 tablespoon peanuts, chopped 1 tablespoon puffed rice as garnish (optional) Heat oil in a pan over medium-high heat, then add pork and Thai chili, and sauté until two-thirds cooked through. Add garlic and shallots and cook for 1 minute. Add soy sauce, fish sauce and sugar, and cook for an additional 2 minutes. Add basil and cayenne and stir to combine. Remove from heat. Garnish with peanuts and puffed rice. Serve with 8-10 lettuce leaves.

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CULTURE: RECIPES

Michaelangelo’s Ristorante Italiano

The world-renowned San Marzano tomato originated from the rich volcanic soils of Mount Vesuvius near Naples, Italy. This thick-fleshed and nearly seedless tomato delivers a bittersweet and less acidic flavor, and is a favorite of Michael Annandono, the owner and executive chef of Michaelangelo’s Ristorante Italiano. Pair these tomatoes with sweet lobster meat, shaved garlic and white wine to create a spicy pasta dish that has been a staple in southern Italy for generations. 75 Center Lane, Big Sky, Montana. michaelangelosbigsky.com (406) 995-7373

Lobster Fra Diablo (serves two)

3 quarts boiling water 1 tablespoon sea salt 1/2 pound spaghetti, dry or uncooked 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 2 garlic cloves, slivered 1 10-ounce lobster tail or 1.5-pound whole lobster, split and knuckle and claw meat pulled 1 cup San Marzano tomato, pureed 1 cup red and yellow cherry tomatoes, roasted 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes 3/4 cup Greco di Tufo or other dry Italian white wine 1 teaspoon fresh oregano, chopped 1 tablespoon flat leaf parsley, chopped Sea salt and black pepper, to taste Boil water in a large pot, add sea salt and reserve. In a medium sauté pan, heat olive oil on medium-high with slivered garlic and roasted tomatoes for 1 minute. Add the lobster meat, white wine, oregano, parsley, San Marzano tomato, red pepper flakes and cook approximately 4 minutes, or until wine has reduced by half. Cover and let simmer until lobster is no longer translucent. Cook pasta 7-8 minutes in the boiling water until al dente, then season with sea salt and black pepper to taste. Mix pasta with sauce and serve.

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A BOUNDLESS WONDER Rated one of the “Top Three River Trips� in the world by National Geographic, the Middle Fork of the Salmon is an immersive, once-in-alifetime adventure in the center of 2.3 million acres of Idaho wilderness. A Boundless Wonder showcases the experience of the river through the eyes of youth. View A Boundless Wonder and other stories from the Middle Fork at boundaryexpeditions.com

5 N I G H T + 6 D AY R I V E R T R I P S

Middle Fork of the Salmon River, Idaho B O O K AT B O U N DA RY E X P E D I T I O N S .C O M O R ( 8 8 8 ) 9 4 8 - 4 3 3 7 Boundary Expeditions operates under special use permits with the Salmon Challis National Forest and Payette National Forest and is an equal opportunity provider.

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BUSBY AUCTION GROUP

PAT BUSBY

|

AUCTIONEER & REALTOR

406-580-9262 | PBUSBY1961@GMAIL.COM | BUSBYAUCTIONGROUP.COM


Despite what the U.S. Supreme Court decided in its controversial Citizens United ruling of 2010, corporations are not people. They don’t have a beating heart or a conscience and they’re beholden to stockholders to pursue profit over all else. At least, that was the dominant paradigm before the early 1980s, when awardwinning author John Elkington began advocating for corporate social responsibility through the think tank he founded, now known as SustainAbility. In the mid-1990s, Elkington began measuring corporate performance through a framework known as the triple bottom line that looked beyond profits, investment returns and shareholder value. Looking at comprehensive investment results—that included environmental and social metrics—this accounting framework has since been adopted by businesses, nonprofits and governments around the globe. The outdoor gear companies featured in this guide epitomize the ethics of socially responsible accounting, putting the Earth and its inhabitants on the same playing field as stockholder returns and business growth. We support these companies because they care about the future of this planet, and so do we. -Tyler Allen

Sustainable Style. PHOTOS BY JENNINGS BARMORE


GEAR

Klean Kanteen – Insulated TKPro 25oz

Klean Kanteen’s TKPro line boasts food-grade stainless steel and vacuum insulation to keep beverages hot even in the depths of the coldest winter days. Clever dotted threading allows 360 degree pouring without removing the inner cap, while the outer cap acts as its own double-walled insulated mug: all you need wherever you are this winter. Building products designed to last, Klean Kanteen pursues sustainability through durability, evading single-use plastics so that one bottle endures for years of abuse. The company innovates toward environmental viability in their product design, materials, and energy usage, even carbon offsetting their shipping emissions. $45 kleankanteen.com

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Patagonia Workwear

Hemp, recycled polyester and organic cotton all play roles in Patagonia’s ranch-rugged Workwear line, melding breathability with rawhide toughness and environmental responsibility. Patagonia’s story has been woven into the natural world from the start, with its roots in founder Yvon Chouinard’s eponymous climbing gear company, splitting off into a legendary apparel maker and evolving into the multifaceted organization of today. Causing no unnecessary harm and using business to create and implement solutions to environmental crisis are two of the company’s core tenets. Their designs bend toward minimalism and simplicity to empower human-powered sports in nearly every ecosystem of world. $179 Men’s Iron Forge Hemp Canvas Ranch Jacket; $199 Men’s Burly Man Hooded Jacket; $79 Men’s Long Sleeve Western Snap Shirt patagonia.com

