Mountain High 

The other night I was coming home at a pretty late hour, well past dark, and I looked up from the yard of my lower-Rattlesnake home toward Mount Jumbo. Imagine my surprise when I saw a light flashing all over the place up there. I figured pretty quickly that some dillhole must be up there fumbling around with a headlamp on.

There’s nothing cosmically wrong with that; I’ve climbed a mountain or two in the dark myself. The problem is that the mountain is closed. There are elk and mule deer that spend their winters on Jumbo, and it doesn’t take much to disturb them. So keep off the stinkin’ mountain. Tell your friends, too. I’ll let you know when you can go back up past the ‘L.’ In the meanwhile, pick one of the other six mountains ringing the valley and leave the animals alone.

While it’s true that Mount Jumbo is closed, it’s also the case that the ice rinks are open. So when the city taketh away, it also giveth back. Hallelujah.

If you want to go skating in the next couple months, you have a few great options. One is Playfair Park, located at Pattee Creek and Stephens Avenue; you can call 541-7200 to find out what the ice looks like there. You should know the warming hut is out of commission this year, so take the car with the working heater.

Pineview Park is another option for the ice-inclined, and it’s my favorite since it’s located just up the road from my abode. Seeing as how the Pineview rink is maintained by neighborhood volunteers, there’s no hotline you can call, but the signs indicate that the ice is open until 10 PM unless otherwise marked. There is a carve-out from 4 to 6 PM on weekdays and 9 to 11 AM on weekends and holidays reserved for the folks who make the ice possible, so keep that in mind.

And, of course, there’s the Glacier Ice Rink, which is run by the Missoula Area Youth Hockey Association, which sets the rules down there; you can find out what they are by calling 728-0316.

Of course, you can still ski. Even though we haven’t had much snow in the valley, the conditions are still fair up in the mountains. My last trip to the Bowl was worthwhile, with up to 5 inches of loose and light powder at the top. The bottom of the mountain was still working me and the bottom of my board a little bit, though I was at least sinking my edges into something other than dirt. But that’s just me. Here’s what the mountains are saying about themselves:

Snowbowl will be open daily, with the exception of Christmas Day, beginning this week. Since they don’t publish any updated conditions when the mountain isn’t open, I can’t really tell you much that’s current, although there were 18 to 42 inches of snow on the 18th and virtually all of the mountain was open. I recommend calling the Snow Phone at 549-9696 and getting the latest info that way.

Lost Trail has put me in much the same position with their scheduling and snow report maintenance. I can tell you they’ll be operating daily beginning on the 22nd and that there were 43 to 53 inches on the ground on the 18th, and they’ve started running lifts on the whole mountain, which means there’s a lot more terrain open than in previous weeks. Maybe the weather has been wetter down south around the Pass, but it doesn’t look like it from here.

Lookout is already open daily and has both sides of the mountain open with 2 to 4 feet of snow, but not much in the way of new precipitation lately. They will be hosting a group from Missoula Outdoor Learning Adventures Tuesday, Dec. 27 so if you want to send off your young ’un for some winter-break fun, give MOLA a call at 240-2458 and get the details.

Big Mountain is running big promotions to get everyone in some kind of winter spirit. There’ll be a torchlight ski parade at 7 PM Dec. 24, preceded by Christmas caroling from 4:30 to 6:30 PM at the fire pit in Big Mountain Village. As for the conditions on the slopes, Big Mountain is jonesin’ for snow just like everyone else, though they’ve got 85 runs open on 34 inches of packed powder. Heads up if you work days: Big Mountain anticipates the start of night skiing on Monday, Dec. 26, which means you’ll be able to cruise the terrain beneath lifts two and three between 4:30 and 9 PM in addition to trying to achieve your daily limit in the daylight.

Bozeman is further afield but perhaps within reach over the holiday season. Keep your weather radio tuned because they might get some snow that we don’t. For now, though, Big Sky, Moonlight Basin and Bridger Bowl are all reporting only trace new snow, although each is sporting a solid base with most of their terrain open. These mountains are big enough and it’s been cold enough that there are probably some stashes to remember socked away somewhere.

Let me know if you find them.

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