Organized skiing in the Bozeman area dates back to 1935 with the construction of the first ski lift in Montana near Karst Camp in the Gallatin Canyon. The year of 1936 marked the first downhill race, on Moose Creek, and the founding of the Bozeman Ski Club.
From those early days to the present-day Bridger Ski Foundation, skiing in this valley has always been a grassroots, home-grown effort. Ski jumping competitions began in 1937 at Karst and drew large numbers of spectators to watch the best jumpers in the country. Our roots date back into the dreams of early local ski areas like Karst, Bear Canyon, Lyon's Head and the Bozeman Ski Club. BSF was formally chartered in 1975 as Bridger Ski Education Foundation and later changed to the Bridger Ski Foundation in 1991.
With the birth of Bridger Ski Bowl (later to become Bridger Bowl Ski Area), residents volunteered time and materials creating and running the ski area. Spending time together for a common cause, they created life-long friendships, relationships, and business partnerships. Many served on the Bridger Bowl Board of Directors and they or their spouses were responsible for creating the Bridger Ski Club.
With the Ski Club in place, there was an avenue of support for area youth to compete in local school, state, and Northern Division Races. Parents and club members would organize and host races in all kinds of conditions -- from below zero temperatures and blizzards to warmth beyond skiing conditions. Coaches were paid by the local high school, thereby limiting instruction to high school students as skiing was sponsored by the State High School Association. The kids participated in Alpine events, slalom, giant slalom and downhill, as novice, intermediate, or expert classes.
Nordic competitions consisted of cross country and ski jumping, with several kids doing both Alpine and Nordic events. Montana had a rich history of course designs. Dillon was noted for its cross country course through sagebrush and their home-grown lodgepoles for slalom gates. Helena piled up hay bales and called them a Nordic Jump. Great Falls was known for a wicked outrun on their jump.
The last state school meet was held in Dillon (Rainy Mountain) in 1971. When skiing was dropped as a school-sponsored sport, it left quite a void in organized skiing. Local ski clubs and individuals had to step in to provide coaching, entry fees, and travel. At this time the Alpine team created the Bridger Ski Education Foundation (BSEF) -- one of the first 501 (c)(3) skiing foundations in the area. Nordic skiing operated under their ski club for many more years. Both programs provided a need for skiers at all ages and levels from Alpine's Buddy Warner and Nordic's Bill Koch League (which later became Youth Ski Leagues) to the community Langlauf Series, masters programs and weekday team races.
In early 1991, it was decided that all of Bozeman's ski clubs would benefit from coming together under one umbrella. The Alpine, Nordic and newcomer Freestyle clubs all joined under the existing BSEF umbrella. When the new by-laws were developed, the "Education" name was dropped from BSEF, and the Bridger Ski Foundation was the result.
In 2015, BSF went through an extensive audit and certification process. The U.S. Ski & Snowboard Association awarded the organization a Gold Level Club Certification, a designation reserved for the "best in the world."
Over the years, thousands of kids have participated, from recreational competitors to Olympians Heather McPhie, Leif Zimmerman, and Jeff Olsen.