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Mountain High



It’s good to see snow on the ground, don’t get me wrong, but it’s kind of torture when it’s not also falling from the sky. I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one feeling that way. For instance, there’s you, loyal reader, who’s probably also wishing for precip. And there’re the ski resorts, which’ve got a vested interest in seeing it snow. It’s not that they don’t have some already, but after being spoiled by those fresh powder conditions a couple weeks ago, everyone’s bound to feel a little underprivileged to simply have solid cover and cool enough temps for snowmaking.

As a result, you can have a real fine time with your season pass, but you might not be feeling the tug if you get up the lift à la carte. Regardless, here’s what you can expect. Snowbowl is reporting 16–41 inches of snow and operating on a Thursday-to-Monday schedule. Lost Trail has 43–53 inches of snow with a similar Thursday-to-Monday schedule; they’re still waiting to open the northerly expansion area, and it looks like it will have to wait for more snow. Lookout starts operating daily beginning Thursday, Dec. 15, and keeps it up through Monday, Jan. 2; head up there on Thursday and you can expect 2 to 4 feet of snow on the ground, with just a whisper of powder and the rest packed down.

Big Mountain has 13–38 inches of snow on the ground with low turnout on the slopes reported. So, if you like solitude, but not so much that you’ll head out to the backcountry, consider Big Mountain. Discovery has 24–34 inches of snow but without Limelight online to serve the back side of the mountain; still, they’re open seven days a week. Also, on Sunday, Dec. 18, Pipestone Mountaineering is going to hold a telemark equipment demo, so keep those knees flexible and check out the most versatile way to get around outside. Finally, Big Sky and Moonlight Basin are both looking at about 2 feet of snow at mid-mountain with a wide variety of terrain, most of it corduroy. If you haven’t exhausted your Christmas wishes, consider sharing one with the rest of us. I’ll give you one big white guess what I’m hoping for.

One way to find powder when the mountains aren’t getting snow is to find some terrain unserved by lifts. Lolo Pass has several feet of snow and rangers are grooming cross-country trails. The same is true, though with less snow, in the Rattlesnake. Check out the conditions in the ‘Snake this weekend with the Rocky Mountaineers, who plan a trip under the full moon on Friday, Dec. 16, when they’ll ski up the main groomed Rattlesnake Creek trail. Call 721-4686 to find out the time. They’re also heading out Saturday, Dec. 17, on “a rather long trip” to Ch-paa-qn—or the Witch’s Tit, as the mountain was formerly and derogatorily known. Most of the terrain, they write, is pretty easy; the length of the trip, though, depends on how far up the road they’ll be able to drive. Call 721-3790 to get in the car.

While we’re on the subject of driving in the wildlands, let’s segue into a discussion of motorized recreation, or rather, its absence. And, here we are at the Montanans for Quiet Recreation meeting taking place at 7 PM at Pipestone Mountaineering on Thursday, Dec. 15, where they’ll discuss places the group wants the U.S. Forest Service to change management classifications in order to better represent the interests of skiers, snowboarders and showshoers who get around with sweat, oxygen and adrenaline rather than gasoline. If you’re reading this, that’s probably you. Go check out the meeting or call 370-5923 if you can’t make it.

Stepping off, or perhaps through, the snow, consider the birds. And consider your reaction to seeing them. For instance, if you freak out when you sight a bird, you really should be part of the Five Valleys Audubon Society. One way to get involved is at their annual Christmas Bird Count, which takes place Saturday, Dec. 17. Participants will either head into the field to survey birds or do a feeder watch at home. Call 549-5623 to get your bird on.

Before I go, here’s an event that seems a trifle highbrow for Mountain High, but I’ve learned recently not to associate poverty and virtue just because they seem correlated in my case. Big Mountain is offering seven Moonlight Dine and Ski events this year; the first is Friday, Dec. 16. If you’ve got the money, honey, they’ll serve you one of four sumptuous-sounding entrees at the Summit House (I like food, and believe me these sound tasty) and then guide you through a full-moon ski tour down the mountain. It costs a little more than a lift ticket; let me know if you need a date. Call 862-2900 to reach them.

You know how to find me.

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