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GEAR

SECTION: SUBHEAD

Matador Packable Adventure Travel Gear

Packable, sturdy and reusable: That’s the name of the game for the FlatPak Soap Bar Case and Toiletry Bottle. Made of Cordura fabric sealed with a proprietary waterproofing coat, these TSA-approved travel pouches keep it light and simple for the minimalist traveler. An obsession for traveling light fuels Matador’s product innovations and they’re committed to helping you eliminate single-use travel containers to reduce your plastic footprint. With thoughtful design and durable materials, their goal is dependability without sacrificing the versatility of the traveler. Your gear should last for one adventure after another. $13 each matadorup.com

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Toad&Co Kennicott Shirt Jac

This stylish and eco-friendly buttonup combines reclaimed Italian wool with a mix of other fibers processed via mechanical—instead of chemical—means. Warmth and class shake hands in this moisture-wicking layer that you can sport for a day of winter exploration or a night on the town. From its conception as Horny Toad in a Telluride, Colorado garage in 1991, Toad&Co has revolved around clothing with a conscience. Their products are made with recycled, non-GMO, organic materials when possible, and they use processes that respect natural resources and safeguard wearers from harmful chemical exposure. $129 toadandco.com

Stio Lone Tree Shirt

Built as a salute to the classic field shirt, the Lone Tree Shirt earns praise in wide-open spaces and offices alike, being professional and functional enough for both. The fabric’s breathability and stretch lend mountain innovation to the classic ranch-flannel look. A portion of the proceeds from sales of the Lone Tree line are donated to the American Prairie Reserve, a Montana-based nonprofit dedicated to sustaining the longevity and biodiversity of the Northern Great Plains. For the Jackson, Wyoming-based company, success hinges on preservation of the natural world. Stio sources environmentally friendly materials, fosters trust and accountability in their manufacturing partnerships, and produces gear of the highest outdoor quality. $129 stio.com

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There’s a pioneer in all of us.

www.ctagroup.com/living

ALLATIN IMBERWRIGHTS

Dedicated and experienced team of craftsmen with an emphasis on form and function gallatintimberwrights.com | 406.219.4053


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ADVENTURE

Blue River Bounty How Mike Wiegele built a powder skiing empire deep in the British Columbia backcountry BY BRIAN HURLBUT


SECTION: SUBHEAD Left: Mike Wiegele’s heli-skiing operation in British Columbia offers clients more than a million acres of terrain in the Monashee and Cariboo mountains. PHOTO BY JOHN SCHWIRTLICH

Right: Ski film pioneer Warren Miller and Mike Wiegele, pictured here in Blue River in 2000, forged a friendship that lasted more than half a century. PHOTO BY DON COLE HARVEY

W M

uch like the late, legendary filmmaker Warren Miller, not everyone understood Mike Wiegele’s vision. As Miller toured the world promoting skiing through his annual movies, Wiegele was busy strategizing how to entice more skiers to the pristine powder he had discovered in the remote mountains of British Columbia. The owner of Mike Wiegele Helicopter Skiing turned 80 years old in September, he’ll celebrate his 50th year in business next winter, and he shows no signs of slowing down. In the late 1960s, the idea of bringing paying guests into the backcountry was unheard of—and logistically difficult. Unless, Wiegele thought, you have a helicopter. “Who would spend money to go flying in the mountains to ski?” said Carman Smith, a third-generation logger who has spent his life in southeast British Columbia’s North Thompson River valley. Smith met Wiegele soon after he moved to the area. “He had a totally different vision than what we had,” Smith said. “We hadn’t really thought about the mountains for recreation. I never dreamt of skiing up there.” Smith, 82, and Wiegele have now been friends for nearly five decades, and Smith’s logging operation helped create some of the runs that Wiegele’s clients pay big bucks to ski. But back then, when Wiegele had sketches on napkins and daydreams about creating one of the world’s first heli-skiing operations, Smith just thought he was nuts.

arren Miller and Mike Wiegele were also longtime friends and kindred spirits who met in 1963. Miller came to Blue River, British Columbia, to film for the first time in 1973 and Wiegele’s operation appeared in more than 20 of his films. Miller passed away in January 2018 at age 93, but left a lasting legacy of the ski bum-turnedentrepreneur lifestyle, which Wiegele still embraces today. “He put trust in people and his friends when getting into the business, and that’s what I try to [do] today,” Wiegele said of Miller. “He’s gone, but his spirit is still with us.” Born in Austria to a family of farmers who weren’t avid skiers, Wiegele nevertheless gravitated to the sport. Growing up, he skied whenever he wasn’t doing farm chores and eventually earned a spot on the national junior race team. By the time he was 21, he wanted out of postwar Austria and in 1959 emigrated to Canada, a place he’d been fixated on since he was a young boy, listening to stories from when his father and grandparents spent time working there. After arriving in Banff, and then leaving for brief ski-instructing stints at Mount Tremblant in Quebec and California’s Sugar Bowl, he returned in 1965 and opened his own ski school at Lake Louise. One of his first students was Ken Read, who at age 20 became the first North American to win a World Cup downhill race. The same year Wiegele opened his ski school, his Austrian friend and renowned mountaineer, Hans Gmoser, started flying skiers into the Canadian mountains with helicopters. Gmoser and Wiegele spent many days together in the high peaks during the early ‘60s, touring in the backcountry and looking for the best snow. Gmoser’s operation eventually became Canadian Mountain Holidays and is still in existence today, although he died in 2006.

