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Top 10 reasons not to move to Bozeman

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Ray Ring | Dec 30, 2013 05:00 AM

In my role as a journalistic curmudgeon, today I'd like to tell you some of the drawbacks of living in a trendy Western town that often makes the Top 10 lists drawn up by the likes of Outside magazine, Entrepreneur magazine, and Livability.com.

I'm talking about Bozeman, Montana – and how the conventional wisdom is only part of the story. In the 19 years I've lived in Bozeman, I've watched my town gain an international reputation as some kind of paradise. Click on any award-giver in the first paragraph – along with the American Planning Association, CNN Money, Fodor's Travel, National Geographic Adventure magazine, and the American Cities Business Journals – to get a sense of the distant experts expressing quick and easy attitude about my town.

bozeman aerial_4
Bozeman, Montana. Photograph from Flickr user Dan Nguyen.

Of course there's a lot to like about Bozeman – a Western university town in a scenic valley rimmed by mountains, near ski slopes and fishable rivers. We have a nice downtown, a small airport that's surprisingly well-connected, few traffic jams, and tech entrepreneurs mixing with conservationists and hipsters -- and a few actual cowboys.

On top of that, our homegrown entertainment includes a group of local women who create edgy comedy routines – check Broad Comedy on YouTube, singing "I Didn't F*ck It Up" or imitating inner-city rappers in "Soccer Mom Ho." You can even buy a Bozeman T-shirt letting the world know that you're a supporter of our very own Green Coalition of Gay Loggers for Jesus.

But any town has drawbacks, whether we're talking Paradise, Utah, or Paradise, Calif., or Paradise, Nev., or the various versions of San Francisco and Aspen and so on. That's why many local governments have adopted a new "Code of the West" officially warning any paradise-seeking immigrants of the problems they'll encounter when they move in, such as – egads! – rough roads, dangerous wildfires and the aroma of cattle.

The hyped-up Top 10 lists don't admit the drawbacks of my town. They just encourage paradise-seekers to move in – and thousands of people have apparently followed the advice by moving to Bozeman since I got here.

So, tongue in cheek, here's my rebellion against the hype: The Top 10 Reasons Not To Move To Bozeman.

(1) Begin with the town's name – it's lame. John M. Bozeman was a grandiose hustler who helped establish the town in 1864, while he was promoting the "Bozeman Trail," a dangerous shortcut for white settlers traveling through Wyoming and Idaho to Montana gold camps. John M. Bozeman hoped that his new town would "swallow up all the tenderfeet ... from the east, with their golden fleeces to be taken care of," one immigrant reported. But the whole Bozeman Trail quickly became a fiasco, as tribes including the Lakota Sioux, the Northern Cheyenne and the Northern Arapaho resisted the intrusion on their turf; within only four years or so, Native warriors wiped out 81 U.S. Army soldiers in the infamous Fetterman massacre and shut down the trail for good. As for John M. Bozeman himself, he had abandoned his wife and three young daughters in Georgia when he headed west to seek his fortune – setting the pattern for all the schemers and lone wolves who've come to this town since then.

John M. Bozeman had some good qualities (handsome, muscular, a crack shot). But fundamentally he was "a reckless man (who) never could see danger anywhere," according to one of his own friends back in the 1860s. He dressed like a dandy, in "the black beaver-cloth cutaway coat and striped dress trousers favored by gamblers," according to historians and friends, and made his living as "a speculator" who "farmed a bit, got in a few fights, gambled a lot, dreamed up business schemes, and was out of town for long periods of time."

bozeman bank
A new bank will be built in the field on the right, at the southeast edge of Bozeman, half a mile from any other commercial development. Photograph by Ray Ring.

John M. Bozeman's ventures included investing in a hotel and a river ferry, and delivering mail himself between Bozeman and the Virginia City mining camp, for 50 cents per piece (more than $18 in today's dollars) – apparently shameless price gouging. "His conscience was very elastic," a friend reported, and "to beat a man out of his wages or to neglect paying a bill or jumping a claim were matters of very little moment with him. ... His faults were produced by his education, or the lack of it rather, and the social system of the South, where labor was a disgrace to a white man. (He) had no use for money except to bet with, and the most congenial place to him on earth was the saloon, with a few boon companions at a table, playing a game of draw."

