I have had plenty of friends who have gone to Bridger. They all like it. Definitely a locals mountain. Lot's of good backcountry in the area. The ridge is in bounds but you have to carry full avy gear and a partner as you mentioned. I do not know if they have actual sidecountry options outside of the ridge.
The only knocks I've heard is that it gets worked over a lot quicker than the Big Sky resorts and the vertical is not nearly as big as BS either. Otherwise, it gets very positive reviews. Lift tickets are reasonable. Plus if you want to try something different, Big Sky and Moonlight are just 45 minutes away.