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ADVENTURE: MIKE WEIGELE

The first flight to Sir Wilfrid Laurier Glacier in the Cariboos, in March 1970. PHOTO COURTESY OF MIKE WIEGELE HELICOPTER SKIING ARCHIVES

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With an average annual snowfall of nearly 400 inches, he believes the mountains around Blue River are the perfect hen the helicopters landed on the scene, backcountry powder skiing in Canada became a nascent industry. Gmoser powder paradise. “It’s truly the most reliable and consistent snowfall,” he made a film featuring him and Wiegele heli-skiing and Gmoser immediately jumped into the business of taking said. “If you have good snow, you have happy customers.” guests. Wiegele followed suit a few years later, starting Wiegele is proud to point out that his company hasn’t in the town of Valemount at the foot of Mount Robson missed an opening day in 49 years, and that last winter Provincial Park, and eventually there were only four down days due to settling on a remote British Columbia weather—the season typically begins around Dec. 1 and wraps up by mid-April. valley nestled between two striking “The helicopter quickly According to Wiegele, a crucial mountain ranges, the Monashees and made you realize that component to his success is the staff. the Cariboos. The tiny logging town of Blue River, located between Jasper there was much more to Treating them more like family than employees, Wiegele has a long history and Kamloops, would serve as his base be had,” Wiegele said. of taking good care of good people. Bob area. “The helicopter quickly made you Sayer, 62, earned a trip to Blue River 32 “We have a vastness realize that there was much more to years ago, after winning the Canadian Powder 8 Championships at Lake Louise. be had,” Wiegele said. “We have a of choices and that’s He came to compete in the world finals vastness of choices and that’s heliheli-skiing—having the at Wiegele’s, and soon after signed on as skiing—having the choices.” a guide—his dream job after working as a Wiegele’s business now has well choices.” patroller and seeing Wiegele’s featured in over a million acres of terrain and more than 1,000 peaks they can several Warren Miller films. access, on public land leased from the Canadian government. More than three decades later, Sayer is now a lead guide Guests can stay at the main lodge in Blue River or one of and the operations manager for the business. He was one of several private lodges scattered around the mountains. the few guides back then with a family, and Mike Wiegele Wiegele has built a luxurious, comfortable experience for his made it possible for him to make a living in the mountains. “He didn’t have to—I was just another young heli-ski clients, which average about 1,300 per winter. His company guide—but over the years I have been always really well has also become the benchmark in an industry with close to taken care of by Mike,” Sayer said. “He wants the best for his two-dozen heli-skiing operations in British Columbia alone. company and his clients, and he knows that you will get the While the amenities do attract clientele, Wiegele knows that it still boils down to the bounty found on the slopes. best out of people if you treat them well.”

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Above: Wiegele spent years scouting the British Columbia mountains before opening his business in Blue River. PHOTO COURTESY OF MIKE WIEGELE HELICOPTER SKIING ARCHIVES

Below: At 80 years old, Mike Wiegele is still the chief powder tester for his heli-skiing business. PHOTO BY JASON MARTIN

hese days a top Wiegele guide can make six figures; it’s hard work and long hours, but the dedication can pay off. “We’re attracting high-quality people,” Wiegele said. “It has developed into a profession where you can make a living. The myth is gone that it’s a bum job.” During the winter, the small community of Blue River swells with Wiegele employees. From dishwashers and housekeepers to massage therapists and cooks, Wiegele has about 240 people on staff during the peak season. That’s more than the entire town’s population, which has shrunk from about 650 to less than 200 in the nearly 50 years since Wiegele started. In an area where the logging and railroad industries once reigned, recreation now drives the local economy. “Mike is really community minded,” said Carman Smith, the logger. “He has always been there for us.” Smith described an event, many years ago, when one of his workers was hit in the head by a tree and badly injured. They were in a remote area that an ambulance couldn’t reach, and Wiegele happened to have a rare down day because of low fog. “He took a helicopter and flew just above the highway, and followed the logging road all the way in,” Smith recalled. “He had a German doctor on board and we loaded my guy into the helicopter and flew right down to the hospital.” Smith credits Wiegele for saving the man’s life. There was also the harrowing rescue in 1990, when Wiegele pulled survivors, including his own wife Bonnie, out of a burning helicopter that had crash-landed. These acts earned Wiegele a Medal of Bravery from the Governor General of Canada and helped cement his place in the Canadian Ski Hall of Fame. But the awards don’t mean as much as his innovations in snow safety and the impact they have had on the industry. He founded the Canadian Ski Guide Association in 1990, and that same year initiated avalanche research with the University of Calgary—something that all heli-ski operators now participate in. “Many of the things that are standard operating procedure in the industry started with Mike—he’s always five steps further down the road than everybody else,” Sayer said. “His focus on safety has no limits, and his belief that nothing should get in the way of safety is his legacy.” This focus on safety indirectly led him to be a pioneer of wider, shorter powder skis. In the early days, clients would often want the stiffest, longest skis available—up to 225 centimeters—for powder skiing, but Wiegele thought there was a better way. He started drawing up prototypes in the 1970s, but it wasn’t until the late 1980s that he was able to convince Atomic to make a ski specifically for deep, untracked powder. “Just make me a ski for the skiers and not for the racers,” he told them. “We have to make a better ski.” The Atomic Powder Magic debuted in 1988. With a 115-centimeter waist, they were not for the average skier, but in the mountains above Blue River they were ideal. The Powder Plus followed, becoming a standard that helped usher in the fat ski revolution. All of these safety and product innovations are driven by one fact: Mike Wiegele loves to ski and he loves to take people skiing. Yes, he’s built a successful business over the years, but what hasn’t changed is his devotion to the sport he loves. M T O U T L AW. C O M / MOUNTAIN

