Less than an hour drive north from downtown Spokane, Mt. Spokane Ski and Snowboard Park has been the local stomping grounds for generations of ski and snowboard enthusiasts – 80 years of snow-bound seasons to be exact. And this winter’s reduced rates and increased accessibility are making it easier than ever to head up to Mt. Spokane State Park, home to the resort, for a day in the deep.
The non-profit alpine recreation destination, known for its family friendly focus and learn-to-ski/snowboard approach to snow sports, features 5 double chair lifts covering 1,425 skiable acres spanning more than 2,000 vertical feet. There’s also a half mile-long terrain park packed with kickers, rails and boxes, a 300-yard tubing hill, and some of the sweetest undiscovered tree terrain in the region.
“We’re only 28 miles from downtown Spokane, so you can finish work and get some night skiing in at the end of your day,” offers Kristin Whitaker, marketing director at Mt. Spokane. “Affordability is one of our biggest draws. We try to accommodate families and everyone else with varied terrain. We try to develop lifelong skiers and riders who can enjoy the sport for a lifetime – our affordability and everything else is developed with that in mind.”
With forecasters predicting what could be a whopper of a winter, the mountain is gearing up for a potentially big season. An early wintry weather flurry has general manager Brad McQuarrie optimistic.
“It’s looking sweet with 18-inches on the mountain right now. It’s a nice shot in the arm for ski and snowboard fans in October,” says McQuarrie, days after the first snowfall.
As the season ramps up at the mountain, crews are busy prepping the slopes. Mt. Spokane’s 45 runs cover the gamut in difficulties (23 percent beginner, 45 percent intermediate, and 32 percent expert); while a ski school that boasts some 125 instructors is available for newcomers and returning powder seekers alike.
Building on the mountain’s nighttime tradition, Mt. Spokane is increasing night skiing from 40 nights to 48 this year on almost 20 trails.
“We’ve increased the amount of nights we’re open and reduced that ticket to $19 dollars, so it’s a screaming deal,” Whitaker says. “We have one of the largest ski schools in the Pacific Northwest, too. We’re a great learning mountain, as well as having terrain for more experienced skiers and snowboarders.”
Adds McQuarrie: “We have the largest night skiing terrain and schedule this side of Snoqualmie.”
During the off season, much of the upgrades went to improving elements away from the snowy slopes. Thirteen miles of road up to Mt. Spokane were resurfaced, easing access from the round-about on North Mt. Spokane Park Drive (State Highway 206) up to the entrance.
On the mountain, a new chair four rope was added, coin-operated lockers were installed in the lodge, and day and night ticket mid-week prices were reduced anywhere from $2 to $6. Adult midweek tickets are now $32, which includes night skiing, while mid-week night tickets are $19 or less (available Wednesday through Saturday beginning December 17).
As for the terrain, heaps of debris was cleared on the back side, making more room to carve.
“We put a lot of our money into things you are probably are not going to see, such as lift maintenance,” he explains. “We cleared a ton of deadfall on the back side to really open up some of the runs.”
So far, all signs are pointing to a first-rate season for powder hounds, first-timers and freestylers of all skill levels, McQuarrie says, adding that the only missing ingredients – a few feet of fresh — are right around the corner.
“It’s going to be a great ski year,” he says. “Hopefully we don’t get too much snow in the city so that people can’t get up here, though. But it’s a great start to the season.”