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Methow Trails treats season alpine ski pass holders

WINTERSPORTS — Starting today, Methow Trails based in Winthrop is offering season pass holders at other downhill or nordic skiing resorts a free day of cross-country skiing or snow biking to ease the pain of a grim year on the slopes.

The Methow Valley ski trails are open and continue to provide great cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and fat biking. As of Friday, every one of the Valley's120 miles of ski trails was open.

Methow Trails says:

Ski season pass holders simply need to stop into the Methow Trails office at 309 Riverside Avenue, Winthrop, WA during normal business hours, show a valid 2015 season pass from any alpine or nordic ski area in the US or Canada and we will provide you with a ticket to ski for free, for the day, on the Methow Valley cross-country ski trails. This offer is good for the remainder of this ski season. One pass, per person for one day of skiing this season.  

Nordic skiers still have tracks at Mount Spokane

WINTERSPORTS — Despite the springlike weather, Mount Spokane still has enough snow for cross-country skiing.

The state park groomer did a good job of putting down a course for the Junior Olympic qualifying races this weekend.

But the way things are going, you have to wonder whether we'll be cross-country skiing with our huckleberry picking buckets in a few weeks.

Don’t give up on the Nordic skiing season

WINTERSPORTS — Washington still offers decent opportunities for cross-country skiing, despite last week's record high temperatures and rain.

One benefit of the unseasonably warm weather:  the roads to the ski areas such as Mount Spokane are bare.

Women’s Souper Bowl: stomping good time at Mount Spokane

WINTERSPORTS — Long before the big football game, a team of 300 ladies flocked to Mount Spokane today backed by a "12th man" support group handing out snowshoes, skis, food and prizes.

The 10th annual Women's Souper Bowl Snowshoe and X-Country Ski Day kicked off Super Sunday with good companionship and sometimes gaggles of giggles as groups trekking around the state park nordic trails put together poker hands for prizes before being served a soup-er lunch.

In 10 years, the event has raised more than $100,000 for the Women's and Children's Free Restaurant.

And as far as I could tell, they were having a blast doing the job.

Methow Nordic Fest for skis, bikes, snowshoes

WINTERSPORTS — The annual Methow Valley Nordic Festival based in Winthrop, Wash., kicks off Friday, Jan 23, for a three-day weekend to celebrate nordic skiing, snowshoeing, fat biking and winter trail running. 

To sweeten the event, Methow Trails, Winthrop Mountain Sports and other local business partners are offering:

  • Free cross-country skiing all day (no trail passes required)
  • Free rentals at participating businesses
  • Free ski lessons courtesy of Methow Valley Ski School
  • Free fat bike demo hosted by Methow Cycle and Sport

Saturday, Jan.24, events include:

  • 30k classic ski race from Winthrop to Mazama as part of a one or two day skiing competition. 
  • Winter trail runners can enjoy a 9k or a 15k winter trail run organized by Rainshadow Running
  • Free skate ski clinic for runners hosted by Methow Endurance
  • Free snowshoe nature tour begins at 11:00am from two Methow Valley locations.
  • Nordic Festival Dinner, a fundraiser for the Methow Valley Ski Team. 

Sunday, Jan. 25, events include:

  • ​The 30k Pursuit skate ski (race, tour, or relay) from Mazama to Winthrop with post-race party. 

Methow Trails is North America’s largest cross-country ski area with more than 120 miles of groomed trails where visitors 17 and under and those 75 and older ski free everyday.


Ski, snowshoe events set near Sandpoint

WINTERSPORTS — The Western Nordic Round, featuring races on cross-country skis plus snowshoeing events, is set for Jan. 24 at Western Pleasure Guest Ranch, sponsored by the Sandpoint Nordic Club. Events will start at 9 a.m.

The snowshoeing events of 5k and 10k are for fun or serious competition, since the races are qualifiers for the National Snowshoe Race in Wisconsin.

Nordic skiers can chose for 5k or 10 events in skating or classic divisions.


