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Mountain High



So, how’s your skiing?

I had a blissful Thursday at Lost Trail last week. There were 22 inches of fresh snow; it got a little heavy, but that’s like complaining about a gourmet meal because the flatware isn’t shiny enough. And my observation is that the snow was still good enough Saturday to leave Indy scout John S. Adams with a big grin on Monday. But it doesn’t look like much new snow is in the forecast for this week—at Lost Trail or anywhere else. Still, the groomers should be strong, with soft snow and fast runs, but I’m a powder fiend, and I have the feeling this week is going to be one where I just jones.

That’s because no place west of the Divide is expecting precipitation through the weekend. I hate to play weather forecaster so far in advance but that’s what it’s looking like from here. Many mountains and lots of snow, just none falling anytime soon.

That said, I hear the backcountry conditions are great, especially down in the West Yellowstone area, and I bet this would be a good time to get out the cross-country sticks for a trip or two around the loop at Lolo Pass.

And so this winter’s weather pattern continues: warmer-than-usual temperatures, but still cold enough in the mountains that the snow sticks around—and there’s been plenty of snow.

At least, that’s what the Montana Natural Resources Conservation Service is saying. They report that snowpack in Montana is 108 percent of normal this year; that’s 176 percent of last year’s scanty precip. And with the amount of snow on the mountains, the chances are substantial that a whole crapload of it is going to come screaming down at you if you don’t handle yourself properly while you’re out in the midst of it.

Therefore, consider one of two avalanche-awareness options this weekend. First, the TrailHead offers a free Avalanche Awareness Lecture with Steve Karkanen from the West Central Montana Avalanche Foundation at 6:30 PM on Saturday, Feb. 11. If you’ve got the whole weekend to spare, consider joining members of the Lost Trail Powder Mountain Ski Patrol for a two-day Level One Avalanche Course at Lost Trail on Friday, Feb. 11, and Saturday, Feb. 12. Cost? Just $20. Call 240-8210 to get details on the equipment you’ll need, and to make sure they’ve still got space.

Once you’ve got the avalanche expertise, it’s time to head to the backcountry. For instance: Accompany the Rocky Mountaineers to Gash Point in the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness on Saturday, Feb. 11. If you’d like to join them for an eight-mile round trip with what they promise is great tele skiing, call 829-1988.

If you’d like to get out of Montana for alpine or nordic adventures, UM’s Outdoor Program offers two opportunities: a Feb. 17–20 ski/snowboard trip to British Columbia’s Red Mountain, and a March 3–5 cross-country trip to Yellowstone National Park. To go then, you’ll need to register now, by Monday, Feb. 13, for Red Mountain or Thursday, Feb. 16, for Yellowstone; call 243-5172 to do that.

Campus Rec doesn’t just run outdoor excursions; they also sponsor indoor excitement. If you know free throws or how to drop deadly treys—and you’ve got a valid Griz card—give the 3 Point & Free Throw Contest a toss at 5 PM on Wednesday, Feb. 15.

Don’t know what to put in your bag when you head into the woods? Find someone who does and take them along. Former Eagle Creek and current REI employee Mark Sembach would be a good choice, but he also might be busy. Still, you get the bulk of the advice he would offer during the “Packing for Travel Success” clinic he leads from 7 to 7:45 PM on Thursday, Feb. 16, at REI’s location on North Reserve Street.

Feel like running? Find a friend and head to the Scrumpy Jack Scramble 2 Person by 2 Mile Relay Race that’s taking off at 10 AM on Saturday, Feb. 11, from Opportunity Resources for a quick trip through Playfair Park. Show up early to register; you can call 829-1313 for info.

Finally, if you like wilderness and have a knack for writing (hey, wait, is that me?), you ought to know about the Matthew Hansen Endowment. The Endowment offers awards, generally between $400 and $1,000, to people pursuing projects related to Montana’s heritage that blend historical research, creative writing and wilderness studies into some meritorious package. If you’ve got a proposal that can stand up to some competition, consider submitting it to the Wilderness Institute at the University of Montana, thereby supplying them with an opportunity to fund you. Call 243-5361 to get more information.

I like funding too, so if you’ve got some kicking around, ship it over. But I’ll settle for e-mail.

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