Category Archives: Around Bozeman Airport

Navigating the busiest little airport in Montana. Tips, tricks, recommendations for visitors to southwest Montana’s finest international airport.

Big Sky Forbe’s Top 10 Ski Resorts 2014

Can’t say this is a surprise!

http://www.forbes.com/sites/christophersteiner/2012/12/03/the-top-10-ski-resorts-in-the-united-states-for-2013/

The Top 10 Ski Resorts in the United States for 2013

These are the rankings for 2013.  The NEW 2014 Top 10 Ski Resort Rankings can be found here.

Rankings have become so ubiquitous in our world – top colleges, top cities, top jobs, top sandwiches – that they’ve begun to lose

value.  Everybody has a ranking about everything.  Making matters more confusing, most rankings get so granular that nearly every person, place and thing is ranked No. 1 forsomething.

In the ski world, there’s been a bit of this specialization ranking creeping in as well.  To be sure, some of it is fair.  Winter Park, for instance, can’t compare its terrain to that of Snowbird, but the Colorado resort does offer some of the greatest access to disabled and adaptive skiers in the world – and it deserves credit for that.  Other outlets rank snow, grooming, family friendliness, food, lodging, customer service and even the quality of the booze on mountain.

All of those things matter to somebody.  But here we only rank one thing: Awesomeness.  It’s the most important thing we can measure.  If you can know a place’s awesomeness, do you need to know anything else?

Answer: No.

The 2014 Rankings for 182 U.S. resorts, including Overall PAF Score, the best family resorts, best resorts for snow, best for luxury and those that offer the easiest access can be found atZRankings.com.

We measure awesomeness with strict adherence to quantitative and scientific methods.  The rankings you see here are the product of the most honed algorithms ever unleashed on the ski world.  Being on this list means something.  It means awesomeness.

To reiterate, there are NEW 2014 Forbes rankings for the Top 10 here.  Rankings for 182 Resorts are here.  This article lists the 2013 rankings.

Wear a helmet: The home to Corbet’s Couloir retained it’s No. 1 ranking for 2013.

There’s nothing east of the Rockies on the list because no resort east of the Rockies has the snow or terrain to crack our awesomeness rankings–something that matters for both beginners and experts (soft western snow >> eastern ice).  Not that there isn’t fun to be had in the East or even the Midwest.  Ski wherever you can.  We plan to do a separate, eastern list next year.

Again, we rank awesomeness and awesomeness only.  If you want to find out what ski resort has the best hot chocolate and marshmallow bar, you’ll find that list elsewhere.  If you want the hard facts on what ski mountain gives you the best possibility of a soul-moving experience on and off the snow, then you need rankings based on our patented Pure Awesomeness Factor.  In the ski business, this is known as PAF.  It’s not something that resorts make public, but every mountain knows where it stands.  Most big resorts employ at least three data scientists who spend their days looking for methods to raise the resort’s PAF score.

Awesomeness is the only proxy for awesomeness.  It’s the critical path to a vacation that becomes legendary.  So for the second time ever, here are the top ten resorts in the United States according to PAF:

Everything is big–and awesome–at Jackson Hole.

1.  Jackson Hole, Wyoming(PAF = 98.5): 

The lift lines at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort are like those at a highway rest area bathroom at 2:00 a.m.: Almost nonexistent, except when they exist.  And just like that line at the bathroom, if a queue has grown large at Jackson Hole, then there is probably a great reason to get in it immediately.

One of the few spots where lines used to bubble up at Jackson was at the Thunder chairlift, which gets skiers to the hairier southern side of the resort.  On a powder day, Thunder was to be avoided; you planned your morning around it.  JHMR is a place run by skiers and they were more than aware of the choke point Thunder created.

So before last season, the people in charge installed a new chairlift, Marmot, whose base sits adjacent to that of Thunder’s.  It functions as a pressure-release valve for Thunder and provides the dual purpose of getting skiers back to the top of the Bridger Gondola for a snack or lunch without forcing them to ski to the bottom of this very tall mountain.  One medium-sized lift, one huge improvement.

All of the other things that made Jackson No. 1 in last year’s rankings remain true.  It’s still the best skiing mountain in North America.  It still has the best continuous fall line, the best terrain and the best backcountry of any mountain not in the Himalayas. And there’s that $30-million ascending jam fest of music, sweat and rollicking cheers, also known as The Tram, which offers the best return on 10 minutes of standing that you’ll ever be offered (all 4,139 feet of vertical, at once).

Jackson gets extra points for coming through with decent snow last winter (the winter that wasn’t) when most of the country’s ski resorts were still putting up with random patches of brown grass on January 15.  And it never hurts to have the most famous ski run in the world – Corbet’s Couloir – inside the boundaries.

On top of skiing, Jackson has come into its own as a culinary destination, a nifty feat for a place so small and thinly populated. The area is awash in new and creative eateries: Roadhouse Brewing Co., the Handle Bar at the Four Season (a Michael Mina concept), a great contemporary  spot in town in The Kitchen, and the reincarnation of a longtime local favorite, Billy’s Burgers. On the mountain, don’t miss waffles stuffed with Nutella and bananas at Corbet’s Cabin.

A minor gripe on the foot front (very minor): one of this column’s favorite restaurants in Jackson, Trio, made the mistake last winter of messing with one of the best burgers in America when it switched its meat patty from local bison to ho-hum angus beef.  It remains a fine burger, but it no longer stands out from stalwarts in New York and Chicago.

No time to eat?  You can still have it all: Stuff your pockets with Tram Bars, the most delicious energy bar in the world, sold all over at Jackson Hole and made just over the ridge in Victor, Idaho.

Snowbird: Best snow, epic terrain, epic lift.

2.   Alta and Snowbird, Utah (PAF = 97):

For most people, these two resorts that occupy a splendid apron of Little Cottonwood Canyon just 35 minutes from downtown Salt Lake should be the default ski vacation. Direct flights to Salt Lake can be had from most cities and the trip from the airport to the snow here is a leisurely stroll compared with the white-knuckle pilgrimage between Denver and Colorado’s resorts.

We rank Snowbird and Alta together because they aretogether.  They share a boundary line and even, for those who choose to purchase it, a joint lift ticket.  If you go to one, you should go to the other.  Unless you’re a snowboarder, in which case Alta won’t allow you to plow through its chutes and trees—and what glorious chutes and trees they are.

The terrain at Alta and Snowbird is the terrain against which all others are measured.  Snowbird’s tram, which, like Jackson’s, also traverses from the base of the resort to the top, is the only lift that compares with the tram at Jackson Hole. The lift line for the Snowbird tram on a prime powder day can get ugly—one of the drawbacks of being on top of a greater metropolitan area of 2 million people.

The good news is that not all of those people ski and, even better, this place has a lot of powder days—it gets 600 inches a year—more than anywhere outside of Alaska.  The snow is dependable and comes in a density that’s user friendly, like a stiff dollop of whipped milk on a cappuccino.  If you’re going on a trip for three days or less, it’s hard to go anywhere but Utah. We can’t stress enough how awesome the skiing is here.  If you haven’t been, just go.

