May 19, 2011 in City

Mt. Spokane gets go-ahead to expand ski terrain

By The Spokesman-Review

Mt. Spokane Ski and Snowboard Park will be allowed to expand into pristine terrain on the mountain’s northwest face.

The Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission voted 4-0 Thursday afternoon to allow the expansion to move forward, after hours of discussion about recreational desires versus the need to protect old-growth forest, meadows and wetlands at Mount Spokane, the state’s largest park.

“This allows the ski expansion, but tried to build in environmental controls by protecting the natural forest below the runs,” said Fred Olson, the commission’s chairman.

“Those who wanted to not allow skiing, they had some very good arguments,” he added. “It’s an incredible resource.”

The commission’s decision clears the way for the nonprofit ski area to expand into 279 acres of an 850-acre area known for its subalpine habitat. Brad McQuarrie, the ski area’s general manager, said the permit work for the expansion will begin immediately.

Ski area operators want to build a new chairlift and seven ski runs on the mountain’s northwest side.

Cecilia Vogt, a commission member from Yakima, spoke against the expansion, but wasn’t present for the final vote.

Skiers always want more terrain, said Vogt, who identified herself as a 40-year alpine skier. But Vogt said she’s also an environmentalist and advocated for more protected habitat.

“This is the classic paradox for the commission, because they have a dual mission of providing recreation and protecting the resource for future generations,” said Virginia Painter, the commission’s spokeswoman.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife opposed the ski expansion, along with the Save Mount Spokane Coalition of community and environmental groups.

The ski area is operated by Mt. Spokane 2000, which would be required to pay for any improvements. The nonprofit board is headed by Jim Meyer, husband of Betsy Cowles, the chairwoman of Cowles Co., which owns The Spokesman-Review.

This is a developing story. Check back later online, or read tomorrow’s Spokesman-Review newspaper for more details.

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