Mountain High 

What a crazy time to be a kid in Western Montana. You've got the outdoors beckoning year-round. Skiing at four years old. Fishing at five. Hunting at twelve. iPad at three, younger even. No, really, you can see babies with them at the play area of Southgate Mall, running an iPad like nobody's business, cooing, burping, you know, getting their baby on. The clichés of the modern world are that it is a faster, more efficient place. And that speed and technology are more important, that the baby must learn to use technology now or be left behind by her peers and forced into a line of work which involves—gasp!—the service industry: home to thieves, liars, horn dogs and louts, no place for a lady.

Of course none of this is true and it never has been. You don't have to know how a computer works to operate one any more than you need to become a mechanic to drive a car. The nice thing about this place is that we do have other choices—not necessarily easier choices but alternative choices do exist—and there are mentors around who are able to inspire people maybe to choose that alternate route. People like Smoke Elser.

If you haven't heard of him, type his name into your child's iPad and you'll learn that he has been a wilderness packer in the Bob Marshall for over fifty years and that he teaches folks the ins and outs of packing a mule train to this very day. You'll also learn that MontanaPBS has made a documentary film about his life called 3 Miles An Hour. The title references the speed at which Elser believes life can be best enjoyed. An effort to promote outdoor-themed education brings the film to the MCT Center for the Performing Arts via a partnership with the Lolo National Forest. The one-hour documentary may just lead one to up and learn a diamond hitch. And as long as the Bob stays designated as a Wilderness Area, we'll need people who can talk to a mule as well as talk to people, not to mention live life at three miles per hour.

The MontanaPBS documentary Three Miles an Hour plays at the MCT Center for the Performing Arts, 200 N. Adams, Mon., Dec. 5, at 6:30 PM. Free.

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You'll be climbing up a wall at Freestone Climbing Center's Ladies Night each Thursday. 935 Toole Ave. 5–10 PM. $6.50/$5 students.

The Wild and Scenic Film Festival is as beautiful as it is morose. Presented by the Wilderness Watch, the festival features ten short and shorter films. Highlights include The Majestic Plastic Bag a nature mockumentary; Disturbance, a story of the true costs of fire management in the Northern Rockies; and Spoil, the story of the First Nations' fight against a proposed pipeline through Canada's Great Bear Rainforest. Wilma Theatre. Doors at 6 PM, movies at 7 PM. $10/2 for 1 for students with ID.


Active outdoor lovers are invited to the Mountain Sports Club's (formerly the Flathead Valley Over the Hill Gang) weekly meeting to talk about being awesome, past glories and upcoming activities. Swan River Inn. 6–8 PM. Free.


The big mountain up at Whitefish known as the Whitefish Ski Area wants to open today. Check out their website before you pack up the kids.

Things that sound rad: Suzanne Vernon's new book Montana: Voices of the Swan. She reads at Grizzly Trading Company up in Seeley Lake. 7 PM. Free.


Great you bought a transceiver. You are Mr. and Mrs. Safetytown. Now how abouts we learn to use them, hmm? No worries, the kids down at the UM Outdoor Program are here to help you figure out what all those straps and buzzers and buttons do at their Transceiver Clinic. 9–2 PM. $15. Call 243-5172.


At Slacker Mondays, from 6 PM until close, slackline fans can come to Freestone Climbing Center at 935 Toole Ave to test their balance. $13/$10 for students. Visit

Be a better boarder or skier and learn to tune your gear at REI's Basic Ski and Snowboard Maintenance Class. Stay sharp, stay waxed. Leave the boards at home for this one. 6:30–8 PM. Free. Call 541-1938.

The Montana PBS documentary Three Miles an Hour explores the rad life and radder times of longtime Bob Marshall Wilderness outfitter Smoke Elser. The folks from Lolo National Forest think your kids should see it. I do too. Missoula Children's Theater. 6:30 PM. Free


You'll be climbing up a wall at Freestone Climbing Center's Ladies Night each Thursday. 935 Toole Ave. 5–10 PM. $6.50/$5 students.

Mountaineering ain't no joke, man. Swing by REI and find out what gear you'll need to reach the peaks at their Mountaineering Clinic. 6:30–8 PM. Free.

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