Mountian High 

There are all sorts of ways to honor the passage from one year to the next. The Spanish tradition of eating a grape for each of the year’s final 12 seconds is a favorite of mine. A Montana version could include a snowball per second. Or for you hardcore summer gatherers, substitute morels for grapes.

Our culture’s tradition seems to dictate that we spend the final moments of the solar year indoors among shiny hats and rattles, seeking a lower level of consciousness to ease the transition into the unknown.

Friends, this is just not the only way to do it, and if you read this column regularly, you know that.

Get out into the woods with a fire, burning tokens of your former self in order to set your soul free for a new direction. Build a snow cave and burst through the ceiling at the crack of midnight. Gather your community and barbecue organic brats in the light of the evening’s near-full moon.

In preparation for your outdoor celebration, it may prove necessary to work through some of your end-of-year issues the old-fashioned way: cross-country skiing. On Sat., Dec. 30, the Rocky Mountaineers will make a journey to Lolo Pass with the hopes of skiing down the Pack Creek road. They report that while the route is open to snowmobiles, it is generally quiet and skiers sometimes have to break their own trail. In the event that the planned route is a motorized nightmare, a path less traveled will be considered. Call Steve Schombel at 721-4686 if you’re interested.

If you were to pick a common thread with which to sew together the New Year’s celebrations at area ski resorts, it would have to be “torchlight parade.” Never before have I had prior knowledge of so many groups intending to get together and walk—or slide, if you will—around with cudgels aflame. A rundown:

Moonlight Basin hopes you’ll join them on Sun., Dec. 31, after a day frolicking on their 20-inch base, for dinner and a concert by the Montucky Cropdusters, which will be followed by—you guessed it—a torchlight parade and fireworks.

Bridger Bowl, which boasted a 23-inch base depth at press time, invites you to explore their lower runs before attending their own New Year’s torchlight parade, followed again by fireworks.

With a 47-inch base on their mountain’s upper reaches and 60 percent of runs open, Big Sky is another proud member of the pyrotechnics club this year. While there will be no torchlight parade, the resort will feature fireworks at 8 PM and midnight on New Year’s Eve, so for those of you who feared angry mobs in your previous life as a reanimated monster, this is the party for you.

In the torches-and-parades category, Big Mountain offers an impressive showing. On Sun., Dec. 31, the Rail Jam competition starts at 5 PM with a variety of features from which to catch sick air, for which entrants shall pay just $5. After the Jam and the awards ceremony, the torchlight parade begins at 7 PM and winds its way down Ed’s Run in an “S” formation, which should be either captivating or terrifying, depending upon factors like skill level and skier flammability. Fireworks and an evening of shows at resort venues top it all off.

While they have no wild New Year’s parties or torchlight parades planned, the good folks at Snowbowl are just as proud to announce Free Rental Tuesdays, which begin Tue., Jan. 2, and continue through the end of the month. As if that weren’t enough, they are also offering half-price lessons to boot, so reserve your Tuesdays for the ‘Bowl.

Taking the prize for “most appearances in Mountain High” is Big Mountain, which begins a series of Moonlight Dine & Ski Evenings on Wed., Jan. 3. Guests can dine at the Summit House at 6 or 7 PM, then take a guided ski run to the village beneath the full moon. You can also ride the gondola back down if you become too bloated to ski, and the total cost is $45 for adults, $22.50 for children under 13. Reservations are a must, so call 862-2900.

The Travelers’ Rest chapter of the Lewis & Clark Trail Heritage Foundation’s January meeting not only takes care of routine chapter business, but also presents a history lesson, which you might have come to expect from those people. Retired science teacher and gung-ho outdoorsman and photographer Norm Jacobson will present the slide show and lecture “When Highways Were Trails” at 7 PM at the Lolo Community Center on Thu., Jan. 4. The presentation includes information on the Old North Trail, the Lolo Trail, the Road to the Buffalo and the Old Indian Trail, which is now more commonly known as Highway 93. The meeting and presentation are both free and open to all.

Until next time, please direct all your outdoor event announcements, as well as properly extinguished torches, to your Mountain Highness, your pit crew on the road to the wilderness.

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