Mountain High 

Snow sliders, your season is here—and what a fine season it is. Before we get into the traditionally gnarlier snow sports, let’s not forget it’s “Teach your child how to make a snowman week.” Those of us here at the Indy lucky enough to have rugrats will be taking the week off to teach the finer points of rolling the snowman’s body, selecting season-appropriate accoutrements, and the art of site selection/snowman defense. We encourage you to show your boss this clip and do the same.

For the more travel-savvy, don’t forget Bridger Bowl’s birthday bash on Friday, Jan. 9. As we said last week, tickets are only $10, and you won’t even have to fight the weekend crowds for a piece of the powder.

Ah, you’re more the competitive type, you say. Well, we have the race for you. The two-day Ozone Pursuit Cross-Country Ski Race kicks its heels up on Jan. 10 and 11. Employing a pursuit format, Saturday’s race features a 20-kilometer skate race. Sunday will feature a 15-kilometer “classic-style” race. Shorter race distances will be available for those still suffering from too much holiday turkey, and for kids. It all starts Saturday at 11 a.m., with registration from 8–10 a.m. For more information call race director Gordon Opel at 542-2700.

Competition yes, cardiovascular exertion no? In that case you’d better let gravity do most of the work. Sign up for Big Mountain’s telemark and alpine race leagues beginning Jan. 7. The alpine season will be nine races long, with one held every Wednesday. The telemark season runs on Thursday nights and is seven races long. Registration is at the Bierstube (thank snowgod it’s back) from 5–7 p.m. Racing starts promptly at 6:30 p.m. The cost is $150 per five-person team. Singles can race for $35 for the season or $10 for just one showing.

What’s that you say? You’d rather head for the hills in hopes of a chance encounter with a snowshoe hare? Chief Joseph Pass is the place. Drop the kids off at Lost Trail Ski Area, then head toward Wisdom on Highway 43. Whether you like touring ridgelines, turning through powder aprons, or getting rough and tumble in north-face trees, Chief Joseph has your medicine. The area features a free ski-trail network, groomed by the Bitterroot Cross-Country Ski Club. Reports indicate that temperatures near zero have kept new snow light and dry.

Or maybe you like to go out skiing in the woods, but your friends all say it’s too cold? Try the New Rocky Mountaineers’ Bitterroot backcountry cabin getaway. Tack on the skis or snowshoes and forget about how much the holidays sucked during the three-mile trek (with 3,000 feet of elevation gain) in. Described as a wonderful way to acquaint yourself with winter conditions without complete commitment (sounds like my ex), this trip won’t test your mathematical limits by keeping you awake all night counting how many times the snow cave has dripped on your mummy bag. Call Gerald Olbu at 549-4769.

Before we move on to other winter sports, here’s a quick check with local ski areas, still on (fresh) track(s) for a record-breaking year. At week’s end we look to the four powder directions. To the north, Big Mountain reported 63 inches at the top. To the east, Discovery offers 50 inches of the fluff. To the south, Lost Trail entices the powder hungry with 74 inches. To the west, Lookout Mountain takes the cake with a whopping 101 inches. Finally, looking within, Missoula favorite Snowbowl touts 64 inches.

Wintertime anglers should prepare to lose some weight in Glacier National Park. As of Jan. 1, 2004, Glacier has prohibited the use of all lead associated with fishing, including weights, lures, jigs and line. The sole exception to the rule is made for lake anglers using downrigger cables with 2 to 10 pounds of sinker. Since no known substitutes exist, Glacier will allow that lead to remain. Toxic lead has been known to affect the central nervous system of fish, inhibit normal liver function and cause brain lesions and blindness. Nontoxic alternatives include steel, brass and tungsten weights and lures.

Glacier also has another change in the regs. In an effort to reduce non-native fish species, there will no longer be a limit on lake trout taken from Lake McDonald or Bowman Lake, or on whitefish taken from McDonald. Keep in mind that most lakes within the park are not currently frozen. Ice fisherman, proceed with caution or become part of the lake.

Always wanted to tell those bureaucrats how to write the hunting regulations? Now’s your chance. Until Jan. 26, the Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Commission is seeking and accepting public comment on proposed changes to big game seasons and regulations. Also under review are upland game bird season and turkey and black bear quotas. The commission is also looking to open the season a day early, on a Saturday instead of the traditional Sunday. Comments can be made at regional meetings or by writing to the Wildlife Division, Montana FWP, P.O.Box 200701, Helena, MT 59620-0701.
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