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Schweitzer, Silver ski resorts closing Sunday

WINTERSPORTS — They fought the good fight, but this strange winter is winning.  Schweitzer Mountain and Silver Mountain ski resort swill close for the season after the end of operations on Sunday, officials announced today.

The resorts normally are open at least through spring break.

That brings the lift-skiing season in our area to a close.

Lookout Pass has announced it's closed for the season.

Mount Spokane has been closed for weeks.

See story about Schweitzer.

Silver Mountain posted this info at 4:15 p.m.:

Operating Sunday 3/29 9am-3pm. Saturday weather is looking pretty nasty but Sunday looks like a fantastic sunny day to enjoy some skiing, boarding and chilling on the patio with a Hawaiian Luau themed BBQ and patio party! Lift tickets will be just $29 and current pass holders from any other ski area can get a ticket for just $19. Additionally, current Silver Mountain Pass Holders can bring a buddy for just $19. Sunday afternoon Ski & Splash is back as well- just $29 for an afternoon lift ticket and then hit the waterpark for some surfing or floating the lazy river!

This is our last planned day of operations for the season.

Schweitzer still a go despite low snow; Winter Carnival begins

WINTERSPORTS — Schweitzer Mountain spokesmen say the ski resort is committed to staying open daily through April 5 despite a meager snow pack that's forced Mt. Spokane ski area to temporarily close.

That's good news for locals who are kicking off the annual Sandpoint Winter Carnival today through Feb. 21. Schweitzer is the venue for on-mountain events.

"As we all are well aware, this winter hasn’t been up to normal standards for the Pacific Northwest — or anywhere in the West it seems," says Sean Mirus, Schweitzer spokesman. He posted a media release to answer rumors that the resort may be closing.

"Schweitzer is committed to staying open and running as much of our operation as weather allows," he said. While some portions of the mountain have been closed for safety reasons, "during the most recent rain events, the rain-snow line was around the top of the Basin Express and the conditions up high were surprisingly good," he added.

"As conditions improve, we will reopen as much terrain as possible.  Temperatures look to be decreasing after this weekend, and if that happens, we plan to restart snow making operations.  Conditions on the mountain may not be ideal, but the majority of the feedback from folks that are making the effort to get out on the mountain is positive.  The snow is soft and spring like, making it easy to turn."

Tom Chasse, Schweitzer CEO, said in an email that the company is “committed to daily operations thru Sunday, April 5th even if we’ve got limited open terrain.”

Mirus said it's been 10 years since Schweitzer put up with a winter like this.  "In that 2004-2005 season, the mountain saw well over 100 inches of snow in March so we remain positive that the season will end on a good note."

Huckleberry festivals mark ripening of Idaho state fruit

WILD EDIBLES — The huckleberry harvest season is underway at lower elevations and the pleasure is working its way up the region’s mountainsides as the berries ripen. People and communities have taken note:

The berries are ripening at higher elevations this week, but the peak rage of ripe berries occurs in August. With my family in tow, I have to add hours to the hiking time into a Cabinet or Bitterroot mountains backpacking destination. It's hard to walk past a booming patch of hucks.

High areas in the Selkirk Mountains, such as Roman Nose, provide good picking into September.

Video: What’s Up With Fat Bikes?

WINTER SPORTS — Fat bikes, snow bikes…. whatever you call them, they're catching on year-round with a niche of the cycling community that's mobilizing on ballooned out tires.  Get a glimpse of from the saddle in this video: What's Up With Fat Bikes?

Snowshoes and snow bikes featured at Schweitzer

WINTER SPORTS — The Snowshoe Stampede at Schweitzer Mountain will be pedaling a new option on Saturday (Feb. 2).

A snow bike division has been added to the event that welcomes all sorts of walkers, gabbers, goers — and now, fat bikers!

The event features a scenic course Schweitzer's nordic ski area trails with 3- and 5-mile options, plus a chance to win cool prizes.

Bikes must be purpose built with tires wider than 3.7 inches and pressure no greater than 10 psi.  Bike or ski helmets are required.  A few bikes are available for rent at the Source, (208) 255-3062.

Event fees are $10 entry and $10 trails pass (if you don’t already have a Nordic / Snowshoe season pass).  Register from noon to 1 p.m. at the Hermit’s Hollow tubing yurt.