While the nordic events would be canceled on the chance that snow conditions are not adequate, the snowshoe events will be held snow or no snow because they are national qualifiers, said event spokeswoman Jennifer Macdonald.

The courses will be set on the gentle terrain of the Meadow trails and will be groomed with skate and classic tracks.

Registration, $20 (includes WPGR trail fee);  kids age 12 and under, free.

There will also be a 5 or 10K snow shoe race taking place at the same time so there is fun for the whole family!

Register at  www.sandpointnordic.com or at  www.active.com.

Nordic sports rule Mount Spokane during Winterfest

Winterfest at Mount Spokane on Sunday, sponsored by Spokane Nordic, was a huge success in introducing people to cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, new products and skijoring with dogs.

It was a fabulous day on the mountain for young and old, as these photos suggest.

Ferry County Rail Trail Ski Day a hit

WINTERSPORTS — The fifth-annual Ferry County Rail Trail Ski Day was a huge success on Saturday at Curlew with nearly 90 people showing up, many of them taking their first shot at cross-country skiing.

The event is sponsored by the Ferry County Rail Trail Partners.

Thanks to J. Foster Fanning for capturing images of the moment.

The Slice meets the Mount Spokane nordic trails

WINTERSPORTS — The Mount Spokane cross-country ski trails were a happy place to be on Saturday, as snow dumped onto the sprawling 60K trail system — finally — and The Spokesman-Review's beloved columnist Paul Turner turned out for his first cross-country skiing lesson.

Lisa Sunderman, one of several capable Spokane Nordic volunteers who are offering cross-country skiing lessons this season, took Paul and his partner Carol under her wing.

Even though Sunderman is an expert skier, not to mention a triathlete, she made Turner comfortable on snow in no time.

I suspect we'll read more about it.

Meantime, check out Spokane Nordic, the lessons the local club offers in classic and skating technique, and the special Jan. 11 Winterfest with a long list of events and activities, including clinics on backcountry skiing and skijoring.

Clinics prep skiers, dogs for skijoring

WINTERSPORTS — Skiers can learn to have a wild time with their dogs during skijoring clinics this season.

Skijoring is a sport in which a person wearing skis is drawn over snow dog-sledding style by one or more dogs. Clinics include:

  • Jan. 8 at the Spokane REI store. Spaces limited. Sign up in advance. The in-store clinic (no dogs allowed) will discuss the sport, equipment, local opportunities and what it takes to get started.
  • Jan. 11 or later, an on-snow clinic with dogs is being organized by Skijor Spokane, a group organized on Facebook.

At Mount Spokane Cross-Country Ski Park, the times and groomed nordic trails open to skijoring have expanded dramatically this year: Skijoring will be allowed:

  • Noon to dusk on Sundays and all day on Wednesdays.
  • On Upper Tripps, but uphill only. That means skijorers going out Lower Tripps from Brickel Creek Bridge No. 1 may turn around at Tripps Knob or continue to climb Upper Tripps.
  •  On Mica Road to the end at Junction 8.


Methow Valley nordic trails on record pace for grooming

WINTERSPORTS — The foot of snow that accumulated on Methow Valley cross-country ski and fat biking trails last night isn't the most impressive number from Washington's Nordic Nirvana.  

Get a load of the season's accumulated miles of grooming in today's Methow Trails report:

The first official day of winter brings a welcome storm that dropped 8-12 inches of very dense snow. These storms are great season builders/extenders and has gone a long way to leveling the trail platform. To celebrate we groomed just about the entire trail system; Winthrop, Sun Mtn., Rendezvous, and Mazama. Sun forecast for the upcoming holiday so it should be a very magical time. We are fortunate enough to be one of only a few ski areas in the region that has good skiing so consider an early holiday trip. We have already groomed more than 2,700 miles of trail and on pace to have a record setting year.

The Methow Valley’s skiing, scenery, and trails are world class with a 120-mile (200K) trail system for skiing in peaceful, freshly groomed and uncrowded conditions.

The nordic ski trail system is divided into four areas, all connected by the Methow Community Trail, which includes a suspension bridge crossing the Methow River, trailheads, and lodges along the way.

