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Video: Hayden skier wins berth in World Heli Challenge

WINTERSPORTS — A Hayden man's extreme skiing video has won an online competition for viewer votes this week, launching him and two freeriding buddies from the training grounds of Schweitzer Mountain Resort to the slopes of New Zealand's Mount Cook for the World Heli Challenge in September.

Essex Prescott and members of Team Vacation — Dylan Siggers and Leo Zukerman — received the most online votes in the World Heli Challenge Call Up competition, according to a just-posted media release.

The extreme skiers and filmmakers used a good dose of humor along with helicopters to drop in powder hounds pounding steep radical slopes. 

Team Vacation has qualified to compete with one other team in the World Heli Challenge — a nine-day, freeride competition including heli-accessed freeriding for up to two days, during which each team will edit a 5-minute video that will be promoted and seen around the world.

Each team will be assigned a professional action photographer to document their extreme skiing challenge and create a portfolio for the Canon Shootout, sponsored by Canon, Inc.

If Team Vacation wins the World Heli Challenge, they will receive more than $8,000 along with camera gear and other prizes.

Avalanche eduation scholarship will honor Sandpoint man

WINTER SPORTS — Friends of the Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center are sponsoring an avalanche education scholarship in memory of Doug Abromeit, a Sandpoint native who was instrumental in starting the National Avalanche Center.  Abromeit died last fall.

” We will send one student a year to a Level 1 avalanche class under the Doug Abromeit Avalanche Scholarship,” said Kevin Davis of the IPAC based in Sandpoint.  ”Doug was born and raised in Sandpoint and his family still resides here.  Doug retired from the Forest Service in 2011, last stationed in Ketchum, Idaho.”

The scholarship will be introduded at a special public program on Friday (Jan. 17), 4:30 p.m., at the Caribou Room in the Day Lodge at Schweitzer Mountain Resort.  Several presenters will highlight Abromeit’s contributions to avalanche education, the history of avalanche control in the USA, and development of the National Avalanche Center and the Idaho Panhandle center.

Avalanche courses available at Schweitzer

WINTER SPORTS — The snow has barely piled up in the mountains and the first avalanche accidents of the year are being reported in the West.

Be prepared.

Two levels of avalanche courses are being offered in the next few months at Schweitzer Mountain Resort organized by SOLE (Selkirk Outdoor Leadership Education) based in Sandpoint. 

An AIARE Level 2 Course is set for Dec.7-8 and 14-15.

The four-day course provides backcountry leaders the opportunity to advance their avalanche knowledge from Level 1 instruction by adding the the evaluation of factors critical to stability evaluation and decision-making skill development.  Cost: $495.

An AIARE Level 1 Course is set for Jan. 18-20.

This three-day course on  Decision Making In Avalanche Terrain is open to students ages 16-25 with scholarships available.

An AIARE Level 1 Course is set for Jan. 18-20.

This three-day course on  Decision Making In Avalanche Terrain is open to students ages 16 and older with scholarships available for youths.

Schweitzer’s 2013-14 passes valid at six other ski resorts

WINTER SPORTS — Schweitzer Mountain Resort has a new far-reaching perk among the deals and discounts ski resorts are offering this time of year to promote advance season pass sales.

If you're a skier/boarder with a yen to travel for your turns, Schweitzer's new association with the Power Alliance is appealing.

The new agreement offers Schweitzer passholders free skiing at six Western resorts. Schweitzer's unlimited and Sunday - Friday passholders alike can take advantage of the Powder Alliance deals at:

10 reasons to stay on your skis, snowboards

WINTER SPORTS — Thar's white gold in them thar hills, and plenty of snowpack for getting in a few more runs on skis and snowboards before spring creeps up into the the mountains.

Inland Northwest ski resorts are taking different approaches ending or extending their ski seasons this week.

Meantime, Craig Hill of the Tacoma News Tribune offers a West Side perspective on 10 top reasons you don't want to put your skis away too early in April … and, yes, bikini's are on the list.  Click "continue reading."

Ski areas winding down; some extending season

WINTER SPORTS — Good spring skiing is in the forecast for skiers and snowboarders as Inland Northwest resorts post various schedules, events and season extensions.

