The Ultimate Guide to Winter in Montana 

The best in skiing, skating, soaking, escaping, partying and staying warm.

Page 3 of 4

U.S. Telemark National Championships at Whitefish Mountain Resort. Watch free-heeler Kelsey Schmid-Sommer of Whitefish, the four-time women's champion, try to defend her title March 18–20. Volunteers earn a lift ticket voucher for each day worked.

Flathead Sled Dog Days and the Seeley Lake Sled Dog Race. You've always wanted to see some good ol' Montana mushing. The Flathead race (Jan. 8–10) takes place in the Stillwater State Forest while the Seeley Lake race (Jan. 15–17) goes from Lincoln to Seeley and back.

Top Choice

2010 National Finals Ski-Joring Races

Outdoor recreation tends to take interesting, illogical turns when temperatures fall and blood-alcohol levels rise. Enter skijoring, sort of the Amish equivalent of winter waterskiing, whereby a skier is towed behind a horse going full-gallop down a snowy road. Any number of obstacles can factor: jumps, hoops, slalom poles, etc. One thing's for sure, it's safer to play spectator than competitor.

Good thing Red Lodge hosts the 2010 National Finals Ski-Joring Races March 12–14. Skiers from across the continent will hold on for dear life in the name of a $20,000 prize. A separate long-jump competition is scheduled, with record distances of more than 60 feet. Chances of viewing a grisly accident are pretty good. Just ask Chris Anthony, a professional skier who botched an on-camera skijoring attempt in downtown Leadville, Colo., for a Warren Miller ski film in 2008. Anthony walked away from his face-first spill, but not without an inch-long tear at the corner of his mouth. What else is winter for but cheering complete strangers on to personal injury?

Alex Sakariassen

Our nine favorite holiday traditions

Cut down your own Christmas tree. Pick up permits at the Missoula Ranger District office, located at Fort Missoula, for just $5.

Bask in the glow of Missoula's Parade of Lights. The downtown spectacle starts at 6 p.m. on Dec. 5. Santa arrives at the Florence Building at 1 p.m.

Take a tour of local Christmas light displays. We recommend the Rattlesnake and University neighborhoods.

Drunken caroling. Or, you know, just caroling throughout your neighborhood. But a little Jameson always makes "Jingle Bells" more fun.

Sit on Santa's lap. Who cares if you're too old or jaded to believe he'll finally bring you that Red Ryder carbine-action 200-shot range model air rifle? You'd shoot your eye out anyway.

Go see The Nutcracker. Garden City Ballet's annual production runs Dec. 18–20 at the University of Montana's Montana Theatre. Call 240-6042 for tickets.

click to enlarge Staring at a hole in the ground never felt so good. - PHOTO BY ALEX SAKARIASSEN

Spin a dreidel. Don't know what we're talking about? Learn more from the good folks at Har Shalom (3035 Russell Street), or visit their Dec. 18 vegetarian latke potluck dinner, which is followed by dreidel games and music.

Eat yourself into a coma. Maybe use a recipe or two from our holiday food issue last week.

Build a gingerbread house from scratch. Don't succumb to the boxed variety available from Costco.

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Stage your own live nativity scene

So, you ask, how does one go about staging a live nativity scene?

First, you need a handful of friends. At a minimum: Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus, three wise men and an angel. Shepherds are optional. Mary should be demure and modestly clad. Tall hats are a nice touch for the wise men, and Jesus wears a swaddling cloth. I've found that a sheet twisted around the diaper area works well. It gets a little chilly, so you might want to wear trousers under your swaddling cloth.

After priming your nativity posse, I suggest taking the scene on the road. My crew, which included an archangel with a broken wing and a blue heeler wearing faux reindeer antlers (to impersonate a sheep), filed into Mary's Volkswagen van and hit Missoula's slant streets. Our rolling nativity scene culminated in Christmas caroling, and we found Madonna's "Like a Prayer" set the right tone while spreading a delicious dose of holiday cheer.

Baby Jesus 2006

Seven ways to drink your way through the season

Make the perfect hot toddy. Our recipe: Two shots of rye whiskey, one lemon slice, one sugar cube and hot water. Stir with a cinnamon stick.

Make snow cones with actual snow—and vodka. Our resident bartender suggests filling your cone with snow, then adding the vodka. Some of the snow will melt. Add more snow, then Kool-Aid for color and flavor.

Trade beads during the Mardi Gras celebration at the Snowbowl bar. This would be an excellent time to try the 'bowl's famous Bloody Mary.

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