Mountain High 

When times are their worst, we often see people at their best. This week manifested proof that the opposite’s true as well.

Sure, you might be tempted to blame last Saturday’s ski pole ownership melee at Snowbowl on the deteriorating global financial scene. With markets crashing and retirements evaporating, it may only be a matter of time before we’re beating each other down over the final coffee stirrer in the tray.

But really, nobody was hurting all that bad on the mountain last weekend. We were all enjoying a delightful profusion of powder on most runs, reasonable lift lines, nicely spicy Bloody Marys and a bright bluebird of a day. How odd it is that when everything’s turning up roses, it’s somehow so easy for our mind’s uncivilized little demons to have their way with us.

The scuffle, embarked upon in the name of a scratched-up set of downhill poles, certainly didn’t give me hope for our communal ability to handle crisis. I mean, not only were the primary actors unable to work things out sans fisticuffs, but some in the crowd took on the role of “kid shaking the jar of bugs so they’ll fight.” Yes, dude on the porch, you know who you are, and for your sake, I hope you get to enjoy your long future of interpersonal conflict without the assistance of outside agitators.

Okay, back to your corners. Before I tell you about this week’s outdoor activities, I want you all to promise to do your best to take care of one another, or at least to mark your belongings so that they’re easily recognizable.

Thanks.

Our first couple of offerings require that you decide this: Are you more about migratory critters, or healing plants? The reason I ask is that Huson’s Ninemile Ranger Station presents Dr. Joel Berger’s presentation “Can America Protect its Great Migrations?” at 7 PM on Thu., Jan. 8. Crazily enough, and with no respect for your inability to occupy two places at once, the Montana Native Plant Society hosts Beth “The Plant Detective” Judy, whose 7:30 PM talk, “Native Plants as Medicine,” goes down in Room L09 of UM’s Gallagher Business Building. They’re both free, so you just need to choose. And avoid starting any fisticuffs, no matter where you end up.

Look, again, there’s snow all over the freaking place. As if you needed me to tell you, this is the time to visit the ski resort of your choice, or to take up the less impactful sport of cross-country or backcountry skiing. In the space I’ve got left, I’ll tell you about some of the interesting trips and specials you might find waiting.

One such opportunity raises its pretty little head as Moonlight Basin holds Montana Appreciation Day on Fri., Jan. 9. As an offer of thanks for five sweet years, the folks at Moonlight want you to ski all day for $15, and fuel up with $5 meals as well. If you’re in the area, Moonlight’s your best bet. Call 993-6000 or visit moonlightbasin.com.

Turn your back on that lift-reliant form of recreation—though you’ll still need a good set of poles—in favor of joining the Rocky Mountaineers, who propose a jaunt into the Bitterroot Mountains for a day of easy to moderate backcountry skiing on Sat., Jan. 10. Destination’s based upon snow conditions and stability, so give Joshua a call at 543-0898, or e-mail mtsurveyor@gmail.com.

Of course, the clear choice for one looking to avoid ski pole-related injury is to switch to ice skating. And as luck would have it, the Missoula Figure Skating Club hosts their annual “Bring a Friend to Skate” and Class Registration Event at 10 AM on Sat., Jan. 10, at the Glacier Rink. Classes for youth and adults alike begin around Jan. 24, and you get $10 off if you sign up on Sat. Plus, you get to skate free this morning. Just don’t mix up skates with anyone, or mob mentality might start to take over. Call 543-LUTZ or visit missoulafsc.org.

The kids can find something worth fighting for when they get down to the Montana Natural History Center, 120 Hickory St., where the Kids’ Activity Snow, Ice and Everything Nice! begins at 2 PM on Sat., Jan. 10. If games, ice painting and a tiny bit o’ scientific learning appeal to your inner Buddha, then RSVP at 327-0405. Oh, and it’s $2, with members skating in without a fight.

The intrepid Rocky Mountaineers are back on the trip-offering horse. And how. On Sun., Jan. 11, your aching muscles and inflated sense of gear protection are invited for a day of cross-country skiing up at Lolo Pass. For more on that one, e-mail Julie at jawkal@homail.com. 

And here comes an ongoing event that you ought to take on at least sometime before it ends in March: Every weekend, Glacier National Park offers “Winter Signs” snowshoeing expeditions that leave at 10:30 AM and 1:30 PM from the Apgar Visitor Center. Excepting this weekend, when only Sun. trips occur, from now until Mar. 15—weather and brawls permitting—rangers will offer two trips per day to show guests a thing or two about Glacier inhabitants’ winter survival techniques. The walks are free, and you can even rent snowshoes for $2. Call 888-7939.

Time’s running out, but I must tell you of the snowy owls. I recall much hubbub a few years back when the rare guests made their way into our neck of the woods. Well, so do Ansley Ford and Dennis Holt, who host the presentation “Snowy Owls: Whoo Are They?” at 7 PM on Mon., Jan. 12, at the Summit, 205 Sunnyview Lane in Kalispell. In addition to pimping their sweet kid’s book, the two promise to stop ski pole scuffles before they start.

Now go forth, and in the words of a guy who helped separate last week’s combatants, “Dudes! It’s just a fucking pair of ski poles!”
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