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Mountain High

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With the Obama administration’s focus on ethics within the Cabinet and dedication to neutralizing conflicts of interest involving lobbyists, I’m reminded of the stern admonition of Brad Tyer, my first editor here at the Indy.

When, as a fledgling hack, I was tempted by the dangled carrot of a beer offered by a bar we regularly cover, Brad made it clear that with my first sip of that bubbly brew, I’d be trashing my credibility as a member of the media. It seemed a bit extreme, but I’ve replayed his warning frequently since then.

Which is why I feel the need to begin my report on the Indy’s all-star slalom ski team with a heavy-duty dose of disclosure. On Sun., Jan. 25, Lookout Ski Area hosted media reps from across the region for a day on the slopes, as well as a head-to-head contest for an impressive trophy. I mean, the thing could probably have accommodated most of a six-pack, that’s the magnitude of the gold-colored cup to which I’m referring.

From the start, we faced difficulty from the staff of Spokane’s alt-weekly, The Pacific Northwest Inlander, whose team featured people with special gloves and poles, not to mention impressive racing skills. At the end of the day, our humble squad lay scattered about the mountain in defeat, yet with heads held high enough to enjoy a beer in the lodge before tucking tails and heading back downhill for home. 

From now on, I’m remaining firmly in the non-competitive world of cross-country skiing, and it just so happens that there’s a resource for the rest of us. The Missoula Nordic Ski Club posts up-to-the-minute data on area X-C conditions here: missoulanordic.org/snow_grooming. Check it out, and may all your carving be slalom.

The melty times of late have created slightly less than perfect conditions at many area ski hills, yet this week’s turn toward the colder sectors of the thermometer will hopefully be accompanied by a fresh dump of that chilly medium for adventure. In general, the skiing’s good, so just pick a direction and go.

Those of you with as little interest in ski racing as I had immediately following my own personal defeat last Sunday will be heartened to hear that the Whitefish Figure Skating Club hosts the two-day Flathead Valley Invitational Skating Competition beginning at 11:30 AM on Fri., Jan. 30, and continuing through Sat., Jan. 31, at the Stumptown Ice Den. Thrill to the competitive rivalries displayed before you, and risk nothing of your own ego in the mix. Free. Call 862-7699.   

I guess this weekend’s football frenzy was bound to impact our outdoor activities, and there seem to be quite a lot of races and contests this week. Bridger Bowl, for example, kicks off the Skin to Win Randonnee Rally Community Race Series on Sat., Jan. 31. The event blends climbing uphill with barreling downwards, and includes a mandatory 5 PM meeting at Bozeman’s Emerson Center on Fri., Jan. 30. Get the full scoop at 587-2111 or bridgerbowl.com.

Another opportunity to taste either a sweet quaff of victory or the bitter grounds of defeat comes at Whitefish Mountain Resort (WMR), where the Inland NW USASA Slopestyle and Quarterpipe Jam begins with registration at 7:30 AM on Sat., Jan. 31. This is part of an ongoing set of contests to qualify for the finals at Copper Mountain, Colo., so visit usasa.org for the full parameters. Or call WMR at 862-2900.

Ease away from the competition when you join the Montana Natural History Center (MNHC) at 9 AM on Sat., Jan. 31, for a Winter Tracking Workshop with Northwest Connections’ Tom Parker and Adam Lieberg. The $65 fee—$60 for MNHC members—is a small price to pay. Think about it. And RSVP 327-0405.

The Rocky Mountaineers want to take you away from all of the struggle and the strife, so join them for a Sat., Jan. 31 cross-country ski trip at Garnet Ghost Town, with the possibility of renting a cabin and making it an overnight affair. Your input will affect the outcome, so contact Chris at 203-4962, or hammaneater@gmail.com.

If you regularly take your mutt out into the woods, you’re probably aware of the crushing impact of a run-in with a trap. In order that you might help save the life of a canine in the future, Footloose Montana presents a Dog First Aid and CPR—I hope masks are involved—at noon at the Missoula Red Cross Headquarters on Sat., Jan. 31. $50. RSVP 493-6220 or mtpetfirstaid@earthlink.net.

As snow is bound to continue barreling down slopes, you’re encouraged to learn to co-exist with the stuff. To that end, the course Avalanche Safety for Backcountry Travelers begins at 7 PM in UM’s Urey Lecture Hall on Tue., Feb. 3. A second evening lecture follows, as well as a day in the field, after which you’re on your own. Call 243-5172.

Finally, a pair of nature-themed film offerings compete for your attention, as they take place simultaneously. On Thu., Feb. 5, the telemark ski flick The Pact airs at 7 PM in UM’s Urey Lecture Hall, while a short distance away, Susan Sarandon narrates the film Grizzly at 7 PM at the Roxy Theater, 718 S. Higgins Ave. They’re both free, so I leave that decision to you.

And just so you know, you’re all winners in the Comrade’s book.

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