Mountain High 

Getting lost in the woods isn’t the end of the world for adults who keep their wits about them and don’t panic. Within the space of the entire universe, you’re in a relatively locatable spot.

You’re in the Milky Way galaxy on a planet called Earth. From there, you’re on the North American continent in a state called Montana. Finally, after taking a moment to think of all the places you aren’t, it’s easy to realize that you’re up some side-gulch of Roaring Lion canyon in the Bitterroot Mountains. Walk downhill.

A new program at Moonlight Basin in Big Sky disagrees with Mountain High. Don’t rationalize and walk; instead, they say, stay put and wait for the cavalry. The program, dubbed “Hug a Tree,” derives its name from one of its main messages: Chances of rescue are greatly improved if the victim stays in one place. Sponsored by the Western Montana Search Dogs Association, each 45-minute clinic teaches basic survival and rescue skills in a forest environment. The sessions will be offered on the second and fourth Fridays of each month, beginning at 3:30 p.m.

Any aspiring wilderness writers out there bubbling with fresh ideas and looking for money? The Matthew Hansen Endowment 2004 has issued a call for proposals. Established in 1984, the endowment grants awards for historical research, creative writing and wilderness studies projects exploring Montana’s land and people. The endowment hopes to encourage mindful stewardship of the land and preservation of Montana’s cultural heritage. Limit proposals to two pages, plus a budget, timeline and résumé. Proposals will be accepted until March 1. Awards usually range from $400–$1,000. For more information, contact the Wilderness Institute on campus at 243-5361.

This weekend drive north on Highway 200 and hang a left at the cow. That will lead you to Swan Lake and the Laughing Horse Lodge, ground zero for the Swan Lake Nordic Fest. Saturday morning marks the Snowshoe Softball Challenge. Sign up is at the lodge at 9:45 a.m. The big event for Saturday is the Swan Lake Sprint Race. On a one-kilometer course, racers will go head-to-head in two different heats. Registration is from 11 a.m. until noon at the Forest Service campground on Swan Lake, mile marker 72.5 on Highway 83. Cost is $5–$10. Finally, Sunday will feature the Free Dog 5K Fun Race. Bring Fido, Wally or Lobo and team up to race with your best friend. The only rule is no leashes, so hope your pup wants to stick with you more than he wants to sniff competitor booty. Registration is $15 at noon at the Laughing Horse.

Montana Snowbowl will continue to host Thursday night telemark races at 7 p.m. There’s still room for a few teams at a price of $145 per team. Loners should sign up on the “hired gun” list for a price of $25. If a team is missing a racer, they will turn to that list. For more information, contact Jedzilla at the Trailhead, 543-6966.

UM’s Campus Recreation has a host of outdoor activities available now that school days beckon. A free two-day clinic on avalanche awareness runs Feb. 3–4, with a field day on Feb. 8. Skiing or snowboarding knowledge is a must for the field seminar. Fundamentals of Whitewater Kayaking holds its first session on Feb. 3. Learn basic strokes, roll techniques, how to navigate moving water and boating safety. No experience necessary.

Courses are also being offered in beginner cross-country skiing, animal tracking and snowshoeing. Free ski and snowboard maintenance programs are available as well, to teach you how to use the Outdoor Program’s “Do It Yourself Ski Shop.” For more info on any of these events call 243-5172.

A discontinued national program, “Take Your Kids to the Snow” week, is being revived at Big Mountain. Starting Jan. 26 and running through Feb. 2, junior lift tickets will be cut from a staggering $36 to a reasonable $18. Formerly known as “Take Your Daughter to the Snow” week, the program failed due to lack of sponsorship. Big Mountain now extends the invitation to girls and boys, ages 7–18. Big Mountain will also host the Spirit of Winter show on Jan. 24 at 7 p.m. on the slope above Mogul’s. The half-hour performance features high-speed synchronized skiing, extreme freestyle ski and snowboard aerials and telemark demonstrations complete with a soundtrack and fireworks show. Call 862-2900 for more info.

Silver Moon Kayak Company continues its Winter Armchair Kayaking Adventure Series on Saturday, Jan. 24 from 10 a.m. until noon at The Summit in Kalispell. Topics will include where to winter paddle in the Flathead, appropriate gear, dealing with hypothermia and risk assessment. The fee is $15 and includes a mug of cocoa and a slide show. Advance registration is required. Call Silver Moon at 752-3794.

The New Rocky Mountaineers are skiing and snowshoeing into high elevation Mollman Pass just south of Ronan in the Mission Mountains this weekend, Jan. 24–25. Winter enthusiasts will tackle the steep west-slope of the Missions. While it’s only a 4-mile trip, the trail is steep, leading recreationists 3,100 feet above the valley floor and the shores of the Mollman Lakes. For more information call Gerald Olbu at 549-4769.

Mountain High will close this week with a public shaming of all you powder hounds. What are you people doing to piss off the snow gods? Go ahead, buy that extra shot of tequila and leave it sitting on the bar. Burn your virgin skis in cult-like rituals. Bully wayward journalists for jinxing the season by making brash predictions of an epic winter. Whatever it is you do, do it, because Western Montana is in the midst of a dry spell, even if the drought was broken ever so slightly Sunday night with a storm that delivered a few inches to local ski areas. Snowbowl took the cake with a whopping 3 inches reported. Discovery pulled down 2 inches. Big Mountain received an inch and called it a powder day. Failing to live up to its name, Lost Trail Powder Mountain didn’t get anything. So start dancing or whatever it is you do to bring the snow.

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