Mountain High 

On this chilly morning, as the mercury—or whatever we’ve replaced it with in this modern and toxic-aware age—hovered around the 14-degree Fahrenheit mark and I felt my bike slide out from under me as we both shimmied to the left on a massive ice sheet, my right elbow, as it made abrupt contact with said mini-glacier, couldn’t help but think of more pleasant times: A sunny expanse of beach, palm trees fluttering in the warm breeze, close friends huddled together. Ah, Cuba! 

As Fri., Jan. 11, is the sixth anniversary of the arrival of our first charges-free captive in the War on Terror at the Navy’s Guantanamo Bay detention facility, the thought comes to mind that a warm, slip-proof climate and plenty of blockmates may not be enough of an answer to these wintertime woes. There’s that little issue of freedom of movement.

Oh, and according to democracynow.org’s War and Peace Report, the International Committee of the Red Cross has recently determined that the United States has been operating another Guantanamo-like facility at the Bagram military base in Afghanistan. Prisoners at that facility, who currently number over 600—roughly twice as many as are held at Gitmo—have been hidden from inspectors and subjected to cruel treatment.

This old dog needs some new tricks.

In honor of regime change starting at home, we present this week’s slate of outdoor-related adventures:

With some area ski resorts bragging about seasonal snowfall in excess of 150 inches to date, we put to bed any concerns that your downhill run of choice may in fact turn out to be a rock-strewn murderer of recreational equipment. Head for the hills, my charges, and take no prisoners. I expect sick glory stories and podcasted video blogs in abundance to get us through the smoky balm of summer’s ski-free season.

The Mountain Formerly Known As Big, Whitefish Mountain Resort (WMR), has a special event for those of us who prefer to watch: From Jan. 10–13, get a load of the USSA Northern Division Juniors as they compete to qualify for their Junior Olympic dream shots. The slalom, giant slalom and super giant slalom—you want fries with that?—races begin every day at 10 AM, and while it’s probably too late to register your kiddies for this one, they can be observant little future competitors by your side.

On Fri., Jan. 11, Lookout Pass attempts to curry favor by offering a free ski day, sponsored by the makers of everyone’s favorite guilt-reducing hybrid hoopdie, the Prius. Get the low-down at (208) 744-1301.

Montana is hit hard this weekend by telemark fever, which involves getting down the mountain with extra helpings of knee-bending and ogling from the lifts. If you hit WMR, you can take advantage of their Men’s and Women’s Telemark Workshop on Sat., Jan. 12, by calling 862-2909. Stay closer to Missoula and head to Montana Snowbowl, where Sat., Jan. 12, and Sun., Jan. 13, are the Trailhead’s annual Telemark Demo Days, during which you can scrape up somebody else’s gear and get away scot-free, though probably not really. Call 549-9777. 

If you think skiing’s for the birds, you’ll find several of a feather when the Audubon Society hosts a half-day birding trip on Sat., Jan. 12. Picture this: You meet up at 9:30 AM at the UM Fieldhouse parking lot for a carpool out to the Smurfit-Stone Wildlife Plant—or meet at the plant’s gates at 10—and spend a leisurely few hours observing all the avian life you can fit in your binoculars’ field of vision. Call Larry at 549-5632, and tell him the Comrade sent ya.

All hail the Rocky Mountaineers, who offer flatland skiers an option on Sun., Jan. 13: Ski touring at Lolo Pass is the order of the day. The exact route will be determined by those in attendance, so give Julie a call at 543-6508 for carpooling info.

If you’ve ever envied butterflies for their ability to stick their tongues deep into flowers to taste their sweet nectar, you know where I’m coming from. Those of you still in the dark can find this little light of mine when you attend local lepidopteran hero Steve Kokler’s presentation, “Montana’s Butterflies and Their Native Plants” on Mon., Jan. 14, at 7:30 PM in Room L14 of UM’s Gallagher Business Building. It’s free, it’s sexy as all get out and you know you want it, so go get some.

Speaking of which, a local bevy after my own heart, the Montana Dirt Girls, have a hike set for Tue., Jan. 15. You’ll want to meet up at 5:45 PM at the Mount Sentinel trailhead, near the corner of South and Maurice avenues, and as I’ve never personally attended one of their functions, I can only imagine the power and the glory that awaits you. Call Julie at 721-1776 ext. 214 or 549-2226.

Closing up the roundup this week is Missoula Parks and Rec., who invite you to learn to stay un-lost in the woods as part of their Map and Compass Class, which begins at 6 PM on Wed., Jan. 16, is open to folks above the age of 11 and meets at the Currents Aquatics Center. Call 721-PARK.

For the fellow humans at Gitmo, Bagram and sites X, Y and Z, take these opportunities to express joy at the freedom of your own movement.
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