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Mountain High

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November is a season that feels like ski season, looks like ski season, even tastes like ski season, but really isn’t ski season. So when last week’s arctic winds blew a nugget of the dankest Canadian proportions across the border and dropped it off at Mountain High Central, I rejoiced. The treat? Lake Louise Resort in Banff National Park is scheduled to begin carrying skiers up their mountain on Friday, Nov. 7. According to the press release, there’s no less than “72 new advanced-technology snowguns [cranking out] 40 percent more snow using 30 percent less energy” on what just might be the most scenically stunning lift-accessed area on the continent. Even the most jaded powder junkies find themselves taking pause when sliding off the top chair on a Canadian Rockies blue-sky powder day and relishing the unrelenting sea of peaks stretching beyond the horizon.

For Montanans, there’s really only two justifiable options to miss this early season opportunity—other than hunting, that is. The first would be that you’ve already skipped town and are currently making turns in Colorado, where both Arapahoe Basin and Loveland Pass have been loading chairs for more than a week now. Both of these Continental Divide-hugging resorts get it early and often, with thinner crowds than their Summit County neighbros of Copper, Breck and Vail. But they’re still a brutal distance for most Indy readers, so that leaves a second (and rather attractive) option for the weekend: the massive SOS Ski Fair.

Technically known as the “35th Annual Safety on Snow (SOS) Ski Swap,” Missoula’s largest swapage of winter gear fills the Adams Center West Auxiliary Gym with screaming deals on thousands of skis and snowboards Nov. 8-9. Clean out your closet and drop off any ski-related stuff on Saturday from 9-5, or peruse the selection on Sunday from 10-3. (Wise folks arrive before 9—WAY before 9…) Any unsold gear MUST be picked up from 5-6 p.m. on Sunday, lest they have to deal with your unwanted gear after closing time. Avoid being SOL by calling 523-7856.

Of course, backcountry skiers have already been hiking up and skiing down on October’s initial snows in precipitous locales around the region: I’ve heard reliable reports of skiers copping turns on the north side of Trapper Peak in the Bitterroots following recent storms, and an e-mail just came in from Jackson, Wyo., where (I quote) “…they were skiing the Pass in 12 inches of the first POW POW of the year through scree fields, shrub bogs, and dirt patches—just another day in JACKSON DUDE!”

Speaking of ski optimists, the Missoula Nordic Ski Club is renowned for its resolve that the Pattee Canyon’s cross country ski trails are ready to ski at the first hint of white—some years that means just a hard frost. Of course XC skiers are not renowned for their eagerness to share a trail system, so get to know this community of big-lung ass-haulers at their annual Fall Gathering on Nov. 7 at 6 p.m. at the Sons Of Norway Lodge (just south of Blue Mountain Road on Hwy 93). A skier from the Rossignol Marathon Ski Team will help get the snow-saliva rolling by putting on a Waxing 101 course, too. Beverages provided, but bring a dish to share. Learn more at: www.missoulanordic.org.

On the full moon evening of Nov. 8, Lois Crepeau will be heading to Lolo Pass with the Rocky Mountaineers and anyone looking to kick off the ski season with a cookout and snowdance. Activities will include a bonfire, your beverages of choice and—although she has expressed minor concern about burning plastic—a ritualistic ski/snowboard burnout to beckon blizzard blessings from the winter gods. Meet at the K-Mart parking lot at 5:30 p.m., and bring something to grill, something to burn, something to drink and enough layers to keep you toasty. Call Crepeau (728-5321) to get fired up.

International ocean paddler extraordinaire Lena Conlan will be showing slides from recent adventures on Nov. 8 at 7 p.m. in the UM’s Journalism School room 304. Count on reindeer, “the world’s strongest ocean currents” and “the highest peaks in Scandinavia.” Call (800) 572-8747 to learn more about this free event.

The 2003 Montana State Championship Cyclocross Race will roar up, down over and through Kalispell’s Herron Park on Nov. 9 at 11 a.m. A rarity in cycling races, the obstacle-filled course is but 1.5 miles long, and spectators can view the whole course with a minimum of walking. Count on crashes, bet on blood, and bring your camera, warm clothes and hot beverages to cheer on Montana’s fastest bicycle-carrying runners. Call race peddler Steve Muller (752-9250) to learn more before the race.

Send your outdoor schedule to photo@missoulanews.com

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