Mountain High 

Looking for a window through time? It doesn’t take a high-tech way-back machine. Just strap on the skis or gas up the snowmobile and take off to turn-of-the-century Garnet Ghost Town, nestled in the Garnet Mountains 40 miles east of Missoula. Once a booming miner’s haven housing 1,000 people and 13 saloons, the town is now a rustic collection of deserted cabins. While a bartender will be hard to find these days, the retreat is still a welcome reprieve from our own boomtown metropolis. Two historic miner’s cabins are available for rent in Garnet, fully furnished with beds, dishes, a wood stove, lanterns and a cook stove. The larger cabin (which sleeps 8–10) goes for $40 a night, while the smaller cabin (with room for four) rents for $30 a night. The town of Garnet holds 36 inches of snow and the roads in are dusted with 4 inches of powder, leaving two means of entry: One is a 12-mile ski path accessed from Highway 200. The other is a four-mile traverse from I-90 to Garnet. To receive an application for cabin rentals, visit or contact the Garnet Preservation Association at 329-3883.

But there weren’t just miner’s up in Garnet at the turn of the century. Mountain High is sure grisly old trappers with beards the color of winter passed through town in search of provisions the wilderness wouldn’t provide. The tracking skill these trappers employed to make it through the long Rocky Mountain winters have since been replaced by a mere knack for selecting the finest fleece or energy bar at overpriced outdoor stores. To help get you back up to speed, The Glacier Institute, in West Glacier, presents its first program of the new year, Stories in the Snow: Tracking on Snowshoes, to help revive the ancient art of tracking. The program will focus on the tracks and behaviors of lynx, wolverine, fisher and marten. Open to participants over 10, the program is on Jan. 31 for the cost of $55. For more information call 755-1211.

A dedicated ski bum with a supple hitching thumb could ski for peanuts at various resorts this year, what with all the anniversaries and free ski days on offer. So far Bridger Bowl, Silver Mountain and Lookout Pass have all thrown down. This weekend, newborn Moonlight Basin, near Big Sky, is furthering the trend with local appreciation day. Tickets will go for $10 to locals and tourists alike on Friday, Jan. 30. Self-touted as “Montana’s New Frontier,” the area boasts 3,000 feet of vertical terrain and the state’s first high-speed, six-passenger chairlift.

In other cheap ski news, Blacktail Mountain Ski Area, just south of Kalispell, is celebrating its sixth anniversary this weekend with $20 tickets on Saturday, Jan. 31. Other activities will include sledding, sleigh rides, sled-dog rides, snow sculptures and drink specials at Muley’s. The mountain will also host the second annual Family Cup Race. Taking place on a slalom run, the race teams up families in various categories like Father-Son or Brother-Sister. The family with the most awards across all categories will take home the cup.

Two races will also be held at Big Mountain this weekend, one a serious affair, the other a bit more relaxed. Seasoned racers and senior competitors are invited to race in the two-day Masters Race, a Giant Slalom competition in the Northern Division Masters series. USSA licenses are required for the event and are available on site for $25, or $40 for the season. Registration takes place at the Guest Services and Information Center from 8–9:30 a.m. both days. Racing for one day costs $20, while two days will cost you $30. Lift tickets are offered at reduced rates for competitors. The other race, the annual Bump Bash, takes place on Saturday only. With a relaxed feel and a “no frills approach to competition,” the event often finds friends and family members squaring off against each other. Registration takes place from 9–11 a.m. at the Outpost. Racing begins at 1 p.m. For more information on either race, contact Big Mountain at 862-2900.

The New Rocky Mountaineers want to take you up into an alpine winter-wonderland Jan. 31. A ski and snowshoe up 9,033’ Little Saint Joe, high above the northern end of the Bitterroot Valley, will be sure to work quads and ease minds. Work your way uphill as heavy timber yields to powder aprons, with turn after turn for powder seekers. Breathtaking views of the crest of the entire Bitterroot Range await you at the top, as well as a closer look at the Bass Creek Crags. The sight will be well worth the 4,500’ elevation gain. For more information contact Gerald Oblu at 549-4769.

Time, once again, to visit surrounding ski areas. The mid-winter slump has (knock on wood) snapped. Lost Trail Ski Area reported 16 inches of fluff over the weekend, Snowbowl received 18 inches, and Big Mountain wallowed in 23 inches over the week, with the bulk of it landing on the weekend. Mountain High commends all powderhounds as they take their snowy smiles and sore legs back to the office with distant, distracted looks in their eyes. Remember, honor the snow gods and they won’t forget you.
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