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Mountain High



I hesitate to mention this, but there’s still great snow in the mountains. Last Thursday was as good an all-around day to be at Lost Trail as I can remember. There wasn’t a ton of new snow—just 8 inches or so—and it wasn’t champagne by any stretch. But it was fun and fast, too heavy to be powder and too light to be chowder; call it bisque. And the mountain was deserted, which meant that big stashes remained untended at 3 PM when I normally would expect them to be tracked out by noon.

From the looks of the National Weather Service website (admit it, you’ve been dying to know where I come up with my meteorological prognostications), the snow is going to keep falling at higher elevations throughout the weekend. So if you can wrap your brain around heading out skiing when your neighbor is jogging in shorts, you might just want to head to the mountains.

It’s been a while since I gave a systematic rundown on conditions, so here’s the stats on base accumulations at lift-served terrain around the state. Snowbowl reports 30 to 90 inches of base; some days I hear nothing but praise, and others sound more like silence. In the end the difference between town and country is smallest at the ‘Bowl, and you’ll just have to factor your willingness to p-tex the gouges out of your gear into your decision about whether to commute or not.

As for commuting spots, I’ve already told you how much I liked Lost Trail last week; with better than 10 feet on the slopes, the biggest hazard is thick trees that seem buried but aren’t. The difference between the top and bottom of Lookout is larger—89 inches at the base and 150 inches at the top—but that’s still solid coverage. Discovery Basin has significantly less base than either of the border areas with 44 to 60 inches reported; wish it well and maybe you’ll get a powder day on the backside before the season closes. Big Mountain is staying covered but also experiencing some rain and, according to locals, conditions have become highly variable—no place for a weekly paper to be wading in.

That might not cover all the spots in Montana, but I haven’t got an unlimited amount of space, and there’s more to living in Montana in late winter than snow sports, though you’ll have trouble convincing me of that on a Powder Thursday.

Or convincing the Rocky Mountaineers of it when they take a mid-week ski to Skalkaho Falls on Wednesday, March 15. Call 721-4686 to get in on this trip, which passes through some pristine scenery, probably with Bighorns, so you might want to bring that shield you’ve got lying in the shed along.

It’s not the season for it, but you can hunt a Bighorn with a bow when the time is right. One of my friends got one this year; she said it was the toughest field dressing and skinning she or either of her two companions had ever undertaken. I mention sheep-hunting not just so that some crank will question my humanity but because Monday, March 13, from 6 to 8 PM is the next time you can head to Fish, Wildlife & Parks offices, located at 3201 Spurgin Road, to sign up for Bowhunter Education classes, which are required in order to get a bow and arrow license. Call 542-5500 to get information on when the classes will be held and how to sign up.

If you’ve just got to get away from the snow, maybe try biking. I do it pretty regularly as a commuter, but that’s mainly over cityscape distances. There exists a solid contingent in Missoula who prefer longer rides. Those folks have got 40-mile rides planned for Saturday, March 11, and Sunday, March 12. If you’ve got Saturday free, you can head out to Frenchtown from the Perkins on Reserve Street at 10 AM; on Sunday, the trip leaves at 10 AM from K-Mart and heads for someplace called Glen’s that’s famous for pie. Call 728-8319 for Saturday and 543-3230 for Sunday.

You’ll have to bring your own snacks for the Five Valleys Audubon Society’s field trip to the Lee Metcalf Wildlife Refuge, which departs from the UM Field House parking lot at 8 AM on Saturday, March 11, promising an orgy of ornithology on an easy hike of several miles. Call 327-1525 to find out about carpooling.

Finally, a Missoula group called Girls Using Their Strengths! (GUTS!) is looking for photos of females flexing their physical, social or political muscles to include in an upcoming Women in Action slideshow that will benefit GUTS!—a group that employs mentoring, small group discussion and outdoor adventure to build self-esteem and provide positive role models for young women. Call 543-3747 to find out how to submit your images for the slide show.

Feel free to ship them this way, too.

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