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Mountain High


And right here on the heels of our national day of gratitude, we come back to the honest truth of the matter: We want more.

As you drive, ride, ski or saunter around town, it’s hard to miss an omnipresent missive, which implores passers-by to invoke their favored deity toward the creation of snow.

I can’t recall exactly when “saving the date” barged into the pre-nuptial lexicon, or when getting together with the other kids on the block became “play dates,” so perhaps it’s no wonder that this whole “Pray for Snow” phenom seems to have bitten me on the behind as well.

What are these frost-worshippers really up to, anyway? Are their festivals organized in the traditional religious manner, with alters of golden snowballs and some manner of ingested body-and-blood to heighten the effects? With only one way to find out, let’s keep these orders of the crystalline catechism in mind as we begin this week’s rundown:

Following the Nov. 17 dump that set fervent snowvangelists’ hearts a-fluttering, several area ski hills opened their slopes with a frothy glee. At press time, only Big Sky has got the snojones to remain open, with a 20-inch base and five lifts operating. Other resorts either didn’t open or had to re-close, but don’t let that dissuade you, as somebody appears to be answering all that prayer.

First in line, then, will be Lookout Pass, which opens nine trails on their frontside on Thu., Nov. 29. At press time, they reported 22 inches of snow at the summit. Those of you above the age of 40 can enjoy a super-cheap lift ticket on Fri., Nov. 30, and many Fridays thereafter, as part of Lookout’s Boomer’s Fridays. Call 208-744-1301.

Those of you eager to avoid a long drive from your Missoula homestead can enjoy the opening of Montana Snowbowl on Fri., Nov. 30, where 20 inches of fluff currently reside at the summit. The hill will be open on weekends until Christmas, and then you can pretty much just camp out in the lodge until March or so. Call 549-9777.

Not to be outdone by a Missoulians’ local option, Big Sky returns to the limelight on Fri., Nov. 30, with the advent of “$20 Ski Day,” a day that shall live forever in infamy. Call (800) 548-4486.  

Discovery Ski Area pulled something of a double-juke to the left, with an early opening date followed by a re-closing, perhaps for more snowy vespers, but this time they really mean it: With a current 18 inches of snow and 50 percent of their runs ready to open, expect big fun as the sun rises on Georgetown Lake on Sat., Dec. 1. Call 563-2184.

That same day, Missoula’s downhill neighbor to the north, Blacktail Mountain, while not officially opening this week, hosts a hopeful gathering at the Tamarack Brewing Company’s Ale House and Grill in Lakeside: On Sat., Dec. 1, help the hill get what’s theirs with the Wakeup Old Man Winter Party at 5 PM, which features lighting of trees, live music, Santa and food and drink in an effort to call down the powdery blanket for the season. Call 844-0999.

Now that we’ve prayed in all this snow, it’s time to release a little habitat for the beasts, which is why the Mount Jumbo Elk Closure begins Sat., Dec. 1. While you can still access the “L” trail and skirt the hill above I-90, pretty much everything else is shut down so the fearsome beasts can roam unmolested. Obey the signs. And leash your mutts. And call 721-PARK if you feel like debating this issue. 

Steve Schombel leads a big-footed clan of Rocky Mountaineers on the season’s first snow-laced epic: Join in on a Sat., Dec. 1, snowshoe trek around Chief Joseph Pass in the Bitterroot Mountains. This is a four-to-five mile trip and the group meets up at 8:30 AM, so call 721-4686.  

Chalk up another one for the pagans: Missoulians send their hopes and dreams skyward on Sat., Dec. 1, when the third annual all white Snowball kicks off at 8 PM at the Crystal Theatre. This pray for snow fest sports a mandatory pale costume dress code, a cash bar, a costume party and all the trimmings.

Of course, snow might make that much harder to spot winter residents of the Mission Valley, so maybe don’t pray too hard. If you’ve got the gumption, Jim Brown is ready, willing and able to lead an Audubon Society field trip to the Ninepipes Lodge on Sun., Dec. 2. Pack yourself a lunch for this free trip and meet in the UM Fieldhouse parking lot at 8 AM, or at Ninepipes at 9. And call Jim at 549-8052 or Larry at 549-5632, and tell ‘em the Comrade sent ya.

Lastly, all that genuflection in the name of powder can create some very hazardous conditions, so before you go tromping off into the white abyss, head to UM’s Urey Underground Lecture Hall at 7 PM on Tue., Dec. 4, for an Avalanche Awareness Lecture, which could just save your life, or at least your snowmobile. Call 243-2804 if you feel the notion.

I’m planning to keep praying too, but not for snow. My pleas will be for an overwhelming flood of outdoor events information. Praise be!

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