Mountain High 

With the return of winter, for the time being at least, there is much rejoicing in the hills and dales of our lovely region. As of press time, snow condition reports from the Flathead to regions east of the Continental Divide are replete with bright red text, exclamation marks and smiley faces, all designed to whip up a frothy furor over snow falling on ski runs. This is not to say that it won’t all disappear before this paper reaches you, but let’s just say it seems there’s something going on up in them high regions, and I leave it to all of you to find out for yourselves, with these hints to guide you.

We put the quiet observation of our avian friends at the top of the list. The Great Backyard Bird Count runs Fri., Feb. 16, through Mon., Feb. 19, and this year the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society want to break their record of 61,049 checklists. The commitment level is low—just 15 minutes on any given day—so visit to get your checklist and start counting.

Snowbowl offers Missoula powderhounds a nearby option with reports of new snow and, as I write, more crystalline joy falling from the heavens. But the big news at Snowbowl, aside from a surface to ski on, is the 2007 North American Freestyle Tour Championship they’re hosting from Fri., Feb. 16 through Sun., Feb. 18. Top skiers from as far away as Newfoundland—a land in which a common local expression for approval is “Flat on the back for that!”—vie for placement on their respective national teams in order to compete for National Championships. While Friday and Sunday feature mogul skiing, Saturday is reserved for triple back flips and twists starting at 11:30 AM in the Air Bergy Jump Zone, which is easily accessible from the parking lot for the non-skier set. Call 239-9458.

If you happen not to be a high-flying aerialist, or a spectator thereof, a more grounded event is happening at Bridger Bowl. Avalanche education in southwest Montana will get a boost from the King and Queen of the Ridge Community Race Series on Sat., Feb. 17. Here’s the deal: you get sponsors to pledge money for each ridge hike you complete, then show up on Feb. 17 to bag as many ridges as you can. This has been a successful fundraiser for the Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center, with last year’s winner ascending 26 hillsides in five hours. At its heart, though, the event is meant to be noncompetitive, with the goal of saving people from being buried under snow, so get the community spirit and download a registration form here (they’re due Feb. 15, so hurry!):

And while those people are running the ridges, the Rocky Mountaineers present the next trip in their Classic Series, an 8.5-mile ski to the main bowl of Gash Point in the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness on Sat., Feb. 17. The plan is to meet at Bernice’s Bakery at 7:30 AM with skis, skins and avalanche gear, and should you need further info or reassurance, call Don at 546-3892. Missoula Parks and Recreation has different plans for your Sat., Feb. 17, however. Adults are invited on a snowshoe trek and class starting at 9 AM at Currents Aquatics Center in McCormick Park. The class will cover snowshoe selection, safety and other essentials, with transportation and snowshoes provided. Call 721-PARK.

There’s a list as long as my arm—actually, probably as long as all the arms here at the Independent combined—of philosophers who urge us to focus on the present, as the past and future are illusory. Despite repeated warnings, there are those who continually look to the coming days, like the Missoula Whitewater Association, which brings you their annual Kayak Rolling Sessions beginning Sun., Feb. 18, at 7:30 PM. In order to get your boat into the pool at the YMCA, 3000 S. Russell St., you’ll need to cough up $15 ($5 if you’re a MWA member) per session. Call 239-2208.

A second shot to hang with the Rocky Mountaineers comes on Mon., Feb. 19, with a cross-country ski around the Moose Ridge Loop at Lolo Pass. The loop is 14 miles and your cruise director, Fred Schwannemann, can be reached at 542-7372.

Big Mountain boldly challenges standard definitions by offering a Teen Camp from Mon., Feb. 19 through Wed., Feb. 21, for young people age 9–18. Intermediate and advanced skiers and snowboarders of that age bracket will be divided into smaller groups and will have a chance to experience the terrain park, the backcountry and all the applicable equipment and snow conditions from 10 AM–3 PM each day. Call 862-2909 by Sun., Feb. 18, to register.

Finally, the Rocky Mountain Grotto of the National Speleological Society holds its monthly meeting at Pipestone Mountaineering, 129 W. Front St., at 7 PM on Wed., Feb. 21. Michael McEachern will present “Montana Caves in 3-D: Exciting Adventures with the Northern Rocky Mountain Grotto” after the business portion of the meeting.

And speaking of business portions, I want yours right here in front of me. Outdoor events listings, that is.

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