Nordic skiing gets boost at Chief Joseph Pass

WINTERSPORTS — Montana's Bitterroot Cross-Country Ski Club is getting a boost from Lost Trail Powder Mountain to keep the nordic trails at Chief Joseph Pass groomed, even after a big dump of powder snow.

The agreement calls for the resort to deploy the ski hill’s new PistenBully groomer to keep the 11 miles of classic ski trail and 19 miles of multi-use trail smooth for the growing number of winter enthusiasts who have discovered the area.

Last year, the club documented 9,000 user days at the area, President Mike Hoyt told the Ravalli Republic. But when the the big storms hit — the area at the end of the Bitterroot Valley is famous for powder — the club sometimes had too much of a good thing to groom with its snowmobile groomer.

Those numbers don’t include most of the people on snowmobiles, fat tire bikers or dogsledders using the multiple use trails.

The PistenBully will be used to groom the multi-use trail. Lost Trail Powder Mountain owner Scott Grasser has purchased a smaller grooming machine to groom the classic ski trail system that winds through the forest on a narrower set of roads that are too small for the traditional sized groomer.

Word is continuing to spread about all the improvements that are occurring at the winter recreation area at Lost Trail and Chief Joseph passes.

Four years ago, Hoyt said there were about 5,000 to 6,000 people using the area through the winter months. That usage has taken a major jump over the last couple of years.

Chelan’s Echo Ridge nordic ski area open

WINTERSPORTS — The snow that had accumulated on Mount Spokane's cross-country ski park last week was rendered to a few inches of ice and hardpack by the rains that followed. Be patient.

But as we reported yesterday, the Methow Trails are groomed and open for business.

And so is Chelan’s Echo Ridge Nordic Ski Area, which opened this week, although ski conditions are variable.

Chelan Ranger District expects grooming to begin on an intermittent basis.

The small ski area located 10 miles from Chelan is managed cooperatively by the U.S. Forest Service and the Lake Chelan Nordic Ski Club.

Ski area personnel will monitor ski conditions to determine when to begin charging for groomed skiing.

When fees are charged, day passes are available on-site for $10, and free for skiers or snowshoers age 17 and younger. Season passes are $70, available at the Chelan Ranger District office.

Information is available weekdays at the district office, 428 W. Woodin Ave. in Chelan, or by calling (509) 682-4900.

Sno-Park permits soon required at Mount Spokane

WINTERSPORTS — The change from Discover Passes to Sno-Park Permits is one of the transitions underway at Mount Spokane State Park as snow begins to pile up and road plowing begins.

Starting Dec.1, vehicles accessing the cross-country skiing and snowshoer parking areas will be required to have Washington Sno-Park permits. The permits can be purchased from a variety of vendors as well as online.

Until then, vehicles accessing the park will still be required to display a Washington Discover Pass, says Steve Christensen park manger, noting that the Sno-Park system is a separate account in state recreation budgeting.

Customers parking at the Mt. Spokane Ski and Snowboard Park do not need a vehicle pass — but only when the resort is open and operating.  The ski area has not announced an opening date.

Readers’ advice about Nordic skiing

Here are just a few things readers told me after I said I was thinking of giving cross-country skiing a try for the first time since a halfhearted dalliance with the activity about 40 years ago.

Costs? "A package of boots/poles/skis will probably run you around $300. Rentals will be available at the Mount Spokane Nordic Ski area starting this winter if you just want to try things out." — Tom Schaaf

if your main motivation is the desire for exercise? "I think beginners get the hardest workout the first few times they ski. After that it gets easier, but it's also easer to make your workout more and more aerobic, if you want to push your limits." — Art Bookstrom

Attire? "Special togs are not necessary for cross-country skiing." — Seabury Blair Jr.

