Seasons transition at Mount Spokane; summit road closing

The view looking east is stunning from the top of Mount Spokane at the Vista House. Below, is Spirit Lake and beyond that is Lake Pend Oreille at Farragut State Park. (Mike Prager)
The view looking east is stunning from the top of Mount Spokane at the Vista House. Below, is Spirit Lake and beyond that is Lake Pend Oreille at Farragut State Park. (Mike Prager)

Mount Spokane State Park rangers and volunteers are busy as the fall colors begin to show in the foliage and a hint of the coming winter season is in the air.

Tuesday is the last day for driving to the top of the mountain this year as the 3-mile Summit Road will be closed for the season at dusk.

The foundation for a warming hut at Smith Gap has been built and a contractor will be framing the shelter this week, said Steve Christensen, park manager.

The hut designed as warm-up stop for snowshoers and backcountry skiers isn’t likely to be ready for use this winter, he said.

“We’ll need volunteers to finish the inside next summer and the Friends of Mount Spokane are looking for a wood stove to install,” he said.

Other efforts underway include:

• Work continues on Trail 140 to the mountain’s summit and should be at least roughed out before snow falls.

• Mountain bikers have submitted a plan for a 9-mile technical descent trail in the downhill ski area they plan to call “Alibi Trail.” State Parks has agreed to consider the proposal, but the single track route, which will cross Trail 120 several times, has not yet been approved, he said.

• Spokane Nordic club has been organizing weekend work parties to clear and prep the cross-country ski trails for winter grooming. Workers were on the trails Saturday. The next trail work day is Oct. 27.

• A new 8-kilometer section of road that loops into Idaho is being prepped for grooming this winter, bringing the nordic trail system to about 60 kilometers.

“We’re calling it ‘Outer Limits,’ ” he said. “It will test the endurance of the best skiers. It goes down to about three miles of mostly flat terrain great for skating, but when you come back you’ll have to gain 1,000 feet of elevation in the last two miles.”

The Discover Pass and Sno-Park requirements for Mount Spokane will change on Dec. 1 to March 31, he said.

“You’ll need a Washington Sno-Park permit to park a vehicle anywhere in the park except at the downhill ski area concession when it’s open for business,” Christensen said.

“We’ll no longer allow people to the park in pull-outs along the roads with a Discover Pass. They’ll have to have a Sno-Park permit,” he said, noting that that the two state programs are different and the Sno-Park program pays the bills for snow plowing and grooming.

The exception is one-day users, who will need to buy a one-day Sno-Park permit and display a Discover Pass, too, he said.

“I know that one-day thing is confusing, but that’s the way the law came out of the legislature,” he said.

Customers of the Mount Spokane Ski & Snowboard Park do will not need a vehicle permit when the lifts are operating. However, when the downhill ski area is closed, vehicles parked in those lots will need a Sno-Park permit after Dec. 1.

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