Mountain High 

What season is this again? Before you say winter, take a look at the calendar. It’s been one hell of an autumn, hasn’t it?

To see what I mean just look to the north of town. Snowbowl is reporting 19 to 46 inches of snow on the mountain with more possible before they reopen on Thursday, Dec. 8, for the weekend. On Sunday, the talk in the Last Run Inn was all about some of the best conditions in years on the mountain. I personally remember one stretch of several hundred yards of cinematically suitable powder; of course, there was also the occasional sickening chuck-chuck-chuck of not enough white stuff at the bottom of that same run. Still, nobody was asking for refunds and a little bit more snow ought to make it even better this weekend, when all the terrain on the mountain will be open. I expect to be up there as this hits the newsstands to find out.

Snowbowl’s not nearly the only option for powder hounds, though. Big Mountain is reporting 19 to 41 inches of settled snow with recent precipitation of more than 2 feet, and they’re now open seven days a week.

Looking west, Lookout has finally opened the back side of the mountain and is reporting 28 to 50 inches of snow with regular precip in the 3–4 inch-per-day range; they’ll be back in action on Thursday, Dec. 8, per their usual Thursday-to-Monday schedule. On Saturday, Dec. 10, you can grab some free equipment and take it for a run when The Trailhead hosts a telemark ski demo at Lookout from 10 AM to 3 PM.

Turning south, Lost Trail is still reporting 37 to 47 inches of snow, even though that’s what they had three weeks ago and they’ve gotten at least that much new snow since then. The conditions should be great when they reopen Thursday, Dec. 8, but you might want to check in this weekend and find out if they’ll be opening lift three and offering access to the more recently developed terrain at the north end of the area.

Bozeman has never seemed so far away as when I read the recent reports from those areas. Apparently, the town has more snow than at least one longtime resident can recall, and Bridger Bowl was neck-deep in the stuff on Monday, reporting 47 inches of snow in the seven days preceding Dec. 6. Big Sky says they’ve got 29 to 46 inches of snow with “knee-deep skiing” near the top. The far side of Lone Peak puts in a fine showing, too, with Moonlight Basin reporting 40 inches of snow mid-mountain, though there are still some spotty areas with “early season conditions,” a euphemism for that chuck-chuck-chuck sound I mentioned earlier.

Finally, Showdown is opening Saturday, Dec. 9, and they’ve got deep snow to show that day, with almost 6 feet of pack on top and a big thank you to the god of weather for the bounty. It’s a good time to love the snow. Dress warm and have some fun on the mountains this week.

Of course, downhill’s not all there is to do in Montana in the winter. For instance, there’s cross-country. Lolo Pass has snow, over 4 feet of it, and they’re grooming cross-country trails regularly. To celebrate, the Lolo Pass Skiathon is goin’ on. There will be a race combining both classic and freestyle segments as well as a cookie-sharing section afterward. So bring some cookies to the Lolo Pass X-C ski trails, located on Hwy. 12 at the Montana/Idaho border at 11 AM on Sunday, Dec. 11, and get out on the snow. Call 543-6608 if you’re not sure what a cookie is. Also, the Rocky Mountaineers are going skiing up around Chief Joseph Pass on Saturday, Dec. 10. Call 542-1966 if this sounds like fun to you and they’ll get you involved.

Ever think that it gets tough to go fast enough on skis or a snowboard while you’re in the trees? Well, perhaps you should try snowkiting, the sport in which you strap into your skis or board and hold on to a kite that’s dragging enough wind to haul you at up to 60 miles per hour. This weekend only, some stalwarts of the sport will offer free demos on Georgetown Lake. Normally, you’d pay $75 for a lesson on how to handle a snowkite safely, but show up at the Georgetown Lake Lodge near Anaconda between 10 AM and sundown on Saturday, Dec. 10, or Sunday, Dec. 11, and you can get the hang of it for free at the Montana Snowkite Roundup.

Well, that’s all for the first all-snow Mountain High during my brief tenure as your guide to the outdoor life. But, before I go, here’s props to the guys in the Snowbowl Ski Shop for digging a used strap out of the garbage so I could fix my broken binding for free.

Send me your snow stories. I don’t trust the official reports.

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