Mountain High 

The bright, sunny days of summertime in Glacier National Park contrast starkly with the short days and often inhospitable conditions that define the park in winter, and Glacier’s administrators are using this low-profile season to announce a price increase on entrance fees. Interestingly, and perhaps counter-intuitively, this price boost might in fact serve to draw even more oglers into Montana’s crown jewel of accessible backcountry.

Why? Enter the park during typical visitation hours and you’ll be given four fee options: a “Golden Eagle Pass” ($65) that provides access to all federal lands (parks, wildlife refuges and other federally managed areas nationwide); a just-parks “National Parks Pass” ($50); a just-Glacier “annual pass” ($25); and the most popular option, the “seven-day pass” ($20).

While the standard week-long pass just doubled in price from $10 to $20, visitors will be able to purchase an entire year’s access for just five bucks more. People buying the full-year deal will benefit on just their second visit, and every subsequent visit will be gravy. While a 100 percent increase is a significant jump, many national parks like Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon have long charged $20 for the week-long pass, while Glacier’s $10 fee has remained unchanged since 1996. Since 80 percent of entrance fees remain in the park to fund “visitor services and other park needs,” visitors know that the bulk of their money is staying where they spend it. Park officials are looking to install more restrooms along Going-to-the-Sun Road, rehabilitate damaged trails and install interpretive roadside panels highlighting natural, cultural and historical features.

The alternative transportation gurus at Free Cycles and MIST (Missoula Institute for Sustainable Transportation) will celebrate the grand opening of their Transportation Learning Center in the alley behind Liquid Planet on Friday, Dec. 5, from 5–9 p.m. The new center will provide public check-out bikes, a sustainable transportation library, bicycle brainstorming space and bicycle-building workshops for anyone interested. Check out live bluegrass by the newly assembled Small Animals, and all are invited to bring food or drink to share. Call 541-2010 for more info.

If you thought UM’s crop of student treehuggers already sported its fair share of grime, wait until you see the Environmental Studies Mud Wrestling Fundraiser pitting students against faculty in the Press Box’s specially imported mud bog on Dec. 4 at 7 p.m. You can help the EVST-ers score big time by attending this event, as the department is set to receive a $100,000 foundation grant if they can just wrangle up $1,000 on their own. Whether you’re a logger or conservationist, passivist or pugilist, go cheer on the mudslinging by buying your tickets ($7) between noon and 1 p.m. in Rankin Hall.

The Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest and The Trailhead will demo cross-country ski equipment and techniques at Chief Joseph Pass on Dec. 6 and 7 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Taking advantage of immaculate grooming and nearly perfect snow conditions, schussers of all abilities can get a feel for a wide range of skis and techniques. Call Todd Frank at The Trailhead (543-6966) for more info.

There’s no shortage of skinny ski options these days, and the Rocky Mountaineers are heading to the hills twice this weekend on groomed-trail excursions to maximize Montana’s excellent early-season conditions. Lois Crepeau will be gearing up a party of the willing for an (almost) full moon ski on Saturday, Dec. 6. If skies are clear, count on enough light to make headlamps utterly unnecessary, but Lolo Pass has been getting hammered by early season storms, so come prepared. Crepeau will also bring a stove to cook up a full meal deal to keep the skiers happy, so call her at 728-5321 for details on what goodies you can chip in.

A few short hours later, another group of RM-ers will host a beginner-friendly trip to the same Lolo Pass ski trails on Sunday, Dec. 7. The plans include introducing folks to the trail network and various facilities, and all ages (including the tykes!) are welcome. As participants get to be stronger and more efficient over the course of the winter, the Rocky Mountaineers will be heading out on longer, more strenuous and ultimately more rewarding trips, so call trip leader Julie Warner at 543-6508 to begin your winter regimen.

A barely-deep-enough (and partially open) Snowbowl is open (full price) Fridays-Sundays until some big snows fully winterize the hill, while Discovery Basin and Lookout Pass are loading skiers only on weekends. Lost Trail says they’ll be opening “soon,” but the very earliest MIGHT be Dec. 5. In the two best deals around, Big Mountain has 60 of 91 runs open for the friendly rate of $25/day through Dec. 19, and Big Sky is loading skiers on Dec. 5 for only $10—one day only.

Whether you’re skiing the backcountry or on-area, early season hazards like stumps, rocks and various other body manglers exist just beneath the snow’s surface. So take precautions, ski like hell and don’t wipe out! Beckon blizzards, pray for powder, and then send your outdoor schedule to: photo@missoulanews.com

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