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Mountain High

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If you’ve put the whole mass purchasing ritual off this long, you’ve got a few options:

First, you could fire up the internal combustion machine, spend the next three or four days crisscrossing the county to lay hands on the perfect reminders of your perpetual love and then fork over grand buckets of ducats to the postman for overnight delivery.

Option two involves brewing a massive amount of the legal stimulant beverage of your choice, unplugging the phone—or “turning it off,” for those of you with the new-fangled cellular phone—and spending a concentrated 24-hour period drawing, writing and hot-gluing your way back into your loved ones’ good graces. With any luck, you’ll be done in time for the regular mail to deliver. Sure. 

Your final option is this: Honor your relations by realizing that the thing they want most is to know you’re happy, and the best way to ensure this reality is to cast aside the specter of dark days spent gift scrounging, and instead head out into the magical scenery that graces every viewshed in town.

For your family, go sledding. For your friends and old chums back east, tromp through the woods a bit. And instead of selecting stocking stuffers for the relatives in Romania, stuff your own feet in wool socks and hit the sloped runs at one of our nearby downhill destinations.     

For a look at the myriad ways you can give the gift of your own happiness this year, we begin with a roundup of the aforementioned ski hills. All boasts of massive pow pow reflect reality at press time:

Blacktail Mountain, which is perched on the shores of Flathead Lake and had a 21-inch base with two inches of fresh snow in the last 24 hours, plans to open every day of the holiday season, which runs approximately until the kids disappear back to their schools. Looking farther north, Whitefish Mountain Resort claims a 43-inch base with five inches of fresh crystal in the last day. They’ve opened 79 runs thus far, and one of their bloggers claims, “Tuesday is the new Saturday.” Seriously.

A little closer to Missoula, Montana Snowbowl has a 40-inch base at the summit and is 90 percent open. Lookout Pass is looking passable with 69 inches at their summit, with 11 of them falling in the last 24 hours.

Moving eastward, we come to Discovery, which has a 20–32 inch base, five lifts in operation and 29 runs open. Bozeman’s Bridger Bowl boasts a 33-inch base, seven operable lifts and one renegade yeti perpetrating mayhem and bloodshed. In a final doubleshot, Moonlight Basin has a 38-inch base and Big Sky has 44 inches of packed powder with 14 lifts running and 52 percent of their terrain accessible.

Phew. And now for something a little more cost-free: A Be Active Bitterroot Activity comes down the pike on Fri., Dec. 21, when a Winter Solstice Snowshoe Hike trundles around under the light of the nearly full moon in celebration of the longest night of the year. Participants should meet at 5:30 PM at the Darby High School parking lot and bring all the accoutrements you’d think necessary, though a snowshoe borrow can be arranged. Call Janeen at 381-2951.

We might as well rename Sat., Dec. 22, “Ski Lolo Pass Day,” as that appears to be everyone’s idea of a good way to celebrate Comrade Calendar’s brother’s birthday. The day-long festivities begin when the Rocky Mountaineers invite you and yours to journey up to the top of Lolo Pass for a short and easy ski tour—maybe up to the state line, maybe just around the loop—on this, the second shortest day of the year. Call Steve at 721-4686 to get in on that. Otherwise, prepare your night vision for a Moonlight Ski Extravaganza with the Sierra Club, whose members plan to meet in Missoula at 5:30 PM for carpooling up to the pass. Once there, the idea is to glide around under the bright moonlight and warm up with soup and hot drinks by means of a stove at the visitors’ center. Night owls can call John at 543-6696.

Moonlight appears to dominate this week, as Whitefish Mountain Resort offers two chances to satisfy your inner lycanthrope: On Sat., Dec. 22, and Sun., Dec. 23, guests can indulge in a Moonlight Dine and Ski, which involves a ride on the Big Mountain Express lift to the Summit House for some divine grub, followed by the option of riding the lift back down or taking your full belly in your own hands when you attempt to follow one of their guides back down the slopes. Dinners are served at both 5 and 7 PM, so RSVP at 862-2900. 

There are Santa-related offerings at most resorts, so check websites to nail that down, as I want to use the space I’ve got left to tell you that the Bitterroot Cross-Country Ski Club is currently selling raffle tickets for their yearly Epicurean Extravaganza, which includes a gourmet dinner for four at the beautiful Gordon Reese Cabin near Chief Joseph Pass on Sat., Feb. 23, 2008. Tickets are available at Bitterroot ski and coffee shops, cost a buck—or six for a Lincoln—and you’ve got until Feb. 1, so load up. Call Linda at 777-5958 or Earl at 961-0101.

Okay, people, now get out there and share your joy, because you can’t take care of someone else until you can take care of yourself.

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