Schweitzer Mountain Resort  announced today the extension of the ski season through April 14, noting the snowpack remains excellent. The annual Tropical Daze celebration is this weekend (April 6-7).

49 Degrees North has announced free lift tickets for skiers and snowboarders for the rest of the week before the resort shuts down for the season after Sunday (April 7).

Silver Mountain will be open Thursday-Sunday this week, with the end of the regular season festival and Splashdown Rail Jam this weekend. Thereafter, lifts will reopen for "Silver Saturdays" through April.

Lookout Pass  is open Thursday through Sunday this week. The annual Slush Cup is set for  Saturday (April 6). Next week the plan is to be open only on April 13 for the last day of the season.

Mt. Spokane is open for spring break, closing for the season on Sunday (April 7).

Stevens Pass  is open this week through Sunday, then reopening April 8-14 to close the season.

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?

Snowmobilers venturing out of bounds at Mount Spokane

WINTER SPORTS — A few snowmobilers continue to break rules and ride out of their approved zones and onto snowshoe trails and the downhill ski area at Mount Spokane.

It's not a new problem, as this story explains.

Snowshoers who have been finding tracks in several park areas off-limits to snowmobiles suggest people who encounter the problem should report their experience on Mount Spokane State Park's online visitor comment form.

Schweitzer ski area among first to be Google-mapped

MAPPING — Google Maps, which changed the world of giving directions with it's online map selections, has stretched its street view capability to the ski slopes.  

Schweitzer Mountain Resort is represented among  38 new maps generated by Google featuring "slope views" of every run and lift.

Power up Google Maps on your Android device or iPhone, and the mountain information you need is right there. Blue, green and black runs are shown as solid colored lines and ski lifts are red dotted lines. 

The tech innovator recently made digital waves in the outdoors with their “street view” take on Grand Canyon hiking trails by offering 9,500 panoramic images to armchair hikers.

Avalanche film romances the fury

WINTER SPORTS — This film, "Ode to Avalanche," will be awesome to some winter recreationists and frightening to others.

Either way, I hope it at least prompts you to check in with a regional avalanche forecast — such as the weekly bulletin by the Idaho Panhandle Avalance Center — before heading into the winter backcountry.

Update: Read this new enlightening Elk Mountain avalanche report on an slide that buried a skier near Marias Pass in Glacier National Park.   It was close to being much, much worse.

Video captures near disastrous avalanche accident at Crystal Mountain

AVALANCHE — A woman who was buried by an avalanche at Crystal Mountain on Wednesday was rescued by a group of skiers, one of whom had a helmet cam on during the entire event.

She was wearing no avalanche beacon to help her rescuers with the search, according to news reports, but that's not confirmed here.

This chilling video shows how very, very close she came to dying in a tomb of snow and how her well trained and equipped rescuers kept calm, focused and did the job.

There's no gore here, but a lot to see, hear and absorb if you're a backcountry skier, snowshoer or snowmobiler.

The avalanche happened at minute 4:30 in the video. The rescuers found her and were yelling to give her a breath at 12 minutes — more than 7 minutes after she was buried!

After a visit to a hospital, she was OK.

Unbelievable.

Seasons are changing: Revelstoke gets first snowfall

WINTER SPORTS — The photo above comes today from Revelstoke Mountain Resort, a day's drive north in British Columbia, where the ski area operators were stoked to wake up and see the first snowfall of the season in the Canadian Rockies area.

Revelstoke Mountain is Canada’s Newest Ski Resort, claiming to have the most vertical in North America  – 5620ft! 

Silver Mountain extending ski season with Silver Saturdays

WINTER SPORTS — Silver Mountain Resort is maintaining its tradition of exting the ski season into shorts and bikini-top weather. 

The entire 1,600-acre ski area is scheduled to be open for Silver Saturdays in April, and perhaps longer, riding high on the ample remainnig snowpack.

The resort reports 337 inches of snow fell this season on the mountain above Kellogg.

Read on for details:

Winter Sports Kickoff at REI on Saturday

WINTER SPORTS —  Pick up season lift passes for your favorite mountains, talk to vendors, enter to win outdoors gear and get free info on outside in the winter on Saturday (Nov. 12) at the annual Winter Sports Kickoff, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. at REI, 1125 N. Monroe St.