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or his 80th birthday last fall, Wiegele again rode his bike 512 kilometers, from Banff to Blue River, in his annual Tour de Blue event to kick off the 49th year in business. The ride is part of Wiegele’s Get Fit for Winter program, designed to inspire his team for the upcoming ski season. And he did it with a bum knee, which was surgically repaired in late September. He plans to be healed in time to ski by February, the peak of the Blue River ski season. “He’s as driven now as much as he was when he was 50,” Sayer said. “Mike doesn’t sit still.” Sayer likes to tell a story from 1988 when Wiegele built the existing main lodge and chalets in Blue River. After construction was done, Wiegele lived in a small room in the basement, because he just needed a place to sleep for the winter. “Here was this big, beautiful lodge and the owner lived in a storage closet because that’s all he needed,” Sayer said. “Mike is the consummate ski bum. He’s done well in life but all he really wants in life is to go skiing. And if he can go skiing everyday then he’s happy.” Wiegele echoes this sentiment. After all, he moved halfway across the world as a young man to explore the Canadian mountains and to seek out the best powder. It’s what many winter enthusiasts do at some point in their lives, but in Wiegele’s case, he’s managed to create and sustain a business that empowers other snow lovers to follow their dreams. Much like the inspiration that Warren Miller evoked with his annual ski films, Wiegele wants people to experience the freedom that comes from gliding through powder. In 2020 he’ll celebrate the 50th year of Mike Wiegele Helicopter Skiing, and it’s a safe bet that he’ll be just as excited as he was during that first season of flying clients to the high peaks of British Columbia. “I’m motivated by the quality of skiing, the quality of snow, and the quality of friendships you develop,” Wiegele said. “That turns into a package of having fun living.” Mike Wiegele is clearly still having fun. While some people his age dream about winter retreats to palm trees and sandy beaches, this skiing pioneer is waxing his boards for another season in the mountains—and he wouldn’t have it any other way.

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Above: Wiegele hosts an annual, 512-kilometer bike ride called the Tour de Blue. PHOTO BY DEANNA KRISTENSEN

Below: Mike Wiegele pictured at the helipads of his Blue River Resort. PHOTO BY JOHN SCHWIRTLICH


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HOW THEY

SKI IT Four ski areas in the Northern Rockies and the locals that define them BY BAY STEPHENS

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ADVENTURE: HOW THEY SKI IT

Bridger Bowl Big Sky Resort Grand Targhee Resort Jackson Hole Mountain Resort

PHOTO BY DAVID STUBBS

What defines a ski mountain? It’s not just terrain and snowfall, but also the locals that populate the lift lines nearly every powder day. People put down roots in ski towns for many reasons, but a loyalty to one mountain requires a certain resonance between an individual, the ski hill and the community that supports it. We set out to find quintessential locals at four ski areas in the Greater Yellowstone: Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, Grand Targhee Resort, Big Sky Resort and Bridger Bowl. We spent a few days at each, scouring the slopes and hitting the après scene to find the everyday people that make these areas what they are. While no rider can fully represent a ski hill’s culture, they can offer a glimpse. The following stories paint these mountains with the lives of those who love to ski them. >> BRIDGER BOWL

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Accessed with a transmitting avalanche transceiver and by hoofing your gear up a boot-packed trail, Bridger Bowl’s ridge terrain has captured the heart of Bozeman skiers and snowboarders for decades. Caleb Arnold counts as one of these devotees. His family drove out from Minnesota when he was 12 years old for a trip to Bridger, Arnold’s first experience skiing a mountain over 200 feet tall. When they reached the base, he couldn’t even wait for his family to finish putting their gear on—he jumped on the lift and left them behind. “I remember riding up the Powder Park [chairlift] that first day and just being blown away,” he said. “It was a spring ski day and the mountain was just—I was just in heaven.” As soon as he graduated high school in 2000, he moved to Bozeman and has had a season

pass ever since. A self-proclaimed “ridge rat,” Arnold has watched the flow of Bridger’s lower mountain change with the addition of new lifts, while his beloved ridge has largely stayed the same. Arnold appreciates how Bridger Bowl functions as a nonprofit community ski area, operating for reasons beyond the bottom line. “It’s hard not to support a resort like that,” he said. “That, and the terrain’s phenomenal. Don’t tell anyone.” The humility of Bridger’s diehards, despite their caliber, adds to Arnold’s fondness of the resort. “It never ceases to impress me,” he said. “Everyone’s kind of unassuming but everyone just shreds.” And the nicest, newest gear doesn’t seem to be that important to Bridger’s enthusiasts. “That’s the core,” Arnold said. “People are skiing to ski. They’re not skiing for any other reason and that’s kind of cool to see.”

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“I think a transceiver has always been an important part to the resort—it allows you to access so much more terrain, ‘the goods.’ You have to beep to play.”

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PHOTOS BY BAY STEPHENS

“I would say that the number one piece of gear at Bridger is a beacon if you have the experience because it really opens up the mountain to a lot more super cool terrain that makes Bridger as fun of a mountain as it is.”

