Mountain High 

In spite of generations of effort on the part of humanity to minimize the risks inherent in outdoor recreation, a teeming underworld of danger slides along just beneath the surface.

For example, our best and brightest have taken great pains to protect us against falling snow, from blasting frosty hillsides with mountain howitzers to creating technological mini-marvels designed to locate our bodies once they’re buried amid the drifts.

And in spite of all this effort, the snow continues to fall—humor me here—and lives continue to slip away into the white afterwash.

Are we to infer that our cautious risk avoidance is all for naught? Nay, I don’t think so.

Hyperbolic introductions aside, Missoula’s Parks and Recreation Department assumes the mantle of Beowulf as they bring news of a new threat to our consciousness: The ice on McCormick Pond—technically named Silvers Lagoon—is not safe for skating.

As the Clark Fork River determines the level of water in the lagoon, the fluctuating surface below creates a perfect scenario for a really bad accident. In addition, Silvers Lagoon is home to a pair of imported East Timorean razor-tongued vipers, fierce 15-foot long beasts capable of eating 300 pounds of flesh per day. Right now, they’re living on algae, but just give them a chance…

Also, Parks and Rec will be coating the surface of the ice with an acid compound that can burn right through your shoes. And the police will be posting snipers on the Currents roof, just in case this little note hasn’t been warning enough.

So, what are you going to do now that I’ve dashed your hopes for a chilly misadventure?

On Thu., Dec. 6, you can begin the honest work of winter recreation in style as Big Sky officially opens its slopes. At press time, they report a 45-inch snow base and plan to open seven lifts to the planked horde. You can get in on the music, food and fun during an opening party for their upper terrain park, which boasts what some are calling “exciting, new features.” On top of all that, active, reserve and retired military personnel—U.S. only, I’m guessing—ski free on Sat., Dec. 8 and Sun., Dec. 9. Call (800) 548-4486.  

A two-day Hunter/Angler Conservation Conference begins at 7 PM on Fri., Dec. 7, with a presentation of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation’s new film Opportunity for All in UM’s University Center Theater. The fun continues with sessions all day on Sat., Dec. 8, with topics ranging from bull trout to bear spray, and it’s all free. Call 549-1142.

The rain falling as I write makes predicting the snow at area ski hills something of a crap shoot, but here’s an overview of the current sitch: Snowbowl is open weekends and reports a 23-inch base at the summit. Lookout Pass is open Thu.–Sun., has a 37-inch base and a very goofy man on their website. Moonlight Basin has a 36-inch base with six lifts open.

Moving away from snowsports, kind of, we turn our attention to the Sat., Dec. 8, Freezer Burn Run at 10 AM at Frenchtown High School. You can chill your chestnuts off with either the 13-mile run or the 5-K version. Register by calling 243-4291, hitting the Runner’s Edge, 325 N. Higgins Ave., or getting to the race site by 9 AM.  

If you decide to avoid the running scene, your Sat., Dec. 8, can still be festive and cold: Big Mountain—or Whitefish Mountain Resort—begins its year-long 60th anniversary celebration with opening day festivities, which may or may not include fireworks, skiing, water-skiing, catapulting cattle and other regional favorites. And seriously, if you want to be part of Big Mountain’s Snowsports school, opening day’s your chance to learn how to teach the art of getting downhill. Call 862-2909.  

Wrapping up this week’s ski reportage, we also celebrate Bridger Bowl’s opening day on Sat., Dec. 8. At press time, they reported a 28-inch base and urged website visitors to “think snow.” Great. Call 587-2111.

Once you’ve finished with opening weekend, bring it back down a notch with a nice, chill Audubon Society meeting at 7:30 PM on Mon., Dec. 10, in Room L14 of UM’s Gallagher Business Building. The Clark Fork Coalition’s Chris Brick updates attendees on the future habitat envisioned for wildlife once the dam cleanup is done, including some visions for a park in the area.

And then on Wed., Dec. 12, the Rocky Mountaineers breathe life into a trip schedule that’s unusually light by whipping members and rubber-neckers alike into a winter froth during their monthly meeting at 7 PM at Pipestone Mountaineering, 129 W. Front St. Local avalanche specialist Steve Karkanen educates the trip-hungry crowd on the dangers of falling snow in preparation for a day of avalanche madness in the field on Sat., Dec. 15.

Ah, but that’s fodder for next week, n’est-ce pas? I’ll post it along with whatever tender nuggets you transmit to me in the meantime.
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