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Mountain High


The mercury’s late swing toward the thermometer’s nether regions has many across the state breathing a sigh of relief while filling their tanks with now-cheap gas, but will the newfound frostiness translate into well-endowed slopes? To quote Bob Marley, who was reportedly never much of a downhill skier, “Time will tell.”

But as you’ve now probably spent a few days cooped up with visiting family and friends, perhaps a joint jaunt into the woods is fast becoming a requirement regardless. The good news is that no matter your religious affiliation—be ye Muslim, Jew, Christian, Pagan or atheist—the Bitterroot National Forest wishes to enlist your help in a small-scale timber thinning operation.

Yes, folks, it’s time again for your clan to cut their own Holiday Tree, and all that’s required is that you pick up a $5 Christmas Tree Permit—somebody didn’t get the memo about making everything all-inclusive and P.C.—from your nearest Forest Service office or authorized Bitterroot Valley merchant.

Some guidelines: Pick trees in a crowded area, to give the survivors a better shot at some sunlight and nutrients. Don’t cut off the tops of trees, and don’t leave stumps higher than eight inches. Make sure you’re on National Forest land—get a map when you get your permit. Also, don’t cut in tree plantations, previously thinned areas, recreational sites or timber sale areas.

Aside from those simple rules, the forest’s your oyster. Call your nearest Forest Service office—in Hamilton, the number’s 363-7100, in Stevensville, it’s 777-5461—for more details.

Of course, nobody’s saying you’ve got to trek miles into the frigid wilds for a Yule bush. As a freedom-loving ‘merican, you can just go ahead and buy your shrub from a friendly roadside merchant, then go about your week’s recreational activities, such as this one:

The Rocky Mountaineers start us off right as they offer up a trek up the Mission Mountains’ Mount Calowahcan (9,061 feet) on Sat., Nov. 29. The peak formerly known as Mount Harding features some fairly tricky Class 4 climbing, so participants need to be in good shape, possess all the requisite gear—including a tribal recreation permit—and ought to contact Forest in advance at 721-6384 or 240-7612.

In case you’re a bit more on the younger end of things, a mind-expanding opportunity awaits as the Bitterroot’s Clearwater Farm offers a Saturday Art and Science class at 9 AM on Sat., Nov. 29. Located just 6.5 miles east of Stevensville, the Farm presents classes having to do with the illusive art of M.C. Escher, some scientific experimentation, a day of recycled art cards and investigations into the nature of snow. Classes run $15, and you can get more details when you call 370-0808.  

Further proof that we’re simply little fleshy pawns in this universal time machine comes in the form of another group exploration of destiny-shifting: On Sat., Nov. 29, beginning at 8 PM, Whitefish Mountain Resort—reporting a six-inch base, with four fresh inches of snow—hosts their 32nd annual Pray for Snow Party at their Bierstube up on the mountain. All manner of festivities ensue, such as a big bonfire, music from the Canyon Creek Ramblers, a sacrifice to snow god Ullr, and more. And it’s free, with a complimentary shuttle bus carrying you up to the fun. Call (877) SKI-FISH.

With the weekend safely behind us, and the last of your Thanksgiving leftovers continuing to quietly age in the fridge, you’re beckoned to head out on a decidedly wild adventure as the Montana Dirt Girls plunge deep into Stinky Hollow at 5:45 PM on Tue., Dec. 2. You’ll want to meet the venerable tribe at the Rattlesnake trailhead, and visit for further instructions.

Once that’s taken care of, perhaps you ought to begin preparing for life amid massive banks of gnarly powder: At 7 PM on Tue., Dec. 2, the West Central Montana Avalanche Center hosts an Avalanche Awareness Lecture in UM’s North Urey Lecture Hall. For real, if you’re planning to get out into whatever snow shows up this winter, one of these classes—the next one’s on Tue., Dec. 9—should be on your agenda. Free. Call 243-5172. 

If imitation’s the sincerest form of flattery, Mama Nature’s bound to be tossing up some blushes in the coming years if Sam Stier of Missoula’s Biomimicry Institute has anything to do with it. Hear the method behind the madness when the Montana Natural History Center, 120 Hickory St., hosts Stier’s lecture “Biomimicry: Blueprint for Nature” at 7 PM on Wed., Nov. 3. A $3 donation is suggested, and the number for more info is 327-0405.

Finally, North America’s largest green movie party, the Wild & Scenic Environmental Film Festival, comes to the Wilma Theatre at 6 PM on Thu., Dec. 4. (See Spotlight in this issue.) Several local eco-groups join the Sustainable Business Council in hosting the traveling collection from Nevada City, Calif., and a social reception precedes the screenings, so get there early and stay late. $11/students buy one, get one free. Visit

Now go make your Comrade proud.

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