Not to be missed: Snowbird’s Cliff Lodge, a wonderful modern building whose raw, reinforced concrete edifice evokes the work of architect Paul Rudolph, a brilliant shaper of glass and poured stone.

In Pictures: 12 Ski Resort Vacations For Every Budget

 

The marriage between town and mountain in Telluride is unique.

3.  Telluride, Colorado (PAF = 90):

There isn’t a more charming notch in the Rocky Mountains than the perfect box canyon that Telluride inhabits.  The nearby peaks’ proximity makes the town feel more like the Alps than another Colorado ski town. The closeness of the mountains also makes for some chilly mornings, as it can be past brunch hour by the time sunlight hits Colorado Avenue, Telluride’s main street.  But that’s a small nit when it comes to one of the America’s best ski towns.

The gondola is a centerpiece of living in or visiting Telluride. It’s free for everybody and runs from 7 a.m. to midnight, giving both town and Mountain Village dwellers easy access to restaurants, bars and shops on either end of town or the resort.

The skiing at Telluride is good and continues to get better.  The fall lines are extended and true and the peaks in the near distance are 14,000-footers. Newer terrain on the backside in Revelation Bowl gives the resort a true Western snowfield experience and there are abundant chutes and hike-to steeps, some of which are accessed by the coolest steps not on the Vallée Blanche: the Gold Hill Chutes Staircase.

For this coming winter, in cooperation with the U.S. Forest Service, Telluride gladed some pine stands along the Palmyra Express lift as well as next to the Plunge lift.  The thinning removed down and dead trees, giving skiers better paths in the woods as well as getting more light and water to healthy trees, leading to a more robust forest overall. Telluride also has further expanded its boundaries above the treeline to include more of the north side of Bald Mountain.  The resulting new run is temporarily called Bald 6.  Ski it, own it… maybe they’ll name it after you.

Telluride’s dining options are commensurate with the kind of wealth that has concentrated on its streets and slopes during the last 20 years.  La Marmotte, in old town inside a 100-year old building near the base of the gondola, is a classic.  Get the tasting menu with the short ribs. Two new foodie standouts on the mountain for this season: Bon Vivant and Tomboy Tavern.

Welcome to Flavor-Town (the better-than Guy Fieri version): Try the breakfast burrito at The Butcher & Baker Cafe, a gem of a spot on Colorado Ave.  Includes: sweet potatoes, tomatoes, beans and eggs, and sausage if you want it.

Double Bonus time: Telluride has the nicest restrooms in the ski world – the resort actually uses the word “dominate” when comparing their bathrooms to those at other mountains.  So go ahead and dominate a pile of jalapenos on your chili bowl — with a heart empty of fear.

Vail offers the best skiing on Colorado’s I-70 corridor.

4. Vail, Colorado (PAF = 87): 

Vail moved up this year from No. 5 thanks to lift and technology improvements on the mountain.

There’s nothing in the U.S. so big as Vail’s 5,289 acres.  Vail is a megaresort; there’s no getting around this fact.  Not only is it big, but it’s popular.  You will see crowds here that are impossible anywhere else.

But as it turns out, James Surowiecki’s hypothesis regarding crowds is quite accurate when it comes to Vail: there’s a good reason all these people show up.  The terrain at Vail is the best and broadest of any of the central Colorado resorts.  It also benefits from being on the west side of Vail pass, which results in more snow compared with resorts on the east side of the pass (Copper, Keystone, Breckenridge).

Some of the biggest problems at Vail—long lines and bottlenecks—have been mitigated during the last two years.  If you ever remember waiting for two hours at the bottom of Chair No. 5 to get a ride off of the backside of the mountain, you needn’t fear such a fate again. Vail pulled that slow double chair out and installed a high-speed quad, which means things might get skied off faster back there, but at least, if you’re hustling, you stand a chance at three or four runs of face shots rather than just one—and that’s all you can ask for.

The crush at the bottom of the resort on busy days—when more than 20,000 people can be on the mountain—has been relieved by a new gondola that goes through Vail Village to Vail Mountain.  The new lift takes 10-passengers per cabin and treats riders with Wifi and heat.  No word yet if they’ll let you ride around and around without getting off.

Technology further enhances the on-mountain experience at Vail through its industry-leading EpicMix app for iPhones and Android devices. Once installed, the app tracks riders’ vertical feet skied. Volleys of bragging are easily disseminated to jealous friends and family through the app’s Facebook integration.  More than 40,000 people downloaded the app last year, which lead to 275,000 Facebook postings.

We’d be remiss to not mention Vail’s sister resort, Beaver Creek, in this spot as well. The mountains don’t touch each other like Alta-Snowbird or Park City-Deer Valley, but they share parent companies, lift tickets and the same snowfall profile—and they’re only 20 minutes apart from each other.  Beaver Creek, still one of the youngest ski resorts in the U.S. at 32 years old, was created to spar with the fanciest of the fancy: Utah’s Deer Valley, Idaho’s Sun Valley and Aspen Mountain—and it’s succeeded at that.

Beaver Creek’s lift network is comfy and thorough—and lines are well controlled, especially away from the mountain’s base.  There’s a quantity of sneaky-good terrain at the Beav as well; don’t miss the chance to test your edges on Birds of Prey, one of the more fearsome downhill courses on the World Cup. The top of the course is often studded with moguls, but some skiers can catch it groomed, slick and nasty—just like the World Cuppers like it. As you throw turns every 10 feet to control your speed at the top of the course, imagine straight-lining the whole stretch.  Then keep turning—all the way to a warm, free chocolate-chip cookie at the bottom, a Beaver Creek specialty.

Park City’s town lift.

5. Park CityDeer Valley and The Canyons – Utah (PAF = 86): 

This list is about ranking the best places to go skiing.  Park City is most certainly one of those places — and it happens to be a place with three mountains.  These are separate resorts, but they’re all within 10 minutes of each other (Park City Mountain Resort and Deer Valley actually share a boundary line) and taking a trip to one usually means taking a trip to the other.  Together these mountains surround the old mining town of Park City, Utah, which every January is also home to the Sundance Film Festival.

First, let’s tackle the town, then we’ll talk about the skiing.

Park City the town has more to offer than perhaps any other mountain town going. It’s bigger than Telluride, more accessible than Aspen, only 35 minutes from a major airport and the place is picture perfect in every sense.  Plus there is a ski run that runs right down to Main Street, serviced by the Town Lift, which carries you back up to the slopes of Park City Mountain Resort.  A good evening routine: hit up the No Name Saloon (locals still call it “the ‘Mo,” short for the bar’s old Alamo moniker) for a 24 oz. mug of Uinta  Brewing’s Cutthroat Pale Ale and then wander down to Park Avenue to Davanza’s  and grab a chicken-and-jalapeno pizza 0r a chicken parm sandwich.  If you’re feeling flusher, stay on Main Street and hit Zoom, Robert Redford’s restaurant that does a great job with local fare.