Getting started? "I would suggest that a beginner take a lesson for the first time on the trails, it boosts confidence and heads you in the right direction. …I finally took a lesson after 25 years of Nordic skiing and improved my skiing immediately." — Ann Torigoe-Hawkins

Wildlife? "Learn what to do when the moose is sharing the trail with you." — Nancy Kiehn

The vibe? "I have never heard anyone up on Mt. Spokane mock anyone else. Everyone is helpful and just does their thing. I think everyone is so happy to be up there enjoying the beauty of the setting while getting exercise that they are happy to share their excitement and enjoyment with you." — Susan Mulvihill

Preseason training: "Bicycling is an excellent preparation for skiing." — Jim Kershner

Question I forgot to ask? "How fat can I be before the other skiers on the trail call in the park ranger to force me to buy a second trail pass? This is a question I ponder often." — Tim D.

I enjoyed corresponding with these and other enthusiasts. They have found a way to embrace winter. I salute them.

Several readers recommended checking out this site.


Nordic skiing isn’t everyone’s cup of tea

WINTERSPORTS — Cross-country skiing is an active way to glide through winter, as S-R columnists explored in the paper this week.

But several readers pointed out that they prefer other less athletic ways to endure the snowy months.  Among them, Gary Polser, who writes:

My Story! Years ago the wife and I lived on 27 acres north of Spokane at Riverside.  We worked at FAFB.  Having been raised in California, I was not familiar with Skiing.  Cross-country skiing sounded like maybe fun on my property.  I checked out some skiing equipment at the base Rec Hall.  Installed same on feet at back deck of house.  Started out in the back parking area.  Made it about six feet and fell on my behind.  Took off the skis and never tried it again.

Perhaps it's a blessing that Gary found some other winter pastime after suffering little more than a bruised ego.

Better to cut your losses early before enduring more serious cross-country skiing rites of passage, such as frostbite and Nordic Nipple.

Mount Spokane nordic warming hut takes shape

WINTERSPORTS — The cozy warming hut destined for the outer reaches of the sprawling 60K Mount Spokane Cross-Country Ski Park was taking shape this weekend, thanks to volunteers from Selkirk Nordic.

Nordic groups clearing ski trails before snow falls

WINTERSPORTS — Cross country skiers in the region are working against time to get trails brushed out for grooming when the snow flies in the mountains.

They'd welcome  your help.

Mount Spokane cross-country ski trail preparations are being coordinated by Spokane Nordic, with a another trail work party set for Saturday, Oct. 11.

Cutting all the alder and brush off the trails is crucial to having a clean trail when the snow base is not yet deep. Meet at the Selkirk Lodge at 9 a.m. and work until 3 pm, or as much of that time as you can offer. 

Bring work gloves, lunch and water. If you have a commercial trimmer with metal blade please bring it as well.

Contact: Brian Hawkins at brianthawkins@hotmail.com.

Fourth of July Pass trail clearing is being coordinated by the Panhandle Nordic Club, which needs volunteers to trim brush along the ski and snowshoe trails on Saturday, Oct. 18.  See trails map.

Meet:  Fire Station at Cherry Hill Park on 15th at 9 a.m..  Carpooling is advised since we will take a few cars on the trails to specific locations. Bring loppers, gloves, warm clothes, lunch and water.  Dessert will be provided at the picnic shelter. 

Contact: Jim McMillen, jimmccda@gmail.com.


Ski trail clearing Oct. 18 at 4th of July Pass

WINTERSPORTS — The Panhandle Nordic Club is calling for volunteers to join them in a "lopping party" to trim brush along the ski and snowshoe trails on Saturday, Oct. 18, at Fourth of July Pass. 

Meet:  Fire Station at Cherry Hill Park on 15th at 9 a.m..  Carpooling is advised since we will take a few cars on the trails to specific locations.

What to bring:  Loppers, gloves, warm clothes, lunch and water.  Dessert will be provided at the picnic shelter. 

Another note:  Club meetings will be held this season through April 2015 at the CDA Police Department meeting room.  Address is 3818 Schreiber Way off of Kathleen.  First meeting is Tuesday, Nov. 4 at 7 p.m..  

Info: Jim McMillen, jimmccda@gmail.com.