Snowshoe races begin at 2 p.m.

Snow bike event starts at 3 p.m.  

Schweitzer records deepest early-season snowpack in 30 years

WINTER SPORTS — Buried with more than 180 inches of snowfall this season, Schweitzer Mountain Resort reports the deepest early-season snowpack since records were started during the 1982-83 season.

Schweitzer has been able to open all 2,900 acres of terrain with a village depth of 77 inches and a summit depth of 109 inches, the resort reports.

"It feels like February” said Arlene Cook, Schweitzer’s Ski Patrol director. “When you can’t count the number of powder days you’ve had in December, you know it’s been a good season.”

Schweitzer began tracking daily snow reports in in 1976, but the records didn't include summit or village snow depths until the 1983, a resort spokesman said. Daily, year-to-date, snow totals weren’t calculated until the 2001-2002 season.

Schweitzer’s 180 inches of snowfall to date also is the most on record.

Schweitzer Mountain raises $30K for Sandpoint charities

WINTER SPORTS — Schweitzer Mountain Resort reports it's donating $30,570 from a (Dec. 14) fund-raising event with 100 percent of the proceeds benefiting Community Cancer Services and the Bonner Partners in Care Clinic. It was Schweitzer’s first major event of the winter season.

The resort offered skiing for $10 a person and 3,000 tickets were sold for the Community Day.

“To see such a large turnout for an event like this really illustrates what kind of community this is,” said Schweitzer Activities and Events Director Mary-Weber Quinn. “We support and care about each other, and I think that was shown here today.”

Schweitzer Mountain to open lifts Saturday

WINTER SPORTS — Schweitzer Mountain Resort above Sandpoint announced today that it will open two chairlifts for skiing this weekend.

The Basin Express and Musical Chairs lifts will be open Saturday and Sunday. The resort will close during the week, then may reopen next Friday if weather cooperates, the resort said in a news release.

The lifts will operate from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. both days. Lift ticket prices will be reduced to $40; children 6 and under will ski free. In addition, a lift ticket just for the Musical Chairs lift is available for $25.

The ski resort has 44 inches of snow and “forecasts before opening day are looking good for additional snowfall,” the release said.

On-mountain parking is free this weekend.

Info:  (208) 263-9562.

Silver Mountain Resort will be opening it's gondola Friday and Saturday for scenic rides and snowplay, but the runs are not year ready for skiing.

Pitching Skin Product On Chairlift

The great Sandpoint Chairlift Pitch Contest at Schweitzer Mountain Resort in Sandpoint today. Contestants rode a chairlift up to 6000 feet, pitching their start-up business to judges for prizes, all in an effort to grow emerging businesses in the outdoor and recreation industry in that community. Shown here (from left):
Kevin Kluender and Travis Kaull, both judges, are pitched by eventual winner Tracy Gibson of Ruby's Lube, and another judge, Ty Taitch.  Ruby's Lube is an all-natural skin product for outdoor enthusiasts. (Photo courtesy of Matt Mills McKnight)

Verizon expands 4G service to North Idaho, Pullman, Kettle Falls, Schweitzer

Verizon Wireless will expand 4G service in the Inland Northwest later this year, to include Chewelah, Coeur d’Alene, Colville, Deer Lake, Harrison, Hayden, Kellogg, Kettle Falls, Newport, Post Falls, Priest Lake, Sandpoint, Spirit Lake, St. Maries and Washington State University's Pullman campus.

That opens the door for Verizon customers with 4G LTE smartphones, laptop modems and hotspots to kick up to the highest broadband speeds available to them.
Also included in the upgrade is Schweitzer Mountain and Silver Mountain ski resorts near Sandpoint and Kellogg.
Late last year Verizon Wireless opened its  4G LTE network for Spokane County.
The company's press department noted: "In real-world, fully-loaded network environments, 4G LTE users should experience average data rates of 5 to 12 megabits per second (Mbps) on the downlink and 2 to 5 Mbps on the uplink."

Idaho web cams: Links for ski areas, highways

WINTER SPORTS — Technology has made it easier than ever to monitor snow conditions for the region's mountain passes and winter sports resorts. 

Click on the following links for web cam views of your favorite North Idaho ski area or the road to get there.