And John M. Bozeman only lasted a few years in Bozeman. At the age of 32, he was murdered – either by more hostile natives or by the jealous husband of a woman he was having an affair with. It was "the universal suspicion on the part of the husbands of the few women in town" that John Bozeman was a philanderer chasing the local married women, in the words of one historian. After he was killed, his estate wasn't worth as much as his outstanding bills.

(2) The weather. Yes, when you mention Montana, most people understand the weather is often bad here – as in, cold. And thanks to global warming, the cold spells seem to be getting a bit warmer and less prolonged. But still. I've had to deal with more than a foot of heavy wet snow that fell in my yard one day in mid-June several years ago, collapsing many of my leafed-out deciduous trees and crushing the mirage of summer.

The most recent seriously cold spell, a snowstorm in early December, generated these daily low temperatures, measured at the Montana State University campus near my house (with the late sunrise this time of year, these were the below-zero temperatures you would've faced, if you were in Bozeman commuting to work first thing in the morning):

bozeman snow_2
A recent snowstorm competes with Christmas decorations in downtown Bozeman. Photograph by Flickr user Craig Dugas.

Dec. 3  -  2 below zero F

Dec. 4  -  9 below zero

Dec. 5  -  14.2 below zero

Dec. 6  -  16.1 below zero

Dec. 7  -  19.3 below zero

Dec. 8  -  19.4 below zero

Dec. 9  -  10 below zero

Three of these days, the high temperature in late afternoon didn't even break zero. This all came down a couple of weeks before the official beginning of winter.

(3) The movie theaters. Movies can be intellectually and emotionally stimulating, a great cultural fix and an enjoyment -- but lately they're in short supply in Bozeman. When I moved here, we had two historic downtown movie theaters and a multiplex with about a half-dozen additional screens. Then another national theater chain opened a second multiplex, adding more than a half-dozen additional screens. At that point, a wide range of new movies showed in Bozeman, beyond the standard blockbusters aimed at teen-agers and families with young kids. But since then, both downtown theaters have stopped showing movies, and one multiplex closed.

So now we're down to only the newer multiplex, which is run by the biggest national chain, Tennessee-based Regal Entertainment Group – part of billionaire Philip Anschutz's empire. Anschutz is a politically active conservative Christian, opposing gay rights and backing various right-wing causes, and Regal Entertainment not only seems to have his conservative philosophy, the company also seems ignorant of basic facts like, Bozeman has more than 38,000 residents, and tens of thousands more live just outside city limits. Many of the locals are intelligent adults making careers not only in the university, but also in dozens of local high-tech companies, Montana's biggest ski resort (Big Sky), Yellowstone National Park (also nearby), or doing their own creative work in art, writing, photography, music, dance including more than one local ballet company, the local opera company, the local Shakespeare company, and so on.

As I write this blog post, these very good new movies have not yet shown in Bozeman's multiplex, even though they've been showing elsewhere around the West for weeks or months: 12 Years a Slave (a true story of 19th century slavery in this country, by the famous director Steve McQueen), All is Lost (Robert Redford suffering a solo shipwreck), Inside Llewyn Davis (the new Coen brothers flick), Dallas Buyers Club (Matthew McConaughey playing an early AIDS victim), Nebraska (same director as previous hits Sideways and The Descendants), Philomena (another British gem starring Judi Dench), Blue is the Warmest Color, Kill Your Darlings, Blue Jasmine (directed by Woody Allen, starring Cate Blanchett and Alec Baldwin), The Great Beauty, and Wadjda (a Saudi Arabian girl struggles for her rights).

12 years a slave poster
Fox Searchlight Pictures poster for the new '12 Years a Slave' film, which has not been shown in Bozeman's multiplex theater, even though it's been in wide release around the country for nearly two months.

Many of those movies have already won awards and will soon be nominated for Academy Awards, but somehow they're not appropriate for Bozeman? Or they can be shown here long after most other audiences have seen them? Give Bozeman a break, Regal Entertainment Group, or more like, give us what we're due.