Shouldering skis or dragging boards, crews of college kids like architecture student Audrey Morris can be found beeping their transceivers at the gates, trudging up the boot pack above the Bridger Lift and silhouetted against the sky as they traverse the ridge to their chosen objectives. Many of Montana State University’s students came to Bozeman specifically to ride Bridger Bowl, which hooks freshmen with discounted season passes if they’re under 19. “I see Bridger as definitely a college kid’s mountain,” Morris said. “I think that’s the main group there.” These young rippers tend to ski in groups, discovering the mountain together or being guided by older students to the hidden gems of the technical terrain. That was the case for Morris, who hails from Durango, Colorado, and grew up skiing Telluride. Although Bridger’s ridge initially intimidated her, Morris was lucky enough to have a fun and supportive group of friends that showed her the ropes of the area’s gullies and couloirs. “I think that’s an attitude that a lot of people have: I want to show you … and make you part of the culture,” she said. “I just love how welcoming that was and how quickly I could become comfortable with this mountain.” She trusts her friends, even when she finds herself on the edge of daunting cliff bands, unsure how to get down. But they always find a line and when Morris peers from below at seemingly impassible portions of the ridge, she gets a special satisfaction knowing that she’s skied it. “It’s so fun to have the rad skiing every single time you go up,” she said. “If you come to Bridger, you’re coming for the ridge.” >>

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Monica Thomas’ original stomping grounds were the slopes of Lost Trail,

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PHOTOS BY JENNINGS BARMORE

“My favorite piece I guess are goggles with quick change lenses because it can go from the brightest sunlight you ever saw to low/no light in a matter of minutes.”

monica thomas

a mom-and-pop ski area south of Missoula; she grew up in nearby Wisdom, population 98. Big Sky Resort’s towering Lone Mountain became her new backyard four years ago, and she quickly found her crowd. “If you come here with a good attitude and you ski every day, you’re going to make friends, and that’s what’s so cool about this place,” Thomas said. Big Sky has a thriving ski bum culture, and every year the ski patrol hosts the Dirtbag Ball, which recognizes Big Sky Resort’s most die-hard riders. In March of 2017, Thomas was awarded the prestigious title of “Dirtbag Queen.” She said she earned the honor because she skis nearly every day. One reason Thomas chose to live in Big Sky was that she saw the same crowd in the tram line as she saw at Scissorbills Saloon once the lifts stopped running. “Everything’s condensed, you get to see all your friends,” Thomas said. “Plus, the skiing is out of this world.” Lone Mountain offers unique terrain for the Lower 48—a large amount of it above tree line— with long, steep and technical slopes. “You can ski 360 degrees off of this peak. There’s always going to be snow somewhere,” she said. “And if the peak’s not open, we get a bunch of dirtbags together and go have a barbeque.” Thomas, who fights wildland fires all summer, is used to the boys’ club. “As a chick, you get used to skiing with boys, but the girls here are fantastic.” In the past two years, she thinks she’s seen a spike in the population of female skiers. “There are so many ladies here— ripping girls that you can ski with,” Thomas said. “It’s fun to get together with a bunch of lady rippers who are pushing each other.”


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“A good friend.” ESSENTIAL GEAR

JESSE KNOX One more winter. That’s what Jesse Knox kept telling himself when he moved to Big Sky from eastern Washington 20 years ago. “Eventually, I gave up on that,” Knox said. “[I] was just like, I’m going to live here forever.” A project manager for a local interior designer, Knox works so he can ski the days he has off. He met his wife, Lauren, through a project in the Yellowstone Club, and the two joined the population of Big Sky skiers who used to say, “One more winter,” and are now raising kids there. As part of the “rad dad club,” Knox will drop his 5-year-old son June off for ski school on weekends and set off with another father, or ski on his own until he bumps into someone he knows in the lift line.

Jumping in the 15-person Lone Peak Tram, they might check in at the small ski patrol hut on the summit dubbed the “Penalty Box,” then disappear into sign-out only terrain like the rock-walled Big Couloir. “It might be somebody I haven’t skied with in two years, and [I’ll] have a killer couple of runs with them,” Knox said. He added that that’s just how it is at Big Sky: Barely knowing somebody doesn’t preclude having a great time tearing down with them from the 11,166-foot summit of Lone Mountain. “There’s no ‘I’m-too-good-to-ski-with-you attitude’ here,” Knox said. “Some of the best skiers ski with people that aren’t as good as them, but they’ll still have just as good a day.” >>

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ESSENTIAL GEAR

“the right goggle lenses to see well in the fog”

PETER KELLY & TORI HEADERMAN Peter Kelly and Tori Headerman found Grand Targhee Resort more than two decades ago. Both came for one season, and are still here raising their two daughters, Piper and Crosby. They’ve only lived on the Idaho side of Teton Pass since moving to the area, “which is a badge of honor, I think, because most people start in Jackson and roll over here,” Headerman said. She teaches kindergarten in Tetonia, where they live, while he’s a builder and also shapes surfboards. Headerman breaks out her telemark skis for mellower days, as many of Targhee’s longtime skiers do, slowing the pace for some old school turns. “When we moved here, it was so special,” Headerman said. Victor, Driggs and Tetonia, the small towns where Targhee’s locals live, were typical Idaho agricultural communities, with small populations of skiers. “You were either born and raised here or you moved here to ski,” said Headerman, adding there was little of the pretense that’s found in bigger, more affluent ski towns. “And that’s kind of why we stayed.”

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Targhee riders learn to ski by faith and memory, useful for when visibility plummets due to fog—earning it the nickname “Grand Foghee”—or when big storm cycles bring over-thehead powder. “It’s a small enough mountain that once you get familiar with things, it’s a pretty easy mountain with low visibility to work your way around,” Kelly said. It’s also a place where these two can raise their kids to appreciate the things they fell in love with decades ago. “And like it or not, they become good skiers by the time they’re six,” Kelly said. “That’s how it works here.” Although the resort’s clientele has shifted to more vacationers since their arrival, Targhee’s small-town roots remain intact. “People come to not have the resort [feel],” Headerman said. “There’s nothing to do here at night. People ski, they go eat dinner and they go to bed and they wake up the next day to do it again.” “And that’s what we like about it,” Kelly said. “It’s simple. It doesn’t look like every other freaking ski resort in America.”


