Sunday, March 11, 2012

All's Well in Montana

This isn't one of my typical Blog posts since it has nothing to do with wandering the world’s waters, or casting flies. Although I was in Montana where there happens to be more than a few noteworthy waters, wetting a line this trip just wasn't in the cards. Can't say I was disappointed since it was still early in the year, and Montana does have other recreational options besides fly-fishing, especially early in March.  

My wife and I headed to Missoula to see our daughter, take in a little skiing and partake in a few other activities while visiting, some unexpectedly. Seems my daughter has been competing in a series of local telemark races through the winter and there would be several races while we were there.  We kind of knew this, but she wasn’t too specific about races or particulars, which for a young daughter isn’t out of character or concern.  It’s been a rather poor winter in Utah, so we haven’t had much of a chance to ski this year.  Getting to possibly get some turns in, hang out on the slopes, enjoy the local scenery all worked for us.     

Shortly after arriving we went up to one Missoula’s local ski areas, Snowbowl, to lend support at one of my daughters evening telemark races.  Snowbowl isn’t your typical ski area, and by today’s standards this wasn’t your typical telemark ski race. Although the competition was fierce, and quite good the extra curricular activity surrounding these races made them incredibly entertaining and simply a blast.

As an X-racer, preparation are key to ones success and here they played an integral role, yet their pre-race measures were a little more entertaining than what I was accustom to.  For one, the lodges bar played an integral role in getting everyone focused for the evening challenges. Being from Utah, just being able to see the bar was refreshing, but that’s a whole other story.  Local après’ ski enthusiasts, race supporters and competitors shared a few local Montana brews, one of the bars infamous Bloody Mary's, or a shot or two of a favorite liqueur to loosen up the joints and dilute any potential pre-race jitters. Then there were the costumes. Yep, as bystanders I don’t know who was getting the most out of the evening. 

Up on the hill, many of the competitors simply could shred even under the less than ideal condition. We were both impressed. Where most race hills are neatly groomed, this dual slalom course looked as though it hadn’t seen a decent going over in weeks, let alone the day of the race. Add a foot of fresh snow on the steep course that covered ruts and moguls just enough to make conditions even more demanding.  Didn’t seem to bother most however, neither did the rather poor lighting.  These guys and gals were good, mastering the hill and course with an inebriated expertise that was impressive.

Day two we hit the slopes, not exactly rested from the day before. Crack of noon club, but at this local ski area there was plenty of fresh powder to go around. If you enjoy tree skiing, tight trees, you’d rarely cross another track. We found the relaxed pace and pleasant atmosphere of Snowbowl quite a refreshing change from the vibe that exudes from today’s mega resorts. Utah skiing isn’t too shabby by anyone’s standards, yet we’d have to admit that this quaint ski areas very reputable scene on and off the hill was rather alluring and a nice change.

Saturday evening found us back at Snowbowl for the telemark series final race; a race that would determine team and individual champions.  Similar to the first race we observed teams dressed in costume, but being the last race of the season the teams pulled out some stops.  Now guys and gals in drag are an ordinary site on Duvall St. in Key West, but in Montana not exactly what one would expect to find.  Good thing it was a mild night.  Everyone got a kick out of Team Subaru, car body, headlights and all.  On the dual slalom course their skills were even more notable.  Telemark racing without such bodily obstructions is challenging enough, yet this team made it look rather effortless.  They didn’t beat the team in drag, but they did come close. For all it was a ruckus affair; fierce competition, great laughs, good food and thoroughly entertaining.

The awards party afterwards put icing on an already eventful evening.  By the looks of things it was a good night for the bar, especially since our evening tab nights end wasn’t itemized. Not that at that point it mattered. Through boisterous chants of USA, USA, USA, the crowd acknowledged each competitor or team as they received their respective awards. The rally cry carried on late into the night!  It was awesome.  After the awards we stayed around for a round of leg wrestling, butt darts, and jump rope again to ruckus ovations of USA, USA….  Butt darts, that was a new one for us. 

Now for the fish part of the story!  The winner of the men’s division was a local fly-fishing guide.  If he’s half as good a guide as he is a telemark skier, I’m in.    Note to self!

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