I better acknowledge, two nights per month, a small nonprofit group called the Bozeman Film Festival brings some of the ignored-by-Regal movies to an auditorium in a former school that's now the Emerson Center for the Arts & Culture. The auditorium has been lovingly restored and improved to be a theater, but the screen is small and the sound can be difficult to decipher. That's a noble effort – thanks very much, Bozeman Film Festival and Emerson Center – but it's not a substitute for a state-of-the-art movie theater providing longer runs in better conditions.

(4) Lack of cultural or ethnic diversity. There is none in Bozeman, unless you imagine that white ice climbers are way different from white skiers who are way different from white fly fishermen. In the whole county, 95.5 percent of the residents are white, reporting no mixed blood at all. Hispanics make up roughly 3 percent, Natives about 1 percent, blacks less than half-a-percent. So for this kind of diversity, Bozeman is very boring. Pretty much anywhere I travel, other than Wyoming, I'm always struck by how much more diverse – and interesting – other communities are.

(5) Isolation. Bozeman is a long distance from any real urban area – the nearest is the Salt Lake City metro area, roughly 430 miles away. This has to do with fact that Montana is the only state that doesn't even border a state that has a city of one million. To get to Salt Lake City, you have to drive through hundreds of miles of Idaho. To get to Seattle, you also have to drive through Idaho, and to get to Denver, you have to drive across all of Wyoming. And so on. So when you want a city fix, it takes some doing.

(6) Wildfires. I used to tell friends who might like to visit Bozeman, the best time to come is during July and August, when the weather is most reliably good. But largely due to climate change, those months are now wildfire season, with a high risk of smoke filling the air, blocking views of the mountains and causing headaches and other health complaints. Now I tell friends who want to come during the warm weather, it's a gamble – they might experience air quality similar to inland Los Angeles.

(7) Occasional bad land-use planning. The city and county planners based in Bozeman, and their supporters, have good intentions and would probably do more to protect the landscape and the current residents who like things as they are, but they're constrained by local politics. They also, like all of us, make mistakes within what the politics allow.

As a result, we have a great deal of random sprawl – residential developments popping up on agricultural land outside the city, straining taxpayer-funded public services including law enforcement and road maintenance. And in the city, we have a large car wash that was allowed to wedge itself into a modern smart-growth neighborhood of houses, apartments and office buildings on North 15th Avenue, where there are no other commercial enterprises – as if the neighborhood residents would like to walk to a car wash instead of to a coffee shop or a cafe or small grocery. It's apparently a fine car wash, but does it belong in this neighborhood?

bozeman neighborhood
A smart-growth neighborhood in Bozeman, interrupted by a new car wash business. Photograph by Ray Ring.

Meanwhile, at the central sports-field complex, we have an array of super bright lights on tall poles whose bothersome glare extends for miles – the opposite of the "Dark Skies" movement taking hold elsewhere in the West. Banks are being allowed to build new branches around the city's fringes, like the one going in now, all by itself, in a streamside field on Kagy Boulevard, where horses grazed until recently (shown in a photo around #1 in this blog post) – as if we need more banks in a town already saturated with them (an indication of the affluence here).

bozeman carwash_2
The car wash, which has a neighborhood pedestrian crossing right in front of it. Photograph by Ray Ring.

In arguably its biggest mistake, last August the city government had to pay $2 million to settle a dispute with a wealthy developer who felt burned by a city manager's land-use decision. There are other obvious planning and land-use debacles, but this writing is long enough.

(8) Microbrewery suppression. Montana now has nearly 40 craft brewersranking in the top three states in breweries per-capita – making wonderful beers and ales, like Moose Drool and Cold Smoke (as in, windblown snow). But Montana microbreweries are suppressed by the hard-liquor saloons that are organized as the Montana Tavern Association, making it unduly difficult to drink a fresh draft microbrew.

It works like this: Under state law, the hard-liquor saloons must have state licenses. The state also limits the number of those licenses, so bidding wars erupt and a license can now cost more than $100,000. Microbreweries don't have to buy those licenses. The Tavern Association thinks that isn't fair, so it pressures the Montana Legislature to pass laws ordering that microbreweries can only serve their product in "tasting rooms" for limited hours – 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. "Microbreweries here operate under some of the most restrictive regulations in the country," says the head of the Montana Brewers Association. As a result, when I venture into any of the good microbreweries in the Bozeman area, last call is 8 p.m.