As for skiing, the best lift in town is The Canyon’s 9990.  At the very top of the resort, 9990 offers some hearty steep fall lines and a big north-facing slope that stays cold and dry even in the late spring.  A little hard work here usually yields some powder that tourists couldn’t find.  The Canyons also employs the best lift operators anywhere – this is a fact.  The Canyons spans 4,000 skiable acres, making it the biggest resort in Utah.  The resort is quite spread out, however, and a lot of time can be wasted trying to get from one end to the other.  Skiers should pick a side and mine it.

Deer Valley, the place where Mitt Romney skis, is as fancy as you might think.  But it also packs in some great shots of terrain, including the Daly chutes, which are accessed from the Empire Canyon lift.  At the bottom of that lift, at Empire Canyon Lodge, skiers will find not only the greatest ski lodge in the world, but also the greatest single dish served mountainside anywhere: Deer Valley’s Turkey Chili.  At less than $10, this mix of cumin, coriander, corn, black beans and big turkey pieces is an edible bargain at a place known for its bling.  All of the food at Deer Valley, in fact, is excellent — and no more expensive than food across the rest of the ski world.

Powder lasts a little longer at Deer Valley than other places.  Some of the best bets for long, lonely runs of untracked are some of the older, sleepier trails on the east-facing slope of Bald Mountain that are served by the Mayflower lift. Hit it early and hit it hard. Unless you’re a snowboarder.  Then, like with Alta, you won’t be hitting it at all.

Park City Mountain Resort is interesting because it backs right up to Main Street. The Town Lift is almost worth a lift ticket by itself.  But we rank it third among the three Park City resorts for its abundance of time-wasting run-outs, lack of continuous fall lines and, for Utah, something of a crowd problem.  The best spots on the mountain are those accessed by Jupiter chairlift.  There are some hikes that get skiers bigger shots and some of the terrain to the far skiers’ right is legitimately excellent.  There’s enough here to keep good skiers interested, but we don’t recommend straying far from Jupiter.

Get it while it’s fresh: On a snowing powder day, make for Deer Valley’s trees while the rich folk play bridge and the locals pound The Canyons and PCMR.

For a change: If you’re at PCMR, ski down to Main Street for an uncrowded lunch and drink a coffee to-go while you ride the Town Lift back to the snow.

In Pictures: 12 Ski Resort Vacations For Every Budget

 

Alpine Meadows and Squaw Valley offer unique vistas.

6.  Squaw Valley / Alpine Meadows (PAF = 84):

Squaw and Alpine dropped two spots in our rankings because of the combined ranking of the Park City resorts, our first time doing that, and the improved score of Vail.

Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows didn’t do anything wrong last season, but they were punished by the snow spirits as the place was bereft of a real snow base through January.  At that point, half of the high season was over.

We can’t reasonably hold such a thing against the resorts, although it might be wise on their part to file a complaint with the Department of Global Warming Problems.  The snow patterns are already mercurial around Lake Tahoe—evinced by the record 700 inches that fell during the winter of 2010-2011 and the utter dud of last winter—the place doesn’t need something else adding more unpredictability.

That said, these two resorts, now linked by a joint ownership agreement and a speedy 10-minute shuttle system called the Squaw-Alpine Express, share lift tickets, season passes and the best terrain in the Sierras.  The joining is an excellent deal for California skiers—something that was done to compete with Vail Resort’s Epic Pass, the best deal in skiing. (Vail owns three Tahoe-area resorts — Heavenly, Northstar and Kirkwood — that are included on the Epic Pass.)

The SquawAlpine megaplex has been aggressively updating its base areas, with plans to spend $50 million over 5 years adding restaurants, bars and all the fixins that go with big boy resorts.  For people who find that their ski-charging caffeine is better served in coffee than in a can of Red Bull, Squaw has a treat for you this winter: the first ever ski-in, ski-out Starbucks. It will be located at mid mountain.

On to the important stuff, skiing:  As always, if you hit Squaw/Alpine with the right conditions, there are few places with comparable terrain.  There’s a reason that many of the world’s best extreme skiers are bred on these lifts. Squaw sports one of the few true mountain trams in the United States (Jackson Hole, Snowbird, Big Sky, Jay Peak) and the only U.S. funitel, a high speed gondola that runs on two wires, which allows it to continue operations in rougher weather and when wind events kick up, as they often do in the Sierra.  For this year, Squaw has installed a new high-speed six-pack lift (they’ll fill all of those seats on Saturdays) that will get people to Shirley Lake and Granite Chief’s chutes and trees all the quicker.

Because we find it bizarre and fun every time we mention it: Squaw Valley hosted the 1960 Winter Olympics.

Spots No. 7 – No. 10

Silverton Mountain (PAF: NA) – Silverton’s PAF score is, in fact, off of the charts.  We covered it in the magazine here.   It’s a mountain only fit for expert skiers and people who are comfortable with the spartan amenities of an outhouse and a yurt with a keg on wheels.  We’re good with that.  Very good.  Silverton isn’t a destination resort, which is why its PAF score doesn’t calculate, but it’s most certainly a destination.

Silverton: holy ground

Brighton/Solitude (PAF: 83) – These side-by-side Utah mountains are the light versions of Alta-Snowbird.  They’re one ridge north, in Big Cottonwood Canyon rather than Little Cottonwood Canyon, but they get the same copious snow that annually buries Alta and Snowbird.  Solitude and Brighton aren’t as vertical, but there are lots of spots, especially at Solitude, worth an expert’s time.  And the best part about these two mountains: they’re remarkably uncrowded.

Solitude has world-class trees and snow.

Big Sky (PAF: 81) – Montana skiing doesn’t get the love it deserves.  We’re going to change that soon.  Big Sky has some great terrain, but it loses points on accessibility (you have to fly to Bozeman) and the fact that the place is always cold and has a weaker base village.

Big Sky delivers on its moniker.

Wolf Creek (PAF: 80) – This Southwest Colorado resort, if it had more vertical and steeps, would be one of the legendary ski destinations in the world.  It’s still a great spot as it is and it receives the best snow in all of Colorado by a big margin.  The powder can last because this place is hard to reach.  At the base, don’t miss the green chili, made with local green chiles.

Wolf Creek: Snow to the roof… and green chiles.

A-Basin (PAF: 80) – A poor man’s Alta (except snowboarders are allowed here), parking lot barbecues serve up more collective protein here than do the restaurants on the mountain.  A-Basin is the spot where gritty central Colorado skiers gather to ski legitimate steeps and epic lines on a powder day.

A-Basin: Steepest spot in central Colo

Navigating the Bozeman Airport

Here is a recent article we found on the Phasmid Rentals website.

 

Navigating the Bozeman Airport, BZN

Getting the most out of the best little airport in Montana, part 1.

Best BZN Car Rental Agency

Having now owned two businesses that service the Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport at Gallatin Field, AKA Bozeman Airport, AKA BZN I have learned a couple of tips and tricks that friends often ask that we pass on to the consumer. In this short article we will go over some of our tricks for arriving passengers. Stay tuned for another article for departing passengers.

