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49 Degrees North has high expectations for ‘10-11 ski season

49 Degrees North is an exciting and easy-to-reach skiing destination.  (Courtesy 49 Degrees North)
49 Degrees North is an exciting and easy-to-reach skiing destination. (Courtesy 49 Degrees North)

Pent-up demand, La Niña expected to combine for busy winter

Last season ended on a high note for 49 Degrees North Mountain Resort, and the ski hill’s brass has high expectations for the 2010-11 ski year as well.

While the resort received only 85 percent of normal snowfall last year, the mountain finished strong with a memorable spring, said 49 Degrees North director of sales and marketing Brad Northrup. Four feet of snow fell in the last four to six weeks of the season, he said.

This season, a few factors suggest that it will be a strong season.

First, Northrup said, season-pass sales have been brisk since last spring, which suggests pent-up demand from people who are getting back to the mountain.

“Things haven’t been real good with the economy, but more and more people are getting back on their feet,” Northrup said. “They want to get back on their skis, and they’re going to ski local.”

To cater to local skiers in the current economic climate, 49 Degrees North kept its season pass prices consistent this year with last year’s rate. Early-season specials started below the $300 mark for an adult-season pass, and they are presently priced at $319.

Dovetailing with pent-up demand are forecasts for a snow-heavy season. A La Niña weather pattern, characterized by lower-than-average temperatures and higher-than-usual levels of precipitation, is expected this winter.

“It looks like it’s going to be one of those truly memorable seasons,” Northrup said.

The forecasts coupled with early-fall snowfall suggest that the mountain will open some time around the week of Thanksgiving, according to Northrup.

Skiers who didn’t hit 49 Degrees North last season will find new terrain at the ski hill, which is located about 10 miles east of Chewelah, Wash., and about 60 miles north of Spokane. The summer before last, mountain operators cultivated 270 acres of skiable acres on Angel Peak. The expansion occurred within in the resort’s established boundaries and included 170 acres of glading, which is tree thinning and clearing to accommodate skiers who enjoy skiing through trees.

During this past summer, crews cleared out much of the brush and other undergrowth in the gladed areas, which served two purposes, Northrup said. The work makes for better tree skiing, but it also reduces the forest fuels so that forest fires are less likely to spread quickly on the mountain.

The majority of the resort is located on U.S. Forest Service land, and that kind of mountain maintenance promotes a healthy forest, according to Northrup.

The emphasis on glading also helps the 49 Degrees North bolster its reputation as a premier mountain for tree skiing.

“Our tree skiing is absolutely amazing,” he said.

Considered the second largest ski hill in Washington state behind Crystal Mountain in Western Washington, 49 Degrees North has 2,325 acres of patrolled ski area with a vertical drop of 1,851 feet. There are 75 marked runs, the longest run being 2.75 miles long, and the mountain is served by one quad lift, four double chairs and one surface lift.

In addition to the downhill action, about 10 miles of cross-country trails wind through the mountain terrain.

The ski school at 49 Degrees North is separate from the mountain, which allows new skiers to learn away from the action on the hill. That coupled with wide beginner runs—30 percent of the marked trails are rated for beginners—make the resort a good place for families to ski, Northrup said.

“We’re known for being family friendly,” he said. “It’s a great place for families to come.”

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