(9) Restaurants. Maybe due to the lack of cultural and ethnic diversity, Bozeman has no restaurants specializing in Indian food, none specializing in Ethiopian or other varieties of African food, no Peruvian or Brazilian or Spanish cuisine, and so on. We have some good restaurants, including sushi, Thai, and a co-op that serves from steamer trays, but overall Bozeman's fare tends to be middle-of-the-road. Maybe more important, Bozeman also has no restaurant open 24/7, and the coffee shops don't stay open late, so night owls seeking community, you're out of luck here.

(10) The supervolcano near Bozeman. It underlies Yellowstone National Park, generating the heat for all the geysers and hotpots, and as anyone who's watched the supervolcano documentaries on the Discovery Channel and PBS, it could erupt anytime. And when it does generate its next eruption – actually the term is supereruption, and some experts say this is "overdue" – it will obliterate Bozeman, along with ruining the whole planet's atmosphere. So despite the influx of wealthy people driving up the prices of Bozeman real estate, our property values are really iffy, long-term.

I could list more than these Top 10 Reasons Not To Move To Bozeman, but like I said, this is long enough. And like I also said, I'm writing this tongue-in-cheek, because I do like living in Bozeman, despite the drawbacks. But those who are thinking of moving here, keep this list in mind. And fellow Bozemanites, if you'd like to chime in, please do.

Ray Ring is a senior editor of High Country News, and he is based in Bozeman. The descriptions of John M. Bozeman for this post were found in Bozeman and the Gallatin Valley: A history, by Phyllis Smith, and John M. Bozeman: Montana Trailmaker, by Merrill G. Burlingame. The list of new movies that haven't shown in Bozeman's multiplex theater is derived from months of the multiplex's ads in the local newspaper.

Blake Osborn
Blake Osborn Subscriber
Dec 30, 2013 09:23 AM
I understand your view, but it seems to me like you're expecting the luxuries of a big city. These cities have a history (longer than 19 years) and you can't expect them to change overnight.

The problem lies in the rate of growth. The cities of Backpacker Magazine, Outdoor, etc. are not allowed to grow organically, but instead undergo an explosion of growth. And again, I understand the point your trying to make here, but this seems more like an advertisement for Bozeman than anything else.
Charles Tracey
Charles Tracey
Dec 30, 2013 05:50 PM
Yes it is a advertisement. I will now make plans to sell my Shack in Massachusetts & be sure to at least visit when it warms up a little.
Mark York
Mark York
Dec 30, 2013 06:37 PM
This is why we like Livingston. We go to Walmart in Bozeman.
Mark York
Mark York
Dec 30, 2013 06:47 PM
I am surprised by the film censorship in a college town, all of which have shown here in Hailey, ID. Solution is over the pass in Livingston.
Jon Schwedler
Jon Schwedler Subscriber
Dec 30, 2013 11:21 PM
My wife and I moved to Bozeman at the turn of the century (sounds old-timey, don't it?) We were struck by the beauty, that drivers actually stopped when there were pedestrians at crosswalks, and a store named "Heeb's". And then... winter came. After someone told us it gets down to -30, my wife glared at me-- what had I gotten her into? I told her if it ever got down to -30 we could leave. Three years later we moved.

