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Mountain High



Missoula, the time has come to spark it up, by which I mean that general burning season began Wednesday, March 1. But be sure to get a permit because there are all kinds of restrictions on what you can light up. For instance, according to a press release from Missoula County, “The only materials that may be burned are natural vegetation and untreated wood.”

And, as the U.S. Dept. of Justice and its local lackeys heavy-handedly reminded Western Montana this week, some vegetation is apparently less natural than others. (See “Pipe dreams shattered” on Page 9.) So other restrictions on your activities—regardless of the apparent relevance, good sense or wisdom of those restrictions—may apply; check with your local fire department or personal attorney for further information.

Okay. I may have conflated two issues in the previous bit on burning. One, you’ve got leaves, slash and whatnot to burn—that’s the standard Mountain High material. Two, the federal government seems to think that prosecuting purveyors of smoking accessories is a priority meriting hundreds of thousands of dollars in attorney fees and investigative resources—never mind what it costs to incarcerate owners of businesses that plenty of citizens have no problem patronizing.

How did we get stupid enough to permit this? Frankly, I blame the schools, which conveniently allows me to transition into some sort of event listing:

Parents, while class is cancelled so you can get updated in person on how your tyke is taking to factory-style social conditioning as served up daily as compulsory schooling—you know, parent-teacher conferences—Missoula Outdoor Learning Adventures (MOLA) opens the possibility of your young’un doing something fun. I’m talking about a day of downhill skiing or snowboarding at Blacktail or Discovery. Get details about the $30 package, which includes transportation, instruction and lift tickets, on either Thursday, March 9, or Friday, March 10, by calling 240-2458. Who knows? A couple days on the slopes might just lead to a life spent pursuing a passion, or maybe just a healthy streak of days spent living for joy instead of fearing disapproval.

If you’re too old for MOLA, you could always get outside with the help of a club. For instance, the New Rocky Mountaineers head to Little St. Joe Peak in the Bitterroots on Sunday, March 5, for a day of skinning, snowshoeing and tele skiiing. Call 549-4769 to join up. Or, if you’re up for an overnight, take a trip with the not as new Rocky Mountaineers, who plan a Friday, March 3, through Sunday, March 5, trip to Glacier National Park with possible trips to Mt. Rockwell or Grizzly Mountain once you get there. Call 240-7612 to make sure the weather is a go.

Or maybe a little competition would make you happy. If so, try out Snowbowl, which hosts a Snowboard Jam this weekend with Big Air and Slope-Style contests on Saturday, March 4, and then Banked Slalom on Sunday, March 5. Pro or am, there are prizes. And maybe a little glory, too. Call 721-7774 for more info on the competition.

Or see what you might have done with the afternoon if you had a little more practice when the Banff Film Festival’s Radical Reels Tour shows in the University Theatre on the UM campus. These action films include everything you could ever want from a caffeinated soft drink without the killer buzz. (You’ll have to supply that, subject to warnings you may have derived from earlier in the column.) So strap yourself in at 7 PM on Saturday, March 4. Call 243-5172 to find out how get your tickets for $9 instead of $11.

It must be Spring Training for cyclists, because there are two trips to choose from this weekend. On Saturday, March 4, you can cruise along 25 miles of paved trail from Lolo to Florence. If you prefer heading east to going south for some reason, then the Sunday, March 5, Tour de Turah is your ticket. Call 239-5786 for Saturday’s trip and 721-8540 for Sunday’s.

So it seems the Spring Trainers might be on to something. Somehow, the temperature in Missoula briefly hit 60 degrees Fahrenheit this afternoon. I don’t need to tell you that’s no good for snow. There’s no telling how high up the mountain the melt line went today, but the temperature was above freezing even at Lost Trail and Lookout passes. Given the reputation of ski areas for making things sound better than they actually are, it’s definitely a good idea to get as much information about the conditions as you can from firsthand accounts (which I don’t really have, as you can see, and also help alleviate).

Glacier National Park doesn’t have any reason to pad the stats, though. And to improve the transparency of conditions there, they’ve launched a website with reports on cross-country trails throughout the park—including both what the staff has to say and the perspective of the people using the trails. Check it out at

And cc: me your comments.

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