1) If the very bump, yet beautiful decent into Gallatin Valley hasn’t gotten you excited yet, certainly the lodge styling and comfortable atmosphere of the airport will. Where else  are the advertisers in the airport Simms Fishing or various Fly Shops and not Siemens or Cisco? It is a fairly long walk to baggage claim and the signage is poor, just go with the flow and you will be fine. You will descend two escalators, or an available elevator, to baggage claim. Baggage claim is nearly central to the building structure.

You will be greeted by a roaring fire in the stone fireplace as well as numerous bronzes highlighting Montana’s unique history and ecosystems. This is where a member of the Phasmid team will meet you with a placard with your name. On this main floor the following concessions are available: Copper Horse Bistro. Fair coffee and the most expensive slice of frozen pizza imaginable. They also sell other beverages and some t-shirts. You are better off biding your time to get out of the airport. There is also a Montana Gift Corral, the sell bottled drinks and souvenir items. There is also a Yellowstone Association store. We highly recommend you pay a short visit here while waiting for your luggage.

Most visitors assume that the Yellowstone Association store is just another ridiculously priced airport tourist trap. This is not true. They offer excellent maps, naturalist guides, and journals regarding Yellowstone National Park. They are also staffed predominately by volunteers who are passionate about the Park and enjoy sharing information. The highlight of the shop is the interactive map they have. This map not only highlights where certain attractions are, but also has recent updates on where wolves and bears have recently been seen. For those spending longer than a couple of days in Yellowstone, it is highly recommended to become a member for $35.00. The discounts given on park lodging far exceed cost of membership.

BZN Terminal Guide

Carrying on… While you are waiting for your bags- which are sometimes waiting for you before you get to baggage claim, other times seemingly take forever: you can also a) use the restrooms (located underneath the escalators). 2) Send one member of your party to start waiting in line for your rental car if you haven’t booked through Phasmid. 3) Take you picture with the giant bronze bear or T-Rex skull. 4) Check out the informative hands on mammal tracking exhibit next to baggage claim 2. 5) Collect some free rack cards at the outdated information kiosk. 5) all of the above- it is a pretty small airport after all.

If your bags did not arrive: Delta is currently the only company that has a designated lost luggage counter (maybe they lose more luggage than anyone else?). This counter is located by Carousel 1. For other airlines you will need to go to the ticket counter. These are on the west side of the building. If you are facing the baggage claims turn left. Although there may not be an attendant right away, they will come eventually. Over the years our guests who have had luggage lost have always had their luggage returned in a timely manner- no matter where they are. We have had people get a bag delivered to random campgrounds on the Madison river and cabins up Bridger Canyon. So do not fret too much. Anyway, Phasmid Rentals always keeps a supply of toothbrushes and extra clothes/ gear on hand for those who are dealt a raw deal.

So now you have your bags: a) If you rented from Phasmid your team member will help you with the bags to your rental car waiting right out front (no need for a $5 cart hire or anything else).

b) If you did not rent from Phasmid: Head east young man! The rental car counters are on the east side of the building. If you have a familyBZN Rental Car Lots and/ or lots of luggage, wait in baggage claim and send the leading renter to the rental car counters only. It will likely be 10-30 minutes so get comfortable. It is highly, highly recommended you reserve your rental car in advance. Bozeman Airport car rental agencies often run out of rental cars. Assuming you have a reservation, get the keys, sign over your first born child, and pay too much for things you don’t need, and then continue east another 150-yards to the car rental parking lot. Once you locate your rental (don’t worry, it is a pretty small lot- only about 300-cars), turn right out of the rental car lot back towards the airport terminal. Stay in the righthand most lane (you are not allowed in the other lanes), and park in front of the door closest to baggage claim. Your family will hopefully still be waiting for you inside. Although Bozeman Airport security is typically incredibly nice, they have been issuing verbal warnings to people parking unattended in front of arrivals for too long. You will really want to be shaking a leg anyway, because the process to get here will have likely taken 30+ minutes by now.

(Update on renting from Phasmid: you are already on the road having collected all of the good maps and local insight you may need for a great Montana Experience) End Interlude.

Once you have your rental car loaded, start heading out the only way you can go. It is about 1-mile to get out of the airport. The road dead ends into Frontage Road. Turn left to go to Bozeman and Livingston. Right to go to Big Sky, Dillon, Twin Bridges, Belgrade, etc.

If you do not plan to rent a car we hope you have good friends in Bozeman, because the taxi services stink! Most of the major hotel chains that service the Bozeman and Belgrade area have a free airport shuttle. Make sure you contact where you are staying to confirm this and how to get the shuttle. They do NOT run regularly like most major markets.

If you are staying somewhere else and were planning to walk outside and get in line at the Taxi queue, you will be screwed. There is NO regular taxi service at the Bozeman airport. I repeat, there are no regular taxis at BZN. If you think you can walk to your hotel from the airport, you are wrong again. Frontage Road is treacherous. Perhaps the most dangerous road in America to walk along. There is also no scheduled public transportation from BZN to Bozeman (or anywhere else).

Your Taxi Options: Greater Valley Taxi Classic Limo, Shuttle to Big Sky and TaxiKarst Stage

Be warned: Taxi/ Limo Fees often GREATLY exceed rental car prices or even staying at hotel with a free shuttle. Rarely will a fare be less than $50, and you will be ride sharing. Getting to big sky will easily exceed $200 each way. Check out our other recent article on transportation to Big Sky.

In conclusion: We love the Bozeman Airport. We also love all the bad and overpriced ground transportation options, mostly because we offer a good and affordable ground transportation option. Whatever way you choose to get from BZN to your end destination, you must prearrange your taxi, hotel shuttle, or rental car before you arrive at Bozeman Airport. We have seen it happen too many times where people get stuck; the next taxi available will be there in 3-hours… the hotel shuttle driver left work early… the only rental car available is $500/ day… Please, make your travel plans in advance.

As long as you pre-arrange your ground transportation from BZN, you will certainly have a great experience at our best little airport in Montana.

Reasons not to move to Bozeman?

Found this article recently at High Country News (hcn.com). We agree with most, especially how great the Bozeman Airport is!

 

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 magazineEntrepreneur 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 AssociationCNN MoneyFodor’s TravelNational 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 – 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 ColorKill Your DarlingsBlue 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, where the screen is small and the sound can be difficult to decipher. That’s a noble effort – thanks very much, Bozeman Film Festival – 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 brewers – ranking 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 microbreweriesare 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 PBSit 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.

Tips for Big Sky skiers through the Bozeman Airport

6-winter tips: Bozeman Airport to Big Sky

 Bridger Bowl Trail MapIt is always an exciting time in Bozeman when the snow arrives, and this year the snow is arriving in spades. Bridger Bowl and BIg Sky are already (as of mid-December 2013) posting base depth of four feet. This bodes well so far.

The Bozeman Airport does an excellent job dealing with oversized luggage, AKA skis and boards (hint: big bags come off last). We do have a couple of hints for winter visitors that will hopefully make your life a little easier when you are passing through.

1) Transportation to Big Sky. Options are limited. It is typically less expensive to rent a car than to take a shuttle/ taxi to Big Sky. Plus, a rental car gives you flexibility to check out different areas of town, Bozeman, and Yellowstone. It is highly, highly recommended to rent a car versus a shuttle. Here is an article about BZN Ground transportation. 