Seriously, it is beautiful. Bozeman is the best town on earth in the summer and fall. I loved Peet's Hill and the trails I could hit from my doorstep. I could guarantee getting an elk tag, or even two. But when people from Montana would say to me, "Wow, Bozeman? It's cold there!" I realized two subtropical people were not cut out for that 6 month winter.
Kate Ylinen
Kate Ylinen
Dec 31, 2013 09:35 AM
i'm surprised by the previous commenters inability to pick up on sarcasm. this is a parody of all the articles which encourage people to visit or move to bozeman, is it not, ray? i found it very amusing. though bozeman is my hometown, i no longer live there, i sure wish i did, but alas, i moved to michigan 7 1/2 years ago, and now have a husband, house and children which have kind of anchored me here. i still visit twice a year, i found your point about wildfires to be especially funny, because it's true. i always plan our summer trip in july because you never know what you're going to get in june, it's possible that the weather will be summer-ish, but more likely that it will be end of winter-ish, and it's a guarantee that there will be fires in august, so, july it is.
Christine Tiscione
Christine Tiscione
Dec 31, 2013 09:43 AM
Although I find this article illuminating in many respects, I feel that I must comment. After living in NYC and Tucson, my husband and I find living in Paradise Valley to be just that.we drive into BZ once a week, and find that it is enough city for us.Tucson was a sleepy southwestern town when we moved there, and we watched it become a drug and gang infested mess. If you want BZ to become more 'citified', I say be careful of what you want you may just get it. Yes, the wildfires are a big, unexpected disappointment,the movie selection is ridiculous in both BZ and Livingston, the restaurants are horrible (good thing I am a gourmet cook),but, believe it or not....there is a better nightlife here than in Tucson!
The people are fantastic. They are friendly, pleasant, helpful, and real. The beauty and grandeur of our little corner of the world is all I need.....and if making mention of a car wash in a residential area is necessary, then we are doing pretty good. Have you ever lived in a big city? It's a horror show laced with the benefits of a diverse culture and good restaurants.Bozeman...love it or leave it.
Christine Tiscione
Christine Tiscione
Dec 31, 2013 10:16 AM
When we first moved to Tucson, we loved it so much that we told people how horribly hot it was to discourage any other people from moving there. If that was your motivation for this article....kudos to you!
Alan Kesselheim
Alan Kesselheim
Dec 31, 2013 10:16 AM
Great job, Ray. Having lived in Bozeman more than thirty years, I groan at every new top 10 story that comes around, touting Bozeman's greatness. I get the tongue-in-cheek nature of your blog, but I also agree with many of your anti-top-10 list. I'm still here, and have no plans to leave any time soon. In fact, I just ran (and narrowly lost) for a City Commission seat - so I'm a committed resident. My biggest fear for Bozeman, in addition to many of Ray's good list, is that we're heading for the same cliff that so many other towns and cities have gone over in the race to keep fueling progress and growth at the expense of everything we love about being here. I keep going back to the Small is Beautiful idea that was a popular cult bubble back in the 1970s. It takes a paradigm shift, but that's what will be required of us all to make it stick. Tell the truth, I'm not very confident about the prospects. Then again, another year rolls around and I'm still here, and it's hard to come up with better places to be.
Ruby Burney
Ruby Burney
Dec 31, 2013 07:13 PM
My brother, Randy Church, lived there and worked at the Pizza Hut. He was going to college there. He was murdered in Bozeman and they never found his killer. A day doesn't go by that I don't think about him.
Nigel Waterton
Nigel Waterton
Dec 31, 2013 07:32 PM
