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Minnesota Marathoners - Sixth Weekend

March 1, 2004

Body Bowling Down Bridger

By Evan Pengelly

It's our fifth day here in Bozeman, Montana and I'm hooked. The city is located in a valley and is surrounded on all sides by mountains. Every direction you turn there's a beautiful view just waiting to be seen. Dan has been renting an apartment in Bozeman, so Justin, Pat, and I have been crashing in his living room every night.

Our first day here as a group we slept in late and wasted the day by playing Xbox video games for about 8 hours. I'm thinking that it might be in our best interest to mail the thing back to my parents; we would get a lot more done. Later in the afternoon Dan took us to the only ski trails in town (Lindley Park). We skied with the Bridger Ski Foundation team and tried to get used to the higher elevation here (4,000 ft). I was really impressed with the number of young skiers the BSF has. There were kids from age 8 - 18 skiing with the team as well as a number of adults.

Day two we went back out to Lindley and skied in the rain and sleet. The BSF team was skiing classic so we had to wax up our skis with klister. I wasn't too psyched about the mess klister tends to make, but it actually went pretty smooth in the warm weather. That night we watched The Big Labowski, which I think is Lorentz's new favorite movie.

On Friday we took the day off from skiing and went fishing in the Gallatin Forest. It was a pretty warm day so we didn't have too much of a problem with the cold water. I practiced fly-fishing and managed to lose two of Danny's fishing lures, therefore my fishing privileges have been revoked. We all gave it a full effort, but we couldn't actually reel anything in. It was cool to actually stand in a river that wasn't mucky and suspect like back home.

Friday night Dan got a call from a friend saying that he needed volunteers to help with a freestyle skiing competition at the Bridger Bowl's downhill slopes. In exchange for the day of volunteering, we would get to ski for free a second day. Dan volunteered us and told him that we wouldn't have problems skiing down the mountain to help out the fallen competitors. What Dan forgot to mention to his friend George was that Justin had never downhill skied before and Pat has only gone twice.

Saturday we were off to the slopes to find out exactly what we had gotten ourselves into. We lucked out because the competition had been postponed due to the poor visibility caused by low clouds and blowing snow. This gave us the chance to use our free pass to ski a lot of the mountain and get used to skiing on downhill skis before we helped with the freestyle competition that was now moved to Sunday. With Dan as our guide, we headed for the slopes. By the time we got off the last chair lift we quickly discovered that Dan had led us into black diamond territory. The first route we skied down consisted of a narrow and twisting man-made trail that cut across the mountainside. Not the kind of terrain for beginners like Justin and Pat. Eventually we made it down safely and were able to spend the rest of the day skiing on slightly easier routes.

The skiing was cool Saturday because the snow was coming down hard so we got to do some great powder skiing in the open areas and in the tree lines. When the day was over we were feeling more confident about our downhill skiing skills; however we had seen where we had to ski the next day for the freestyle competition and Pat, Justin, and I weren't exactly sure that we were good enough to do it. The place that we would be skiing was literally at the top of the mountain and every skier was required to have a homing beacon and a shovel in case of an avalanche; not exactly beginner skier territory.

Sunday we woke up early and drove out to Bridger Bowl to help out at the freestyle competition. Like most mornings, we got going a little late so we were in kind of a rush to get to the top. Once Dan borrowed shovels and beacons from some friends we started our ascent up the mountain. Early during the week when we skied at Lindley I noticed the effect of the elevation but it didn't effect my skiing very much. Today as we hiked up to 8000 feet the elevation difference was hitting Pat, Justin, and I pretty hard. The slope was so steep and long that Pat and Justin had to pull off to the side two times to catch their breath. When we finally did make it to the top we started to ski across the traverse to the starting area of the competition. We literally were skiing on a two-foot wide track with a sheer drop off directly to one side and a solid wall of snow on the other. The route we had to take reminded me of a picture I once saw of a group of mountain climbers ascending Mount Everest.

When the four of us made it the start we got our assignments. Two of us were supposed to help out at the top and the other two were supposed to ski part way down the mountain to help out any skiers that might fall during the competition. Because Pat and Justin were the least experienced of the four of us we decided that they would stay on top and Dan and I would ski further down to help any skiers that might fall. Dan and I took off further across the mountain and as the traverse got more and more difficult I began to wonder if Pat and Justin could ski down the mountain or if they would come down in body bags. Dan and I got to an open powder field and started skiing down the mountain. It was like the kind of skiing you see on TV. The powder was almost to my waist, which made the skiing well worth the long and difficult hike to the top of the mountain.

Meanwhile, as Dan and I were making our way to a lower part of the mountain Pat and Justin were helping out on top. It wasn't long after we had left that a skier bought the farm and his skis went sailing into the powder. One of the persons in charge told Pat to ski down around the trees and rock cliffs to help the skier find his skies. Pat politely turned to her and said "NO." He told her and the ski patrol that if he started down they would then have two people to rescue on the mountain. After getting his butt chewed out for not belonging up on the mountaintop the woman turned to Justin and asked him to go down. Justin's response: "I'm in the same boat he is." She was not too pleased. Pat and Justin quickly apologized and explained that no one had bothered to tell them exactly what volunteers were expected to do.

After a short while longer the staff sent Justin and Pat down the mountain and they were able to enjoy some less intense and death defying skiing. When the day was over we managed to leave with our bodies sore but in one piece. Things got a little dangerous at times but that's what adventures are all about. I would definitely like to make it back to Bridger or some other mountain to do some more powder skiing.

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