2) If you are on a late flight, eat before you get to Bozeman. There are few restaurant options, other than McDonalds, on your way to Big Sky open late. The grocery store, Albertsons, is open to 1AM and on the way. If you can muster, it is worth stopping here to stock up.

3) If you have rented a car through one of the franchise companies on airport, send the primary member of the party to get pick up the car IMMEDIATELY. Lines can and will be long, and the cars are far away. Drive the car up to arrivals to pick up the rest of your party and their luggage.

4) Ski racks. On airport companies do offer ski racks on some of their rental cars. However, these are the clamp style racks. So if you are traveling with board/ ski bags plan on removing the contents to strap in. The independent car rental agency, Phasmid,  offers rental roof-top ski boxes on their cars, as well as if you just want to rent a roof box. They are located about a mile from BZN and pick people up at the airport privately, right outside of arrivals, if you are renting a car from them.

5) Gear. Soft sided bags are a lot easier to pack and if you did book too small of a rental car (or got shafted with getting something you did not book) are a lot more comfortable on your lap then a suitcase! If you are tight for packing space, carry your ski boots on the plane.

6) Rental cars and the drive to Big Sky. Four-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive cars are required in the winter. You may get lucky if you rent a 2WD car and the road to Big Sky is dry and safe, or you may end up with a snowy/ icey road and in the Gallatin River.  They do an excellent job maintaining the road to Big Sky in winter, however, sometimes it is impossible to keep it perfect.  Supposedly they stopped putting up white crosses marking where people died because there are so many already it started to freak people out.

Pony up and get a 4WD or AWD rental car.

If you book a SUV through a Bozeman airport rental car company, call and make sure 100% that the car you will be getting is 4WD or AWD.  If they will not guarantee this, book a rental car through a different company.  A couple of the companies have been renting 2WD Ford Escapes and Ford Explorers- veritable deathtraps in adverse driving conditions.

When you do book your rental car, book in advance as possible. Winter rental car prices in Bozeman can be insane. Don’t hesitate to think out of the box and go through an independent company off-airport. Here is a recent screen grab of Bozeman airport car rental agencies over Christmas, 2013:

Bozeman Suburban Rental

6) Drive safe. If you are arriving one of the late flights and are not comfortable driving in winter conditions and/ or at night- get a hotel for the night! It is not worth the stress, or worse and accident, to race to Big Sky. Stay at a hotel in Belgrade or Bozeman and go in the morning- you won’t miss anything at all!

BZN Off-Airport Car Rental Update

Buyer Beware, Unauthorized Cheap Car Rentals at Bozeman Airport

Lately we been seeing a number of unauthorized off-airport car rental agencies showing up at the Bozeman Airport. Buyer beware, although these companies may be cheap alternative car rental to the more expensive authorized on-airport (Hertz, Avis, Enterprise, Thrifty, Alamo) and authorized off-airport car rental agencies (Ressler Rent-A-Car, Journey Rent-A-Car, Phasmid Rentals) they are not legally operating on airport property. The airport is private property, and only authorized vendors are allowed to operate on-site. What this means to the consumer: your rental car may not be there when you arrive, even though the company you rented from says it will- as it may get towed or booted by airport security, or stolen (the keys are left in the vehicle).

Further, it has been brought to our attention that one of these companies is not legally renting cars- via not paying taxes, having legal insurance, or paying airport concession fees.
You can view the official Bozeman off-airport car rental agencies here, http://www.bozemanairport.com/.

Companies that have not registered with the Bozeman Airport:

Yellowstone Car Rentals, Via Alpine Property Management.

Billion Nissan Rental Cars.

Yellowstone Country Motors.

UBAG cannot judge the quality of these rental car agencies, or what exactly they offer. However, we do know that ‘Cheap’ is not always the best option when it comes to safety. If you do choose to use one of these unauthorized car rental agencies in Bozeman, please for your own good make sure the cars are legally insured as rental cars and the company is obeying all local, airport, and state tax rules.

Yellowstone Car Rentals, illegally operating at Bozeman Airport

 

 

7-Tips for Saving on Rental Cars

This article is from The New York Times. Full article archive.

The U.S. Issue | Practical Traveler

7 Tips for Saving on Rental Cars

Andy Rash
By MICHELLE HIGGINS
Published: May 16, 2012

HITTING the road this summer? Better get booking.

Readers’ Comments

Share your thoughts.

As the busy summer car-rental season begins, prices are expected to climb. “In early June through the end of August, these rates will spike,” said Neil Abrams, president of Abrams Consulting Group, which tracks the car rental industry. Last July, for example, the average rate for a weekly airport rental of a compact car booked seven days ahead was $369.62, or 56 percent more than the $236.73 charged in March, according to the Abrams Travel Data Index. Here are some tips to keep costs down.

Let go of name brands. Look beyond Avis, Hertz and other big national chains to independent agencies like Payless and Fox Rent a Car. Because of lower operating costs, their cars, which can be found at Web sites like CarRentals.com and CarRentalExpress.com, typically cost 15 to 30 percent less than rentals from mainstream agencies. Another company with an unfamiliar name, at least to most Americans, is the German agency Sixt, which has begun opening branches in the southeastern United States, including in Atlanta, Miami and Orlando, Fla. To boost brand recognition, the company, whose fleet includes BMWs, Mercedes-Benzes and Volkswagens, is offering deep discounts. For example, a Mercedes C-class cost $38.81 a day in late May at Sixt’s Orlando airport location, according to a recent search. By comparison, the lowest rate offered by Hertz for the same dates was $50.57 a day for a Kia Rio or similar economy car.

Dig for virtual discounts. Search for discounts and coupons on sites like Promotionalcodes.com and CouponWinner.com, or type in the name of a rental company and “coupon code” into Google to see what turns up. Rental car companies offer discount codes to members of frequent flier programs, and other organizations they partner with, including AAA, Costco and BJ’s, so check those sites if you’re a member. But don’t stop there. Most major car rental companies allow you to combine discount codes with a coupon code. For example, a full-size car from Hertz over Memorial Day weekend at Washington Dulles airport was $255.71 in a recent search. Plugging in the discount code 62455 for United Airlines frequent fliers and Hertz’s promotional coupon code, 168210, brought the price down to $160.02.

Track rates through Autoslash.com. This site, which continually checks for lower rates and coupons until your trip date, can be used in one of two ways: You can track the price of a rental booked elsewhere, or you can book directly through Autoslash, which currently works with Payless, Sixt, Fox and E-Z Rent-A-Car, and the site will apply any discounts it finds.

The drawback with the second option is limited inventory. Major companies don’t like the idea that Autoslash capitalizes on the fact that consumers can usually change or cancel car reservations at any time without penalty. Dollar Thrifty Automotive Group, as well as Hertz and Advantage, recently pulled its inventory from the site, as my colleague Ron Lieber recently reported. Enterprise, which owns National and Alamo, won’t let AutoSlash list its cars either.