Wow. What a great, thoughtful article. Equally thoughtful post by Al K. (Voted for ya, btw.) I might point y'all to the Sonoran Institute's work (-if I could, but it looks like you'll have to look it up. No live links here...)They recognize the West will continue to grow, so they work w/ Western entities via planning to help communities develop in a way copacetic w/ (to?) the Western palette. Which is odd, given the mythic role individualism plays here, but my guess is that we can all agree that the odd development on the way to the Bozone brewery, (speaking of microbreweries)which I call Little Alexandria, is profoundly out of proportion & touch w/ Bozeman's context. So when Ray talks about out-of-place car washes & Al mentions his ambivalent worry for our future, I truck w/ that. But our problem is a happy one: how to keep something wonderful (albeit cold, smelly, an cinematically deprived...) Fabulous reading. Thanks for your thoughtful article. -Nigel
Rita Gibbs
Rita Gibbs
Dec 31, 2013 10:28 PM
I gotta comment. Tucson is " drug and gang nested?" Lol, maybe one square mike South Tucson. Our downtown has a burgeoning restaurant and bar and art scene. Tucson is also making " hipster
" lists. Just sayin'
Rita Gibbs
Rita Gibbs
Dec 31, 2013 10:30 PM
That was supposed to say, drug and gang "infested. "
Stupid auto-correct
Leslie Lemieux
Leslie Lemieux
Jan 01, 2014 01:02 PM
Having just finished living in Bozeman for over ten years, you forgot the most obvious reasons not to live here. One, the high cost of housing. We just moved to Billings because of it. Two, jobs are scarce and low paying. Sure, Bozeman still has the highest lowerst wage in the state. It does no good though when it means a person has to have two or more jobs just to break even with the high rent and cost of living there. Add to thefact that college students compete for the jobs, and it is difficult. This is a tourist town, most of the jobs are hospitality and customer service. Yes, there is some high tech, but many of the residents there are not trained for them. Those jobs go to those more qualified that move here from out of state. Back to the housing issue, there is not enough of it. Rent prices have skyrocketed with the cost of buying a home. The average person is can no longer afford to live there. It is now a town only for the well to do to play in. The average person is now their servant, in order to live in Livingston or Belgrade. They surely cannot afford to live in Bozeman.
Robert Stitt
Robert Stitt
Jan 01, 2014 05:07 PM
It seems like things never change--maybe the flavor but not the substance. I grew up in Bozeman during the 40's and 50's, leaving to get a job in 1965 after I graduated from MSU with an engineering degree. A lot of things described here sound like the Bozeman of my childhood: lack of diversity (one black family), limited movie theaters, limited liquor establishments, high priced real estate (although my parents bought their house on S. Willson for $4k in 1944, now on Zillow for $500K), cold winters (but -40F every year, probably twice), snow every month (skied on July 4 one year), only 1 24-hr restaurant (Manuel's Burger Inn). I went to school with a Heeb girl, walked or rode my bike to school, took the battery out of my VW inside during the cold weather, had 2 corner stores within 3 blks of home, and played in what we called the "Bum Jungle" not too far from where that bank is going to be. Now I live in the country outside Seattle--and guess what?--a lot of the same issues Bozeman has, we have here, too.
Scott L Smith
Scott L Smith Subscriber
Jan 02, 2014 10:05 PM
Hey Ray...I went to college in Bozeman back in the late 60's when it was truly a western town, with a land-grant agriculture college and a bunch of country bars down on front street. Belgrade was a couple of places, and the Yellowstone Inn south of Four Corners was a lot of dancing fun on the weekends. You could raft the Madison all day and catch 4-5 pound browns. But the same things that drew you there also drew a lot of other interests, and Bozeman was forever changed...media-based progress is always a question...Try the Missouri Breaks area of NE Montana--I guarantee you will find a neck of the woods that the media will not cause a landrush into...and it is just the most incredibly diverse country you will ever find--Montana at its BEST!!
Nick Comtois
Nick Comtois
Jan 06, 2014 10:48 AM
While I've never been to Bozeman your article resonated well with my experience since I moved to Boulder, CO to attend CU. While the primary reason I moved was because I liked what CU had to offer I did fall victim to the "Best Places to Live" trap.

