One man carries a shovel and the rest have mittens stuffed with hand warmers. All have packs stuffed with discs, streams of ribbons trailing behind them as they trudge through the snow.
The temperature on this Saturday morning hovered around minus 10 degrees, but these five men in layers and barely exposed skin weren’t phased. They were here to throw their discs.
On the Friday previous, three people are sliding on the ice as the temperature began to drop. The partially enclosed ice rink mostly kept out the wind, but Carhartt jackets still were zipped to the top as players took turns tossing their stones.
Fresh snow and bitter cold doesn’t stop these folfers and curlers from playing their game of choice. When winter rolls around, these western Montanans find ways to stay active. Here are five activities that are not skiing or snowboarding and are sure to get you out and warm you up this winter.
Back for its second term after a few years on hiatus at Linda Vista Golf Course in Missoula, members of the “Yeti” league of disc golfers hit the greens, or in this case whites on Saturdays – snow and cold be damned.
“It tends to be more hardcore” in the winter, Garden City Flyers club member Aaron Kinyon said.
The sport isn’t as well known or practiced in the winter as summer, when thousands of western Montanans descend on area courses.
“The primary purpose is to play and have fun,” Kinyon said, “We’d love to see people come out.”
Kinyon said the Garden City Flyers are a great resource for people who want to try out the sport.
Brian Bjortomt, Flyers president, said Missoula Parks and Rec hosts Folf in the Parks on the second Saturday of each month from noon to 3 p.m. January’s outing is set for Jan. 14 at Pineview Park and the trail behind the PEAS Farm.
All that’s needed to practice or play is a disc and some baskets. Linda Vista has an 18-hole course designed by the Flyers that is open for paying players from Nov. 1-Feb. 28, $5 per day payable at the Miller Creek Cafe, and Blue Mountain Recreation Area has an 18-hole course that’s open year-round for free. Bob Ward and Sons in Missoula, Walmart, Sportsman’s Warehouse and the University of Montana bookstore carry discs throughout the year.
More experienced disc golfers, also known as Frisbee golfers or folfers, Duct tape a two- to three-foot long string of balloon ribbon in the winter so their discs don’t get lost in the snow.
Parks and Rec is hosting a Frost Fever Disc Golf Tournament on Saturday, Jan. 28, at 11 a.m. According to a news release, the course will play through numerous riverfront parks, and there will be prizes for each division. Divisions include youth, recreational, masters (ages 40-plus) and open, so it’s a way for players of all skill levels to cash in on a prize. Each participant will receive a custom Innova Glow Disc.
If tossing plastic discs isn’t appealing, maybe give a try to throwing some granite on a sheet of ice. On any given mid-morning or early afternoon on Fridays throughout the winter, the outside ice at Glacier Ice Rink is open for curling practice for $10 per person.
The Missoula Curling Club was “born” in 2010. Since then it has grown to more than 150 members. Club teams play on Saturday nights at the rink, in the late-night slot.
Beginning in January, the club has opened a new, three-game “introductory league.” According to its website, “For many folks who have learned to curl or have played in past seasons we know it is tough to sometimes commit to the full eight-game season spread out over months. … The Intro League runs over six weeks with four teams facing off over the course of the league. Each team will play three times.”
It’s another way for people to try out the sport. All that’s required is warm clothes and tennis shoes. The club has brooms, sliders to put over shoes and rocks.
“Anybody can do it,” club president Barry Bollenbacker said, noting that there’s a good distribution of age and gender for a game that gets people addicted through its strategy.
The Intro League will provide coaches for those who are looking to learn the game. Individuals can sign up without a team. The cost is $70, which includes ice rental fees and a social membership into the club that covers insurance.
Curling is a “heck of a good time,” Bollenbacker said.
Fat tire biking
Blue Mountain Recreation Area offers more than just a disc golf course. The 4,900-acre recreation area has dozens of trails for those brave enough to pedal their way through the snow.
And there are plenty of other opportunities for fat tire biking in and around Missoula. According to the FatBike Missoula group, there are 25-plus miles of mapped area in Twin Creeks/Gold Creek and 12 miles mapped in Deadman's Gulch. Both are only 15 minutes from downtown Missoula.
For those who want to check it out or even those who want to compete, Marshall Mountain is hosting its third annual Winter Carnival and will include a fat tire bike race. The event takes place at Marshall Mountain on Sunday, Jan. 29, at 10 a.m.
Within just a few hours of Missoula there’s dozens of places for scenic snowshoeing day trips. Lolo Pass, Discovery near Philipsburg, the Rattlesnake National Recreation Area, Holland Lake, Blacktail Mountain and the list goes on.
Missoula Parks and Rec is offering many showshoe trips for kids this winter:
• Kids Full Moon Snowshoes: For kids 5 and older, a trek under the full moon to a warm campfire with pizza, cocoa and marshmallow roasting. Warm clothing, boots, hats and gloves are required, snowshoes are provided. The first outing is Friday, Jan. 13, from 5-8:30 p.m. and the cost is $12 with a CityCard, $14 without. Meets at Currents Aquatics Center.
Check out area hot springs on snowshoe, including Jerry Johnson and Weir Creek, Lolo Hot Springs, Lost Trail Hot Springs Resort and more. While up U.S. Highway 12 check out the Locsha Lodge. Trails sprawl across western Montana.
Learn more about snowshoeing by visiting Missoula Parks and Rec’s website.
Glacier Ice Rink has many sessions for public skating. Both hockey and figure skates are available for rental during public skating.
• Cheap Skate: Every Monday (excluding holidays), $2 admission, $1 skate rentals (Regular admission prices apply to holiday public skating sessions on January 16, February 20 and May 29)
• Family Day: Every Sunday, $20 admission and skate rentals for two adults and two children, additional children are $3
• Senior Skate: 9:45 to10:45 a.m. Wednesdays, time for seniors 55 and older $3 admission and skate rental
• Homeschool Skate: Second Thursday of every month from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m., special skating session for homeschoolers and their families. $3 youth admission and skate rental, $6 adult admission and skate rental
• Young Skaters: Wednesdays from10:45 to 11:45 a.m. and Thursdays from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m., skating time for young children (around 3-6 years old) to try ice skating or practice their skating skills in a safe, uncrowded environment. Walkers are available for use during these sessions and pucks/sticks are allowed when space permits. $2 young Skater admission and skate rental, $3 chaperone (one per child) admission and skate rental
According to the Missoula Parks and Recreation winter guide, Pineview Park also has a small natural ice rink. The rink is open mid-December through mid-February, weather permitting. Public skate is from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., unless it’s closed for maintenance. The rink is reserved for volunteers on weekdays from 4 to 6 p.m. and weekends from 9 to 11 a.m. The Children’s Corner is always open. For current rink condition information, check signs at the rink shed daily.
Learn more about ice skating at glaciericerink.com.
There’s a beer named after the Montana-coined term: Coldsmoke. In a state known for its powder days, there is ample opportunity for downhill skiing and snowboarding. But if strapping on planks and barreling down a mountain isn’t what will get you outdoors this winter, know that there are more than these five outdoors options. Or, maybe one of these five activities catches your fancy. If so, check it out. Other players are more than ready to share their hand warmers with you.