Mountain High 

Now that “we” are at war, recreationalists are faced with additional reasons to consider how having an outdoor schedule relates to global events. It can be difficult to indulge in a day on the slopes or at the crags while many like-minded friends are attempting to promote their pro-this or anti-that campaign.

So when you wake up on a sunny Saturday morning with thoughts of powder turns or finger cracks dancing through your head, do you discipline yourself to stay in Missoula to rally for peace? Head to Kalispell to rally for war? Or do you wake your friends from their sleepy cells, form a coalition of the willing, and strategize a frontal assault on one of Montana’s spectacular spires? For some, playtime can be tough to justify, but at least it helps keep the trails free of a few half-assed—or otherwise-committed—outdoor enthusiasts.

And there are excellent reasons to head to the woods as our nation’s leaders send troops into an adrenaline fix of their own. For instance, last week Gary Hart, Chairman of the Commission on National Security for the 21st Century, called the likelihood of our nation attaining Code Red status “…in the coming hours or days…almost inevitable.”

This highest security level will require Americans to stay indoors, or risk being considered a terrorist and facing arrest, despite the fact that the danger posed to Montana recreationalists by any third-world dictator/oil baron is insignificant compared to say, driving Highway 93 to your favorite trailhead. In other words, you damn well better already be at the trailhead if East Coast war machine propaganda prevents us from getting to the mountains. So before heading out, consider that we’re currently at Code Orange—just one step below Red—and you’ll realize the value of having a functional, well- thought-out exit strategy every time you hit the hills. I mean, you never know when you’ll be denied the option of summiting your chosen peak, let alone driving back home.

Still, all news you read in times of war should be considered suspect. Whether a reporter is “embedded” with the 101st Airborne in Iraq or “in bed” with a bunch of climber/skier Montanans in a communal party house, the environs in which a correspondent exists affects the reportage—for better or for worse.

Ironically, the time for bombing is now. Well, Iraq too, apparently, but I’m referring to bombing the high-speed groomers that now grace the bulk of Montana’s ski areas. While Marshall Mountain closed its lifts for the season last week, most areas will be loading chairs up through the middle of April.

Big Mountain becomes affordable for Montanans this month, selling $20 lift tickets from April 1—13. While non pass-holding locals might find it to be a “shock and awe” campaign, Snowbowl has finally got a day rate appropriate for locals—ski two days after March 23 and your third day is free. Restrictions apply, so ask at the window for details, but the deal brings the day rate down to a stomachable $20 through their April 6 closing. Discovery Basin is also open through the 6th, but call ahead as two of their lifts have been closed regularly as of late.

On Sunday, March 29, Lost Trail hosts the Randonee Rally, a ski-up, ski-down race for “[a]ny snow sports enthusiast who likes a challenge and a party.” Twenty bones gets you a T-shirt and registered for the skin ‘n’ ski, with proceeds benefiting the Ravalli County Search and Rescue. Registration begins at 8:30 a.m., and the race at 10 a.m., so get an alpine start to arrive on time. Contact Howard Williams (370-2462) for the up/down.

The Missoula Parks and Rec ropes course can be rented to encourage group cohesion and trust, and for “about $155” top guides will facilitate a group of 6—12 people in ropes course team-building. The course opens on April 1, so call 523-2767 to get on belay.

Missoulians on Bicycles (MOB) will be drafting behind David Schafer (721-8588) for a 30-mile pedal out past the pulp mill to Frenchtown on Saturday, March 29. Or you can join fellow MOB-ster Nancy Gibson (728-8722) for a 40-mile Eastside ride on backroads from Stevensville to Hamilton on the following day. And for the benefit of all sighted beings, until you get y’arse in summertime shape, please remember: Lycra is a privilege, not a right.

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