Mountain High 

Snowpack might be good for the rivers, but it’s even better for my mindset. Let’s start with the good news of the returning snowy season.

Caveat: weather changes and this info is as of press time, which is Tuesday night. Also, it’s sifted from National Weather Service and ski area info so, emptor, exercise your own discretion.

Snowbowl is reporting that they’re 25 percent open with 10 inches of snow at the bottom, a healthy 34 inches at the summit with more in the forecast. Soon it will probably be worth it to stay in town and save some gas money, but I still keep looking south.

What I see is Lost Trail, which is still reporting 3 to 4 feet of snow but that was a couple days ago and it should be boomin’ by Thursday when they open again. You gotta love ‘em, consistently underreporting their snow depth and making me wonder what’s fallen during the week. I feel a little bit abused, but uninclined to break off the romance.

You can’t blame me for casting a gaze toward Lookout Mountain, though. They’re reporting 16–38 inches of snow with 4 inches of “champagne powder,” which seems plausible given recent precipitation in the valley. Someday soon, I believe they’ll be opening up the backside of the mountain and all fresh glade terrain will beckon.

These other mountains are too far for me to flee to until someone decides to employ me as a full-time snow correspondent, but maybe you’ve got the time and luxury to head to the east and the north. If so, I envy you.

Big Sky has 50 percent of its terrain open, and reports 24–37 inches of base and big dumps—they say 16 inches since Sunday—of snow. On the flip side, Moonlight Basin reports 33 inches at mid-mountain with some early-season spots, aka rocks and trees, but also significant amounts of fresh snow since the weekend and in the forecast. Finally, Big Mountain has 12 runs with two chairs open and 31 inches of settled base. It’s cold and there’s snow in the forecast. It’s the story everywhere, and it’s as it should be in December in Montana.

Okay. Enough torturing myself with the snow report. Here’s some event info:

And it begins with the snow, of course. The Rocky Mountaineers are turning their attentions snow-ward with a Saturday, Dec. 3, cross-country ski trip to Lolo Pass, where the National Weather Service is reporting 2 feet of snow on Tuesday afternoon and the forecast is calling for more. Call 542-1966 to get in on the trip.

While you’re up on the Pass, remember the rules about dogs, which are to keep them away from any groomed ski or snowmobile trail, essentially anything on the same side of the Pass as the parking lot is off limits to Poochie and his pals. You’ve been warned.

If you’ve got Nordic skis and plan to head to Lolo or anywhere to use them, you might want a primer on the basics of Nordic ski waxing, which can be had at the Nordic Wax Clinic at Open Road Bicycles and Nordic Equipment at 6 PM Thursday, Dec. 1. Call 549-2453 for details.

Or try learning about the equipment and sport of snowshoeing when Bob Reider leads a Nordic Ski Equipment clinic at REI’s 2230 N. Reserve St. location on Wednesday, Dec. 7, at 7 PM. Free. Call 829-0432.

Avalanche awareness is on the agenda at 7 PM on Tuesday, Dec. 6, in the North Underground Lecture Hall on the UM campus, to be followed by a Transceiver Clinic on Saturday, Dec. 10. Call 243-5172 if you need to know more than I told you.

A couple of University groups are also contemplating some frosty excursions:

The UM Peak, Pack & Paddle Club meets at 4 PM every Thursday in room 224 of the University Center. If you’re looking for something to do this weekend, you might show up and see what they’ve got planned, which seems to be a hike or showshoe into Stanley hot springs, according to their website: umoutdoorsclub.

If you’d rather just ride, check out The Organization, UM’s snowboard club, which meets at 7 PM every Wednesday in room 223 of the University Center. Organization boss Luke Thomas is pulling down screaming deals on gear and ski trips, so swing by if you’re eligible to join and interested.

It’s from Luke that I got the first whiff of a screening of some local snowboarding videos that happens at 7 PM on Saturday, Dec. 3, in the Urey Lecture Hall on the UM campus; there’ll be thrills, chills and swag in abundance. I went a couple years ago and came back with a Smith cap and a free pass to Lookout Mountain. There’s no telling what you might get for your $7.

If you’d rather just pretend there’s no snow or just do something that’s not so focused on it, the Audubon folks are headed up to the Mission Valley to view wintering birds on Saturday, Dec. 3. To carpool with the group, be at the UM Field House parking lot at 8 AM or meet them at the Ninepipes Lodge at 9 AM. Call 549-8052 and bring a lunch.

Pack me one, and I’ll be right behind you.

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