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Snowshoers, nordic skiers face spotty trail grooming

A dearth of parking and deep snow with no substance have left some issues to work out for cross-country skiers and snowshoers in the Inland Northwest.

Trail groomers at areas such as Mount Spokane are floundering as they try to pack the dry powder that’s piled sky-high this week.

At Fourth of July Pass, highway road crews have been so busy keeping Interstate 90 open, they haven’t been able to plow the trail system parking area for recreationalists.

“There’s 4 feet of snow in the lot,” said Van Bennett, who normally would be grooming the vast trail system off the pass for the Forest Service and Panhandle Nordic Club. “I won’t be doing my normal Christmas Day grooming for people to try out their new skis. But maybe by New Year’s.”

Mount Spokane crews have kept parking areas clear, but trail grooming has been spotty. The state park’s snowcat groomer broke down Sunday. Repairs were expected to be completed on Wednesday so major grooming could resume that night.

“We plan to have groomed trails for Christmas Day and we’ll groom every day through Jan. 5,” said Steve Christensen, park manager. For a recorded update, call (509) 238-4025.

In Spokane, no grooming is planned this year by Spokane Parks and Recreation Department.

“And there’s no money for grooming Aubrey White Parkway as in the past at Riverside State Park,” said Ryan Griffin of the city parks outdoor staff.

That hasn’t stopped people on skis and snowshoes from breaking their own trails – a chore best done in a group – on the Centennial Trail and through parks and open areas around town.

“We had a couple dozen people take us up on snowshoe rentals we offered at Manito Park last week,” Griffin said. “We’ll probably do that again around New Year.”

Schweitzer Mountain, however, is in high gear for the Nordic crowd, with 32 kilometers of groomed cross-country trails and guided snowshoe tours starting Friday and through the weekend.

Nordic ski and snowshoe rentals are available at Schweitzer, as well as in Spokane at shops such as REI, Mountain Gear and Fitness Fanatics.

At 49 Degrees North, groomers are finally getting a handle on grooming the 16 kilometers of groomed trails. The skiers’ yurt and other Nordic services will open starting Friday and operating daily through the holidays.

“Conditions are improving rapidly,” Nordic director Doug Elledge said Wednesday. “This weekend we expect to be fully operational and should have great conditions with new snow arriving throughout.”

At Priest Lake, trails have been groomed at the golf course and around Hill’s Resort. The golf course clubhouse will not be open this winter, but grooming will continue as needed, according to Hill’s Resort, headquarters for the area Nordic Sports Club.

The Methow Valley, which has the region’s premier cross-country trail system, has been short on snow until the past few days. Jay Lucas, the valley’s sport trails association director, reported that nearly all trails were groomed and in good condition on Wednesday.