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Early Snow Raises Hopes For Ski Hills But Return Of Warm Weather Could Turn Dreams Into Dirt

Wed., Oct. 23, 1996

The surge of snow dumped on Inland Northwest mountains this past week awakened snowboarders and skiers.

But don’t break out the ski wax just yet. Mother Nature, it seems, has a habit of teasing local skiers with early-season snowfalls.

Snowboarders began trudging up 49 Degrees North’s slopes last weekend to carve up the 20 or so inches that had accumulated on the hillsides near Chewelah, Wash., said Denny Burmeister, general manager of the resort.

“I just was outside and saw a couple go by,” he said Tuesday. “It was real nice this weekend when the snow was a little drier and more powdery.”

Eager skiers hiked up Lookout Pass Ski Area near Mullan, Idaho, to enjoy the foot and a half of snow that had dropped there, said Pat Foster, who runs grooming operations at the ski area.

“It’s awful wet now,” he said. “We’re getting warmer, but it’s nice to see it. We hope we can get open early.”

Two years ago, Lookout opened Nov. 5 - a modern record for an early opening - thanks to bountiful snow. It’ll take a hefty blizzard or two to get Lookout ski-able from top to bottom by early November, Foster said.

The same goes for the other ski areas. While Burmeister at 49 Degrees North hopes the snow on top will firm up to form a good base, he realizes he could be looking at dirt instead of snow outside his lodge by this weekend if temperatures return to normal.

In Sandpoint, Schweitzer Mountain Resort has been blessed - or perhaps taunted - by 4 feet of snow at its peak.

Work continues on rebuilding of the Great Escape chairlift, the resort’s big people-mover, said spokeswoman Sally Beyers.

Schweitzer has been discouraging skiers wanting to test the virgin snow because of safety concerns. “There isn’t a ski patrol out there right now,” Beyers said. “There are some liability concerns.”

Even if the resort were to get a couple of more feet, Schweitzer won’t open before Thanksgiving because the resort needs to train hundreds of new employees.

Work on the Great Escape lift continues, and the resort hopes to test the new equipment toward the end of the month.

At Silver Mountain Ski Resort at Kellogg, an opening date could come sooner than Thanksgiving if the weather continues its cold and moist trend. The resort has started using its snow-making machines to build up snow on the mountain.

At Mt. Spokane Ski Area, an ugly legal battle continues between the operator, Mt. Spokane Ski Corp., the state parks commission and the Mount Spokane 2000 Study Group, which was awarded the right to run the area. The ski hill’s opening date and its schedule of operation haven’t been decided.

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Cut in Spokane edition

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