Volunteers to clear Mount Spokane nordic ski trails

WINTERSPORTS — Spokane Nordic is holding maintenance days at Mount Spokane State Park to prepare the cross-country ski trails for the upcoming winter ski season.  Here are the remaining dates.

  • Sept. 13
  • Sept. 21
  • Oct. 11
  • Oct. 26

Contact Brian Hawkins at brianthawkins@hotmail.com to sign up or get more information.

Volunteers to clear Mount Spokane nordic ski trails

WINTERSPORTS — Great skiing on one of the nation's largest nordic trail system isn't an accident at Mount Spokane.  Members of Spokane Nordic have been assisting state park rangers for years in pre-season efforts to clear the trails and have them ready for grooming when the snow falls.

The group has set a trail maintenance session for Saturday,  Aug. 9 — the second trail clearing day of the year.  Work will include clearing trails, moving firewood and possibly preparing the Nova Hut for painting.

Meet at the Selkirk Lodge at 9 a.m. and work until 3 p.m., or as much of that time as your schedule allows. Bring work gloves, lunch and water. If you have any questions, email Brian Hawkins at brianthawkins@hotmail.com.

The next trail maintenance day is set for Sept. 13.

Looking for solitude? Head for a nordic ski trail in April

WINTERSPORTS — A glorious day was to be found on the Schweitzer Mountain Nordic Trails on Sunday.

What wasn't to be found?  Many people.

"Glorious day of spring skiing at Schweitzer," said Jette Thorslund Benedetto, who was skiing with Kurt Stellwagen. "We had the XC trails all to ourselves. Views were everywhere and the snow wasn't bad at all."


Free cross-country ski day in Methow Valley

WINTER SPORTS — The Methow Valley Sport Trails Association and community partners are sponsoring a free cross-country ski day on Friday, March 14 for people to explore the region's most expansive and varied system of groomed nordic trails.

Trail passes will not be required on Backyard Ski Day and the event even includes free ski rentals and free ski lessons.

Details of the event include:

  • Free trail access all day on all the MVSTA ski trails. 
  • Free ski rentals can be obtained from Winthrop Mountain Sports, Methow Cycle & Sport, and the Mazama Ski School.  Reservations recommended. 
  • Free, one hour cross-country ski lesson courtesy of Methow Valley Ski School will begin at 10:00am at the Corral Trailhead in Mazama.
  • Free snow cat rides from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Corral Trailhead in Mazama
  • Free beverages and s'mores at the Corral Trailhead in Mazama from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
  • Dogs also enjoy complementary trail access (with free deer carcasses here and there.)  

Today is prime for off-trail nordic ski route at Mount Spokane

WINTER SPORTS — If I weren't forced at knife-point to be here in the office today, I'd be taking advantage of the prime conditions presented by the weekend's dump of 10 inches of new snow to be skiing Art's Boogie and other off-trail routes at Mount Spokane State Park.

See Sunday's story (also click the Photos button for photos) about Art Bookstrom, who helped blaze an off-the-groomed-trails route for people who sometimes long for a peaceful trek through the woods.

Extension:  Art's Boogie is about 3Ks one-way from the Selkirk Lodge area to the Nova Hut.  Extend your pleasure by continuing up the access road to the Quartz Mountain Lookout (see photo).

On the other hand, there's freezing rain in the area, so driving would be tricky and the temperatures will be warming as the day advances.

Maybe the office isn't such a bad place to be?

Most nordic routes groomed at 4th of July Pass

WINTER SPORTS — Here's today's grooming report for Fourth of July Pass cross-country skiing and snowshoeing trails from Geoff Harvey of the Panhandle Nordic Club:

The last warm system that passed through condensed the dryer snow from Sunday and Monday and dropped a little new wet snow.  The result was 8 - 10 inches of wet snow on the established base of all runs. All trails that we groom were groomed with the exception of Tree Top View and Loose Moose. Double track was set on the Inner Core Trails with a skate lane between. The outer trails (Skywalker, Moonrunner, the Eagle Run, Skateaway and Elderberry) have a single track set at the side to accommodate a wide skate lane. Because the snow was so wet maneuvering the groomers was a challenge  on some turns.  As a result some widely taken corners resulted in one of the two lanes being damaged and some groves in places. 