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Mark Ortiz was sick of the rain at Oregon’s Mount Hood,

mark ortiz

so he looked for colder ski areas with lots of snow, and found the Teton Range with Jackson Hole and Grand Targhee. “I applied to them both, and Jackson said I had to get a haircut and Targhee just hired me,” said Ortiz, who now works as a ski instructor. Bopping around the mountain, Ortiz crows to the lift operators, all of whom know him; he begs ski patrollers by name—who are about to close a gate to hikeand-ski terrain—to let him head out one more time. A ring leader of sorts, Ortiz brings the young ski bum community together, organizing on-mountain events such as the Chinese Downhill and a scavenger hunt, and excursions like an annual Montana trip that so many of Targhee’s young dirtbags rave about. “I think, in order to have fun with your friends, you have to facilitate things,” he said. So, he helps set the stage. For last winter’s Montana trip, he and his friends decided to only ski mom-and-pop resorts—max lift ticket price of $40. He called resorts ahead of time to get group discounts and reached out to Bozeman-based Montucky Cold Snacks for free beer. He also orchestrated the Chinese Downhill, which involves a keg at the top, two at the bottom, and a chaotic race at break-neck speed in between. “I think probably half of the good ideas I have are probably from the Trap [Bar and Grill] or the [Royal] Wolf,” he said, referring to two watering holes that help knit together this little community. >>

PHOTO BY DAVID STUBBS

ESSENTIAL GEAR

“I think the essential piece of gear is the right attitude—a little bit of fun, a little bit of party, a little bit of irreverence. We’re not ski bums ‘cause we’re good at being told what to do, ya know?”

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“I would say pow skis.”

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KAT ABRAMS

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Originally from Atlanta, Kat Abrams is one of many young skiers drawn from across the country to live Jackson’s adventure lifestyle. They charge at the resort, in the side country and on Teton Pass. They work somewhere that gets them a pass, and struggle to make time for being adults because they spend so much time in the mountains. “You never want to take a day off,” Abrams said. “You feel guilty about it.” Abrams grew up visiting the West with her parents and moved to Teton Valley for the summers, but was soon roped into the winter sports by a crew of good friends—mostly guys—who taught her to ski. “I picked it up pretty quickly, I would say, and just sort of fully embraced the ski culture that Jackson is,” Abrams said. “With boys around, you kind of have to suck it up and just do it.” Hers is a posse that bombs and jibs down the hill to pile into a Bridger Gondola box eight-strong, pound beers, crush cans underboot, then unload and file over to the recycling bin to dispose of their aluminum. They won’t wait up, but for those who can keep up, a sense of comradery and belonging awaits. No surprise Abrams learned quickly. Nannying for a Jackson couple provides her living wages, but Abrams also works at Teton Village Sports at the base of the resort with many of the friends who taught her to ski. Working together makes it easy to rally adventure buddies for outings any time of year. “It’s almost like this need and desire to keep going, which is great,” Abrams said. “I love it.” Her crew’s adventures are so constant that rainy days are often the only chance to catch up on life. “I’d rather go ski than go to the post office,” Abrams said.

PHOTOS BY BAY STEPHENS

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ESSENTIAL GEAR

“Transceiver for going out of bounds, fat skis, a helmet is useful for me.”

NED BROWN They say everyone in Jackson is from somewhere else. In the ‘70s and ‘80s, a small population of skiers traded lives elsewhere for the Tetons. Many of these individuals own the coffee houses, retail shops and restaurants that make Jackson what it is, while others are retired. Either way, these longtimers hit the slopes daily, favoring bluebird mornings. In the tramline you’ll see these often-mustachioed men greeting each other, catching up on life, ribbing one another about older gear. Ned Brown is one of these locals. Riding the tram with Ned, he names every run, chute, glade, couloir—in-bounds and out-of-bounds—and recounts stories like how St. Patty’s Couloir on Rendezvous Peak got its name when he and four friends skied it on St. Patrick’s Day nearly four decades ago. “We’d been looking at it for a few years and decided the time was right,” he said.

Brown’s first turns were on a grass slope in southern California when the city’s recreation department hosted a ski lesson. “An ice truck pulled up and they got a bunch of bags full of crushed ice and broke them on the slope,” Brown said. The strip of ice was no more than 10 feet wide and 40 feet long, but enough for him to learn how to snowplow, stop and turn. In 1978, when he visited Jackson during his senior year at University of Colorado Boulder, a friend took him down Tower Three Chute and the steepness blew his mind. “I was amazed and stoked and couldn’t get it off my mind,” said Brown, and that September he moved to Jackson. His goal was to own a restaurant in a ski town, and not long after landing in Jackson, The Blue Lion went on the market. Brown pounced on the opportunity. Only open for dinner now, the restaurant allows for a dream schedule: Brown skis whenever he wants, which is often to the tune of 75 to 80 days a year.

