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Mountain High


A recent press release from the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service reports that as of the beginning of February, Montana’s snowpack was just slightly below average.

That’s all fine and well, and indeed, the heaps of snow up at Lolo Pass last weekend corroborate the report, but what I set out to determine was this: How can Montanans bring our snowpack level up to, or even beyond, the average? 

The answer proved elusive, and it wasn’t until I put together several seemingly unrelated bits of information that inspiration moved me brightly, charging the light bulb in my thought bubble.

The correlation I noticed was that quite a number of outdoor-related groups are looking for volunteers right now. Take, for example, the Rocky Mountaineers, charged with facilitating the GrizzlyMan Adventure Race in April. They need check-in people, aid station personnel, clean up experts and more, so visit

Another group in need of all hands on deck is the Clearwater Farm, a Bitterroot multi-use organization that teaches about science and art while raising crops and feeding the community. They’re looking for all kinds of help come March, from leading classes to raising veggies to “personing” their farmers’ market stall. Call Sandy at 370-0808 or Traci at 381-1960.

Finally, Special Olympics Montana puts out a call for volunteers for the Feb. 22–24 games at Whitefish Mountain Resort. Opening ceremony assistance, timing and monitoring are but a few positions available to skiers and non-skiers alike. Call Karen at 837-0319.

So, you see, I was led to wonder: Could our area’s need for volunteer labor be inextricably—and inexplicably—linked to the slightly low snow levels? Stranger theories have remained unchallenged for centuries, and it’s in the grand scientific tradition that I implore each and every one of you to jump into this logical labyrinth, sign up to help one of the above groups and be a part of the change in the snowpack that we can believe in. 

And with that, I remind you the Missoula Children and Nature Summit continues with seminars through Fri., Feb. 13. Take in sessions designed to eradicate Nature Deficit Disorder when you call 721-PARK, or visit

Another quick reminder is in order, as the evening of Thu., Feb. 12, plays host to no fewer than four lecture-tastic possibilities: At 7 PM, there’s a presentation dubbed “Blackfeet Skies” at the Montana Natural History Center, the lecture “Nanda Devi: Adventure and Ecotourism Around India’s Sacred Mountain” takes place in UM’s Urey Lecture Hall and the Ninemile Ranger Station in Huson hosts biologist Shawn McKinney’s “Nutcrackers and Pines” presentation. At 7:30, Room L09 of UM’s Gallagher Business Building features Scott Miller’s talk “The Biology of Yellowstone Hot Springs.” You go get ‘em.

And then get out. Northwest Connections, a Swan Valley-based nature education group, offers a two-day introductory Animal Tracking course that begins with 9 AM registration on Sat., Feb. 14. The hands-on course also takes place next weekend (Feb. 21–22), so this isn’t your last chance. Regardless, check it out at or call 754-3185. 

And here’s a shout to the Missoula Freestyle Ski Team, a posse of limber-legged masters of high-flying daredevilry, as they take part in two days of competition at Bridger Bowl this weekend. On V-Day, moguls are on the menu, with Sun., Feb. 15, featuring dual moguls, which is probably just about twice as challenging. Head over to the Bozone and shout your support.

Also on Valentine’s Day, those same Rocky Mountaineers offer a backcountry ski excursion into the Bitterroots. Maybe your sincere interest in helping out with the GrizzlyMan will be enough to tip the meteorological scales over toward “dumping pow pow.” Just imagine the street cred you’d suddenly enjoy. Call Joshua about the trip at 543-0898.

Heading into the week days, our first marker comes as the UM Outdoor Program issues an alert that Tue., Feb. 17, is the last day to register for their Sat., Feb. 21 Beginner Cross-country Ski Adventure. If you’re wanting to get started on the lifetime sport everyone’s talking about—were there more snow, they’d actually be doing more of it—respond via telephone at 243-5172.

In case you missed the Spotlight, the UM Wilderness Lecture Series continues this week, and the opportunity to cast eyes on a modern-day Cortez—without all the gold lust and resultant genocide—is yours for the taking. On Tue., Feb. 17, global explorer Helen Thayer presents the lecture “Walking the Gobi: Environmental Change in the Mongolian Desert” at 7 PM in Room 106 of UM’s Gallagher Business Building. Free. Call 243-6956.  

And just in case you thought “spelunking” went the way of “waterboarding” with arrival of our new administration, allow me to allay your fears with the knowledge that the Northern Rocky Mountain Grotto of the National Speleological Society meets at 7 PM in Pipestone Mountaineering, 129 W. Front St., on Wed., Feb. 18. The gathering features Bob Bastasz’ slide show presentation “Caving in the Wrangell Mountains of Alaska,” so don’t say I never share the wealth.    

Finally, here comes the beginning of something big: The Five Valleys Audubon Society’s six-week series of Advanced Birding Workshops begins with the Thu., Feb. 19, presentation “Birding By Ear,” which is presented at 7 PM by Audubon stalwart Larry Weeks at the Regional Fish, Wildlife & Parks Office on Spurgin Road. Each session runs $15, or you can get all six for $60. Enrollment is limited, so RSVP with haste: 549-5632 or

Now get out there and make us some snow. Go Vols!

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