Avoid the airport. Off-airport locations are typically cheaper than airport locations, which tend to tack on fees that can raise the price by 30 percent or more. For example, a compact rental from Hertz at Boston Logan International Airport over the Fourth of July weekend was recently listed at $50.49 a day, or $219 a week with taxes at Carrentals.com, a unit of Hotwire. By taking the subway to the Arlington stop and walking a couple of blocks to the local Hertz lot, a traveler could cut costs to $39.98 a day, or $146.65 with taxes for the week.

Reserve the car for longer than you need it. This may sound counterintuitive, but tacking an extra day on to that weekly rental or even adding a couple of hours to extend it over a weekend — with no intention of returning the car that late — can actually lower your rate. The strategy takes advantage of lower prices aimed at leisure travelers who are more likely to travel on weekends, said Marty Paz, a telecommunications manager from Las Vegas who has become something of a car rental pricing sleuth since he began avidly renting cars to pad his frequent flier account. (Last year alone he rented more than 100 vehicles, accumulating a quarter-million miles.)

Mr. Paz said you are essentially tricking the system into thinking you’re booking a two-day weekend rental, which typically has a lower base rate, with the goal of returning the car early. For example, the rate for a midsize car rental from Alamo at the Las Vegas International Airport, from noon on Thursday, June 7, to noon on Friday was recently listed on Alamo’s Web site for $35.95 (or a base rate of $27.27 plus $11.41 in taxes and fees). But extending the return time to 2 p.m. — two hours after the weekend rates “officially” kick in — drops the base rate to $15.18 a day. Though the overall estimated cost shows an additional $10.12 extra in hourly charges, you can still return the car at noon and get the lower rate, said Mr. Paz, who added, “Oops, you got there early.”

Negotiate. Even after you’ve booked the best possible rate, it can be worth swinging by the rental counter to see if you can finagle your way into a better car. You don’t ask, you don’t get,” said Mr. Abrams, the rental car consultant. Success with this strategy can depend on everything from the type and number of cars on the lot to the mood of the clerk, he added. But some companies are happy to put you in a bigger, or less popular, vehicle for the cost of a compact — if it’s in their interest.

“I frequently need minivans for the volunteer activities I do with teens,” said Marty Paz, the car-rental rate hacker, who has noticed by perusing the parking lot that there is often a glut of minivans at one location he frequently rents from on the weekend. “Often times I’ve reserved an economy car for a Friday and just offered graciously: ‘If there’s a van, I’ll take that. I don’t mind,’ and for the price of the economy car I get the minivan.” (A larger vehicle, of course, will require more fuel.)

Prepay. Taking a page from hotels, rental car companies are offering discounts of up to 20 percent to travelers willing to prepay. In a recent search for weekly rentals at Boston Logan International Airport in mid June, for example, Hertz was offering economy cars for $173 a week at the “pay now” rate. The “pay later” rate was about $30 more. The trade off for locking in a low-rate? Cancellation penalties ranging from $10 with Budget to $50 if canceling within 24 hours with Hertz. And don’t forget about Priceline.com and Hotwire.com, which offer deep discounts to travelers willing to be locked into a preset price before finding out the rental car company.

Extracted from The Onion.

American Airlines, US Airways Merge To Form World’s Largest Inconvenience

 ISSUE 49•07 • Feb 14, 2013

FORT WORTH, TX—American Airlines and US Airways stunned the aviation industry Thursday upon announcing the two air travel titans have combined in an $11 billion merger that sources say will unite the industry powerhouses into the world’s largest and most complete pain in the ass. “Today we embark upon a bold and unprecedented new venture into customer frustration,” American CEO Tom Horton said of the historic alliance, which analysts predict will pose an immediate threat to rivals United and Delta in the air travel industry’s key areas of flight delays, lost luggage, and useless customer service. “When you take our general administrative incompetence and integrate it with our new partner’s long-proven inability to meet flyers’ needs in any capacity, you’ve got a brilliant new model in passenger aggravation and travel plan disruption. This truly will be the leading entity in the hassle industry.” Horton also confirmed the new multi-billion-dollar headache hopes to fuck up more than 4,000 flights a day.

Reviews of Car Rental Agencies Servicing Bozeman Airport

What is the best car rental agency in Bozeman, reviews

We decided to do a little research on publicly posted reviews of the car rental agencies in Bozeman. Most of what we can find is via Yelp.com and Google Places/ Local. Below you will find copied text directly from Yelp and Google (and wherever else available) as well as screen shots and links. Please note these were all captured 2/13/13, and of course subject to change. Use as you see fit. We will soon do another post comparing the pricing of all rental car agencies in Bozeman.

The Results:

Car rental agency reviews Bozeman
What is BZN’s best car rental agency?

If one is to judge reviews posted on the internet, here are the results.
1) Phasmid Rentals. TOTAL: 63-points

  • Yelp 12 reviews, 5 stars. 1-review, 4-stars. Google, Excellent x 3.

2) Journey Rent-a-Car. TOTAL: 12-points

  • Yelp 0 reviews. Google, Excellent x 3.

2) Ressler Rentals. TOTAL: 8-points

  • Yelp 0 reviews. Google, Excellent x 2.

4) Budget Rent-A-Car. TOTAL 5-points

  • Yelp 1 review, 2-stars. Google, Good x 1.

5) Hertz Rent a Car. TOTAL 3-points

  • Yelp 7 reviews, 4-stars x 1, 2-stars x 1, 1-star x 5. Google, Excellent x 1.

6) Enterprise. TOTAL 3-points

  • Yelp 0 reviews. Google, Poor to Fair x 1, Excellent x 1.

3) National Car Rental. TOTAL 2-points

  • Yelp 2 reviews, 3-stars. Google, Poor to Fair x 2.

9) Dollar Rent A Car.  TOTAL 0-points

  • No data.

8) Avis Rent A Car. TOTAL -2 points

  • Yelp 1 review, 1-star. Google, Poor to Fair x 1.

7) Thrifty Car rental. TOTAL -4 points

  • Yelp 2 reviews, 1-star. Google, Poor to Fair x 2.

How we assign total points:
5-star review or Excellent from Google = 4 points

4-star review or Good from Google = 3-points

3-star review or OK from Google = 2-points

2-star review = 1-point

1-star rating or Fair to Poor rating Google = -1-point

Breakdown of Bozeman Car Rental Agency Reviews

BUDGET Rent-A-Car, Bozeman Airport

Budget Rent A Car Review Bozeman
Budget Rent A Car reviews Bozeman Airport

Budget Rent-A-Car”I get annoyed when you get to the counter of a rental car place only to find out that they don’t have the type of car you reserved and payed for. I had paid for a full size car only to be greeted with a Chevy Cruz. Being on vacation and trying to go with the flow- I gave it a shot- even though I was pretty sure it was a compact car. It was, so I went back in to the counter.  Matt at the desk was helpful, but still tried to tell me that was all that was available, and luckily a Chevy Impala had just gotten cleaned– a full size car was now mine for the week (thanks to Matt) just like I had reserved.  I would not call the car clean, but after I wiped down the inside we were good to go.” Yelp reviews Budget, Bozeman

