Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Things to do in Harvre.

In case you find yourself in Havre, Montana, and wonder what there is to do, the chamber of commerce there has compiled a handy list of activities, all free. To wit, annotated summary:

1. View the old Steam Engine.
4. Visit one of the City’s Parks and Playgrounds. Great fun for the Kids.
6. Visit the Library.
7. See wildflowers blooming.
9. Watch trains pass through town.
14. Watch the sun set from the top of the hill behind the Holiday Village Mall.
16. Visit with a Havre “local”.
20. Try your skills at the Skate Board Park.

Well, the list kept going to 31, but I figured you get the idea.

We did none of those things. Instead we went skiing at Bear Paw.

In a state full of primitive, back-to-basics ski areas, Bear Paw is the most primitive, back-to-basics of them all. It’s also the smallest, most isolated, and least snowy of Montana’s ski areas. A half-hour south of town on a road that sees just intermittent plowing, one pieced-together double chair rises 900 vertical feet to one of the few mountains able to hold snow due to the persistent winds blowing off the prairie. There are about 20 trails in all.

Bear Paw Ski Bowl has no running water, no lodge, no rentals, and no restaurant. Tickets are $20, cash only. Pit toilets. A small building with picnic tables, heated by a wood stove, offers shelter from the wind and cold (and this place is cold). An outdoor grill fires up near noon and sells simple burgers. Tommy the dog runs from the lift to the parking lot to the building, yipping.

Bear Paw did not open last year but has had decent snow this year. Still, we were not sure we’d get to ski here. The web site is not really functional, and the Facebook page, while interesting, is mostly cryptic (but does have pictures of teens skiing in bikinis). The mountain has no phone, hence no information line. I called a motel in Havre, who directed me to the aforementioned chamber, who told me to call the ski shop, who gave me the phone number of the ski area manager, whom I called and did indeed say Bear Paw would be open for at least one more weekend.

I think the pictures speak for themselves. As someone on said, this area exists “like a fly in amber”.

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Friday, March 22, 2013

Missoula area backcountry ski guide.

[Updated January 11, 2017] I have now published a Kindle book detailing more than 100 areas to backcountry ski in Montana west of Interstate 15 (and including a few in Idaho).

You can buy it here:

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

A hot mess.

Glacier National Park last Saturday.

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Little Matterhorn.

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A quiet moment near sunset.

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Off U.S. 2, east of West Glacier, on Sunday.

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Snowpacks don't like sudden changes -- especially not changes from cold to warm, dry to wet. Temperatures on Thursday are supposed to reach 45 degrees at 7,000 feet, making it the warmest day since Nov. 5, 2012.

And here's a picture of a baby eating a Nutella sandwich halfway up the mountain:

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Monday, March 11, 2013

Transcript of a letter not sent to The Missoulian on Sunday, March 3, 2013


On March 1 members of Congress announced they would not be making a deal to prevent sequestration, prompting the beginning of a historic period in American governance. The next day the Missoulian carried an Associated Press story about the noteworthy event -- on Page A7.

One could argue that all the good real estate in the paper that day was devoted to the rape trial of a former quarterback, or that Montana is far removed from Washington, D.C. In reality the placement of the story likely mostly says that the ability of 535 people to bring the nation to its knees for reasons not easily understood no long qualifies as “news”. Well – that’s not totally true: judging by the placement of the story in the paper, it is slightly less important than a decision to keep an ex-Manson follower in prison and slightly more important than the comics.

In a lot of countries, presidents faced with similar situations -- parliaments and congresses full of semi-savages, losers, and misfits -– simply dissolve the governing bodies and start afresh. Such a perfect solution does not appear possible here, but I wonder if it were to happen in America if it would be so important as to get even A7 ranking.


'There's a war goin on where you all at?'