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2020-21 Community Nordic Trails Recap
April 7, 2021


This season marked the end of a decade-plus-long community effort to bring back and expand snowmaking at Sunset Hills, with the commissioning of a new pumphouse, 32,000-gallon cisterns, and in-ground air and water pipes for a 1.3-kilometer loop around the perimeter of the Sunset Hills trails system.

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While everyone on the BSF crew and in the collective ski community had high hopes for a big snow year (indeed, a late-October blast got things started early but lasted only four days before melting out), there was no significant snowfall in town until the end of January.  

Thanks to the cumulative efforts of everyone involved, snowmaking commenced on November 27, and by December 5, we had great skiing on a wide 2-way out-and-back from the pumphouse to Lindley Center.  

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By December 30th, the outer loop was connected, double wide and double tracked for safe skiing in either direction. We were fortunate to have a dedicated staff, amazing volunteers, and a couple of ace snowcat operators to get piles moved around efficiently as well as train the newcomers. It was a huge undertaking.

The community support was equally impressive. Right now, we have $28,000 left to fundraise to finish paying for the nearly $1 million construction project. We’re in the process of putting together a donor wall on the pump house, a community bench, and trail signs for next season. (If you’d still like to contribute to any of those donor opportunities, contact 

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Natural snow’s late arrival

The late start to winter and an increase in skier use put a lot of pressure on Sunset Hills. While Hyalite and Sourdough typically offer the best early season snow with higher elevations and more snowfall, it was December 23 before enough snow had accumulated to start grooming at these venues. Fortunately, once things got going and winter finally arrived in late January, all venues had great skiing throughout February and into early March, when the spring floods arrived. 

Partnerships make the trails

This Community Nordic Trails program is a unique combination of public and private land, with an annual cost to BSF of $70,000 to $80,000 annually, funded by donations and grants, including a voluntary trail pass system that keeps skiing access open to everyone. 

A HUGE thanks to our partners in the Community Nordic Trails: Bozeman Health (Highland Glen Nature Preserve) the City of Bozeman (Sunset Hills), Bridger Creek Golf Course, the US Forest Service (Sourdough and Hyalite), Sacajawea Middle School, Montana State University, and the Gallatin Valley Land Trust.  Plus our retail partners: Heeb’s Fresh Market, Bangtail Bike & Skis, Chalet Sports, and Round House Sports. Without the support of these partnerships, the Community Nordic winter trails wouldn’t exist.  

Another HUGE thanks to all of the voluntary season pass buyers, individual and corporate donors for helping fund the trails program this season. 

Sponsors: Engel & Völkers, Cafe M, Excel Physical Therapy, Fast Wax, Murdoch’s, Dee-O-Gee, Barnard Construction, Postal Annex, and Oböz. 

Significant funding also comes through Recreational Trails Program and Fish Wildlife and Parks Stewardship grants. Grooming and snowmaking operations would not be possible without all of this support. 

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2020-21 by the numbers: 

Snowmaking Highlights:
  • 35 shifts total for season (27 shifts to complete outer loop)
  • 203 total operating hours / 400+ person hours


  • One shutdown in late January due to failed sensor & clogged pump intake, otherwise minimal technical bugs

Grooming Overall: 
  • 7 locations
  • 72 shifts in Pisten Bully
  • 224 Pisten Bully machine hours (combined season grooming and pushing snow at Sunset Hills)
  • 366 hours snowmobile grooming
  • 2,012 miles groomed with snowmobiles 


  • 4 flat snowcat tires, one wheel destroyed, numerous leaks fixed, one grease patch stain on the trail. 
  • Numerous stuck snowmobiles, both on and off the snow
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Sunset Hills & Highland Glen

Grooming Season: December 5 - March 16 

  • 39 Snowmobile grooming shifts 
  • 92.5 Snowmobile grooming hours
  • 66 Pisten Bully grooming shifts
  • 219 Pisten Bully operator hours, including training for new operators


Grooming Season: December 23 - March 27  

  • 6 Pisten Bully shifts
  • 86.74 Pisten Bully operator hours
  • 41 Snowmobile grooming shifts
  • 177 Snowmobile grooming hours
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Dozens of trees cleared pre-season and throughout the season after wind events. 

Bridger Creek Golf Course

Grooming season: January 8 - March 9 

  • 19 Snowmobile grooming shifts
  • 53.5 grooming hours

Sacajawea Middle School & MSU Loops

Grooming season: January 9 to March 10  

  • 13 shifts
  • 43 grooming hours
A huge thanks to the BSF grooming team. They roll with all the punches thrown by winter and finicky grooming equipment. A+ for problem-solving and keeping the trails in great condition.

Goals for 2021-22 Season:

  • Establish skiing at Sunset Hills during Thanksgiving week if conditions allow.
  • Look to improve parking and skier access for early-season skiing at Sunset Hills.
  • Acquire 1-2 new snowmobiles for grooming operations and overhaul equipment trailers. Phase out/retire older equipment.
  • Conduct community outreach to find temporary heated storage when needed for snowcat groomer winter maintenance. (If you have this space available, or know someone who might, please reach out to:
  • Provide opportunities for volunteers with trail maintenance and snowmaking shifts. 

p.s. May 6 & 7 is Give Big Gallatin Valley, an online fundraising event for local nonprofits. If you love your winter trails, please consider giving Bridger Ski Foundation a shoutout during Give Big and/or a donation at 

Skiing for every generation.


Skiers, please be sure to contribute your feedback by filling out the Trails Survey HERE.