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Mountain High


There I was, pre-sogged by a few days’ steady drizzle, ready to launch into a rant about how we’ve all just ended up walking in the cold November rain.

With the weekend’s epic 24-hour dumping of the wet ‘n’ heavy joy, however, the outdoor playing field has been remade.

For the time being, at least.

Also, before any of you global warming deniers at the Heartland Institute begin making noises about the spectacular snowfall and its decisive rebuttal of the mainstream media’s agenda of doom and gloom, I’d remind you that one extended flurry—no matter how many Missoula trees stand roadside with cracked limbs—doth not an ice age make. We still need to change our ways, and fast.

Of course, this is not to say that the residents of Montana aren’t grateful for the snow. If you look at national weather maps, it’s clear that our ski hill neighbors in Colorado and Utah will have to wait just a bit longer, as we seem to have monopolized the crystalline precip this time around. That said, all bets are off when the next cold front pours out of Canada.

In the meantime, it’s imperative that we make the most of our recent high country blessing. Toss it at the neighborhood kids, roll in it, make the snowpeople of your children’s dreams and in all other ways send physical offerings of “thanks” and “more, please” to whatever snow deity controls the frost in your personal pantheon.

For starters, we can count ourselves lucky to live in an area that still permits the time-honored tradition whereby we venture forth with sled and ax to procure for the family a sacrificial holiday bush. The Forest Service has begun offering permits for sacred tree removal, which cost a measly five bucks and are available wherever timber sales are sold. Some guidelines for your own private forestry project include the following: Refrain from taking trees from plantations, which you can identify by the long, long rows of same-aged trees—try cutting trees growing in power line corridors or by the side of the road. Also, you need to cut the stump so it’s no higher than 5 inches above the soil level, do your best not to simply tear the top off a living tree and keep at least 150 feet away from creeks and streams. Oh, and leave trees alone in the wilderness. You can call your local Forest Service office for advice on primo locations. Hack on!

Once the family tree has been gathered, it’s time to hit the slopes. Your big Thanksgiving meal may have to wait, as at least two area ski hills plan to open on the big day. Big Sky opens at 9 AM on Thu., Nov. 22, and with the aid of their handy webcam, on Mon., Nov. 19, I observed the steady patter of snow falling on empty lift chairs. Don’t get hosed, though: Call 995-5000 for the final word.

Your other option is Georgetown Lake’s Discovery Ski Area, which gathered 8 inches in last weekend’s weather, and also plans to open two lifts and six runs on Thu., Nov. 22. Again, take not my word for it: Call 563-2184.

On Buy Nothing Day, Fri., Nov. 23, two more Montana Meccas of downhill daring throw wide their gates and brew up hot cocoa for the masses: Helena-area Great Divide and Big Sky neighbor Moonlight Basin share the glory that shall henceforth be known simply as Opening Day 2007. Once more, I’ll not be held responsible for your needless carbon un-sequestering—ring Great Divide at 447-1310, Moonlight Basin at 993-MOON. 

Bringing it a little closer to Missoula, the University of Montana’s Campus Recreation Department has a few wintertime programs to offer both students and the public alike, and you’ve got until 5 PM on Tue., Nov. 27 to register for them: Get the knowledge you need to survive a massive barrage of powder during an Avalanche Transceiver Clinic and/or take your first, tentative slides during a Beginner’s Cross-Country Skiing Trip. Make your intentions known when you call 243-2804.

The icy transition has proven that Missoula’s Dirt Girls are as adaptable as they are grime-loving. Biking has morphed into hiking for the cadre, who invite you to meet up with them for a saucy jaunt at the Lincoln Hills trailhead at 5:45 PM on Tue., Nov. 27. Check for late-breaking changes toward ice-fishing, perhaps. 

There’s nothing worse than being unprepared as an unreasonably large wall of snow, rock, mud and trees comes tumbling your way. All right, perhaps it’s worse to try to use one of those self-service checkout machines at the supermarket—we’re talking shades of meaning here. Learn all you need to know about surviving the former modern catastrophe during an Avalanche Awareness Lecture at 7 PM on Tue., Nov. 27, in UM’s Urey Lecture Hall. Call 243-2804. 

Until next time, then. May the forces of nature continue to deprive the southwest and dump yard upon yard of Mother Nature’s winter insulation at our doorsteps.

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