Ski and sled hills throughout the region sprang to life Saturday as long-awaited winter storms finally put the winter back into sports.
Drivers, meanwhile, struggled with slick, snowy streets all around the region.
Between 4 and 5 inches of snow fell Friday night and Saturday in Spokane and Coeur d’Alene, while communities to the north like Bonners Ferry and Kettle Falls saw almost triple that, according to the National Weather Service.Good times may continue for snow buffs, with forecasts of another 2 to 4 inches of snow through this afternoon, and temperatures projected in the 20s with gusty winds.
Since midnight Friday, the Idaho State Police had responded to 12 slide-offs and one car crash by Saturday evening. During that same time period, Washington State Patrol officers were dispatched to 87 collisions in seven Eastern Washington counties, including Spokane, Whitman, Ferry, Pend Oreille, Stevens, Lincoln and Adams.
“We’ve just been slammed,” said Trooper Kris Schweigert.
Bad driving conditions contributed to a head-on collision on Highway 195, near Rosalia, Schweigert said.
A Hyundai passed a pickup headed north and was trying to re-enter the northbound lane when the driver lost control on slush piled up between lanes. The car careened into a southbound semi-truck carrying fuel, which clipped a third vehicle.
The driver of the Hyundai, Barron Barnett, 21, and his female passenger, Janelle Hafert, 21, were airlifted to Deaconess Medical Center, where they were treated for non-life-threatening injuries, he said.
Snowplows in the city of Spokane were expected to reach hillside neighborhoods by today, perhaps offering some relief. Residents of those areas are asked to move their cars off the streets.
Spokane County plows will continue to clear main and secondary routes if snow continues.
While drivers slogged along snow-covered streets, skiers and kids with sleds reveled in the powder.
At Valley Mission Park, Scott Harward, 8, of Sunrise Elementary School, tested out an Uncle Bob’s inflatable tube he got two Christmases ago, navigating it alongside a host of disks and sleds.
“There’s a lot of people, but it’s a lot of fun,” Harward said.
His older brother, Jared Harward, home from Brigham Young University, joked that in two hours he and his brother had “only run over two people.”
Sledders jockeyed for take-off positions as kids with wind-chaffed faces begged their freezing parents to stick around for another run.
As heavily bundled brothers, Noah, 4, and Thaddaeus Sterner, 3, wrestled in the snow, a diminishing sun and punishing wind dropped temperatures a few more degrees.
“These two little guys, they could freeze to death, but they don’t care because they just want to be outside,” said their father, Dennis Sterner.
Amanda Sterner, 11, of Orchard Center Elementary School, enjoyed razzing her dad about his run. “My daddy almost whitewashed me.”
Matt Johnston, 15, an avid skateboarder, planned to return to the hill Saturday night to try out a new snow skate, a smaller version of a snowboard.
“It’s been pretty crazy with all the bumps going all over the place,” the West Valley High School student said. “It’s freezing out here, but it’s worth it.”
The latest snowfall was like manna from heaven for thousands of skiers who were disappointed by a slow start to the season. About 2,000 skiers and snowboarders hit the slopes at 49 Degrees North on Saturday – about 15 to 20 percent more than usual, said John Eminger, owner of 49 Degrees North.
Other resorts also reported throngs of skiers.
“This is what it’s all about,” Eminger said, gloating over the 2 feet of snow that dumped in the previous 48 hours on the Chewelah ski resort.
With temperatures hovering around 17 degrees and humidity at under 20 percent, Eminger, said the powder is so fluffy that moving across it feels like skimming over water. “This is champagne powder.”