Photos courtesy of Travel Montana
When you hear the word, “sprinter,” you may first think of the trendy mega-box vehicle (by Mercedes/Chrysler). You know, the one that appears to be eclipsing the VW Microbus as the latter day crash-pad-on-wheels for wandering trustafarians. Groovy, as they are, when we talk “sprinter” we’re referencing a season of sporting opportunism here in Montana – a mash up of spring and winter = sprinter.
“Sprinter” can be either a godsend or a misfire, depending on one’s point of view. For skiing and snowboarding monomaniacs, the longer days of spring are only welcome if they come in tandem with big April dumps. These are the sleeper powder days when the weary and un-devoted have hung up their boards (prematurely) having satiated on turns over the past six-months. When half-empty chairlifts spin around the bullwheel; not due to lack of fresh snow but due to lack of resolve. Sprinter is serving up just such a large-flaked squall outside my window this moment. Though I’ve broken out my bike shorts and revisited the saddle this past week and recently re-upped my fishing license for 2014, tomorrow is looking to be day of buttery turns at the local hill, Bridger Bowl.
The operative strategy with sprinter is to remain poised & nimble. As the vagaries of weather play ping-pong with our psyches (and wardrobes), sprinter aficionados are not stymied. They don’t harbor preconceived notions of how dates on the calendar should play out. March, April and May in Montana favor the renaissance outdoorsman/woman. Time to lube your bike chain and pump up your tires. Time to patch that pinhole in your waders and perhaps tie a few nymphs. Time to re-rack your cams and re-sole your rock shoes. If you're really on-point, you might be able to do all three activities in a day! But remember; keep your skis at the ready.
One of my favorite zones this time of year is the Gallatin Canyon – heading south from Bozeman, past Big Sky, towards West Yellowstone. For years we’ve made a tradition of biking into Yellowstone Park over the Easter weekend. This timeframe generally coincides with a period when the Park is only open to cyclists and pedestrians (no automobiles allowed!). With mega fauna on the move and raptors taking flight, this is a prime time of year to view Yellowstone’s critters. Some years we get a spring-like taste of sunshine, bearing a bit of winter-white skin to the solar recharger. Other years – when we’ve tried to force the calendar - we’ve ended up hunkering under copious layers of Capilene and Gore-Tex, pedaling into the wind – graupel pelting our noses like Lilliputian snowballs. (Note to self: should have brought the skate skis and gone crust cruising.)
Opportunism is the key to successfully milking sprinter season. While it’s easy to bog down in one’s planning, second guessing the schizophrenic weather forecast, overdressing or under-dressing, sprinter is a season like no-other - where going with the meteorological flow can pay out one of those indelible Montana moments.