IDAHO Web Cams


Fourth of July Pass

Lookout Pass

Palouse Divide (ID-6, Harvard Hill)

Priest Lake

Schweitzer Mountain

Silver Mountain

Schweitzer offers free nordic lessons

WINTER SPORTS — North Idaho cross-country skiers don't have to head to the annual Winterfest at 49 Degrees North this weekend to find free nordic skiing lessons. Schweitzer Mountain and the Sandpoint Nordic Club are offering free classic and skate-skiing lessons plus equipment demos on Saturday.

Trails will be groomed specifically for beginners and free rentals will be available at "The Roundabout" on a first-come first-served basis.

Schweitzer ski instructors conduct classic and skate sessions at 10 a.m., 11 a.m., noon and 1 p.m.

Freebies include hot chocolate and snacks, plus a coupon that entitles lesson-takers to a free Nordic Trail Pass to use at Schweitzer another day!

Sunset Hails Sandpoint As Ski Town

Item: Sunset mag ranks Sandpoint as West’s most under-the-radar ski town/Cameron Rassmusson, Bonner County Bee

More Info: The publication focused on Western living recently named Sandpoint the West’s most under-the-radar ski town. After parsing through several options including Driggs and Ogden, Utah, the editorial staff of six selected Sandpoint as the clear victor.  “I really love Sandpoint,” Sunset editor-at-large Peter Fish, who first nominated Sandpoint, said. “But I think with the lake, people consider it more of a summer destination. They don’t realize that it has a lot to offer during the winter, too.”

Question: Which Inland Northwest ski area is your favorite?

Skiers making tracks at nordic areas

NORDIC SKIING — Cross-country skiers aren’t being left out in the cold as early snowfall covers trails and allows downhill ski resorts to open.  Here’s the latest report:

Mount Spokane: The temperature was minus 10 degrees this morning when the state park rangers show up at Selkirk Lodge. They found drifted snow and blow-down trees on the trails.  They planned to be cutting out trees today, then grooming with the snowmobile to provide skiing for Thanksgiving day.  The snowcat groomer isn’t scheduled to be out until Dec. 1.  Sno-Park permits are required. Remember, you can get them online this year if you wish.

49 Degrees North:  Nordic trails will be groomed for Thanksgiving day but the Nordic yurt and services will not be open for customers until Friday.

Schweitzer: At least two trails are scheduled to be groomed for the resorts season opener starting Friday.

Methow Valley: The big snow dump largely missed the Methow, although the groomers were out packing the half a foot or so that’s on the ground to be ready for the next storm, said Don Portman at Sun Mountain Lodge. Meantime, skiers have been traveling up the North Cascades Highway to find plenty of snow near Cutthroat and Rainy Pass.

Echo Ridge: This nordic area above Lake Chelan has 10 inches of snow that will be flat-pack groomed on about half of the trail system for Thanksgiving day.

Skiing update: Some areas open Thursday

SKIING — As ski areas scramble to respond to the sudden onslaught of winter and more than a foot of fresh powder, some are revising their previously annouced schedules.

49 Degrees North and Lookout Pass will reopen on Thursday.

Mt. Spokane and Silver Mountain will open Friday.

Schweitzer Mountain will open its downhill and nordic ski areas on Friday.

All five areas say they will be open through the weekend.

  • Mount Spokane’s cross-country ski trails received more than a foot of wind-blown snow last night, and the temperture was minus 10 degrees this morning. Park Manager Steve Christensen said he was doing the best he could to groom the trails with the snowmobile until the big groomer can be put into action on Dec. 1.

Shoe Tree’s Gone, Bra Tree Lingers On

Shoes dangling among the pine cones surely detract from the natural ambiance of a cedar grove. But decorating things with cast-off clothing is not unheard of here in the Inland Northwest. There’s the bra tree up at Schweitzer, located within easy underwear-tossing distance from the Sunnyside Chairlift. There are the telephone poles alongside the highway to Ainsworth Hot Springs, north of Nelson, B.C., each sporting a necktie/Susan Drumheller, Idaho Conservation League. (AP file photo for illustrative purposes of Supermodel Gisele Bundchen, with Victoria’s Secret bra. More here.

Question: I didn’t know that there was a Bra Tree on Schweitzer Mountain. Did you?