Talk of the ski resort proposed for Lolo Peak has been simmering slowly this summer, but don’t let that fool you: The issue is alive and well. An Aug. 11 Economist article lays out the sharp divide between opponents (who object for environmental, cultural and economic reasons) and supporters (who rally behind the same reasons, with a twist of commerce), and concludes that a long battle awaits.

But you wouldn’t know that if all you read was an Aug. 17 press release from the Bitterroot Resort camp headlined: “Bitterroot Resort team supports Friends of Lolo Peak call for more wilderness in expanse west and south of Lantern Ridge.” The resort folks, it seems, want wilderness—just not on the site where they hope to put North America’s largest ski resort. Close to the condos is good.

“While we support them for making the gesture, it really doesn’t change anything,” says Hilary Wood, a Friends of Lolo Peak member. The Lantern Ridge area, adjacent to Lolo Peak, has been managed as wilderness for the last 20 years, and under the Forest Service’s proposed new plan—still in the works—it would stay the same, according to Missoula District Ranger Maggie Pittman. The undeveloped treatment is also what the agency plans for the Lolo Peak slopes rancher Tom Maclay wants to access to complete his vision, which would combine his nearly 3,000 acres with access to National Forest lands.

The resort’s public relations consultants have clearly zeroed in on the fact that locals love their wilderness and concluded that by glomming on to the big W bandwagon, they may yet have their cake and eat it, too. Whether everyone else wants a piece remains to be seen.

•••

While Montana may be ruled by four distinct seasons, two that defy weather patterns hold most sway in Missoula: when college students are here, and when they ain’t.

This week we’re plainly transitioning into the former circumstance, as evidenced by the number of dusty U-Hauls and the fresh-faced packs of kids seen exploring bars and restaurants and sporting new messenger bags and outfits. On Aug. 29, the first day of classes, the truth will really hit home at about 8 a.m. as you’re heading to work and suddenly realize you’re caught in a Missoula-style traffic jam—minor, but a noticeable step up from summertime’s sleepy pace. Much more welcome (than traffic, not students) is the influx of shows and other cultural events that tend to dry up over the summer and fill back out once students get settled and start looking for ways to avoid homework.

Welcome back, y’all. Now get to work.

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