Here is the lone posted Google review of Budget Rent A Car Bozeman:

Overall Good
“We had a confirmation for a Grand Cherokee 4WD or similar. We got a Hyundai Santa Fe which is a boring car in all repects (and sold new at a lower price than the Grand Cherokee). Budget argued that both cars were in the same category and that they had no alternative to offer. We were extremely disappointed, especially after having rented a Grand Cherokee from Budget in Toronto the day before. We’ll think twice before renting from Budget again.”
Budget
850 Gallatin Field Rd
Belgrade, MT 59714
(406) 388-4091

HERTZ rental cars, reviews Bozeman Airport

Hertz is by far the biggest rental car agency at the Bozeman Airport. At one stage (not sure if it is true anymore), Bozeman was Hertz’s most profitable franchise in the entire Northwest. Anyway, here are the Yelp reviews of Hertz Bozeman:

Hertz Bozeman Airport Reviews Hertz-Bozeman-Reviews2

There are some very shocking reviews/ statements of the Bozeman Airport Hertz franchise. Overall of 7-reviews gained a 2-star average. Here is an excerpt from one: “I will never rent from this Hertz location again.  My friends and I rented a car from here.  We had a 7:00am flight out of the airport, and so we arrived at the airport at ~5:45am and left the car in the designated off hours rental car drop off area.  The desk wasn’t open (which it should have been at that time as the security line was already ~30 minutes long for a very normal time for a morning flight – 7am…).  When we arrived home, we received a call saying that we left the car with thousands of dollars of damage, which is absolutely false.  Another car in the parking lot must have hit us or something.

The parking lot either has no security cameras (which can’t be the case…it’s an airport where security is critical!), or Hertz is just too lazy to pull the tapes, so we are helpless to make a case.  Completely ridiculous.  Very poor management.  No way I ever rent from these guys again.”

There are numerous reviews listed on Yelp of Hertz BZN charging for damage that the renters did not do to the vehicle as well as being overcharged at the rental counter.

There is one review posted via Google: A Google User reviewed 11 months ago

“Overall Excellent
Very good customer service! Rented cars here two separate times during a vacation. Both reservations were for compact cars. I received a Subaru the first time, and the second, a brand new Camaro and didn’t have to pay a penny more! Fun and unexpected way to spend my last two days in Bozeman. Only downside is the limited mileage policy. Very nice service representatives.”
Hertz
850 Gallatin Field Rd, Ste 8
Belgrade, MT 59714
(406) 388-6939

NATIONAL Car Rental, Bozeman Airport

National is one of the smaller franchises at the airport. Overall Yelp rating of National Car Rental Bozeman 3-stars on 2-reviews. National Car Rental Bozeman ReviewsTheir Google reviews, overall ‘Poor to Fair’:

Quality Poor to fair
This company shows no loyalties towards its long time returning customers. Everytime I rent from them they come up with some bogus charge days after I return the car. I would advise anybody looking to rent a car to go elsewhere.

Was just notified 2 days after I returned my rental car that I am being charged for a rock chip in the window…this will be the last time I or or company ever rent with National/Alamo

I’ve heard from multiple sources that these guys will look to nickel and dime you every way they can. I would advise you to take your business elsewhere!!
Quality Poor to fair
Shady business practices. Charged me for something several days after I returned my car. “We noticed it a few days later.” Thank you for being the worst place to rent from!”
Contact:
National Car Rental
850 Gallatin Field Rd
Belgrade, MT 59714
(406) 388-6694

THRIFTY car rental, Bozeman Airport

Thrifty at the Bozeman Airport was certainly once thought to be a very strong franchise. We found 2-reviews on Yelp for Thrifty Car Rentals Bozeman.Thrity Car Rental Reviews, Bozeman One of these in particular, is pretty rough:

Don’t do it. I like the poeple who run the joint but Thrifty Rent A Car are unethical and ruthless.
I rented a car and got a flat tire driving on the highway. No off road, no dougnuts in the driveway.  When I returned the car the staff said no problem and had me fill out an incident report.
I’ve since received a bill for a new tire and “administrative fees”!

What!!!!!!!!!  Your tire blows out and I have to pay for it?  Why am I responsible for normal wear and tear on your vehicle?  Even if I do have to pay for the tire what about the 20,000 miles it had on it?  Why do I have the privilege of buying a new tire and paying you an admin fee on top of that?
Would my family have to pay for my funeral AND the tire if I went off the road from the blowout? Can they charge you an admin fee from the funeral home?

I’ve since checked to see if I’m responsible for this on the web and, to be fair, the results are mixed.  However the overwhelming number of complaints on http://www.consumeraffai…  from rental companies are about Thrifty.

Local owner dude you are probably O.K. but find another company franchise because Thrifty are scumbags.”

Google Reviews, Thrifty BZN:

“Overall Poor to fair
I have never taken the time to right a review before, but given the negative experience I felt compelled. I travel to Bozeman often on business and have found it convenient to pick up a rental at the airport. I have used Thrifty because my company has a great rate with them. I called today to extend my rental two days and was told “no way…I need that car back at 4pm”. When I asked why the manager could not extend she said “…its Labor Day weekend we are over booked and that rate is way too low”. I’m not objecting to Thrifty making money – but don’t treat a customer poorly b/c you didn’t manage your reservations properly. How about suggesting other rental car companies that might have availability? Her rude behavior has insured that I won’t ever use Thrifty again (in Bozeman and elsewhere) and I spend 70-80% of my time on the road.”
Thrifty
850 Gallatin Field Rd
Belgrade, MT 59714
(406) 388-3484

AVIS Rental Cars, Bozeman Airport

Avis is the second largest franchise at the Bozeman Airport next to Hertz, even though still roughly half the size. Overall one star from Yelp and Poor to Fair from Google. They only have one review listed on Yelp for Avis Bozeman, Airport.Avis Reviews, Bozeman Airport Granted, not a good review: “Avoid at all costs.  The most uncooperative staff I have ever dealt with.” However, being that they are the second biggest at BZN and only have 1-review is maybe a good sign? Looking at the lone posted Google Review, one may think differently.

“AVIS Rental Car in Bozeman Montana Airport, is seriously the worst rental experience in my life. I had a reservation that was made through my insurance company for a Premium Car, when I arrived to get the car I got a Mid Size car, which I would classify as a compact car. A Chevy Cruze. When I called two days before the reservation to find out what type of car I was getting I was told a Lincoln Town Car or Cadillac. This was a far cry from one of those. I have 3 children I need to haul around town, plus two huge band instruments including a Tuba. Monday was fun taking the kids to school. I went to return the car two days early stating that I had to rent something else because it was not big enough I didn’t get a I am sorry or hello or anything. I got a lady in the office making faces at me and the young guy at the counter not saying a word. Just typing something into the computer and then giving me my paper work. I then went next door to the Enterprise counter and rented a bigger vehicle. From the very beginning I never got a hello how are you, how is your day, I got nothing. To be treated rudely and then to be placed in an unwanted car was just unexceptable.”

