Sunday, February 13, 2011

Wild wind storm knocks out ski weekend

A video showing high winds in Browning Saturday.

My wife and I headed out early Saturday morning for a romantic weekend of skiing from the Isaak Walton Lodge in Essex.
We never made it, turned back at Browning by a fierce wind storm that raked the Rocky Mountain Front through Sunday.
As we turned west in Browning on U.S. 2 we were turned back by Department of Transportation officials who informed us that there had been a large accident between Browning and East Glacier and they didn't know when the road would be reopened.
Ahead we could see columns of snow whirling high into the air off the Glacier and Front peaks, driven by the winds. There was no doubt that snow would be drifting at Marias Pass.
So, we headed into Browning to kill time, hoping the road would be reopened.
We did some shopping for gifts at the Trading Post which features some Blackfeet made crafts.
We took a tour of the town, something we don't normally do when we rush through to hiking and skiing destinations.
Can't ski? Caught in Browning?  Not many choices, so I hit Glacier Peaks Casino and gambled pennies.
And finally, we wound up at Glacier Peaks Casino, the Blackfeet tribal gambling venture.
We had been told by clerks at the Trading Post we could get the best food in town there.
We had been in there before but had never really spent much time.
Saturday time was all we had.
It's a very depressing place.
Aside from the prevalence of smoking, the noise from the gaming machines are incessant and the blinking are irritating.
I hit the penny machines and found that despite the 1 cent sticker price on them, they take no less than a $1 bill to play them and bets are a minimum of 25 cents.
You can already guess I'm not a gambling man and don't relish the thought of losing money on the machines.
I've heard gambling as a "self imposed tax on the stupid," and I tend to agree with that.
I told myself I'd lose no more than $5.
I quickly figured out that the best way to stay even or ahead is to take the cash pay out as soon as you win.
The machines operate as various games that I found incomprehensible.
But, by staying with my strategy I put $5 in the machines and had payouts totaling $7.49, so I figured I didn't do too bad.
Where I went off the track was deciding to eat at the casino.
The menu is about as unhealthy as you can imagine.
The ambiance of the restaurant is more akin to a bowling alley than anything high end or fancy.  Prices weren't cheap like they are in Vegas, either.
You order ahead and go back to your table and wait for your number to be called.
Finding a table that had been bused was tricky.
We waited 36 minutes before our number was called.
In the meantime the gals who worked the counter had difficulty getting the credit card machine to work, and getting the order right.  They were nice and friendly, though.
High winds caused lights to flicker on and off in the casino during our time there.
The best I could do was cheese fries for $4. They were standard fries that looked like nacho Cheez Whiz had been squirted on it.
Everyone around us had grilled or deep fried food piled on their trays.
I can't imagine that operated as it is this casino is going to make it, despite the hopes of the tribe. They have the right idea with the high end coffee shop, though.  It needs to be extended to the low-end restaurant.
After hanging around for a couple of hours we went back to the highway and a tribal policeman told us that Marias Pass had been closed and he didn't know when it would be reopened.
We bailed from our trip at this point and headed back to Great Falls.
This morning we found out that the pass remained closed except to emergency vehicles and that winds had been in the 90 mph range along the Front and power knocked out for six hours in Browning after we left.
Despite the winds, it was a pretty clear day and the mountains were gorgeous and we had a beautiful drive.

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