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CHILE

ARGENTINA

KRIS TOMPKINS HAS PROTECTED 13 MILLION ACRES, AND SHE’S NOT DONE YET. BY EMILY STIFLER WOLFE

THE FIRST TIME I TRY TO CALL KRISTINE MCDIVITT TOMPKINS, she’s in

Santiago, Chile. It’s a Sunday afternoon in September, and after three days with little sleep, she lies down for a nap and misses our scheduled Skype call. But I don’t really care: I’ll get to talk to Kris Tompkins. As CEO of Patagonia, Kris helped lead the company from a small climbing gear manufacturer to an outdoor apparel titan and a pioneer for corporate responsibility. In 1993, age 43, she retired from Patagonia, married Doug Tompkins, founder of The North Face and co-founder of Esprit, and moved to a remote farm he’d bought in Chile’s Lakes District. Tompkins Conservation—the umbrella organization for the nonprofit foundations the Tompkins established—has purchased roughly 2 million acres of private land for conservation in Chile and Argentina. It has taken on ambitious ecological restoration projects including reintroduction of native species, has donated most of its land as national parks and other protected areas, with the remaining acreage pledged for donation. Since Doug’s death in 2015, Kris and her team have also helped protect another 10 million acres of new national parklands in Chile and helped establish three new national parks in Argentina. Kris is a world leader in large landscape and species restoration. Someone who gives all her energy, time and wealth to restoring functioning ecosystems. If you believe the idea that we need biodiversity to survive—and you should—you’ll quickly realize she’s not just saving wildlife, she’s trying to save humanity. If she needs a nap, she’s earned it. >>

PHOTO BY JAMES Q MARTIN

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In addition to protecting entire landscapes, Tompkins Conservation has restored native wildlife in some of the parks it has created. In Chile’s Patagonia Park, the return of pumas and guanacos has caused an ecological cascade that’s strengthened the health of the region’s biodiversity. PHOTO BY JAMES Q MARTIN

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OUTLAW: KRIS TOMPKINS

“YOU’RE NEVER FINISHED. TRULY NEVER. IT DOESN’T MATTER WHERE YOU ARE IN THE WORLD, THAT’S THE STORY.”

IN THE MEANTIME, I CALL HER FORMER BOSS FROM PATAGONIA, YVON CHOUINARD.

“She was a juvenile delinquent like the rest of us, in that she didn’t want to take the straight and narrow path,” he says. The two met when Kris was a 15-year-old surfer, and Yvon, 28 at the time, gave her a summer job packing boxes at what was then Chouinard Equipment. “She went to school barefoot, and her teacher would tell her to go to home. The next day she’d show up with leather shoelaces wrapped around her toes.” After college, where she ski raced for the College of Idaho, Yvon and his wife Malinda hired Kris to help them launch Patagonia Inc., the clothing company. “None of us knew how to run a business,” Yvon said. “We all learned together. And we didn’t want to run a business like everybody else’s. We broke a lot of the rules, and she’s more than happy to do that. That’s what makes her a successful person, really.” That, and she’s a very effective leader.

“She could see through all the crap,” said Richard Siberell, a clothing designer who worked at Patagonia in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. “She was your big sister and your best friend and kicked you in the ass and [would suggest], ‘You got work to do. You’re going to work all weekend until you get this shit done. If you won’t, you’re not going to be demoted—the whole company is going down in flames.’”

WHEN KRIS CALLS FROM PATAGONIA PARK in

Chile the following week, she and Malinda Chouinard (whom Kris describes as “beyond my closest friend—she’s like family”) are reviewing materials for a new visitor center and museum set to open in November. They’re also prepping to turn management of the land and infrastructure over to the Chilean park service in April 2019. Roughly the size of Yosemite, 765,000acre Patagonia Park is a seven-hour drive on a gravel road from the nearest commercial airport. It’s spring, and the buds are just emerging, Kris says. They’re working from a guest house Tompkins Conservation has already donated with the rest of the park. Kris describes life-size photos of pumas in the living room, and windows overlooking grassy foothills into the Andean peaks. They leave for New York in three days, and the energy through the phone line is palpable. During our two-hour conversation, I ask about topics ranging from a childhood in Venezuela and on her great-grandfather’s ranch in Santa Paula, California, about the farms she and Doug bought in Chile and Argentina, and her 2018 meeting with Pope Francis. But first I ask about the news from the Greater Yellowstone: Two days before, grizzly bears were returned to the Endangered Species List in the Lower 48, and Malinda, whom I can hear in the background, was involved in the fight. “We’re really excited, but we also realize these things are so fragile, and the next day you have to get up and face something else,” Kris tells me. “You’re never finished. Truly never. It doesn’t matter where you are in the world, that’s the story.” Moving from grizzlies to South American carnivores, Kris describes the local animosity toward pumas, the same species as North American mountain lions. Here in the southern cone, massive estancias, or ranches, reign, and the animals have a price on their heads.>>

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To form Patagonia Park, another nonprofit Kris established bought 220,000 acres of private land to connect two federally protected reserves. The majority of that land was part of a large sheep ranch in the Chacabuco Valley, and the organization, Conservacion Patagonica, has removed 400plus miles of fencing and restored overgrazed grasslands, allowing native wildlife, including pumas, to repopulate. Tompkins Conservation has worked from the southern tip of Chile, establishing Yendegaia National Park in 2014, to northern Argentina, where the organization helped create El Impenetrable National Park and is now doing groundbreaking species restoration in the upcoming Iberá National Park. Since purchasing 340,000 acres there in 1997, the organization has reintroduced giant anteaters, tapirs, macaws, collared peccaries and pampas deer. It hopes to release jaguars by early 2020, which would be the first large carnivore reintroduction in Latin America, according to Ignacio Jiménez Pérez, who directed the Iberá rewilding program until mid2018. “The biggest challenge for reintroducing any large predator is about the reaction of society,” Jiménez Pérez said. “The response of the neighbors, and the provincial and national society, has been phenomenal. They are really excited about getting jaguars back.” The largest feline in the Americas, jaguars are gone from 95 percent of their original Argentinian range and were extirpated from the Iberá area in the 1960s. Because they’ve been gone so long, the big cats aren’t seen as a threat, even among local cattle ranchers. The region is already benefitting from ecotourism, with a million annual visitors to nearby Iguazú Falls; plus, jaguars are part of the native Guarani folklore, considered a lost relative. “There is no mythology of hatred,” Jimenez said, contrasting them to wolves in the Northern Rockies. The Tompkins didn’t start as rewilders: Their first projects, Pumalín and Corcovado parks in Chilean Patagonia, both had fairly intact ecosystems. It was a sea change in their work—a massive commitment that’s been the most difficult part, Kris said. 142

