By Mira Brody
There’s something different about the trails in southwest Montana. Aside from there being so many to choose from, the access of open spaces from your neighborhood and the wildness that remains so close to where we’ve chosen to live, there’s a friendliness that comes with recreating here. And while the Bozeman and Big Sky area grows, that’s something Outside Kind, a grassroots Bozeman-based nonprofit, is looking to maintain.
“They’re really simple things we’ve been surprised that newcomers don’t know, or old timers forget or sometimes don’t know,” said Laura Huggins, one of the founding minds of Outside Kind and avid trail user. “The bigger picture is that we’re losing some of that kindness and warmth that we all find on the trails that was so attractive when we moved here.”
Outside Kind was founded two years ago from a collection of shared passion—to keep the outdoors friendly. The Winter Wildlands Alliance had begun a campaign called Ski Kind; an employee of Outside Alliance started a campaign called Recreate Responsibly; Gallatin Valley Land Trust were having conversations with One Montana about the influx of trail usage due to the pandemic; the Southwest Montana Mountain Bike Association wanted to start a Ride Kind campaign.
So, in an effort to raise the volume on their message and consolidate marketing, the minds behind these many efforts joined forces.
Today, Outside Kind is a resource for trail etiquette for all types of trail users—from horseback riding, skiing, hiking, biking, hunting, fishing and even dog walking.
“It’s pretty awesome to see how that’s grown here in the Gallatin Valley and it’s also taking off in Whitefish and Big Sky,” said Hillary Eisen, policy director for the Winter Wildlands Alliance. “Yes, it’s about being nice, but there’s a little bit more to it. Like, don’t assume your dog poop is going to disappear in the snow, learn the avalanche forecast so you’re not putting others in danger, be aware of where your activity is allowed and not allowed.”
Today, Outside Kind consists of a growing list of local nonprofits such as Bridger Ski Foundation, Run Dog Run, Big Sky Community Organization and Friends of Hyalite. Through their own work in the community, these nonprofits help spread Outside Kind messaging: Hike Kind, Ride Kind, Ski Kind, Wag Kind, Hunt Kind, Fish Kind, Trot Kind and Run Kind. Their messaging comes in the form of stickers and hats for supporters to tout their sport of choice, as well as signage at local high-trafficked trailheads reminding people of common rules. The power is in its simplicity, repetition and also widespread support.
“It’s really amazing if some citizens can get together and raise the public awareness,” said Peter Bennett, president of the nonprofit Friends of Hyalite. No stranger to the power of grassroots efforts, Bennett has lived in Bozeman since 1988 and joined the Concerned Citizens of Cottonwood, a group of neighbors hoping to save a portion of land in South Cottonwood Canyon from development.
“It really does make a difference and that’s really something that Outside Kind has done,” he said.
Conflicts come in many forms—abandoned dog poop on trails, hikers trampling groomed Nordic ski trails or an unyielding bike rider. Most recently, the pandemic and area growth has increased recreation use exponentially, putting more pressure on trails that have never before seen this volume of traffic.
“I think a lot of it can be fixed with just education,” said Huggins.
“People are new to the area,” adds Bennett. “They’re really excited to get out and enjoy the scenery but they aren’t experienced enough to know that there are other people to be aware of.”
“It’s pretty awesome to see how that’s grown here in the Gallatin Valley and it’s also taking off in Whitefish and Big Sky.” – Hillary Eisen, policy director for the Winter Wildlands Alliance.
And that’s what Outside Kind aims to do—educate those unfamiliar with recreating in southwest Montana’s spacious lands how to do so while keeping others in mind. Because at the end of the day, a shared love for the outdoors is what connects us all. Just like getting outside, breathing fresh air and exercising, kindness, too, is a part of the experience.
“I think in general this is a pretty friendly place,” said Eisen. “We say ‘hi’ to each other on the trails, we wave to each other on dirt roads. A lot of what Outside Kind is about is preserving that as our community grows; this is a value that our community cares about. We’re not starting from scratch here.”
How to Ski Kind
With winter recreation in full swing, Outside Kind brings you some helpful Ski Kind tips. Whether you’re taking advantage of Big Sky Community Organization’s local groomed trails in Big Sky, Bridger Ski Foundation’s groomed trails in Gallatin Valley, or heading into the backcountry, remember to not only be safe, but also be your best self on the trail.
Leave only tracks
Never leave dog poop, snack wrappers or any garbage on the trails you use.
Know your trail types
Know what kind of trail you are on and the rules that apply. Foot traffic is not permitted on groomed trails at Highland Glen, Sunset Hills and Bridger Creek Golf Course. On shared use trails, foot traffic should stay to the side, but not in Nordic tracks.
Check the avalanche report before heading out if you plan to go into backcountry terrain. Slow down when approaching a congested area. Announce yourself when approaching fellow trail users.
Everyone has different abilities, but the trails belong to all. Respectfully slow down while passing another user and communicate which side you will be approaching from.
Be Outside Kind
Most positive encounters start with a friendly “hello.” Be kind to those sharing the trail and respectfully share knowledge with newcomers.
Visit outsidekind.org, shop gear and take the pledge!