Just like Bozeman, Boulder isn't a bad place to live. However, there are caveats, some of which are monumental. To me it's journalistic laziness and a disservice to readers when these writers write glowing reviews and confidently proclaim somewhere as a great place to live using factors like Yoga studies per square mile or whatever.

I plan on moving very soon, and when I do I'll be sure to avoid anywhere that consistently makes it on a top 10 list of best places to live, if it truly is deserving of the title in a few years it'll be ruined. I don't want to hoard amazing places all to myself, everyone should have a right to move wherever they want. Personally what makes a great place to me includes things like a reasonable cost of living and a smaller community in addition to access to natural beauty and public lands.
Paul Robertson
Paul Robertson
Jan 06, 2014 06:24 PM
True to the writer's premise, even the article intended to expose Bozeman for it's true nature, lacks heart and creativity. I give the author no style points for penning this soft counter culture lampoon. It is a veiled attempt at dissuading the next Rocky Mtn wannabe from lengthening his line at the chairlift and driving up the price of locally produced goat cheese.
George Linden
George Linden
Jan 08, 2014 05:18 PM
the reason I would live in Bozeman, a town of which I am very familiar......is for the authenticity of character, lack of counter culture/crap show that invades most'city' places, causing division and hatred in many instances. And that is coming from an original liberal (liberal coming from the word Libertarian that is) Bohemian-chic loving artist! The pervasive filth and activism/dark hearted spirit of peoples is replaced by the natural beauty and rugged individualism it takes to design a fine life in beautiful and friendly Bozeman. The people living there are a refreshing alternative to modern so called life elsewhere. Doesn't mean it isn't fun to photograph the freak show elsewhere!
Candy Watzek
Candy Watzek
Jan 08, 2014 09:05 PM
I moved here because I love the cold. I appreciate your tongue in cheek as after living throughout the West Bozeman remains a very special place. I studied environmental studies and Forestry before Nursing but now happy to care for the residents of Gallatin county, Bozeman has a first class hospital which is not true of every small city in the west :)
Karen Renne
Karen Renne Subscriber
Jan 08, 2014 10:28 PM
Bozeman is indeed expensive, and getting more so . . . I was born here in the 1930s but left as soon as I could (I did not attend MSU), and returning 60 years later (in 2010) I find that the most obvious changes are the endless acres of subdivisions that used to be cow pastures and wheat fields, and the amazing number of places to eat (in 1948 there were essentially two restaurants, the Bozeman and the Baxter!). The restaurants are part of the tourist-driven trend toward gift shops and art galleries on Main St. instead of stores selling useful goods. In the 1950s we had a full-service book store, a big "department store" selling dry goods and clothing of all kinds, multiple clothing and shoe stores, several drug stores, even a grocery store on Main St. Moving all this activity to the mall and the "big box" stores on the outskirts of town radically changes the quality of life here. Among other things it means that people spend a lot more time in their cars. But the kind of Main Street I remember probably doesn't exist anywhere now. Loss of a consolidated, convenient downtown is not a reason not to live in Bozeman, but the high cost of housing is. For those who want to enjoy the rivers and mountains, it may be better to avoid a quasi-city like Bozeman and opt for a hamlet like Gallatin Gateway or Three Forks.
  
Carol Jean
Carol Jean
Jan 09, 2014 11:49 AM
I don't think you know what "tongue in cheek" means. If this was supposed to be comedic in the least, it's not written as such. Without pointing out all the flaws in this, I'll stick to one close to my heart as a lover of Bozeman and all the wonderful things (and people) it has to offer: there is most certainly diversity. Some people are intelligent, and some aren't.
David Stipe
David Stipe
Jan 10, 2014 01:37 PM
First, I am not sure if 19 years makes you a local or a Gallatin County historian. I moved to Big Sky in April 1974 and on to Bozeman in 1977. During that period I skied, was a part owner in The Saloon at Big Sky worked at the Ore House off an on, married my wife and got a degree at MSU. In 2011 we returned to town on a business trip and in March of 2013 we came back for the Big Sky 40-Years DTR Reunion. Bozeman is barely the same town it was in the 1970s. Not counting Velveeta there was only three types of cheese in the stores in the 70s. The selections at the state liquor store was less than limited. Bozeman was a mail order town, and I loved it!!! Back then if you weren't from MT you ended up in Bozeman to escape the big cities. We left Bozeman just as the folks with their big city money started moving in and started changing Main Street. These new folks were not poor kids like my friends, they had made some money and brought with them two characteristics. #1 they wanted every product and service they like in the big city and not having what they did not like about their past. #2 They were in and they felt no one else should be allowed in. We moved to the San Francisco area to find jobs that MT did not have and while there I worked with a guy from NYC. Here is the hoot about the age old debate "Bozeman has or doesn't have" this guy thought San Francisco was a third world city with out any culture. We have lived our lives and grown up two children in central Mississippi. I like to say, Mississippi is a wonderful place to live and raise a family. It is not a wonderful place to vacation. To me it is not does Bozeman have this or that. It is a blessed place to live, marry, grow children and vacation. It does all of these with out millions of people. We will never move back to southwest MT, but my heart is never far from where y'all live.
Sesshu Foster
Sesshu Foster Subscriber
Jan 10, 2014 02:23 PM
On #4: That's why the pundits keep Boseman in the top ten. Read the comment section on any article on the decline of Detroit and they're not going to blame the big 3 automakers for relocating to Mexico. Who do they blame?
Michael Bozeman
Michael Bozeman
Jan 11, 2014 10:27 AM
I disagree with #1.
Amy Meighan
Amy Meighan
Jan 11, 2014 11:21 PM
Went to MSU from 1964-66, the beginning of the age of freedom for me. I would have stayed but out-of-state tuition was off the charts back then. I loved those two years in Bozeman (preceded by 4 years in Great Falls). But thank you Miss Wilson for the two great watercolor classes that found something in me I didn't know I had. Bozeman was a great little town where mansions of surprising size and architect populate the streets around the campus. I wonder if the house with the very French roof still stands? I recall being the only Jewish person along with a lone black basketball player, providing some cultural diversity. But I still say that although my heart is here in Utah, my soul will always be in Montana where my ocean was the wheat fields as seen from the back of Chico, my faithful and fleet footed Montana steed. As to weather..I get three, maybe four cuts of hay every year as to your usual two, still eating tomatoes in October and I'm in northern Utah :)! And my husband proposed to me in Bozeman...he even knew back then what was special to me.
Geoffrey  O'Gara
Geoffrey O'Gara
Jan 13, 2014 05:19 PM
11 REASONS NOT TO MOVE TO LANDER, WYOMING.
 
