BIG SKY, Mont. - Big news for Bozeman, and it's in National Geographic. The magazine lists Bozeman as one of the top 25 ski towns in the entire world.
The magazine calls Bozeman the "adventure capital of the Northern Rockies." They say it is a destination for extreme skiers and beginners alike.
One reason -- Bridger Bowl and Big Sky are both less than an hour's drive from downtown.
Whitefish also made the list.
The Bozeman Chamber of Commerce explained while the city's busiest season is summer, they now focus marketing efforts on getting tourists to check out ski areas.
To do that, they market skiing in the country's largest cities, and then coordinate with the Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport for direct flights from those locations.
"It is a lull time coming in December, when campuses and the college students go back home for vacation," explained Chamber of Commerce President/CEO Daryl Schliem. "We have a lot of ski opportunities to be able to bring people here, so we feel that's probably one of the areas that we're continuing to market more and more on, and we're spending more of our budgets now because of recognition like from National Geographic."
Jodee March owns Horse of a Different Color, a boutique in Big Sky. She recently bought the business with her husband.
"It was a good opportunity for us to buy a business we felt was really going to grow," she explained.
Locals tell her the same story. Many expect an economic and population boom in Big Sky in the next five years. The reason -- skiing.
"In the winter, people definitely come here for the winter activities," March said. "We're really busy in the wintertime; 99 percent of people coming here are coming here to ski."
"There are maybe 2,000 people here in town on an average off-season day," said Lone Peak Brewery owner Steve Nordahl. "There are 8,000 to 10,000 on any given ski season day."
Nordahl explained during the ski season, they have more than their share of people.
"Our revenue in the month of March is well in excess of twice what a May or an October will look like," he said.
Nordahl said he's not only seen the boost from skiers in his sales, but notices a ripple effect throughout the entire Bozeman area.
"Living here for 11 years and business for 7, and seeing the trend, I've got to believe it's very good for the hotels, good for all the local economies, restaurants, and bars, and hotels," Nordahl said.
Both Nordahl and March said many local Montanans want to keep the ski areas to themselves.
"A lot of people don't want to see it change either," March said. "They don't really relish the growth part so much."
But ultimately, sharing one of Montana's "best kept secrets" will keep the economy booming for years to come.
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