The long, arduous process of expansion at Mount Spokane Ski and Snowboard Park is reaching another critical milestone.
A public comment period on Mount Spokane 2000’s final proposal began Feb. 15. The Washington State Parks Commission is conducting a workshop next week to formally present the plan to the public.
The commission will take public comments into account when it makes a decision on how to classify the area proposed for expansion. Land in Mount Spokane State Park is classified several ways. “Natural Area Preserved” is the most protected. “Natural Forest Area” has fewer restrictions. “Resource/Recreation” has fewer still. “Recreation” is the classification the ski area needs to move into the “Proposed Alpine Ski Expansion Area.” Those familiar with the project call it the “Pasea.”
“This is the breakthrough we’ve been going after for years,” said Brad McQuarrie, general manager of the ski area. “If the Pasea is classified as recreation, we can go in there right away and clean up all the down timber. Cleaning it up will make the area safer, much more fun and consistent with the way ski areas should operate.”
The public workshop takes place from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Wednesday in Sub Lounge AB&C (rooms 102, 103 and 104) in building 17 at Spokane Falls Community College. Washington State Parks staff will set up kiosks attended by park rangers. The presentations will define the options for land classification and staff will answer questions about developing the Pasea.
“Our objectives are to provide balanced information and give the public an opportunity to comment,” said Deb Wallace, strategic and long-range planning manager at the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission. “It’s a great chance for people to talk with park staff one-on-one and give us feedback. We’ve extended the public comment period from March 16 to March 21 so people can take data from the workshop and send us comments.”
At the workshop, those who thought they knew about Mount Spokane’s proposal for the Pasea will learn that things have changed. The board submitted an expansion plan in 2006 that included about 600 acres of the 850-acre Pasea. The revised proposal seeks to use just 250 acres, with 81 acres of cut trails.
“We don’t want to develop the whole thing,” McQuarrie said. “People have worried about that in the past because one of the alternatives was multiple lifts and a building. A lot of people who really argued with me about going back there look at it now and say it’s not a bad thing.”
McQuarrie’s revised proposal takes out all the trails that went across the mature forest area. Now one lift is planned in an area that was part of the original ski hill decades ago. McQuarrie said once he can clean it up and manage it, the terrain north of the proposed skiing pod will be some of the best expert side country terrain in the region.
The commission will make its decision in Spokane on May 24. If the Pasea is classified recreation, the skiing and riding options at Mount Spokane could change quickly.
“The classification doesn’t allow us to cut runs or anything like that, but there’s a lot we can do to improve safety and skiing,” McQuarrie said. “Lift construction would be down the road. It will be fun to have great tree skiing for a while until we raise the money we need for the lift. I don’t think people would mind.”