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AS WITH MANY NEW CONSERVATION EFFORTS—John

D. Rockefeller’s efforts to expand Grand Teton National Park comes to mind—the Tompkins’ work received opposition initially. Although they often bought from absentee landowners, some residents worried the changes threatened the gaucho way of life. Others doubted their intentions: Like the U.S., these countries had relied on aggressive extraction, logging and hydro damming, and at the time Doug and Kris were beginning their work, many large-scale natural resource development projects were being proposed. Chile also lacked a culture of philanthropy, wrote Tompkins Conservation spokeswoman Erin Billman in an email: “It simply seemed unthinkable that a wealthy foreign businessman purchasing huge tracts of property (even through nonprofit foundations) had benign intentions.”


OUTLAW: KRIS TOMPKINS

In 2017, Kris Tompkins and former Chilean President Michelle Bachelet signed a pledge to expand Chilean national parkland by 10 million acres. PHOTO BY JIMMY CHIN

The Tompkins were accused of planning to introduce North American bison, setting up a nuclear-waste dump or a new Jewish state (even though neither were Jewish), and were cited as a threat to national security when their purchase of the land that became Pumalín National Park stretched from the Argentine border to Corcovado Gulf, in the Pacific. “It took us donating a few parks before people said, ‘Hey, this is real. They’re doing what they said they were going to do,’” Kris told the United Nations Dispatch in an interview following her 2018 appointment as UN Environment Patron of Protected Areas. Kris credits her team for much of their success. There are around 200 employees, and dozens of volunteers and interns. The staff in Argentina are nearly all Argentine; in Chile, they’re mostly Chilean. The majority have been with the organization for years.

Partner organizations have also been key, helping leverage new land acquisitions; effecting ground-level change like the dam proposals recently shut down on Chile’s Baker River near Patagonia Park; and helping build powerful collaborations with other conservation leaders including preeminent biologist E.O. Wilson, whose Half-Earth Project is working to protect half the planet for biodiversity. Kris sits on Wilson’s Half-Earth Council, a small group of thoughtleaders that includes Montana State Senator Mike Phillips. A wildlife biologist who led the effort to return wolves to Yellowstone National Park, Phillips now directs the Turner Endangered Species Fund. “The real lingering value of Kris’ work, beyond the ecological impacts of her holdings in South America, is to inspire others to rise up and do the work of Half-Earth,” Phillips said. >>

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R Tom Gilleon Moon Shadows 48”x48” Oil on Canvas

Miles Glynn Horse No. 26 26”x39” Archival Print on Belgian Linen

Virginie Baude The Wolf Project 40”x72” Oil on Linen

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OUTLAW: KRIS TOMPKINS

Jaguars are gone from 95 percent of their historical habitat in Argentina, but Tompkins Conservation is working on reintroducing the cats to parklands in the northern part of the country.

KRIS ALWAYS LED with Doug, although they fulfilled different roles in the organization. Doug was an outspoken visionary, driven by beauty and involved in every detail of their work. In 2015, following a kayaking accident in Lake General Carrera near Patagonia Park, he died of hypothermia. A grieving Kris poured herself into work, accelerating the effort they’d started together. Tompkins Conservation has donated almost all of its conservation property, including working with former Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, who in January 2018 decreed 9 million acres of new national parkland alongside Tompkins Conservation’s 1-million-acre donation. “It was Kris talking to another woman, the president of Chile, working together, and she got it done,” said Yvon, also a longtime friend and climbing partner of Doug’s. Moving forward, Kris and Tompkins Conservation are working to connect wildlife corridors, including one between the Chilean Patagonia Park project and Argentina’s Patagonia National Park. They’re also advocating for marine protection adjacent to their terrestrial projects. In 2018, they launched a

“IT WAS KRIS TALKING TO ANOTHER WOMAN, THE PRESIDENT OF CHILE, WORKING TOGETHER, AND SHE GOT IT DONE.”

friends’ group to fundraise and advocate for Chilean parks, as well as a tourism campaign to promote the 1,700-mile road-and-ferry route connecting what will soon be a chain of 17 national parks. “We’re trying to encourage other individuals, whether they have great assets or not, to sit up and realize they have a great responsibility toward this,” Kris said. “Forty years ago, we didn’t know what we know today. There’s a moral imperative to act.”

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LAST LIGHT The years I’ve spent photographing Butte during the Rethink Butte Project—a grassroots tourism campaign I started in 2015—have been some of the most magical years with my camera. I had the opportunity to fall in love with a town and share that love with thousands of people across the state. Butte was the town that allowed me to stay in Montana and grow a career that has taken me extraordinary places. It will always hold a special place in my heart. PHOTO BY HAZER LIVE

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BUILDING PEACE OF MIND

O N S I T E M A N A G E M E N T. C O M M O N TA N A | W YO M I N G


Profile for Outlaw Partners

2019 Winter Mountain Outlaw  

With award-winning editorial content, design and photography, Mountain Outlaw magazine has been described as “Powder Magazine meets Rolling...

2019 Winter Mountain Outlaw  

With award-winning editorial content, design and photography, Mountain Outlaw magazine has been described as “Powder Magazine meets Rolling...