Mountain High 

Missoula is well known for being located at an epicenter of highly accessible outdoor fun. Within a two-hour drive you’ll find no fewer than six ski areas, hundreds of miles of single track, hundreds of summits, and enough waterfalls to keep a boater boofing for years.

Few people, however, know that Missoula is also a hotbed for folf courses, with no less than five established (and at least two covert) options within a half-hour drive of town. Two of these—the Pattee Canyon and Blue Mountain courses—are extremely popular, and these links regularly see hundreds of rounds thrown on a sunny afternoon.

The Blue Mountain course is a big gunner’s dream—four par fours and numerous toss-from-the-hilltop boomers that approach 600 feet. While roughly half the course is forested, the rest of the route is prone to often irregular and challenging gusts.

While the Pattee Canyon course is flatter and less aerobic, it is also more heavily treed and therefore a better bet on windy days. The tighter foliage creates a more technically challenging course—vast tree mazes clog nearly all of the less-than-fair-ways. Still, both of these close-to-town options are a great way to exercise, challenge yourself and catch a sunset—if you don’t mind the hoards of 40 oz.-drinking disc-tossers who share the same great idea.

The other courses—such as the sparse nine-hole number located in an empty sidelot adjacent to the South Hills Evangelical Church (5425 Gharrett in the South Hills)—see very little traffic. The course’s more-with-less approach is reminiscent of the Biblical parable of Jesus feeding thousands of hungry mouths with only three fish. The folks who laid this course out did a tremendous job of maximizing the penned-in nature of a surrounded-by-residential space, creating a surprisingly fun nine-hole course. And while the final hole is an uphill heave to a suspended crucifix, salvation is not required to toss. While it lacks the airy par-four ambiance of the Blue Mountain course, this South Hills option provides a pleasant alternative to Missoula’s more popular courses.

Another little-known option for target-oriented saucerheads is Frenchtown’s nine-hole course on Edith Creek, popularly known as “Ft. Wenty.” This woodsy jaunt is well-signed and well-designed, and its valley-bottom location means it rarely swelters in the summer sun. Its distance from Missoula means that the course has so far been spared the trash and cattle paths that build up at Missoula’s favored courses.

Montana Snowbowl’s mountaintop course is buried under something like six feet of snow right now, so call 549-9777 to learn about summer folfing options. This course is accessible by chairlift (for those willing to pay), or save the few bucks and ride your bike up, up, up the mountain, throw a round and then bomb the excellent descent.

Regardless of where you drive, slice and putt, folf courses are especially sensitive to foot traffic this time of year. The just-greening native grasses are competing against spotted knapweed for precious sunlight and airy soil, and every muddy stomp makes it more difficult for the flora to maximize a successful season of photosynthesis. All the courses get soggy, but the Pattee course is loaded with notoriously muddy paths punching through thickets and across swampy lowlands. Sure, you can walk around the puddles, but tromp around ‘em and you’ll just be making the mudholes wider. Or you can walk right through them, soiling thine shoes and stirring up sediment. Poor options, for sure, but a little bit of care in walking can help minimize the damage done to struggling native plant populations.

Corn skiers take note: Big Sky is maximizing the snow/sun equation through April 20, and Helena’s Great Divide is open weekends through the end of the month. And if you’re willing to leave your great empire, British Columbia’s Fernie Mountain is loading chairs through April 22, and our dollar is now nearly as burly as the Canadian Rockies scenery.

Montana River Guides is offering two comprehensive “Whitewater Guide” classes that will prepare prospects to lead safe whitewater trips. The first $355, five-day class runs the last two weekends in April on the Salmon River, and the second is May 21—25. Both involve four days in a boat. Call Mike Johnston at 273-4718 to get in the flow.

Hey two-wheelers! Missoulians on Bicycles (MOB) is saddling up for group rides on both days this weekend. On the 19th, Join Deb Lassila (829-3645) for a 60-miler up the Blackfoot to Potomac…and beyond. Don’t miss this opportunity to chomp an infamous “Ugly Burger” at the Potomac Grill. Or on the auspicious 4/20, draft behind Shurley Braxton (728-4963) during the 10th annual “Easter Tour of the Town,” a 55-mile tour of Missoula’s valleys.

And if you just can’t decide which type of ass-whoopin’ you need this weekend, you can always trifecta your pain by entering the Grizzly Triathlon. Swim, bike, run, collapse, puke…uh, wouldn’t that be a pentathalon? Call Giles Thelen (543-2532) to feel the burn.

The University’s Campus Rec program (243-5172) is hosting a Whitewater Workshop on Idaho’s unparalleled Main Salmon. Running April 18–22, this unforgettable wilderness adventure costs students $389 and the rest of us $479, but nobody who’s survived this spectacular section of water could honestly say it wasn’t worth the cash. 

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