Looks like Marshall Mountain picked the wrong year to close, but how were they to know the season would be epic? Long known as an affordable family ski hill with forgiving terrain, Marshall filled a key niche within the Missoula ski community, and now that niche is getting steeper.

It’s common knowledge that Snowbowl is no hill for the faint-hearted or weak-thighed. But it’s become by default the only hill in town for novices to hone their skills. Snowbowl owner Ronnie Morris thinks that fact might have a diminishing snowball effect on future generations of Missoula skiers, and thus on future business at the ’Bowl.

“Marshall provided a wonderful venue for beginner skiers,” Morris says. “It takes more effort to start skiing at Snowbowl. I think Marshall closing down will effect the entire ski industry in years to come.

You’ve got to have that small venue with gentle terrain and a place to take the kids night skiing after work.”

In other words, without a training ski hill in the area that’s easy on the body and pocketbook, fewer young athletes may have an opportunity to break into the sport. And since, Morris says, “You can only ski Marshall for so long and then you move on,” Marshall’s absence could mean fewer young athletes eventually advancing to Snowbowl.

Since Marshall’s closure, Snowbowl’s numbers are up, more pre-season child coupons have been sold and the ski school’s been slammed. But if what Morris says is true, those numbers are only temporarily inflated (and some of the increase might be attributed to last month’s Ski Magazine profile of Snowbowl anyhow).

But don’t look to the city for help. It’s decided to decline a tentative proposal from Marshall’s owners that the city purchase the ski area and run it as a municipal service. Turns out that’s not financially feasible. Hell, there are pools to be built. Let the kiddies water ski.

•••

Missoula’s Cajun (and Cajun food-loving) crowd has been rocked to its foundations recently by the closure of the Dinosaur Café.

While it was possible to find lunchers wiping gumbo from their chins in the Dino, the spot really hit it off with late-night munchers, and played a key role in sobering Missoula’s bar scene for years.

Nationally recognized for its spicy eats and voted “best place to eat alone” in the Indy’s Best of Missoula awards last year (speaking of which, see this year’s ballot in this issue), its absence will be felt as a void in whiskey-filled tummies for years to come.

Unofficial word around town is that the Dino will return, but sans the Cajun specials. Rather, the bar kitchen will revert to serving typical bar food.

Eventually, the dearly departed Dino will become urban legend. Divisions will be drawn between those who lived here before it closed, and those who arrived after.

And we’ll just come out and say it: We hope to see another Cajun restaurant crop up in this bland-tasting town. There’s certainly a market for it. Make it hip, make it a place where people eat first and drink second. Then gouge us for $9 a plate and we won’t even mind.

But dear Dino, you were more than a mere Cajun cookery housed “at the corner of space and time” in the back of a smoky bar. You were a respite from all that is crappy about bar food (and a godsend for us displaced souls who actually appreciate the difference between good gumbo and bad, chicken wings capable of culinary flight and table scraps). Our breath is bated as we wait for your new menu to unfold, but the magic of that kitchen will be hard to recreate. Please try.

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