Mountain High 

The National Park Service hopes to double the size of the Old Faithful Visitor Center in Yellowstone NP at a cost of $26 million, but not before getting your take on the project. According to the park, the current facility is too small, riddled with asbestos materials, subject to “catastrophic failure” in the event of an earthquake and not in architectural keeping with nearby historic buildings. Construction is scheduled to begin in early 2006, so if you care, be sure to inform yourself and comment at: www.nps.gov/yell/technical/planning.

The wading pools at Franklin, Bonner and Westside parks are slated for deconstruction through Feb. 7, and Missoula Parks and Rec. wants you to stay out of the construction zones. New spray deck construction will begin in a few months, so call 721-PARK for more info.

Unseasonably mild and dry winter weather has forced a name change: Glacier National Park’s weekend “Winter Ecology Snowshoe Walks” are now “Winter Ecology Walks.” The two-hour afternoon jaunts cater to visitors of all ages and abilities and run Saturdays and Sundays through March 20. But winter is a volatile time in the park, so call the Apgar Visitor Center (888-7939) between 9 and noon to confirm the day’s outing. Dress appropriately, bring food/water and a camera.

The Rocky Mountaineers are hosting mountain guide veteran Brad Johnson at their February meeting at Pipestone Mountaineering, and the veteran peak bagger will present images from the stunning high alpine regions of Peru. A well-traveled, well-published adventure photographer, Johnson’s images have appeared in guidebooks and publications such as Outside magazine and Rock and Ice. Show up for the show at 7 p.m. Feb. 9, or log on to his website at www.peaksandplaces.com.

New Rocky Mountaineer Gerald Olbu is headed up Holland Peak Feb. 5, an intended ski/snowshoe but perhaps a postholing slog through breakable crust. Count on a steep but nontechnical climb up the highest peak in the Swans, and stick with Olbu on the ridge to minimize avalanche danger. Attaining the true summit will be conditions- and participant-dependent, so call 549-4769 to figure out the plan.

Ice climbers can join the New Rocky Mountaineers on a three-day pick ‘n kick in British Columbia’s Columbia Valley, Feb. 10–13. Intermediate climbs are on the agenda, as well as overnights at the invigorating, Jetsons-esque Radium Hot Springs lodge. Call Jim Cossitt (756-6818) to sign up for the fun.

The University of Montana’s Outdoor Program is hosting a free ski and snowboard maintenance workshop Feb. 9 at 6 p.m. And while there’s hardly enough snow to justify tuning up the old boards, those who have been a-shussing are likely to need some rock-damage repairs. Experienced Outdoor Program “shop coordinators” are running the show; for more info call Campus Rec. at 243-5172.

Judy Hoy is bringing her feathered friends to the Ravalli County Museum on Feb. 6 as part of the weekly Sunday Series. Hoy has rehabilitated owls, hawks and eagles for more than 25 years, and this 2 p.m. presentation has become an annual pre-Super Bowl tradition. Admission is $3 for adults, $5 per couple and $1 for students.

About 3,500 Smith River lovers compete annually for the 700 allotted permits, and the coveted float applications are due Feb. 15 this year. Get yours, as well as maps, flow data, planning tips and other services at www.discoveringmontana.com, or pick one up at your local FWP office.

Old Man Winter has been shirking his duties as of late, vacationing in an undisclosed location but certainly far from Western Montana, and our snowpack is showing his absence. Powder junkies from Sula to Whitefish have been jonesing for a non-corduroy, non-breakable crust day for weeks now, and although the National Weather Service is calling for some high-elevation snow this weekend, springlike conditions are expected to continue across the region for a while. As of press time, not one of the local ski areas is reporting more than two inches of snow in the past week, although Silver Mountain is up and running after a mid-week hiatus during last week’s rain.

That’s just in time, too: anyone driving a Toyota to Silver Mountain Feb. 4 can score a free ticket during their annual Toyota Ski Free Day. Count on a 10–24-inch base, with a discouragingly small fraction of the terrain open. Passenger tix are discounted to $19.95.

Big Mountain is responding to the lengthening days by keeping the chairs open until 4:30, and anyone bringing in a current pass from another ski area can ride the chairs for $41, a fine deal considering their best-in-the-region 61-inch summit depth.

Snowbowl continues to tout its “springlike” conditions and snowmaking capability; Lost Trail is running all its chairs on Saturdays and Sundays atop a 57-inch base; Blacktail is 50 percent open with a 26-inch mid-mountain base and Lookout Pass has the deepest pow-pow around, with three inches of fresh and their entire front side open.

Send cloud-seeding money and your outdoor recreation schedule to: photo@missoulanews.com.

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