Out to Lunch

Out to Lunch

Kurowski, Becky Edwards
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I can never quite get rid of the smell of sweaty polypropylene from my work cubicle. In spring, summer, and fall, my trail-running shoes and extra pair of running shorts have a place of honor stuffed in my backpack, neatly tucked beneath my desk. Lush, green, wildflower-strewn summer trail runs at lunchtime yield to striding up the Story Hills, gazing down at the valley below shrouded in autumn yellow aspens and a light dusting of snow atop the Spanish Peaks and Tobacco Roots in the distance. Finally, as the valley becomes ensconced in billions of tiny, delicate flakes of snow and the daylight hours are cornered into a few, precious moments of light, my skate-ski boots and lobster mitts replace my running attire as softly as the flip of a calendar page. When we are blessed with a good snow year, southwest Montana is an oasis of local skiing opportunities, minutes from your office door.

With two groomed skate and classic trails right in Bozeman, and dozens of other nongroomed trails for lunchtime touring, any busy Bozemanite with a hankering for working up a sweat will find ample opportunities without having to venture too far from town. Here are a few favorites.

Lindley Park
Lindley offers a groomed skate/classic trail maintained by the Bridger Ski Foundation. Buy the Lindley button from your favorite local ski shop and support grooming and maintenance of the trail.

Bridger Creek Golf Course
Another groomed skate/classic ski trail. Dogs are no longer permitted, so please respect the homeowners along the course and leave Fido at home. Donations are accepted for trail maintenance.

Triple Tree
There is an ungroomed trail approximately two miles south of Kagy on Sourdough Road. On-leash pets are allowed.

Highland Ridge Trail
This is an ungroomed trail originating at the base of Peet’s Hill and ending at Kagy. Connect this trail with the Painted Hills trail for a slightly longer out-and-back workout.

Gallagator Trail
This ungroomed trail uses the abandoned Gallatin Valley Electric Railroad track, which begins at South Church and East Story. Watch for the several road crossings.

Sourdough Trail
This scenic, ungroomed trail begins at Fairway Street off of Kagy and ends at Goldenstein Road. It follows a section of Sourdough Creek through a wooded section at its finish.

Snowfill Site
Out by the landfill, this is the latest addition to the list. It's still a work in progress and allows dogs.

Ski Trails of Southwest Montana
by Melynda Harrison

Avid touring fiend Melynda Harrison and her devoted canine companion, Rigby, conjured up the idea of writing a book about what they do best in the winter months: ski. Ski Trails of Southwest Montana (First Ascent Press; $17) is spot-on with its accurate beta on 30 of the best touring haunts in the Bozeman, Big Sky, and Paradise Valley areas. In addition to driving directions, trail conditions, and potential hazards along the way, Harrison also includes recommended trails for children as well as ideas for extending a straightforward three-hour ski into a multiday mountain epic, all from the same trailhead. With the aid of exceptional maps and elevation guides provided by Mariann Van Den Elzen, another southwest Montana ski fanatic, the guide is well researched and written. There’s even some wildlife and nature trivia fodder thrown in for you flora/fauna types.

-Becky Edwards Kurowski

Best Ski Forward: The masters national championships
Every season the Master Series ski-racing program offers competitors from all different age groups and ability levels the chance to show their best in Alpine racing. Participants range from 18 to 90 years old and include everyone from entry-level skiers to ex-national-team members. Racers compete on World Cup–[KATIE: en dash, not em]qualifying runs in downhill, slalom, giant slalom, and super G events. Competitors must belong to the United States Skiing Association and its Northern Masters division. The combined annual fees total $125. Individual races range from $22 to $25 per event.

The Northern division of the USSA might as well be called "The Montana Division" because besides Montana, it only includes a tiny sliver of Idaho and small chunks of Wyoming and South Dakota. Ski races in this region are regularly held at local favorites such as Big Sky, Lookout, Snowbowl, Blacktail, and Whitefish. After several weekend-long competitions in January and February, the competition heats up for the Northern Championships, usually held at the beginning of March. Then it’s on to national and international racing for those who qualify for the Masters National Championships and the International FIS Masters.

In March of 2007, Big Sky had the prestigious honor of hosting the Masters National Championships. Two-hundred-seventeen racers from around the country competed for one full week on the world-class courses below beautiful Lone Mountain. Many enjoyed the resort for the first time. The Northern division sent 28 competitors to the event, many of them from the Gallatin Valley, for a combined total of 78 starts. They hope to add to that number in 2008 when the National Championships move on to Mammoth Mountain, California. They will get their first chance on the weekend of January 11-13 when the Masters Series returns to Big Sky for a joint competition between the Northern and Intermountain divisions.

“Every race is spectacularly stimulating,” observes Dave Shappee, ski racer and division chairman for the Northern Masters. “I feel like a human F-14, and at 57 that’s a pretty good feeling.” Shappee is a relative youngster, though, because he routinely watches 80-year-olds compete in the newly added 12th class of Masters racing. “It’s the scariest part of my day, but it’s amazing,” admits Shappee, who likens the racing series to a pro-am golf tournament. “Except it is terrifyingly fast,” he reconsiders, “so it’s more like golf with broken bones.”

For more information, check out northernmasters.org.

-Brad Japhe

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