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“My kids can participate in Jackson’s ski programs and then, on the same day, excellent dance, pottery, and arts programs,” says Patridge.
“There aren’t many places where they have those opportunities.” Colorado’s capital is one of the fastest-growing places in the country—transplants are drawn to big-city living within striking distance of 14,000-foot peaks and Rocky Mountain skiing and biking.
For more on what sets Billings apart, watch this video.
“I was shocked,” Caden Kosovich, 26, told me over beers at Carter’s Brewing, a short walk from Taubert’s.
Jim Huertas, 46, opened Prohibition Brotique and Barbershoppe in 2014, offering custom suits, haircuts, and straight-razor shaves.
“I don’t think I could’ve done this ten years ago,” he says.
For all the challenges, though, Jackson is a hard place to leave.
“I’m a classic example of that,” says Nat Patridge, 45, co-owner of Exum Mountain Guides, a local institution.
The menu he’s put together features cheeses from farms all over the state, bison from South Dakota’s Wild Idea Buffalo, and vegetables from Kate’s Garden and CSA in downtown Billings. “We’re experimenting as we go along.” Harman, who has sleeve tattoos and an earring, is just one of a growing number of local entrepreneurs who are pushing Billings into a new era.
Kosovich, a Billings native, is a bike mechanic at the Spoke Shop, a bike store operating in town since 1973.
He has helped secure agreements with landowners to build a trail network around Billings, which now includes more than 35 miles of singletrack on public and private land. “There’s so much to do, but Billings won’t come to you.
You have to go out and find it.” One morning in June, we got up early to ride the High Line, a sprawling cross-country network in the rimrock, where we flushed cottontails and jackrabbits and narrowly missed a rattlesnake sunning on the trail.
“The best part of the High Line is that you see almost nothing of the city,” Kosovich says.
As an energy and agricultural center known for both its stunning rimrock formations and its oil refineries, Billings was a dark horse in this year’s competition.