Mountain High 

The Clark Fork is already looking healthier. The big, nasty diversion barrier that used to be in the river is gone already, and though I’m sure there is still some cleanup to be done, it won’t be long until Brennan’s Wave is in the water.

In case you’re eddied out on this development in Missoula recreation, here’s the deal: a stretch of the Clark Fork River just downstream from the Higgins Avenue bridge is being converted from a concrete-and-rebar death trap into a natural-rock water feature of two standing waves for boaters of various stripes to play on. To celebrate, Wave planners are hosting a “groundbreaking” ceremony Thursday, Jan. 19, at 4:30 PM at the Caras Park overlook. Afterward, you can put your roof rack to use during the kayak caravan (also open to canoeists, tubers, river-boarders and anyone else happy about the revival of the river) through downtown to The Depot, where there’ll be fund-raising and merry-making aplenty from 5 to 7 PM.

Let’s transition from moving water to frozen water. Avalanches are just one more bit of proof that we are not living in a Panglossian—or in David Cates’ update, Fingerdooian—best of all possible worlds. They are a constant torment to backcountry adventurers, but thankfully there are two chances to get smarter about sliding snow this week.

The West Central Montana Avalanche Foundation offers a $100 Level One Avalanche class beginning Friday, Jan. 20, with an evening class and continuing with field sessions on Saturday and Sunday. Call 329-3752 for more info or 549-9777 x6 to register. Once you’re done with Level One, you can head up to Essex where the Glacier Country Avalanche Center would be happy to have you in their Level Two course, which runs from Thursday, Jan. 26, to Sunday, Jan. 29, and costs $300. Call GCAC at 314-1598.

The Rocky Mountaineers are bifurcating for this week’s winter rec options. Saturday, Jan. 21, is Kids’ Sled and Snow Day, which will take place at either Blue Mountain or, more likely, Lolo Pass. Call 543-6508 to join the caravan. On the same day, some of the longer-limbed Mountaineers are heading up Lolo Peak by way of Lantern Ridge and the South Fork of Lolo Creek. This trip will probably leave earlier than the sledding excursion; you should call 829-1988 to find out when.

And now to the snow report. Wet weather is the forecast leading up to and through the publication date this week. That means the mountains should be getting even more of what makes winter in Montana so much fun.

Speaking of fun, I went to Lookout last Thursday and skied in some of the best conditions I’ve ever encountered. The mountain had received more than 3 feet of snow since closing on Monday, resulting in a powder Thursday that I’ll probably be telling my grandkids about. Lift lines were thin; the snow was light and fluffy—and deep; I even got debriefed on the day by Hans, one of the “partners” in the mountain’s ownership structure. By that point in the day, I was ready to buy in myself.

As for what this week holds, I might just be back at Lookout, since the next couple of days are looking like snow days and there’s nothing for the stuff to do but pile up on the 67 to 112 inches of base the mountain is reporting.

Lost Trail got similar dumps last week and enjoyed great snow according to folks who headed in that direction; I did hear reports of big lift lines, which is worrying, since Lost Trail has had a reputation for being an out-of-the-way place. Still, the place got nearly 3 feet over the weekend and it will probably just keep piling up.

Big Mountain would seem to be in the path of big snow, but my sources with passes say this past weekend was pretty rough, with rain on Saturday and then freezing temperatures on Sunday. Still, Whitefish saw fresh snow early this week, and if it keeps falling you’ll have yourself a fine time.

Snowbowl is enjoying some marginally lower temperatures, which is good because that means what falls from the sky is frozen, and so there is a daily pileup of a couple inches from top to bottom on the mountain, according to not just the ski report but also the lifties who drink where I do. At least, that’s what I think they said.

The word from 7 Gables, the bar at the base of the road to Discovery Basin, is that the conditions were “good” this weekend; my source, though, didn’t make it any further than the watering hole. She did say, however, that there’s plenty of snow on the ground at Georgetown Lake, which means the 33 to 48 inches of base the mountain is reporting must be recent accumulation. Good for them.

Finally, Bozeman-area folks got some snow early this week and are looking at intermittent precip over the next stretch as well. That’s all I can tell from my vantage; I’d be glad to hear more from the frontlines.

Or from anywhere, really.

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