Mountain High 

Ira Sather-Olson

The season of white fluffy powder is near us. And while Missoula hasn't yet been fully covered in tufts of ice crystals, a few area hills certainly have.

Just last week, Lookout Pass opened its doors to ski and snowboard revelers on what's been dubbed as one of its earliest opening days. As of Sun., Nov. 15, a total of 12 trails are open for your carving pleasure. So, to start your week, I'd recommend heading west on I-90 on Thu., Nov. 19 to the hill—which sits at the Montana/Idaho state line—in order to shred it up before the weekend starts. The hill is open Thu.–Mon. from 9 AM–4 PM on weekdays and 8:30 AM–4 PM on weekends, and costs $31 for a full day of skiing for an adult. For updated trail and snow conditions, click over to skilookout.com or call 208-744-1227.

Once you get back to Missoula on Thursday night, relax your legs by plopping in front of the big screen at the Wilma Theatre at 7 PM in order to watch Confluence Films' Rise, a fly fishing film which follows the experiences of six fly fishers located in places like Idaho and Venezuela. Tickets are $10 at the door or $8 in advance at The Kingfisher, River Otter, Grizzly Hackle, Kesel's 4 Rivers and the Missoulian Angler. All proceeds benefit Project Healing Waters, an organization that aims to help disabled military vets heal through fly-fishing activities. Visit confluencefilms.tv and projecthealingwaters.org.

If you're not so hot on anglers, skip the movie and head over to Room 326 in UM's University Center at 7 PM so you can glean the good word from Janet Rose of the International Wildlife Film Festival and Media Center as she discusses "Wildlife Filmmakers: Heroes and Heroines on the Frontlines of the Conservation Battle." The lecture is free, but call Jeanne Loftus at 243-6865 with any burning questions.

On Friday, speed through your workday and relax that night, but be sure to rest up to secure a spot to shred at the Great Divide ski area on Sat., Nov. 21 and Sun., Nov. 22. The mountain, located near Helena, will be open for your skiing/snowboarding pleasure from 10 AM–4 PM both days and lift tickets are $19 each day. So if you're eager to rock some indie grabs, click to skigd.com for updated snow and trail conditions. Also, call 449-3746 for the main office and 447-1310 for the snow report line.

Maybe you'd rather spend Saturday a little closer to Missoula. If that's the case, enjoy it in the company of canines during the Montana Natural History Center's (MNHC) Working Dogs Field Trip, which starts at 9 AM at the MNHC headquarters, 120 Hickory St. Once gathered, you'll head up to the Blackfoot Valley and spend the day learning about wildlife detection methods used by the organization Working Dogs for Conservation (WDC). Experts with WDC will whisk you through an array of demonstrations on how their detection dogs can do things like establish territorial boundaries for grizzly bears, and more. $35/$30 for MNHC members. Space is also limited, so RSVP by calling 327-0405.

Those with kids under their wing might wanna skip the dog trip. If so, set your sights Saturday on scooting over to the MNHC's headquarters at 2 PM for the kid-oriented, pre-Thanksgiving program Totally Turkeys!. Once there, kids soak up turkey facts, play games centered on the domesticated fowl, and then finish off the afternoon by flexing their creative muscles during an art project. Parents should plan to shell out a mere $2 for the activity, which is tailored for youngsters ages 5 and up.

click to enlarge PHOTO BY ALEX SAKARIASSEN

Later on Sat., Nov. 21, satisfy your urge to watch others commit freakish feats on a pair of skis during 4:30 and 7:30 PM screenings of Warren Miller's Dynasty at the Wilma Theatre. If you're unfamiliar with the flick, it showcases Miller's dexterity with a camera and features six decades worth of extreme ski footage. Tickets for the 4:30 show are $8/$6 advance, and tickets for the 7:30 screening are $10/$8 advance. Grab tickets at The Trail Head, UM's Outdoor Program, Gull Ski or Rockin Rudy's. All cash gained from the event goes to the West Central Montana Avalanche Foundation, a non-profit that disseminates avalanche safety info in our hood. Visit missoulaavalanche.org.

As the rest of your weekend flies by in a drunken blur, you'll probably be in lighter spirits on Monday due to the shortened workweek and your insatiable appetite for turkey.

But before you gorge on Thu., Nov. 26, burn off any excess flab by sprinting or walking the Kim Williams Trail during Run Wild Missoula's Turkey Day 8K race, which starts at 9:30 AM at the Boone and Crockett Club, 250 Station Drive. The race is open to the public and costs $15/$12 for Run Wild Missoula members. Visit runwildmissoula.org to register.

Also, if you don't mind taking a trip on your day of being thankful, note that Discovery Ski Area and Big Sky Resort are both slated to open on Thanksgiving Day. At Discovery, lifts normally start running at 9:30 AM and an adult full-day pass is $35. At Big Sky, lifts begin at 9 AM and an adult day pass is $79. However, hours could change due to conditions and because of the holiday. So if you're aiming for Discovery, be sure to visit skidiscovery.com and call 563-2184. Or, if you're set on Big Sky, visit bigskyresort.com and call 995-5900.

Now that you probably have snowdrifts dancing in your dreams, be sure to watch your bank account so you don't blow all your cash on a Turkey Day ski trek. I offer this advice because we've got more powder-coated hills opening up shop for the season next week. So be sure to save up.

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