BOZEMAN, Mont. — There’s an image of the Mountain Woman who can dance down the slopes and shotgun a beer faster than anyone.

Bozeman local Chloe Nostrant said that woman can pull off Carhartts paired with Xtratufs (those lovely brown neoprene boots with the yellowish trim).

Nostrant’s friend and self-declared ski bum Kaycee Gilbert said that woman is tan, even in the winter.

“She looks good even if she’s been in the backcountry for a month,” Gilbert said. “She’s also amazingly talented, because there’s this idea that if you’re going to be doing this intense thing that’s kind of male-dominated, then you have to be.”

“All that is exhausting to maintain,” Nostrant said.

“And it can be overwhelming when you suddenly hit puberty and turns out you’re not going to be 5-foot-5 and really thin,” Gilbert added.

The pair are the leaders of Bridger Babes, a growing local group focused on gals getting outside together. They said they want ladies to feel confident stepping away from outdoor magazines’ typical model of a woman.

“We don’t want to create a divide between men and women in the outdoor community, we want to make it a more inclusive environment overall,” Nostrant said. “I think equipping women with the education and the resources and support to try new things will help close the gap that maybe already exists.”

Bridger Babes started as a logo about four years ago. Or more specifically, as Nostrant’s homework procrastination. She wanted to create something that summed up the personality of the people she skied with.

The design is a skull donning ski goggles and a winter hat. Two long braids hang below the character’s open smile, all of which frames a small heart. Skis and poles cross each other like an X in the background and the “Bridger Babes” banner is in a font typically seen on the back of leather jackets.

“I wanted something that was hard core,” Nostrant said.

“No glitter,” Gilbert added.

Nostrant thought the sketch might make it onto a few stickers or hats around town.

“But the more that the logo got out, the more people started asking, ‘What is Bridger Babes? How do you become a Babe?'” she said. “You just kind of realize it needs to mean something.”

So Nostrant began asking what the local outdoor female community wanted. It started with chats on the chairlift and grew into online surveys. She said the common response was women needed more opportunities to learn to play in the outdoors. Especially together.

Gilbert said that’s important for a few reasons. First, the outdoor community is already hard enough to break into, especially in a place where some locals did their first black diamond as a baby strapped to their parents’ backs.

Second, a lot of women learn a sport surrounded by men.

“That’s not to say it’s not just as fun to ski with a group that’s men, but it’s different,” Gilbert said. “I think often women are a little bit more empowering of each other whereas when you’re with men, you end up feeling competitive because you don’t want to be seen as the weak link.”

Bridger Babes is working toward a nonprofit status. Over the last year the group assembled a board, selected officers and picked an attorney.

The group’s goals are still forming but there are a few things they know they want.

A big piece of the Bridger Babe foundation is outdoor education. Like last month when the group hosted its first all-women’s avalanche training certification course.

They also want to provide chances for women who are priced out of outdoor hobbies. That could come through scholarships for courses or a fund to help lower the cost of ski passes.

They don’t want Bridger Babes to just be about skiing. The gals include women who love to climb, fish and hunt.

Nostrant said a long-term goal is to connect women of all ages, like partnering high school girls with recent college grads.

“Or I think of people like my mom’s demographic, who want to try new things but feel like it’s too late,” Nostrant said. “The main thing is pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone no matter what your experience is.”

Those stickers that Bridger Babes started with are often still what piques people’s curiosity toward the group. They’ve seen the sticker on lift towers throughout Montana and the west, and a lot of their emails come from women who want to know what the image represents. Nostrant said it’s amazing when a group of ladies she’s never met tags Bridger Babes in a selfie on a mountain she’s never been to.

“There’s a babe on the mountain at any given moment,” Nostrant said.


Information from: Bozeman Daily Chronicle, http://www.bozemandailychronicle.com

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KATHERYN HOUGHTON
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