Mountain High 

You know those Forest Service cabins and campgrounds your tax money paid to build and continues to pay to maintain? On Feb. 2, according to a press release from several national forests in the area, it’s going to get a little easier to reserve them—by which I think they mean more expensive.

It seems the federal government, in accordance with its standing policy that public resources be squeezed for as much private profit as possible, has handed over responsibility for the reservation of all rental cabins, lookout towers and group-use areas throughout the company—oops, I mean country—to an entity called ReserveAmerica. And since the government handed over the concession as a monopoly, you can expect to encounter monopoly pricing when you make your reservations.

You see, for each reservation made, the good folks at ReserveAmerica will tack on $9. If that seems exorbitant, it should. But it’s hardly surprising, given that ReserveAmerica is owned by IAC/InterActiveCorp, an organization that also operates such other consumer-friendly services as TicketBastard. That business model, after all, is just so beloved by the people compelled to use it for lack of any viable alternative that extending its reach into the control of access to public resources seems like the only fitting course of action.

People, could we pay just a little more attention to who benefits from the way the government is running the country? Because it sure isn’t the public.

Okay. Deep breath. Moving on.

The only place to go from here is into another area where the government has granted special privileges to private interests via access to public resources. I’m writing, of course, about ski areas. In this case, I have to admit that I love to ride lift-serviced territory, but at least the people who don’t still have options. If you’ve got something against Snowbowl, at least the Rattlesnake is right next door.

Very soon, there won’t be a single Forest Service cabin or campground you can stay at without forking over a sizable fee to some international technology and media conglomerate. Speaking of Snowbowl, I’ve got nothing but good wishes for it. Lately, that seems to mean that every time it rains in Missoula, I try to gauge just how low down the mountain the snow line is likely to descend. It looks like lately the snow has been falling pretty far down. Still, there’s a big difference between the 22 inches of coverage they report at the base and the 82 inches they report at the top.

Regardless, it’s been a wet enough winter in Montana that ski areas everywhere seem to be reporting some powder—sometimes deep—and groomed surfaces otherwise. Lost Trail and Lookout have done especially well. The weather at both places has snow in the forecast, and with their regular early-week closures, that could easily add up to a Powder Thursday. Praise be.

Up north, Big Mountain says there are good conditions up high with crust down low. Heading east, Discovery’s getting steady snow but low accumulations. Big Sky and Moonlight Basin are both reporting a Tuesday powder day, yet another in a long train of days with great conditions ensured by their elevation and the weather moving across the whole region.

UM’s Outdoor Program has a few events people seeking the snow might want to tune in for. Monday, Feb. 6, and Tuesday, Feb. 7, there will be a $10 Avalanche Transceiver clinic; On Wednesday, Feb. 8, you can learn ski & snowboard maintenance for free. In both cases, you should sign up by Friday, Feb. 3, by calling 243-5172. Speaking of signing up, you’ve got until Monday, Feb. 6, to sign up for the snowshoeing and track identification session going on Saturday, Feb. 11. Dial the same digits for that one.

Enough with the snow, let’s move on to some spring sports. Little League Baseball and Softball are just around the corner, which means that sign-up time is arriving even sooner. It could be as early as this week or as late as the beginning of March. Fortunately, Hal Karl has offered to serve as a contact for folks interested in signing their young’uns up for some old-fashioned national pastime team building. Call him at 258-6117 to find out what sign-ups you should plan to head to.

The Sierra Club plans to meet from 5:30 to 7 PM on Tuesday, Feb. 7, when they aim to entice you into joining up as a volunteer. There’ll be pizza…

The Rocky Mountaineers have also got a confab in store—or, perhaps, in the store—on Wednesday, Feb. 8, at 7 PM at Pipestone Mountaineering. That’s where Joe Oliphant will give a presentation on alpine caving in Austria and Poland, possibly the least local reference in this week’s Indy, whose mission it is to bring you Western Montana on a stick.

Pile up enough of those sticks and you can start a fire and use it to send smoke signals. Alternately, you can just send an e-mail.

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