Mountain High 

How apropos that one of the spring's better events comes to us just after the vernal equinox. That event is Snowbowl's flagship race, in my mind anyway: the always epic, never-disappointing North Dakota Downhill. It's apropos because the course itself is a metaphor for the way we wintertime revelers experience the snow season. The course begins on a relatively steep intermediate hill before it kicks you out onto the many-hundred yard flat. The sound and fury of rustling GoreTex as you drop in is what early winter is all about. Wind blasts into your helmet so fast your ears ring. Go, go, go! every chance, regardless of conditions. No friends on powder days blah, blah. By the middle of the season and the middle of the course, the nicks and minor back pains slow you down. You secretly hope nobody emails you at 8 a.m. to tell you that it's go time, pack up and rally. The ND Downhill's finish comes slowly, as does the winter's. There are fits and starts. A smooth patch and you pick up a bit of speed, even though your are technically riding uphill, but you are riding so slow you feel as if you are going backwards. Alas, only a few of us boarders make it to the dogleg left that takes you back down to the base area without unstrapping bindings and skooching for a few. Those of us with the right build (fat being the right build) and the right wax can win this thing. For one day only, being the best has nothing to do with skill. The best are those of us still riding hard in March. The ones already talking about next season.

The North Dakota Downhill takes place at Montana Snowbowl on Sun., Mar. 25, and there are prizes for all ages and abilities. Free. Call for more info: 549-9777.

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THURSDAY MARCH 22

The Ninemile Wildlife Workgroup Lecture Series hosts Whisper Camel-Means and Kylie Paul for a talk titled Monitoring the US 93 North Wildlife Crossing Structures: Do They Work? My guess: They do. Ninemile Ranger Station. 7 PM. Free.

FRIDAY MARCH 23

Active outdoor lovers are invited to the Mountain Sports Club's (formerly the Flathead Valley Over the Hill Gang) weekly meeting to talk about being awesome, past glories and upcoming activities. Swan River Inn. 6–8 PM. Free.

Get back in shape and learn something new at Freestone Climbing Gym's Intro. to Bouldering course, which introduces basic techniques, safety stuff, ethics and more. Class includes 1.5 hours of instruction and two weeks of unlimited climbing. 935 Toole. 7–8:30 PM. $40.

SATURDAY MARCH 24

Last call for geese lovers. Gander (ha!) at the migrating birds during the Montana Natural History Center's Saturday Discovery Day: Snow Geese Migration at Freezeout Lake. Led by FWP snow geese expert Mike Schwitters. $60/$50 members. 7–6 PM. Call 327-0405 to register. montananaturalist.org.

Pack a lunch, birders. Five Valleys Audubon is taking an all-day trip to the Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge near Stevi. for early spring birding. Meet at 8 AM at the UM Field House parking lot. Call Larry for more info. at 549-5632.

Show all that haters you got that swag or just hang and bang at Lost Trail's Cold Smoke Freeride event. One part contest, one part party, the freeride has tons of prizes and music by The Bass Face Crew, Como Se Va, Ebola Syndrome and M-ad at the after party. $500 for first place (dang!). $50 to enter the contest. LTfreeride@gmail.com.

Stretch out them flabby old legs, Darcy, and help out Meals On Wheels while you're at it at the Wheat Montana 5K Run/Walk, which is a fundraiser for MOW. 2520 S. 3rd W. 9 AM. $18/$16 adv. registration. runmt.com.

The Hellgate Hunters & Anglers host an evening of auctions, food and fibbing during Wild Night for Wildlife, with Field and Stream contributing editor Hal Herring. Karl Tyler Chevrolet showroom, 3663 N. Reserve. 6 PM. $35 family/$20 individual, cost includes one-year membership in HHA.

SUNDAY MARCH 25

Get back in shape and learn something new at Freestone Climbing Gym's Intro. to Bouldering course, which introduces basic techniques, safety stuff, ethics and more. Class includes 1.5 hours of instruction and two weeks of unlimited climbing. 935 Toole. 12–1:30 PM. $40.

MONDAY MARCH 26

At Slacker Mondays, from 6 PM until close, slackline fans can come to Freestone Climbing Center at 935 Toole Ave. to test their balance. $13/$10 for students. Visit freestoneclimbing.com.

WEDNESDAY MARCH 28

Dust off that steed of yours and do your buns a favor at the Spring Tune-up Benefit for the Montana Horse Welfare Council. The event allows you and your critter to get reacquainted and has all-day, AM and PM sessions. Go to mthorse.org for more info.

THURSDAY MARCH 29

Ditch that external frame pack and folding shovel you got for graduating from Mesa State College in 1987 and have the folks at REI teach you the art of lightweight backpacking. 3275 N. Reserve. 6:30 PM. Free.

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