PHASMID RENTALS, Bozeman Off-Airport

Phasmid Rentals is an off-airport rental car agency located about a mile east of the Bozeman Airport. They are an independent rental car agency in business since 2010. Phasmid rents Chevrolet Suburbans and Subaru Outbacks only. Both new vehicles and used vehicles.  Phasmid Rentals is the only Yelp listed review for Bozeman that is positive. Two Yelp reviews are listed, both 5-stars. Additionally, we noticed on their Yelp review page that they had numerous ‘filtered reviews‘.  Phasmid Rentals Reviews BozemanUpon entering the Captcha code we found 11 additional reviews for Phasmid Rentals. 10 were 5-star reviews, 1 was a 4-star review. Reviews for Phasmid Rentals Phasmid-Reviews-2

Here is one Yelp review:” This is an excellent company.  They will not only rent you a clean, new, vehicle (I had an Outback which was like new) but also any gear you need.   Fishing rods, coolers, tents, bear spray and prob anything else you need.
Nice personal touch as you will be picked up at baggage claim and don’t have to deal with an anonymous corporation.   The owner, Will, is also an excellent source of info for your trip/vacation.
All at competitive prices.  I will use again.”

Looking at Google reviews, there seems to be the same positive thoughts for this rental car company.

“I really want to help see this business grow, because Bozeman Rental Cars/ Phasmid is hands down the best rental car agency I have ever used. I rent from them pretty regularly for business and am always pleased with the Subaru Outback they give me, the fact they know my name and have a super easy contract, there is no waiting in line, no going through the airport hassle, etc. This is the way renting a car should be!”

“Way better than any franchise experience, and a great locally owned company.”

Phasmid Rentals
32 Dollar Dr
Belgrade, MT 59714
(406) 922-0179

RESSLER RENTALS, Bozeman Off-Airport

Ressler Rentals is a Toyota Rent-a-Car franchise based about 12-miles south of the Bozeman Airport. They offer all new models of Toyota vehicles to rent, with airport delivery service. Although they do not have any Yelp reviews, they do have numerous positive reviews on Google, both with an Excellent overall rating:

“Ressler is such a great place to rent cars in Bozeman! I rent regularly for business and the service is always excellent! The cars are also in great shape and price is a good value, especially compared to the options at the airport!”

“Tanya was great made sure my rental was ready to go for my vacation and that i could easily drop it off when i was heading out of time…”

Ressler Toyota Rent a Car
8340 Huffine Ln
Bozeman, MT 59718
(406) 585-2010

JOURNEY RENT-A-CAR, Bozeman Off-Airport

Journey Rent-a-Car is the newest off-airport rental car agency in Bozeman. They are located roughly 10-miles south of Bozeman Airport at the Carriage House car wash. Journey rents used vans, cars (example Chevy Malibu), and Suburbans. They offer airport shuttle service. Although no Yelp reviews have been made (no Yelp listing was even found for their business), they have very positive Google reviews as well.

“Excellent experience. The best value for a large SUV and the reservation process was seamless. They were at the airport when we arrived and brought us back at our convenience. They had the paperwork ready when we got to their so I just signed and was on my way. GREAT JOB!! Will defeinitely use them again on our next visit.”

“Journey Rentacar was great. Incredibly accommodating to my schedule for both the pick up and the drop off. Very helpful in adding a ski pod to the top of the car at the last second. Very well priced. Would definitely recommend to anyone i know needing a car in the area. Thank you again”

“Journey Rentacar was outstanding to work with! Josh was super helpful to our hunting crew and we got the best rates around on a Ford 12 person Van. Thanks Journey!”

Journey, 30 Homestake Dr. Bozeman, Mt 59718‎(406) 551-2277

ENTERPRISE, Bozeman Airport and Off-Airport

Enterprise has a location at the Bozeman Airport and also an off-airport location downtown. Recently, Expedia and other search engines are positing ‘Shuttle to location’ via rental car searches for BZN. Their off-airport location is just west of downtown Bozeman on Main Street, about 14-miles from BZN. Enterprise does not have any Yelp reviews. However, seemingly like the other franchise rental car agencies in Bozeman, has negative Google reviews, although they do also have one positive review. Enterprise Airport does not have Yelp or Google reviews.

“Watch out for this company!!! We live in Bozeman, Mt. After renting a vehicle recently at the Main Street location, we were told that we couldn’t have “unlimited miles” and would only be allowed 200 miles a day with 25 cents for each mile over, because of a new law in montana, we were also told that none of the companies in Montana were offering unlimited mileage. We trusted the agent but after checking with the other car rental companies in the area we found out that the Enterprise agent was lying to us. All of the other car rental companies offered free unlimited miles and told us there is no such law. We will never rent from Enterpise again. Please be careful if you decide to do business with these people.”

“I needed a rental for several days while my California car was being repaired here in Bozeman after it broke down while touring Yellowstone. After having the car towed to Bozeman, I rented a Bozeman Enterprise car on Sat., available only for two days. It had to be returned 8 AM on Mon, which I did. I was promised at the time, (and on the very first day by female Rep.) a second car would be available for me today, Tues. I called this morning (Tues) for a pickup at my near-by hotel but was told by the male Rep there was no record of my reservation and that no car would be available for me until Wed afternoon at best. Not only did they screw this up, but to add insult to injury, the Rep didn’t even offer an apology for the inconvenience. I even had to press him to put my name down for the very next available car if one was returned today. In contrast, everyone else I’ve had to deal with since my car’s breakdown in Yellowstone has been friendly, helpful, efficient and considerate of my circumstances.”

“I rent A LOT of rental cars,(travel for my job)Therefor I have used just about every company out there. Enterprise is The BEST by far. They have great service and honest people who will take the time to look for what is best for THEIR customers. I ALWAYS refer my friends and family to rent from the Main street office in Bozeman MT. So, if your coming for a visit our beautiful state, or just need a car for a day..Enterprise Rental car’s are the one to call. A Loyal Customer A.N. Flores P.S the airport Location Also has great service too.”

Enterprise Airport
850 Gallatin Field Rd #7
Bozeman, MT
406-388-7420

Enterprise Rent-A-Car
NONAIRPORT BOZEMAN
1238 W MAIN ST
BOZEMAN, MT 59715-3254
Tel.: (406) 586-8010
 

ALAMO car rental, Bozeman Airport

There are no Yelp reviews for Alamo’s Bozeman Airport location. Their are two Google reviews posted for Alamo, both with a Poor to Fair rating. “Was just notified 2 days after I returned my rental car that I am being charged for a rock chip in the window…this will be the last time I or or company ever rent with National/Alamo”

“Quality Poor to fair”

Alamo
5 Gallatin Field Rd
Belgrade, MT 59714
406-388-4457

DOLLAR car rental, Bozeman Airport

We are pretty they exist as they have paid their concession fees to the Bozeman Airport, however, we cannot find any reviews on Yelp or Google for the Bozeman Airport Location. They are the smallest on-airport rental car agency at BZN, posting only a 2.2% market share. Perhaps with the reviews of other on-airport rental car agencies, no news is good news.

Dollar Car Rental
850 Gallatin Field Road,
Belgrade, Mt
(406) 388-1323