Wet snow is more of a challenge to groom.  Since it is forecast to turn off cold, we did not pack Loose Moose.  It is better to have broken snow on this steep run as compared to a packed surface that can freeze up and become exceedingly difficult to ski.  Elderberry has a single track to near the benches and packed snow machine tracks on to Ian's hut. We were able to remove to trees from the cut across trail before chainsaw trouble spared for another day the "jackpot" of four trees. The trail is a work in progress, but in most places can be skied or walked. 

Sparkling view today from Mount Spokane

WINTER SPORTS — I feel sorry for those of you who couldn't call in sick and head up to a ski area to take advantage of today's clear skies and fresh pow.  

Here's the view from Quartz Mountain in Mount Spokane State Park.

Bjornsens looked good in Spokane years before Olympics

WINTER SPORTS —They gave us a preview of their world-class talent during Langlauf on Mount Spokane.  

Erik Bjornsen — and his sister Sadie — of Washington's Methow Valley are skiing their hearts out in the nordic events at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.  But winning Langlauf, the annual 10K classic event at Mount Spokane, was one of their milestone achievements to get there.

The photo above shows Erik competing today in Sochi. A photo below shows Erik in 2008 at the age of 16 when he was the overall Langlauf champ. He's posing with the top woman that year, Annie Pokorny of Spokane.

The photo at left shows Sadie Bjornsen at the age of 13 when she won the Langlauf women's division — the youngest competitor to take the Langlauf crown.

See today's story about the Bjornsen's attraction to a college in Alaska that's primed them for international competition.

See my story on their connection with the Spokane Langlauf.

Click "continue reading" to see photos of Erik and Sadie Bjornsen in action during the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi.

Sport of contrasts: ski hard, shoot straight

WINTER SPORTS — Biathlon is a sport that mixes the oil and water of revving up the heartbeat with aerobic cross-country skiing and then asking your circulatory system to calm down instantly for precise marksmanship with the .22-caliber rifle you must carry with a special harness on your back. Repeat.

The sport was born into the Winter Olympics from its roots in Scandinavian military operations.

In modern times, it may be the ultimate shooting sport.

Where can you check out biathlon in the Inland Northwest?


Skiers, snowshoers to play best hands

WINTER SPORTS – Take a gamble on the hand you’re dealt to win prizes at the Panhandle Nordic Club’s 23rd annual Best Hand Fun Ski and Snowshoe event Saturday, Feb. 22, starting at noon at Fourth of July Pass.

Skiers will do an 8-kilometer course and snowshowers will trek the shortrer Jeanette’s Jaunt route.

Cost: $10 or $5 for youths under 14. Family rate: $25.

Idaho Park and Ski Passes will not be required for participants in this event. 

4th of July Pass nordic trails groomed

WINTER SPORTS — Snowshoers and cross-country skiers have some decent opportunities this week at Fourth of July Pass.  Here's today's grooming report from Geoff Harvey of the Panhandle Nordic Club:

Glen Truscott and I groomed a good deal of the Area today.  The Inner Loop has some good stretches of snow now packed with track set, but there are icy spots in a few places and a bare patch on the Swoop.  The good snow is up the Twisted Klister  (Snowshoeing) and Skywalker - Moonrunner (FSR 614) (skking) especially  above Skateaway on this latter route their is a foot plus of snow with only a few thin places out to Rose Saddle.  Unfortunately, somebody circumvented the berm IDT built at the bottom and drove the length of the road to Rose Creek Saddle and a ways down Skateaway where the gate was opened.. Glenn and I did our best to reduce the ruts but it will take either a snowfall, not predicted until next week at the earliest or grooming with the scarifier that will redistribute the snow.  We will attempt to get this done next Friday (1/24).  Grooming is in place along the route and tracks set,.  The gate is now closed so no additional damage is anticipated. This snow above Skateway is better than any I saw at Palouse Divide this weekend.