Mountain High 

Two weeks ago I had the audacity to encourage spring skiers to “question” any resort’s snow report boasting of “powder skiing,” saying instead that you’ll find only “velvety corduroy and mashed potatoes on the slopes.” Well, so many of you called my fluff, rambling on with first-hand accounts of throat-deep powder and uncrowded slopes in late March that I must now eat the humble powder pie.

Indeed, they’re right. Last Thursday, for instance, I found myself standing atop 1,200’ of untracked snow at Lolo Pass with a posse of skiers and snowboarders. The extraordinary run draws a skier through well-spaced trees and into a wide-open bowl, and then runs out directly to your vehicle.

The two feet of fresh gave us first track options on dozens of lines, for the two-hour slog uphill fails to beckon weekday resort skiers. My ski companions were as talented as the snow was deep, so I planned to photograph them in the upper meadows, stash the camera, ride like the wind and get to work by 11 a.m. There are exceptions, but typically the photograph that runs with this column is shot during the week prior in an effort to provide a current perspective of outdoor junkies at play in Montana.

I copped some nice powder turns, stopped in the bottom of a chute and framed the shot before my fellow skiers blasted on through. Down came the skiers and I got some nice frames, put the camera away and headed down through the trees. Actually, I tried to go through the trees, but a wipeout sent my snowboard to stern, my torso to port, and my knee dislocated in the middle.

If you’ve never had your head downhill, in a deep treewell, with your knee popped inwards in a hinging action typically reserved for front-back motion, you’re not missing much. But after a little highly-focused torqueing, a couple shovel handle splints and a few yards of duct tape, my companions replaced the displaced joint and I was able to ride out seated on my ass, with the throbbing joint bumping down the mountain. The orthopedic surgeon will tomorrow pinpoint the exact number/name of any maimed ligaments, for better or for worse. But if you notice the substance of Mountain High shifting to a more, well, intellectual nature during the next few issues, please know that I’ll be appreciating all of your adventures, dear readers, with my goddamn knee in the air.

One reader I won’t be living through vicariously is Dever Frederick Graham, an elitist twin-tipper moronic enough to slam snowboarding in this publication (see Letters, March 20, 2003). In his gripy and unsubstantiated whine to the Indy, Graham takes care to alienate downhillers, telemarkers and snowboarders alike in an effort to claim that “his” tools of downhill descent “blow snowboards out of the water.”

Christ, kid! You’re doing a mighty poor job of picking your battles, but since you brought it up, here’s the deal: ANYONE GOING DOWN A MOUNTAIN FAST IS ON YOUR TEAM. It might be on a snowboard, a monoski, a single ski, a pair of skis, a sled, a toboggan, a bike, your shoes or something as of yet uninvented that will, as you say, blow twin-tips out of the water. There will always be intersport rivalries, but encouraging prejudice due to method of descent is as short-sighted and sophomoric as it gets. Get a life, get some air, and chill out, for if you and your airborne amigos ever break your shit in the backcountry, you’ll be hard pressed to turn away medical assistance from anyone, regardless of what tools they use to turn. Trust me.

We’re personally wary of the phrasing, but you can “Run for the Trees” on Saturday, April 5. Rally at McCormick Park for a 5K or a 1 miler at 9:30 a.m., but register early at 523-2756, as they’ve barred race day registration…

The annual Kim Williams Trail Run will be held Thursday, April 10, so call Campus Rec (243-2804) to run, run, run.

If you’re looking for a fine springtime view of Flathead Lake, head out with the Rocky Mountaineers’ Steve Schombel (721-4686) for a four-mile trek on the Bear Dance Trail.

Missoulians on Bicycles (MOB) will be riding a 40-miler to Clinton on Saturday, April 5—call Phill Stauffer (728-8262). Also on on Saturday you can join Wayne Kruse (721-3095) on a partially-graveled 35-miler to the Big Flat. The next day, join MOB-ster Kathy Kessler-York (543-6274) for a crank to Deer Creek—it’s 25 miles, half of which is gravel.

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