Ah, Ray. The terrible burden of discovering and moving to a beautiful sorta-wild setting with a little bit of cowboy and a little bit of isolation and a little bit of volcano-paranoia to keep your on your toes…only to find that a bunch of JOURNALISTS from somewhere else (wait – isn’t that you?) spotted it as well, and actually wrote about it (wait, again – you, again?).
 
So get your tongue out of your cheek, old friend, and your head out of your other cheeks. I mean, grousing about only having one multi-plex, and microbreweries that close too early, and a lack of Ethiopian restaurants (no!)? Really?
 
Hey, you should come to Lander, WY. It makes Bozeman look like Paris. Less than half as many people. No university. No multiplex. And…Ethiopian? We don’t even have Sushi.
 
Of course, there are reasons. Reasons which you, my friend, and your brethren at HCN, must bear some responsibility for.
 
Lander too was once one of those “best small towns” that you feel so burdened to live in (maybe a smaller best small town in smaller magazines, but…we were on the list, okay?) Once, the mere mention of Lander turned heads in Santa Fe and Sebastapol and, well, Bozeman. Then came one of those pivot points in history: High Country News, which was born and raised in Lander, Tom Bell’s home town, moved to Colorado (and opened a Bozeman branch). And Lander, left in the lurch, was no longer a best small town – it was just a small town, dropped in the dustbin of history. The je ne sais quoi of Rocky Mountain bestness was gone.
 
And so we have ELEVEN reasons not to move to Lander.
 
1-10/ Town name, weather, movie theaters (make that theater), diversity, isolation, wildfires, bad land-use planning, microbrewery hours, appalling lack of Ethiopian restaurants, super-volcano imminence (600,000 years and counting); and
 
11/ No more High Country News. Not even a Ray Ring bureau.
Theodore Barnhart
Theodore Barnhart Subscriber
Jan 15, 2014 10:55 AM
Some of these reasons are clearly here to round out the list to 10. But yes, everyone, stay away from Bozeman.
Jim McGannon
Jim McGannon
Jan 18, 2014 03:59 PM
Ray, got a good chuckle and enlightenment from your Top 10 reasons not to move to Bozeman. Pretty funny as I have a friend who's daughter is getting ready to attend Mt. State in Bozeman.
Angela Dye
Angela Dye Subscriber
Jan 31, 2014 10:45 AM
Ray- great expose on Bozeman. Living in Telluride (high price of housing, mostly white, isolated), I can relate to some of the rant but still think both are fabulous places. At least we have 2am bars (and the legislature is considering extending to 430am???), we have a bit more restaurant diversity (but no ethiopian), and our downtown theater just got digital equipment, run by the local film festival where the first runs showed at the festival in september). Having graduated high school in BZN and gotten a degree from MSU (70s), I promptly moved to Colorado since there was no work in Montana, I was cold, and I needed some culture (entertainment for some then was beating up the 'longhairs' and of course, late night drives out to the hot springs). Interesting to see there's still issues with getting work, that there's a bit more culture but still redneck, and that it's getting warmer?! Still days of below zero cold though. Thankful for the University presence - could you imagine if that wasn't there! Best, A

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