Mountain High 

As another gorgeous faux spring day passes outside the basement window, my mind is drawn to the wild world just a few miles outside of town. The squeak of the ermine, the belch of the mule deer—honorable utterances from noble creatures that go about their lives as I sit here processing words.

Of course, not all critters are as carefree as these. Many beasts live in perpetual fear, unaware that their relative scarcity has placed them on federal lists meant to turn back the works of humanity. We’re talking about endangered species here, and while Yellowstone’s bison and wolves may not fall into this category—not anymore, at least—there are still plenty of imperiled Montana creatures afoot and afloat. A few well-known examples: the whooping crane, the Canada lynx, the piping plover and the white sturgeon.

But today, as I sit here contemplating the fate of our wild lands, I’m abuzz with glee to consider another endangered fellow: U.S. Undersecretary of Agriculture Mark Rey. A former timber lobbyist placed by the Bush administration in a position of great power over public lands, Rey is at this very moment fighting for his freedom, attempting to convince Judge Donald Molloy that an ammonium phosphate-based fired retardant is safe, despite the piles of dead fish left in its wake.

While the man’s fate will probably be sealed before you read these words, here’s a back-in-time shout out to the guy in the defendant’s box: Mr. Rey, as you sit in the federal court crosshairs, may the sensation of being a targeted animal echo down through your body and grant you a greater sense of compassion and responsibility for your fellow beings.

And now, on to the fun!

We begin this week’s round-up with an event that’s always a sure crowd-pleaser, so you’re advised to snag a set of tickets early. The Banff Mountain Film Festival’s agro branch comes to Missoula, as the Radical Reels Film Tour touches down at UM’s University Theatre at 6 PM on Fri., Feb. 29. Celebrate leap day with a sweaty-palmed collection of high-octane footage from all your favorite fast moving sports. Tickets are $11/$9 in advance, so get to your nearest Griztix location with great speed.

An endangered species in it’s own right, this next event demands a decent watch, a speedy Internet connection and a spot of dough: At exactly midnight on Sat., Mar. 1—on the cusp of the months, at the intersection of Fri. and Sat.—Discovery Ski Area holds their “After Midnight” season pass sale, a magical one-hour event to hawk what amounts to a 1.5 season pass for $229. But don’t take my word for it, visit skidiscovery.com.

Once you’ve got them bases covered, UM Ph.D. student Elliot Parsons invites you to hone your skills during his Wildlife Tracking Workshop at 9 AM on Sat., Mar. 1 at the Montana Natural History Center. Who knows—you might even catch up with the elusive, wild Rey. Call 327-0405.

Bridger Bowl invites all jammers to two days of fun and cutthroat competition during their Terrain Park Jam Session, which begins with a day of snowboard competition on Sat., Mar. 1, and only lets up after a day of ski contests on Sun., Mar. 2. Registration begins at 8:30 AM, inverted aerial maneuvers are prohibited and helmets are required. Call 587-2111.

Competition lies at the heart of business—unless you’re a local cab company, that is—which might explain Whitefish Mountain Resort’s Terrain Park Challenge, also on Sat., Mar. 1. Part of a national tour to educate thrashers on safety in the half-pipe, the event’s free and could keep you out of the emergency room. Call 862-2900.

UM’s Outdoor Program offers some great trips for those on a budget, and oddly enough, they’re facing a paucity of participants. While the registration deadline has officially passed, I’m told it’s not too late to get in on a Sat., Mar. 1, Telemark Ski Class at Discovery, and a Sun., Mar. 2, Snowshoeing and Track Identification Class. Call 243-5172.

For many a Montanan, being a sportsman—or –lady—involves dealing a death-blow to all but the most endangered of creatures. Celebrate the bounty of this great land during the second annual Hellgate Hunters and Anglers (HHA) Banquet at 5 PM at Fort Missoula’s Heritage Hall on Sun., Mar. 2, where a measly Jackson gets you wild game appetizers, drinks, door prizes, a one-year HHA membership and a chance to hear Sen. Jon Tester rap about gunning down game.

And Lookout Pass Ski Area comes through for those of us longing for a warmer, brighter day with the Sun., Mar. 2, Beach Party featuring the Big Kahuna Downhill, which we can only assume involves bikinis, daiquiris and bombing moguls. Call (208) 744-1301 to check if they provide the sunscreen.

And that, dearies, is that. As visions of minimum-security lockdowns dance in my head, I challenge you this week to channel your own endangered sensitivity into your every outdoor adventure.
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