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Mountain High

In this day and age where a new medical explanation—and, of course, the medication to treat it—seems to sprout up faster than fungus on a moist window sill, there’s a socio-scientific ailment with which we’ve by now all become familiar.

And I’m not talking about Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS), an affliction that strikes millions of sedentary Americans each year.

I’m referring to Nature Deficit Disorder, an ailment coined by Richard Louv in his 2005 book, Last Child in the Woods, that links childhood obesity and behavioral problems to a lack of outside time. The solution to both maladies appears simple—one website established for RLS sufferers recommends “a program of regular moderate exercise,” which is a good antidote for most of our modern woes. Think about it.

Of course, it’s not as easy as unplugging Junior and sending her outside. That’s the reason the Western Montana Children and Nature Network (WMCNN) was formed, to facilitate the eradication of nature deficit. The WMCNN’s first official throwdown comes Feb. 11–13, when they host the inaugural Missoula Children and Nature Summit on the UM campus. From a keynote address by Rick Potts of the National Park Service to two days of sessions—some topics include built vs. natural environments, the importance of unstructured outdoor play and outdoor mentoring—the summit promises to get the ball rolling toward the goal of a healthier herd. Registration began Wed., Jan. 21, and the $18 fee’s low enough that everyone and their uncle will want to attend. Assure your place when you visit And call 721-PARK for more information.   

And not to send mixed messages, but I thought I’d let you know that frequent Indy contributor Nick Davis’ work on an episode of Trout Unlimited’s program “On The Rise” is airing on The Outdoor Channel at 10:30 PM on Fri., Jan. 23, and at 7 AM and 2 PM on Sat., Jan. 24. With footage of the free-flowing Milltown Dam area, as well as local breweries, it’s a chance to enjoy Missoula’s shining example on the national stage. Nice work, Nick.

All right, we roll up our sleeves and head back outside, at least it feels that way when you get to the Glacier Ice Rink, where figure skating classes begin on Sat., Jan. 24—adults, your session begins Mon., Jan. 26—so if you haven’t signed up and gotten fitted for a unitard and tutu, there’s no time like the present. Call 543-LUTZ or visit

I may be more of a contributor to nature deficit than I thought: On Sat., Jan. 24, the Cold Smoke Awards celebrate all that’s great about winter mountain culture at 8 PM at the Badlander. With music, film, live hosts and plenty of celluloid powder, this fleece-clad version of the Academy Awards should inspire you to take your inner child for a nice long hike. Visit

And now for some actual outside time. The Sierra Club hopes you’ll join in on a cross-country ski trip from Lolo Pass to Lee Creek on Sun., Jan. 25. The seven-mile route calls upon skills such as turning, slowing down and stopping, so if those abilities are securely stashed in your tool belt, contact John at

This week, the Chinese Year of the Ox gets started, and to celebrate the occasion, the Rocky Mountaineers lead a ski trip up the Peak-Formerly-Known-as-Squaw on Mon., Jan. 26. You’ll want a set of skis and skins, and possibly a transceiver, for the 10-mile trek. Also, discern whether it’s B.Y.O. fortune cookies when you contact Forest at 240-7612, or

UM’s Outdoor Program continues their onslaught against nature deficit with a smattering of new class offerings. On Mon., Jan. 26, you face a registration deadline for the following: the Jan. 27 and 29, 5 PM Avalanche Transceiver Clinics, the Jan. 31, Snowshoeing and Track ID Class and the Feb. 1, Intro to Cross-country Skiing Class. You needn’t be a student for any of these, but some fees do apply. RSVP 243-5172.

An opportunity to combat more than simple nature deficit comes when Lost Trail/Powder Mountain Ski Area hosts the 2009 Winter Special Olympics on Tue., Jan. 27, and Wed., Jan. 28. Volunteers are still needed for the events, and there are no winter sports skills required, so don’t let those restless legs of yours keep you on the fence. Sign up to help out when you call Carla at 363-3028 or Dixie at 961-4812. 

Folks, I think the Rocky Mountaineers have hit their stride again: Take part in a nice, mellow trip through the woods on Lubrecht Forest’s ski trails on Thu., Jan. 29. This trip actually serves as a refresher for an upcoming moonlight ski, so keep your eyes peeled for that one, as well.Call Steve at 721-4686.

Two opportunities to compare yourself to the competition arise on Thu., Jan. 29. First, the 26th annual Missoula Telemark Challenge closes registration for this year’s contest. You can get more details and an application when you visit The Trailhead on East Front Street, or when you virtually mosey over to And Montana Snowbowl presents another racing option on Thu., Jan., 29, when their Alpine Evening Race Series begins. Trials run through Mar. 4, with finals taking place on Mar. 6. Contact Deb at 258-5260.

Now remember, our new “era of responsibility” starts with you: Go outside.

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