Mountain High 

While the outdoor adventure of a lifetime can be as simple as a beautiful, sunshine-filled bike ride with friends, there are also times and places for fresh air exploits of a grander scale. In order to make sense of this week’s recreational options, allow me first to establish an over-arching theme: Brobdingnagian.

As a child, Comrade Calendar was treated by his mom to nightly dispatches from Gulliver’s Travels, a satirical manifest of adventure following the title character in his varied journeys. In the land of Brobdingnag, Lemuel Gulliver is a wee midge in a land of giants, which is how we might feel this week in light of our region’s many fine offerings. Observe:

If you consider the fact that Missoula lies at roughly 3,200 feet above the sea, a mountain whose peak scratches the sky in the oxygen-poor neighborhood of 14,000 feet truly earns the appellation Brobdingnagian. Highly motivated climber and author Steve Porcella has great respect for these peaks, and he’s spent years climbing, photographing and communing with them. On Thu., Feb. 21, he presents a slide show and lecture detailing said big granite titled “Big & High: California’s 14ers, the Northwest and the Bitterroots” at 7 PM in Room 210 of UM’s McGill Hall. A must-see for climbers and gawkers alike, this event’s free. Should you need more info, call 243-2804.  

Rather than implement a still vaguely unpopular change of moniker to Whitefish Mountain Resort (WMR), our downhill neighbor to the north might’ve instead confused dedicated locals into submission by unveiling this new name: Brobdingnagian Mountain. Alas, it’s snowmelt under the bridge now, which is why we instead tune our attention to this WMR opportunity: On Thu., Feb.21, and Fri., Feb. 22, take part in their Moonlight Dine and Ski Program, with seatings at 6 and 7 PM. Ride the gondola up to a meal at the Summit House, then either ride back down or descend on boards of satiation with a trained professional as your guide. Call 862-2900.

This week marks the second and final offering of an Animal Tracking Workshop from Northwest Connections in the Swan Valley, a two-day course that grants participants the tools necessary to decipher the Brobdingnagian variety of critter prints evident in the fresh snow. You’ll overnight at a historic homestead and there’s the opportunity for UM or OPI credits, so register pronto by calling 754-3185.

Nothing quite embodies the spirit of a land full of giants like the act of flying 200 feet on a pair of skis. I mean, I start to feel the discomfort appropriate for an airborne mammal when I catch about 3 feet of air, so anything beyond that is Brobdingnagian to me. On Sat., Feb. 23, and Sun., Feb. 24, witness the masters of big air when Montana Snowbowl hosts the Snowbowl Cup Gelande Championship, an event that attracts long jumpers from across the nation to compete for an impressive $8,000 purse. Call 549-9777.  

Among ski hills, the competition to claim the title “Brobdingnagiest Slope” can get fierce, and Lookout Pass isn’t about to concede a thing. On Sat., Feb. 23, and Sun., Feb. 24, Lookout hosts the Northern Division Masters Races, which consist of both a grand slalom and a normal slalom contest, and invites all manner of hooting and hollering crowd behavior. Call (208) 744-1301.

When speaking of the phases of that tide-influencing orb in the sky, I suggest we induct a new word into the lexicon made up of verbiage like waning, waxing and gibbous. C’mon, you know what word I’m thinking of… okay, let’s all just think it. That’s better. Moonlight Basin celebrates this most Brobdingnagian stage of the moon’s cycle with their Howlin’ at the Moon Snowshoe Shuffle on Sat., Feb. 23. Raise funds for Gallatin County’s homeless and abandoned animals while you clomp around, eat chili and enjoy live tunes at the Madison Base Area. RSVP 995-3233.

To respond to those of you who think recreation must take place outside in order to earn your respect, I have these four words: Inner Tube Water Polo. That’s right, get ready for a season of athleticism marked by Brobdingnagian feats of water-borne warfare when Missoula Parks & Recreation kicks off their inaugural Inner Tube Water Polo League at 6 PM on Sun., Feb. 24. If you’ve never seen a contest of this manner, that makes two of us, but don’t let that stop you from registering a team and getting in on this fast-paced foray into buoyancy and vigor. Call 721-PARK.

Finally, I tip the brim of the state’s collective hat toward the astounding group of athletes who partake in the 13th annual Montana Special Olympics at WFR beginning Sun., Feb. 24. Hundreds of athletes are expected, and scores of volunteers are still needed to help the three-day competition flow smoothly. Registration is followed by a torchlight parade and fireworks on Sun. night, with the contestant melee to begin Mon. Call 862-2900.

Until next time, I wish you the passion and strength to fulfill all your outdoor dreams, and to paraphrase newscaster Ron Burgundy, “Stay Brobdingnagian, Missoula.”
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