Bozeman, Big Sky and Yellowstone are changing before our eyes. Every day, different types of people are moving here for all sorts of different reasons. Some come for a short term change of scenery, while others show up with their entire lives crammed into a U-Haul, looking to establish roots here.
A big part of figuring out a new area is done by gathering good, reliable local information. So for visitors, this area’s social dynamics can be confusing: How is one supposed to know who the real locals are? The answer is simple: You can’t, because even the real locals themselves can’t come to a consensus on who is and isn’t one of them.
This guide, however, will help you quickly identify the type of person you’re dealing with, so you can gauge the validity of the information that is volunteered to you:
The New Guy: Most new guys (and gals) are confused. They’re excited and they haven’t yet developed the ability to internalize any of the thoughts they have about this corner of Montana. Often, they’ll compare what they’ve observed to what they were used to seeing wherever they came from (e.g. “It’s crap dat dey don’t salt da roads hea’. Back home, dey salt awl da roads.”). Quick to reach out and talk to anybody willing to listen, New Guys also love to share their limited local knowledge without being prompted.
Second Year Syndrome: This type will likely identify themselves to you. They may have gone home last summer, but if you ask them, it’s like they never left. This is their town and even though they still have Michigan license plates, they absolutely consider themselves “local.” They’re usually first to complain about moderate lift lines, ski conditions or any significant change around town that happened over the summer. You don’t need this type of negativity in your vacation, so just nod, smile and move along.
The Remote Worker: This person often flails at everything in Montana, but is amped to try it anyway. They don’t fit in and didn’t realize how cold it actually gets here in the winter. Upon learning this the hard way, they usually move someplace else within a year. If they stay longer than that, see above.
The Ski Bum: This person could be a painter, a dishwasher, a wild land fire fighter or any other profession that doesn’t involve customer service. They think this story is stupid and the aforementioned groups of “locals” really get under their skin. They’re the best skiers on the mountain and have the most beat up gear. They’re secretly proud of both, but will never admit it.
The Bum Who Skis: This person catches last call at the bar five days a week and is usually male. He’s the last guy off the mountain and loves giving people a hard time for quitting early. He’ll never mention the fact that he took his first run at 2pm. He’ll never ski on the weekends because according to him, the ski hill always gets “too crowded.” Of course, it has nothing to do with his hangover.
The Health Nut: This person’s reusable smoothie cup is always in tote and seemingly bottomless. And for some reason, they didn’t get the memo that headbands have been out of style since the 90s. Asking them where to eat is a gamble, since their recommendations often include a reference to whatever diet they happen to be on that day. They are, however, some of the best people to ask about local gyms and trail systems.
The Proud Montana Native: There’s a group of people in our corner of Montana who are so proud of where they’re from that they feel the need to tell everybody, all the time. The message is conveyed through a variety of mediums, like a “Montana Native” bumper sticker or a forearm tattoo of the state’s border shape. The Proud Montana Natives are a particularly interesting group, because they identify themselves in a hierarchical sense. For example, a Proud Montana Native will always identify themself to you in terms similar to these: “I’m a fourth generation Montanan.” This holds until, of course, there happens to be a fifth generation Montanan within earshot. In that case, the “fourth generation” Montanan knows to remain silent and lets the dominant Native Montanan tell you how long ago their ancestors “settled” here.
The Good Old Boy: This person isn’t necessarily a Montana Native; those born in North Dakota, Wyoming or Idaho may also be initiated into this particular group. Good Old Boys (and Gals) don’t own their vast tracts of land for the sake of recreation, preservation or anything non-work related. Regardless of the contemporary political climate, this person will tell you that their taxes are outrageous and that it’s somehow California’s fault. If you tell them that there are rancher-types like them in California, too, be ready to hear an inappropriate Brokeback Mountain joke.