Notes from the Road: How a Yellowstone Country Kid Grows Up


I grew up in a snowy place. A place that was gray and stormy and was somewhere in the Minnesota - Maine corridor, where winters were fierce, the snow was wet and the local Prozac prescription per capita was among the highest in the nation (it was the sun deprivation, essentially).

But I grew up surrounded by snow in the winter, which meant the move to Montana a few years ago wasn’t going to faze me. I had survived winters without snow tires and my dad taught me to do donuts in the cul-de-sac. Heck, I survived the era before performance wear, when my mom dressed me in cotton turtlenecks and silk long johns for ski lessons and my snow gear most definitely did not have a Gore-Tex finish. (I also survived a KD Lang haircut, but that’s another story for another time.)

So when I moved to Montana’s Yellowstone Country from the biggest urban center in the northern U.S., I figured it would be like a homecoming (minus the Prozac).

Except that kids growing up in Yellowstone Country are a different breed. They’ve garnered a veritable encyclopedia of knowledge about the outdoors, gleaned from their parents, their teachers, camping trips and outdoor excursions. They’ve learned not only to appreciate the outdoors, but also to make it their second home.

Yellowstone Country kids are taught, for instance, that if you ever get caught and buried in an avalanche, you should spit so that you know which way is up or down. (That was definitely not required knowledge in my suburban grade school.)

Yellowstone Country grade school playgrounds are flooded in the winter so they can ice skate during recess.

Kids here own no fewer than three different jackets, five hats and four different helmets. And, it should be noted that, despite owning all of this outdoor gear, it’s not unusual to see kids in shorts or without jackets in the dead of winter. It’s almost like growing up here makes them impervious to winter’s chill.

They actually understand the whole Earth Science unit on rock striations and mountain formations and the various phases of rock pressurization because Yellowstone National Park is in their backyard.

Instead of field trips to country museums and the Federal Reserve Bank, they go to Red Lodge Mountain, Bridger Bowl and Big Sky. With their skis and snowboards. To study snow durability and ski jump formations, presumably.

On weekends, ballet lessons and soccer practice are often sandwiched between fly fishing trips and backpacking expeditions.

Kids often own small rifles, archery sets and knives before they’re in grade school. And, contrary to A Christmas Story, no one worries about anyone shooting his or her eye out.

It’s not unusual to see a tiny baby bundled against its mama’s chest as she paddles the Yellowstone River in a canoe or raft. Similarly, most kids don’t remember their first camping trips because they were too little.

They don’t troll the mall with their friends on weekends because they’re too busy trolling ski descents, rock walls and BMX parks.

Moose, elk, bison and deer sightings don’t faze them. A glimpse of someone standing in a lift line in jeans and an NFL Starter jacket, however, does.

If it’s early and before the plows have made their rounds, snowmobiling or cross-country skiing to school after a big snow dump isn’t out of the question.

And most importantly, if a Yellowstone Country kid read any of these, they’d just say "Yeah? What’s the big deal?"

Do your kids exhibit any of the "Grown in Yellowstone Country" symptoms described above?